Preventing Biological Warfare: The Failure of American Leadership

By Malcolm R. Dando | Go to book overview
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11
Epilogue

The manuscript for the previous chapters of this book went to the publishers in late August 2001. There was agreement that a short note would be added in early December to cover the outcome of the Fifth Review Conference of the BTWC and thus to round off the story of the development of the regime from the 1991 Third Review Conference. It was not expected, however, that much public attention would be paid to the issue during the autumn of 2001. That assumption proved to be incorrect when terrorism in the United States brought the misuse of biological agents to the centre of world attention.

Even before the dramatic attacks with hijacked airliners in the United States on 11 September, revelations about the US biodefence programme had raised some very difficult questions. On 4 September a report in the New York Times1 detailed three projects planned or carried out by various parts of the US government. The Pentagon had drawn up plans to genetically engineer anthrax in order to test whether such a bug, which had been produced earlier by Russian scientists, could be countered by the standard US anthrax vaccine. 2 Two other projects had been completed earlier.

In the second project a ‘germ factory’ was assembled in the Nevada desert from commercially available parts in order to test whether this could be done by a terrorist group or rogue state. The factory carried out test runs of production with harmless organisms. In the third project, named ‘Clear Vision’, the CIA ‘built and tested a model of a Sovietdesigned germ bomb that agency officials feared was being sold on the international market’. The CIA's device lacked a fuse and certain other elements that were required for a working bomb. The agency had attempted to buy such a bomb but when that attempt failed it decided to build the bomb to test how well it functioned.

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