The Role of Attribution in Biosecurity Policy
SUSAN B. MARTIN AND ANNE L. CLUNAN
How can governments improve their ability to determine whether an unusual biological event is an act of terrorism or of war, or is instead merely a disease outbreak? In this chapter, we draw conclusions based on the previous chapters in an effort to better the investigation of such events. We find that politically credible attributions of BW use must be based on investigations that are procedurally sound and that rely on a high degree of confidence—based on accepted scientific standards—that a particular culprit perpetrated a biological weapons attack. The development of scientific capabilities for identification, characterization, and attribution of BW use enhance both a state’s ability to deter such use by the threat of punishment (by increasing the likelihood that a perpetrator will be identified), and to deter by denial (by reducing the consequences of a BW attack, through the strengthening of the public-health system).
The chapter begins with a summary of the requirements for successful identification, characterization, and attribution, and briefly analyzes some of the issues that arise with each of these tasks. It then discusses the policy issues raised by the case studies, including the issues surrounding political decisions about how to use the results of investigations into unusual biological events. It concludes with a brief examination of the role of attribution in overall policy to counter the threat from biological weapons.