Analyst Says Strategy Ignored Low-Level Bioterrorism

By Gribbin, August | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 17, 2001 | Go to article overview

Analyst Says Strategy Ignored Low-Level Bioterrorism


Gribbin, August, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: August Gribbin

Government officials responding to the rash of anthrax exposures and infections are limited to investigating and issuing alerts.

"In the current situation, there's almost nothing more the government or individuals can do except not open our mail," says Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution warfare specialist.

FBI agents and specially trained investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday continued their weeks-old quest to determine where the anthrax came from and who caused the attacks.

The latest alarm came yesterday when Floyd Horn, administrator of the Agriculture Research Service, warned the food industry and farmers to watch for unusual plant and animal diseases because terrorists might resort to biological weapons that can infect and destroy them. "There are diseases that can wipe out our herds and crops," he said.

Mr. Horn said he has no direct evidence of any pending biological-weapons attack. Still, he said, the former Soviet Union manufactured plant and animal diseases that could devastate 13.4 percent of America's annual gross domestic product, and there is reason to suspect terrorists may have obtained anti-agriculture biological weapons.

By using such weapons, terrorists could engineer the destruction of a crop, and, armed with knowledge that a crop would fail, they could profit handsomely from investing in the U.S. commodity-futures market, Mr. Horn noted.

Like all counterterrorism specialists, Margaret A. Hamburg, a physician and vice president for biological programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, says, "Preparation for attacks is the best preventative." Yet as studies by the General Accounting Office and independent blue-ribbon panels have revealed, the United States has not adequately prepared for biological-weapons assaults. …

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Analyst Says Strategy Ignored Low-Level Bioterrorism
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