NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Keeping Bioterrorism in Perspective

October 16, 2001

Experts say that elements of the news media are overreacting to isolated incidents of bioterrorism. They point out that biochemical terrorism has been attempted many times and failed just as often. All recorded biochemical terrorist attacks to date have killed fewer people than one suicide bomber did in a Jerusalem pizzeria.

  • Among the myriad hurdles facing would-be bioterrorists are obtaining the agents in the first place, growing them to useable amounts and transporting them safely to the desired location of attack -- and finally releasing them in such a way as to cause harm.
  • In the case of smallpox, it is difficult to keep alive outside of a host and the government has enough vaccine (15 million doses) to contain any possible outbreak.
  • Anthrax is not contagious and the logistical hurdles of distributing it are enormous -- which is why such cases as have been identified have been extremely isolated.

Finally, the sarin attack within the Tokyo subway system in 1995 wound up killing only a dozen people. Hitler had tons of the nerve toxin, but didn't use it in World War II combat because his generals told him conventional bombs were far more efficient.

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute),"The Fear Factor: Real Danger Lies in Overreaction to 'Bioterrorism,'" Investor's Business Daily, October 15, 2001.


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