NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Threat Of Bioterrorism

October 5, 2001

Biowarfare and bioterrorism threaten to become our worst national nightmare, say three New York Times reporters in their book, "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War."

Deadly germs sprayed in shopping malls, bomblets spewing anthrax spores over battlefields, tiny vials of plague scattered in Times Square - these are the "poor man's hydrogen bombs," they say - weapons of mass destruction that can be made in a simple laboratory.

There have already been warnings, they note. For example:

  • In 1993, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo carried out an attack with sarin gas on a Tokyo subway.
  • Disneyland was threatened with a chemical attack (that never happened).
  • There was incontrovertible evidence that Iraq had a biological weapons complex that the Gulf War left largely intact.

Advances in biology and the spread of expertise to such countries as Iran, Iraq and North Korea could make germs the weapon for the 21st century, the authors say.

A small group of scientists persuaded President Bill Clinton to launch a controversial multibillion-dollar program to detect a germ attack on U.S. soil and aid its victims, but the program so far has struggled to provide protection.

Source: Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg and William Broad, "Germs" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001).


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