Tuesday, March 24, 2009


One of the common features on this blog has been discussion on the breadth of bioterror defense in this country and its connection with predator state security policy. The bioterror defense establishment in this country can now be loosely defined as a lobby and industry, one which exists to enrich and expand itself through the taxpayer. Its growth has deformed sensible thinking about the actual nature of the risk and pulled national health priorities in a bad direction. And during this time the only bioterror attack carried out was perpetrated from within the US biodefense infrastructure.

This was recently demonstrated again during a debate at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies here. DD wasn't there but a video of it has been placed on the web along with materials from the presentations of the two debaters, Milton Leitenberg and Richard Danzig. Readers may already be familiar with Leitenberg as a historian of BW and critic of the rise and expansion of the bioterror defense infrastructure in this country. Danzig, explained here in current profile -- is one of the more vocal, active and influential voices predicting catastrophic bioterrorism. (Hat tip for Jason at Armchair Generalist for getting to this first. DD would have missed it, otherwise.)

Two snapshots of slides from Leitenberg's presentation are particularly damning. In a better world and more sanely run country, they would end the debate over whether or not more money and devices are needed to fight bioterrorism. They graphically illustrate the level of risk and parasitic nature of biosecurity in this country.

Readers will note the ballooning of money and effort to fight theoretical bioterror threats, juxtaposed against funding to fight chronic illness.

The next slide also speaks for itself.

Despite argument enders like this, the biodefense industry lumbers on. It does so because it has never been required to have any anchor in reality. If you are pushing defense against bioterrorism, you can simply make threats up and not be rebuked for it. Your career will, in fact, flourish and the bioterror defense industry will reward you richly.

As for change during the Obama administration, this may be unlikely. It is certainly not an encouraging thing when the proposed head of the FDA, Margaret Hamburg, comes from the bioterror defense industry lobby. As profiled here, she has written this howler and been taken seriously: "[Information] on how to obtain and prepare bioweapons is increasingly available through the Internet."

And this is one of those examples (of which there are way too many) of an 'expert' making it up. One simply cannot train to be a bioterrorist by downloading texts from the Internet.

Much of the work DD has done over the past five years has gone toward convincingly refuting that belief by doing something none of the people caught claiming the opposite have ever bothered with: Collecting the plans and recipes of alleged Islamic terrorists and documents seized in terror investigations and analyzing them with an eye toward whether they would actually even might remotely work. And they don't.

Your daily example of making s--- up about bioterrorism is here -- furnished by someone at the Hudson Institute.

"The warnings of the U.S. Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism were underscored by subsequent media reports that dozens of members of Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an al-Qaida affiliate in Algeria, died earlier this year when their attempt to develop a biological weapon went awry," writes someone who's pulling your leg. "The resulting contamination allegedly killed the researchers at their mountain laboratory hideout."

This weird rumor on al Qaeda and plague was debunked on the ProMed mailing list two months ago. But its presence in the 'think-tank' piece, authored by an 'expert' on terrorism and homeland security, illustrates one can just about write or say anything one wants on the threat of bioterrorism.


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