- News Home
10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
- About Us
Bioterror Trumps Nuclear Threat
2 December 2008 2:19 pm
A congressionally appointed commission has been grabbing headlines with its message that the threat of a bioterrorist attack outweighs the risk of a nuclear weapons attack. In its report, World at Risk, released today but in the press since Sunday, the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, chaired by former Senator Bob Graham (D–FL), predicts an attack in the next 5 years if nothing changes. The commission expresses concerns about the spread of biotechnology abroad and the growing risks raised by the proliferation of biodefense labs in the United States. Terrorists don't possess the knowledge to launch an attack but could easily do so "by recruiting skilled scientists," the report says. Put another way:
In other words, given the high level of know-how needed to use disease as a weapon to cause mass casualties, the United States should be less concerned that terrorists will become biologists and far more concerned that biologists will become terrorists.
Among other steps, the commission recommends a review of federal rules for controlling risky pathogens, tighter oversight of U.S. biodefense labs, and the promotion of a "culture of security awareness" among life scientists. Much of this has been discussed before, for example at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing in October 2007. A bill introduced earlier this year would address some of the recommendations, and a federal biosafety task force will examine several next week, such as whether to mandate standard training. It may not be adding much new information, but the commission's report, aimed at Congress and the incoming Administration of President-elect Barack Obama, could give these leaders a nudge to follow through.