2002 November 03 Sunday
Lone Scientist Anthrax Theory Discounted By Experts

Many bioweapons experts think that the set of technical problems that would have to be solved to make anthrax that has the qualities of what was sent to Senators Thomas A. Daschle and Patrick J. Leahy exceeds the intellectual and financial resources of a single lone scientist:

"In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."

Instead, suggested Spertzel and more than a dozen experts interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks, investigators might want to reexamine the possibility of state-sponsored terrorism, or try to determine whether weaponized spores may have been stolen by the attacker from an existing, but secret, biodefense program or perhaps given to the attacker by an accomplice.

Meanwhile, the FBI is trying to develop the ability to make anthrax with the same qualities as was used in the mail attacks:

FBI investigators and federal scientists have been secretly working for months to replicate the type of anthrax used in last year's deadly mail attacks, as part of a previously undisclosed strategy designed to determine precisely how the spores were manufactured, officials said yesterday.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who revealed the experiments in remarks to reporters here, said that using such "reverse engineering" could help investigators narrow the list of possible suspects.

There is a basic lesson in this whole anthrax attack saga: if we can't trace attacks back to their origin then deterrence will not work as a strategy to prevent them. There are regimes that are deeply hostile to the US and to the West in general that are developing bioweapons. How to deter them from launching attacks? Deterrence may not be possible.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 03 04:23 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment


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