York Times reporter Judith Miller (left) and Miller Center
director Philip Zelikow.
Anthrax is now a weapon
anthrax scare is a significant problem that will not simply go
away, bioterrorism expert and senior New York Times writer Judith
Miller said Nov. 18 at a forum sponsored by the Miller
Center of Public Affairs.
cheap to produce and difficult to detect until people have been
exposed, biological weapons pose a grave threat to national security,
Miller told an audience of more than 200 in the Chemistry Auditorium.
are not as we feared when we wrote this book weapons
of the future, but are instead the weapons of the present,
said Miller, who, with Stephen Engelberg and William Broad, authored
Germs: Biological Weapons and Americas Secret War, currently
at the top of the Times best-seller list.
bioterrorism threat, Miller said, comes not just from foreign
terrorists interested in harming the U.S., but also from domestic
hate groups. Asked if she thought the recent anthrax cases came
from home or abroad, Miller said, I change my mind about
this every week, but today, I think the person or persons who
sent this (are) domestic. She cited as evidence both the
nature of the targets Democratic senators and the news
media and the fact that the strain used in the recent inhalation
anthrax cases was American in origin.
the book, Miller and her co-authors argue that the worldwide bioterrorism
threat is growing. Biological weapons are relatively cheap to
produce in comparison to other weapons of mass destruction, although
they are difficult to make in their most dangerous forms. Also,
there is, as Miller noted in her talk, no shortage of people
out there who hate us.
addition, the know-how and technology are readily available. The
Soviet Union operated the largest biological warfare program in
history, with over 70,000 scientists working to create weapons
such as vaccine-resistant smallpox and potent forms of anthrax.
This program continued for almost 20 years after the U.S.S.R.
signed the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972.
Soviet Unions dissolution and subseque nt economic turmoil
have provided a ready supply of unemployed scientists who know
how to create such weapons. These conditions also have endangered
the Russian governments control over materials and technologies
in its laboratories. Miller suggested that North Korea, Iraq,
Iran, Libya and Syria may also have biological weapons programs.
good news is that much can be done to thwart would-be bioterrorism.
Steps such as stockpiling medicines and vaccines, training healthcare
professionals at all levels of the system to identify the most
likely illnesses, and development of better biodetectors
used to detect the presence of biological contaminants in an environment
are all effective ways to fight bioterrorism, she said.
programs such as the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program,
a series of projects that aid former East Bloc countries in the
destruction of weapons of mass destruction, have been important,
if underfunded, tools in the fight against the spread of biological
weapons technology, Miller said.
achieve measurable prevention and readiness against biological
attack, federal and state governments must have the political
will to invest in programs with long-range, low-visibility payoffs
even in times when other short-term needs are pressing,
forum can be viewed online at http://millercenter.