Paul Boutin explains pretty clearly on his blog all that he recently learned about this.
Anthrax. Smallpox. Ebola. For thriller writers and policy crusaders, biological warfare was a standard what-if scenario long before anyone mailed anthrax to government and media offices in 2001. Pentagon war games like Dark Winter, held just before 9/11, and this year's Atlantic Storm suggested that terrorists could unleash germs with the killing power of a nuclear weapon.
Scientists, though, have always been skeptical. Only massive, state-sponsored programs—not terrorist cells or lone kooks—pose a plausible threat, they say. As the head of the Federation of American Scientists working group on bioweapons put it in a 2002 Los Angeles Times op-ed: "A significant bioterror attack today would require the support of a national program to succeed."
Or not. A few months ago, Roger Brent, a geneticist who runs a California biotech firm, sent me an unpublished paper in which he wrote that genetically engineered bioweapons developed by small teams are a bigger threat than suitcase nukes.
Brent is one of a growing number of researchers who believe that a bioterrorist wouldn't need a team of virologists and state funding. He says advances in DNA-hacking technology have reached the point where an evil lab assistant with the right resources could do the job.
Yeah, that's sort of worrisome, isn't it?
Tags: biological warfare
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