Jewish World Review March 4, 2003 / 30 Adar I, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Consumer Reports

Bioterror nightmare approaching --- how it could likely happen | People began appearing at Oklahoma City hospitals complaining of fever and weakness, and exhibiting a nasty rash. Within days, the rash blossomed into pus-filled bumps. Patients with identical symptoms started showing up at hospitals in Philadelphia and in Atlanta.

Nearly a week went by before the Center for Disease Control could identify the mysterious illness. It was smallpox. By the time the diagnosis was made, there were hundreds of cases. Within a month, thousands. The month after that, tens of thousands.

Smallpox causes unspeakable misery. Layers of skin separate as fluid fills the spaces between them. Pustules line the nose, mouth and throat, making swallowing painful. About 30 percent of all who get smallpox die, typically within 10 to 16 days. Most survivors suffer disfiguring scars. Many are blinded.

The nightmare described above hasn't happened yet. It was the scenario for Dark Winter, a bioterrorist exercise played at Andrews Air Force Base two months before Sept. 11, 2001. Ironically, the game players hypothesized that the smallpox had been spread by three two-man teams of al-Qaida terrorists, who had released it in the form of an aerosol spray in shopping malls in Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Dark Winter ended in catastrophe. There are no cures for smallpox save vaccination and isolation. Because the disease had been declared eradicated in 1977, few Americans had been vaccinated. By the time it was diagnosed, it was too late for isolation.

Though smallpox no longer existed in nature, it lived on in weapons labs in several countries. When Ken Alibek was the second in command of Biopreparat, the Soviet Union's biological weapons program, the Soviets manufactured at least 20 tons of smallpox pathogen.

That likely was overkill. Because smallpox is so contagious - smallpox can transfer to anyone standing within six feet of an infected person - not much is required to create a pandemic. Bill Patrick, who worked on biological weapons programs at the U.S. Army lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland, said a gram of powdered smallpox - a quarter of a teaspoon - would be enough to infect 100 persons.

The Soviet Union is no more, and Russia, officially, is out of the bioweapons business. But some of the stock of Soviet biological and chemical weapons remains unaccounted for, and the whereabouts of many of the scientists who worked on these programs is unknown. In the 1990s, Iranian officials were offering former Biopreparat biologists and engineers as much as $5,000 a month to come to work for them. Former Soviet allies Iraq and North Korea, and France are the other nations thought to have weaponized smallpox.

Al Qaida has made extensive efforts to get its hands on biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. On March 22, 2002, U.S. forces in Afghanistan found near Kandahar an al Qaida lab under construction that, they said, would have been used to produce anthrax.

Al Qaida may already have experience using anthrax against Americans. Three months before the Sept. 11 attacks, Ahmed al-Haznawi, who was one of the hijackers of United Air Lines Flight 93, came into the emergency room at Holy Cross hospital in Fort Lauderdale for treatment of a black lesion on his leg. Dr. Christos Tsonas, the emergency room physician who treated him, later told the FBI that the lesion probably was cutaneous anthrax.

The FBI is still focusing on former U.S. Army bioweapons researcher Steven Hatfill as its primary "person of interest" in the case of the anthrax-laden letters that were mailed to two news organizations and two U.S. senators in the fall of 2001. But former Israeli intelligence officer Danny Shoham thinks al Qaida terrorists, using anthrax supplied by Iraq, are the more likely culprits.

"Installations, not just a one or two room laboratory, are needed to produce the kind of anthrax powder that was used in these cases," said Shoham, now a senior researcher at Bar Ilan university. "The resources needed...point to a state that sponsors terrorism."

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02/27/03: Iranian student: Can America hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?
02/25/03: Yahoos on both the Left and the Right are trying to prevent government from maximizing technology in protecting us
02/20/03: Anti-war group gets it right about great humanitarian tragedy in last Gulf War
02/18/03: Iraqis: Why are these people marching for tyranny?
02/07/03: French kiss(ed)-off
02/05/03: Does the FBI have the ability to protect us from terrorists already here?
02/03/03: The "Axis of Weasels"
01/29/03: A bit of the jitters
01/27/03: The world's mediocre intelligence agency
01/21/03: By reaffirming GOP opposition to racism, president demonstrates willingness to confront liars
01/16/03: Why the United States should withdraw all of its military forces from South Korea as rapidly as we reasonably can
01/14/03: Federal incompetence driven by political correctness, not trampling of civil liberties, is what we should fear
01/09/03: Bag this boondoggle: The V-22 Osprey would hurt our national defense
01/07/03: Another Korean war?
01/02/03: Ostriches
12/26/02: Learning from Canada's economic suicide
12/24/02: A moral dilemma: Support a vicious fascist dictator or the poor and downtrodden?
12/20/02: Time to tell the truth: The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights
12/18/02: Nothing better illustrates Trent Lott's unfitness for the post of Senate Majority Leader than his desperate efforts to cling to it
12/16/02: Debunker mentality: It's hard work not seeing ties between Iraq and al-Qaida
12/12/02: GOP ideologues turning on Lott --- better sacrifice the leader than the party
12/06/02: Curing our democracy of afflictions
12/02/02: Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time
11/27/02: What Saddam faces
11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
11/19/02: A draft would harm the military
11/12/02: The 2002 elections and Nixon
11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly