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Home > War On Terror

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

A new and deadly enemy is lining up against us in the War On Terror: bioengineered pathogens.

Charlie Skelton reports.

15 November 2003

A report by the CIA, posted on the Federation of American Scientists website (www.fas.org), peers nervously into the nightmare gloom of The Darker Bioweapons Future.

The CIA report is a distillation of the findings of "a panel of life science experts convened for the Strategic Assessments Group by the National Academy of Sciences." In presenting these findings, the CIA aren't afraid foreground the fear...

The panel noted: The effects of some of these engineered biological agents could be worse than any disease known to man.

Circus rhetoric. You can imagine a moustachioed ringmaster in a big top hat and shiny boots cracking his whip and shouting: "roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, come and see a disease worse than any known to man!"

The second bullet point tries to put a bit of meat on the bone...

The genomic revolution is pushing biotechnology into an explosive growth phase. Panellists asserted that the resulting wave front of knowledge will evolve rapidly and be so broad, complex and widely available to the public that the traditional intelligence means for monitoring WMD development could prove inadequate to deal with the threat from these advanced biological weapons.

Basically, what this means is that due to the staggering failure of WMD inspections to support American military action, the CIA have decided to shift the goalposts:

1) They are trying to debunk "the traditional intelligence means for monitoring WMD development" - so we don't have to worry about any of those pesky reports any more. Instead, they claim that:

detection of related activities, particularly the development of novel bioengineered pathogens will depend increasingly on more specific human intelligence...

In other words we won't need a proper, above-ground UN report to sanction war. Just some unsubstantiated "intelligence reports" - and we all remember the number of "intelligence reports" that were bandied about before the Iraq invasion (reports that apparently even Colin Powell thought were a bit dodgy).

2) BW technology is supposedly going to be "widely available to the public" - therefore we don't need evidence of military installations in order to launch an attack. Any building could feasibly be housing people cooking up pathogens.

3) It is a brand new "threat" for the US to be terrified by (see Bowling for Columbine on the whole issue of American fear). Remember: put on your gas masks before you lock and load.

The threat is, of course, a threat to the United States. There is no question of the United States threatening anyone with this technology. Hence this strange endnote to the story on the Voice of America news service:

"The report does not say which countries or groups might use such bioweapons to threaten the United States."

Good to keep the threat open and unspecific. If we don't know who is making the threat it only makes the threat all the scarier...

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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