pandemic is unlikely until the virus becomes able to be passed from human to human, rather than from animal to human.
To decipher how that might happen, and why the influenza is so deadly in the
first place, scientists have to understand how the virus is built. For this, they need lots of genetic data on the virus—and
they just got a lot more.
Thanks to a new study, the available genetic information on bird flu has just
Scientists have created the first large-scale genomic analysis of the avian
flu virus. In the process, they have spotted a new variation that could help reveal why some outbreaks—like the present
H5N1 virus—are more deadly than others.
"[We used] a collection of viruses that spans 30-plus years and was found
on all of the major continents," said study co-author John Obenauer, a genetics analyst John Obenauer at St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
"It's a very broad survey of the bird-flu population that includes H5N1 but
also all 25 of the known serotypes."
Serotypes are closely related microscopic life-forms.
The study, published in this week's issue of the journal Science, identified
2,196 new bird-flu genes and 169 new complete genomes.
The new abundance of genetic information will be available to other flu investigators
"Very little is known about the diversity of the avian flu virus in nature,"
said Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, a microbiologist at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
"Obviously birds are the reservoir [for the virus], so without understanding
the diversity in that reservoir, we can't understand the source of the viruses that can create pandemics," said Garcia-Sastre,
who was not involved in the study.
"These efforts can be combined with efforts to sequence human [influenza]
strains and other animal strains, so that we can learn what makes a virus a bird virus, or a human virus, or some other type
The study not only doubles the amount of available genetic bird-flu data,
but it greatly boosts the number of full-genome bird-flu genetic sequences—something that has been sorely lacking.
Sequences are strings of letters that represent the structure of a DNA molecule
or strand. The more scientists know about the structure of the virus's DNA, the better they will be able to fight the virus.
Fully sequenced genomes represent life-forms' entire genetic material, rather
than just fragments. As such, the full sequences allow scientists to study how individual genes interact with each other.
"Individual genes don't give us the big picture," said Clayton Naeve, a genetics
analyst at St. Jude and the new study's senior author.
"Basically, by looking at them in this level of detail, we're learning about
their life cycle, what makes them tick, and which genes are important for which functions, Naeve said.
"That's the ultimate goal, and we're getting a better idea of how these viruses
The new genomes could help scientists learn which genes make a virus especially
lethal, or which might give a bird virus the ability to move into humans.
The data have already suggested some intriguing possibilities.
"We've observed that avian viruses have a molecular characteristic that human
viruses do not," Naeve said.
"That allows them to interact with human cells and potentially shut down pathways
in human cells. That finding gives us a whole new means by which viruses interact with cells that we didn't understand before,"
"We believe this may be important in [determining] virulence—in combination
with other genes."
Experts continue to warn that a global pandemic could be imminent if the H5N1
virus, or another bird-flu strain, genetically mutates into a form that can be easily transferred from person to person.
Such an outbreak could rival the notorious 1918 "Spanish flu" that may have
killed as many as 50 million people around the globe.
The UN's World Health Organization estimates that H5N1 has infected some 151
people to date, killing at least 82 worldwide since the first bird-human transmission in 2003.
In recent weeks the virus has spread westward from its East Asian source,
killing three Turkish children who contracted the disease from infected poultry.
By IRA STOLL - Staff Reporter of the Sun January 26, 2006
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says
Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the
passenger seats were removed.
The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with
The New York Sun.
"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they
must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."
Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general
during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria."
Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration's decision to go to war in 2003. And President Bush himself
has conceded much of the point; in a televised prime-time address to Americans last month, he said, "It is true that many
nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong."
Said Mr. Bush, "We did not find those weapons."
The discovery of the weapons in Syria could alter the American political debate
on the Iraq war. And even the accusations that they are there could step up international pressure on the government in Damascus.
That government, led by Bashar Assad, is already facing a U.N. investigation over its alleged role in the assassination of
a former prime minister of Lebanon. The Bush administration has criticized Syria for its support of terrorism and its failure
to cooperate with the U.N. investigation.
The State Department recently granted visas for self-proclaimed opponents
of Mr. Assad to attend a "Syrian National Council" meeting in Washington scheduled for this weekend, even though the attendees
include communists, Baathists, and members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group to the exclusion of other, more mainstream
Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported
the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American
"I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each
other. We are friends as pilots," Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned
for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.
The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to
cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes,
he said, including "yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel." The pilots said there was also a ground convoy
The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because
they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse
in June of 2002.
Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming," Mr. Sada said. "They
handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians."
Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons
was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali." The Syrian official responsible for receiving
them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe.
Short of discovering the weapons in Syria, those seeking to validate Mr. Sada's
claim independently will face difficulty. His book contains a foreword by a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, David Eberly,
who was a prisoner of war in Iraq during the first Gulf War and who vouches for Mr. Sada, who once held him captive, as "an
honest and honorable man."
In his visit to the Sun yesterday, Mr. Sada was accompanied by Terry Law,
the president of a Tulsa, Oklahoma based Christian humanitarian organization called World Compassion. Mr. Law said he has
known Mr. Sada since 2002, lived in his house in Iraq and had Mr. Sada as a guest in his home in America. "Do I believe this
man? Yes," Mr. Law said. "It's been solid down the line and everything checked out."
Said Mr. Law, "This is not a publicity hound. This is a man who wants peace
putting his family on the line."
Mr. Sada acknowledged that the disclosures about transfers of weapons of mass
destruction are "a very delicate issue." He said he was afraid for his family. "I am sure the terrorists will not like it.
The Saddamists will not like it," he said.
He thanked the American troops. "They liberated the country and the nation.
It is a liberation force. They did a great job," he said. "We have been freed."
He said he had not shared his story until now with any American officials.
"I kept everything secret in my heart," he said. But he is scheduled to meet next week in Washington with Senators Sessions
and Inhofe, Republicans of, respectively, Alabama and Oklahoma. Both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The book also says that on the eve of the first Gulf War, Saddam was planning
to use his air force to launch a chemical weapons attack on Israel.
When, during an interview with the Sun in April 2004, Vice President Cheney
was asked whether he thought that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been moved to Syria, Mr. Cheney replied only that
he had seen such reports.
An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel's Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel's
prime minister, Ariel Sharon, stated, "Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved
from Iraq to Syria." The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as "completely untrue," and it attracted
scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.
The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism,
a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.
Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons
Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. Syria's chemical warfare program, apart
from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq, has long been the source of concern to America, Israel, and Lebanon.
In March 2004, the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying,
"Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable
for producing CW."
The CIA's Iraq Survey Group acknowledged in its September 30, 2004, "Comprehensive
Report," "we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war.
Reports of such actions exist, but we have not yet been able to investigate this possibility thoroughly."
Mr. Sada is an unusual figure for an Iraqi general as he is a Christian and
was not a member of the Baath Party. He now directs the Iraq operations of the Christian humanitarian organization, World
Georgia Institute Of Technology
Bacterial Bioterror: New Method Can Rapidly Detect Potential Bioterror Agent
And Pinpoint Bacterial Strain
A new combination of analytical chemistry and mathematical data analysis techniques
allows the rapid identification of the species, strain and infectious phase of the potential biological terrorism agent Coxiella
burnetii. The bacterium causes the human disease Q fever, which can cause serious illness and even death.
Research by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) has yielded a method that proved to be 95.2 percent accurate in identifying and classifying Coxiella
burnetii. The laboratory test delivers results in about five minutes compared to about two hours for the lab technique currently
used to detect this bacterium.
“Because of its potential use as a bioweapon, we needed a method to detect
Coxiella burnetii at an early stage, and we needed to be able to determine which strain is present so authorities can determine
the geographic area from which it came,” said Facundo Fernandez, an assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and
Biochemistry at Georgia Tech. He presented the research team’s findings Sept. 1 at the 230th American Chemical Society
National Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Fernandez and his Ph.D. student Carrie Young, a chemist in the CDC's Environmental Health
Lab, collaborated with CDC researchers in the NationalCenter for Environmental Health and the NationalCenter for Infectious Diseases. They combined mass spectrometry -- an analytical technique
to study ionized molecules in the gas phase -- and a mathematical data analysis technique called partial least squares analysis.
Mass spectrometry allows researchers to look at the profiles of different proteins
expressed in a microorganism. Partial least squares analysis lets researchers separate important information from “noise”
-- or biological baseline shifts caused by sample preparation variations -- that could corrupt a predictive model.
Not only is the combination of these techniques into one method a novel concept,
this research also represents the first time that Coxiella burnetii has been detected at the strain level with a rapid detection
process, Fernandez noted. Such classification is a challenging task with bacteria, he added. Researchers believe the technique
also will work with other pathogens, which they expect to begin studying this fall.
Coxiella burnetii is a species of concern because it causes the highly infective
human disease Q fever, which is transmitted primarily by cattle, sheep and goats. A human can be infected by as few as one
bacterium. The disease can be manifested as a chronic or acute case, depending on the strain. Symptoms can include high fever,
severe headache, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and chest pain. Q fever can also lead to pneumonia and hepatitis. The
chronic form of the disease can cause endocarditis, an infection of a heart valve, and even lead to death.
In addition to being a public health threat, Coxiella burnetii is listed as a
Category B bioterrorism agent because of its long-term environmental stability, resistance to heat and drying, extremely low
infectious dose, aerosol infectious route and history of weaponization by various countries, according to the CDC.
To date, Georgia Tech and CDC researchers can differentiate between seven Coxiella burnetii
strains, which come from Australia, the United States and Europe. Some strains are more infective than others, and the researchers’ method determines not only the strain, but
whether it’s a Phase I or II strain depending on its ability to infect, Fernandez explained.
“The next step is to fine tune our model and increase the number of strains
we can identify,” Fernandez said. “There is a library of strain samples available to us, though the samples are
sanitized with gamma radiation and rendered inactive before analysis.” To identify strains, researchers examine the
appearance of biomarker proteins in samples.
“In some cases, we classify a strain by the presence or absence of a biomarker.
And sometimes we see the same biomarker proteins, but at varying levels, in different strains,” Fernandez noted.
The researchers’ detection technique is highly sensitive, meaning it can
detect Coxiella burnetii strains at very low concentrations – specifically at the attomole level, which is equivalent
to 1 X 10-17 moles. (Moles measure the actual number of atoms or molecules in a sample.)
Until now, the best method to differentiate between strains of Coxiella burnetii was
a laboratory technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which analyzes the genes of a bacterium and yields results in one to two hours. The new method, which
analyzes the proteins of a bacterium, can yield results in five minutes. For now, it is also a laboratory test, though separate
research involving Fernandez and other Georgia Tech researchers is pursuing development of a field-testing instrument.
“In a bioterrorism event, you want more than one method to determine the strain
you are dealing with,” Fernandez noted. “So you would use our technique first and then use PCR as a second method to independently confirm your results. Also, our method
using mass spectrometry, allows you to quickly replicate your analysis – even 10 times if you want to. That gives you
an added degree of statistical significance.”
Fernandez and his colleagues began the research in June 2004 with funding from
the CDC and a Georgia Tech Research Corporation seed grant. With their encouraging results about the method’s capability,
they plan to apply for additional federal funds in the near future.
Working with Fernandez and Young are John Barr and his colleagues Adrian Woolfitt
and Hercules Moura of the National Center for Environmental Health, and Edward Shaw (now at Oklahoma State University) and
Herbert Thompson of the National Center for Infectious Diseases.
Editor's Note: The original news release can be found here.
Bio War News
. we have a problem . . .
8/9/2005 Updated 8/9/2005
'We have to be ready for everything'
discussed these and other issues Tuesday with USA TODAY editors and reporters. His comments were edited for length and clarity
By Kate Patterson, USA TODAY
What about for a biological attack?
Bio is the opposite. It would be difficult to prevent the first onslaught of a biological attack. However, there is a huge
impact that protection and response and recovery has. An appropriate mechanism that detects that an attack has occurred, coupled
with an effective ability to respond, could essentially eliminate or all but eliminate loss of life. So the consequences would
become very much reduced.
Are you comfortable with the plans that are in place in the event of such an attack?
A lot of good work has been done, but we want to make sure that we have really taken the planning as far as we possibly can.
We're working on it.
Bio War News
Homeland Security to focus on bioterror, transit
July 14, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Proclaiming the Homeland Security Department ''open to change,'' Secretary
Michael Chertoff on Wednesday announced plans to centralize his agency's terror analysis, put a higher priority on bioterrorism
and step up detection systems in mass transit.
In welcome news to Washington area passengers, the department also will
lift a rule that forbade passengers from leaving their seats for 30 minutes before flying into or out of Reagan National Airport,
Chertoff said in revealing the details of a sweeping overhaul of the 2-year-old agency founded in the wake of the Sept. 11
Chertoff ordered the review in March shortly after he took office. The
overhaul aims to spur the sluggish bureaucracy beset by turf wars and growing pains, and to ensure that department resources
are directed to the nation's most vulnerable areas.
''Over time, as intelligence warrants and progress allows, DHS will be
open to change. We will be straight forward. If something goes wrong, we will not only acknowledge it, we will be the first
to fix the error,'' Chertoff said.
It pains me to be hard on Charles Duelfer. A smart and dedicated civil servant with vast experience
in Iraq, he at least had an understandable reason for wrapping
up his investigation into Iraq’s
WMD programs: Osama bin Laden’s man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was trying to blow him up. Dr. Duelfer told London’s Independent in April of this year that a car bomb set by Zarqawi’s men
“tried to get me and my follow car. Two of my guards were killed and one was badly wounded. My hearing's not been right
since." This was the unofficial reason that Duelfer’s Iraq Survey Group had to “cut short” its concluding
look into the transfer of WMD material to Syria. His predecessor, Dr. David Kay, resigned in protest because CentCom was repeatedly
transferring away members of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) team in order to deal with terrorism.
These aren’t exactly ideal working conditions. Duelfer and Kay had other problems
as well: Zarqawi and the ex-Baathist terrorists were also killing off as many Iraqi scientists as they could. According to
Congressman Steve Buyer last year, at least nine Iraqi scientists questioned by ISG were assassinated within the year
after Operation Iraqi Freedom and another fifty scientists simply fled the country. Mr. Duelfer told Congress that he
was struck by the "extreme reluctance of Iraqi managers, scientists and engineers to speak freely."
We needn’t search too deeply into why the Iraqis with knowledge of Saddam’s WMD programs were specifically being targeted by Zarqawi's terrorists. It surely wasn’t
because all Iraqi WMD programs had been dismantled twelve years earlier, shortly
after the first Gulf War. But for those of you who haven’t carted this tome to the beach yet, Duelfer’s 1,500-plus
page “Comprehensive Report,” issued in rough form in September and in final form this spring, argues that this
is more or less what happened.
Duelfer’s Report suffers from curious lapses. In the months and years immediately before Operation
Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Saddam was not nearly as WMD-free as Duelfer
surmises. The Report is valuable for what it does reveal, but it certainly does not serve as any basis for the media’s
and administration critics’ angry claims of a harmless Iraq.
In his Report, Duelfer works hard to impute rational calculations to an apparently irrational dictator.
But his narrative is constrained by this model. Duelfer argues that Saddam, whom he describes as the Iraqi regime personified,
can only be understood as a man who had clear goals but imperfect information. Saddam wanted to have WMD capabilities as long as he could, because WMD had saved him from Iranian human-wave attacks in the 1980’s and from the Shi’ite rebellion in the south
after the Gulf War. Chemical weapons were good for gassing the Kurds into intimidated slavery as well, at least in Saddam’s
But the Iraqi president was hamstrung by the oil embargo during the 1990’s, and wanted an end
to these sanctions at almost any cost. There was no tax base to pay for the security services and the outlandish multitude
of palaces he wanted to build. The U.N.’s Oil-for-Food bribery program saved his regime from crumbling, and Saddam managed
to skim more than $20 billion off the top: for himself, al-Qaeda and its affiliates like Ansar al-Islam and Abu Sayyaf, and
hungry European governments like France
By the turn of the millennium, Duelfer writes, things were going well for Saddam. A few years of bribing foreign
governments and businesses through Oil-For-Food had managed to erode the sanctions regime entirely. The U.S. was quickly becoming the last holdout in favor of continuation. The Baghdad International Fair in November 2001 was attended by hundreds of companies, and “the
Oil Minister was treated like a rock star.” The end of UN sanctions was finally in sight.
Duelfer believes that Saddam, who had already been heavily bombed in 1998 for not complying with UNSCOM’s
inspections, thought he could keep his WMD human expertise
(but not his visible stockpiles) preserved but inactive, and wait out the sanctions. Then he'd become flush and powerful
again from pumping oil. When sanctions went finally kaput, Saddam could go back to growing anthrax and making VX in serious
quantities. But back in 2002-3, if his WMD programs were
inactive anyway, why was Saddam willing to pay so dearly for not complying with UN resolutions on WMD?By pretending he actually had WMD stockpiles, Saddam told the ISG from his jail cell, he would deter Iran, his real enemy. Duelfer accepts Saddam’s jailhouse explanation uncritically.
This had the appearance of logic, though: Saddam was obviously no suicide bomber and badly needed
the cash that the end of sanctions would bring. But the dictator misjudged the United States’ intentions after the catastrophe of September 11th,
and thought that he could keep his game going. As we all now know, this turned out to be wrong. President Bush, as Saddam’s
sons lamented shortly before their deaths from an American TOW missile, was “not like Clinton.” The chastened American president was not interested in “strategic ambiguity”
concerning Iraqi WMD, and so dismantled the regime by force in March 2003.
In Duelfer's mind, it was war over a fiction—but it was not George Bush’s fiction: Saddam had acted guilty, after
all. Duelfer believes that the major pretext for war turned out to be Saddam’s own fiction, contrived for Saddam’s
unique purposes and stemming from his flawed strategic information.
But a great deal of information in Duelfer’s own Report contradicts his tidy model of a disarmed-but-coyly-pretending
dictator. Take the little matter of the secret biological laboratories hidden throughout Baghdad and under the control of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). UNSCOM had spent years
roaming Iraq and never so much as heard a whiff about them. Hans Blix
and his successor agency, UNMOVIC, found Iraq in non-compliance in 2002 without stumbling over a single white lab coat. These labs were unknown to any intelligence
agency in the world until after the Iraq War, when ISG uncovered their existence. They were all in egregious violation of the UN resolutions on disclosure and
These labs deserve more than a mention because the real danger from Saddam’s Iraq was never really a large-scale use of chemical or biological weapons on a battlefield.
American troops could defend against this kind of attack. It was the danger that Saddam would arm terrorists with these weapons,
and use them against select American civilian targets.
And why wouldn’t Saddam? His men trained foreign al-Qaeda and other terrorists at
Salman Pak in aircraft hijacking, helped to bankroll al-Qaeda and its affiliates, kept Zarqawi, Abu Nidal, and Abu Abbas as
house pets, tried to kill former President Bush, tried to blow up Radio Free Europe, and apparently sent an active colonel
in the Fedayeen Saddam to baby-sit the 9-11 hijackers in the 2000 Malaysia planning summit, for starters.
No one has yet figured out who cooked up and freeze-dried into spores the military-grade anthrax sent
to Senators Leahy and Daschle’s offices in the fall of 2001. The entire resources of the US government have not been able to replicate the lethality of these spores. Former Iraq
Survey Group member Col. Bob Kadlec said during a presentation at this year's meeting of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science that the secret Baghdad labs were not just a "proliferation threat"-- they could also provide the "missing
link" to a better understanding of the regime’s biological weapons programs.
Dr. David Kay reported to Congress in October 2003 that one scientist was ordered to conceal reference
strains of BW organisms like anthrax, ricin and Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever in his own refrigerator. The scientist knew of other seed stocks but these were
missing when ISG investigators showed up to collect them. We also know now that a special unit of the IIS, like the Nazi SS,
was conducting “secret experiments on human beings, resulting in their deaths.” As Duelfer wrote later, “the
aim was probably the development of poisons, including ricin and aflatoxin, to eliminate or debilitate the Regime’s
opponents.” Why not American opponents? Duelfer also judged that a “break-out production capability” in
BW existed at one site, the State Company for Drug Industries and Medical Appliances, SDI, at Samarra.
Then there was the smallpox research. Recall that smallpox, the greatest killer disease
in the history of mankind, was not only illegal, but supposed to be eradicated from the face of the Earth. Smallpox kills
33% of its victims. There is no cure.
Duelfer writes that ISG cannot be sure whether Saddam maintained his government’s prior work
on weaponization of smallpox virus up to March 2003. But Duelfer reported that “According to Dr. Mahmud Farraj Bilal
Al Sammarai, a senior official involved in the weaponization and testing of CBW agents, the aim of the viral BW program was
intended for the weaponization of smallpox.” Dr. Bilal told Duelfer that his team started with Camel pox since it was
easier to work with for development, but ultimately the program was intended to progress to smallpox. Dr. Bilal claimed that
he “did not know for a fact that samples of smallpox existed within Iraq.” Dr. Rihab Taha, usually known as Dr. Germ, told Duelfer that she had destroyed her own samples
and capability in 1990 or 1991, but Duelfer often found Dr. Germ’s credibility to be severely wanting. She is likely
facing prosecution for Crimes Against Humanity, after all. Lying about her involvement in illegal activities is to be
expected. Dr. Germ is still in US custody somewhere in Iraq.
Could Saddam have kept smallpox stores and concealed them from the inspectors? Duelfer’s technical
advisors believe the answer is yes, particularly in liquid nitrogen freezers. And “several institutes” in Iraq had such freezers. One “institute” had an interesting story attached, according
ISG learned of a television news report that was broadcasted on Western television in mid-April
2003 that reported the CPHL had been [recently] looted of highly infectious virus such as smallpox, polio and influenza. ISG
visited the latter and interviewed senior researchers who described the incident….ISG did identify a “secret lab”
that was operated there, which had been vacated in December 2002. The nature of the research in that laboratory was not determined
[by ISG]. (Italics mine)
Somehow, when reporting that the Duelfer Report “proved” that the “case
for war” was bogus, the mainstream media missed the part about the “senior researchers” telling ISG that
their “secret lab” had just been looted of all their good smallpox.
But it’s not just Duelfer’s own evidence that flies in the face of his conclusions. He
ignores completely a major but unreported find, first revealed on Cybercast News Service last year. American soldiers literally
found some of Saddam’s purchase orders for mustard gas and “malignant pustule,” a known code-phrase for
anthrax (according to UNSCOM) in a government building. What is interesting are the amounts of the WMD and the dates: five kilograms of mustard gas on August 21, 2000, and three ampules of anthrax on September 6th, 2000. The orders came with protective equipment.
I spoke at length with the reporter who broke the story, Scott Wheeler. I asked him about his authentication
efforts with known Iraq
experts. “I can’t find anyone who won’t authenticate them,” he said, with an air of regret. Retired
CIA official Bruce Tefft described the documents to Wheeler
as “accurate.” I personally asked former Clinton campaign advisor and Iraq
expert Dr. Laurie Mylroie what her confidence level in the (related) terrorist-ties documents was. She emailed back “One
hundred percent.” Dr. Walid Phares, a renowned Lebanese-American expert on the Middle East, told Wheeler that the documents
were a “watershed” and “big” in their implications. Scott Wheeler got a high-level former UNSCOM inspector
to authenticate the documents, too. The UNSCOM veteran told Wheeler that he had “zeroed in on the signatures on the
documents and ‘the names of some of the people who sign off on these things….[The Iraqis] were meticulous record
Almost not believing that ISG could be disinterested in this story, I contacted my old graduate professor
at Georgetown, Dr. Assad AbuKhalil. Dr. AbuKhalil has become a violent
critic of Israel and the Bush Administration’s Iraq War, running a weblog called “the Angry Arab” chock
full of pictures of suffering Palestinians and Iraqis sent to him by God-knows-who. This angry Arab (with whom I maintain
a certain affection and respect) enjoys attacking government officials on television over various policy errors and mistranslations
of the Arabic language, such as the Bin Laden videotapes. I sent him the original Arabic documents via email. “Interesting,”
he wrote back. He said “nothing would surprise me” about the depths of Saddam’s depravity anyway, and the
documents would have to be studied “more carefully.” I never heard back. The fact that this virulently anti-Administration
professor could not dismiss these documents as fakes speaks well of their authenticity, in my humble opinion.
I sent the documents to ISG, offering to assist them with experts and authentication. I got a polite
“we’ll-call-you.” If Dr. Duelfer’s experts somehow knew about these documents and why they were fakes,
he wasn’t sharing this with the American people. One thing was certain: if they weren’t fakes, Duelfer’s
tidy model of Saddam only pretending to have WMD to deter Iran wasn’t holding up. Saddam at least wanted a terrorist-friendly WMD capability, three ampules of anthrax at a time, which in the end was one of the things
that we were afraid of anyway.
In the summer of 2000, around the time of his purchase orders to Iraqi companies for new mustard and
anthrax, Saddam gave an unusually belligerent speech aimed at the rest of the world. Iraq would never give up its “special” weapons, he stared into the camera, if
its neighbors would not. “Neighbors” was interpreted by the US to mean Israel.At the same time, Saddam ordered his underlings to speed up development of a long-range
missile, which would defy the 150 km range limit imposed by the United Nations. Duelfer’s predecessor David Kay later
reported that around this time Saddam had ramped up illegal SCUD-variant fuel production capacity and had sent agents to North Korea to buy parts for the No Dong missile, which has a range
in excess of 1,500 km. In June of 2002 Saddam ordered development of the Jinin cruise missile, which had a prototype range
of 1000 km. He developed the al-Samoud II missile with ranges over 600 km.
There was no doubt that as America and Britain pushed harder for Iraqi compliance in 2002, Saddam
became alarmed enough to re-admit the inspectors. He tried to hide the evidence on a massive scale. The US satellite intercepts re-played by Colin Powell in February 2003 refer to officers getting
rid of the “nerve agents” before the inspectors got there. Saddam told his surprised generals shortly before the
war that he had no WMD, and ordered the scientists to “cooperate completely”
with the inspectors. He agreed to destroy his al-Samoud missiles, and suspended work on the Jinin cruise missile. As part
of his effort to vacuum up all the evidence, his men resorted to tactics like dumping mustard gas barrels and cyanide in the
Euphrates, never minding that the local people use this river for their drinking water. The US Marines found “significant quantities” of the poisons in the river near
Nasiriyah in June of 2003. Duelfer never mentions this find.
Shortly before the war, Hans Blix’s UNMOVIC teams found and destroyed at Al-Muthanna 10 155-millimeter
artillery shells and four plastic containers filled with mustard gas. Duelfer mostly denies Blix’s find here has any
significance, because it doesn’t fit his model. He writes off the 58-plus chemical weapons shells found all over Iraq after the War as being “residual” shells left over from before the 1991
Gulf War. I somehow doubt that the Marine unit that was targeted by terrorists with one of these shells was interested
in the date of its construction. I also doubt that if Saddam wanted to send over the next Ramzi Yousef to dump one of these
shells in the SearsTower HEVAC system, the thousands of victims’ families would much care, either. Duelfer also doesn’t
pay much attention to how the Polish Army actually purchased cyclosarin (five times deadlier than sarin) rockets from the
black market in Iraq
to keep them out of the hands of Zarqawi's terrorists. So clearly Saddam didn’t have time to bury all the evidence.
It’s really too bad about Duelfer’s work being “cut short” because of Zarqawi.
The trail of WMD isn’t cold. It leads to Syria and the BekkaValley of formerly Syrian-occupied Lebanon, according to a Syrian defector to US intelligence. Gen. Tommy Franks himself leans this way, telling the media that "Two days before the
war, on March 17 , we saw through multiple intelligence channels - both human intelligence and technical intelligence,
large caravans of people and things, including some of the top 55 [most wanted] Iraqis, going to Syria." What was so important
to move to Syria immediately before the War with the top regime officials?
Duelfer’s next stop should have been Damascus. With
Syrian President Bashar Assad now admitting that he has stockpiles of WMD, perhaps it should be ours.
>> The government responded to the media attention
by carrying out its own survey, and found H5N1 in three out of eight pigs it tested in Banten, Naipospos told Nature. Like
those tested by Nidom, the pigs showed no outward signs of disease.
Despite this worrying result, communication has
faltered between Indonesia and the international organizations charged with monitoring animal health, such as the United Nations'
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). When interviewed by Nature last
week, the OIE's regional representative for the Asia-Pacific region still referred to the presence of H5N1 in pigs as "a rumour".
The above story of H5N1 in pigs in Indonesia has parallels to
the human and bird flu found in pigs in South
Korea. WHO's initial response
was that the human WSN/33 sequences were a lab error. Eventually they did send a high ranking member who saw the data generated while he was in the lab. Although
he commented "something is going on here", WHO has yet to issue a statement.
Previously, the WHO had written a press release indicating
that they were going to halt verification efforts, but that release may have never circulated. In South Korea
the pigs are infected with two human (H1N1 and H1N2) and one avian (H9N2) flu virus.
A FIFTH of the world's population
could be struck down with a new influenza pandemic, triggering global economic meltdown and a complete freeze on international
travel, experts have warned.
Scientists say world leaders
should start planning now for an outbreak that could lead to several million deaths, widespread panic and the collapse of
Only a global response, rather
than countries focusing wholly on their own protection, would stand any chance of averting the catastrophe, it is claimed.
Fears of a pandemic have arisen
after outbreaks of the H5N1 bird-flu strain in south-east Asia, which has caused a total of more than
50 confirmed human deaths. The fatality rate of humans infected by the virus is as high as 60 per cent.
At present, there is no evidence
that the strain can be transmitted from one person to another, but it may only be a matter of time before the virus mutates
into a form that can easily pass between people. Should that happen, it would spread rapidly around the world, with devastating
Scientists writing in the journal
Nature said the world today was far more vulnerable to the effects of a pandemic than it was in 1918, when a deadly strain
of influenza killed between 20 million and 40 million people.
An optimistic estimate suggests
that the next flu pandemic could cause 20 per cent of the world's population to become ill. Within a few months, almost 30
million people would need to be hospitalised, and a quarter of them would die.
But the effects on today's highly
interconnected world economy would be just as serious, it is claimed.
Professor Michael Osterholm, of
the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota
in Minneapolis, said: "The arrival of pandemic flu will trigger a reaction that
will change the world overnight.
"There will be an immediate
response from leaders to stop the virus entering their countries by greatly reducing and even ending foreign travel and trade
- as was seen in parts of Asia in response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS] epidemic.
"These efforts are doomed to fail
given the infectiousness of the virus and the volume of illegal crossings that occur at most borders. Global, national and
regional economies will come to an abrupt halt."
International co-operation was
vital to minimise the impact of a pandemic, Prof Osterholm said. In particular, a global effort was needed to develop a new
type of vaccine that could be manufactured quickly and that targeted multiple strains. But he added: "Unfortunately, most
industrial countries are looking at the vaccine issue through myopic lenses."
He warned that time was running
out to prepare for the next flu pandemic and said there was a "critical need" for medical and non-medical planning, involving
both the public and private sectors, at a level beyond anything considered so far.
Meanwhile, four Dutch experts,
led by Dr Albert Osterhaus, from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, made
an urgent call for a global taskforce to control a future pandemic.
It would consist of leading specialists
in the fields of human and animal medicine, virology, epidemiology, pathology, ecology and agriculture. It would also include
experts in translating science into policy. Management teams would be available to target specific flu outbreaks occurring
anywhere in the world.
"Given the large geographical
area in which the H5N1 virus has become endemic, and the greater potential for rapid virus spread, an efficient, effective,
outbreak management team strategy, with centralised guidance, is urgently needed," the Dutch team said. Early detection and
a rapid response to bird flu at a global level would greatly reduce the cost of dealing with a full-blown outbreak, they added.
Hugh Pennington, the internationally
renowned emeritus professor of bacteriology at AberdeenUniversity,
said: "If the mutation takes place or some kind of gene exchange happens to allow it to spread from person to person, then
we get into the severity that this article [in Nature] discusses.
"Against this virus, we don't
have any immunity, and it is the fact that it is brand new to our immune systems that gets people worried.
"How serious it is will
depend on the kind of virus that develops, but we have no way of knowing, so it is really quite difficult to make any definitive
predictions or put any odds on it happening at all. They are right to be concerned, and to call for well-formulated contingency
plans, but it is very much something that we will have to wait and see about."
Bio War News
Item No.: 20
Note:The infrastructure is more important than the actual agents.Once
the terror cells are set up a variety of agents can be used.Highly infectious
agents require more training only if the survival of the terror cell is important.If
they are “martyrs” safety training would not be required.
Al Qaeda Poisons Seen
Sowing More Panic than Death
Thu Apr 14, 2005
(Reuters) - The cracking of an al Qaeda poison plot in Britain
lends credence to longstanding warnings from police and security services that militants would attempt an attack using toxins.
But experts say that, while
deadly agents such as ricin are relatively easy to produce even in the home, they are more suited to sowing panic than inflicting
highest-profile Islamist militant trial, Algerian Kamel Bourgass was convicted on Wednesday of plotting poison or bomb attacks
and jailed for 17 years. He had been separately sentenced to 22 years for killing a policeman.
While no actual poison was
found, police discovered recipes and ingredients for making ricin, cyanide and other toxins.
Toxicologists said ricin, extracted
from castor beans and fatal even in doses of less than a milligram, could easily be made in an ordinary kitchen.
"It's rather easy to do that
and you don't need any special training. If you have a recipe you probably can do that, yes," said Professor Ralf Stahlmann
of the Free University of Berlin.
Professor Harry Smith
of Britain's BirminghamUniversity said that while ricin was "all right for assassinating people," it was
unsuitable for killing large numbers.
"It's a question of disseminating
a large amount of it. Dispersal is the hard part," he said.
Bourgass and eight other men,
who were all acquitted, were arrested in 2003 after another suspect told Algerian authorities they were keeping ricin in a
jar of skin cream and planned to smear it on door handles in London.
Stahlmann and Smith both said
such a plan would have failed, because ricin is poorly absorbed through the skin. It is most deadly when injected -- as in
the notorious case of Bulgarian exile Georgi Markov, who died after being stabbed in the leg with a ricin-tipped umbrella
in London in 1978.
(Note:Actually Mr. Markov was hit by a small pellet
only a little larger than the diameter of a grain of salt fired from an air gun disguised as an umbrella.The pellet had been engineered using nano-technology to carry the tiny amount of ricin that was required
to kill.The pellet was recovered from his leg during an autopsy.Suspicion immediately fell on the KGB as only large nation states possessed the capability to use nano-technology
at that time.)
Despite the difficulties faced
by militants in dispersing poisons to kill on a large scale, security officials fear any such incident could sow widespread
Some analysts use the term
"weapons of mass disruption" to describe the kind of arms -- from dirty bombs to biological agents -- that could create havoc
without necessarily claiming large numbers of casualties.
Intelligence sources say al
Qaeda's interest in chemical and biological agents is well documented. An attack by such means would be in keeping with its
predilection for constantly varying its tactics and reaching for new weapons and targets.
Al Qaeda manuals on preparation
of biological agents were discovered at the group's training camps in Afghanistan
after the U.S. invasion in 2001. Bourgass had attended one
In an overview of the network's
capabilities, German foreign intelligence chief August Hanning told a security conference in Berlin
this week that al Qaeda was already assumed to possess a range of biological and chemical weapons.
Among biological agents, he
said it had acquired poisons such as botulinum and ricin, may have bacteria like anthrax and plague, but was unlikely to have
got its hands on viruses, such as Ebola and smallpox.
Among chemical weapons,
Hanning said al Qaeda was assumed to have poison gases, probably had blistering agents like lewisite, which attack the skin,
and possibly also nerve agents like soman and sarin, the substance that killed 12 people in a 1995 attack by the Aum Shinri
Kyo cult on the Tokyo subway.
WASHINGTON -- President Bush signed an executive order Friday authorizing
the government to impose a quarantine to deal with any outbreak of a particularly lethal variation of influenza now found
in Southeast Asia.
The order is intended to deal with a type of influenza commonly referred to as bird flu. Since
January 2004, an estimated 69 people, primarily in Vietnam, have contracted the disease. The fatality rate among those reported
to have the disease is about 70 percent. But Dr. Keiji Fukuda said he suspects there are more cases.
Health officials around the world are trying to monitor the virus closely
because some flu pandemics are believed to have originated with birds.
Development of portable infectious disease detector
11 Jan 2005
Object of new university/industry collaboration -
device similar to today's home pregnancy tests that can quickly detect the presence of infectious diseases, including HIV-AIDS
and measles, as well as biological agents such as ricin and anthrax, is the object of a new joint university/industry research
Vanderbilt University's Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE) and Pria Diagnostics
LLC, a privately held California company that specializes in miniaturized medical diagnostics, agreed to collaborate on the
development before the holidays.
VIIBRE has spent the last three years developing the ability to measure the metabolism
of small groups of cells and studying how they respond to drugs, toxins and pollutants. To do so, the interdisciplinary team
has developed two basic technologies: special electrodes that can measure the concentrations of the chemicals that cells consume
and excrete in extremely small volumes and the use of fluids flowing through microscopic channels to move and manipulate small
numbers of cells reliably. In the process, the group has applied for more than 12 patents.
Meanwhile, Pria has developed
a micro-optical fluorescence spectroscopy system and used it as the basis for a inexpensive male fertility detector that can
be used in the home to measure sperm motility with an accuracy comparable to laboratory analyses.
"I'm thrilled at
how well the VIIBRE and PRIA technologies mesh," says John P. Wikswo, professor of biomedical engineering, physiology and
physics at Vanderbilt and director of VIIBRE. "We are already making rapid progress on prototyping portable instruments for
clinical diagnosis and biodefense."
"Today the treatment for AIDS is very expensive and there is always a question
about when to start and stop anti-retroviral therapy," says Pria's Chief Technology Officer Jason Pyle. "We are developing
a device that we hope will allow medical professionals and HIV patients to manage their disease in a way that is similar to
how diabetes patients can monitor their condition since the introduction of home blood
glucose detectors." The collaboration's goal is to produce its first portable HIV monitor within two years. In addition to
such "point of care" devices, Wikswo and Pyle are joining forces to develop "high-throughput" screening systems that can determine
the biological activity of large numbers of compounds with extreme rapidity and so could have a major impact on the drug discovery
Fifteen years ago a number of start-up companies were created to make the goal of creating a "lab-on-a-chip"
a reality. However, putting microscopic arrays of channels, pumps and valves to move around minute amounts of liquid on silicon
chips proved to be considerably more difficult than most of the inventors had expected and the products that these companies
have created thus far have been too expensive for the point-of-care diagnostics market.
For their home fertility tester,
Pria kept costs down by keeping their system as simple as possible. Instead of trying to squeeze everything onto a single
chip, Pria designers started with a desktop diagnostic system and shrank it down into a device about the size of a coffee
cup. One of the cost-saving aspects of the design was to keep the fluid-handling components separate from the microelectronics.
The resulting device is considerably larger than comparable lab-on-a-chip systems but it is also much less expensive. "That's
one of the appealing features about Pria's approach," says Wikswo, "They keep their microfluidics and microelectronics as
simple as possible."
"Pria's first product focused on fertility," says VIIBRE project engineer David Schaffer. "With
our capabilities, they can begin applying their technology to a goldmine of different applications."
One of the key
VIIBRE capabilities, which was developed by a research team headed by Assistant Professor of Chemistry David Cliffel, is the
development of a sensor suite capable of simultaneously measuring the concentrations of the key chemicals that cells consume
and excrete--oxygen, glucose and lactic acid--with enough sensitivity to monitor the health of a few thousand cells confined
in a small volume. (For more detail see "New device can help defend against novel biological agents" at [http://exploration.vanderbilt.edu/news/news_microphys.htm].)
Under the leadership of Franz Baudenbacher, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and physics, Vanderbilt
researchers have further miniaturized this sensor technology to record rapid changes in the metabolism and signaling of individual
cells. To handle such small numbers of cells, they have adapted a method for molding micro-channels and valves into a material
similar to that used in soft contact lenses. This has given them the capability to capture, manipulate, grow and study single
living cells in extraordinarily small containers--volumes that are barely larger than the cells themselves.
that have been developed to identify toxic agents are single purpose. That is, they can identify the presence of a single
toxin, or a limited number of closely related toxins. The ability to monitor the health of small groups of cells, however,
makes it possible to detect the presence of unknown poisons as long as they affect cell metabolism. Furthermore, by examining
the impact that an unknown agent has on different cell types--such as heart, lung, nerve, skin, etc.--this approach also can
rapidly provide critical insights into its mode of action.
"Pria has an outstanding understanding of the clinical
and diagnostic device market and the ability to rapidly prototype optical and microfluidics devices," says Wikswo, "but it
is difficult for the company to survey large numbers of possible applications. Yet, here at the university, searching for
new applications is one of the things that we do best."
The origin of the collaboration is an example of the power
of serendipity. It started when David Schaffer, a VIIBRE student who stayed on at the institute as a project engineer after
he graduated, was browsing the Web looking for a permanent job. Although looking for a local position, he inadvertently opened
a Web page with listings from California. He came across an interesting opening at Pria, located in Menlo Park, and decided
to apply. Although Pria decided that he wasn't the right person for the job, in their correspondence Pyle expressed potential
interest in collaborating with VIIBRE. Schaffer passed the information along to Wikswo, who gave Pyle a call. That was in
early September. By mid-November a joint research agreement for $120,000 for the first year was completed and signed.
seeks toxins for biowarfare attack Tony Allen-Mills and Uzi Mahnaimi, Tel Aviv
international pursuit of Osama Bin Laden has not stopped his Al-Qaeda network from seeking to build weapons of mass destruction,
senior US officials said last week. Recent intelligence indicates that the group is turning its attention to chemical and biological
severe technical obstacles to the launch of terrorist biowarfare, Washington believes Bin Laden has become convinced that only a WMD attack would be sufficient punishment for the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. “The overwhelming bulk
of the evidence we have is that their efforts are focused on biological and chemical weapons,” said John Bolton, undersecretary
of state for arms control.
services in Egypt and Israel confirmed that Al-Qaeda had stepped up its efforts to acquire toxic materials as a result of the war
will use it unless stopped,” concluded one intelligence report handed to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, last
concern has been magnified by a series of intelligence and other reports warning that rapid advances in biotechnology could
be exploited by terrorist groups seeking lethal bioweapons. “The technology for bio and chem is comparatively so much
easier that that’s where their efforts are concentrating,” Bolton added.
a study entitled The Darker Bioweapons Future, a CIA panel concluded that artificially engineered biological agents could prove “worse than any disease
known to man”. The report said: “The same science that may cure some of our worst diseases could create the world’s
most frightening weapons.”
believe Al-Qaeda still lacks the laboratory access and scientific skills to produce weapons. But some of the administration’s
scientific advisers have warned that the necessary technology is rapidly spreading. Some of it is even taught at undergraduate
seems likely that, over a period between a few months and a few years, broadly skilled individuals equipped with modest laboratory
equipment can develop biological weapons,” said Richard Danzig, a biowarfare consultant to the Pentagon.
US officials suspect Bin Laden may be planting his acolytes in university science departments in the same way that he
sent the September 11 hijackers to US flying schools.
is a guy who thinks long-term,” said one senior Washington source. “We have to learn to think like him.”
that Bin Laden is increasingly focusing on WMD was heightened by reports last October that he had sought permission from a well-known Saudi Arabian
theologian for an attack that would cause mass American casualties.
Laden’s approach is said to have resulted in the publication of a religious decree entitled “Rules for the use
of WMD against the
infidels”. It was issued by Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Fahd, who is currently under arrest in Riyadh.
all scientists believe a group such as Al-Qaeda will ever master biowarfare technologies. The main fear is that a rogue scientist
may be prepared to sell his expertise.
people that I worry about are the lone operators, the scientist who is disgruntled, deranged or just bought off,” said
Raymond Zilinskas, a Pentagon biowarfare consultant at the California-based Centre for Non-proliferation Studies.
probability of you or I dying from a terrorist bioweapon is smaller than our being eaten by a shark, but that is not to say
we shouldn’t worry about it.”
and British intelligence agencies have already confirmed Al-Qaeda’s interest in chemical experiments. Training videos
were found in Afghanistan indicating that enough cyanide had been produced to kill several dogs.
a thin wall of terrorist ignorance and inexperience now protects us,” said Danzig.
Bio War News
Item No.: 24
Finally!Someone is listening!
Nation still unprepared Bioterror
a big threat
By John Mintz and Joby Warrick The Washington Post November 8, 2004
WASHINGTON - The United States remains woefully
unprepared to protect the public against terrorists wielding biological agents despite dramatic increases in biodefense spending
by the Bush administration and considerable progress on many fronts, according to government officials and specialists in
bioterrorism and public health.
While administration officials have spoken at times about bioterrorism's dangers, they are more
alarmed than they have signaled publicly, U.S. officials said. As President Bill Clinton did, President Bush and Vice President
Dick Cheney have thrust themselves into the issue in depth.
"There's no area of homeland security in which the administration has made more progress than
bioterrorism, and none where we have further to go," said Richard Falkenrath, who until May was President Bush's deputy homeland
security adviser and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Unlike many other areas of domestic defense, which are centralized in the Department of Homeland
Security, responsibility for biodefense is spread across various agencies. It is coordinated by a little-known White House
aide, Kenneth Bernard, whose power is relatively limited.
Biological and nuclear attack rank as officials' most feared types of terrorist attacks. Because
of the technical difficulties in creating such weapons, they reckon the chances of a devastating attack are currently small.
But the consequences of a big biological strike could be epochally catastrophic, and rapid advances in science are placing
the creation of these weapons within the reach of even graduate students, they said.
Given the escalating risks, many public health and bioterror experts, members of Congress and
some well-placed Bush administration officials express mounting unease about what they believe are weaknesses in the nation's
• The great majority of U.S. hospitals
and state and local public health agencies would be completely overwhelmed attempting to carry out mass vaccinations or distribute
antidotes after a large biological attack. Hobbled by budget pressures and day-to-day crises, many health agencies say they
can't comply with federal officials' urgent demands that they gear up for bioterrorism.
• Overlapping jurisdiction among federal agencies working on biodefenses leads to confusion
inside and outside government about who is in charge of preparations for, and response to, bioattacks.
• In tabletop exercises, missteps by top administration officials reveal that more work
is required to plan how the government should communicate with the public after an attack and manage the potential flight
of perhaps millions of people from city centers.
• Despite considerable progress since the 2001 attacks, the National Institutes of Health,
which has the lead role in researching biological warfare vaccines and antidotes, remains largely wedded to its traditional
role of doing basic research, and is not producing enough new drugs. Large drug firms with track records of developing medications
have little interest in making bioterror vaccines.
• Because of the scientific complexities, there is no technology to detect a biological
attack as it occurs. Under the most advanced current program, called Biowatch, technicians remove filters from air-sniffing
units in about 30 cities once a day, and carry them to labs for computerized analysis in search of about 10 biological agents.
In this way, a bioattack could be discovered within a day. Without Biowatch, no one would know
about a smallpox attack, for example, until the first symptoms appeared about 10 days later.
Though it clearly has far to go, the Bush administration has sharply stepped up biodefense efforts.
Spending has increased 18-fold since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, from $414
million in fiscal year 2001 to a proposed $7.6 billion this year, according to a study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical
Administration officials say that in each area where critics note weaknesses, they already have
made great progress. "There is no comparison between where we are today and where we were before 9/11," said Stewart Simonson,
assistant health and human services secretary for public health emergency preparedness. "On 9/11 we had 90,000 doses of smallpox
vaccine ready to go. Today we have 300 million."
The government "is on a wartime footing," said Anthony Fauci, the NIH official who heads biodefense
research. "People who say we haven't made progress are not well informed about what it takes to make vaccine," he said, citing
steps to develop vaccine for the ebola virus since 2001. "This is light speed. ... Usually vaccines can take many years or
The government also has launched other initiatives. One gives officials early warning of a biological
attack by fusing pharmacy data about, for example, cough medicine sales with spikes in symptoms such as high fever and rashes
observed at medical clinics. Another plan calls on mail carriers to deliver drugs after an attack.
Administration officials say most gaps in U.S.
biological defenses result from the sheer enormity of the task ahead - radically transforming entire sectors of society in
order to mount defenses. They cite the need to induce an intensely skeptical drug industry to invest in biowarfare research,
and the challenge of redirecting cash-starved hospitals and local health agencies into the unfamiliar field of mass casualty
In this age of bioterror dangers, long-tolerated weaknesses in the U.S. health care system have become serious national security vulnerabilities. The list of biological agents available
to terrorists is daunting: smallpox, plague, tularemia, botulism and viral hemmorhagic fever, to name a few. Experts believe
the most likely biological attack would be small, like the anthrax attacks that killed five people three years ago. But as
that incident showed, even a few grams of microbes can cause massive disruption.
Anthrax remains one of the easiest microbes to manufacture and weaponize. The government has
little in the way of defenses, primarily a few million doses of an old vaccine that requires six injections to confer immunity
weeks later. A newer planned vaccine requires several inoculations. In the event of an attack, health officials foresee being
swamped not only by crowds demanding inoculation, but by paperwork on who has been treated.
Deepening their alarm is the prospect of new genetically engineered pathogens that could be both
more deadly and more difficult to detect and treat. A 2003 CIA study described the potential effects
of these genetically altered strains as potentially "worse than any disease known to man."
Because of "explosive growth" in biotechnology, the skills needed to make microbes resistant
to antibiotics and vaccines are widely available, the CIA report said. Unlike nuclear weapons research, which is more detectable and can
generally be conducted only by large government labs, bioweapons can be made by individuals in secret.
"The diversity of new BW agents could enable such a broad range of attack scenarios that it would
be virtually impossible to anticipate and defend against," according to the CIA review.
While many in the scientific community are skeptical about the prospect of genetically altered
superbugs, barriers to the creation of new pathogens have been falling rapidly. "We are at a transformative moment in science,"
said Tara O'Toole, director of the University of Pittsburgh biosecurity center.
Terrorism experts believe the capacity to produce sophisticated bioweapons is still beyond the
grasp of terror groups such as al-Qaida, but easily within the reach of states such as Iran, as well as microbiologists in
countries where extremist sympathies run deep. And terrorists need little expertise to mount a potentially devastating attack
on livestock or crops, experts note.
"You don't need to manipulate genetics to spread foot-and-mouth disease in cattle," said U.S.
Army Col. David Franz, who headed the military's top biodefense research lab at Fort Detrick, Md.
"You can see economic damage that adds up not to millions, but to tens of billions of dollars." In a May 2003 exercise, the
victims of a mock bioterror attack began to trickle into Chicago's emergency rooms complaining
of fever and chills - first in twos and threes, then by the dozens and hundreds. Soon it was thousands, and people were dying
of respiratory failure all over the Midwest. But at least physicians were able to diagnose the microbe afflicting the actors
in the drill: the plague.
Over the next several days, the telephone networks crashed at some Chicago
hospitals and at government offices taking part in the "Topoff 2" exercise, and one was forced to use ham radios. Hospitals
ran out of beds, equipment and nurses. Civic leaders gave conflicting advice on what to do. Three days later, Chicago's
health system was close to collapse. Thousands of untreated people were on the streets infecting others, and 47,000 were dead
The scenario is not as far fetched as it seems. The government's real-world test involved thousands
of emergency personnel and mock patients responding to the imagined release of aerosolized germs at O'Hare International Airport
and at a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game on a Saturday night.
Just as conceivable is the breakdown of the American public health system after an actual, large-scale
biological attack, experts say.
According to former White House official Falkenrath, the U.S. government's reliance on state and local health agencies to speedily distribute vaccines and drugs is "the Achilles
heel" of U.S. biodefenses.
"The single biggest problem is the non-performance of state and local public health agencies"
in drawing up plans that U.S. officials have requested on how they would respond rapidly to a biological attack,
he said. The plans would detail how officials expect to deliver medicine to people after the drugs are flown to local airports.
"From tarmac to bloodstream, their time frames are way too lackadaisical," he said.
Federal officials have given state health agencies and hospitals $4.4 billion in the last three
years to develop such plans. But experts say that beyond buying computers or walkie-talkies and hiring some staff, the funds
have hardly helped them prepare for large-scale bioterrorist strikes.
"This won't be solved by money alone," said Elin Gursky, a biodefense specialist at the private
Anser Institute for Homeland Security.
Federal statistics show that among the 50 states, only Florida, Illinois and Louisiana are close to being ready to swiftly distribute vaccines or antidotes from the
national stockpile, according to the non-profit Trust for America's Health,
which studies public health issues.
Local and state health officials say their underfunded agencies, which focus mostly on caring
for the poor, have received inadequate federal funds and guidance on what the states should address in their bioterror master
"The main priority of our biodefense program should be enlisting hospitals and private doctors
to prepare (for bioattack), but hospitals and private doctors are not now in the game," said a federal official with direct
knowledge of the shortcomings. "This issue has completely fallen through the cracks...No part of the federal government can
deal with mass casualties."
"There's a lack of an overarching federal game plan in biodefense," said Shelley Hearne, executive
director of the Trust for America's Health. "States aren't being told, 'here are the things you need to do, and
why'...Nobody's in charge."
But in some respects, too many are in charge. The jurisdictions of the departments of Homeland
Security and Health and Human Services overlap in many areas of biodefense. Overall, HHS handles health
matters, while Homeland Security handles crises. But the two departments, for example, offer sometimes indistinguishable biodefense
training for local health agencies. Administration officials say the two departments mesh well, with their roles delineated
in a recent presidential directive. But bureaucratic bottlenecks persist, as the two departments' lawyers and contracting
officers hash out turf, experts said. To counteract the attack that officials are nearly certain will come one day, the nation
needs long lists of new biowarfare antidotes and vaccines. But despite intense effort by NIH, the arrival of useable drugs
has been slow, experts and U.S. officials said. Besides the complex science involved, NIH's tradition of academic-oriented
basic research, and a lack of focus on creating new drugs are responsible, they said.
NIH's bioterror budgets have jumped from $53 million in 2001 to $1.7 billion in 2005, as Congress
and other parts of the administration increased pressure on it to change.
"Some of the criticism of the past was valid," NIH's Fauci said. "But we 've already shown we've
been successful" in pushing scientific concepts toward becoming reality, he said. "This is a change in the culture."
Experts said NIH drags its feet researching such areas as skin patch vaccines, which could be
given more quickly than shots, and vaccine-boosting compounds called adjuvants, which allow limited stocks to be used on more
people. Fauci said NIH is working on these questions.
Even so, officials said, a top priority is persuading large drug firms to make big investments
in biowar research - in essence, creating a biodefense industry from scratch.
"Big pharma" is now not interested, for several reasons, industry and government officials say.
Big firms are used to huge profits on their drugs for arthritis, ulcers, impotence and the like, and foresee returns a fraction
that size for biodefense work. The industry also fears lawsuits against firms developing such drugs, and government temptation
to nationalize patents on biodefense drugs in a crisis.
In July, Congress approved Project Bioshield, which allocates $5.6 billion over 10 years to induce
industry to begin investing in these drugs. But industry executives say they are waiting for much larger sums, as well as
stronger legal liability and patent protections.
"The measures the U.S. government has taken to date (including Bioshield) will not be enough
to entice pharmaceutical industry leaders into this field," according to a recent study by the University of Pittsburgh biosecurity
center based on interviews with 30 top industry and government officials.
Health experts say that the recent loss of half the nation's flu vaccine supply because of contamination
in a British plant does not bode well for future efforts on the more daunting scientific challenge of bioterror.
Some believe that Bush should publicly declare the seriousness of the government's bioterror
concerns, name a bioterror "czar" to focus public attention and initiate vastly expanded research into new drugs. Administration
officials said that such steps are unnecessary, and that the current arrangement works fine.
But the biosecurity center's O'Toole disagreed.
"The country cannot do what's needed to get prepared for bioattacks without very visible national
leadership from the president," said O'Toole, who worked in the Clint
Bio War News
Item No.: 25
Biological Weapons Pose Major Threat Mon October 25, 2004
By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) - Biological weapons that can
wipe out whole populations pose one of the biggest threats to the world today yet remain almost completely uncontrolled, the
British Medical Association said Monday.
urged the United States to stop blocking attempts to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) when it comes
up for renewal in 2006.
technology could be used by sub-state terror groups and eventually by deranged individuals," Malcolm Dando, author of the
BMA's study, Biological Weapons and Humanity II, told reporters at a news conference.
warned that the development of biological weapons designed to target specific ethnic groups was coming closer to reality,
and said it was already theoretically possible to recreate devastating viruses like the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed
40 million people.
anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001 and the engineered nerve agent fentanyl used by the Russians to end the Moscow theater siege with disastrous results
in 2002 showed that biological weapons already existed, Dando said.Yet
the BTWC, which dates back to 1975, contains no means of monitoring and no powers of enforcement.
best way of describing it is as a gentleman's agreement," said Dando, who is head of peace studies at BradfordUniversity. He
said there were strong international mechanisms controlling nuclear and chemical weapons, but virtually nothing to control
what he termed the "riotous development" of biotechnology.
said the United States, which under President Bush had turned its back on many international accords, was the key reason the
BTWC treaty remained weak after 19 years.
U.S.'s powerful biotechnology industry has put pressure on the administration not to sign up to international rules fearing
they could stifle research, he said.
Dando noted that Bush's opponent in next week's presidential elections, senator John Kerry, had made positive comments about
strengthening the treaty. Russia, which was known to have developed a major
biological weapons capability in the closing stages of the Cold War, had also kept a very low profile on the issue, he said.
are still several of its military laboratories that have not been opened up for inspection. You have to wonder why," he said.
Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said it was
vital scientists got involved in self-regulation to try to ensure experiments and information were not misused.
real key to biosecurity, to not having to deal with deliberately spread epidemics, is to make sure that these materials are
not produced," she said. "You can never provide 100 percent security but you can create safeguards."
lax controls and Armageddon could be round the corner, but too rigid regulation and vital advances on health sciences could
be stifled. What was needed was a code of ethics covering scientists and
governments and sensible international laws fully enforced.
we don't do the prevention side we have to be prepared for those weapons to be used," Nathanson said.
Russian experts concerned with possible new forms of chicken flu
Doctors do not rule out the possibility of the emergence of a new highly pathogenic chicken flu virus,
which may eventually lead to a global epidemiological disaster, Dmitry Lvov, the director of the Institute of Virology of
the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, declared at a news conference today.
Any flu is primarily a bird infection,
Lvov underlined. According to him, all of the 15 presently known types of the flu virus had been discovered
among wild birds, and three kinds of flu affect human beings. However, the scientist believes that if bird flu and human flu
are mixed, a new highly pathogenic virus could emerge, which will have the characteristics of both types of the disease. In
such an event Russia may be engulfed in a pandemic
flu. Another possibility is that the chicken flu would become widely-spread.
According to information from the World
Health Organization, 20 people have contracted chicken flu worldwide so far, of whom 16 people died. Scientists have not yet
registered cases of people infecting each other. If the infection were able to spread in that way, the epidemic could affect
4m-5m people worldwide.
Russian Expert Says Flu Epidemic May Kill Over One Billion This Year
The world is on the brink of a major flu epidemic — one that could claim more than a billion
lives, the head of the Russian Virology Institute, Academician Dmitry Lvov said at a press conference organized by the RIA-Novosti
news agency on Thursday.
“Up to one billion people could die around the whole world in six months,” Lvov said. The expert did not give a timeframe for the epidemic, but said that
it is highly probable that it will start this year. “We are half a step away from a worldwide pandemic catastrophe,”
the academic said.
The Russian expert said that U.S. researchers possessed
data suggesting that if a pandemic hits, up to 700,000 people will fall ill in the United States. He said that the population of the United
States can be roughly compared to that
of Russia and thus the number of cases
will be approximately the same.
The academician said the pandemic was most likely to be caused by the so-called bird
flu stem. “The death rate among those who contract this type of flu reaches 70 percent,” Lvov said.
The expert called for the Russian authorities
to prepare for the epidemic. The country will need a reserve of at least 300,000 hospital beds if an epidemic breaks out,
Ill-prepared to address a pandemic U.S. not only ignored warnings,
government has not planned for an emergency, leaving it to states, GAO health official testifies
KATHLEEN KERR Staff Writer
2004 For years, the government has failed to prepare adequately for an influenza
pandemic and has no concrete plans for distributing scarce vaccine to people at high risk in such an emergency, a federal
health care analyst said yesterday.
Questioning the Bush administration's plans for dealing with a worldwide flu pandemic,
Janet Heinrich, director of public health issues for the Government Accountability Office, said GAO advised federal officials
four years ago of the need for a nationwide emergency vaccine distribution system.
The federal government has depended on the states to develop emergency plans to buy and distribute vaccine
during a global flu epidemic, Heinrich said.
"Ahead of the storm, we should be making decisions about who purchases
the vaccine, how it's distributed and who the target populations are," Heinrich said.
Long before the current flu crisis
left the United States with half of its expected 2004 vaccine after 48 million doses from the Chiron Corp. were contaminated
at a plant in England, Heinrich predicted that a production problem could send flu prevention efforts into a tailspin.
detailed the government's failure before the Senate Committee on Aging last month.
"I think it's very hard for this
administration to make a decision as to whether they're going to use the public or private sector for selling or distributing
the vaccine," Heinrich said yesterday.
However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases, said he couldn't comment on Heinrich's criticism. He said NIAID recently contracted with the United States' two flu vaccine providers to produce and
test a vaccine based on a strain of avian, or bird, influenza, H5N1, which has the potential to cause a flu pandemic. One
of those companies is Chiron Corp.
Federal health officials were expected to deliver an update on plans for a pandemic
last evening at a meeting at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Bruce Gellin, director of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Vaccine Program Office, was at the CDC meeting
and could not be reached to comment.
A global influenza epidemic could be caused by a new and unpredictable virus -
and would have an enormous death toll, according to the World Health Organization.
In the event of a global outbreak,
a vaccine would be rushed into production, but it would take time to produce and supplies would be limited.
influenza pandemic of 1918-19 - the greatest in the 20th century - killed 40 million to 50 million people worldwide. In an
ordinary flu season in the United
States, with a full supply of vaccine, about 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized.
Schoch-Spana, a senior fellow at the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said the likelihood
of an upcoming flu pandemic is "not a matter of if, but when."
"In the U.S.
we tend to shy away from decisions about who gets to stand in line first," Schoch-Spana said. "I think what the federal government
needs to do is devise a long-term strategy to enhance public health infrastructure in the U.S."
This Just In:
Plagues in Classical Literature
by Rachel Finnegan
In an attempt to analyse man's condition, writers have traditionally drawn
on sickness and devastation - epitomised in the often abstract theme of plague. That man throughout history has
displayed a morbid fascination for both disorders of the human body and great disasters, natural or man-made, is evident from
the extent to which he has dwelt on such themes in literature and has maintained this interest through the modern media of
cinema and television. These preoccupations, which appear in the Classical world and continue through the Bible, Shakespeare
and more modern forms of literature, explore man's dilemma in the face of flood, earthquake, fire, drought, hurricane and
pestilence. Similarly, the story of man's fight against disease has been chronicled through the ages, reaching an unequalled
popularity in this century with film dramatisations of 'doctor' books and with a succession of TV soap operas which - though
permitting apparently unending opportunities for variety of character and incident - nevertheless display the same fundamental
theme of medicine and science combating sickness and death.
It is the aim of this study is to examine the role and function
of descriptions of plagues (loimos in Greek and pestis in Latin) in the works of five major classical writers.
An attempt will be made to determine the possible influences, impacts and motives of each author in presenting his particular
theme of plague.
LOIMOS - Thucydides
In book 2 of his Histories, a monumental prose account of
the Peloponnesian War, the historian Thucydides presents a powerful analysis of the great Athenian plague. This occupies eight
chapters - reflecting, no doubt, the monstrous damage, both physical and psychological, the author believed to have been inflicted
on both the Athenians and on society as a whole. As the author is at pains to point out, he is well equipped to deal with
such a subject since he was a victim of the plague himself.
Thucydides stresses the enormous amount of destruction caused by the plague and the inability
of the physicians to check its course; and notes with regret the victims' gradual resignation to their fate. After suggesting
Ethiopia as the plague's probable
source of origin, and having described its arrival at Athens, Thucydides sets out to chronicle its actual course and to explain the symptoms suffered by its victims.
The description of the actual symptoms reveals his minute powers of observation and unusual literary skill, so that the reader
experiences both the physical and emotional sufferings of the victims. There are, for example, harrowing accounts of men,
tortured by thirst, throwing themselves into cisterns for relief.
Thucydides moves from symptoms to other aspects of the plague, in
particular the disastrous effects which it wrought upon society as a whole. In the strict antithetical style characteristic
of this historian, the difficulties of trying to control and contain the disease are represented. No matter how much care
was applied, the resulting death of both patient and nurse was almost inevitable. In observing this fact, the historian has
been attributed with the responsibility in modern medicine of the process of contagion. This challenged the traditional and
widely held belief that plague and pestilence resulted from divine or supernatural agencies.
Regrettably, such a revolutionary theory had no influence on Thucydides'
contemporaries. It was almost ignored until W.G. Fracestoro published De Contagione in 1536, and not until the nineteenth
century were the causes and consequences of contagion accepted by the medical profession. Thucydides has also been credited
with the original concept of the phenomenon of acquired immunity, and it is believed that if the Hippocratic writers had taken
more notice of him, the subsequent history of medicine would have been completely different.
In the same way, the historian's great power of perception is clearly indicated in his recognition
of the dangers of over-crowding - an awareness obviously not shared by the generals in charge of the war. He tells, with grim
realism, of the squalor inflicted upon the Athenians by the influxes of people fleeing from the countryside. As a result of
the sudden expansion of populations in the Mediterranean at around this time, concentrated areas of fairly recent massive urban growth such as Athens were extremely vulnerable to any outbreaks
of unfamiliar infectious disease. Thucydides' plague devastated and demoralised the population, dealing the empire a blow
from which it never fully recovered, and which probably altered the whole course of the political history of the area. The
fate of the dying, the dead and the disposal of bodies is portrayed with exceptional vividness, with the description of bodies
of the dying being heaped one on top of the other, and with half-dead creatures staggering about in the streets or flocking
around the fountains in their desire for water.
His reference to acts of shamelessness encountered in the burial
of such unfortunate victims enables Thucydides to make a moralising transition to the theme of lawlessness, and he discusses
anti-social and criminal behaviour, either newly indulged in or practised more openly in this time of upheaval and despair.
Sins such as avarice, selfishness and lust were provoked by the knowledge that this disease did not discriminate between the
good and the evil, and that life had better be lived to the full.
It has often been suggested that a historian cannot re-create the
past unless he is willing to re-live the experiences of those he is discussing. Plutarch, for example (in his Moralia,
347 A), commends Thucydides on exactly this trait; the latter's stunning description of the Athenian plague and the desperation
of its victims demonstrates his ability in this respect, and surely establishes him as a truly great historian. Other critics
note the strong Hippocratic influence on the historian's style - in particular, the theory of prognosis, which holds that
a medical practitioner will better be able to effect a cure if he can foretell, from the present symptoms, the future of the
course of the disease. In accordance with this procedure, Thucydides outlines the various symptoms of the unfortunate victims.
In doing so, he uses the standard medical terminology of the time, and does so with such great precision that his description
has enabled many scholars to try to establish the actual nature of the disease. Among the various contenders are measles,
typhus, and even syphilis. Other writers, however, question the validity of even attempting to identify a disease separated
from us by more than 25 centuries and whose symptoms cam be expected to have undergone enormous evolutionary change.
The wealth of medical terminology and imagery in Greek tragedy has
recently been well documented by critics, most of whom recognise a strong Hippocratic influence. It would appear that the
tragedians of the fifth century BC resorted to medical science as an important contemporary source of language and ideas,
since their own inherited language was inadequate to express the new concepts and ideas of this intellectually flowering period.
We can see important examples of the tragedians' preoccupation with
the idea of sickness and healing - especially of the mind - in characters such as Orestes (The Oresteian Trilogy),
Pentheus and Agave (Bacchae) and Medea, as portrayed by Euripides. In such plays, characters showing any abnormal or
excessive display of emotions - love, anger, ecstasy, jealousy or revenge - are often portrayed and described as diseased
or deranged. Their symptoms include spinning eye-balls, amnesia, foaming at the mouth and acute depression, with madness frequently
manifesting itself in their erratic speech.
When a character from Greek tragedy is afflicted in such a way,
it is normally the result of divine punishment for an impious word or deed, whether done consciously or as the fulfilment
of a curse or prophecy. The patient or victim of this sickness, since he or she is regarded as polluted, cannot be cured by
a physician, but must undergo purification of a religious nature. Thus, two important strands of Greek culture are combined
- a religious theme cast in medical terminology. Whole dynasties such as the House of Pelops can be systematically destroyed
as the result of acts of impiety, but the idea is extended further when an actual city, along with its entire population is
seen to be suffering from a nosos, or has been struck by plague.
Just as in the case of an individual, the diseased city, in order
to be rid of the plague, must be purified by the permanent removal of the infectious source. In the case of Sophocles' Theban
plague - the subject of this section - the guilty party turns out to be King Oedipus himself. This plague, whose meaning and
significance is discussed below, is represented by Sophocles as an addition to the customary three-fold curse (blighted crops,
dying cattle and barren women) associated with divine wrath.
One factor which, no doubt, contributed to Sophocles' apparent interest in medical matters,
is his alleged connection with the cult of Asclepius, the great healing god. Our knowledge of this aspect of his life is,
sadly, limited, but it is generally accepted that one of the consequences of the plague was the introduction of the cult of
Asclepius into Athens in the year 420 BC. Sophocles was given official duties in its establishment, and is said to have composed a paean,
or hymn, in honour of this god. According to the Vita or Life, Sophocles, was, in return, posthumously honoured
as the hero Dexion. He was also a priest of Halon, a minor deity, who is recognised as having studied with Asclepius under
Chiron. It is hardly surprising, then, that Sophocles presents Oedipus first and foremost as a physician, who can cure Thebes of this dreadful disease; and that this
image is one of the most fully developed in the play. This idea has been discussed by several critics, some of whom have made
detailed analyses of the various technical medical terms (normally found only in medical texts) appearing throughout the play.
It is the matter of chronology which poses the most serious problem,
and although some critics succeed quite convincingly in proving that the Theban plague does, in fact, mirror the true Athenian
epidemic, others are, on the whole, unwilling or unable to commit themselves fully to the idea of a definite Thucydidean influence.
The meaning of the plague within the context of the play seems quite
clear. It is a symbol of Oedipus' sin - a miasma which is polluting the whole land, attacking all forms of life and reproduction.
This plague is the climax of the seventeen years of guilt allowed to build up since the curse was first fulfilled. As with
any sickness, the cause - in true Hippocratic tradition - must be identified and a remedy sought and applied. A cure which
in this case involves purification in the form of exile or death. Ironically, it is the very man chosen by the people as physician,
and regarded as their trusted ruler and priest-figure, who is the source of infection. It is his gradual realisation of this
facet that occupies the greater part of this drama, the plague itself merely acting as a dramatic and ominous starting-point.
Unlike Thucydides, who recognised the natural causes of the Athenian plague and dismissed
all superstitions surrounding it, Sophocles reverted to the more religious approach of the poets, particularly Homer and Hesiod.
The supplicants, clutching olive-boughs, with a priest of Zeus as spokesman, beseech their king to find a remedy for the sick
town. His only hope is through consulting Apollo at Delphi, whose reply is duly interpreted by the blind seer Teiresias. This strong dependence on, and trust in,
such gods in such a catastrophic time, has been interpreted as Sophocles' recognition of the irreligion produced by the Athenian
plague, and his attempt to draw a different lesson from the Theban pestilence. In other words, to show to his audience the
importance of prayer, faith and piety, in times of need. Oedipus' guilt, of course, is allegorical, and can be viewed as the
collective guilt of mankind.
The Theban plague has been recognised as the most important historical
allusion in this drama - a fact which is helpful in trying to determine an exact date - some time between January 424 and
the summer of 426 BC. It is possible that the various symptoms of the traditional, Theban, blight would also have existed
in the Athenian plague - the lack of crops reflecting the annual devastation of the fields by the marauding Peloponnesian
armies; the blight on the cattle representing the live-stock shipped off to the neighbouring island of Euboea or dying of
neglect; and abortive births, being a typical symptom in many plagues, such as the one in Thasos, recorded in The Epidemics.
We can see from Thucydides' memorable descriptions of funeral pyres, symptoms of internal
burning, and burning thirst, that fire was a very important element in plagues themselves and consequently in accounts of
them. Fire is also, of course, very much associated with various religious and medical practices. Neither Samuel Pepys nor
Daniel Defoe, of course, were unaware of the literary significance of the 'purifying' nature of the great London fire which succeeded the plague of 1665.
Fire imagery in this and later plagues was effectively employed by both Harrison Ainsworth (Old St. Pauls) and Thomas
Mann (Death in Venice).
Although Thucydides's description of the plague was essentially
factual, his purpose was undoubtedly also to demonstrate the futility and horror of war. Sophocles, adopting this theme, ingeniously
wove it into the popular mythological story of Oedipus, to produce a highly original and powerful drama. Through the images
of plague and war he explores great human issues, relevant not only to Athenian society but to any time and place.
PESTIS - Lucretius
The aim of this section is to compare the purpose, content and style
of the pestis described by Lucretius in Book VI of De Rerum Natura with Thucydides' account, on which it is
clearly based. First of all, however, it is necessary to mention the influence of Greek literature on the Romans, and the
importance of the concept of aemulatio, or imitation.
Since the Romans adopted and developed all their literary genres
from the Greeks (with the notable exception, perhaps, of satire, whose originality they claimed for themselves), no study
of the history of Latin literature would be complete without some acknowledgement of its Greek predecessors. From the end
of the third century BC, Hellenism became an abidingly strong factor in Roman civilisation, particularly in literature and
Not only were the literary forms borrowed from the Greek tradition,
but they also made use of its themes, motifs, metres and styles. Sometimes, Roman writers, particularly poets, simply translated
Greek works, although often adding some new and usually Roman dimension. It seems that the concept of plagiarism - the accusation
of which was freely made by the Greek authors - had little relevance to early Latin literature. The concept of aemulatio,
far from being a disgrace, was highly acceptable and widely practised in the Roman world. Given this Roman tendency to imitate,
it is not surprising that Lucretius' description of the Athenian plague was later to be expanded upon by other Roman poets
- each work, however, becoming further removed from the Greek original.
The fact that Lucretius concluded his great epic De Rerum Natura
(or On the Nature of the Universe) ends on such a morbid note - with his moving description of plague and death - has
been a constant source of debate for modern critics. While some believe that the poet was cut short at Book VI, obviously
intending to continue, others are convinced that this was contrived as a symbolic and dramatic ending.
At line 1090 of Book VI, Lucretius announces his intention to explain
the causes of disease, which he attributes to the gathering together of noxious particles - motes of sickness and death. His
image of plague as a hostile, snake-like sky descending upon the water, grain-fields and other forms of nourishment, provides
a powerful and vivid introduction to his account of the Athenian plague.
The general outline of this is as follow: the plague, beginning in Egypt, spread to Athens, where it attacked and killed multitudes
of the citizens. Acute anxiety was added to the pain caused by the downward-spreading disease, whose symptoms - particularly
that of intense burning - were both external and internal. The physicians found it impossible to deal with the situation.
Lines 1182-1207 contain a detailed and horrific picture of the 'obvious signs of death', and this is followed by an account
of the effects of the plague on animals and birds. The hopelessness of the victims is then described, as are the psychological
implications of such widespread and inevitable death. All perished - the cowards refusing to help the needy, together with
the brave and generous of spirit. The former, however, were to suffer the indignity and shame of dying alone and unmourned.
Notable features of the plague were the desperation of those trying to bury their dead, the widespread grief and the fact
that no-one escaped.
Similar scenes occurred in the countryside, and those fleeing to
the towns increased the spread of infection and added to the congestion and chaos. After a horrifying description of the streets
lined with dead and dying victims, Lucretius discusses the effects of the plague on religion, condemning the practice of filling
the temples with corpses and deploring the fact that the people were reduced to fighting over the disposal of their dead.
From this summary, it is evident that Lucretius relied heavily on
Thucydides, both from a structural and a thematic point of view. Lucretius' adaptations and developments, however, are of
more interest than the similarities in the texts. Apart from the differences between the two languages, the most obvious and
important factor is the medium he employed - the epic poem. Whereas Thucydides had the freedom of prose, Lucretius chose to
expound his ideas in the more restricted frame-work of the hexameter. Furthermore, one is an historical account of a plague,
recorded for a didactic purpose, while the other is a piece of highly imaginative poetry.
Lucretius' poetic originality can be seen from the following examples:
the use of traditional poetic proper names such as Cecrops and Pandion; the image of the tongue as the mind's interpreter;
an elaboration on the theme of intense thirst, which is described as 'drowning' the victims; a dramatic picture of the signs
of death, extending for 40 lines, including a reference to victims amputating their own genitals in an attempt to evade death;
a fuller treatment of the theme of animals and the special attention paid to the emotions of the victims, their friends and
Having given his account of the causes of birth, growth and life, Lucretius, as an illustration
of destruction, sickness and death, chose the most outstanding example of disease ever known in the Classical world - the
Athenian epidemic of 430 BC. Since a detailed and well-known account of this catastrophe already existed, Lucretius had only
to adapt it and merge it into his own epic. It is ironic that the Lucretian plague - itself a work of pure aemulatio
- is perhaps more famous than the original historical account, whose purpose was to aid future generations. This concept of
aemulatio is carried one step further in the following section, which examines the plague described by Virgil in Georgics
Virgil was very much influenced by the publication of Lucretius'
work, and proof of this can be found in the many verbal, thematic and stylistic similarities to this work throughout the Georgics.
Perhaps the most striking sign of this Lucretian inspiration, however, is the account of a mysterious and devastating plague
which, with far reaching consequences, afflicts the animals of Noricum.
Critics are divided on the question of whether or not the Georgics
was written for a didactic purpose. It is perhaps fair to say that Virgil's poetry was not primarily intended to teach, but
rather to give pleasure; the poet must have been well aware that his work, despite its obvious practical element, would not
be read solely for the excellent advice contained in it. Virgil was by no means the first to write an agricultural treatise
- he claims that his model was Hesiod, and it is clear that he was also very much influenced by Cato's On Agriculture
and Varro's Three Books on Rustic Matters. It is quite possible, too, that Virgil had in mind the Emperor's wish for
a return to the old Italian love for agriculture. As well as being an important policy in his social and economic reforms,
it was, perhaps, hoped by Augustus, that the revival of such a healthy and noble occupation would improve the moral fibre
of Roman society, which had degenerated so much in the previous decades.
In book III, having discussed various aspects of breeding and rearing cattle, horses, sheep, goats and dogs, he
then turns to the diseases of sheep and their remedies. This leads him to digress to the subject of a plague at Noricum, thus
ending the book on a depressing and morbid note.
Before he reaches the actual description (outlined below), Virgil
heightens our impression of the plague's devastation by referring to Noricum's still desolate state, apparent even after such
a long lapse of time. The deserted kingdoms are still visible - bringing to mind similar traces of past devastation still
to be found in our own time. The overgrown remains of English Doomsday villages, abandoned since the Black Death, and ruins
of settlements in Ireland, deserted since the Great Famine.
Virgil relates how the plague (which he likens to a furnace) stemmed
from polluted air which affected the livestock through food and water supplies. Early symptoms included a burning fever which
coursed through the veins and contracted the limbs, followed by a sort of dropsy. Consequently, sacrificial victims died on
the altars; their blood was insufficient for the rites and their entrails were so badly corrupted that the bewildered priests
could not take the auspices. A gory description of symptoms in the advanced stages of the disease includes intense burning,
leading to severe nose-bleeding and dryness of the mouth. The traditional remedy of pouring Lenean wine down the animals'
throats irritated their malady still further, causing them to bite and mutilate themselves.
The account becomes increasingly descriptive, with a lengthy, rhetorical
and moralising digression about the undeserved death of an ox. Now man must perform the tasks of ploughing and sowing himself.
Wolves no longer prowl and fish are washed up dead on the shore. Snakes perish, and birds drop out of the sky. Change of pasture
and medicines are useless and the ghastly Tisiphone relentlessly drives before her Disease and Death. While animal cries of
terror and pain are heard throughout the land, the Fury adds to the rotting piles of carcasses in stable and stall. The hides
and fleeces of the victims are disease-ridden and Virgil warns that the infection will spread to humans if they don their
Whereas Thucydides and Lucretius try to give a rational explanation
for the cause of the Athenian plague of 430 BC, Virgil sets the plague of Noricum (somewhere between the Danube and the Alps)
in some distant, unknown past, and attributes the cause to the weather. If we add to this the fact that we are dealing with
a fictitious animal epidemic, it is clear that Virgil's plague description, although modelled on that of Lucretius, is essentially
different, much of the material being purely rhetorical and metaphorical. It seems to have gone one stage further in the imaginative
development of the plagues discussed so far.
Many of the symptoms described in the Virgilian plague are unlikely,
in comparison with the quite credible examples in Lucretius, and are clearly used to provide rhetorical and emotional effects.
The description of an unsuccessful sacrifice indicates that religious worship is brought to a standstill, and this severance
of the link between man and the gods is a further instance of man's inability to control his own destiny.
Virgil attributes to animals human emotions. Gentle dogs turn mad
and the noble athletic horse sinks into miserable apathy. Virgil's concentration on the psychological aspects of the disease
is clearly an imitation of the Thucydidean original which was later employed by Lucretius.
On the question of medicine, Thucydides merely stated that the physicians
were unable to cope. In the Theban plague, the metaphorical remedy is attained by the permanent removal (death or exile) of
the source of the disease - Oedipus; yet in Lucretius, little attention is paid to a cure, to enable the poet to get on with
his examination of man's psychic degeneration. We do find in Virgil, however, the mention of an attempted remedy, but this
seems to be yet another excuse for a gruesome story - the cure, ironically, turning out to be fatal to the victim.
The ominous figure of the Fury, 'Vengeance', re-introduces a religious
and superstitious element, reverting to the pre-Thucydidean idea of plague inflicted on man (or animals) by wrathful gods.
Also present is the recurring theme of burying the dead and the terrible consequences if man fails to perform this sacred
duty. The emphasis given to this topic indicates that the problem was a serious one, intensified by war.
In discussing animal husbandry Virgil, naturally, dealt with disease
and cure. From this stemmed his novel idea of a cattle plague, in imitation of Thucydides and Lucretius. Although it is an
imaginary situation, dealing with animals rather than people, and set in the indefinite past, it is nevertheless a serious
aspect of the Georgics, exploring basic moral issues such as religion, justice, duty and trust. An obvious modern parallel
to the work is, of course, George Orwell's book, Animal Farm.
The account of the plague in Book VII of the Metamorphoses (516-621), although undoubtedly modelled on those of Lucretius and Virgil,
is nevertheless typical of Ovid's unique and inventive style. By selecting and elaborating on certain of their ideas and omitting
others, he has made his pestilence perhaps the most original, and definitely the most light-hearted of those in this study.
By the first century BC it would appear that the plague had become
a stock theme in poetry, and Ovid, drawing on his knowledge of mythology, used his literary talents to describe a pestilence
in the Metamorphoses. Accounting for the absence of familiar faces, King Acaeus describes to a visiting ambassador
a terrible epidemic which has recently devastated his island. His pretence to not being able to describe such a ghastly event
is purely a rhetorical, literary convention - he has every intention of describing the pestis, and does so in a dramatic,
In the poem, Juno was so outraged that the island of Aegina had
been named after one of her husband's illicit lovers, that she inflicted a devastating plague on its inhabitants. The theme
of Juno's jealousy and revenge is, of course, traditional in Classical literature, especially in Latin love elegy. Ovid blends
the old idea of plague as divine retribution, with the recurring theme of the impotence of medicine - themes echoed by Boccaccio
in his work. Although Ovid imitates and adds to many of the details described in Virgil's account, such as the types of animals
affected, he generally plays down the detailed descriptions given by his predecessor. For instance, he mentions dogs, birds,
sheep, cattle, boars and hinds only briefly, giving a limited imitation of Virgil's dying bull and rotting sheep.
However, in contrast with Virgil, who includes them among the dead,
Ovid describes how snakes flourish - echoing perhaps Lucretius' image of a plague as a hostile sky which crawls snake-like.
This not only adds a supernatural element appropriate to the nature and cause of the pestilence, but it heightens the tension
and drama. A similar effect is achieved by his notable preoccupation with some of the more gruesome aspects of plague, such
as the stench of rotting corpses and rapidly spreading infection. In the poetic language and style normally associated with
more pleasing images, Ovid perversely describes the macabre.
While most earlier and subsequent writers have made much of the
decadence arising from the various plagues in history, Ovid confines his comments on this matter to an epigrammatic line.
Among the more recent examples is Thomas Mann. In Death in Venice (which is steeped in Classical allusions and references)
we see, through the eyes of an elderly writer, Gustave von Aschenbach, the sinister progression of Asiatic cholera, which
eventually claims him as its victim. The Venetian plague, described as demoralising the 'baser elements in the city' and encouraging
'those anti-social forces which shun the light of day', could be interpreted as a symbolic reflection of Aschenbach's obsession
with the young boy Tadzio.
What began with Thucydides as a moral and practical prose account
of a loimos gradually, through the process of aemulatio, evolved into a traditional poetic theme. This has been
developed by later writers such as Boccaccio (in Decameron) for dramatic and even humorous purposes, which have moved
far from Thucydides' original aim. Take, for example, Monty Python and the Holy Grail - a film purporting to depict
life in the Middle Ages. In one scene is a grotesque reconstruction of a plague-stricken village. To the cries of 'bring out
your dead', corpses are haphazardly dumped on a handcart and frenzied bodies are seen leaping into wells and dungheaps. Following
more closely in the Thucydidean tradition, however, is Ingmar Bergman's classic film The Seventh Seal, which attempts,
symbolically, to continue the exploration of man's dilemma in the face of the moral, social and physical devastation wrought
Finally, there are those who regard AIDS as a pestilence sent down
from God to punish the human race for its wicked ways. It is only a matter of time before this becomes the subject of a film,
novel or poem of truly 'epic' proportions.
Waterford Institute of Technology
article was given in March 1997 as a lecture to the Limerick Branch of the Classical Association of Ireland.
all material published in Classics Ireland is copyrighted. Responsibility for, and ownership of, copyright remains
with the author of each article.
Bio War News
Item No.: 1
Deaths Blamed on Mysterious
Microbe with Anthrax Genes
By Kate Ruder Posted: June 4, 2004
Last year two hospital patients
from different cities in Texas died of severe pneumonia that appeared to be
caused by inhalation anthrax. Yet neither patient was infected with the bacterium that causes anthrax, Bacillus anthracis.
tests indicated that both patients became infected by another species of bacteria that carried the lethal anthrax genes. The
bacterium, called Bacillus cereus, typically causes mild food poisoning.
When the Texas
cases came to light, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta,
Georgia, were sequencing the genome of a strain of B. cereus isolated
from a man in Louisiana who, in 1994, developed severe anthrax-like symptoms.
The researchers now report
that B. cereus can indeed carry lethal genes of the anthrax bacterium. The Texas
and Louisiana patients were all metal workers and appeared to have inhaled the
dangerous bacteria, although scientists do not know how.
These are the first cases
in which anthrax genes have been discovered in an organism other than B. anthracis, and the findings raise concerns about
the prevalence of the previously unknown pathogen—and our preparedness to detect and respond to it in the event of a
For example, tests used
to detect anthrax during a suspected bioterrorism incident might not pick up the equally pathogenic bacteria B. cereus.
Alex Hoffmaster of the CDC
found the Louisiana strain of B. cereus that tested positive for anthrax genes
while he was looking back at samples from patients with fatal or near-fatal disease.
“Either I had made
a mistake or this was a really interesting isolate,” says Hoffmaster.
He sent the CDC sample to
The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, Maryland,
and scientists there sequenced its genome in just a few short weeks. They then compared it to the genomes of related bacteria
such as the B. anthracis Ames strain used in the 2001 U.S.
mail attacks and other strains of B. cereus.
The CDC bacterium has genes
nearly identical to anthrax toxin genes that cause disease in humans and other animals. And the bacterium caused anthrax-like
illness in mice, the researchers report.
“It was completely
unexpected to sequence the genome and see toxin genes in B. cereus identical to ones found in B. anthracis,” says Jacques
Ravel of TIGR, who led the sequencing effort.
The findings appear in Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences this week.
How did the strains of B.
cereus acquire anthrax genes? “That is still a mystery,” says Ravel.
He and others suspect that
the two species of Bacillus bacteria, which both live in the soil, might have swapped genes at some point during evolution.
There is no evidence that someone engineered the bacteria to carry these genes.
-- Fast action and the right medicines can save tens of thousands
of lives in the event of a bioterror attack, a Stanford expert told a bioweapons conference just hours after President Bush
announced Project BioShield, a $5.6 billion program to develop stockpiles of vaccines and antidotes for chemical and biological
"The most important
thing for saving people is ... treating people before they become symptomatic," said Dean Wilkening, director of science at
Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation.
Bioterror nightmare scenario: Biotechnology research used to find new cures for disease could instead be harnessed for use
as a weapon of terror, a prominent European think tank warns. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in its annual yearbook, said that biotechnology, including advancements in mapping the human genome, could result in new biological weapons that could cause harm to a
specific ethnic group or a large swath of a country's population.
"The free access to genetic sequence data for the human genome
and a large number of other genomes, including for pathogenic micro-organisms, is a great scientific resource, but it could
pose a significant threat if misused," said the report, which was unveiled in Stockholm Wednesday.
While it may seem like something out of a science fiction story,
the dire scenario isn't farfetched, said Barbara Rosenberg, chair of the Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical
Weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. "We're learning so much about the genetic differences between
people and understanding what that those differences mean at a molecular level," she said. "And that's what you need to know
if you're going to try and change pathogens."
that new rules to foil bioterror attacks could disrupt food imports.
The Continual Challenge of EmergingInfectious Diseases National Institutes of Health (press release) - Jul
7, 2004 Emerginginfectious diseases, which have shaped the course of humanity
and caused incalculable suffering and death, will continue to confront society in ...
Jun 17, 2004 ... territories, and four major metropolitan areas to strengthen the ability of government and public
health agencies to respond to bioterror attacks, infectious ...
News Analysis: Biodefense Boondoggle? Technology Review - Jun 7, 2004 ...
facilities would provide safe spaces in which to research dangerous bacteria and viruses, particularly those considered likely
to be used as bioterror agents. ...
Biodefense research raises issues Tri-Valley Herald, CA - Jun 7,
2004 ... After spending almost $10 billion on biodefense research, defense scientists say broader studies of
bioterror threats are needed to weigh the chances of ...
A plague on all your houses Guardian, UK - 21 hours ago ... The medieval chronicler Gabriele
de Mussis is often credited with the first description of biologicalwarfare when he reported how in 1346, as
the black death ...
Flu bug debugged MSNBC - Aug 13, 2004 ... That
strain emerged in the US in 1917 and in an inadvertent act of biologicalwarfare, was transferred to Europe
by American soldiers in World War I. ...
An Afternoon in August TAEmag.com, United States - Aug 11, 2004 ... GlobalSecurity.org
reports, "Iran's biologicalwarfare [BW] program is now believed to generally be in the advanced research and
development phase. ...
Scientists have shown that tiny changes to modern flu viruses could render them as deadly
as the 1918 strain which killed millions.
A US team added two genes from a sample of the 1918 virus to a modern strain known to have no
effect on mice.
Animals exposed to this composite were dying within days of symptoms similar to those found
in human victims of the 1918 pandemic.
The research is published in the journal Nature.
The lesson is not to be complacent about anything to do with flu
Professor John Oxford
The work of the US team, lead by Dr Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, was carried out under the tightest
Experts focused on two genes thought to play a key role in the infection process.
One controls production of a spike-like molecule called haemagglutinin (HA), believed to be
used by the flu virus to attach itself to the cells it is about to infect.
Previous research, published earlier this year in the journal Science, identified the HA gene
as being the crucial element which made the 1918 virus so deadly - and the latest work appears to confirm this.
Post mortems on mice injected in the nose with the composite virus showed that it had rampaged
through their lungs, producing inflammation and haemorrhaging.
The researchers stress the experiment is conclusive for lab mice, and not humans.
But they say that their work may lead to better ways to assess the potential danger of emerging
Writing in Nature, the researchers say: "Once the properties of the (1918) HA gene that gave
rise to its lethal infectivity are better understood, it should be possible to devise effective control measures and to improve
global surveillance networks for influenza viruses that pose the greatest threat to humans as well as other animal species."
Scientists believe the 1918 virus leapt to humans by mutating from bird flu, possibly after
passing through pigs, which are able to harbour both human and avian viruses and thus allow them to swap genes as the viruses
For that reason, experts are deeply concerned that the avian flu that has broken out in poultry
flocks in parts of south-east Asia may acquire genes that will make it highly infectious as well as lethal for humans.
Professor John Oxford, an expert in virology at Queen Mary College London, told BBC News Online
the latest research underlined just what a threat all flu viruses potentially posed.
He said: "It is not a big difference at all between a virus that kills 15m people and one that
does not kill anyone at all.
"The lesson is not to be complacent about anything to do with flu. Every flu virus must be carrying
baggage that could potentially harm us, and we would be well advised not to ignore them."
The 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic is estimated to have infected up to one billion people - half
the world's population at the time.
The virus killed more people than any other single outbreak of disease, surpassing even the
Black Death of the Middle Ages.
Although it probably originated in the Far East, it was dubbed "Spanish" flu because the press
in Spain - not being involved in World War I - were the first to report extensively on its impact.
The virus caused three waves of disease. The second of these, between September and December
1918, resulting in the heaviest loss of life.
It is thought that the virus may have played a role in ending World War I as soldiers were too
sick to fight, and by that stage more men on both sides died of flu than were killed by weapons.
Although most people who were infected with the virus recovered within a week following bed
rest, some died within 24 hours of infection.
Bio War News
Item No. 19
Is this one of Saddam's mobile bio-weapons labs? WND obtains photos of unit capable of producing WMDs
A trailer found by the U.S. in Northern Iraq last year likely was used by Saddam Hussein's regime
as a mobile biological weapons laboratory, and not to fill hydrogen balloons as some in Britain and the U.S. have charged,
a view supported by exclusive photos obtained by WorldNetDaily that for the first time offer inside views of the trailer components.
Kurdish forces seized the trailer in April 2003 at a checkpoint near Mosul in northern Iraq.
At the time, the unit was hailed as the closest U.S. forces may have come to finding a "smoking gun" in their search for weapons
of mass destruction inside Iraq.
A general photo of the outside of the trailer was released to the media.
But initial swab tests of the mobile unit, which seemed to have been washed thoroughly with
a strong decontaminating substance, yielded no traces of biological or chemical agents, leading many critics to conclude the
trailer could have been used for legitimate medical purposes.
Very large industrial heating-cooling pump, added after previous bio-weapons accident
Some in British and American intelligence groups charged the trailers were used for the production
of hydrogen to fill artillery and weather balloons.
However, photos obtained by WorldNetDaily from a U.S. Army source in Iraq offer a rare glimpse
inside the trailer, which indicates the most likely use for the mobile unit was the production of biological agents and not
The internal components provide the kind of mobile biological weapons laboratory described to
the United Nations' Security Council by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell before the conflict began, and match in design
and configuration the mobile weapons labs U.S. intelligence learned about several years ago from an Iraqi scientist.
Side view of trailer
The photos, more than 30 of which were of the inside trailer components, were verified by several
military sources and were independently reviewed by intelligence sources familiar with pre-Gulf War Iraqi weapons programs.
The images show a large fermenter, several cylinders to supply clean air for production, canisters
to "feed" biological agents, industrial heating machines and a system to capture and compress exhaust gas to eliminate traces
of residue – a function not normally used for legitimate biological processes and certainly not for hydrogen production,
analysts told WorldNetDaily.
A large stainless steel brewing canister can be seen toward the front of the laboratory, and
would be used in the initial stages of agent production, analysts said.
Canister used to "feed" and grow agent and apply fluid and temperature regulation
Large pistons are connected to a compressor atop a storage tank that would hold the growing
product and maintain a certain pressure on the system required to grow the bio agent at an advanced rate.
The agent would then be pumped into a large canister connected to several tanks that provide
"food" from which the agent would "feed," and which apply large amounts of fluid and temperature regulation for the contents
of the holding canister. This feature is rarely set up in such a manner in ordinary labs, analysts told WorldNetDaily.
The photos also reveal an industrial heating pump the width of almost the entire trailer. The
size of the heating and cooling system was of particular interest to analysts, who said such systems would be used to superheat
or supercool strong agents in a pressurized system.
Pump and generator to apply pressure to agent
Iraqi defectors have reportedly told the U.S. that an accident on a similar trailer killed 12
during a production run in 1998. The incident, a report says, shows "Iraq was producing [biological-weapons] agent at that
time." The Iraqis later altered the design, installing the heating and cooling system visible in the photos to prevent overheating,
an analyst said.
Close-ups of the exterior portions of the trailer show several areas in which the steel plating
of the unit, which is almost an inch thick, is dented, most likely during laboratory use and trailer transportation.
Analysts said the back of the trailer could be attached to a secondary mobile unit that would
collect the finished product for transportation. There are indications another trailer was dragged into this lab unit at the
receiving end, which houses coils through which tubing would likely be placed for the agent to be pumped into a receiving
canister. Several of the laboratory components have serial numbers that were traced to German companies, where some of the
parts were manufactured. One device, a generator coming from one of the pumps, was made by General Electric.
View of trailer from behind
Dates on some parts show several components were made in 2001.
The trailer itself has a metal plaque that says it was manufactured in 2001 by Iraq's Al-Naser
Al-Adheem – a munitions company controlled by Saddam Hussein – and inspected in 2002.
A large collection and compression pipe is visible at the anterior section, which is not commonly
used in regular laboratories and would find little use in the production of hydrogen. The system is designed to capture and
compress exhaust gas to eliminate any telltale signature of which kinds of agents were produced, analysts told WorldNetDaily.
Manufacturer's plaque from 2001 by a Hussein-controlled munitions company
When the trailer was found last April it was immediately swabbed for traces of biological weapons
agents. Military analysts were particularly hopeful about a large holding canister connected to piping that drains the agent
and which was at a height that may have left residual agent at the bottom of the canister.
But they found the entire mobile unit had been thoroughly cleansed and decontaminated with a
strong caustic agent that rid the trailer of traces of whatever material had been produced.
Official spokesmen for the Department of Defense in the U.S. and Iraq could not comment before
Vice Admiral Jake Jacoby, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has said an informant had
told the U.S. military similar mobile facilities had previously been used to make three illicit agents, believed to be anthrax,
botulism and staphylococcus.
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steve Cambone said, "What we have here is what ...
the Secretary of State talked about, along with other things, in his presentation to the United Nations."
A U.S. Army Intel officer in Iraq said he was convinced the trailer was used to make biological
weapons: "There are too many indications this was used for biological weapons. The tubing, the heating system, the exhaust
system are specific to the kind of military-grade production we saw before the first Gulf War. Also, when you're conducting
legitimate laboratory work, you want to do it in the most stable environment possible. Why would scientists work from a trailer?"