The Bush administration wants another $119 million for its BioWatch program, which puts air filters in 31 major cities, to sniff for toxic terror attacks.Too bad the system's close to useless, experts say.First off, BioWatch protects against the most unlikely of terror threats: a crop duster, releasing a gigantic toxic cloud over an urban area. Maybe James Bond's bad guys would come up with such a scheme. But Osama & Co. haven't shown anywhere near the technical sophistication to brew up and maintain that much poison. And even if they did, a cold wind or a hard rain neutralizes most biothreats.Plus, why fly a biplane over Times Square when you can send anthrax through the mail, or release it in a skyscraper's vents?Even if a grandiose attack should come, BioWatch wouldn't provide any warning. The BioWatch filters are checked every 24 hours. Then, samples have to be run over to a Centers for Disease Control-approved lab. And then it takes another 12 hours to run tests. So if a pathogen is released, BioWatch won't know about it until a day-and-a-half later."You're getting very little specific data. And it's unclear what you could do with that information that's useful in the middle of an emergency," Peter LeJenue, a biodefense specialist with Potomac Institute for Policy Studies said.What's more, LeJeune added, hundreds of these filters would be needed, to completely track the air in a single city. And the current program isn't anywhere near that extensive.THERE'S MORE: Our friends at DARPA are looking for research proposals to neutralize toxic clouds before they can reach troops on the battlefield.AND MORE: Speaking of hare-brained schemes, the Pentagon is asking for a 13 percent increase in its missile defense programs next year, to $10.2 billion.
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