"The Bush administration is ramping up bioterrorism research that will press beyond traditional defenses against natural biowarfare germs to explore genetically engineered superbugs, as well as the means to mass-produce and disseminate them," the Oakland Tribune reports.
The Homeland Security Department's new National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center... tasked scientists to study how to "acquire, grow, modify, store, stabilize, package (and) disperse" bioweapons and to run computer simulations of large-scale production.It called for "red teaming" operations, in which scientists would figure out how to execute terrorist attacks..."If any other country set forth a program like this, U.S. intelligence undoubtedly would call it an offensive program," said Edward Hammond, head of the Sunshine Project, a group in Austin, Texas, that tracks bioweapons and biodefense issues.THERE'S MORE: "There is a danger that these activities would provoke an international arms race in bioweapons," says chembio authority Barbara Hatch Rosenberg.
The proposed functions, combined with the secrecy under which they may be conducted; the precedent set when secret US projects of dubious legality under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) became known several years ago; the omission of those projects from the annual BWC confidence-building information exchange; the proliferation of high-containment laboratories and funding for research on bioweapons agents now underway in the US; and the recent US rejection of a BWC Protocol containing on-site inspection measures -- all these are certain to generate suspicions abroad about US capabilities and intentions...Compared to nuclear weapons, bioweapons are far more readily accessible to a large number of nations. If the US undertakes the planned activities, other countries, uncertain of what is going on and wanting to keep up, are likely to pursue similar biodefense and threat assessment activities, possibly using them as covers for bioweapons programs. Even if the initial intentions are defensive, potentially offensive capabilities would thereby proliferate, with the risk that they might eventually fall into the hands of terrorists.A second group of chembio bigwigs have teamed up to blast the new Center. Read their remarks here.