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very expensive and could risk detection.46 Most bio-offenders would prob-
ably prefer to divert an already re¬ned strain cleansed of impurities that
might impede its lethality or complicate handling. In most developed
States, purchase of re¬ned anthrax stocks is limited to authorized per-
sons, and these purchases are well-recorded and traceable. (This legal
requirement is more fully discussed in Chapter 5.) Breaking into a lab-
oratory to steal pathogens would alert law enforcers and leave clues of
who is preparing a bioattack. A better alternative would be to divert agents
from an insecure facility either by sneaking in or using someone already

inside. Or, re¬ned pathogens might be diverted during transport from one
legitimate user to another, especially if the carrier fails to observe basic
antitheft measures. Unfortunately, in too many places, transport of lethal
pathogens and bio-equipment is inadequately supervised.
A large quantity of agent will likely be needed for a catastrophic attack.
Reports that anthrax spores can be cultured in nothing more sophisticated
than a beer fermenter are half-true; certainly cultivating spores is triv-
ial, but sustaining optimal growth conditions to produce highly re¬ned,
near-weapons-quality anthrax for effective dissemination to a large tar-
get is challenging. Slight changes in prevailing conditions might allow
undesirable microorganisms to grow and perhaps kill the desired cells.
These obstacles might be easier to overcome with sophisticated cultivation
equipment that is more forgiving of minor mistakes.47 For someone who is
technically knowledgeable, researching growth and media requirements
and techniques to propagate anthrax is easy. There is a correlation, there-
fore, between the offender™s expertise, the pathogen strain, and whether
the offender has sophisticated equipment.
The agent must be separated from its growth medium, formulated, and
loaded in the chosen dissemination device. These steps can vary enor-
mously. It might be appropriate to mill the agent into a very ¬ne powder,
but milling requires considerable sophistication in order to preserve the
agents™ viability. Milling is not required; it appears that the anthrax used
in 2001 was not milled.48 Containment and safety are always top priorities
lest agent release sicken the bio-offender and his team as well as reveal
covert preparations. Protective equipment including glove boxes, air ¬l-
tration systems, respirators, high-ef¬ciency particulate ¬lter masks, and
encapsulated suits can reduce risks. These items are commercially avail-
able, but purchasing them might be traced.

Disseminating the Agent
The hardest technical challenge of anthrax bioviolence is to match the
agent™s characteristics with appropriate dissemination technology so that
it has the intended effect. Aerosol delivery is the most commonly discussed
dissemination method, but it is challenging to produce a cloud of particles
that are light enough to not instantly drop to the ground and small enough
to be inhaled deep into the lung.
Aerosols can be sprayed either as a dry powder or liquid suspension.
It is easier to produce a liquid spray, but processing it to a desired particle
size is harder. Dry powders are more stable “ an important consideration

for storing and shipping “ but the drying process can destroy many organ-
isms. Signi¬cantly, drying creates a dangerous work environment. Most
drying equipment (drum pelletizers, pan dryers, and spray or freeze-drying
equipment, etc.) is commercially available, but an astute tracking sys-
tem might recognize systematic high-end purchases as suggesting covert
bioweapons preparations.
Pressurized sprayers mounted on a vehicle can spread agent evenly
over the chosen area, but they must be adapted to disperse the agent in a
¬ne mist. Such sprayers can be as simple as an insect fogger or as complex
as a specialized cluster warhead carried on a ballistic missile. Sprayers suit-
able for insecticides would need to be altered to work; achieving proper
¬‚ow for widespread dissemination of precise particles faces serious obsta-
cles. The Aum Shunrikyo cult in Japan planned to disseminate pathogens
from a modi¬ed briefcase consisting of a small tank to contain the agent,
a small fan, a vent, and a battery. With a modi¬ed sprayer, a crop duster
could be an ideal attack vehicle. This explains why so much concern has
been expressed over discovery that some terrorist cells tried to acquire
crop dusters, and why work on drone aircraft, unsuitable for carrying for
explosives but very effective for carrying biological or chemical agents,
raises anxiety.49
An alternative to spraying is to use explosives. However, much of the
agent would be destroyed, and a lot of what remains would be too big
to get into the lungs. Moreover, an explosion would deposit the agent in
thick concentrations where detonated without evenly spreading it over a
large area; military programs developed cluster munitions to address this
concern. Yet, the dif¬culties of using munitions to spread an even carpet of
agent might be irrelevant to a terrorist or criminal who is already planning
to bomb a target and is considering adding pathogens for extra effect.
Because anthrax is noncontagious and dif¬cult to get into the air for
mass inhalation, it is most likely to be used in a con¬ned space under
controlled conditions. Large stadiums are logical places to attack “ crowds
of 50“100,000 spectators are easy to ¬nd. Outdoor stadiums would mean
exposure to sunlight, wind, and rain, which diminishes the chances for
a successful attack; if weather conditions permit, however, an anthrax
attack on an outdoor stadium can be catastrophic. Indoor arenas pro-
vide a more controlled environment; modern ventilation technology could
douse large sections.50 Air conditioning and circulation units at arenas
could be manipulated to blow anthrax throughout an entire stadium.
Domed arenas with negative air pressure could take advantage of pow-
erful fans that circulate air and thereby the anthrax powder.51

There are even simpler dissemination techniques. A strategically
placed team could wave banners, towels, or pompoms that are saturated
with anthrax powder and resaturated from a cooler or large bag. Fans at
music and other entertainment venues often wave items in the dark. Only
slightly more complex would be to use rudimentary pumps that can be
purchased for less than $50; modifying such devices to discretely spread
anthrax is trivial. More complex would be to use foggers; in a rock concert
using pyrotechnics, such devices and the resulting cloud might be seen as
“special effects.”
Densely populated of¬ce buildings could also be an anthrax target. If
the offender can deposit the anthrax into a building™s air circulation system,
it could circulate throughout the building. Security personnel could be an
obstacle, but many of the world™s huge of¬ce buildings are unguarded;
in some instances, guards might be bribable. Better would be to have a
team member in the target building employed as a guard or janitor with
essentially unlimited access to these systems. Electronic locks and alarms
on these systems could be effective safeguards; even more effective are
HEPA ¬lters.52 However, few buildings are so equipped. Elevator shafts are
also effective means of distributing clouds of powder. It is not very dif¬cult
to use the shaft™s vertical movement to pump a lot of agent throughout a
modern skyscraper.
Subway systems are another enclosed venue for launching an anthrax
attack. In New York City, subways carry nearly one million people per day in
tunnels with fans to circulate air. With enough anthrax and enough people
to distribute it, the trains and the fans could circulate the powder.
All of these attack modes face impediments that could make them more
complicated than portrayed here. Many experts believe that, today, an
attack causing tens of thousands of casualties would probably be beyond
the capabilities of a lunatic or sole fanatic but not impossible for a terror-
ist organization with access to laboratory seed stocks. It is worth remem-
bering that the 2001 attacks that killed ¬ve people effectively shut down
Congress and, according to the EPA, cost hundreds of millions of dollars
in clean-up fees and detection expenses.53 An attack that kills 500 people
would generate incalculable panic and need for remediation. Repetition
of comparable attacks would have unquanti¬able consequences.


Botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum,
is one of the most poisonous substances known. In a single gram is

enough toxin to kill over one million people. It is lethal if inhaled, injected
into the bloodstream, or ingested through contaminated food products.
Botulinum is unsuitable for aerosol delivery against a widely dispersed
target and therefore considered not to be an effective battle¬eld agent,
but it could be effective against persons in a highly con¬ned space. Symp-
toms ¬rst appear as stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea (if ingested),
leading to complete muscle paralysis in a matter of hours. If untreated,
botulism can have a mortality rate of 100 percent; but only a 6 percent
mortality rate in intestinal botulism cases if promptly diagnosed and
According to a Senate Report on the Alleged Assassination Plots Involv-
ing Foreign Leaders, the United States developed various schemes to use
botulinum toxin to assassinate Fidel Castro. In 1961, the CIA saturated a
box of Castro™s favorite cigars with concentrations of the toxin so potent
that a person would die simply after putting one of the cigars in his mouth.
The cigars were delivered to an unidenti¬ed person but did not actually
get to Castro. Later, the CIA tried to poison Castro™s food with botulinum
toxin. This was seen as “something ˜nice and clean, without getting into
any kind of out and out ambushing™ preferably a poison that would dis-
appear without a trace.”55 Pills containing the toxin were delivered to two
persons with access to Castro, but in each case the recipient returned the
pills unused.
After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq admitted to have stockpiled 19,000
liters of concentrated botulinum toxin (10,000 liters had been loaded into
13 ballistic missiles and 100 bombs). Nearly 20,000 liters of toxin are not
accounted for.56
Disseminating botulinum is challenging. Released into the air, the toxin
degrades quickly due to temperature and humidity. Released into water,
the toxin is readily inactivated by puri¬cation systems.57 To commit a catas-
trophic attack, botulinum would likely be aimed at the food industry. The
toxin is colorless, odorless, and tasteless making it undetectable in food.
Because the toxin is inactivated when exposed to temperatures over 85
degrees Celsius for ¬ve minutes, it would be most effective if laced on food
products that are eaten raw. Getting access to fruit or vegetables is triv-
ial, and toxins can be spread by hand; contaminating salad bars or other
unguarded food supplies could sicken a few people. An infamous exam-
ple involving not botulinum but salmonella was when the Rajanishee cult
in Oregon spread it on salad bars. Escalating from a local disturbance
to a mass catastrophe, however, multiplies the dif¬culties of circulating
enough agent to many people without being noticed.

Recently, two Stanford researchers published an article in the Proceed-
ings of The National Academies of Sciences suggesting that terrorists could
easily kill or injure hundreds of thousands of people by putting botulinum
toxin in the milk supply.58 Twenty billion gallons of milk distributed yearly
in the United States are stored in unprotected tanks prior to processing.
It would be a relatively simple matter, they alleged, to release botulinum
toxin into these tanks. Although the pasteurization process will inacti-
vate 68.4 percent of the toxin, over a half million people would consume
contaminated milk resulting in 100,000 casualties, perhaps more. Notably,
most victims would be children who are preponderant drinkers of milk.
After publication, other scientists disputed the ease of such an attack,
claiming that it would take an enormous amount of toxin to spread
throughout the milk supply. Moreover, advanced pasteurization processes
can eliminate over 99 percent of the toxin. Nevertheless, the article™s speci-
¬city about how to execute a successful attack has fueled debate about
whether to constrain publication of scienti¬c articles lest potential bio-
offenders gain access to dangerous information.59 Accompanying the arti-
cle™s publication was an editorial by NAS President Bruce Alberts explaining
that the article did not contain any technical information that is not readily
available and that it is useful for other scientists to think of solutions to the


The modern era of biological weapons began in World War I when Ger-
man agents infected horses with glanders. The Soviets took agroviolence
the farthest. Its Ecology program weaponized variants of foot and mouth
disease (FMD), rinderpest, African swine fever, various poultry diseases,
and diseases to be sprayed from low-¬‚ying airplanes against economically
important crops. More recently, the Iraqi bioweapons program included
anti-crop agents such as wheat smut.
Today, agroviolence is a way to trigger widespread disruption that has
crippling economic effects without necessarily causing mass human casu-
alties. The 2001 natural outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in the
United Kingdom in¬‚icted costs at $6“30 billion. A single case of mad cow
disease in the United States caused a $2.4 billion drop in beef exports.60
Agro-attacks will have a disproportionate effect on farmers, ranchers, and
food processors and will be most devastating against countries that pro-
duce nearly all of their population™s diet. Countries where food exports are a
substantial component of the economy would also suffer substantially. An

attack against United States agriculture, for example, would not mean star-
vation because of advanced international trade systems, but there would
be untold damage to a $50 billion per year export market in food.

Motivations and Feasibility
Some bio-offenders might be disinclined to commit mass murder whether
for moral reasons or lest the attack blow back against them or their allies.
For bio-offenders especially concerned with self-preservation, it is safer to
work with agents that uniquely threaten crops and livestock than with
human pathogens. Bio-offenders who are fretful of capture might use
pests to resemble a natural blight. Or, agroviolence perpetrators might
be motivated by simple greed: “Pro¬t could be made by manipulation of
futures markets, selling short the stock of major agrochemical companies,
or intentionally sabotaging overseas competitors to capture lost import
One unique group of potential bio-offenders opposes the use of ani-
mals in research and treatment of livestock. An anti-crop attack might
highlight their fury by striking a heavy economic loss while not hurting ani-
mals (including humans). Some opponents of genetically modi¬ed (GM)
crops and animals could use pathogens to destroy GM organisms. Radi-
cal animal rights groups might attack livestock to prevent businesses from
pro¬ting from animal suffering. Ingrid Newkirk, president of the People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals, stated her hope “that FMD comes to the
United States. It will bring economic harm only for those who pro¬t from
giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like
existence. It would be good for animals, good for human health, and good
for the environment.”62
Agro-pathogens are abundant. Numerous diseases could be used
against livestock. The Animal Health Organization (Of¬ce Internationale
des Epizooties [OIE]) lists seventeen readily transmissible animal dis-
eases that can seriously disrupt internationally traded animals and ani-
mal products.63 It is easy to locate disease outbreaks; various internet sites
post veterinarians™ reports. Getting a pathogen sample could be as easy
as wiping an animal™s infected area with a cloth; disease could be spread
by rubbing other animals™ faces or injecting a slurry from infected tissue.
As the pathogen multiplies in the host animal™s system, the perpetrators
increase their arsenal. A few milligrams of pathogenic material could ini-
tiate multiple outbreaks in widely dispersed locales. Re¬ned seed stock of
harmful agro-agents could also be obtained from any of 450 repositories

in 67 nations. It is easy to transport agro-pathogens with scant risk of
detection; they can be cultured without expensive or specialized laboratory


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