The threat posed by use of biological weapons is real growing and extremely dangerous. This threat has been evolving with the emergence of new technology and given the potential of biological weapons, there is no margin for error and no chance to learn from previous mistakes. There is the believe that many countries are pursuing the development of biological weapons and that many of these countries poses an international security threat. Terrorist groups have over the time sought the knowledge, equipment and material necessary for biological weapons.
Terrorist attacks such as the anthrax attacks experienced in the previous years have posed a threat to citizens of different countries (Jeanne, 2005, 32). These and many other experienced threats have enlightened the world about how much serious damage could be done in both physical and psychological terms by a single individual or a small group with limited means but with access to biological and chemical weapons. Such weapons are required to inflict harm and wide spread fear by the responsible terrorist groups.
In each case, the relevant knowledge, the right materials and the opportunity to strike has greatly assisted these terrorist groups or individuals in executing attacks in many countries. Given such issues, governments have increased their efforts in ensuring that the access and use of these biological weapons and the technology needed to develop and use them, is unavailable to the terrorist groups. Threat posed by the use of biological weapons by terrorists.
In his research study, Romel (2005) has argued that unlike chemical and nuclear weapons, the components of biological weapons are warfare to the contemporary nature, soil, air and even inside the human beings. The presence of such organisms does not necessarily implicate a sinister motive of attack (p. 11). In essence, they are used for many use peaceful purposes such as the routine study for diseases, creation of vaccines and the study of defensive measures against biological attacks.
The leak of important information about these organisms to terrorist groups is the major cause of the use of biological weapons by the terrorist. In reality, these organisms have dual use and misuse of them is what constitutes biological warfare. The operators of these biological weapons programs do therefore claim that they are developing and using the materials concerned for peaceful motives but this claim could be on the contrary in the sense that it would be difficult to prove the validity of such claims.
Detecting violations of such claims is nearly impossible since it is easy to use non-sophisticated materials such as household bleach (Romel, 2005, p. 54). The traditional arms control measures which are based on detecting violations of certain warfare codes and then taking the necessary action whether military or diplomatic to restore compliance are in these case hard to apply. In other terms, the traditional arms control measures are not effective in the case of biological weapons.
In fact, applying these measures to biological warfare activities yield no benefits but actually do great harm. Given the unique challenges that are involved in regulating biological agents and detecting their misuse, various governments and stakeholders have sought to remain creative, vigilant and forward looking in combating the biological warfare threat. Changing the character of terrorism could indicate the emergence of a new era, one in which the traditional constrained terrorist of the twentieth century is being supplemented by the ultra-violent post modern terrorist activities.
These post modern terrorist activities uses advanced technology and anonymity to conduct destructive acts tradionally viewed as disproportionate to desired ends (Richard, 2004, 8). The emergence of this postmodern terrorist appears as having two causes. The first of these is religious revivalism with religion playing a great part in legitimizing extremes of violence through out the history. These tendencies are generally constrained in traditionally oriented non state groups.
The second of this causes has arguably been related to the removal of constraints imposed by the cold war and the subsequent popular disintegration of bipolar world order. The result of this disintegration is a new world order which seems to have emerged and in which the legitimacy of many states has been challenged from within by increasing non states calls for self determination. Therefore, it has been argued that the causes of future conflict will be rooted in clash of cultures.
Ethnic and religious movements arguably will supplement traditional political ideologies with cultural ones and in cases where this movements cross each other, bloody conflict is bound to occur. These movements prey on the insecurity of the population offering to fill the various sociological, political and religious security needs of the individuals opting to join them. These religiously oriented groups appear to share a common ideology that rejects the existing social and political structures and at the same time demanding for a structural revision of the world in a manner that would ensure their dominance (Barry, 2002, 19).
According to Yassin (2004), the principle characteristic of the biological agents that make their use attractive to terrorist is their extreme toxicity. This toxicity has been described as the potency of pathogens on a weight basis exceeding that of most toxic chemicals (p. 12). A few thousands viable organisms is all that is required to produce infection in many cases. Elsewhere, much remains to be known or uncertain about the precise effects of biological agents.
In this regard, it would be misleading to extrapolate directly from individual lethal doses on some of the biological substances to estimating causality from mass attacks. This would be terrorists armed with biological weaponry and who can kill ten of hundreds of thousands. In essence, biological agents both toxin and living organisms can rival thermonuclear weapons with a possibility of producing hundreds of causalities in a single incidence. A number of factors have been said to favor the acquisition and use of biological weapons by terrorist as compared to the use of other forms of weapons.
Some of these factors are directly related to the toxicity of this biological agents. For example, the very smaller quantities of an agent needed on the account of their lethality helps reduce the cost and also the complexity of their production. This in turn reduces the complexity of large infrastructure and personnel in their production. In this sense, it eases the problem of security and avoidance of detection of this biological weaponry (Paul, 2002, 67). In addition, their very nature makes it hard for them to be detected by the traditional anti-terrorist sensor system.
They can’t be detected by metal detectors, trained dogs, x-ray machines or even neutron bombardment as it is with the case of other weapons such as guns and plastic explosives. This difficulty also produces the difficulty for possible counter measures since earlier detection may not be possible. In fact, one particular aspect of these biological weapons is that they pose the initial difficulty to the defenders in determining whether they are under attack or merely being struck by a natural epidemic.
Conceptually, the time lag between the release of a biological agent and its perceived effects on the targeted humans reduces the possibility of the perpetrator to be apprehended. After infection, the biological agents are known to spread to other people during an incubation period and also before the onset of the symptoms. This makes it hard to locate the site of release and to apprehend the perpetrator. The particular biological agent may also not leave a signature allowing the possibility of anonymous attacks (Lynn, 2003, 34).
According to Hellen (2005), these biological agents have an effect similar to that of the neutron bomb in that the damage they cause may be confined to human being leaving other materials and structures intact (p. 41). In contrast to nuclear weapons, biological weapons have a relative degree of flexibility and thus biological technologies are quite adaptable to demonstration attacks on small and highly isolated targets, while retaining the capacity of larger attacks.
Also, it would be true to note that biological weapons can be used in large or small scale attacks, covertly or overtly and in such a manner that help produce indiscriminate or selectively specific effects. Their lethality is added to by their capacity to reproduce allowing a small seed culture to produce a large quantity and thus enabling much smaller quantities to infect a relatively large population. The relative ease of dissemination of this biological weapons again affect the level of effort required and scale of preparation required.
Unlike the chemical weapons, use of biological pathogens is virtually identical with certain biological weaponry application which does not require massive weaponry (Michael, 2004, p. 31). Biological weapons also have the capacity to seriously affect and damage the economy of the state for example by attacking livestock, or even to inflict heavy causalities on military forces both of which are impossible using traditional terrorist means.
The degree of sheer terror and hence the resulting societal disruption that they instill in a target population even with relatively small scale attacks and given the particularly horrific nature of biological warfare makes the biological weapons more advantageous for use by terrorists. The mere threat of a credible biological attack is quite enough to throw any government into panic in the sense that they are known to produce a degree of terror comparable only with that of nuclear weapons.
It can also be argued that biological weapons given their cheapness to produce are highly regarded by terrorist as being easy to use when attacking a given population. The resources required to amount a credible mass destruction threat with biological weaponry are trivial compared to those required for a similar credible explosive nuclear threat (Brendon, 2002, 26). The cost of the equipment and other facility required to produce biological weapons may be greater than the cost of producing chemical weapons but it is still lower than that of producing nuclear weapons.
The problems associated with obtaining seed culture also, in regard to biological weapons are trivial compared with those associated with acquiring a supply of nuclear weapons. Notably, specialists appear unanimous in their view that it would be easier for terrorist to produce or acquire biological weapons than it would be the case with nuclear weapons. There however exists a considerable disagreement over how easy this would be especially when it comes to the field of technical expertise required.
Some scholars have asserted that almost everyone is capable of using biological weapons and that there is no special knowledge required in using and developing this weapons. In this regard, it has been argued that there are no technical experts nor hi-technological laboratories required in the production of biological weapons and that the cost is quite minimal. These biological agents can be easily produced at home or in small laboratories and without sophisticated scientific knowledge (Geoffrey, 2005 17).
Information that is needed in knowing how to produce such weapons is on the other hand easier to obtain and this can be found in any public library. The production of these kind of weapons is so easy that with a simple brewing equipment, one can produce in mass quantities a weapon from the naturally occurring agents. Thus with minimal financing and expertise, a terrorist can equip himself with a weapon of mass destruction. Despite all the above, some people have argued that large resources are required to produce biological weapons and that the expertise of a biologist is highly needed in such a process.
In fact, it has been argued that a microbiologist and a pathologist are required for the production of these type of weapon ally. All in all, there exist no clear cut explanation as to the cost and effort needed to produce these weapons. In his Argument, Michael (2004) has stated that the biological warfare agent ranges from living microorganisms and toxins or chemicals produced by these microorganisms to plants and animals. The microorganisms include bacteria, protozoa, viruses and fungi (P. 25). Some of the resulting agents are highly lethal while others serve mainly on an incapacitating role.
There still could be use of genetically engineered agents by terrorists which are designed to defeat conventional methods of treatment or for example to attack specific ethnic groups. The main criteria used by the terrorist to choose or to select a biological agent would presumably include its toxicity, ease of manufacture or other acquisition, cultivation and dissemination. Also affecting the choice is the immunity to detection and the counter measures not forgetting the rapidity of effect and its contagiousness.
As regards the speculation about the use of genetically modified organisms for terrorist attacks, the terrorist may choose, to easily enter the uncharted waters of genetic tinkering and manufacture chemical mutagens that interfere with genetic codes or diseases that are resistant to any existing antibiotics and for which the body has no defense mechanism known. Reports regarding this issue hold the opinion that genetically engineered agents would have to be supplied by a government that has an advanced offensive biological warfare program.
This even if feasible would require years of careful work and a state of art technology (Nelson, 1999, 64). Notably, there are a number of means through which the terrorist could acquire a seed culture or even operationally useful quantities of any given biological agent. This could be through stealing it from an existing facility or buying it either from the black market or from a legitimate source. In addition, they can extract it from the natural environment. In regard to the latter method, the most effective and easy to use agents occur naturally in the environment and are not man made.
For a terrorist, acquiring a seed culture from the natural environment may be the preferred method on the grounds of maximum security. This is the most secure source though requiring the terrorist to sample, isolate and identify the organism. The obvious short cut in obtaining this agents remains stealing or buying a ready made agent. The potential sources include biological warfare facilities, university and public health facilities, mail-order companies or pharmaceutical research facilities. There is a growing concern over the security surrounding these facilities and the danger that this poses in regard to terrorism.
Civilian research facilities are even far much insecure making it possible for a terrorist to break in and steal the agents or to simply release it in the atmosphere and leave. Another possible route as stated earlier is through the mail-order companies supplying organisms legitimately for medical and research purposes (Anthony, 2002, 13). It is also possible to discuss the likelihood of terrorists obtaining biological agents from friendly governments especially those with established biological warfare programs of their own.
Here, terrorists who are contemplating a biological attack would find it easy to obtain biological agents as well as the instructions of how to use them once they acquire the support of the government. Also, several potential patron state could easily supply cultures from their own biological warfare stocks or even from disease research laboratories. It has been speculated also that, foreign governments could give false assurances to the terrorists about the safety of using biological warfare agents to get them to execute an unknowingly suicidal attack that would thus eliminate any connection to the state sponsor (Malcolm, 2003, 18).
There are a great number of the means that could be used to deliver biological warfare agents but this is dependent on the target chosen and the scale of the attack. Food contamination is one of this means and this could be either at their source at some point in the production and distribution process. Another method is through dispersal as vapor or through aerosol within an enclosed building, a subway system or a tunnel. The same could be done over an open area such as a military base or even a city. Another conceivable mean is through transmission indirectly through infected animals or inanimate materials such as parcels or letters.
Finally but not least, it can be done through direct human contact. However, there is a great agreement that the production and acquirement is easier as compared with the delivery of such an agent which is more problematic (Malcolm, 2003, 19). Prevention of bioterrorism attacks. The defense against and the protection from bioterrorism is marked by dualism. On one extreme, there appears to be widespread agreement on the difficulty of early warning. On the other end is lack of reliable methods of prior detection (Barry, Victor, 2003, 6).
Despite this, there are measures that can be employed to curb and deal with the issue of bioterrorism. These measures can be grouped in a number of categories which include intelligence collection prior to attack, measures to prevent the acquisition of biological agents by the wrong hands, active measures to counter an attack in progress, post attack mitigative measures and finally passive protection measures. All these would imply enhanced efforts to identify and monitor terrorist groups on top of monitoring microbiology equipment and culture orders from non institutional buyers.
On top of these, there is the need of increasing controls on the availability of dangerous microorganisms. Training customs officials “to the degree possible” to recognize biological weaponry agents is also essential in an effort to deal with the issue of bioterrorism (Barry, Victor, 2003, 10). Work Cited Anthony Cordesman. Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Defending the U. S. Homeland. Mahwah, NJ, Praeger, 2002, pp. 13 Barry Kellman. An International Criminal Law Approach to Bioterrorism. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 25, 2002, pp. 19
Barry Levey & Victor Sidel. Terrorism and Public Health: A Balanced Approach to Strengthening Systems and Protecting People. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 6, 10 Brendon Kohrs. Bioterrorism Defense: Are State Mandated Compulsory Vaccination Programs an Infringement upon a Citizen’s Constitutional Rights. Journal of Law, Vol. 17, 2002, pp. 26 Geoffrey Zubay. Agents of Bioterrorism: Pathogens and Their Weaponization. Columbia, Columbia University Press, 2005, pp. 17 Hellen Schneider. Protecting Public Health in the Age of Bioterrorism Surveillance: Is the Price Right.
Journal of Environmental Health, Vol. 68, 2005, pp. 41 Jeanne Guillemin. Biological Weapons: From the Invention of State-Sponsored Programs to Contemporary Bioterrorism. New York, Columbia University Press, 2005, pp. 32 Lynn Davis. Individual Preparedness and Response to Chemical, Radical, Nuclear, and Biological Terrorist Attacks. London, Rand, 2003, pp. 34 Malcolm Dando. Preventing Biological Warfare: The Failure of the American Leadership. London, Palgrave, 2002, pp. 18, 19 Michael Richardson. Terrorism and Organized Hate Crime: Intelligence Gathering, Analysis, and Investigations.
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