CIA Says Experts See 'Darker Bioweapons Future'


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CIA Says Experts See 'Darker Bioweapons Future'
Sat Nov 15 18:27:48 2003
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CIA Says Experts See 'Darker Bioweapons Future'
Fri 14 November, 2003 22:07

By Tabassum Zakaria
http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=3826348žion=news

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A panel of outside experts told the CIA that advances in technology due to genomic research could produce the worst known diseases and the "most frightening" biological weapons, a CIA report said on Friday.

"The effects of some of these engineered biological agents could be worse than any disease known to man," the panel told the CIA.

The unclassified two-page CIA report dated Nov. 3, 2003, and titled "The Darker Bioweapons Future," was posted on the Federation of American Scientists Web site at http://www.fas.org/irp/cia/product/bw1103.pdf.

It summed up a January workshop of a panel of non-government science experts who discussed with the CIA the potential threat from new biological weapons.

Growth in biotechnology and a knowledge explosion due to the genomic revolution which provided an understanding of genes and how they work could be used in unpredictable ways, the panel warned.

"The same science that may cure some of our worst diseases could be used to create the world's most frightening weapons," the report said.

In the next decade or beyond, some of the unconventional pathogens that could arise included binary biological warfare agents that only become effective when two components are combined, such as a mild pathogen and its antidote, the panel of experts said.

There could be development of "designer" biological warfare agents created to be antibiotic-resistant or evade an immune response, weaponized gene therapy vectors that cause permanent change in the victim's genetic makeup, or a "stealth" virus which could lie dormant inside the victim for an extended period before being triggered, the report said.

STEALTH VIRUS ATTACK

One panelist gave as an example the possibility of a stealth virus attack that could cripple a large portion of people in their forties with severe arthritis, leaving a country with massive health and economic problems.

"The resulting diversity of new BW (biological warfare) agents could enable such a broad range of attack scenarios that it would be virtually impossible to anticipate and defend against," the report said. "As a result, there could be a considerable lag time in developing effective biodefense measures."

Traditional intelligence methods for monitoring development of weapons of mass destruction "could prove inadequate" in dealing with the threat from advanced biological weapons, the report said.

Detecting the development of novel bioengineered pathogens will increasingly depend on human intelligence and require a closer working relationship between the intelligence and biological sciences community, the report said.

One panelist proposed that the bioscience community help government by acting as a "living sensor web" at international conferences, in university labs and through informal networks, to identify and alert about new technical advances with weaponization potential, the report said.

"The quality of intelligence can only improve from the rough and tumble of peer review and outside input," said Steven Aftergood, director of the government secrecy project at the Federation of American Scientists.

"In the past, CIA has been completely insular, they have been unwilling to engage with outside experts," he said, "and so this is a welcome departure from that norm."
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Qaeda might use biological weapons

Press Trust of India/Associated Press

United Nations, November 15: The al-Qaeda terror network has decided to use chemical or biological weapons in future attacks, and international efforts to halt the group are failing, according to a confidential report by UN panel of experts.

The report said the only thing holding al-Qaeda back from using chemical and biological weapons is "the technical complexity to operate them properly and effectively".

The five-member group said that it believes this is the main reason why al-Qaeda is still trying to develop new conventional explosive devices such as bombs that can evade scanning machines.

"The risk of al-Qaida acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction also continues to grow," the experts said. "Undoubtedly, al-Qaeda is still considering the use of chemical or bio-weapons to perpetrate its terrorist actions.

The report is the second by the group established in January by the UN Security Council to monitor sanctions against 272 individuals and entities linked to al-Qaeda and Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime. The sanctions include freezing assets, a ban on travel, and an arms embargo.

The experts cited no new specific new evidence, noting only the recent discovery of a chemical substance, possibly containing the tetanus virus, in a police raid on a hideout in the southern Philippines of the south-east Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. A manual on bio-terrorism was also found at the hideout.

http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=26120#compstory


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