War on Terrorism

Thursday, January 31, 2008

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- January 30, 2008

Georgia lab workers exposed to bioterror agent
“Hundreds of laboratory workers across the country — including 57 in
Georgia — were potentially exposed to a weakened bioterrorism agent when samples were mishandled as part of a voluntary readiness test, state and federal health officials said. At 16 of Georgia's 27 clinical labs participating in the test, workers failed to follow proper handling procedures and were potentially exposed to a vaccine strain of Brucella abortus RB51. Brucella bacteria, which are classified as a bioterrorism agent, primarily infect animals, but also can sicken people. […] Officials at the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating, said that while such tests are important, the widespread handling problems illustrate the need for hospital and other private labs to establish and follow safety procedures when working with suspected bioterrorism agents.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 30Jan08, Alison Young) http://www.ajc.com/wednesday/content/news/stories/2008/01/29/labfailure_0130.html

New Decontamination System Kills Anthrax Rapidly
“[…] Researchers at the
Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in collaboration with Austin-based Stellar Micro Devices, Inc. (SMD) have developed prototypes of a rapid, non-disruptive and less expensive method that could be used to decontaminate bioterrorism hazards in the future. Using flat panel modules that produce X-rays and ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light simultaneously, the researchers can kill anthrax spores in two to three hours without any lingering effects. The system also has the ability to kill anthrax spores hidden in places like computer keyboards without causing damage.” (Georgia Tech Research Institute, 29Jan08, Abby Vogel)

Questions arise over UW [University of
Wisconsin]-Madison germs research “Ebola virus. Bird flu. Botulinum toxin. The monkey version of AIDS.
Bacteria that cause tuberculosis, a lung infection, and listeriosis, a food-borne disease. UW-Madison scientists, like those at most major universities, study dozens of dangerous germs. A biosafety office and a faculty committee review the research to make sure it is safe, but discrepancies can lead some to question the oversight. Critics cried foul after the National Institutes of Health said some of Yoshihiro Kawaoka's Ebola research must be done in a lab with the highest biosafety standards, overruling the campus committee's approval of a lower-level lab. Now Kawaoka is carrying out different Ebola work in a lab with an even lower classification, and the university hasn't consulted the NIH. […] The issue of biosafety oversight came up last week, when Kawaoka reported that he had removed a gene from the deadly Ebola virus to create a version he and others say is safe to use in most labs.” (Wisconsin State Journal, 29Jan08, David Wahlberg)

New Livermore [California] facility to detect West Nile, anthrax

“A newly constructed laboratory equipped to handle deadly airborne pathogens such as anthrax [bacteria], bird flu [viruses] and West Nile virus began operating Friday at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The new Biosafety Level 3 lab allows scientists to test detection devices being developed at the lab against the pathogens they are designed to detect. Previously, testing had to be done elsewhere, or with less dangerous strains of the microorganisms. The DOE released its final environmental impact assessment for the Biosafety Level 3 lab Monday, which found there was no significant impact.” (InsideBayArea.com, 29Jan08, Betsy Mason)

EU defends controversial Baltic gas pipeline
“EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs has defended controversial plans to build a gas pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea, connecting Russia and Germany, amid growing environmental concerns over the project. […] The commissioner was speaking at a public hearing organised by the European Parliament in response to concerns over the pipeline's impact on the Baltic Sea. According to Krzysztof Maczkowski, a Polish national and a petitioner campaigning for a land alternative, the proposed natural gas pipeline could disturb WWII chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic Sea and endanger public health as well as flora and fauna in all coastal states in the region.” (EU Observer, 30Jan08, Renata Goldirova) http://euobserver.com/9/25560

[Blue Grass
Army] Depot stockpile passes inspection
“The Blue Grass
Army Depot chemical weapon stockpile successfully passed its annual inspection last week that was administered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) headquartered in The Netherlands. The inspectors came from several different countries, including South Korea, and conducted an inspection of all chemical weapons stored and monitored by the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, which is a separate entity located inside the depot to ensure the proper storage, maintenance and disposal qualifications are being met. The inspection is conducted to make sure that those working for Blue Grass Chemical Activity are meeting requirements set by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).”
(Richmond Register, 29Jan08, Ronica Shannon) http://www.richmondregister.com/localnews/local_story_029084537.html

NNSA [National Nuclear
Security Administration] Provides Aerial Radiation Detection Training to Chicago Police Department
“The federal government's experts in detecting radiation are partnering with Chicago's police department in a pilot effort to train local law enforcement officers to use advanced detection methods. The aerial radiation detection training will be provided by the United States Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) this week. […] In conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), NNSA will train the police aviation unit on radiation detection. The course is designed to prepare law enforcement officers to conduct a radiological surveillance mission using a radiation detection system mounted on a helicopter. This system detects gamma radiation and will help locate a potential dirty bomb or other radiological source. This training is a part of a joint NNSA/DNDO pilot project that could later be expanded to cover additional cities.”
(NNSA, 29Jan08)

Assessing the
dirty bomb threat
“Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has placed Romania on a list of countries named as likely sources of ‘
dirty bomb’ material for terrorists. But Romanian officials tell ISN Security Watch that terrorists are unlikely to get their hands on nuclear material here, and point to other, much deadlier, threats. In an interview with the Arab daily al Hayat on 10 January, ElBaradei stated that ‘many’ of some 100 nuclear material trafficking incidents (no time frame was mentioned) had involved Romania, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Those incidents, the IAEA chief said, concerned only the smuggling of materials limited in capacity and power. While admitting that terrorist groups might find it almost impossible to acquire an actual nuclear bomb, ElBaradei speculated that they could obtain nuclear material for tainting conventional explosives to build ‘dirty bombs.’” (ISN, 30Jan08, Anca Paduraru)

Agawam [
Massachusetts] man charged with toxin threat on courthouse
“An Agawam man who was being held on a federal firearms charge allegedly mailed letters to the prosecutor and a newspaper threatening to attack a federal building in Springfield with a weapon of mass destruction, according to a nine-count indictment unsealed this week. Federal authorities investigated the threats that Michael A. Crooker made while in custody in July 2004 and found a quantity of the toxin ricin, which had been processed for use as a biological weapon, the indictment said. They also found castor beans and rosary peas, the plants from which ricin and the toxin abrin are extracted, respectively.” (The Boston Globe, 30Jan08, Jonathan Saltzman) http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/01/30/agawam_man_charged_with_toxin_threat_on_courthouse/

Logan [International Airport] looks for new ways to catch
“After terrorists hijacked two planes out of Logan International Airport and crashed them into New York’s World Trade Center in 2001, well-meaning and entrepreneurial vendors and inventors started coming forward with products and ideas to improve airport and port security. Some of the ideas initially proposed just didn’t work. So, with no vetting process in place, in 2002 the Massachusetts Port Authority formed the Center of Excellence to test and evaluate them. A wealth of potential technological advances was at play, and MassPort could offer an airport, cargo container terminal and its own experience to put ideas to the test. […] Massport […] is planning a pilot program with the Coast Guard to deploy what’s known as a passive Fourier transform infrared spectrometer. Its developer claims the instrument can detect chemical weapons and […] biohazards based on their molecular structure. The Coast Guard would use it to check cargo containers headed into the port of Boston.” (Boston Herald, 30Jan08, Donna

Work on chemical sensor wins honor
“A sensor developed by a University of Maine professor to detect the presence of dangerous chemical and biological agents has been chosen as one of the National Science Foundation [NSF]’s notable achievements for 2008. John Vetelino, a professor of electrical and computer engineering who joined the UMaine faculty in 1969, is regarded as one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of sensor
technology. […] About four years ago, NSF funding allowed him and his research team to focus on development of a sensing element for certain chemical and biological agents that pose a serious health threat in high concentrations.”
(MaineToday.com, 29Jan08, Portland Press Herald) http://news.mainetoday.com/updates/021405.html

Feds in dark on Ottawa's emergency response plans
“The federal government needs to come up with money and some direct agreements with the City of Ottawa to ensure emergency preparedness in its own back yard, the Senate committee on national security and defence was told yesterday. Four of Ottawa's key emergency managers appearing before the committee yesterday said the relationship between the federal government and Ottawa officials is not defined and the ground rules are not set, which could spell trouble in a serious emergency. If there were to be a biological or chemical
dirty bomb attack on Ottawa, the federal government might expect that MPs and senators would get preferred first treatment by Ottawa's emergency staff, but there's no such agreement, said John Ash, manager of Ottawa's emergency management office.” (National Post, 29Jan08, Patrick Dare)

Police ready to face eventual chemical threat during APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum]
“Peru’s National
Police (PNP) is ready to face an eventual terrorist threat with chemical and biological weapons during the Leaders Summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum to be held in Peru in November, said today the head of APEC General Command Ricardo Benavides Rodríguez. This morning the Government presented the first brigade to face emergencies of mass destruction weapons, internationally known as NBC (Nuclear, biological and chemical), which operates in Peru.” (Andina,

Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

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