War on Terrorism

Sunday, March 09, 2008

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- March 7, 2008

NIH [National Institutes of Health] forms panel to advise agency on BU [
Boston University] biolab
“The National Institutes of Health has created a ‘blue ribbon panel,’ including experts on infectious diseases, public health, biodefense and environmental
justice, to advise the agency during ongoing reviews of public safety and environmental issues posed by a Boston University laboratory designed to study the world's deadliest germs. In November, another panel of scientists, the National Research Council, concluded that the NIH had failed to adequately address the potential risks to the South End and Roxbury neighbors of the Biosafety Level-4 lab if germs escaped from the facility on the Boston Medical Center campus. The panel will hold its first public meeting next Thursday, March 13 […].” (Boston Globe, 06Mar08)

Weapons Labs Biological Research Raises Concerns
“Two U.S. nuclear weapons labs are opening biological research labs capable of studying more dangerous pathogens, raising concerns about the U.S. ability to meet demands for transparency in line with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). On Jan. 25, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory began operating a new Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) research lab. In addition, Los Alamos National Laboratory is scheduled to complete a federally mandated environmental study on a similar lab in August 2008, enabling the lab to begin operations soon thereafter, if the study findings are favorable. […] Each national laboratory currently operates BSL-2 labs, and the new facilities mark the first time either laboratory has conducted or will conduct BSL-3 studies on-site.” (Arms Control today, March 2008, Jeremy Patterson) http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_03/WeaponsLabs.asp

Salt Plains still digging for answers
“The big question is: When will the crystal digging area at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge [in
Oklahoma] reopen? The answer is: No one knows. The area has been closed since last April after about 134 vials of blistering solutions used in military chemical warfare training kits were un-earthed about a mile from the public entrance to the crystal digging site. Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge Manager Jon Brock told about 30 people attending a town hall meeting Thursday a search of more than 300 sites identified during a geophysical survey last September will be investigated beginning next week. The search is estimated to take about five weeks.” (Enid News & Eagle, 07Mar08, Cass Rains) http://www.enidnews.com/localnews/local_story_067011139.html

Sea-Dumped Chemical Weapons: An Old Problem Resurfaces
“[…] The issue [of sea-dumped chemical weapons] is global in nature and has the potential to affect many littoral nations. Chemical weapons and other surplus munitions were dumped in many of the world’s large bodies of water, including the Baltic Sea, the North Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Indian Ocean, the North Sea, the North and South Pacific Oceans, the Tasman Sea, and the White Sea. The bulk of dumped chemical weapons were deposited in the aftermath of the two World Wars when vast quantities of munitions were seized from defeated enemies or rendered surplus by the end of the conflict. Rather than attempt to maintain huge stockpiles of chemical weapons of uncertain utility for an indefinite period, the decision was made to eliminate the weapons in the most efficient way possible. Although some weapons were eliminated by detonation, open-pit burning, or simple release into the atmosphere, the majority were loaded into ships that were then scuttled or offloaded in designated areas.” (WMD Insights, March 2008, Markus K. Binder) http://wmdinsights.com/I23/I23_G1_Sea-DumpedChemicalWeapons.htm

Looking Back: The Continuing Legacy of Old and Abandoned Chemical Weapons
“Nearly 66 million artillery shells containing chemical weapons were fired during
World War I. At least 40 different compounds were weaponized for use on the battlefield. Now, nearly a century later, hundreds of World War I- and World War II-era shells are recovered annually from the European battlefields, mostly in Belgium and France. Nor is the concrete legacy of chemical warfare confined to Europe. Such aged chemical weapons affect countries as far as China. The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires that chemical-weapon possessors meet the treaty’s overall deadline for destruction: April 29, 2012. However, the treaty established particular definitions for such ‘old’ and ‘abandoned’ chemical weapons as well as different destruction and financing requirements. With the treaty’s second review conference scheduled to meet in The Hague in April, states-parties should assess how well the verification of the destruction of such obsolete chemical arms is proceeding.” (Arms Control Today, March 2008, John Hart) http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_03/Lookingback.asp

House Bill Important First Step Toward Permanent Chemical Security Regulations
“Today, the House Committee on
Homeland Security approved the ‘Chemical Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008.’ ACC [American Chemistry Council] continues to be a strong proponent for federal chemical security regulations and our members have set the standard by voluntarily investing more than $5 billion to enhance security through ACC's Responsible Care Security Code. American Chemistry Council President & CEO Jack N. Gerard issued the following statement: ‘The chemical security bill passed by the House Committee on Homeland Security is an important first step toward establishing a permanent federal regulatory framework for chemical security.’” [Statement continues at the link below.] (PR Newswire, 06Mar08, American Chemistry Council) http://sev.prnewswire.com/chemical/20080306/DC1601706032008-1.html

Fight Over Chemical Ali’s Execution
“The Iraqi government is refusing to execute the Saddam Hussein henchman and cousin known as ‘Chemical Ali’ unless the death sentences of two other Saddam-era officials also are approved. The dispute pits the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against the three-member presidential council, which moved last week to block the two other executions in what was seen as a possible attempt to appease minority Sunni Arabs. The standoff underscores the often unclear lines of authority in Iraq and is another blow to Iraq's beleaguered judicial system.” (ABC News; 05Mar08; Sameer N. Yacoub and Anna Johnson, AP)

News Analysis: Chemical Weapons Parlay’s Outcome Uncertain
“During April 7-18, representatives of 183 states-parties of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) will meet in The Hague for the second time to review the operation of the treaty and to find ways to adapt it for the future. Although there is likely to be broad agreement that the treaty has registered significant accomplishments in its first decade in operation, it is not clear if there is sufficient political will to tackle current diplomatic, technological, and economic challenges. Moreover, the meeting could be affected by tensions between developed and developing countries and between the United States and Iran that have hampered other multilateral talks.” (Arms Control Today, March 2008, Oliver Meier) http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_03/NewsAnalysis.asp?print

Advances in Science and
Technology and the Chemical Weapons Convention
“With the second review conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) approaching in April, a raft of studies have appeared making clear that fundamental changes in science and
technology are affecting the implementation of the treaty and that it must be adapted to take account of them. The most significant development is the revolution in the life sciences and related technologies, including a growing overlap between chemistry and biology. There is a vastly increased understanding of the functioning of biological systems as a result of the mapping of the human and other genomes as well as of advances in structural biology and the study of proteins (proteomics). Information technology and engineering principles are increasingly integrated into biology. The intersection between chemistry and biology has further expanded thanks in part to the automation of synthesis and screening of chemical compounds enabling laboratories to assess vast numbers of new chemical structures and a much-enhanced understanding of how certain ‘chemicals of biological origin’ act. Technological advances supplement these trends, for example, providing for more efficient means of delivering biologically active chemicals to target populations or targeting organs and receptors within an organism.” (Arms Control Today, March 2008, Ralf Trapp) http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2008_03/Trapp.asp?print

Understanding Ricin
“[…] The Las Vegas incident is the latest in a line of ricin-related episodes stretching back decades. The toxin first made news in 1978, when Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov died after assassins injected ricin into his leg on a London street. Ricin returned to the front pages in the 1990s, when several militia groups in the United States were found to be plotting to use it as a weapon. Ricin again made news after 9/11, when traces of it were mailed to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and others in Washington (no one was harmed in those still-unsolved cases) and when former secretary of state Colin Powell claimed in his now infamous speech to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 that Saddam Hussein was using ricin as one of his weapons of mass destruction. Ricin, which is poisonous if inhaled, injected, or ingested, is in its purest form about 500 times more powerful than cyanide—and about 1,000 times less powerful than botulinum, the most lethal toxin known to man. […] Jonathan Tucker, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, specializes in chemical and biological weapons issues and is an expert on ricin. […] Tucker spoke to Newsweek's Jamie Reno about the latest ricin scare in Las Vegas and shared some background and history of the toxin both in the United States and around the world.” [Interview excerpts follow at the link below.] (Newsweek, 06Mar08, Jamie Reno)

New Insights Into How Plant Toxin Ricin Kills Cells Could Help Scientists Develop Drugs To Counteract Poisonings
“A powerful plant toxin widely feared for its bioterrorism potential may one day be tamed using findings about how the toxin attacks cells. The findings may also help scientists combat food poisoning episodes such as those recently caused by bacteria-tainted produce and ground meat. Biotechnology researchers at Rutgers University have discovered that ricin, extracted from abundant castor beans, kills cells by a previously unrecognized activity that appears to work in concert with its ability to damage protein synthesis. While those earlier known effects still harm cells, it's the newly discovered and more stealthy activity that the researchers now believe delivers the knockout punch.” (Medical News Today, 07Mar08)

Origin of ricin [in Las Vegas] still a mystery
“If only Roger Bergendorff could say why vials of deadly ricin, guns and a copy of the The Anarchist Cookbook were found in his Las Vegas motel room. Instead, the struggling graphic artist remained hospitalized Thursday, unconscious and on a ventilator, unable to describe how he and his beloved dog became the focus of a toxic mystery still puzzling investigators. ‘At this stage of the investigation, he could be a perpetrator. He could be a victim. He could be both,’ said
FBI agent David Staretz.” (Houston Chronicle; 06Mar08; Ken Ritter, AP) http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/5599953.html

Remarks by
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the U.S.
Department of
Homeland Security Fifth Year Anniversary
“[…] Before September 11th, we did not scan cargo entering our seaports for radiation and we did not require advance information about every shipment destined for the United States. But today, we scan almost 100 percent of cargo for radiation at our seaports so that we can prevent dangerous weapons from entering the country. We’ve also deployed our Customs and Border Protection officers overseas to work with their foreign counterparts so that we can inspect cargo before it leaves to come to the United States. Before September 11th, we did not have national chemical security standards to protect chemical plants from attacks or to make sure that dangerous chemicals did not fall into the wrong hands. Today, with authority given to us by Congress, we have implemented tough new chemical security standards that will protect chemical facilities as well as chemicals in transit, while ensuring that the products safely reach their intended destinations.” (U.S. Department of
Homeland Security Press Release, 06Mar08) http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/speeches/sp_1204896171375.shtm

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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