War on Terrorism

Friday, March 26, 2010

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, March 26, 2010

Outbreak of rare disease in the Netherlands
“The Netherlands is grappling with an outbreak of a rare disease. It normally strikes farm animals, but it’s now sickening hundreds of people who have no contact with farms. While most people get something like the flu or pneumonia for a few weeks, some are sick for months, and a handful have died. The disease is caused by a type of bacteria so resilient that the U.S. government considers it a bioterrorism agent. From the Netherlands, Emily Kopp reports. Truck driver Frank van Lent lives in a small town an hour southeast of Amsterdam. He used to play tennis and jog, but now a short stroll through his neighborhood is all he has energy for. His trouble began ten months ago. He became exhausted, he says. He developed a fever, headaches, muscle aches, heart palpitations. At first, his doctor was stumped. He prescribed antibiotics, but those didn’t help. Two months went by, but van Lent didn’t get better. He went in for more tests.” (Public Radio International; 26Mar10) http://www.theworld.org/2010/03/25/outbreak-of-rare-disease-in-the-netherlands/

President of Biopolicy Institute warns of bioterror[ist] threat
“‘The release of anthrax is silent and making endless quantities is very easy,’ Barry Kellman, president of the International Security & Biopolicy Institute, told the Union League Club of Chicago last week during a lecture that warned that biopreparedness is the only means of fighting bioterror. ‘I don’t think terrorists can get their hands on a nuclear weapon and, if they did, they can only be used once,’ Kellman said. ‘Smallpox - humanity’s greatest killer - can by synthesized, however, and spread. We don’t know the level of casualty it would cause, though some estimate it would be as high as 180 million people worldwide.’ Kellman said that terrorists know they’re losing and that the only way they have to fight back and change U.S. policy is to use a contagious disease.” (Bio Prep Watch; 26Mar10; Nick Rees) http://www.bioprepwatch.com/news/212552

Scores of Rocky Hill [CT] residents attend forum about planned lab
“Using handouts and PowerPoint presentations, state Department of Public Health officials Tuesday night made the case for the new, state-of-the-art lab they are planning to build on property next to the State Veterans Home. The forum in the high school auditorium was intended to answer questions and allay fears of residents who last week received fliers at their homes inviting them to meet what the fliers said would be their new neighbors -- Q fever, St. Louis virus and tuberculosis. The fliers, featuring a skull-and-crossbones logo, grew out of a dispute over whether union workers would build the new laboratory. The dispute temporarily halted the $76 million project, which has been planned since 2001. Funding for construction ran into a roadblock at last week’s State Bond Commission meeting, angering Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who said partisan bickering was jeopardizing the low bid. [...] The new facility, on 22 acres of state property, will measure 110,000 square feet. About 5 percent of the lab space will be used for BioSafety Level III testing for agents such as TB and anthrax. The bulk of the space is considered BioSafety Level II, where workers perform some 2 million tests annually for newborn disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, food- and water-borne illnesses, environmental screening and other public health issues, DPH laboratory director John Fontana explained.” (Hartford Courant; 24Mar10; David Drury) http://www.courant.com/community/rocky-hill/hc-rocky-hill-lab0324.artmar23,0,6797599.story

Uganda Ministry of Health: suspected smallpox cases are likely chickenpox
“A virus outbreak in eastern Uganda is not the highly infectious disease smallpox but most likely chickenpox, the Uganda Ministry of Health said on Thursday. Earlier on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was investigating a report of four suspected smallpox cases in Uganda’s Bududa district. ‘We have reports of cases of smallpox in eastern Uganda,’ said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO. He said the information came from local media in Uganda, and said the organization was following up to verify. [...] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on its website that there are concerns that smallpox could be used for bioterrorism. ‘Because smallpox was wiped out many years ago, a case of smallpox today would be the result of an intentional act,’ the CDC said. ‘A single confirmed case of smallpox would be considered an emergency.’“ (Thaindian News; 26Mar10) http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/health1/uganda-ministry-of-health-suspected-smallpox-cases-are-likely-chickenpox_100339339.html

Weak laws put Africa at risk of bioterrorism, say experts
“As more African countries adopt biotechnology in a bid to increase agricultural production, weak biosafety laws threaten to erode the gains made in the sector. Concerns are emerging that unscrupulous scientists could sabotage the initiative in what has come to be known as bioterrorism -- by producing harmful weapons that destroy food, cause environmental degradation or even death. ‘These weapons could deprive crops of water or nutrients resulting in poor yields and eventually down play efforts aimed at marketing the products globally,’ said John Opuda -Asibo, the first deputy vice chancellor of Kyambogo University in Uganda. Biological weapons can infiltrate a country through various means including imports, food aid, medicines or planting materials. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa face the biggest risk due to weak plant and animal epidemiological infrastructure besides the lack of biosafety laws. ‘We need to combat the use of biotechnology as a weapon. That calls for bioterrorism preparedness,’ warned Prof Opuda -Asibo.” (East African; 22Mar10) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Weak%20laws%20put%20Africa%20at%20risk%20of%20bioterrorism%20say%20experts%20/-/2558/883220/-/nt4orj/-/

[Umatilla Chemical] Depot waits for DEQ green light before burning begins [OR]
“While the Umatilla Chemical Depot took a moment to look into the past on Thursday, officials at the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (UMCDF) were looking toward the future and the next steps toward closing the facility. The public comment phase on the Depot’s proposed Agent Trial Burn phase, part of the campaign to destroy mustard agent, closed Monday, and officials expect an answer from the Department of Environmental Quality as to whether or not that stage of the process can begin. ‘We’re expecting DEQ to make a decision on the permit request as soon as this Friday,’ UMCDF protocol manager Hal McCune said Wednesday. ‘Once we get that approval, we would push ahead and begin the trial burn within two or three days. If we did get approval on Friday, we would start the trail [sic] burn Tuesday or Wednesday.’ That trial burn will take 60 days and will help determine how quickly the depot can destroy those containers. ‘This will help us determine how many tons we can destroy a day. We’ll try to maximize the number of ton containers we can put through a furnace in a single day, and we can use that to project a timeline,’ Jim Hackett, public affairs specialist, said. ‘It’s been very challenging for the plant to go through this process, but they’re working very hard to speed up the process.’“ (Hermiston Herald; 12Jun69; Jennifer Colton)

Anniston [researchers] tests new equipment for Pueblo project [Anniston, AL]
“A new operation here is expected to have a big impact on future chemical munition disposal operations in Pueblo, Colo. Monday, Anniston Chemical Activity (ANCA) employees started delivering mustard-filled 4.2-inch mortars to a building on Anniston Army Depot laid out to resemble an area of the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant (PCAPP) under construction at Pueblo Chemical Depot, Pueblo, Colo. At the Anniston building, a team of specially trained Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ANCDF) employees started using the Linear Projectile Mortar Disassembly (LPMD) machine Tuesday (March 23) to remove explosives (fuzes and bursters) from the munitions ANCA is delivering to them. The Anniston-based employees will collect LPMD reliability and maintenance data associated with the removal of the explosives over the course of several months. The data collected in Anniston will be analyzed and used by Pueblo-based counterparts to safely demilitarize the chemical munition stockpile in Colorado.” (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency; 26Mar10)

Worker apparently burned by mustard gas at Oregon weapons depot
“A worker prepping chemical weapons for destruction at Oregon’s Umatilla Depot appears to have been burned by a mustard agent in what may be the first exposure-related injury since the depot began incinerating its chemical-weapons stockpile in 2004. The Army is still investigating the incident, but officials ‘feel pretty certain at this point that it was mustard,’ said Greg Mahall, spokesman for the depot. Another worker likely was exposed but hasn’t shown any telltale skin blistering. The Army says no chemicals were released into the environment and the public was not at risk. The injured employee already is back at work. The incident began Wednesday afternoon when a pair of workers in masks, gloves, boots, aprons and cotton coveralls were inside an air-locked industrial plant weighing a propane-tanklike canister filled with mustard gas before an upcoming test of the Army’s latest incineration process. The men finished and moved to leave when the Army’s sensitive sampling monitors warned a chemical agent was in the air. The men were rushed to doctors, where they were watched until a small blistering rash appeared on one man’s back.” (Seattle Times; 22Mar10; Craig Welch) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011392845_gas20m.html

Court conference reset in chemical arms lawsuit [CO]
“Lawyers for the Army and the Colorado health department will return to court next month to talk about monitoring chemical weapons after bad weather forced a postponement in a conference scheduled last week. A new settlement conference is scheduled in Denver federal court for April 27. The state sued the Army last year, seeking more frequent and sensitive tests on 2,600 tons of mustard agent at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. The two sides announced a tentative settlement in January but couldn’t agree on whether the munitions should be considered waste or on the level of protection workers should have against chemicals other than mustard.” (San Francisco Examiner; 26Mar10) http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/ap/court-conference-reset-in-chemical-arms-lawsuit-89050572.html

Hill Air Force Base airmen prepare for chemical attack
“At the sound of ‘alarm blue’ over the loudspeaker, an airman has nine seconds to drop down, throw off his helmet, pull a gas mask out of the bag on his hip and get the mask to his face. Six seconds later, he had better have his hood on and pulled over his head. If he’s lucky, enemy combatants aren’t shooting at him at the same time. If he’s really lucky, he never hears ‘alarm blue,’ except in training. U.S. servicemen and women have been that lucky so far in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though the threat of chemical warfare exists. [...] This week, more than 900 active duty and reserve airmen at Hill Air Force Base have mobilized in what’s known as an operational readiness exercise. They’re training to deal with chemical attacks, and they’re using North Korea as their fictional deployment zone.” (Deseret News; 26Mar10; Joseph M. Dougherty) http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700019533/Airmen-prepare-for-chemical-attack.html

Garrard gets new emergency preparedness director
“Garrard County has a new Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program Director, thanks to Garrard and Lincoln counties combining their solid waste efforts. [...] As CSEPP director, Overman will be in charge of budgeting and dispersing FEMA grant money for training and equipment for local emergency responders. The training and equipment provided by CSEPP helps prepare local responders for ‘worst case scenarios’ concerning the chemical weapons stockpiles located at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Madison County. The training and equipment is also beneficial in other emergency disaster situations like last year’s ice storm, Overman said.” (Am News; 25Mar10; Ben Kleppinger) http://www.amnews.com/stories/2010/03/25/loc.523038.sto

Better sleuthing through chemistry
“Finding out whodunit in chemical warfare cases may be aided by scientists focused on the howdunit. Researchers have developed a technique to ascertain the chemical fingerprint of compounds such as mustard gas, rat poison and nerve agents such as VX. Figuring out the details of how these compounds were created in the first place could provide vital clues to law enforcement agencies aiming to catch chemical warfare criminals and help guide first responders as they gather evidence. Chemical forensics typically focuses on identifying the compound in question, but chemist Audrey Martin and her colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California wanted to take these analyses a step further. ‘If we already know this was a chemical attack using mustard gas, now we want to know who made it,’ said Martin, who presented the research March 22 in a poster session at a meeting of the American Chemical Society held in San Francisco. ‘We’re looking at the next step -- where did this come from?’“ (Science News; 23Mar10; Rachel Ehrenberg) http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/57561/title/Better_sleuthing_through_chemistry

U.S. trains nuclear detectives to trace ‘loose’ nukes
“Now, almost a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US government wants to ensure its nuclear forensics proficiency – and an adequate stable of scientists who know their way around radioactive materials. The Nuclear Forensic and Attribution Act, signed into law last month, aims to improve coordination among US agencies that probe cases of nuclear terrorism or nuclear smuggling. And it encourages tighter international cooperation in probing incidents beyond US soil. But just as important, it is designed to attract a fresh crop of scientists to the field, in recognition of a looming shortage of such expertise as current scientists near retirement. Scholarships for undergrads, fellowships for PhD candidates, and research awards to professors teaching in relevant fields are the government’s incentives. In return for the PhD fellowships, graduates must work two years at a national lab or at other federal agencies that help investigate nuclear terrorism or illegal trafficking. Federal agencies already were beefing up their ability to trace radioactive materials to their sources – either samples intercepted during an investigation or, in the worst case, residue collected after a ‘dirty’ bomb or nuclear device detonates. Still, the new law gives these efforts a more formal status, something that is ‘gratifying’ to William Daitch, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center (NTNFC) in Washington.” (Christian Science Monitor; 12Jun69; Peter N. Spotts) http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0320/US-trains-nuclear-detectives-to-trace-loose-nukes

Smothering dirty bombs
“Call them snuggies for dirty bombs. Some of New York’s newest high tech weapons in the war on terror look like ordinary blankets. Others resemble bulletproof vests or shields commonly used by riot cops. But they’re all made of state-of-the-art material that can protect civilians and rescuers against chemical, biological and radiological attacks. The shield and vests would be used by first responders. The blankets come in two models. One would be thrown over radiation victims to keep them from irradiating others. Also in the depart ment’s arsenal is a ‘Hi-Energy Nuclear Suppression Blanket,’ designed to be placed over a dirty bomb about to go off. It has twice the capabilities of a standard bomb blanket in reducing the force of a blast. It also traps chemical, biological and nuclear agents, reducing by more than half the distance they can spread, said Ronald DeMeo, CEO of Radiation Shield Technologies.” (New York Post; 26Mar10; John Doyle) http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/smothering_dirty_bombs_dkcdHUhBxmLziIvucCki5J

U.S. opens highly enriched uranium materials facility at Y-12 [TN]
“Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today gave the keynote address at a dedication ceremony recognizing the start-up of operations at the nation’s new, one of a kind storage facility for weapons-grade uranium. The Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) -- the ultra-secure uranium warehouse at the Y-12 National Security Complex -- replaces multiple aging buildings with a single state-of-the-art storage facility. [...] HEUMF will play a major role in helping the NNSA accomplish its full range of nuclear security missions, including protecting the nation’s inventory of highly enriched uranium (HEU). ‘Your work matters deeply to the safety and security of our country, and we must ensure you have the tools – like the Highly Enriched Uranium Material Facility – to do your jobs,’ said Secretary Chu. ‘The Highly Enriched Uranium Material Facility is essential to achieving the President’s vision. As we reduce our nuclear stockpile and improve security of nuclear material, we now have a modern facility capable of safely storing HEU until it can be down-blended.’ Last April, President Obama called for an international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” (Gov Monitor; 24Mar10) http://thegovmonitor.com/world_news/united_states/u-s-opens-highly-enriched-uranium-materials-facility-at-y-12-26631.html

5 terror[ism] suspects on trial in Madrid
“Five Algerian men accused of collaborating with Islamic terrorists and seeking to obtain bomb-making components for an alleged plot to attack a Madrid department store went on trial Tuesday in a high-security courtroom at Spain’s National Court. [...] The alleged leader of the five defendants is Said Bouchema, 41, who is suspected of creating a support cell for the radical Salafist Group for Call and Combat, which is linked to al Qaeda, [prosecutor Blanca] Rodriguez wrote. He did so at his restaurant in Alicante, a meeting place for Algerians and also a locale where stolen goods were fenced, the charge sheet said. The proceeds, along with forged documents, were sent to Algeria, and Bouchema also tried to recruit others for radical purposes, Rodriguez wrote. The other four defendants, aged 31 to 40, also allegedly were part of the group, which in late 2004 and in 2005 allegedly attempted to obtain material that could be used to make bombs for an attack, Rodriguez wrote. [...] The defendants also allegedly searched for a substance called ‘red mercury’ that could be used to make a so-called ‘dirty bomb,’ the prosecutor said in the charge sheet.” (Cable News Network; 24Mar10; Al Goodman) http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/03/23/spain.terror.trial/

NATO and partners exchange best practices against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats
“On 23 and 24 March 2010, NATO will host a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defence workshop and exhibition at its headquarters in Brussels. This is part of NATO’s commitment to bolster efforts against the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The event aims to deepen cooperation, facilitate information exchange and share best practices between Allies, partners and industry on CBRN defence capability development. It also aims to discuss ways of improving civil and military cooperation in crisis management operations. Experts will focus on NATO’s most critical capabilities, including CBRN detection, identification and monitoring technologies and strategies; disease surveillance, warning and reporting; CBRN attack recovery; and training opportunities for partners. Numerous experts from NATO member states, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and other partners around the globe will be attending. Also participating will be representatives from the European Union, the World Health Organization, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.” (Defence Professionals; 24Mar10) http://www.defpro.com/news/details/13973/

Borders to be equipped with nuclear detectors by April
“After one-week intensive training of officers from the security services, including Botswana Defense Force (BDF), early this month, the Botswana Police Services (BPS) and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), as well as the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS), the level of security preparedness at the borders is now being remarkably elevated. Stephen Williams, Director, Department of Radiation Protection, told the Sunday Standard that the department is awaiting at least 30 pagers from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for detecting radioactive materials, intended for use at specified gazetted entry points into the country by respective user departments. ‘It is intended that as of April 1st 2010, all the thirty pagers should have been distributed to the borders. In addition, there will also be radiation identifiers, which because they are a bit more expensive, were ordered in less quantity than the pagers, for picking the specific type of substance inside any form of container without having to open it,’ said Williams.” (Sunday Standard; 22Mar10; Gowenius Toka)

Indian, U.S. commanders mull joint NBC training
“Exploring a new arena in Indo-US military cooperation, top army commanders from both sides are considering holding a joint training exercise in nuclear, chemical and biological (NBC) warfare, it is learnt. The moves comes in the backdrop of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal that envisions increased bilateral cooperation in the nuclear field and having economic, scientific and strategic spin-offs for both countries. Also looming large over the global security environment is the specter of NBC terrorism and Indian forces have in the recent past been engaged in orienting, training and equipping for operations in an NBC contaminated environment.. Sources revealed that the Americans put the proposal forth and the Indian Army is to revert back with modalities and the unit that is to participate in the drill. It is also yet to be decided whether to hold the exercise, thought to part of the ongoing Yudh Abhyas series, in India or the US. The NBC exercise, sources said, features on the agenda of the 14th meeting of the Army Executive Steering Group, comprising top Indian and US Army officers that began at Headquarters Western Command at Chandimandir near here today. The four-day event would be reviewing the progress made in Indo-US military cooperation during 2009 and chalk out the programme for this year.” (Nation; 24Mar10; Vijay Mohan) http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100323/nation.htm

Nuclear terror[ism] risk to Britain from Al-Qaeda
“Britain faces an increased threat of a nuclear attack by al-Qaeda terrorists following a rise in the trafficking of radiological material, a government report has warned. Bomb makers who have been active in Afghanistan may already have the ability to produce a ‘dirty bomb’ using knowledge acquired over the internet. It is feared that terrorists could transport an improvised nuclear device up the Thames and detonate it in the heart of London. Bristol, Liverpool Newcastle, Glasgow and Belfast are also thought to be vulnerable. Lord West, the Security Minister, also raised the possibility of terrorists using small craft to enter ports and launch an attack similar to that in Mumbai in 2008, when more than 150 people were killed. The Government is so concerned about the threat that it is setting up a command centre to track suspicious boats. The terrorism threat level was raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’ in January after the failed attempt to blow up an aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day. Three separate reviews of the country’s ability to prevent a major terrorist attack were published simultaneously yesterday, before an international meeting on nuclear security in Washington next month.” (Telegraph; 24Mar10; Duncan Gardham) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/7500719/Nuclear-terror-risk-to-Britain-from-al-Qaeda.html

Sellafield to be inspected by nuclear watchdog, says Gordon Brown
“The international nuclear watchdog [International Atomic Energy Authority] is to carry out a security inspection at the Sellafield reprocessing plant as part of a worldwide drive to stop the spread of fissile materials, Gordon Brown announced today. The prime minister said Britain is also launching a ‘centre of nuclear excellence’ where the UK could ‘lead global efforts to secure the safe global expansion of civil nuclear power’. Brown described 2010 as a ‘make or break year’ for international co-operation on a number of policy fronts – from the economy, to security and climate change – in a speech to the Foreign Press Association in London earlier today. Highlighting the merits of collective action, Brown also announced that the first meeting of the advisory group on climate financing would be held in London at the end of the month. On security, Brown said it was essential to prevent nuclear weapons falling into the hands of rogue states and international terrorists. Britain is joining Barack Obama’s drive to secure all fissile nuclear material across the world over the next four years, he said.” (Guardian; 22Mar10; Helene Mulholland) http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/19/sellafield-inspection-international-nuclear-watchdog

BPSI’s [Building Protection Systems, Inc.] airborne toxin detection systems surpass 100,000 hours of operation with zero false alarms
“Building Protection Systems, Inc. (BPSI), the developers of the first complete Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) detection system to actively and reliably protect buildings, mass transit stations, stadiums, and public venues from airborne toxins, today announced a critical milestone in its achievement of surpassing 100,000 hours of operation of its Sentry One detection technology without a single false-positive or false-negative, a feat that until now has not been accomplished in the industry. ‘The false-positive nuisance alarm problem has plagued the detection industry for decades,’ said Greg Eiler, Founder and CEO, BPSI. ‘Infrastructure managers have been afraid to adopt unreliable first-generation technologies rendering millions of people unprotected from a CBRN release. Our achievement of surpassing the 100,000 operational hour milestone is a big step in encouraging more security professionals to adopt this proven solution and further strengthens BPSI’s position as the recognized leader in the next generation of CBRN detection technologies.’“ (Earth Times; 26Mar10) http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/bpsi39s-airborne-toxin-detection-systems,1214347.shtml

CNS ChemBio-WMD 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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