War on Terrorism

Friday, April 23, 2010

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, April 23, 2010

Colleague [Henry Heine] defends anthrax [sic] suspect, [Bruce] Ivins
“A former Army microbiologist who worked for years with Bruce E. Ivins, whom the F.B.I. has blamed for the anthrax letter attacks that killed five people in 2001, told a National Academy of Sciences panel on Thursday that he believed it was impossible that the deadly spores had been produced undetected in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory, as the F.B.I. asserts. Asked by reporters after his testimony whether he believed that there was any chance that Dr. Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, had carried out the attacks, the microbiologist, Henry S. Heine, replied, ‘Absolutely not.’ At the Army’s biodefense laboratory in Maryland, where Dr. Ivins and Dr. Heine worked, he said, ‘among the senior scientists, no one believes it.’ [...] He told the panel that biological containment measures where Dr. Ivins worked were inadequate to prevent the spores from floating out of the laboratory into animal cages and offices. ‘You’d have had dead animals or dead people,’ he said. The public remarks from Dr. Heine, two months after the Justice Department officially closed the case, represent a major public challenge to its conclusion in one of the largest, most politically delicate and scientifically complex cases in F.B.I. history.” (New York Times; 22Apr10; Scott Shane)

Advanced Life Sciences’ Restanza effective against pathogen representing global public health and bioterror[ism] threat
“Advanced Life Sciences Holdings, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: ADLS) today announced positive results from an in vitro study assessing the efficacy of Restanza(tm) (cethromycin), its novel oral antibiotic, against 30 strains of Burkholderia pseudomallei, a serious, life-threatening bacterial pathogen. Restanza showed significant in vitro activity against clinical and environmental strains of B. pseudomallei as measured by minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC), the lowest concentration of an antimicrobial that will inhibit the visible growth of a microorganism after 24 hours of incubation. Restanza demonstrated antibacterial activity with MIC values ranging from 0.5-8 ug/ml and MIC90 of 4 ug/ml. Most notably, Restanza also demonstrated positive activity against strains that were resistant to a commonly used antibiotic, azithromycin, for which MIC values were all greater than 64 ug/ml. In a separate study, Restanza also demonstrated in vitro activity against 30 strains of Burkholderia mallei with MIC values ranging from 0.06-1 ug/ml and MIC90 of 0.5 ug/ml, which are comparable to azithromycin.” (Bradenton Herald; 21Apr10)

Bioagents bill readied for House [of Representatives]
“Key lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee said Tuesday they are drafting a bipartisan bill that would regulate dangerous biological agents -- and, they hope, will avoid problems confronting similar legislation in the Senate. Homeland Security ranking member Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Representative Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said they hope to introduce a comprehensive bill next week aimed at preventing a terrorist attack involving the world’s deadliest biological agents and toxins. Committee members plan to discuss the contours of the bill today during a hearing with former Senators Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who co-chaired the congressionally chartered Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.” (Global Security Newswire; 21Apr10; Chris Strohm)

[Johns] Hopkins’ APL inventors pitch in to improve bio-security
“If an envelope arrives in your office stuffed with a mysterious white powder, your chances for survival could be slipping away with each tick of the clock. If that powder proves to be anthrax [spores], for example, and you don’t get an effective antibiotic within the first 24 hours, ‘the chances of survival are slim,’ said Plamen Demirev, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab. [...] Demirev and a team of scientists at the laboratory near Laurel believe they have developed a system to identify unknown pathogens, and any drug resistance they might have, in as little as six hours. The invention is a potential new application for a system now being tested with real pathogens at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biodefense lab in Texas. (The work at APL used harmless stand-ins.) The technology has been selected from among 118 other innovations as APL’s ‘2009 Invention of the Year.’ The award recognizes new technology for its potential benefit to society, advances over existing technology, and commercial promise.” (Baltimore Sun; 19Apr10; Frank Roylance)

Rangers ‘invade’ school for bioterrorism drill [Lakeside, AZ]
“Arizona Rangers were on guard at the Blue Ridge High School ‘old gym’ as students began arriving for school on Tuesday morning. The sight of armed officers immediately drew interest but Blue Ridge administrators quickly assured students that there was no cause for concern. The Rangers were guarding lifesaving medicine during an Arizona Bioterrorism Drill. The drill was part of a statewide live exercise. The hypothetical scenario for the drill was a rodeo / concert event in Phoenix during which anthrax [bacteria] was dispersed. The contaminated attendees supposedly returned home before their exposure was discovered. Immediately a request for medicine was sent to the Arizona Department of Health who then contacted the Governor. The Governor requested medicine from the Centers for Disease Control. Within 12 hours a ‘push package’ of medicine was delivered to Arizona. The Arizona Rangers partnered with the Arizona Department of Health to provide security and transportation for the medicine as it was delivered to the targeted counties and finally to the people who needed treatment.” (White Mountain Independent Central; 16Apr10; Nancy Stidham)

[Former U.S. Senator Bob] Graham: ‘serious’ bio-weapons threat in Middle East [blog entry]
“Former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham, just back from a trip to the Middle East, says he is worried that the flashpoint states of India and Pakistan, as well as Syria and Israel, may have manufactured biological weapons. ‘The extent to which they may have done it is classified, but it is a serious threat,’ the Florida Democrat said in an interview on the eve of his appearance at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on legislation related to weapons of mass destruction. ‘A couple of weeks in the Middle East has given me a greater sense of urgency,’ Graham said. The danger of a conflict between India and Pakistan, or Israel and Syria, respectively, with nuclear or biological weapons is ‘dangerously high,’ he said. Moreover, he said, the close relationship between a segment of Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban, on the one hand, and Syria and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia, on the other, were [a] special cause for worry.” (Washington Post; 20Apr10; Jeff Stein)

Army achieves major program milestone
“Today, the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency (CMA) announced that it completed its mission to destroy all non-stockpile materiel declared when the United States entered into the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an international treaty mandating the destruction of our Nation’s chemical warfare. This milestone also marks the destruction of the largest inventory of recovered chemical warfare materiel (RCWM) to date - more than 1,200 munitions - with a stellar safety record. CMA’s U.S. Army Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project (NSCMP) began operations at the Pine Bluff Explosive Destruction System (PBEDS), located at Pine Bluff Arsenal (PBA), Ark., in June 2006 to destroy items, such as 4.2-inch mortars and German Traktor rockets captured during World War II. PBEDS completed destruction operations on April 14.” (News Blaze; 19Apr10)

NNSA [National Nuclear Security Administration] provides radiation training to Iraqi first responders
“The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it recently completed radiation medical emergency training in Baghdad, Iraq, as part of its ongoing commitment to nuclear and radiological incident response. More than 40 representatives of the Iraqi medical community from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Defense, Civil Protection and Radioactive Source Regulatory Authority participated in a three-day Radiation Medical Emergency Training course from April 11 to 13. The training course hosted by the Iraq Radioactive Source Regulatory Authority and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy Baghdad was conducted by the NNSA’s Office of Emergency Operations. ‘Radiation medical emergency training with Iraq is part of NNSA’s comprehensive approach to nuclear and radiological incident response,’ said NNSA Associate Administrator for Emergency Operations Joseph Krol. ‘The breadth of our experience working in nuclear security over the past 60 years enables us to prepare other professionals for such incidents.’“ (National Nuclear Security Administration; 22Apr10)

How NY officials prepare for threat of a dirty bomb
“This week, at a 47-country international nuclear security conference, President Barack Obama took the opportunity to state a change in U.S. policy. The U.S. will now rank a potential nuclear attack by terrorists as the nation’s top threat, not incoming missiles from Russia. It’s a scenario that U.S. intelligence professionals and those tasked to protect New York City have worried about for years: Terrorists acquire the material for an atomic bomb and detonate it in the U.S. ‘The likelihood of an atomic bomb is much less because the technology for nuclear detonation is complicated and requires some special elements,’ says Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He says assembling and deploying a so-called dirty bomb would be a lot easier for terrorists. [...] Since 9/11, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has committed 1,000 officers to a global counter-terrorism program that is closely integrated with the federal counter-terrorism efforts. Kelly says even though the dirty bomb is not an atomic blast, it could have major consequences.” (NY Public Radio WNYC; 16Apr10; Bob Hennelly)

Pakistan may let Taliban use its nuclear weapons against India’
“Pakistan may let surrogate Taliban use its nuclear weapons to do its ‘dirty work’ against India in the event of escalation of tension between the two South Asian neighbours over Kashmir, a top US non-proliferation expert has suggested. Bob Graham, head of US Commission on the Prevention of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) proliferation and terrorism painted such a scenario at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on nuclear terrorism on Thursday. ‘If something broke out in Kashmir that reignited the vitriol between India and Pakistan, that could be an incident that could cause someone to make the decision,’ he warned ‘(The Pakistanis may say) We don’t want to use these weapons, but we’re going to let our surrogate Taliban have access to these weapons and they’ll do our dirty work,’ he said. ‘I think one of our recommendations was to work with India and Pakistan to develop some fail-safe procedures,’ Graham said responding to questions from lawmakers concerned about the safety and security of nuclear weapons in Pakistan.” (Hindustan Times; 23Apr10)

Russia to create terror[ism] alert system
“The authorities are strengthening security on the national transport system after terrorist attacks in Moscow and Kizlyar. President Dmitry Medvedev met on March 31 with the country’s Security Council members to discuss ways ‘to fight terrorism more effectively, including by addressing the weak spots.’ The meeting followed the terrorist attacks in Moscow and the city of Kizlyar in Russia’s Southern Republic of Dagestan. The president said he had signed an executive order on establishing a comprehensive transport safety system to protect public safety and prevent emergency situations and terrorism. The most vulnerable part of the transport system will be equipped with special devices by March 31, 2011, and the whole system should be completed by 2014. However, concrete measures have yet to be developed, and experiments with putting such devices in the Metro will be carried out soon. According to the Moscow Metro Chief Dmitry Gaev, tests of a new security system will be conducted at Belorusskaya Metro station next week. The implementation of a pilot project had started in autumn last year, and special equipment, including gas analyzers, had been bought and installed, he noted.” (Russia Today; 01Apr10; Sergey Borisov)

Mercedes nuclear lab to hunt terrorists at euro soccer [Union of European Football Associations tournament] in 2012
“United Nations atomic inspectors are rolling out new radiation-detection tools to foil possible terrorist attacks at the UEFA Euro soccer tournament to be hosted by Poland and Ukraine in 2012. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, asked on April 13 by President Barack Obama to hunt down missing nuclear material worldwide, yesterday certified a 550,000 euro ($728,000) mobile nuclear lab that will roam Ukraine’s roads ahead of the 16-nation soccer tournament. The vehicle was made by Daimler AG’s Mercedes unit, based on the Sprinter 515, and designed by Finland’s closely held Environics Oy, the IAEA said. ‘This van is to find radioactive material in places that it should not be, for example in a major public-events venue,’ Anita Nilsson, the IAEA nuclear security chief, said in an interview yesterday. ‘It can scan large areas for radioactive substances and be used to identify any of the radioactive signals coming into the van.’“ (Business Week; 23Apr10; Jonathan Tirone)

State wants embattled group to share in grant [ND]
“A company that received a half-million dollar grant to assess North Dakota’s emergency services was pushed by the state to subcontract some work to a nonprofit group that had previously broken open meetings laws and improperly used federal grant money on alcohol and bonuses. Records obtained by the Associated Press show that the state Health Department urged SafeTech Solutions LLP to consider hiring the North Dakota EMS Association to be involved in the work -- even though the association was ordered last year to repay $124,000 from an earlier federal grant. That push came after the association had already failed in its standalone bid for the state grant. SafeTech, based in Placentia, Calif., was notified by the state Health Department on April 5 that it would receive the contract ‘on the condition that SafeTech will consider engaging the North Dakota EMS Association as a subcontractor,’’ according to documents released to the AP under a Freedom of Information Act request. Tim Wiedrich, chief of the Health Department’s emergency preparedness and response section, said the agency encouraged SafeTech to subcontract the work with the EMS Association because of ‘strengths to the EMS proposal.’’ The Heath Department has no overlap of staff or political connection with EMS, which represents about 1,800 ambulance and emergency workers. It was, though, the only North Dakota applicant for the state grant. SafeTech Solutions said despite the urging by the state Health Department, it would not hire the North Dakota group.” (Bismarck Tribune; 22Apr10; James Macpherson)

Using lasers to steam-clean buildings after a radioactive or chemical attack
“The initial fallout from a chemical or radiological attack would be devastating enough, but the cleanup of such an incident would be equally hazardous. While HAZMAT teams and other authorities have methods of scrubbing radiological and chemical waste, the porous nature of building materials like concrete gives radionuclides and dangerous chemical agents plenty of places to hide from conventional cleanup methods. So a team of chemists at Idaho National Laboratory [INL] is experimenting with a battery of laser treatments that can neutralize threats no matter how deep within our infrastructure they burrow. [...] a series of tests currently underway has shows that ultraviolet wavelength lasers can decontaminate surfaces exposed to mustard and VX gases either by photochemically blasting apart chemical bonds or by photothermally heating particles until they degrade or simply fall apart. INL researchers are looking into using the technique on other chemical agents, many of which are susceptible to at least one of those two laser attacks. The team is also contemplating using microwaves to create heat radiation deep within porous materials to push deeply rooted chemical agents to the surface, much as they did when ‘steam cleaning’ radioactive contaminants. Once offending agents are at the surface, cleanup crews can simply blast them with lasers to render them inert, meaning life in affected areas can return to normal more quickly and with less chemical fuss. The technology is still in its infancy, but HAZMAT teams of the future may be trading in their bio-suits and chemical sprays for remotely controlled robotic crews packing serious laser heat.” (Popular Science; 21Apr10; Clay Dillow)

A seaport asks for another kind of bounty [MA]
“Gloucester has sent men to the sea in ships -- whalers, schooners, dories and more -- for nearly four centuries. A seaside memorial enshrines the names of more than 5,300 mariners who never returned, lost to howling nor’easters and monstrous waves, including the doomed swordfishing crew portrayed in the film ‘The Perfect Storm.’ [...] Now the storied seaport and art colony is hoping for a new kind of distinction -- as a high-risk terrorist target. Gloucester’s mayor, Carolyn Kirk, is seeking some of the $832.5 million in Homeland Security funds set aside to protect America’s most vulnerable and important urban centers. Kirk’s case relies mainly on the potential danger posed by two liquefied natural gas terminals that sit seven and 12 miles out in the Atlantic. There is no evidence that the rugged town of 32,000, perched atop the dramatic rocks of Cape Ann, is actually in the cross hairs of terrorists. But there is a more immediate threat: Gloucester is so broke it has cut police officers, shut fire stations, laid off teachers and closed a school.” (Los Angeles Times; 20Apr10; Bob Drogin)

Nuke-proof bunker repurposed [Cheyenne, WY]
“This mountain fortress [Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station] -- designed during the Cold War to withstand all manner of attack, including nuclear -- stands today still formidable, if underused, while the new site for the North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] still remains vulnerable, more than a year after NORAD moved there. Now housed in the basement of Building 2 at Peterson Air Force Base, NORAD faces threats ranging from truck bombs near the base to electromagnetic pulses that would disable electronic systems, according to government documents obtained by The Washington Times. The joint U.S.-Canadian NORAD (formerly the North American Air Defense Command) was moved in 2008 from its specially designed Cheyenne Mountain home to the nearby Peterson AFB [Air Force Base], where its mission of alerting the commander in chief to the threat of bombers has been vulnerable to attack, particularly the kind that President Obama identified as the biggest threat to the United States: nuclear terrorism. A ‘secret’ summary of a security evaluation by the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency obtained by The [Washington] Times last year stated that the Peterson location was ‘not designed to house’ NORAD operations.” (Washington Times; 20Apr10; Michael Deyoanna)

Apocalyptic safe houses go on sale for [pounds sterling] 33,000
“‘The Vivos complexes are deep underground, airtight, self-contained, blastproof shelters,’ said Robert Vicino, founder of the California-based company. ‘They are designed to survive virtually any catastrophe or threat scenario, including natural disasters, a nuclear blast, chemical and biological weapons – or even widespread social anarchy.’ More than 1,000 people have applied for a place in the first of 20 apocalyptic safe houses, under construction midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The company plans to sell 4,000 units, with bunkers built within 240km (150 miles) of major US cities. The cost of admission is $50,000 ([pounds sterling] 33,000). Children go half-price – and pre-vaccinated, flea-free pet cats and dogs will be let in free. ‘We are not promoting the fear, we are providing the solution,’ claimed the company. Each of the [pounds sterling] 6.5million facilities will hold enough food, fuel, water, clothing and medical supplies for 200 people to survive for a year 9m (30ft) underground.” (Metro, U.K.; 19Apr10)

White house terror[ism] focus gets scrutiny
“The Obama administration’s push to address the specter of nuclear terrorism has some proliferation experts fretting that the White House isn’t as focused on the more likely scenario of being attacked with chemical or biological weapons. Last week’s nuclear-security summit in Washington took steps to thwart attempts by al Qaeda and other terrorist groups to acquire the fuel for a nuclear bomb, which White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan called ‘one of the greatest threats to our national security.’ But some proliferation experts worry that chemical and biological weapons are much more likely to be used in a terrorist attack, and that the administration and Congress hasn’t adequately addressed this threat. One example: The Obama administration has yet to name an ambassador to the Chemical Weapons Convention in The Hague, a group that monitors military-grade chemical weapons and dual-use chemicals that could be used as weapons by terrorists. A National Security Council strategy paper released in November concluded that a bioattack could kill hundreds of thousands of people and the cost of each incident could exceed $1 trillion. Chemical weapons, though less deadly, are easier to acquire and use.” (Wall Street Journal; 22Apr10; Keith Johnson)

Retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey gives keynote address on combating weapons of mass destruction to U.S. senior joint military leaders at Fort Leonard Wood, MO
“Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey (Ret.), on the heels of the President’s nuclear security summit, detailed the breadth of weapons of mass destruction and offered a strategy to combat what he called ‘Weapons of Mass Pandemonium’ to the Joint Staff Senior Leaders today at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. [...] McCaffrey is now Adjunct professor of International Affairs at West Point and an expert in the media on national security issues. Among his findings: ‘Weapons of Mass Pandemonium’ include ‘nukes at one extreme and WW1 vintage mustard at the other extreme.’ Global stocks exceed 250 tons of civil plutonium -- enough for tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The total world Nuclear Inventory is approximately 22,300 weapons, and McCaffrey breaks out the nine countries possessing them. ‘If you can make good beer, you can make low stability, poorly weaponized nerve agent or mustard agent.’ To maintain ‘credible United States WMD deterrence’ we must have ‘verifiable treaties with strong international support, monitoring, and reporting’ as well as ‘strong international law enforcement and intelligence cooperation.’ There must also be ‘a robust, modernized US strategic and tactical nuclear strike capability accompanied by the political will to employ a retaliatory response.’ We need a reinforced US National Guard capability to respond to WMD attack. McCaffrey Predicts: ‘The US will be attacked by a non-state actor employing radiological devices or biological agents in the coming decade.’ ‘There is a small probability (5%) of employment of a low-yield nuclear device against an American city in the coming 50 years.’ ‘There is a modest probability (20%) of employment of nuclear weapons by state actors in the coming 50 years.’“ (Red Orbit; 16Apr10)

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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