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TERRORISM AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS: INEVITABLE ALLIANCE? RAYMOND ALLAN ZILINSKAS* All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it L· up to us, as far as possible, not tojoin forces with the pestilences.—A. Camus America is the pL·gue and the plague is America.—Islamic Jihad Introduction Terrorism afflicts virtually every populated part of the world, causing enormous damage and much suffering. According to the U.S. Department of State, "Since 1980, nearly 6,000 terrorist incidents have occurred worldwide, leaving more than 4,000 people dead and 11,000 wounded" [I]. Further, over time terrorists have become adept at using powerful weapons capable of causing extensive, indiscriminate damage. Terrorist expansion has been paralleled by terrorist-supporting nations' acquiring new research and development (R&D) capabilities in microbiology , biotechnology, and chemistry. Some have applied that capability to manufacture chemical weapons; Iraq may possess an offensive biological warfare program [2]. In view of these disquieting developments, could terrorist organizations acquire biological weapons, whether on their own or from some state supporter? This question has only rarely been debated in the literature . In 1978, Mullen assessed the difficulties facing terrorists coveting capabilities sufficient to mount credible threats with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons [3]. He found that, of the three, mounting a biological threat would be easiest to accomplish. However, as terrorist groups were led and manned by persons educated in the humanities and social sciences, Mullen concluded that the technical skills to deploy ?Center for Public Issues in Biotechnology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Catonsville, Maryland 21228.© 1990 by The University of Chicago. AU rights reserved. 0031-5982/91/3401-0704$01.00 44 I Raymond Allan Zilinskas ¦ Terrorism and Biological Weapons biological weapons "are felt to be beyond the capabilities of contemporary terrorist organizations" [3]. Others differ, believing that terrorists either possess the requisite capability to use biological and chemical weapons or could acquire it on short order. Hurwitz surmised that they have so far forsaken these weapons because their use would "alienate key friendly and neutral constituencies" [4]. Without making much of a case for why this should now change, he concluded that "the odds are perhaps even or slightly higher that an attack will eventually occur" [4]. His view was echoed by McGeorge, who asserted that biological and chemical weapons have found, or will find, their way into terrorists' arsenals and will be used [5]. This conclusion is carried yet further, to almost apocalyptic heights, by Douglass and Livingstone, who argue that, in view of the considerable offensive biological threat posed by the Warsaw Pact and terrorists, "at the very least, intense modern offensive biochem R&D programs should be initiated [by the United States]" [6]. Finally, Huxsoll, Patrick, and Parrott appraised the aftermath of a biological warfare attack, whether by conventional military forces or terrorists, on humans, animals, and plants and the response of the veterinary profession to such an attack [7]. Without going into detail, Huxsoll et al. noted that acquiring and deploying biological arms would not be difficult for terrorists. Do terrorists now, 12 years after the publication of Mullen's article, still lack the technological capabilities and motivation to present a credible biological warfare threat? I attempt to answer this question here by analyzing information from sources such as announcements or statements made by terrorists, secondhand information issued by terrorist supporters and detractors, opinions held by "experts," and by drawing inferences from overt terrorist activities. Specifically, I examine (1) the status of terrorism today and the groups that practice it; (2) the threat posed by biological warfare; (3) the international law and custom proscribing biological warfare; (4) biological warfare vis-à-vis terrorists; (5) the relevant terrorist organizations, identifying those that may favor adopting and using biological weapons; and (6) possible targets for terrorist biological warfare attacks. Last, I discuss how scientists and health professionals may act to prevent terrorists from acquiring biological weapons. Before proceeding, it is necessary to note that, although the focus here is on biological warfare, the subject ofchemical warfare must be touched on. In part this is because the two have been linked in past attempts at arms control, beginning with the 1899 Hague Declaration and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 44-72
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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