Fun with Bio-Terror

On the same day the “Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” [pdf] was released, President Bush signed into law the Project Bioshield Act of 2004.

Project BioShield is authorized to spend $5.6 billion over a five-year period to buy and stockpile vaccines and drugs to fight anthrax, smallpox and other potential agents of bio-terror, as well as to develop new antidotes. The purchase of 75 million doses of an improved anthrax vaccine for the Strategic National Stockpile is already underway.

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. The disease can be fatal to vertebrates if the spores are inhaled.

Why the emphasis on anthrax? Well, a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, several congresspersons received letters containing finely divided anthrax spores, able to waft on the wind. Several postal clerks died, apparently as a result of inhaling anthrax spores.

The neo-crazies immediately demanded that we invade Iraq.

Here is what the Select Committee on Intelligence had to say about the National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq’s biological warfare (BW) program, prepared by Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to justify the October 2002 Congressional Authorization to invade Iraq.

“As ‘Biological Warfare Program – Larger Than Before,’ indicates, the primary assessment of the BW section of the NIE was that, not only had Iraq continued its BW program since 199I – in defiance of international efforts to disarm Iraq – but the program had advanced beyond what it had achieved prior to the 1991 Gulf War.

“This overall assessment is stated clearly in both the key judgments and the first sentence of the body of the BW section: ‘we assess that all key aspects – R&D, production, and weaponization – of Iraq’s offensive BW program are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War.'”

The 2002 NIE went on to say, “We assess that Baghdad also has increased the effectiveness of its BW arsenal by mastering the ability to produce dried agent.”

In other words, Tenet said that by Sept. 11, Saddam Hussein had developed the capability to produce finely divided anthrax spores of the sort that congresspersons had received in the mail.

How could Tenet have made such “assessments”?

Saddam’s son-in-law, Gen. Hussein Kamal – director of Iraq’s nuke, chem-bio and missile programs – defected to Jordan in 1995 and was extensively “debriefed” by Rolf Ekeus, chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraq and Chief Inspector Maurizio Zifferero of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

And by the CIA.

So Tenet knew that in 1991 Kamal had ordered the destruction of all Iraqi chemical and biological weapons – and the makings thereof – and the missiles to deliver them. Of course, Iraq had no nukes – or the makings thereof – to destroy.

Tenet knew that Kamal had identified each WMD site, the principal personnel working there and the progress they had made. A military aide who defected with Kamal supported Kamal’s assertions. Furthermore, Kamal had brought thousands of supporting documents with him.

Then – according to UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter – the Iraqi government, fearful of what Hussein Kamal may have divulged, turned over hundreds of thousands of hitherto undisclosed documents about Iraqi WMD programs, confirming what Kamal had told them and what the UN inspectors had already known, and filling in many gaps.

So Tenet knew that the Iraqis – including Kamal – insisted that they had tried, but were never able to “weaponize” the liquid anthrax they produced, never able to disperse the spores as a lethal aerosol over the target.

And if Tenet knew that, so did President Clinton. Nevertheless, in December 1997, Clinton ordered all 1.4 million active duty personnel, as well as one million reservists and “mission essential” civilians, to be vaccinated against anthrax.

Why? Well, the neo-crazies were quite openly urging Clinton to invade Iraq, and he must have been seriously considering it. But about then Clinton got impeached, so the neo-crazies had to settle for a four-day bombing of Baghdad.

According to the New York Times, Clinton also said he was weighing a proposal to give anthrax vaccinations to police, fire, public health and other emergency officials in cities throughout the country. He said he was considering developing new vaccines, stockpiling antibiotics, and setting up emergency medical teams in major cities.

Actually, Clinton’s principal regret may be that Sept. 11 didn’t happen “on his watch.” It didn’t, so Bush got to do the “fun” things Clinton wanted to do.

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.