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Status Brief

Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:

Current Assessment/State of the Field:




MacKenzie, Debora, “Experts Fear Escape of 1918 Flu from LabNew Scientist, October 21, 2004. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6554-experts-fear-escape-of-1918-flu-from-lab.html

  1. “‘The potential implications of an infected lab worker – and spread beyond the lab – are terrifying,’ says D. A. Henderson of the University of Pittsburgh, a leading biosecurity expert.”
  2. “‘All the virologists I have spoken to have concerns,” says Ingegerd Kallings of the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control in Stockholm, who helped set laboratory safety standards for the World Health Organization.’”
  3. “Kallings and others are calling for international discussions to resolve the issues related to such work. ‘It is time for influenza scientists to find a consensus on containment,’ she says. John MacKenzie of the University of Queensland in Australia, who investigated how the SARS virus escaped from high-level containment labs in east Asia on three occasions after lab workers became infected, agrees. ‘A meeting would be beneficial.’”
  4. “The team started the work at the highest level of containment, BSL-4, at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Then they decided the viruses were safe enough to handle at the next level down, and did the rest of the work across the border in a BSL-3Ag lab in Madison.”
  5. “The main difference between BSL-4 and BSL-3Ag is that precautions to ensure staff do not get infected are less stringent: while BSL-4 involves wearing fully enclosed body suits, those working at BSL-3Ag labs typically have half-suits.”
  6. “Kawaoka told New Scientist that the decision to move down to BSL-3Ag was taken only after experiments at BSL-4 showed that giving mice the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in advance prevented them getting sick. This means, he says, that if all lab workers take oseltamivir ‘they cannot become infected’.”
  7. “Terrence Tumpey’s team at the US Department of Agriculture’s poultry research lab in Athens, Georgia, got quite different results: they found that mice given oseltamivir still got sick and 1 in 10 died. It is not clear why Kawaoka’s mice fared better.”
  8. “Yet Kawaoka’s decision does comply with the US National Institutes of Health guidelines for BSL-3 agents: those causing ‘serious or lethal human disease for which preventive or therapeutic interventions may be [its italics] available.’”
  9. “By contrast, the team in Georgia, the first to experiment with genetically engineered 1918 viruses, did all its work at BSL-3Ag. Meanwhile, Michael Katze at the University of Washington at Seattle is planning to expose monkeys to aerosols of 1918-type viruses at BSL-3, a step down from BSL-3Ag. The recent SARS escapes were from BSL-3 labs.”
  10. “‘We would have to do any such work at BSL-4,’ says John Wood of the UK’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control. In the US, the differing standards applied by different groups are due to the fact that experiments on engineered viruses such as the 1918 flu are approved on a case-by-case basis by Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs), composed of local scientists and officials. Critics say these are free to interpret the official guidelines in a way that suits them.”
  11. “‘There is no effective national system to ensure consistency, responsibility and good judgement in such research,’ says Edward Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a biosecurity pressure group in Austin, Texas. In a review of IBCs published this month, he found that many would not provide minutes of recent meetings as required by law.”
  12. “He [Hammond] says the IBC that approved the planned 1918 flu study at the University of Washington considered only one scenario that could result in workers being exposed to airborne virus – the dropping of samples. Its solution: lab workers ‘will be trained to stop breathing’.’

Lab Safety, Flu, Canada, U.K., WHO, SARS, Asia, Academia


Peek, Laura, “Chemist suspect cornered in CairoThe Daily Mail, online July 17, 2005.

  1. “Magdy Al Nashar, 33, was arrested in a dawn raid on his parents’ home by Egyptian secret service agents following a request for help from the British authorities.”
  2. “The Chemistry PhD student has been missing since June 30. He helped the fourth suicide bomber to rent a flat in Leeds last month. Al Nashar who has studied biochemistry at Leeds University since 2000 and his lodger, Jamal Lindsay, disappeared a week before the bombs.”
  3. “Lindsay carried out the attack which killed at least 25 people at Russell Square. On Tuesday police raided the housing association flat in Burley, Leeds, and evacuated neighbours after finding explosives.”
  4. “Egyptian security services spokesman General Mahmoud El Fishawi told the Daily Mail: ‘We just do not know if he is guilty or innocent. If we find a link with the London bombings, he will be sent back to Britain.’There was a series of secret meetings between the bombers at the Burley flat believed to be their bomb factory in the weeks leading up to the attacks.”
  5. “There was a series of secret meetings between the bombers at the Burley flat believed to be their bomb factory in the weeks leading up to the attacks.”
  6. “Police carried out a controlled explosion at the flat on Tuesday. Detectives found traces of evidence from all four bombers.”
  7. “The Arab Al-Maadi district of Cairo where Al Nashar grew up has been described as a hotbed for fanatics because it is so easy to disappear in its maze of narrow dusty streets.”

Law Enforcement, Academia, Egypt, Europe, U.K.


Editors, “Freed chemist worried over return to UK,” Daily Mail, Aug 10, 2005. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-358768/Freed-chemist-worried-return-UK.html

  1. ”An Egyptian chemist released without charge yesterday after three weeks of questioning over the July 7 London bombings said he wants to return to the UK.”
  2. ”Egyptian authorities found no evidence to link the former Leeds University student to the attack or to Al Qaeda.”
  3. ”He knew two of the suicide bombers casually – helping find Lindsey Germaine a place to live in Leeds – but said he was innocent of any involvement.”
  4. ”He was detained in Cairo after Britain notified Egyptian authorities they suspected he may have had links to some of the terrorists, three of whom were from Leeds.”
  5. ”El-Nashar had returned to Egypt on holiday a week before the attacks; Egyptian authorities arrested him on July 14, a week after the bombings.”

Law Enforcement, Academia, Egypt, Europe, U.K.


Schwirtz, Michael, Cowell, Alan, “Suspect in Russian’s Poisoning Isn’t Charged,” NYT, A6, Nov. 13, 2009.

  1. “German prosecutors have abandonded investigations into one of the main figures suspected of involvement in the killing of former K.G.B. officer in London 3 years ago without bringing charges.”
  2. “Dmitiri V. Kovtun, … was initially suspected by German prosecutors of illegally transportting a rare radioactive isotope, Polnium 210, through Germany and then to London, where investigators say it was used to poison Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. officer and whistleblower.”
  3. “The Litvinenko case deeply strained relations between Britain and Russia.”

Jurisdiction, Russia, U.K., Germany


Handley, Alison, “Being Alert to Anthrax,” Nursing Standard (Royal College of Nursing), Great Britain, March 10-16; Vol. 24, pp. 21

  1. “To date 19 cases of anthrax have been confirmed in Scotland and three in England since December 2009.  Similarities suggest that heroin, or a contaminated cutting agent mixed with it, is the likely source of an infection that has already claimed ten lives in the UK.”
  2. “The cases represent the first known outbreak of anthrax to have occurred in conjunction with drug use.”
  3. “UK health authorities are working on the assumption that all heroin in circulation carries a risk.”
  4. “The outbreak has been varied in terms of the initial signs, symptoms and severity, although infection at the injection site has been the most common presentation.”
  5. “Health Protection Scotland nurse consultant Lisa Ritchie says: ‘Nurses should be aware of the symptoms and presentations of anthrax among heroin users. They need to ensure that standard infection control policies are followed rigorously. Potentially, the greatest risk of contamination within the hospital environment would occur from unrecognised anthrax cases in drug users.’”

Anthrax, U.K.


Gross, Jenny, “South African appears in court on terror charges,” February 14, 2011. AP http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AF_SOUTH_AFRICA_TERROR_ARREST?SITE=NHPOR&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT#5b1c4017-58d1-45e0-badb-4bc1a1941c69

  1. “… Brian Roach, … The 64-year-old Roach, who owns an engineering firm outside Johannesburg, appeared in a Johannesburg court Monday after his arrest Saturday on terror charges.”
  2. “‘We have the expertise and resources to do this very effectively and will be able to devastate the industry in the U.K. which will cost billions to the economy,’ Roach wrote in an e-mail to the British government. ‘We will devastate your farms and then we will then take the problem to your coconspirator the USA.'”
  3. “On Oct. 6, Roach wrote in an e-mail: ‘We are not habitual criminals but have been victim of a situation which was entirely out of our control and attributed to corrupt and incompetent politicians.'”
  4. “Police charged Roach with terrorist activity and money laundering. The gray-haired man, married with four grown children, appeared briefly in court Monday, wearing glasses and a black fleece jacket.
  5. “Police searched Roach’s home and other sites, but found no evidence he would have been capable of carrying out his threats.”

Bioterrorism, Africa, South AfricaU.K., Law Enforcement


CBR Staff Writer, “UK prepared to lead international fight against cyber terrorism” 24 March 2011 CBR http://security.cbronline.com/news/uk-prepared-to-lead-international-fight-against-cyber-terrorism-240311 Last Checked 28 March 2011.

  1. “The UK is willing to lead the international fight against cyber crime and terrorism, but will co-ordinate its policy with its partners including the US…”
  2. ‘“The UK has signalled its willingness to lead internationally.”’
  3. “However he added that the UK’s response to cyber threats has to be developed with the help of other countries.”
  4. “The UK must lead the fight against cyber threats to protect its own interests.”
  5. ‘“We have to fight and win battles to decide internationally how this will be run. There are states that want to dictate how cyberspace evolves in a way that would be detrimental to our interests.”’
  6. “The government will publish a new cyber security strategy in the coming months…”
  7. “The coalition government has given priority to cyber threats. In its national security strategy: “A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty” unveiled on 18 October 2010, the government said that cyber crime is one of the biggest emerging threats to the UK.”
  8. “Subsequently, the government announced the National Cyber Security Programme as a part of its Strategic Defence and Security Review and allotted £650 million of new investment over the next four years to the programme.”
  9. “The government has maintained that the private sector has to play a key role in the successful delivery of the programme.”
  10. ‘“Partnership with the private sector will be absolutely crucial,” he said. “Government can’t do it alone.”’
  11. ‘“The problem is networked and diffuse, so the response needs to be collaborative between government and the private sector.”’
  12. “The collaboration had already started last month… in which a joint response from government and the private sector was agreed upon.”

Cybersecurity, U.K.


Connor, Steve, “Government ‘may sanction nerve-agent use on rioters’, scientists fear” 7 February 2012, TheIndependent.co.uk, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/government-may-sanction-nerveagent-use-on-rioters-scientists-fear-6612084.html, Last Checked 12 February 2012.

  1. “Leading neuroscientists believe that the UK Government may be about to sanction the development of nerve agents for British police that would be banned in warfare under an international treaty on chemical weapons.”
  2. “A high-level group of experts has asked the Government to clarify its position on whether it intends to develop “incapacitating chemical agents” for a range of domestic uses that go beyond the limited use of chemical irritants such as CS gas for riot control. The experts were commissioned by the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of sciences, to investigate new developments in neuroscience that could be of use to the military. They concluded that the Government may be preparing to exploit a loophole in the Chemical Weapons Convention allowing the use of incapacitating chemical agents for domestic law enforcement.”
  3. “The 1993 convention bans the development, stockpiling and use of nerve agents and other toxic chemicals by the military but there is an exemption for certain chemical agents that could be used for “peaceful” domestic purposes such as policing and riot control. The British Government has traditionally taken the view that only a relatively mild class of irritant chemical agents that affect the eyes and respiratory tissues, such as CS gas, are exempt from the treaty, and then only strictly for use in riot control.”
  4. “But the Royal Society working group says the Government shifted its position to allow the development of more severe chemical agents, such as the type of potentially dangerous nerve gases used by Russian security forces to end hostage sieges. “The development of incapacitating chemical agents, ostensibly for law-enforcement purposes, raises a number of concerns in the context of humanitarian and human-rights law, as well as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” the report says.”
  5. “”The UK Government should publish a statement on the reasons for its apparent recent shift in position on the interpretation of the CWC’s law enforcement position.” The Royal Society group points to a 1992 statement by Douglas Hogg, the then Foreign Office Minister, who indicated that riot-control agents were the only toxic chemicals that the UK considered to be permitted for law-enforcement purposes. But in 2009 ministers gave a less-restrictive definition suggesting the use of “incapacitating” chemical agents would be permitted for law-enforcement purposes as long as they were in the categories and quantities consistent with that permitted purpose.”

Chemical, CWC, Law Enforcement, U.K.


Editors, “Alert over sale of deadly Jequirity bracelets containing terrorism toxin” 22 March 2012, halifaxcourier.co.uk, http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/local/alert-over-sale-of-deadly-jequirity-bracelets-containing-terrorism-toxin-1-4374717 Last Checked 24 March 2012.

  1. “An alert has been issued after potentially deadly bracelets were found on sale. The jewellery, which is known to have been sold through 36 retailers across the UK, is made of poisonous red and black Jequirity beans.”
  2. “They contain abrin, a controlled substance under the Terrorism Act which can kill in doses of just three micrograms if swallowed. The toxin is chemically similar to the chemical warfare agent ricin.”
  3. “It follows a country-wide safety warning from the Public Health Agency (PHA) earlier this month. Anyone who has one should bag it and then wash their hands and avoid touching their eyes. It can then be safely disposed of in normal household waste.”

Chemical, Public Health, U.K.


Editors, “Double Standard: UK exports arms to Sri Lanka despite widespread violations” February 18, 2012, RT, News, http://rt.com/news/uk-sri-lanka-weapons-export-455/ Last Checked February 19, 2013.

  1. ”Assault rifles, shotguns and pistols worth over $3.8 million were revealed to be among the goods the UK has exported to Sri Lanka – a country accused of repeated human rights violations by the UN, and London itself.”’
  2. ”The export report for the second half of 2012, published by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, revealed that small arms and ammunition were sold to Sri Lanka last year. According to the report, more than $3.8 million in sales in 2012 fell into the ‘ML1’ category, which stands for small arms and weapons, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade said.”
  3. ”The arms sales are made despite reports by British authorities on human rights violations committed in the South Asian country. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office recently said that that Sri Lanka’s human rights record was marked by negative developments over the last 3 months, “especially in relation to the judiciary.””
  4. ”On Wednesday last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Sri Lankan authorities to allow international investigators to examine and resolve cases of drastic war crimes in the country.”

Export Control, U.K., UN


Rockwell, Mark, “US, UK, Russia hold nuclear workshop,” February 26, 2013. Government Security News. Last checked February 27, 2013. http://www.gsnmagazine.com/node/28621?c=federal_agencies_legislative

  1. “Representatives from U.S., U.K. and the Russian Federation convened a two-day workshop on how to best secure loose nuclear materials worldwide.”
  2. “The Seventh Annual Nuclear Security Best Practices Exchange on Feb. 22 in Vienna, Austria brought together officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence and Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom).”
  3. “The exchanges are designed to bring together technical experts with high-level policy makers to improve understanding of challenges related to securing nuclear material…”
  4. “Each country made presentations on best practices for securing nuclear material, followed by discussions that helped further develop solutions to prevent the theft or seizure of nuclear material…”
  5. “The exchanges, said NNSA, are sponsored by its Material Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program, which partners with Russia and other countries to strengthen the security of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear material worldwide”

Nuclear, U.K., Russia


Kirkup, James, “Biological attacks ‘getting easier for terrorists‘” March 26, 2013, Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/9955007/Biological-attacks-getting-easier-for-terrorists.html Last Checked April 1, 2013

  1. “Charles Farr, the Director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, said that extremists have ever greater access to the information and technology required to create and spread germ agents or other biological weapons.”
  2. “The Home Office has published an annual report on its Contest counter-terrorism strategy, which warned that Islamic terrorist threats are now spread more widely across the world, requiring “very significant resources” to combat.”
  3. ““Biological will get easier from a terrorist point of view,” Mr Farr said.”
  4. “Factors facilitating such attacks include the availability of formulae and other information on the internet; increasing teaching of biological sciences at universities, and “greater availability of technology,” he said.”
  5. “Mr Farr also revealed that even as officials prepare for such attacks, the counter-terrorism budget is coming under pressure to make cuts.”
  6. “Security and intelligence agencies are having to “find savings” to fund the battle against al-Qaeda, he said. In some cases, that means reducing manpower.”
  7. ““The terrorist threats we face are now more diverse than before, dispersed across a wider geographical areas, and often in countries without effective governance,” it said.”
  8. ““This poses significant challenges to our national security and to the security and intelligence agencies and departments working on counter-terrorism: operating in these areas is difficult and dangerous, requires very significant resources and is complicated and at times made impossible by the breakdown of governance and law and order.””
  9. “The Home Office report also warned that British Muslims fighting in Syria’s civil war could return home to carry out terrorist attacks.”

Bioterrorism, Biosecurity, U.K.


Morris, Harvey, “Spies and Big Business Fight Cyberattacks,” March 27, 2013, The New York Times, International Herald Tribune Rendezvous, London, Last Checked April 24th, 2013. http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/spies-and-big-business-unite-to-fight-cyberattacks/.

  1. “Britain’s intelligence services, working alongside security experts from private companies, are setting up a secret control center in London to combat what the head of the country’s domestic spy agency has described as “astonishing” levels of cyberattacks.”
  2. “The existence of the so-called Fusion Cell was due to be confirmed on Wednesday in a statement on the government’s strategy to boost information sharing in an expanding cyberwar against online attackers.”
  3. “A team of security analysts at an undisclosed location will monitor attacks on large screens and provide details in real-time of who is being targeted, according to the BBC.”
  4. “The British initiative, which also includes the creation of a social network-style Web portal to facilitate information exchange, is the latest in a series of international measures to combat what is seen as the growing threat of cyberattacks to both business and government networks.”
  5. “Despite increased international attention to a growing cyberwar, some skeptics believe the threat is being hyped by governments and by companies involved in an increasingly lucrative and pervasive security industry.”

Cybersecurity, U.K.