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Status Brief

Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:

Current Assessment/State of the Field:




Collier, Stephen, Andrew Lakoff and Paul Rainbow, “Biosecurity: Towards an Anthropology of the Contemporary.”  Anthropology Today, 20:5, p. 3 (Oct 2004).

  1. Bioseciruty as a discpline in and of itself emerged from two world events: “the break-up of the Soviet Union and the birth of genomics;” 9/11 is also mentioned.  These instances invoked “a loss of familiarity,” via Foucalt, that led policy makers and researchers to codify terrorism threats and risks.
  2. “The end of the cold War also meant a shift in the focus of security planners from superpower confrontations to polymorphous new threats which are yet to be fully defined.  On the other hand, developments over the past 20 years in genetic manipulation and, more recently, in genomics, have made the production of biological weapons less technically challenging and less capital-intensive.”
  3. Collier, et al, propose that this codification is incomplete, and policy makers instead operate on archaic foundations about conflicts of civilization that, in reality, do little to protect the public or predict acts of terrorism.  They propose a research model that will search for commonalities among the world events that catalyzed the study of biosecurity as a means to understand how and why instances of bioterrorism occur.
  4. “…There is currently limited capacity to respond to known agents, and still less to respond to unknown agents.”
  5. “At this initial phase experts and officials seem to be mobilizing and grouping already available responses…But they have no reliable means of evaluating the adequacy of these measures.”
  6. “The interest in these sites is that they are areas of dynamic activity in an emerging apparatus where the threat of bioterrorism and the need for biosecurity is being defined.”

Academia, Russia, Biosecurity, Bioterrorism


MacKenzie, Debora, “Experts Fear Escape of 1918 Flu from LabNew Scientist, October 21, 2004.

  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’.’

1918 Flu, Lab Safety, Flu, Canada, U.K., WHO, SARS, Asia, Academia, BSL



  1. “Al-Qa’ida documents recovered from a training camp in Afghanistan show interest in a variety of biological agents and mentioned plague, anthrax, cholera and tularemia.”
  2. “To determine threat, we examine an actor’s capability and intent. We assess capability based on factors such as the actor’s level of skill or knowledge, their ability to acquire a biological agent, the materials necessary to grow the agent and their capacity to effectively disseminate a biological agent. For intent, in addition to the actor’s desire to simply use biological weapons, we discern which agents they are more likely to pursue, their preferred method of deployment and which targets they intend to attack.”
  3. “Last month one of our analysts provided some of the Committee members with a classified briefing on the specifics of the current bioterrorist threat to the Homeland.  I will not be able to revisit this classified threat assessment in this open forum but we would be happy to provide this information to additional members in a closed session.”
  4. “On occasion, we require quick access to information that does not reside within IA. In these cases, our analysts are supported to the Biodefense Knowledge Center (BKC)—a 24×7 support cell based at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and sponsored by the S&T Directorate. The BKC possesses vast repositories of biological technical information and is able to access SMEs from around the country, such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Chemical Defense (USAMRICD), and the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center (AFMIC), in support of a tasking from IA. The BKC compiles the appropriate information and relays it to our analysts who integrate the information into their finished intelligence analysis.”
  5. “Our analysts regularly collaborate with other intelligence agencies, particularly NCTC, DIA, FBI, and CIA.  We also work with experts from government, academic, and private institutions and partner with scientists who keep us abreast of their potential areas of concern and the trends they see.  Interaction with outside public and private sector institutions keeps us well-informed of new and emerging technology that may be exploited or misused by malicious actors.  For example, IA recently hosted a workshop on emerging biotechnologies and the future biological threat.  This provided a forum for non-governmental experts to provide IA with information of which they believe we should monitor.”
  6. “Our analysts are broadly focused and access a wide array of information in gathering source material for our assessments. They use all-source intelligence, scientific and technical information, terrorist profiles, historical trends, and open source information such as media reports and scientific journal articles.”
  7. “We keep current on foreign State biological weapons program developments as these activities may have implications for future terrorist events. We look at the intent of the enemy, their capabilities, potential scenarios, and attack vectors. Working with counterterrorist experts in the Community, we develop link charts on potential associates here in the United States of operatives abroad who may have received training in WMD capabilities or have knowledge of WMD programs.”
  8. “we assessed the implications of the H2N2 influenza shipment in which a U.S. contractor sent a highly virulent strain of influenza to hundreds of laboratories worldwide. We also recently published an Information Bulletin advising State and local Law Enforcement officials of
    indicators of covert anthrax production. Generally, our products fall into two categories: threat assessments and feasibility assessments.”
  9. “Threat Assessments. Threat assessments are written on known actors and are based on specific intelligence. To determine threat, we examine an actor’s capability and intent. We calculate capability based on factors such as a particular actor’s level of skill or knowledge; their ability to acquire a biological agent and the materials necessary to grow the agent; and their capacity to effectively disseminate a biological agent. For intent, we consider more than just an actor’s desire to use biological weapons. We attempt to discern which agents they are more likely to pursue, their preferred method of deployment, and which targets they intend to attack.”
  10. “Feasibility Assessments. Intelligence is never complete or all-knowing and we cannot wait until intelligence is received in order to consider plausible scenarios or the impact of a particular technique or technology on a bioterrorist’s capability. To move beyond this limitation, IA, in partnership with S&T, conducts assessments of biological processes, emerging technologies, and techniques and determines their feasibility for use in a bioterrorism event.  These assessments include indicators that will help to identify if a particular scenario begins to unfold so we can prevent or disrupt events before they occur. In conjunction with the feasibility assessment, we are producing unclassified excerpts with the indicators which are distributed widely to local, State, Federal officials as well as the private sector to enhance awareness in the field and to increase suspicious activity reporting and trigger investigations where necessary.”
  11. “IA also has produced several bioterrorism-specific ‘‘red team’’ products, which explore issues from a terrorist’s perspective using nongovernmental experts and creative thinkers. These topics have included terrorist use of genetically modified food and recombinant DNA technologies to damage the U.S. food supply; possible terrorist exploitation of a U.S. flu vaccine shortage; and the safety and security impacts of a pandemic influenza outbreak.
  12. “Under the BioShield legislation, DHS is charged with assessing current and emerging threats of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents; and determining which of such agents present a material threat against the United States population. S&T, supported by IA, has been conducting Material Threat Assessments (MTAs) and Material Threat Determinations (MTDs) in order to guide near term BioShield requirements and acquisitions.”
  13. “MTAs … are speculative and represent a best estimate of how an adversary may create a high-consequence event using the agent/weapon in question. Currently, MTAs are drafted by the S&T and IA provides comments on the assessment before it is provided to HHS. In our review, we ensure that the assessment reflects what IA assesses is the general capability of terrorist groups that are pursuing biological weapons.”
  14. “MTAs result in an estimate of the number of exposed individuals, the geographical extent of the exposure, and other collateral effects. If these consequences are of such a magnitude to be of significant concern to our national security, the Secretary of DHS then issues a formal Material Threat Determination to the Secretary of HHS, which initiates the BioShield process. To date, one MTA has been completed for anthrax and MTAs for plague, botulinum toxin, tularemia, radiological devices and chemical nerve agents are underway and an MTA for viral hemorrhagic fevers will be initiated next month. MTDs have been approved for four agents: smallpox, anthrax, botulinum toxin, and radiological/nuclear devices.”
  15. “IA, in cooperation with NCTC and the FBI, is providing WMD outreach briefings around the country. These briefings outline the terrorist WMD threat, including descriptions of the types of weapons used and indicators and warnings aimed at increase awareness and reporting. In the near future, we hope to expand these briefings to other audiences such as academia and the private sector to further increase awareness and reporting.”
  16. “IA will be playing a key role in supplying current intelligence to the National Biosurveillance Integration System (NBIS) operations center once it begins operation later this summer. NBIS will fuse information on human, plant, and animal health with environmental monitoring of air, food, and water systems. This information will be integrated with threat and intelligence information to provide real-time situational awareness and identify anomalies or trends of concern to the Homeland Security Operations Center.”

Project Bioshield, Al-Qaeda, Information Policy, Academia, Lab Safety, Flu, Vaccination, Law Enforcement, WMD, Plague, Anthrax, Biosurveillance, Nuclear, Radiological Surveillance, Cholera, Tularemia


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, Europe, U.K.


Editors, “Freed chemist worried over return to UK,” Daily Mail, Aug 10, 2005.

  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, Europe, U.K.


Kemsley, JyllianFBI Reaches Out To Campuses”, C&EN, online July 16, 2007.

  1. “Thomas Mahlik, notes that classified research usually starts off as unclassified, often in a university environment. Traditionally, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have focused on classified information only and would react after a leak had occurred. “In that case, it’s too late,” Mahlik says. “The secret’s gone.”
  2. “In an effort to stem such losses, the FBI in 2005 launched the Counterintelligence Domain Program. The domain in question is research, information, and technologies that are not classified but still have potentially critical importance to U.S. economic and military power. The goal of the program is to reach out to researchers and build relationships, especially with an academic community historically wary of law enforcement.”
  3. “One component of the counterintelligence program is the Academic Alliance. Directed at U.S. colleges and universities, the goal is not to dictate to researchers what they should and should not do, but to foster communication between national security agencies and the researchers generating technology.”
  4. “We want to break down all the barriers of the past,” the FBI’s Mahlik says. “We need to come to terms as to what’s the right balancing mechanism to have information exchange that doesn’t spike great paranoia. If we agree to disagree that’s fine, but at least we’re talking about it and not waiting for an incident to occur. The toughest time to build relationships is in a time of crisis.”
  5. “Concern expressed by university leadership was the vague nature of what they were being asked to look for in terms of identifying security risks. There weren’t any clear examples that the FBI was able to give the academics.”
  6. “Now, what the FBI and others are trying to establish is more of a needed communication. Instead of responding because of compliance or contract, communities respond because it’s the right thing to do.”

Law Enforcement, Academia


Reuters, “Experts Urge Exchange of Scientific Talent,” NYT, A18, Oct. 19, 2007.

  1. “The federal government should create a commission to promote the free flow of scientific knowledge and researchers from other countries while balancing the threat from enemies, an expert panel said Thursday.”
  2. “‘The global scientific enterprise thrives on the movement of students and scholars across borders and among institutions,’ it said in a report.”
  3. “With fewer American students choosing  careers in science and engineering, the American research and development effort cannot be sustained without a significant and steady infusion of foreign participants, the committee said.”
  4. “But the panel said safeguards are needed to ensure that important research does not fall into the wrong hands.”
  5. “Dr. Gansler said in a statement.  ‘Unnecessary or illconceived restrictions could jeopardize the scientific and technical progress that our nation depends upon.'”

Academia, Open Science


Afrasiabi, Kaveh, L., “Iran Sanctions Hit the Wrong Target,” Asia Times, Jan. 25, 2008. Last checked Oct. 18, 2009.

  1. “Indeed, this much is clear by examining the poor logic of renewed attempts to toughen Iran sanctions on the part of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members (the US, Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany – the Five plus One – reportedly agreeing in their last meeting in Berlin on Tuesday t odraft a new resolution.  … [Which will] impose new travel bans, certain ‘asset freezes’ as well as calls for ‘vigilance’ with respect to the transfer of ‘banned material’ for sensitive nuclear activities, and ‘monitoring’ of the sanctions regime.”
  2. “The latest draft UN resolution’s provisions for ‘travel bans’ simply lack a sound strategic design, rigorous monitoring and enforcement mechanism and will likely fail to generate international cooperation and compliance.”
  3. “such UN initiatives will likely backfire on the UN and diminish its standing, particularly among the majority of the world’s population who belong to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), given NAM’s solid support of Iran’s nuclear rights.”
  4. “Resolution 1747, while providing a short list of several scientists and heads of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as intended targets for a travel ban, [cite omitted] nonetheless opens a loophole by stating ‘except when such travel is for activities directly related to items in certain sub-paragraphs.  One such exception deals with religious pilgrimage, another deals with Iran’s non-proliferation sensitive nuclear activities.”
  5. “There is always the availability of false passports and travel documents and the challenges of effective customs and border monitoring, particularly by Iran’s neighbors. [cite omitted] Then there is a lack of incentives for cooperation by other states, especially those which are critical of the US-led sanctions on Iran and which agree with Iran that these measures have the character of ‘psychological warfare.’”
    *”the question arises as to the grounds on which poor scientists who simply follow orders should be penalized, and their freedom to travel curtailed.”

Academia, Misconduct, Iran, U.S. Foreign Policy, Nonproliferation, Non-Aligned Movement


Grady, Denise, “System Tracks Flu Cases at Colleges,” NYT, A 17, Sept. 3, 2009.

  1. “Students back at college have already begun coming down with the flu, according to a new tracking system that uses reports from 165 universities in the United States with two million students.”
  2. “The tracking system was set up by the American College Health Association, which will post weekly case data and cumulative figures on its Web site.”

Biosurveillance, Flu, Academia


Brumfiel, Geoff, “Particle Physicist ‘Falsely Accused’, Claims BrotherNature, online October 13, 2009.

  1. “French authorities placed Adlene Hicheur, a postdoc at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), under formal investigation for possible ‘criminal association in relation to a terrorist undertaking’, He has been held since 8 October, after a raid at his family’s home in the town of Vienne, southeastern France.”
  2. “According to press reports, anti-terrorism police apparently have evidence that the 32-year-old may have had e-mail correspondence with ‘al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’ -the North African branch of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda –about potential targets for terrorist attacks within France.”
  3. “Based on conversations with other family members, Halim believes that Adlene’s arrest is probably connected to a land purchase in Algeria.  Halim told Nature that just before the police raid, Adlene withdrew E13,000 (US$19,200) in cash with which to purchase land near the family’s ancestral home of Setif in northeastern Algeria.  He says that the police were initially asking about the money.”
  4. “In a statement, CERN said that it ‘does not carry out research in the fields of nuclear power or nuclear weaponry’ and that it addressed ‘fundamental questions about the nature of matter and the Universe’.  The physicist who worked with Adlene adds that there is nothing from Adlene’s high-energy physics training that could have been used in a terrorist attack.  ‘We don’t have any material or anything you could use for bad things,’ he says, ‘except maybe a hammer.’”

Law Enforcement, Academia, Nuclear, al-Qaeda, France, Algeria


Barry, Ellen, “Some Russian Professors Chafe at Order to Screen Scholarly Exports,” NYT, A6, Oct. 28, 2009.

  1. “a document signed Oct. 1 … [states that] professors must provide their academic department with copies of texts to be made public outside Russia, so that they can be reviewed for violation of intellectual property laws or potential danger to national security.”
  2. “Administrators say they are simply bringing the university into line with Russia’s 1999 law on export control, passed after a decade in which some impoverished scientists sold strategic technology to foreign customers.”
  3. “The St. Petersburg order applies to the humanities as well.”
  4. “Several St. petersburg professors said they worried that the rule would be applied selectively to penalize specific faculty members.”
  5. “compliance [with export controls] remains weak , a particular danger in an era in which civilian laboratories produce ‘dual-use technologies’ that can be used in weapon manufacture said Igor Khripunov.”

Open Science, Export Control, RussiaAcademia


Barry, Ellen, “Major university In Russia Eases Fears on Rules,” NYT, A7, Nov. 2, 2009.

  1. “The authorities at St. Petersburg State University issued a statement last week announcing that researchers in the humanities and social sciences would not be required to submit to an export-control screening before publishing their work overseas, easing fears that new procedures would constrain academic freedom.”
  2. “A statement released by the university on Friday explained that the export-control procedures applied only to research involving ‘dual-use technology,’ nonmilitary techniques that could have military applications.”

Open Science, Export Control, RussiaAcademia


Mintz, Howard, “UCSC scientist files suit vs. FBIOnline, March 29, 2009.

  1. ”A UC Santa Cruz scientist has sued NASA Ames Research Center and the FBI, saying in a federal lawsuit that his career and reputation have been destroyed by what he contends are false accusations of being a “security threat” to government programs.”
  2. ”Su, a Chinese national and U.S. citizen, alleges in the lawsuit that he was never told why he was deemed a security threat after a “cryptic and unwarranted joint NASA-FBI investigation.” But his lawyer expressed concern he was targeted because he’s a Chinese national, given the lack of any other explanation.

Law Enforcement, Academia


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