The attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 captured the nation’s attention and gave a new perspective on terrorism. The concept of such a powerful nation under siege by terrorist seemed hard to grasp and brought fear into the lives of Americans. What ensued in the months, weeks and years after, remains the possibility of another attack. The attacks on 9/11 raised awareness and heightened security of terrorism, and its effects on a nation and its people.
In the 21st Century, the term terrorists and terrorism are interchangeably used and is a phenomenon that impacts all nations. Terrorism is an ancient form of war that predates even the earliest of the bloodiest battles of our time. Some describe these extreme acts of terrorism as a strategic defense, or a crime against humanity. Terrorists see themselves as freedom fighters, and are willing to die for their beliefs. The fighting style of these so-called freedom fighters does not have limits and the goal is to annihilate as much of the enemy as possible.
The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the use of violence, or the threat of violence to cause fear or intimidation to governments and societies, in which terrorists try and sometimes accomplish political, religious, and ideological goals”(What is Terrorism? , 2010 ). Terrorism comes in many forms. Because of past experiences Western society automatically view terrorism as car bombs, airplane hijackings, suicide bombers, and the threat of a nuclear missile crisis. The real threat however is the possibility of a different and uncommon approach to terror that can be much more effective and deadly, which is bioterrorism.
This type of terrorism could perhaps have the most effective means of mass destruction without being visible. This type of terrorist attack consists of chemical, nuclear, and biological agents. The Center for Disease Control, states bioterrorism is “international or threatened use of bacteria, fungi, or toxins from living organisms to produce death or disease in humans, animals, plants and involves intimidation of nations or people to accomplish political or social end”(Philips, 2005 ).
This research paper discusses the history of bioterrorism, the many aspects of biological agents, there use, and the defense mechanism used to counter bioterrorism attacks. The history of biological warfare has been in the weapons field for eight centuries now. This type of technology has changed the way of fighting battles, from using traditional weapons to using weapons that are invisible to the human eye. The first encounter of biological agents used during conflict, was in the 6th century. Mesopotamia, which is now modern day Iraq, was land that sits between two rivers.
This land constantly kept enemies at war for control. During this time, ‘The Assyrians employed rye ergot, an element of the fungus Claviceps purpurea, which contains mycotoxins” (Phillips, 2005). The soldiers’ of Assyria used this substance by putting it into the water wells of their enemies, which poisoned them whenever they consumed it. When the 14th century came, technology in the military weapons had advanced, and armies started to use catapults. Catapults were used to hurl large stones and spears at the opposing force, but they also seemed to use it for dead bodies.
In fact, according to Stefan Riedel, author of Biological warfare and bioterrorism stated “The Tartars, however, converted their misfortune into an opportunity by hurling the cadavers of their deceased into the city, thus initiating a plague epidemic in the city” (Riedel, 2004). This plague was known as The Black Death. The scientific name for the plague is Yersinia pestis that has an affect on rats and fleas. In Stefan Riedel article Plague: from natural disease to bioterrorism, he explained that “humans can become infected after being bitten by fleas that have fed on infected rodents” (Riedel, 2005).
This un-curable plague was so contagious, that it spread to Africa and Asia, all the way from Europe, killing 25 million Europeans. The plague also played a role in World War II when the Japanese unleashed infected fleas from airplanes unto countries and the opposing forces. Also during this time, the United States and the Soviet Union did research on the plague to see if it was capable of being a biological weapon. “The former Soviet Union focused on the possibility of releasing plague in aerosolized form, thereby eliminating the dependence on the flea vector” (Riedel, 2005).
If this form of a bio-weapon was to get in the hands of their military, 150,000 people would be infected and 36,000 of those people would die from it. Eventually, the United States discontinued their research of making the plague a biological weapon, but the Soviet Union invented plague organism to place into weapons. During the French and Indian War, more diseases were used as a biological weapon to have an advantage of the enemy. The outbreak of Smallpox came into existence in the 16th century. Smallpox is the second most devastating bio agent leading the plague.
This infecting organism is transmitted through clothing or bedding that most likely is not clean. During the war, smallpox hospitals were mobile for the soldiers infected. Eventually these contaminated clothes were sold to the Indians. The infected smallpox clothes and bedding had devastated the Indian population. In recent studies scientist believe that smallpox goes back as far as 1157 BC, when they examined the scars from Ramses V mummified body. In 1977 the last case of smallpox was reported in Somalia. This biological agent has killed over 30 million people in the 20th century, and still exists today.
Mackelprang (2005) explained: In 1980 The World Health Organization (WHO) declared smallpox eradicated from the natural environment. The only smallpox viruses remaining on earth were contained in WHO-sanctioned laboratories in the United States and Soviet Union, and smallpox exists because the two governments repeatedly refused to destroy their laboratory stockpiles. Soon the Great War broke out, which is also known as World War I. At this time of conflict, biological warfare became more advanced when reports of biological warfare programs were being developed.
In the article Stefan Riedel wrote, he stated “during World War I, reports circulated of attempts by Germans to ship horses and cattle inoculated with disease-producing bacteria, such as Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Pseudomonas pseudomallei (glanders), to the USA and other countries” (Riedel, 2004). Although there was no proof that Germany was using biological agents, there was proof that the Germans used chemical warfare. This type of warfare consists of using different types of poisonous gases to kill the enemy. Eventually, during the war the Geneva Protocol was established in 1925.
This protocol was simply rules of warfare, which refused any forces to use chemical or biological agents. Besides the United States, nine other countries did not abide by the Geneva Protocol and continued to make biological weapons. On December 7, 1941 the United States entered World War II, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. During this war, the Japanese was one of the countries at war that heavily used biological weapons. According to Medical Anthropologist Guillemin (2006), “while the UK and the US were actively pursuing biological weapons, the Japanese military were the first to use them.
In 1934, military physician General Ishii Shiro created Japan’s secret biological warfare program, which lasted until 1945” (Guillemin, 2006). It was known that the Japanese had a special military unit called Unit 731 that used biological agents such as cholera, plague typhoid and anthrax on prisoners of war. The United States also got involved with biological agents during the war, when they developed over 5000 bombs that contained anthrax. It is unknown if the United States ever used their anthrax bombs during World War II on Japan as a result of retaliation for the Japanese using their biological agents on them.
During and after World War I and II, anthrax had begun to gain popularity to different countries all over the word. The threat of using this biological agent as a weapon is highly effective towards humans, animals and plants. In Dunkin (2008) article: the bacteria can be found everywhere but is more prevalent in Central and South America. It is in the ground and can be eaten by grazing animals such as cattle and deer. Anthrax is also a disease that can infect animals and humans alike…Anthrax can infect through ingestion, the skin, and by breathing it.
In the Desert Storm War, the United States suspected Iraq was using anthrax, and other biological agents to make weapons of mass destruction. The United States never found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and from Saddam’s regime. As the war in Iraq carried over into the 21st century, the United States experienced its first major attack from a terrorist group called Al-Qaeda. During this attack, airplanes were hijacked and the terrorists’ used the planes as suicide attacks, destroying buildings and killing thousands of people. Several weeks later, there was another attack, but this one involved a biological agent.
As the nation stayed in shock about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, an anthrax attack had also occurred. This bio-attack put the United States in a state of terror. In fact, according to John A. Jernigan, “from October 4 to November 2, 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state and local public health authorities reported 10 confirmed cases of inhalational anthrax and 12 confirmed cases of cutaneous anthrax in persons who worked in the District of Columbia, Florida, New Jersey, and New York” (Jernigan et al. , 2009). The terrorist used the anthrax by contaminating mail letters.
These letters were sent through the United States Postal Service, and were targeting senates, and news anchors. Five people have died from the anthrax attacks and many were infected. It was assumed by the government and citizens of the United States that Al-Qaeda was responsible for bio-warfare attack, but writer Joby Warrick stated in his article that “The records offer substantial support for the FBI’s contention that biologist Bruce E. Ivins single-handedly prepared and mailed deadly anthrax spores that killed five people and terrorized a nation still reeling from Sept. 1, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington” (Warrick, 2010). As the United States continues to fight against terrorism, the threat of biological weapons has become a greater risk more than ever after the 9/11 attacks.
Out of the few biological agents discussed in this research paper, smallpox has the highest threat than anthrax, of being used as a biological weapon. Now that we know the different types of agents that have been used in the past, defending ourselves from these types of attacks is the next issue. Today, the U. S. overnment has spent billions of dollars on bio-defense preparedness so that people will have experience and knowledge to treat each other if another attack occurred. One type of defense strategy is providing bioterrorism training for emergency physicians and emergency medicine residents. Before September 11, 2001, only 53% of emergency physicians were trained for a biological agent attack. Leading up to the terrorists attack, emergency physicians focused more on hazmat situations. During this time, the highest method of training programs that were used was didactic lectures and disaster drills.
Currently, the most common and effective method of training is experiential training. This type of training consists of field exercises and rotations specific to bioterrorism, which are more intense. According to the study conducted by Philip Kevin Moye (2007), these programs were more likely to cover a broader range of topics and to teach them more frequently compared with non-experiential programs. Thus, adopting of experiential methods was a marker for overall program intensity. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also played a major role in the defensive strategies against bioterrorism.
If any biological warfare was to take place, the FDA’s main role is to get any contaminated products off the market. Other techniques that the FDA uses to counter terrorist attacks, is protecting the food supply, having effective medical products, the Animal Rule, and Emergency use authorizations of medical products. Protecting the food supply is by far the most vulnerable. One method to defend our food supply is to increase surveillance. The FDA does this by keep track of imported and domestic foods, having frequent inspections on facilities and also sampling products.
When events occur in the United States, usually a regulation follows the specific event depending on the importance. After 9/11, the FDA created their’ own regulation. In the FDAs’ article Building a Stronger Defense Against Bioterrorism (2007), The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 led FDA to develop major regulations requiring registration to food facilities, prior notification of imported food shipments, and establishment and maintenance of records. Another method of counter terrorism is having effective medical products. The FDA is constantly developing effective products for treating bioterrorism illnesses.
Also stated in their article, “FDA has previously licensed vaccines for anthrax and smallpox, as well as antitoxin to treat victims of Botulinum poisoning” (Building a Stronger Defense Against Bioterrorism, 2007). Their goal is to get as many safe and effective products as soon as possible, so that people will be prepared when another attack occurs. The Animal rule on the other hand is somewhat similar to the development of new regulations, but in reality it’s not. This rule is a procedure that the FDA uses, in which medicine for the different types of warfare agents are used on animals before they are approved on humans.
So far there have been two types of medicine that have been used on the U. S. military, that were tested on animals first. The FDA also provides the public with emergency use authorization of medical products or (EUA’s). This emergency will occur only if there is a high threat of a biological attack. They also stated in their article that “an EUA authorizes the use of unapproved medical products-and unapproved uses of approved medical products-to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening disease or condition caused by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agent” (Building a Stronger Defense Against Bioterrorism, 2007).
The United States armed forces have always created new devices to defend soldiers and the public from biological warfare attacks. During Operation Desert Storm, the threat of biological weapons was at its highest peak. Since the beginning of that war and leading to today’s conflicts, the military has developed new equipment and detection systems to counter these types of terrorist attacks. In the United States Army, soldiers’ whose job description deals with biological agents or chemicals use equipment called the M31E1 or Biological Integrated Detection System.
According to a study conducted by Linda D. Kozaryn (2010), The Biological Integrated Detection System, known as ‘BIDS’, is a mobile lab suite that can detect four different agents simultaneously. It’s mounted on the back of a heavy HUMVEE and manned by four individuals. The Army deploys BIDS as corps or theater level assets to do bio-detection for all forces. This vehicle device has five subcomponents on it that is capable of detecting biological agents on land, water and air. The bioterrorism defense mechanism that were explained, are just a few that are in place, and used out in the field.
There are probably more devices invented or being tested in the United States and other countries, but at the same time these devices and procedures must be classified to an extent. The leakage of the types of defensive strategies we have in place if a biological warfare attack would occur, would give terrorists ideas on how to counter or defense. The aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 brought awareness of terrorism to an all time high. Bioterrorism and the use of biological weapons dates back to biblical times, and have put a new perspective on modern warfare.
This type of terrorism is unique in the fact that it’s invisible to the human eye, and is capable of causing panic, fear, and genocide to all living beings. To prevent another biological attack, global governments must come together to prevent the development of these horrific toxins. Until the use of biological weapons is non-existent, the United States and other nations must continue to improve medical treatment, keep the public aware of threats, and develop other means of defense for the conservation of not only our nation, but the human race.