- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Government officials responding to the rash of anthrax exposures and infections are limited to investigating and issuing alerts.
"In the current situation, there's almost nothing more the government or individuals can do except not open our mail," says Michael O'Hanlon, a Brookings Institution warfare specialist.
FBI agents and specially trained investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday continued their weeks-old quest to determine where the anthrax came from and who caused the attacks.
The latest alarm came yesterday when Floyd Horn, administrator of the Agriculture Research Service, warned the food industry and farmers to watch for unusual plant and animal diseases because terrorists might resort to biological weapons that can infect and destroy them. "There are diseases that can wipe out our herds and crops," he said.
Mr. Horn said he has no direct evidence of any pending biological-weapons attack. Still, he said, the former Soviet Union manufactured plant and animal diseases that could devastate 13.4 percent of America's annual gross domestic product, and there is reason to suspect terrorists may have obtained anti-agriculture biological weapons.
By using such weapons, terrorists could engineer the destruction of a crop, and, armed with knowledge that a crop would fail, they could profit handsomely from investing in the U.S. commodity-futures market, Mr. Horn noted.
Like all counterterrorism specialists, Margaret A. Hamburg, a physician and vice president for biological programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, says, "Preparation for attacks is the best preventative." Yet as studies by the General Accounting Office and independent blue-ribbon panels have revealed, the United States has not adequately prepared for biological-weapons assaults.
If the warnings of counterterrorism specialists had prevailed in recent years, the preparations might have forestalled the current attacks, but they had a different scenario in mind. It was thought that terrorists would strive to produce mass casualties through biological or chemical attack.
"This is more like an old-fashioned terrorist attempt to hurt a few and scare many. It comes in contrast to the Sept. 11 variety of attack motivated by hatred to kill as many as possible and cause anguish," Mr. O'Hanlon says.
What we are facing now, Dr. Hamburg says, "is a relatively unsophisticated delivery mechanism for anthrax. Terrorists may have different motives at different times. These events have created very large ripple effects, panic, anxiety, and uncertainty in how to deal with basic life activities. They create the specter of a unseen, silent, potential killer out there. This might be the desired goal of whoever perpetrated this and it might be an individual or group."
Dr. Hamburg says that for years there have been discussions about the likelihood of a biological-weapons attack. She says that many argued there were "so many barriers to producing mass casualties with such weapons that it was simply not a concern."
"Others said you don't need a mass delivery system to achieve widespread panic and anxiety and to undermine confidence in government while achieving a certain level of disease and death. That certainly is what we have witnessed with these isolated cases. You don't need a crop-duster to have a big impact."
But, Mr. O'Hanlon said, "This is the kind of threat I can deal with. It's one thing to be scared and something else to be dead. Most of us can tolerate being scared. We're going to look back at this and see this is a pretty minimal accomplishment for whoever did it."

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