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spacerbioterrorism, germ warfare, anthrax, sarin, aum shinrikyoBioterrorism


Germ Warfare / Chemical Warfare

Anthrax, Smallpox, Botulism, Plauge, Sarin, etcetera


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Alert: If You Receive Suspicious Mail
An advisory has been placed on the FBI website describing what to do if you receive a suspicious letter or package.

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» A dozen tips for handling mail packages suspected of anthrax contamination CNN, Oct. 15, 2001
Two religious cults are known to have resorted to bioterrorism: the Rajneeshees and AUM Shinrikyo. Another group, Aryan Nations, appeared interested:

White supremacists have been linked with anthrax in the past, but not in relation to an attack. Larry Wayne Harris, an Ohio microbiologist and former member of the Aryan Nations, was convicted of wire fraud in 1997 after he obtained three vials of bubonic plague germs through the mail. He was arrested the next year near Las Vegas when the FBI acted on a tip that he was carrying anthrax. But agents found harmless anthrax vaccine in the trunk of his car.
FBI and CIA Suspect Domestic Extremists, Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2001
More recently, Professor Walter Laqueur has argued that terrorism is undergoing a profound change. In contrast to the politically motivated terrorists who predominated in the 1970s, many of today's terrorists define their objectives in ethnic or religious terms. Many of these groups are infected by millenarian ideas, believing that the world as we have known it is ending. Such groups may have few if any scruples about using weapons to cause mass casualties.62

Other terrorism experts believe that the perpetrators most likely to employ biological agents are religiously motivated terrorists. Significantly, the two most significant bioterrorism incidents, involving the Rajneeshees and the Aum Shinrikyo, were undertaken by religious cults with political agendas. A former Chief of Counter-Terrorism at the FBI expressed a similar view of Middle East groups influenced by radical Islam.
The danger originating from Middle East terrorist groups infused with the dogma of Radical Islamic Fundamentalism cannot be minimized. One of the principal concerns is the potential for their use of weapons of mass destruction. Given their demonstrated disregard for limiting casualties, indeed their apparent desire to inflict maximum damage, this scenario is one that has occupied much of the thinking of counter-terrorism planners at all levels of government. Biological and chemical weapons are certainly available to sophisticated terrorist organizations, especially those, like many of the Middle East groups, that operate with the support of governments. These weapons are both relatively easy to acquire and lethal in their application.63
The essential consideration seems to be a combination of group's interest in causing mass casualty coupled with an ideology that would justify such operations. Such views are not necessarily unique to religiously motivated groups.
Bioterrorism and Biocrimes : The Illicit Use of Biological Agents Since 1900 By W. Seth Carus, Center for Counterproliferation Research, National Defense University, Washington, D.C.

Aum Shirikyo and Terrorism

It's no longer a matter of if, but when. That commonly expressed sentiment is becoming the conventional wisdom for chemical or biological terrorism. Since Aum Shinrikyo gassed the Tokyo subway in 1995, many terrorism authorities, government officials, and other experts have prophesied a wave of chemical and biological terrorism causing mass casualties. But a new report prepared by Amy E. Smithson and Leslie Anne Levy of the Henry L. Stimson Center, an independent public policy institute, calls that conventional thinking into question.

In ''Ataxia: The Chemical and Biological Threat and the U.S. Response,'' Smithson and Levy acknowledge a significant threat but argue that it has been inflated by hyperbole. ''Taken together, the technical realities, actual case histories, and statistical records of terrorist behavior with chemical and biological substances undercut the rhetoric considerably and point not to catastrophic terrorism but to small attacks where a few, not thousands, would be harmed,'' they contend.

They point to the largely failed experience of Aum Shinrikyo, an organization endowed with vast wealth and technical expertise, whose weapons program they call ''a serial flop from start to finish,'' In the last 25 years, they add, ''no individual or group approached the replication of Aum's constellation of technical skill, intent, and resources directed toward a viable mass casualty threat.''

Smithson and Levy say that Aum, far from being a bellwether, may actually discourage other groups from mass casualty terrorism. That's because they had such a difficult experience with acquiring and using chemical and biological weapons and because their attack resulted in a police clamp-down and domestic reform, which stymied Aum's objectives.
Terrorism readiness assailed, Security Management, Jan. 1, 2001

''Ataxia is a comprehensive research report that examines the many facets of the unconventional terrorism issue in the United States. The first sections examine the actual threat of terrorism involving chemical and biological weapons, including technical feasibility, statistical trends, and a re-examination of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack in the Tokyo subway system. From there, Ataxia inventories the various federal response assets and training and equipment programs, and airs widespread feedback from the front lines on these federal efforts. Chapter 6, ''Metropolis, USA,'' offers chronological descriptions of local responses that would follow a chemical or biological terrorist attack and shares innovative ideas from local emergency personnel on coordination, plans, tactics, and capabilities for dealing with these type of incidents. Finally, the report concludes with an extensive series of observations and recommendations for policy makers in Washington and beyond.

Authored by Amy Smithson, director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project (index.html), and project research associate Leslie-Anne Levy, Ataxia builds on more than 135 interviews with government officials, outside experts, and emergency response personnel from 33 cities. Over 400 print sources are referenced throughout the body of the text. The report also includes 21 explanatory text boxes and 39 diagrams and tables.

See Also:
» 1993 Failed Biological Attacks Offer Scientists Important Lessons, ABC News, Oct. 5, 2001
» Japanese sect was close to bioterrorism, journal says, Miami Herald, Aug. 30, 2001

Cult Apologists and Terrorism

Aum Shinrikyo is a prime example of the dangers both of cults and cult defenders. After Aum Shinrikyo committed its 1995 gas attacks, some American cult apologists - on a trip to Japan paid for by the cult - declared that the group could not have produced the Sarin poison gas. Mercifully, these blind guides have thus far refrained from meddling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist acts.

One of the Americans, James Lewis, told a hostile and evidently incredulous roomful of Japanese reporters gathered at an Aum office Monday that the cult could not have produced the rare poison gas, sarin, used in both murder cases. He said the Americans had determined this from photos and documents provided by Aum.
He was accompanied by two Santa Barbarans - J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religions, and James R. Lewis, director of the Association of World Academics for Religious Education--and Thomas Banigan of Anver Bioscience Design Inc. in Sierra Madre.
Source: Alleged Persecution of Cult Investigated, Los Angeles Times
In early May 1995, as Japanese law-enforcement authorities were collecting evidence linking the Aum Shinrikyo NRM to the March 20 poison gas attack which killed 13 commuters, and preparing what they thought was a strong case, they discovered, to their utter surprise, that they were under attack from an unexpected direction. According to media reports, four Americans arrived in Tokyo to defend Aum Shinrikyo against charges of mass terrorism. Two of them were NRM scholars. According to these reports, they stated that Aum Shinrikyo could not have produced the gas used in the attack, and called on Japanese police not to ''crush a religion and deny freedom'' (Reid, 1995; Reader, 1995).

Reliable reports since 1995 have shown that Japanese authorities were actually not just overly cautious, but negligent and deferential, if not protective, regarding criminal activities by Aum, because of its status as an NRM. ''Some observers wonder what took the Japanese authorities so long to take decisive action. It seems apparent that enough serious concerns had been raised about various Aum activities to warrant a more serious police inquiry prior to the subway gas attack'' (Mullins, 1997, p. 321). The group can only be described as extremely violent and murderous. ''Thirty-three Aum followers are believed to have been killed between ...1988 and ...1995...Another twenty-one followers have been reported missing [and presumed dead]'' (Mullins, 1997, p. 320). Among non-members, there have been 24 murder victims. One triple murder case in 1989 and another poison gas attack in 1994 which killed seven have been committed by the group, as well as less serious crimes which the police was not too eager to investigate (Beit-Hallahmi, 1998; Haworth, 1995; Mullins, 1997). So it is safe to conclude that religious freedom was not the issue in this case. Nor is it likely, as some Aum apologists among NRM scholars have claimed, that this lethal record (77 deaths on numerous occasions over seven years) and other non-lethal criminal activities were the deeds of a few rogue leaders. Numerous individuals must have been involved in, and numerous others aware of, these activities.

It should also be noted that cult apologist organization, CESNUR, has some odd perspectives on what it considers to be 'terrorism.''

- Cults and Bioterrorism -
Aum Shinrikyo
Secular America's First Bioterrorism Attack, TIME magazine, Oct. 8, 2001
In the fall of 1984, members of the Rajneeshee, a Buddhist cult devoted to beauty, love and guiltless sex, brewed a "salsa" of salmonella and sprinkled it on fruits and veggies in the salad bar at Shakey's Pizza in The Dalles, Ore. They put it in blue-cheese dressing, table-top coffee creamers and potato salads at 10 local restaurants and a supermarket. They poured it into a glass of water and handed it to a judge. They fed it to the district attorney, the doctor, the dentist. Their plan: to seize control of the county government by packing polling booths with imported homeless people while making local residents too sick to vote.

Aum Supreme Truth, the Japanese doomsday sect that carried out a nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, made a trial run of an anthrax weapon, using harmless vaccine bacteria as a test, New Scientist says.

Secular Police at First Overlooked Obvious Clues Los Angeles Times, Sep. 30, 2001
In March 1995, five members of the Aum Supreme Truth cult used umbrellas to stab holes in sarin-filled plastic bags, releasing the deadly gas into the Tokyo subway system during morning rush hour. Within minutes, the poison had spread through subway cars and across platforms, killing 12 people and injuring more than 5,500.

Secular The Story of a Truly Contaminated Election Columbia Journalism Review, Jan/Feb 2000
The only proven incident of bioterrorism the United States has ever experienced, we learned, was a bizarre plot by the Rajneeshees, a religious cult, to steal a county election in Oregon in 1984. The Rajneeshees, followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, a self-proclaimed guru exiled from India, had moved into a ranch in rural Wasco County, taken political control of the small nearby town of Antelope, and changed its name to Rajneesh. Next, the cult sought to run the whole county by winning the local election in 1984.

The amazing story of the Wasco County election scandal was revealed to the conference's riveted participants by Leslie L. Zaitz, an investigative reporter for The Oregonian, and Dr. John Livengood, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control. To win the county election, the Rajneeshees planned to sicken a good portion of the population in the town of The Dalles, where most Wasco County voters live. Their weapon of choice to keep local residents from voting was salmonella bacteria. Cult members decided to test the use of salmonella and, if successful, to contaminate the entire water system of The Dalles on Election Day. First, the Rajneeshees poisoned two visiting Wasco County commissioners on a hot day by plying them with refreshing drinks of cold water laced with salmonella. Then, on a shopping trip to The Dalles, cult members sprinkled salmonella on produce in grocery stores "just for fun." According to reporter Zaitz, that experiment didn't get the results they wanted so the Rajneeshees proceeded to clandestinely sprinkle salmonella at the town's restaurant salad bars. Ten restaurants were hit and more than 700 people got sick.


» See also the articles in the news articles database

Secular Anthrax as a biological weapon BBC, Oct. 10, 2001
SecularAcademic Bioterrorism and Biocrimes : The Illicit Use of Biological Agents Since 1900 By W. Seth Carus, Center for Counterproliferation Research, National Defense University, Washington, D.C.
SecularAcademic Combating the threat of biowarfare and bioterrorism By Ronald M. Atlas, professor of Biology at the University of Louisville, Louisville Kentucky. He is co-chair of the American Society of Microbiology task force on biological weapons. Published in Bioscience, June 1999

» Additional articles on bioterrorism

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First posted: Oct. 9, 2001
Last Updated: Oct. 16, 2001
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