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Terrorist and Intelligence Operations: Potential Impact on the U.S. Economy

NCJ Number
Kenneth Alibek
Date Published
May 1998
13 pages
This document describes the nature and dangers of biological weapons.
Biological weapons are weapons of mass destruction that are based on bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, fungi, or toxins produced by these organisms. Biological weapons are unique in their diversity, with differences shaped by various properties of the particular agent, such as its contagiousness, the length of time after release that it survives in the environment, the dose required to infect a victim, and the type of disease that the agent produces. Biological weapons formulations are of two types: a liquid or a dry powder. For most agents, the liquid form is easier to produce, but the dry form stores longer and disperses better when deployed. The Soviet Union continued a high-intensity program to develop and produce biological weapons through at least the early 1990's. The total production capacity of all of their facilities involved was many hundreds of tons of various agents annually. The post-World War II list (in addition to tularemia, epidemic typhus, and Q fever) included smallpox, plague, anthrax, Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis, glanders, brucellosis, and Marburg infection. Other agents studied were Ebola, Junin virus, Machupo virus, yellow fever, Lassa fever, Japanese encephalitis, and Russian spring-summer encephalitis. A number of weapons to affect crops and livestock were developed using agents such as psittacosis (affects fowl), ornithosis (affects fowl), Rinderpest virus (affects cattle), African swine fever virus (affects swine), wheat stem rust spores (affect wheat crops), and rice blast spores (affect rice crops). The three main reasons to be concerned about possible biological weapons research and development in Russia today are: (1) The Russians have steadfastly refused to open their military biological weapons facilities to international inspection; (2) Russia continues to deny various aspects of its former biological weapons program; and (3) The published scientific literature coming out of Russia contains research of a dubious nature. There are numerous ways in which Russia’s biological weapons expertise can be proliferated to other countries: the departure of experts to other countries; the sale of technology or equipment to other countries; and scientific publications. It is recommended that fundamental research and development of methods for nonspecific defense focus on amplifying the immune response of the human body to invasion by any foreign agent.