Biological terrorism and its potential as a tool of mass destruction is now the subject of increasing concern of the world community. On one hand, this is due to the changing role and place of terrorism, in the system of global threats; on the other hand, this is because of the rapid development of biological sciences and the expanding list of “critical technologies” that may be used by terrorist organizations and totalitarian regimes.
Biological terrorism constitutes the use of biological warfare (bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, etc.) against the population to kill the maximum number of people. Terrorist organizations can obtain biological weapons as a result of their own production or purchases on the black market. Production of bacteriological (biological) weapons in laboratories requires much work, which is why independent production for the majority of terrorist organizations is difficult. The real sources of biological weapons nowadays are the supplies from the third world. The substances are easy to transport and use. Their qualities combine those of nuclear and chemical munitions.
According to J.B. Tucker, in descending order of importance, the main motives of bioterrorism can be located as follows: 1) accelerating nationalist or separatist goals, 2) revenge or rematch for a real or imaginary damage or abuse, and 3) a protest against government policies. It is characteristic that in the past 10 years, one of the motivations of terrorism was religious fundamentalism. During the same time there has been a change of preferred targets. If we analyze the terrorism incidents with a known purpose, we can note an increase in the frequency of the two types of targets: ordinary civilians (with the obvious intention of escalating violence and destruction indiscriminately) and buildings or organizations that serve as symbols.
Speaking about the organizers of bioterrorist attacks, experts note that the Biological Supplies (BS) can be used by various radical groups and by individuals as instruments of terror. Thus, it can be assumed that the greatest danger of this series will be of major organizations that are well-funded and perhaps supported by some states, because they have access to the results of scientific researches, biological agents and technologies of their dispersion. An example of such organization may be a Japanese cult “Aum Shinrikyo” and an international terrorist organization “Al Kaeda.” However, even in a group of this type, available list of biological agents that could cause mass destruction is small and seems to include only one or two classic agents.
In contras, smaller and less capable organizations tend to use biological weapons to address more narrow and specific tasks. As an example, a sect called “Radzhnishis» (Rajhneeshees), tried influencing the elections of local authorities in Dallas, Oregon, by infecting vegetable dishes in the diners by Salmonellosis virus. Apparently, this type of organization is most likely to use their acquired biological weapons as a finished product, rather than make their own investigations. The third type can be attributed to even smaller groups or individuals who may be pursued by a very specific purpose (for example, distruction of some people or buildings) and who use biological agents for killing or to create panic. In general, most cases of BS used by individuals do not fall under the definition of “biological terrorism” and can be qualified as criminal use of biological agents.
At the same time, historical experience shows that terrorists see a very little sense in experimenting with pathogenic biological material, since its handling and usage can be very dangerous for themselves. Today, therefore, we can expect terrorist acts to be committed with the use of less risky and simpler weapons. However, the progress of scientific and methodological level of the applied research in the field of natural science and the steadily increasing role of medicine and biology in everyday life gradually make criminals and terrorists use biological agents, which are rare now, but will become less exotic and then completely ordinary. Indeed, almost all the materials needed to produce biological agents can be purchased legally today. This is clearly demonstrated by the semilegal studies conducted by the CIA and the Department of Defense under the code name «Clear Vision», in which at the Nevada Test Site from commercially available materials and equipment facility facility for production of biological weapons was built, and ammunition designed for transportation.
According to the Pentagon, these studies have only demonstrated the possibility of a certain country or terrorist regime to develop biological weapons. Speaking of countering the threat of biological terrorism, we can identify a number of major events that could limit the spread of disease and minimize the number of affected: 1) the vaccination of people at the highest risk group (experts Emergency Response, rescue workers, medical workers), 2) development of methods for rapid and reliable detection of biological agents and public warning systems; 3) establishing and maintaining stocks of vaccines and antimicrobial drugs, which could be used to protect the public, 4) training of rescuers, doctors and emergency workers what to do in case of a terrorist use of biological agents, 5) improving surveillance of the health of the population by increasing the capacity of diagnostic laboratories and epidemiological services, and 6) development of a program of measures for search and identification of terrorist organizations, the prevention of terrorist attempts to use biological weapons.
Taking into consideration significance of the issue, the main approaches to the problem revealing the fact of terrorist use of biological weapons are being developed today. Thus, according to J.A. Pavlin, the fact of attacks can state the following features: 1) the presence of a major epidemic with a higher number of patients than expected; 2) a more severe form of the disease than expected; 3) the disease that is non-traditional for a given geographic area; 4) the set of simultaneous epidemics of different diseases; 5) the flash of disease that affects both humans and animals; 6) unusual variants of microorganisms or their resistant varieties that differ from those usually found in the area; 7) the higher frequency of cases among those who were inside the sealed structures, when the aerosol was sprayed outside; 8) announcing the fact of terrorist use of biological agents 9) availability of direct evidence of the use of biological weapons with finding the appropriate technical means, ammunition, or other signs of malicious intent.
To conclude, it can be said that specialists point out the current situation in the international arena; most dangerous is the terrorist use of biological agents, while the probability of scale interstate war using biological weapons is estimated as much less risky. Therefore, the list of potential biological agents that can be applied is currently changing. For instance, today this list includes pathogens that terrorists may obtain without much difficulty, for example, the bacteria that cause salmonella and other intestinal infections. At the same time, the terrorists are less likely to use biological weapons causing exotic diseases, such as hemorrhagic fever pathogens, because it is difficult to get or produce them. Increasing of the national preparedness will require actions of responsible federal agencies. Increasing readiness to repel biological attack can save lives and make the terrorists to abandon their intentions.