Skip to comments.NEED A BIOLOGICAL WAR? Labs sell anthrax germs by mail order
Posted on 10/26/2001 11:41:01 PM PDT by Uncle Bill
Need a biological war?
Labs sell anthrax germs by mail order
Lethal biological warfare agents capable of killing thousands of people are openly on sale for just a few hundred pounds.
Anthrax, plague, botulinum and brucella - sought by terrorists and rogue states - are being offered for export to Britain from eastern Europe and the Third World.
E-coli and salmonella, which have killed scores of people in Britain, are also available from laboratories that make no checks on their customers.
Defence experts say the lack of controls on the trade makes it easy for countries such as Iraq and North Korea to stockpile huge arsenals of biological weapons.
Undercover reporters from the Sunday Times Insight team, posing as middlemen for a medical laboratory in north Africa, were offered samples of anthrax, plague and brucella by a laboratory in the Far East last week.
Germs were available for just $1,000 (£606), including shipping. The laboratory, in Indonesia, exports vaccine to North Korea, where the military is known to have developed stockpiles of anthrax and botulinum toxin.
A second laboratory, in the Czech Republic, agreed to supply undercover reporters with botulinum, which causes botulism, for as little as £20 a sample. No questions were asked about how the toxin would be used.
Anthrax and botulinum are crucial to the biological warfare plans of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator. Microscopic quantities of the germs can kill hundreds of people if inhaled or eaten in contaminated food.
This weekend Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, called on ministers to intro-duce measures to combat the trade.
"The ease with which these materials were obtained makes chilling news. It amounts to DIY weapons of mass destruction. Existing controls are completely inadequate. We urgently need binding international agreements."
Senior Ministry of Defence and United Nations officials say that terrorists or doomsday cults such as Aum Shinriyko, which killed 12 people in a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, are exploiting loopholes in the trade. The cult developed botulinum and once tried to spray anthrax from a fan in a Tokyo building.
Cults, terrorists or psychopaths could spray the germs at crowds or poison water or air-conditioning systems.
Terry Taylor, a former chief inspector with the UN team monitoring Iraq, said the British government needed to press for strict international controls. "Obviously, this is of concern. It's easier to get stuff like that than it is to get prescription drugs over the counter in a pharmacist," he said.
Killer Germs On Sale For Just £600
THE Bio Farma research institute prides itself on protecting public health. Housed in an elegant colonial building overlooking manicured lawns, the plant is Indonesia's main producer of vaccine. Its polio and measles vaccines have helped improve the lives of millions of children.
But last week it took just one telephone call and a faxed letter to get staff at the centre in Bandung to offer a new client more sinister products. For a few hundred pounds they offered to sell anthrax and plague, two of the deadliest biological germs.
In a letter to Sunday Times reporters posing as businessmen, the plant's director said that for $1,000 (£606) he could also provide mail-order brucella and E-coli. In tiny doses - and in the wrong hands - they can kill or cripple hundreds of people.
The reporters said they represented a laboratory in Africa, but the plant made no checks on the identities of its prospective customers, nor ask how the products would be used. Anyone could have imported the germs into Britain.
Bio Farma's apparent willingness to sell these potentially lethal biological agents highlights the alarming ease with which rogue states like Iraq or North Korea and terrorist groups are able to acquire what scientists call "the poor man's nuclear bomb".
The threat from anthrax was highlighted earlier this year when police and MI5 issued an "all ports" alert over an Iraqi attempt to smuggle it into Britain in bottles of perfume. That proved a false alarm. But the security risk has led the Foreign Office to warn British universities about foreign spies seeking biological agents.
MI5 has visited 700 British firms, telling them they could be targeted by countries trying to develop biological or chemical weapons. Ironically, Britain has trained many Iraqi scientists involved in such programmes; Saddam's secret plan to make biological weapons was, for example, directed by General Amer Saadi, who studied at Oxford University.
Another Iraqi, Rihab Taha, attended the University of East Anglia. Known as "Dr Germ", she went on to set up Saddam's botulinum programme and oversaw anthrax tests on Iranian prisoners of war.
Iraqi scientists have often targeted Britain. Unipath, a laboratory supplier then in Basingstoke, Hampshire, unwittingly sold tons of a germ-growing substance to Iraq before the Gulf war. The product helped Iraq develop anthrax.
Iraq made 2,265 (US) gallons of anthrax, much of it produced from samples bought from laboratories in America.
The germ's effects are usually 90% fatal; once inhaled, the bacterium starts with a flu-like infection and tiredness. Within three days the victim develops lung haemorrhages and severe respiratory difficulty. Without antibiotics, death invariably follows. Some experts claim that one gram of anthrax is enough to kill 10m people.
Sunday Times reporters were also offered lethal botulinum bacteria by a research laboratory in the Czech Republic.
The Veterinary Research Institute in Brno, southeast of Prague, offered samples of a toxin-producing bug for just 50 German marks (£18.50). Undercover journalists told staff there they wanted to buy the strains for a laboratory in Morocco. They were told they could send a representative to collect the samples.
The toxin was a mainstay of Saddam's biological weapons arsenal. Iraq has since admitted to UN inspectors that it produced 3,110 (US) gallons, enough to kill the world's population several times.
The highly toxic germ causes blurred vision and difficulty in swallowing and speaking. Paralysis and vomiting are followed by respiratory failure. One in three victims dies.
The Indonesian and Czech laboratories are among 450 germ collectors worldwide. More than 50 trade in anthrax; 34 sell the botulinum bacteria; 18 sell the plague. The Sunday Times approached a random sample of 20. Laboratories in Russia and India said they would consider our requests. Scientific centres in Mexico, China and Brazil offer the same germs, but they later requested evidence of an export licence before approving the sales.
The availability and cheapness of the germs have alarmed defence experts. The Public Health Laboratory Service in London says its own collection and that of the Ministry of Defence research station at Porton Down, Wiltshire, are the only two legitimate sources of anthrax and plague in Britain.
Dr Barry Holmes, a clinical scientist, said the laboratory would refuse to sell any germs without thoroughly checking clients.
Dr David Kelly, former head of biological research at Porton Down and now a special adviser on germ warfare to the UN's Iraqi inspection team, said the agents offered to The Sunday Times would be of use to terrorists: "Despite the efforts of many countries to control [these germs], it is a real concern that they are still so readily available."
The CIA has warned that biological and chemical weapons represent the most urgent long-term threat to the West. There are fears that anyone with a basic scientific knowledge and a backroom laboratory could use the bugs to make biological weapons.
One UN adviser said: "It's like using a cookery book. Delia Smith could do it if she felt inclined."
p.s. - By the way, the picture above is the lesion caused by skin anthrax, as shown on the infant son of an ABCNEWS producer, which does not look like an ordinary sore or rash, according to Dr. Mary Chang, who treated the baby.
"A greater problem is that the users may be suicidal such as the Mohammadans that sacrifice their own lives in terrorist explosions."
13 Posted on 06/03/2000 19:58:22 PDT by RLK
The laid-back attitude of the government's biotechnology fraternity extends to the U. S. Public Health Service. Last April NBC broke the bizarre news that during the 1980s PHS's Centers for Disease Control shipped deadly viruses via Express Mail to researchers in Iraq, South Africa, Cuba, the Soviet Union and China -- all nations suspected of biological warfare research -- ostensibly for public health reasons.("DEADLY CONTAGION," ERIC NADLER; ROBERT WINDREM, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY); FORUM; Pg. 3D; January 20, 1991)
The virus requested by, and supplied to, an Iraqi researcher in Basra was an Israeli strain of West Nile encephalitis. The virus had been the subject of a long-term vaccine research project in Israel supported by the U. S. Army because of its potential as a bio-warfare agent. The same virus was a cause of concern inside the Israeli defense forces medical corps due to outbreaks in Negev desert posts in the early 1980s. When NBC asked the CDC to provide documentation of these exports under the Freedom of Information Act, the center said it had no records, since such transfers are handled "informally." Remarkably, CDC staffers expressed no fear that the exported agents (all Biohazard level 3 and 4 materials -- the deadliest classification) would be used for germ warfare, "because we know these people," as CDC spokesperson Gayle Lloyd breezily put it. She called any biological war scenario "farfetched." The Israelis were not so sanguine, privately expressing shock at the transfer. And President Bush ordered national security adviser Brent Scowcroft to investigate. (Since NBC's report aired, "there have been no further biological shipments to Iraq," says Chuck Fallis of the CDC.)
Yeah, and that's one of the things about the future - my childrens' future - that really scares the stuffing out of me.
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