Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 31, 2006

WaPo looks at the evolving bioterror threat

Filed under: Biosecurity — by Christian Beckner on July 31, 2006

The Washington Post published two long, excellent pieces on bioterrorism yesterday and today, the first story focused on the controversial creation of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), and today’s story focused on the disturbing threats could arise out of the development of synthetic biology. Together, the two stories provide a solid precis of the key issues in bioterrorism today, and raise important questions:

  • The work of the NBACC is intended to defeat new bioterror threats, but could it also help create them?
  • Will there be enough accountability and oversight at the NBACC, given the shroud of secrecy in which it is covered? (See this link for some of the scraps of info on it.)
  • Does the creation of the NBACC help create a de facto bioterror arms race in the world?
  • Will synthetic biology become a terrorist tool, or a tool used by rogue nations?
  • What’s the best way to counter these threats?
  • Does the Select Agent rule need to be expanded to account for synthetic biology-related risks?

Overall, two very interesting stories, worth reading in full.

Update (8/1): David Stephenson weighs in on the stories.

Update (8/2): A good post from Jason Sigger at Armchair Generalist on the two stories.

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