The bioterrorism threat by non-state actors hype or horror?
Thompson, Christopher M.
Lavoy, Peter R.
Clunan, Anne L.
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This thesis provides a capabilities-based approach to assessing the bioterrorism threat from non-state actors. Through comparative case study, prior bioterrorism attacks are analyzed to assess capability in the three areas necessary to complete a biological weapons attack: obtaining or isolating a pathogen, weaponizing the agent, and employing or disseminating the weapon. The three cases are the Rajneeshee cult in 1984, the Aum Shinrikyo cult in the early 1990's, and the United States Postal System anthrax attacks of 2001. In contrast to current wisdom that employing biological weapons is too difficult for non-state actors, this thesis reveals a broad spectrum of capability in all studies in the areas necessary to culminate an attack. Applications of these findings must be used to assess risk generally rather than against specific groups because capability is deemed to be exptremely difficult to track. The these finds that a significant threat exists but not large enough to be over-hyped above other national security concerns. In light of this, recommendations are provided for U.S. biodefense policy emphasis in the areas of the nonproliferation regime, attribution capabilities, and defending against the changing nature of future attacks with a particular emphasis on the public health system.
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