Ever since the post 9/11 Anthrax attacks through the American postal system, the US government has stepped up security in the US Postal Service. Packages above a certain weight must be delivered in person to the Post Office and cannot be delivered via a drop box. In addition, US Postal Service employees are educated in preventing suspicious mail from being delivered. However, the threat of biological warfare delivered to the US through the mail still lingers. How bad is this threat? And what can the Government do to protect US citizens from an epidemic delivered as an act of terror?
I spoke to a friend of mine who wished to not be named he is a PHD graduate in Terrorism studies. When we discussed the topic of biological warfare through the mail, he explained that from the case studies and data that the US Government has, biological warfare through the mail is not that effective of a method for spreading terror and disease. This took me by surprise, as I had imagined that it was a very simple and effective method for inspiring fear and chaos in America. He pointed out that the initial Anthrax attempts only effected a handful of people, and went on to explain that the reason is simply because it is an easily detectable threat.
Even in its most effective delivery, it really can only harm a handful of people before it is detected and the infected subjects are quarantined. I realized that Anthrax was probably chosen because it could be handled by the terrorists without threat of contamination. The downside for the terrorists is that Anthrax can be treated. My friend pointed out that a more severe pathogen, Ebola for example, could be much more effective. Yet, because it cannot be easily handled or packaged and sent without risk of contamination a severe pathogen is not a realistic choice for biological warfare through the mail. Biological warfare through the mail is not the biggest threat in the world of terrorism.
The real question is preventing a hand-delivered epidemic from reaching American soil. Yet, this type of risk is applicable to every traveler destined for America. If a case of Ebola Zaire broke out in America and was not quickly suppressed as was in Virginia in 1989, it would likely break out everywhere, and become more than a simple act of terror, but a Plague. In 1992 the Japanese terrorist cult leader, Shoko Asahara considered using the agent as a new bio-terror weapon. Currently Shoko Asahara is awaiting execution for the Tokyo gas attacks of 1995. Yet, his idea of weaponizing the virus has kept Ebola Zaire as a known candidate for bio-terror weaponry.
Fortunately, it seems that at present terrorist cells do not have the ability to create an effective bio-terror campaign on American soil "they simply cannot access all the materials needed and they do not have an effective means of delivery.
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