Biological Terrorism Essay

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Biological Terrorism


The date is April 24, 2005. The time is approximately 8:30 am. Somewhere on the New York City subway system a briefcase sits, apparently forgotten. Inside the briefcase, an electronic oscillator flips over, marking the passage of thirtieth minute since its owner abdicated. In the busy subway station no one notices the small hissing noise that is produced as an odorless, tasteless aerosol is slowly released into the air. Within minutes, the pathogen contained in the gas has spread throughout the station, and New York has unwittingly played host to the first recorded incidence of bioterrorism.

The first symptoms appear nearly a week later. At first,
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Even given ideal conditions and antibiotic use, mortality will be high. (Eitzen, 1998).

Yes, it could happen. In the remainder of this paper, I will consider whether such an incident of catastrophic biological terrorism will occur, who is likely to perpetrate it, what agents they are likely to employ, to what end they may do so, and what technical capabilities will be required. I will focus on independantly motivated terrorism, as state-sponsorship lies beyond the scope of this paper and my research.

Apocalyptic Vs. Traditional Terrorism

The terrorist of the so called "age of terrorism" roughly, 1968 through 1990 was perceived to be an individual who functioned within the international system as it was then understood. Fundamentally, terrorists were seen as rational calculators of self interest. Like guerrillas and sovereign states, these traditional terrorists used violence as a political tool, in a manner calculated to draw support for their cause. (Segaller, 1986). As such, they were bound by political restraints. When one seeks to influence an audience, it is imperative that the audience survive the performance. Such practical constraints kept terrorists of the past from seriously contemplating the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

According to a former senior commander of the Fatah
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