DHS Medical Chief Warns of Large-Scale Anthrax Attacks

Speaking to a congressional panel, the chief medical officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned:

the risk of a large-scale biological attack on the Nation is significant. We know that our terrorist enemies have sought to use biological agents as instruments of their warfare, and we believe that capability is within their reach.

Jeffrey W. Runge, MD, the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer of the DHS, warned it is "unlikely that we will receive actionable or specific warning of an imminent biological attack" going on to say that "many of these deadly biological agents, including anthrax, are readily available in nature, relatively easy to procure, culture, and weaponize." Referring to the anthrax attacks of 2001, Dr. Runge opined "the magnitude of that terrorist attack is miniscule compared to the larger, anthrax release envisioned by our enemies." He explained:

We know that, in the late 1990s, al-Qaeda began developing a biological weapons program and constructed a low-tech facility in Qandahar, Afghanistan for anthrax production. Fortunately, U.S. military forces disrupted this activity and additional American and coalition operations in the region have damaged al-Qaeda leadership and operational capabilities - but not their intent to use biological weapons. You will recall that in 2002, al-Qaeda stated that they had the right to kill 4 million Americans - 2 million of them children - and cripple thousands. An advisor to bin Laden later issued a fatwa on the permissibility of using weapons of mass destruction and increased the 4 million casualty figure to 10 million.

See http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/testimony/testimony_1216677175660.shtm for a transcript of Dr. Runge's testimony.