A decade after the towers fell, America remains under attack. Just weeks ago, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) thwarted a plot to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner by an al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. Now, national security experts are asking whether American agents would have been as successful if the attack were carried out through “bioterrorism,” or the “intentional release or dissemination of biological agents.”
“Right now, the DoD is working under the belief that weaponized diseases are going to [be] used against Americans both at home and on the battlefield, and they claim that preparations have to be made for that inevitability,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told Business Insider.
Carter stated about bioterrorism, “[I]t is a defense problem. It’s going to be a defense problem. They will be used in war. They will be used in terrorism.”
In another story, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) disclosed they believe bioterrorism is the “next big thing.”
The news out of Syria only confirms the DoD’s analysis. Last week, the Associated Press reported the “regime acknowledged for the first time Monday that it possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and said it will only use them in case of a foreign attack and never internally against its own citizens.”
Does anyone put it past a government that, as we saw recently, would massacre women and children, of using biological weapons against anyone, including their own citizens?
Although both the DoD and the State Department seem to be on high alert over the bioterrorism threat, the Obama Administration’s approach to Project BioShield, the program under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that develops and creates the national stockpile of vaccines used to protect American citizens against biological attacks here at home, is being mismanaged into oblivion.
As reported by The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, not only has HHS leadership failed to execute the program effectively, the White House has done absolutely nothing to ensure Project BioShield continues to be funded when it expires in a matter of months. At the same time, the Project BioShield funding that still remains from Congress’s original allocation nearly 10 years ago is severely jeopardized, as HHS has proven to be incapable of getting contracts out the door. The White House and HHS apparently do not share the DoD and State Department’s concerns over the urgent threat of biological weapons.
The accusations of cronyism and misappropriations of funds are also troubling. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work. Senior officials have taken unusual steps to secure the contract for New York-based Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, one of the world’s richest men and a longtime Democratic Party donor.” Even Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has requested HHS to investigate the matter.
There are a number of biothreats, but according to the Bipartisan Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Terrorism Research Center, anthrax and smallpox are at the top of the list. Seven years ago, the co-chairs of the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission, Gov. Tom Kean and Rep. Lee Hamilton, also predicted that detonation of nuclear bomb on U.S. soil in their lifetime was a certainty. Yet, long-overdue contracts to procure medical countermeasures for anthrax, smallpox and radiation sickness by HHS are stuck in a bureaucratic morass. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
According to a recent report by Hillary Kramer in The Huffington Post, “Most egregiously, reports have emerged that the Obama administration has chosen not to replenish the United States’ stockpile of smallpox vaccine, with no hopes of further replenishment on the horizon. Because of the current formulation, these vaccines have a limited shelf life and will soon expire if not replaced. In the event of a biological attack, left with impotent vaccines, the American people are being placed at grave risk.”
This sentiment is expressed by others as Government Security News reports, “A House intelligence committee member and former Bush White House bioterror official are questioning whether smallpox and anthrax vaccine stockpile efforts are being slowed the by the Obama administration because of the costs. A May 10 letter from House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) to the Obama Administration’s point person on Project BioShield, Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at HHS asked about the viability of the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). She asked HHS to review current and long-term needs of the stockpile and to ‘consider ways to ensure that HHS reacts with speed, agility and focus.’”
Despite the serious holes in U.S. national bioterrorism defense system, President Obama has moved his national security “record” to the center of this campaign, claiming our troops’ dangerous, but successful, work on the killing of Osama bin Laden as his own.
In fact, the administration has authorized officials to work on a movie concerning the killing of the al Qaeda leader. The Daily Caller reports, “Top White House officials worked closely with producers of a movie about the successful killing of Osama bin Laden and pushed them to incorporate the administration’s talking points, according to administration documents unveiled by Judicial Watch.”
Next, President Obama has apparently placed himself in the position of deciding which terrorists live and die. As recently reported by The New York Times, “Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding ‘kill list,’ poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre ‘baseball cards’ of an unconventional war.”
Despite the pomp, the administration appears to be asleep at the switch with regard to making sure the nation’s stockpile against bioterrorism is being properly maintained and upgraded? President Obama and his advisors — namely David Axelrod — seem intent on not letting an opportunity pass to boast about the current administration’s national security record particularly in the context of the presidential race.
In the end, the smart thing to do would be to suspend the campaign rhetoric for a minute and listen to Deputy Secretary of Defense Carter’s words that biological weapons of mass destruction “will be used in terrorism.”
We can’t lose our motivation just ten years after 9/11 when the threats of terrorism are still very real. Less spiking the football and more action by the White House and HHS is needed now.