[IWAR] BIOWAR US domestic threat

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Date: Thu Feb 19 1998 - 21:44:21 PST

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    >From Salon @ http://www.salonmagazine.com/news/
    The terror at home 
     The arrest of two men in
     Las Vegas on charges of
     carrying stocks of the
     anthrax virus highlights how
     easy it is to make weapons
     of mass destruction. And to
     some terrorism experts,
     that's a lot scarier than
     Saddam Hussein. 
     BY JEFF STEIN | Call him Dr. Death. 
     Larry Wayne Harris, arrested Wednesday in Las
     Vegas with a car full of suspected biological
     weapons, told an interviewer recently he'd been
     experimenting with a half dozen other toxins,
     including bubonic plague, and had made anthrax
     from a pit in the woods near Cleveland, Ohio,
     where previously infected cows had been buried 40
     years ago. 
     "You know how long it took me to isolate anthrax
     from the earth?" Harris said, according to a
     transcript given to Salon by a U.S. government
     intelligence agency. "Ten days. It took me 14 days
     to recover bubonic plague." 
     Asked what else he'd been experimenting with,
     Harris said, "Brucellosis. Tularemia. Cholera. I
     mostly work with yersinia (bubonic plague virus).
     It's easy to isolate from cow droppings." 
     Harris, who was already on parole after a 1995
     conviction for fraudulently trying to obtain botulism
     samples from a biotechnology firm in suburban
     Washington, D.C., was interviewed Jan. 23, 1998
     by a former top government weapons expert who
     wished to remain anonymous. 
     He said experimenting with viruses was "like
     working with Dobermans. They're not dangerous if
     you know what they are and how to deal with
     them. This stuff isn't dangerous if you take
     appropriate measures." He said he'd been
     inoculating himself against anthrax with a
     homemade remedy, "but since April, I haven't
     worked on any pathogenic organisms in my own
     Harris, who called his earlier conviction "just an
     irritant," explained how easy it was to manufacture
     the anthrax from the ground where the cows had
     been buried. The government conducted secret
     studies years ago and came to the same conclusion,
     sources say. 
     "I went to the library and did a search on when we
     had the last outbreak of anthrax around here,"
     Harris said. "It happened in the 1950s. I tried to
     find someone still alive, some scientist, who had
     been involved in containing the outbreak. 
     "And I found someone. The guy explained to me
     that some cattle had been brought into Cleveland by
     boat -- they were infected. I asked him, 'Did you
     incinerate them? Did you bury the cattle in lime
     pits?' And he told me all they did was bury the
     cows. So I asked him, 'Where did you bury them?'
     He told me he would show me." 
     Harris and his guide found the place, dug up the
     earth, put samples in a jar with alcohol, mixed it
     with water and then filtered out the anthrax. 
     "I hooked it up to a vacuum pump. I incubated it at
     35 degrees overnight," he said, adding that, "You
     can spread this stuff with a commercial paint
     sprayer (and) use ... mounts outside older aircraft"
     to spray it over a city. 
     "Within 48 hours, over 100,000 would be dead. If
     you have one-tenth of a millionth of a gram that's
     enough to kill a person." 
     Harris, who is well-known in so-called "patriot" and
     white supremacist circles and claims to be a former
     CIA microbiologist -- the agency denies it -- is
     associated with the extremist Christian Identity
     movement, which calls non-whites "mud people"
     and advocates a homeland for whites in the
     Northwest United States. After his 1995 arrest, he
     claimed he was trying to demonstrate how easy it
     was to obtain biological warfare materials. 
     In the interview he claimed he was merely working
     on a book. 
     "My book is strictly about civil defense," he said.
     "I've talked with the casualty management team at
     the Pentagon. They tell me that it would take one
     year to recover from the loss of a million people." 
     David Smith, editor of a shortwave radio program
     produced by the Church of God Evangelistic
     Association in Waxahachie, Texas, suggested in a
     telephone interview with Salon today that the arrest
     of Harris, whom he interviewed last year, could be
     a government set-up. 
     "It used to be that the communists were the enemy
     of the United States. Since they've taken over
     Washington, D.C. -- they and their cohorts -- now
     they have to make anybody who believes in
     patriotism look like the enemy," Smith said. "They
     have to arrest someone who is in some way trying
     to warn the American people about the possibility
     of this warfare." 
     Ironically, the Pentagon planned to start making a
     training film Friday on handling anthrax for local
     police, fire and medical units. Anthrax is easy to
     make, the Pentagon found more than 30 years ago,
     when it conducted secret experiments to see if
     non-scientists could assemble biological weapons
     from textbooks and readily available materials,
     Salon has learned. 
     "There were studies in the '50s and '60s where they
     took people who were not microbiologists and not
     engineers that showed they could very successfully
     carry out things," a government source said. "They
     had two tasks before them: They had to create a
     biological weapon, and they had to disperse it. And
     they could do it." 
     The study group was presented with harmless germ
     analogs and instructions, the source said. "Anybody
     could do it with the same instructions ... The point
     was to see whether somebody who was not a
     microbiologist or engineer could do this, and they
     could." The results of the study are classified, the
     source said. "I'm not aware of that study," said
     Thomas Dashiell, who in 1988 retired as director of
     the Pentagon's Environmental and Life Sciences
     office. "But I remember one in the 1970s where
     they sent some university-type people out to
     search, specifically, only through unclassified
     sources -- libraries, that sort of thing, and find out
     what's available." 
     The Pentagon wanted to know, "Could you, based
     upon what's available out there in the open
     literature, come up with something?" Dashiell said.
     "And yes, there was no question about it. In fact,
     there was a report that said, 'Oh, yeah.'" 
     The Pentagon quickly suppressed the study,
     Dashiell said. "It was an unclassified research
     effort," he said. "However, the final report was
     immediately classified, because they did not want to
     give a cookbook to every terrorist in the country." 
     Recipes for germ and chemical warfare substances
     are easily found on the Internet, he pointed out.
     Anthrax can be rendered from bovine waste and
     dead rodents using standard dairy equipment. 
     The easy availability of germ agents was to be one
     of the major points of the training film to be made
     Friday by the Pentagon's Chemical and Biological
     Command, a source there said. 
     Despite spending upwards of $1 billion on coping
     with biological and chemical warfare, many experts
     say, the government is nowhere close to effectively
     coping with the major release of something like
     anthrax in a U.S. city. 
     "We have no ability at the local level to deal with
     the situation," Dr. Joseph Waeckerle, the editor of
     Annals of Emergency Medicine, said in a telephone
     interview. "Not for biological stuff." 
     "The local people are going to respond, right?"
     Waeckerle said. "The police, fire teams,
     ambulances and so on? Because they're dedicated
     humanitarians. Are they going to expect it's going to
     be a biological agent? Or a bomb with a chemical
     agent? Are they going to expect to become victims
     and vectors of their own death?" 
     More than 120 cities have been selected for civil
     defense exercises this year, but Waeckerle argues
     that the federal government should shift spending
     away from military units to a regular regimen of
     training local health and rescue personnel. 
     "Somebody's got to recognize we have a problem
     and contain the problem while we call for
     reinforcements," he said. "So I guess we need both.
     But I would rather have the capability of
     recognizing and identifying the problem and
     containing it everywhere, rather than spending the
     money to outfit a select group of cities that I'm sure
     have been chosen because they are potential
     targets. " 
     Waeckerle and many other experts say the situation
     demands that the White House appoint a
     weapons-of-mass-destruction "czar" to coordinate
     policies, including those for counter-terrorism. A
     little-noticed audit last December by the
     Government Accounting Agency, Congress'
     watchdog, found a smorgasbord of some 40 federal
     agencies spending $7 billion on counter-terrorism
     programs with little idea of where the money was
     going or how effective the programs were. 
     While the U.S. is spending billions more to counter
     Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf, the country
     remains "completely vulnerable" to germ-toting
     white supremacists like Larry Wayne Harris, an
     FBI agent worried. 
     "He's my nightmare," the agent said. "Guys like
     that. Much more than Saddam Hussein." 
     SALON | Feb. 20, 1998 
     Jeff Stein covers criminal justice and national security issues
      for Salon.

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