>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 house." 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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