Friday, October 17, 2014

ISIS and Chemical weapons (posts so far)


Ebola is, in fact, the CNN of CNN                         (photo)

So I've been writing since August about the fear of ISIS wanting/getting/making chemical or biological weapons. I wrote several posts about how ridiculous the fear-mongering has been since the articles debunk themselves, and creating the weapons is very hard.

First post
Foreign Policy has an article about an ISIS laptop found in Syria that among other documents, including jihadi speeches, contains
a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals.
Marcy Wheeler compares this laptop "discovery" to one in 2004 that later turned out to be a forgery that contained Iran's nuclear program information.
Nothing on the ISIS laptop, of course, suggests that the jihadists already possess these dangerous weapons. And any jihadi organization contemplating a bioterrorist attack will face many difficulties: Al Qaeda tried unsuccessfully for years to get its hands on such weapons.
As I wrote, the CNN article debunks itself, going from "a very powerful and quick-acting chemical that behaves like a nerve agent...such as sarin" to "Whatever the substance may be, the implication of the laboratory tests was unmistakable for the experts consulted by CNN....."The implication is that al Qaeda, or another terrorist group, could create a number of different ways of attacking people, for example, in an enclosed area, such as an airport lobby, or in a theater or a train or a bus," Gilbert said."

CNN finally admitted that they had nothing but bad questions. ""There are a lot more questions this tape leaves than answers, unfortunately," he said. "Well, the questions are really bad questions."

Second Post

I wrote about who really was a threat with chemical weapons
The West has its own history of chemical weapons use and support, most notably in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.  We supplied Saddam with chemical weapons despite our knowing that both sides were using chemcial weapons.  Saddam later used them against Kurds in Halabja.  Last year survivors of the attack sued Western companies that supplied Saddam with the chemicals.

We even took Saddam off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in order to give him chemical weapons.  I wonder who has America on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
and wrote about our "alliance" against ISIS with the Syrian government, responsible for the death of almost 200,000 civilians, and even though the media reports that Syria's chemical weapons are declared and destroyed, chlorine was not on the list and is still being used by the government.

So our strategy against ISIS is
  • Western countries fear ISIS could develop chemical weapons and use them to kill thousands of civilians
  • In order to make sure that doesn't happen, we are teaming up with a leader who has used chemical weapons and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

We aren't hearing much lately about the "Laptop of Doom" anymore since we've started actually bombing ISIS in Syria, but the media continues to scare us.
Our new Prime Minister in Iraq gives us a tip, there is a bad translation about imminence, then more scares about ongoing imminence... 
Iraq’s prime minister said Thursday that captured Islamic State militants have told Iraqi intelligence agents of an alleged plot to attack subways in the United States and Paris.
So the media is again trying to scare us about ISIS subway plots (as they reassure us as well)
But meanwhile a more dangerous threat lurks in the background, under-reported in the media
New lab incidents fuel fear, safety concerns in Congress
Scientists wearing space-suitlike protective gear searched for hours in May for a mouse — infected with a virus similar to Ebola — that had escaped inside Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, one of the federal government's highest-security research facilities, according to newly obtained incident reports that provide a window into the secretive world of bioterror lab accidents. During the same month at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, a lab worker suffered a cut while trying to round up escaped ferrets that had been infected with a deadly strain of avian influenza, records show. Four days later at Colorado State University's bioterrorism lab, a worker failed to ensure dangerous bacteria had been killed before shipping specimens — some of them still able to grow — to another lab where a worker unwittingly handled them without key protective gear.
More than 1,100 incidents involving select agents were reported by labs from 2008 through 2012 and more than half were serious enough workers received medical evaluation or treatment
How much coverage did the July hearing mentioned in the article get?
Maybe if we were trying to start a war this would get more coverage.
 Recent stories

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
it is important to be realistic about the threat. It remains unlikely that the group will be able to acquire and effectively use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
For a start, concerns that terrorists could buy or steal a nuclear device from a country that possesses them are exaggerated and have been comprehensively discredited.
While going through some of the myths and some remote possibilities, the conclusion is still the same.  Sure they'd like to, but most likely won't.
In short, ISIS does seem interested in acquiring chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but ambitions do not necessarily equate with reality. The complexities of such weapons, combined with the difficulties involved in obtaining and handling the necessary material, make the likelihood of its use remote. Let’s not exaggerate the threat.

Al Arabiya Experts warn of ‘Ebola suicide bombers’---Possible but still just scary journalism--not contagious until very sick
Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could turn themselves into Ebola “suicide bombers” against the Western world, terrorism experts have warned.
ISIS or other terrorist groups could simply dispatch individuals to Ebola-infected areas in West Africa where they would intentionally infect themselves and then spread the virus through the world’s air transportation network.
again the Foreign Policy "Laptop" article is mentioned
ISIS has already contemplated the use of biological weaponry, according to recent media reports.
Documents found on a laptop seized from ISIS militants in Syria show instructions on how to “develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals,” according to a Foreign Policy report.
The laptop reportedly belonged to a Tunisian militant named Mohammad S., who studied chemistry and physics in his country’s northeast. 
Scientific American
Ebola's exponential spread has rekindled fears that terrorists may seek to turn the virus into a powerful weapon of mass destruction. Such talk has occurred on Capitol Hill and in national security circles. But the financial and logistical challenges of transforming Ebola into a tool of bioterror makes the concern seem overblown—at least as far as widespread devastation is concerned........a large amount of Ebola in the hands of a rogue group would more likely end up killing the plotters than making it to the endgame of a bioterrorism mission.
Already there is historical precedent for states trying—and failing—to tap the virus for bioterror. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was “growing up large amounts of microbes for potential use in bioterrorism.......The Soviets attempted to cultivate smallpox, anthrax, tularemia, botulism and hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola, he says. Yet exactly how the country would have deployed the microbes remains an area of speculation. The Soviets eventually dropped the project.
any terrorist attempting to stoke fears rather than accrue a high body count could have some modicum of success with Ebola. “When talking about bioterror, it’s more about the terror than it is the bio,” Fauci says.
again, the most likely "terror attack" is what is arguably already happening--the fast spread of Ebola (emphasis mine)
The second, and perhaps easiest, small-scale bioterrorism option would be to recruit individuals for Ebola suicide missions. Such a plan would hinge on injecting Ebola virus into a limited number of people, who would then need to leave west Africa (or wherever the outbreak may be) before becoming symptomatic. Then those individuals would have to get into a public space and projectile vomit or bleed onto others to infect them. Obviously the plot would need to overcome substantial technical challenges including the extreme weakness that arises from Ebola. If it did succeed, this mode of transmission would not kill thousands of people, but it would set off significant fears. 
Ebola itself is already scary enough, and still terrorists getting access is still very hard
With an Ebola outbreak that has already killed more than 2,800 in west Africa and laid siege to the health care systems of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, it is clear that already Ebola is terrorizing thousands. Nevertheless, the possibility of rogue organizations sowing this terror on a similar scale seems largely out of reach.
Slate Ebola Is Not a Weapon: Conspiracy theories are highly contagious. Here’s why they’re wrong.
Stop it. Just stop it. Ebola isn’t a potential weapon for terrorists.
It isn’t. as reported by Forbes and the Daily Mail, a low-tech weapon of bioterror for ISIS. It isn’t the final refuge of a lone wolf on a suicide mission, in the words of Fox News. It isn’t a U.S.-built race-targeting bioweapon, as the leader of the Nation of Islam declared.
Ebola is very real, and very scary. But this outbreak isn’t a recipe for a bioweapon. Not unless you want to be the most incompetent bioterrorist in history.
First, the virus isn’t a viable bioweapon candidate. It doesn’t spread quickly—its R0, a measure of how infectious a virus is, is about 2. That means that, in a population where everyone is at risk, each infected person will, on average, infect two more people. But because someone with Ebola is infectious only when she shows symptoms, we’ve got plenty of chances to clamp down on an outbreak in a country with a developed public health system.
And unlike some bioweapons, such as anthrax, Ebola’s transmission mechanism makes it really hard to weaponize. Anthrax spores can be dried and milled so they form little particles that can float on the air and be inhaled. Ebola requires the transmission of bodily fluids, and those don’t make efficient or stealthy weapons.
Someone with Ebola isn’t infectious until she has symptoms, and even then, there is often only a small window for action before the disease takes hold. Many people who contract Ebola do so while caring for someone who is crippled by the affliction. A terrorist who wants to infect others isn’t likely to be functional enough to run around spreading the disease for very long—and even then, will find it hard to transmit the virus.
Ebola isn’t a weapon; it’s the collision between humans and their environment. It’s about the failure of public health in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. And it’s a failure, on our parts, to act and assist the people of these countries. That’s a failure of trust.
In developed countries, the biggest threat is not the terrorist, but fear. That fear is causing lawmakers to campaign for stepping up screening, even though it is unlikely to work—it is too hard to track people in air travel, and it isn’t effective at detecting cases. That fear is causing politicians to claim that we should seal the border to Mexico, or ban all flights out of West Africa.
That fear is a powerful weapon that can be used against us. Terror leading us to make bad decisions is much more effective against rich, developed nations than Ebola could be. If we want to beat the latter, we have to beat the former.
To beat Ebola, we have to worry less about terrorists, and more about helping others. 
But if you want to have some fun there is always Twitter.

and the "let's fight ISIS with weaponized Ebola"

and the partisan "look at the crazy Republicans"

No comments:

Post a Comment