By Jim Kouri
During a U.S. Senate hearing, a Homeland Security Department official said that a bio-terror attack within the United States is imaginable and frightening.
On the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks using the U.S. postal system the U.S. official reported that a large amount of money has been spent on bio-terror countermeasures over the last decade.
“A wide-area attack using aerosolized Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most serious mass casualty threats facing the U.S.,” said Alexander G. Garza, Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security.
Garza was testifying before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The hearing, titled “Ten Years After 9/11 and the Anthrax Attacks: Protecting Against Biological Threats,” was attended by top officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI. Conspicuously absent was Attorney General Eric Holder or a representative from the Justice Department.
“A successful anthrax attack could potentially expose hundreds of thousands of people, and cause illness, death, fear, societal disruption and economic damage,” Garza told the panel of senators.
Following the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks, a number of letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to — and received by — some congressional offices and the offices of several news outlets. Five victims were killed 17 became seriously ill.
The Senate hearing was held after the WMD Terrorism Research Center recently unveiled a new report examining the nation’s preparedness for a biological attack.
The U.S. government has spent more than 65 billion dollars on bio-defense since 2001, and yet it has done so without an end-to-end, strategic assessment of the nation’s bio-response capabilities, the report said.
A report released recently by the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Center gives failing of near failing grades for U.S, bio-terrorism preparedness and response, according to U.S. Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security,
In June, 2010, while the Congress was still controlled by the Democrats, a similar report released by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. House of Representatives, revealed that almost nine years after the 9-11 terrorist attacks Attorney General Eric Holder did not have a coordinated plan to respond to bio-terrorism or the threat and use of other weapons of mass destruction. Sadly, that situation remains, according to terrorism experts.
The use of weapons of mass destruction, whether by a hostile nation, a terrorist group, or an individual, poses a serious threat to the United States, yet the GAO report suggested that anti-WMD policy did not sit high on Holder’s “to do” list.
The news media were practically silent regarding the report, preferring to cover economic and social issues such as Obamacare and reform of financial institutions.