Earlier this month there was a bioterrorism drill in Seattle. Postal carriers delivered dummy packages to “nearly thousands” of people (yes, that’s what the article said; my guess is “nearly a thousand”), testing how the postal system could be used to quickly deliver medications. (Here’s a reaction from a recipient.)
Sure, there are lots of scenarios where this kind of delivery system isn’t good enough, but that’s not the point. In general, I think emergency response is one of the few areas where we need to spend more money. And, in general, I think tests and drills like this are good — how else will we know if the systems will work the way we think they will?
Posted on November 27, 2006 at 1:44 PM •
This article argues that most of the $44 billion spent in the U.S. on bioterrorism defense has been wasted.
Posted on October 16, 2006 at 1:38 PM •
Does this EyeCheck device sound like anything other than snake oil:
The device looks like binoculars, and in seconds it scans an individuals pupils to detect a problem.
“They’ll be able to tell if they’re on drugs, and what kind, whether marijuana, cocaine, or alcohol. Or even in the case of a tractor trailer driver, is he too tired to drive his rig?” said Ohio County Sheriff Tom Burgoyne.
The device can also detect abnormalities from chemical and biological effects, as well as natural disasters.
Here’s the company. The device is called a pupillometer, and “uses patented technologies to deliver reliable pupil measurements in less than five minutes for the detection of drugs and fatigue.” And despite what the article implied, the device doesn’t do this at a distance.
I’m not impressed with the research, but this is not my area of expertise. Anyone?
Posted on September 18, 2006 at 1:39 PM •
Long, and interesting, article on bioterrorism.
When you read this, don’t concentrate too much on what’s possible right now. If the techniques discussed in the article are beyond the reach of government laboratories now, they won’t be in five or ten years. And then they’ll become cheaper and easier. Attackers look for leverage, and technology gives attackers leverage.
Posted on March 15, 2006 at 1:46 PM •
There’s a new report from Sandia National Laboratories (written with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) titled “Guidelines to Improve Airport Preparedness Against Chemical and Biological Terrorism.” It’s classified, but there’s an unclassified version available. (Press release. Unclassified report.)
I haven’t read it yet, but it looks interesting.
Posted on November 14, 2005 at 3:19 PM •
Earlier this month, there was an anthrax scare at the Indonesian embassy in Australia. Someone sent them some white powder in an envelope, which was scary enough. Then it tested positive for bacillus. The building was decontaminated, and the staff was quarantined for twelve hours. By then, tests came back negative for anthrax.
A lot of thought went into this false alarm. The attackers obviously knew that their white powder would be quickly tested for the presence of a bacterium of the bacillus family (of which anthrax is a member), but that the bacillus would have to be cultured for a couple of days before a more exact identification could be made. So even without any anthrax, they managed to cause two days of terror.
At a guess, this incident had something to do with Schapelle Corby (yet another security related story). Corby was arrested in Bali for smuggling drugs into the country. Her defense, widely believed in Australia, was that she was an unwitting dupe of the real drug smugglers. Supposedly, the smugglers work as airport baggage handlers and slip packages into checked baggage and remove them at the far end before reclaim. In any case, Bali has very strict drug laws and Corby was recently convicted in what Australians consider a miscarriage of justice. There have been news reports saying that there is no connection, but it just seems too obvious.
In an interesting side note, the media have revealed for the first time that 360 “white powder” incidents have taken place since 11 September 2001. This news had been suppressed by the government, which had issued D notices to the media for all such incidents. So there has been one such incident approximately every four days — an astonishing number, given Australia’s otherwise low crime rate.
Posted on June 14, 2005 at 2:41 PM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.