Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Homebrewed bioscience increases terror fears

WSJ - 8.11.10 by Keith Johnson

Rapid advances in bioscience are raising alarms among terrorism experts that amateur scientists will soon be able to gin up deadly pathogens for nefarious uses.

Fears of bioterror have been on the rise since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, stoking tens of billions of dollars of government spending on defenses, and the White House and Congress continue to push for new measures.

But the fear of a mass-casualty terrorist attack using bioweapons has always been tempered by a single fact: Of the scores of plots uncovered during the past decade, none have featured biological weapons. Indeed, many experts doubt terrorists even have the technical capability to acquire and weaponize deadly bugs.

The new fear, though, is that scientific advances that enable amateur scientists to carry out once-exotic experiments, such as DNA cloning, could be put to criminal use. Many well-known figures are sounding the alarm over the revolution in biological science, which amounts to a proliferation of know-how—if not the actual pathogens.

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