While terrorism has been a part of national security policy prior to 9/11, only within the post 9/11 world has there been an expansion of the definition to include cyber terrorism as well as a renewed interest in bioterror prevention, preparedness, and response. This expansion has relegated threats to the nations’ public health to a less prominent place in the national discussion, even though public health dangers have far-reaching effects which are potentially as catastrophic, if not more so, than those posed by traditional terrorism.
For this reason, my paper will focus on an exploration of the current medical countermeasure policies and programs that have been created by Presidential Directives and Congressional oversight to deal with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives (CBRNE) threats and other public health emergencies, such as infectious (and emerging infectious) disease outbreaks, to determine whether or not these countermeasures are overly fixated on terrorism to the exclusion of more imminent threats to national public health and safety.
My interest in this topic comes from my fascination with science’s ability to manipulate and create both naturally occurring and man-made diseases all under the auspices of the development of pharmaceuticals and vaccinations for medical countermeasures in preparation for bioterrorist and public health threats which are not yet contemplated or in existence. Similarly, the ways in which scientific advancements have been regulated or the lack of adequate oversight has become a larger issue which requires greater national attention. A case in point is the recent capability of scientists in creating mutant forms of H5N1 Bird Flu, and the controversy surrounding making the results of this research available. This scenario is a prime example of the potential for misuse and appropriation of the science by terrorist groups, which could threaten both national and global security. In addition, naturally occurring infectious diseases represent pressure points of serious concern and security threats in regards to safeguarding American citizens’ health as evidenced by the emergence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which could potentially begin to spread outside of the Middle East.
There is no dispute that terrorism is a very real and imminent threat, but I do wonder whether current policy pays enough attention to the types of hazards outlined above, which while not formally characterized as terrorism have the potential for terroristic qualities and affects all the same.
For more information on mutant forms of H5N1: