Top-secret military warning on Ebola biological weapon terror threat

Porton Down memo marked ‘UK secret UK eyes only’ reveals scientists analysed use of virus by al-Qaida or Isis

Healthcare workers tackle the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leonea
Healthcare workers tackle the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Photograph: Tanya Bindra/AP

Scientists at the top-secret military research unit at Porton Down, Wiltshire, have been assessing the potential use of Ebola as a bioterrorism weapon, according to confidential documents.

A three-page memo, marked ‘UK secret UK eyes only’, reveals that the unit, where chemical, radiological and biological threats are analysed, was tasked with evaluating whether terrorist organisations such as al-Qaida and Islamic State (Isis) could use the deadly virus to attack western targets.

The heavily redacted document, which has been released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that the unit was asked last October to provide “guidance on the feasibility and potential impact of a non-state actor exploiting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa for bioterrorism”.

It goes on to explain that non-state actor threat assessments are “provided by the joint terrorism analysis centre”, while threats to “UK deployed forces are provided by defence intelligence”. The memo outlines three possible scenarios under which terrorists might seek to exploit the Ebola outbreak, which so far has killed more than 9,000 people in the three most affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The first scenario outlined is completely redacted, illustrating the acute sensitivity about the issue. The second scenario is heavily blacked out but, according to the memo, “would be both logistically and technically challenging for a non-state group to undertake”. It observes: “Clearly there are practical issues involved with such a scenario that of themselves are often not insurmountable but taken together add enormously to the complexity of successfully undertaking this attack.”

A third, also heavily redacted, scenario “constitutes the most technically challenging of the scenarios considered here”.

Concerns that terrorist groups might look to “weaponise” Ebola have been raised by several thinktanks and politicians. Last year Francisco Martinez, Spain’s state secretary for security, claimed that Isis fighters were planning to carry out “lone wolf” attacks using biological weapons. Martinez said that his belief was informed by listening in to conversations uncovered in secret chatrooms used by terrorist cells. The claim has since been played down by others.

Jeh Johnson, the US department of homeland security secretary, said last October that “we’ve seen no specific credible intelligence that Isis is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack our homeland”.

Dr Filippa Lentzos, a senior research fellow at King’s College London and an expert on bioterrorism, said terrorists looking to use the virus as a weapon would encounter problems. “It doesn’t spread quickly at all,” she said. “Terrorists are usually after a bang and Ebola isn’t going to give you that.”

On average, a person infected with Ebola will infect two more people. In a developed country such as the UK transmission would be even more limited.

“People with Ebola are infectious only when they show symptoms,” Lentzos said. “Could terrorists go to west Africa, get infected, then come back and sit on the tube? Sure, but they’re not likely to be functional for very long. They’re going to be very sick and you’ll see that. So they would have only a very small window in which to operate. And in a country with a developed public health system like the UK, there would be plenty of chances to clamp down on an outbreak.”

Other biological weapons would potentially be more attractive to terrorists, experts suggested. Unlike Ebola, which requires the transmission of body fluids, anthrax spores can be dried and milled down to form tiny particles that can be inhaled.

However, even the suggestion that Ebola could be weaponised made it a potentially powerful weapon for terrorists, Lentzos suggested. “If your aim is not to kill a lot of people, or even make them ill, but instead to frighten them and cause a huge level of societal disruption, then bioterrorism would do that. It elicits exceptionally high levels of fear, disgust and abhorrence.”

The use of pathogens as a weapon has been tried before. Following the attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, five people died in the US after opening letters laced with anthrax. In the 1980s, a cult in Oregon spread salmonella on salad bars in restaurants in an attempt to keep voters from the polls so its preferred candidates would win.

“The risk of small-scale bioterrorism attacks is possible and very likely,” Lentzos said.

Porton Down is known to have experimented with Ebola but a specific request for the laboratory to analyse the virus’s potential use by “non-state agents” highlights the growing concern that terrorists are becoming increasingly inventive in their choice of weapons.

One scenario could see terrorists combining genes from different pathogens to synthetically create super pathogens that could spread disease far more effectively than Ebola. But Lentzos suggested this was unlikely. “It’s pretty damn hard to make dangerous pathogens from scratch in the lab. Experts have a really hard time doing that. At this point I’m not sure that’s what we need to worry about.”

Lentzos said that focusing on the terrorist threat posed by Ebola risked losing sight of the bigger picture. “To beat Ebola we have to worry less about terrorism and more about public health. Disease knows no borders.”

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8 Responses to Top-secret military warning on Ebola biological weapon terror threat

  1. JBC says:

    Jean: This is all predictive programming, psychological conditioning to introduce mass vaccination programs to anyone and everyone. But for to what end? I believe it is found here as posted yesterday, it’s all coming together.

    They want to remove consent by psychologically turning all pro-vaccine extremists (the masses of uninformed/majority rule) against those who are informed, vilify them, force assimilation and put what is close to the final nail in the coffin of the individual and free-will. This may be the ‘hidden pharma pill’ you were wondering if Congress was ever going to find in your FEB19th post.

    First it was force all military personnel into vaccinations in order to serve. Then they started ‘force’ vaccinating all health care workers in order to keep your job. Lately they are threatening blocking healthcare to unvaccinated kids—-and now they are turning the extremists against non-vaccine parents and turning them into ‘bad and irresponsible parents.’ There are states trying to restrict the conscientious opt outs for schools. Next it will be, you can’t get a job ANYWHERE unless you take the magic pills and super shots.

    I can’t begin to tell you how much the propaganda has ramped up in our local news paper over the last month. It’s obviously going on everywhere. There are daily “vaccine fear porn” articles written or parroted from the AP with obvious bias and vilification of opt-outers,and to no surprise, the other side of the story is NEVER addressed.

    And here it is before us, just like with Sandy Hook, the ‘proposed gun’ restrictions and bills just happened to be ready to roll out mere weeks after ‘the event.’ I was suspect that this measles ‘outbreak’ was also an event, but couldn’t pinpoint a motive but now I believe I know why—It’s the canned and ready to go implementation of the mass-vaxx program—no doubt in the works before ebola, before measles, and before whatever they unleash next. I suspect in weeks there will be the “first case” of Mumps. In reality, it’s not like there haven’t been measles cases in the US, there are some every year. The only thing different is this year, the media has coordinated the viral attack on the primal fear and sub-consciousness of the uninformed who they rely on to implement any draconian measure.

    Please pass along! The link I gave may warrant it’s own post as to not get lost in the comment section!

  2. Ron says:

    ” But Lentzos suggested this was unlikely. “It’s pretty damn hard to make dangerous pathogens from scratch in the lab. Experts have a really hard time doing that. At this point I’m not sure that’s what we need to worry about.””

    Really? What does he think the criminal sociopaths in the former Soviet Union and in the U.S. at Ft. Detrick, Maryland have been up to for many years?
    “Recently, we analyzed samples of 1918 pandemic virus RNA isolated from the lungs of three individuals: two U.S. Army soldiers and a woman who had been interred in the permafrost in Alaska (1, 8, 9). The HA gene sequences were virtually identical in all three cases. The genetic uniformity, along with the rapid spread and high morbidity experienced in 1918, suggest that the pandemic virus was mammal-adapted but had not previously circulated widely in humans. ”

    In order to recover 1918 influenza virus, they exhumed the frozen bodies of 3 victims buried in the permafrost in Alaska.
    Special Report The 1918 flu virus is resurrected

    The recreation of one of the deadliest diseases known could help us to prevent another pandemic. Or it might trigger one, say critics. Andreas von Bubnoff investigates whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

    It is thought to have killed 50 million people, and yet scientists have brought it back to life. In this issue of Nature, scientists publish an analysis of the full genome sequence of the 1918 human influenza virus.
    Reconstruction of the 1918 Influenza Virus: Unexpected Rewards from the Past

    The “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918–1919 stands as the deadliest single event in recorded human history, killing approximately 50 million people worldwide (1, 2). The unprecedented burden of morbidity and mortality frustrated physicians and scientists, who were unable to identify the etiologic agent, but also spurred advances in microbiology, clinical infectious diseases, and public health practice (3). Influenza viruses were finally isolated about 15 years after the pandemic, but scientists of the early 20th century were not then capable of studying the biological basis of pandemic viral emergence, pathogenicity, or disappearance, let alone of gaining insights that might help to prevent or mitigate future pandemics. The cause of the 1918 pandemic and the determinants of its severity remained one of the most discussed medical mysteries throughout most of the 20th century.

    Development of PCR technology in the 1980s, however, made it possible to recover and sequence highly degraded fragments of viral RNA retained in preserved tissues from persons who succumbed in 1918 (4–7). By use of the then-new approach of viral “reverse genetics,” these viral RNA sequences permitted eventual reconstruction of the complete 1918 virus (8). Remarkably, tiny viral RNA fragments recovered from just a few of the pandemic’s many millions of victims have yielded, almost a century after their deaths, novel insights into influenza virus biology and pathogenesis and have provided important information about how to prevent and control future pandemics. This year (2012) marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of the initial 1918 influenza virus sequences (6), which led to the full genome sequence a decade later. Below, we review some of the studies performed with the 1918 virus and their implications for medical and public health practice today.

    The milestone achievement of reconstructing an “extinct” pandemic virus raised a number of questions that had not been asked before. The most fundamental of these was whether it was necessary or wise to recreate by molecular means a naturally extinct virus that represented one of the deadliest infectious agents in human history. This question was answered in the affirmative when senior U.S. government scientists and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that such research could play an important role in pandemic influenza preparedness (9). The U.S. government began to regulate research with the 1918 virus through the National Select Agents Registry Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Guidelines contained in the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) manual (10) were quickly modified to support development, by institutional biosafety committees, of safe protocols for biocontainment and biosafety. Research with the 1918 virus has since gone forward at a rapid pace, leading to numerous findings, some of which are highlighted below. This important body of work exemplifies the benefits of studying pathogens that have a potential for “dual use,” provided that biosafety and biosecurity issues are adequately addressed. Dual use research is defined as work with clear benefits for society for which there also exists a theoretical potential for misuse (e.g., bioterrorism). In this commentary, we briefly review some of the important insights into influenza virus biology and public health that have already resulted from the sequencing and reconstruction of the 1918 virus. We argue that learning the most closely guarded secrets of our deadliest biological enemies is an essential means of protecting ourselves from future events of a similar nature.

  3. erdoshk says:

    This article feels like a DIS-INFORMATION. Please use your discernment. I DO NOT CONSENT to Ebola and its use as bio-weapon against humanity.

  4. paleohippy says:

    If ebola is ever used as a weapon you can be sure it was weaponized by a state and not by a bunch of cannibals. The cannibals may come into possession of it and even deploy it but we all know it will have come out of Porton Down or Fort Meade or wherever the hell they cook this stuff up.

  5. Rev. Joe says:

    Please re-member , Vita C cures and protects against Ebola.

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