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OFFGRID: Reviewing 3 Civilian Bioterror Attacks

OFFGRID's Patrick McCarthy recently explored three historical bioterrorism attacks in a recent post on OFFGRIDweb. As history tends to repeat itself (and there are still plenty of people who'd happily kill us), it is beneficial to see what we can learn. Interestingly, he does specifically note that there is a “…large difference between these three examples and biological warfare, which would be acts carried out by military versus civilians.” It's an important distinction.

The first attack he references is the Rajneeshe Bioterror Attack.

Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh 1

The Dalles, Oregon-August-October 1984

Followers of Indian mystic, guru, and cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Thousands of cult members had moved to a commune based on a remote ranch in Wasco County, Oregon. The cult then incorporated into a city know as Rajneeshpuran, and began expanding rapidly to take political control of the surrounding towns. Local citizens in Wasco County disagreed with this expansion, so they were targeted by Rajneesh’s followers.

Patrick McCarthy describes the weapon, Salmonella enterica Typhimurium, which is a strain of Salmonella bacteria. Ingestion of it leads to symptoms of food poisoning and acute gastroenteritis. It should be more than a little sobering to realize how vulnerable we can be right in our own hometown.

The second attack referenced in the article was the Aum Shinrikyo Biological and Chemical attacks that occurred in Tokyo, Japan (1993-1995).

Aum Shinrikyo Biological and Chemical attacks 1

Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese doomsday cult founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. Asahara declared himself “Christ” and said he could cleanse his followers of their sins. He also claimed that a nuclear Armageddon was coming in 1997, and that all of humanity would be wiped out—except for his followers, of course, who would receive salvation.

Aum followers claimed that by bringing about the end of the world, they would restore balance and become enlightened. After extortion and assassinations failed to bring about Armageddon, they turned to large-scale bioterrorism.

The perpetrators originally used anthrax, but later expanded on to produce their own specific formulas.

The third referenced attack was one perpetrated by Bruce Edwards Ivins, who mailed Anthrax to Washington, DC, Florida, and New York.

Bruce Edwards Ivins 1

The Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax spores) came both in a brown granular form that caused skin infections and a fine white powder that caused inhalation-related infections. The Anthrax was delivered via letters mailed through the US Postal Service.”

Only a week after the September 11th terrorist attacks, several letters were mailed to news outlets in New York City and Boca Raton, Florida. These letters contained coarse brown Anthrax material, and infected several individuals who came into contact with the letters, mostly causing skin infections.

Three weeks later, two more letters were delivered to two U.S. Senators, this time containing a highly refined white powder form of Anthrax spores. This material was easily spread, and caused severe inhalational Anthrax infections in several individuals.

All told, the attacks caused 5 deaths and 17 injuries. Several victims may have never even seen the letters, and were infected after touching mailboxes or other surfaces the letters had contacted. The complete motive of the attacks remains unknown, but the letters state “09-11-01” and “DEATH TO AMERICA”, indicating possible ties to the September 11th terrorist attacks (or an attempt to misdirect investigators).

If you want to read the article in its entirety and learn more about these civilian bioterror attacks, you can do so right here.

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