The U.S. Department of Defense said on Wednesday that anthrax bacteria was shipped to laboratories in nine states and a U.S. air base in South Korea in the last year. A Pentagon spokesperson said there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public.
The anthrax was prepared at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, as part of what was described as a “routine” research process. The Anthrax was then sent out to U.S. Defense Department and commercial labs in nine states between March 2014 and March 2015. The Associated Press is reporting shipments were supposed to include only inactive anthrax but a government official confirmed that a Maryland lab received “live” Anthrax spores, and suspected the other labs did too. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman, Jason McDonald said four American civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis.
In October, 2001, five people were killed and 17 others were hospitalized when envelopes containing Anthrax bacterium spores were sent through the U.S. mail to two U.S. senators and to well known members of the media in Florida, Connecticut. Washington, D.C. and New York — just weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On October. 5, 2001, Robert Stevens 63, a photo editor from Florida was identified as the first American killed after opening a letter containing the deadly anthrax spores at the Boca Raton headquarters of American Media Inc. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suspected that a government scientist who committed suicide in 2008 was responsible in the 2001 anthrax attacks, however, no one was ever charged.
In April. 2013, the successful screening and handling of suspected Ricin laced letters addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi, was the result of a “lesson learned” following the Anthrax attacks that occurred in October, 2001 terrorist attacks. In 2005, stricter security protocol was adopted at federal mail facilities in the United States after a report on unconventional weapons by a commission concluded that al Qaeda’s biological weapons program “was extensive, well organized and operated” two years before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil.
A heated debate among scientists and academics regarding if a balance between national security and academia in scientific research is possible has grown since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Many bio-terrorism experts and scientists have expressed concern over the massive federal spending on “hot” laboratories and research projects that focus on “select agents” as potential bioterror pathogens are making it more likely that an attack could originate from “insiders.”