Legal Impediments to Surveillance for Biological Threats and Countering Terrorism

Abstract — The law observes jurisdictional boundaries as well as national and state boundaries, unlike biological agents. The threat of biological agents cannot be successfully controlled through surveillance technologies without removing the current impediments to a national public health approach. Public health law, traditionally and constitutionally a reserved power of the states, leaves our national defense as a combination of fifty, independently administered spheres of activity, designed by each state. However, the U.S. Constitution through a reading of The FederalistPapers, opens the door to a Congressional solution. The lack of coordination at the national level, coupled with the federalism issues has left us with no system at all.

Citation: Sutton, Legal Impediments to Surveillance for Biological Threats and Countering Terrorism, Selected paper presentation, BTR 2002 Proceedings, Unifed Science & Technology for Reducing Biological Threats & Countering Terrorism, sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories, The University of New Mexico and The University of Texas at Austin, Albuquerque, NM, March 15, 2002.

Texas Tech University
Publish Date:

Life Sciences and Related Fields: Trends Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention

During the last decade, national and international scientific organizations have become increasingly engaged in considering how to respond to the biosecurity implications of developments in the life sciences and in assessing trends in science and technology (S&T) relevant to biological and chemical weapons nonproliferation. The latest example is an international workshop, Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention, held October 31 – November 3, 2010 at the Institute of Biophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Life Sciences and Related Fields summarizes the workshop, plenary, and breakout discussion sessions held during this convention. Given the immense diversity of current research and development, the report is only able to provide an overview of the areas of science and technology the committee believes are potentially relevant to the future of the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BWC), although there is an effort to identify areas that seemed particularly ripe for further exploration and analysis. The report offers findings and conclusions organized around three fundamental and frequently cited trends in S&T that affect the scope and operation of the convention:

– The rapid pace of change in the life sciences and related fields;
– The increasing diffusion of life sciences research capacity and its applications, both internationally and beyond traditional research institutions; and
– The extent to which additional scientific and technical disciplines beyond biology are increasingly involved in life sciences research.

The report does not make recommendations about policy options to respond to the implications of the identified trends. The choice of such responses rests with the 164 States Parties to the Convention, who must take into account multiple factors beyond the project’s focus on the state of the science.

Committee on Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention: An International Workshop; National Research Council; in cooperation with Chinese Academy of Sciences, IAP--The Global Network of Science Academies; International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; International Union of Microbiological Sciences
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November 2011

Live Variola Virus: Considerations for Continuing Research

Smallpox was a devastating disease that plagued humankind throughout history. Its eradication in 1980 was a monumental achievement for the global health com­munity. All acknowledged stocks of variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, or materials that might contain the virus, have been transferred to two World Health Organization approved repositories. During the period since eradication, the World Health Assembly (WHA) has debated whether to retain or destroy these stocks of live variola virus. This question will be reconsidered in 2010.

In anticipation of this decision, the IOM was asked to revisit the question of sci­entific needs for live variola virus. The Committee on As­sessment of Future Scientific Needs for Live Variola Virus was not asked to consider whether existing variola virus stocks should be maintained or destroyed. Instead, the committee re­viewed research that has been accomplished since 1999 and focused on uses of the live variola virus that would be essential or useful but not as critical. Overall, the commit­tee concludes that the development of medical countermeasures against this deadly pathogen—including therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostic tools—remains an impor­tant and essential need because of the potential for an accidental or deliberate release.

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
Publish Date:
July 10, 2009

Mass Prophylaxis Dispensing Concerns: Traffic and Public Access to PODs Mass Prophylaxis Dispensing Concerns: Traffic and Public Access to PODs

The ability to quickly dispense postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) using multiple points of dispensing (PODs) following a bioterrorism event could potentially save a large proportion of those who were exposed, while failure in PEP dispensing could have dire public health consequences. A Monte Carlo simulation was developed to explore the traffic flow and parking around PODs under different arrival rates and how these factors might affect the utilization rate of POD workers. The results demonstrate that the public can reasonably access the PODs under ideal conditions assuming a stationary (uniform) arrival rate. For the 5 nonstationary arrival rates tested, however, the available parking spaces quickly become filled, causing long traffic queues and resulting in total processing times that range from 1 hour to over 6 hours. Basic planning considerations should include the use of physical barriers, signage, and traffic control officers to help direct vehicular and pedestrian access to the PODs. Furthermore, the parking and traffic surrounding PODs creates long queues of people waiting to access the PODs. Thus, POD staff are fully used approximately 90% of the time, which can lead to worker fatigue and burn out.

Prasith Baccam, David Willauer, Justin Krometis, Yongchang Ma, Atri Sen, and Michael Boechler
Publish Date:
May 25, 2011

Medical Countermeasures Against Weapons of Mass Destruction

Presidential Directive
Homeland Security Presidential Directive 18 (HSPD-18)
Signed: January 31, 2007

“It is the policy of the United States to draw upon the considerable potential of the scientific community in the public and private sectors to address our medical countermeasure requirements relating to CBRN threats. Our Nation will use a two‑tiered approach for development and acquisition of medical countermeasures, which will balance the immediate need to provide a capability to mitigate the most catastrophic of the current CBRN threats with long-term requirements to develop more flexible, broader spectrum countermeasures to address future threats. Our approach also will support regulatory decisions and will permit us to address the broadest range of current and future CBRN threats.”