- WASHINGTON (AP) -- Warning of the dangers of terrorism, President Clinton
will order the stockpiling of antibiotics and vaccines for civilian protection
in the event of biological warfare, a senior administration official said
- Clinton will announce the order in a
commencement speech Friday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
- The main focus of the address will be
about domestic threats such as biological weapons, terrorism and possible
penetration of the Internet, said the official, insisting on anonymity.
He said Clinton will direct that adequate resources be maintained for civilians
in case of germ warfare.
- Smallpox and anthrax are considered among
the biggest potential biological weapon threats in the United States. Both
diseases incubate for several days to weeks, making it hard to spot an
outbreak even if doctors recognized early symptoms, which can mimic the
flu. Anthrax is treatable only when caught early and only the military
has a vaccine now. Americans are not vaccinated against smallpox anymore
but about 8 million vaccine doses are stockpiled. Attorney General Janet
Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told Congress last month that U.S.
cities and towns remain vulnerable to chemical and biological terrorism
despite recent efforts to improve protections.
- "We need to make sure we have a
significant stockpile -- and I don't think we do -- of vaccines and other
medications," Reno told members of the Senate intelligence and judiciary
committees. Freeh said an anthrax scare last February in Las Vegas served
as a "dress rehearsal" that taught some important lessons. Two
men were arrested Feb. 18 on suspicion of having deadly weapons-grade anthrax.
The charges were dropped five days later when the material was found to
be a veterinary vaccine.
- An administration review of how the United
States would respond to a biological or chemical weapon attack from terrorists
has been under way for about a year.
- Concern swelled among U.S. officials
in March 1995, when a Japanese cult carried out a lethal nerve gas attack
on the subway in Tokyo, killing 12 and injuring 5,000. Later that year,
Iraq admitted having built a large arsenal of biological weapons -- and
had been ready to use it four years earlier during the Gulf War.