- NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite an enormous federal effort to prepare for
a biological terrorist attack, a pretend germ warfare attack last month
showed the government is unprepared to deal with such a crisis, the New
York Times reported Sunday.
- The secret drill simulated a small pox
hybrid virus that was dropped along the Mexican-American border. Officials
who participated in the drill soon found themselves arguing as they were
overwhelmed by a panicked population, short of the right antibiotics and
vaccines, hampered by antiquated quarantine laws and unable to get trained,
immunized medical staff to the area, the Times said.
- Officials said the drill was part of
an ongoing effort by President Clinton to increase the U.S. readiness to
deal with a terrorist attack.
- The Times said that Clinton has developed
a great personal interest in the possibility of a biological attack and
even had his staff investigate the credibility of "The Cobra Event,"
a book about a terrorist attack on New York City which particularly alarmed
- On April 10, just after working through
most of the night on the Irish peace accord, Clinton met with a panel of
experts he had convened to brief him on biological weapons. He also asked
them to prepare a report suggesting ways the government could be better
prepared to detect and deter a biological attack, the Times said.
- The report, expected to be submitted
this week, suggests stockpiling antidotes, vaccines and antibiotics and
setting up mechanisms to make large quantities in a hurry, the Times reported.
The experts also recommended strengthening the public health sector and
streamlining the government processes for detecting and managing a biological
crises, the Times said.
- Experts widely disagreed on the likelihood
of such an attack, the Times said.
- In 1995 Clinton signed a Presidential
Decision Directive that said the United States has "no higher priority"
than stopping terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the
- This week Clinton is expected to sign
two new directives that provide a sweeping plan for dealing with chemical,
biological or computer-related weapons, the Times said.
- The directives had created a fight in
the administration with the Defense and Justice Departments objecting to
the creation a powerful anti-terrorist government agency, the Times said.
The current directives create a "national coordinator" with limited
staff and no direct budget but the wide-ranging powers to handle government
disputes and initiate action, the Times said.
- Richard Clarke, now Clinton's special
assistant for global affairs, is expected to become the first national
coordinator, the Times said.