Sen. Jim Talent testifies at subcommittee hearing on bioterrorism

Jim Talent, senior fellow of the American Enterprise Institute and former senator | Courtesy of AEI
Former Sen. Jim Talent gave testimony at a hearing called by the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communication on Wednesday, which focused on strategy for the potential threat of bioterrorism.

Talent spoke of how biological weapons, according to him, pose a greater threat to the nation than other kinds of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Talent co-chaired the commission that was tasked with the study of the danger these threats pose and what could be down to minimize damage. He worked with former Sen. Bob Graham.

In a report they released they state that terror organizations have pursued weaponization of biological agents in the past. He cites a memoir from former CIA Director George Tent. Tent stated that Al-Qaeda attempted to obtain anthrax for use in a mass attack. They set up a biological laboratory and hired Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian Army Officer who studied microbiology at California State University, Sacramento.

Talent goes on to say that biological agents are easier to obtain than nuclear weapons since they occur naturally. With scientific progress that has come with medical science advances, a person skilled in biological science can collect a sample from a sick person and be able to be isolated with the right tools.

He also explains that these kinds of threats are easier to transport than nuclear warheads and could not easily be detected. Even naturally occurring epidemics can cause immense amounts of panic and fear as the international community saw in the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.

While the report he and Graham created might be outdated, rising concern comes from decreasing activity in preparedness measure development, Talent said in closing.