Former Homeland Security head warns of bioterror threat

Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff recently spoke to students and faculty on the campus of Wellesley College about the future of global terrorism.

Chertoff said that the United States would have to deal with two major threat areas in the future - biological attacks and cyber threats.

"A major biological attack in this country could be an existential event," Chertoff said, according to the Wellesley Patch. “The clock is ticking.”

Chertoff served as secretary  of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009. He replaced Tom Ridge and was succeeded by Janet Napolitano.

On October 7, two former White House advisors, Joel McCleary and Mark Medish, wrote an open letter published in the Washington Times that urged lawmakers to heed warnings about the threat of biological weapons.

The pair argued that biological weapons can be just as effective as nuclear weapons, but that it is simply easier to understand the damage that nuclear  weapons can cause.

“As for bioweapons, there are, fortunately, no battlefield data,” the Washington Times letter said. “There has been no biological Hiroshima.

“A related obstacle to a clear understanding of biological weapons is simple illiteracy,” the letter continues. “Our national security leadership is a generation removed from education in modern microbiology and therefore ill-equipped to grasp how biological weapons could work.”