Expert warns of bioattack on U.S. cattle industry

According to a terrorism expert, a low-tech biological attack on the cattle industry of the United States using virulent foot and mouth disease may be a simple way for terrorists to damage the economy.

According to an article in the FBI's Law Enforcement Bulletin, Dean Olsen, a former commander of the Douglas County Sherriff's Department in Omaha, Neb., said that agroterrorism has become more attractive to terrorists dealing with dwindling resources and leadership. Such an attack would lead to major economic stress, but would be relatively simple and cheap to implement, Government Security News reports.

"Every level of the food chain, including farms, feedlots, chemical storage facilities, meatpacking plants, and distribution operations, remains vulnerable to agroterrorism," Olsen said, according to Government Security News.

Olsen, who participated in the regional Joint Terrorism Task Force before his retirement in 2008, recommended that law enforcement agencies put plans into place to prevent such attacks before they happen. He said that experts agree that foot and mouth disease, which can affect cloven hoofed animals like deer, pigs, sheep and cattle, is the most ominous threat to the food chain in the U.S.

Olsen said that an outbreak could be spread to 25 states in five days when animals are moved from one farm to another. He warned that law enforcement officers investigating livestock thefts should look at them from an agroterror perspective and that such incidents should be reported to their state intelligence fusion centers or threat-integration centers.