Beyond Anthrax: Extremists and the Bioterrorism Threat

  • May 13, 2013

Read ADL's comprehensive report, Beyond Anthrax:  Extremists and the Bioterrorism Threat

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, the nation has been victimized by a different but equally troubling sort of assault: a deliberate attempt to cause fear and panic by using anthrax as a weapon. Over 30 people in Florida, New York, and Washington, D.C., have been exposed to the anthrax bacillus, with multiple confirmed cases and several deaths, making it the largest human outbreak of anthrax in U.S. history. In addition, these genuine anthrax incidents have been accompanied by a wave of anthrax hoaxes and panics, compounding fear and anxiety.

Little evidence has so far emerged that points unambiguously toward or away from any particular source for the anthrax attacks. Law enforcement agencies continue to explore possibilities ranging from international terrorists to domestic extremists to non-ideological sociopaths. The domestic source theory interests many, particularly because right-wing extremists in America have occasionally demonstrated interest in biological and chemical agents.

Anthrax is a serious concern even in its naturally occurring form, but during the course of the 20th century it took on an even more ominous shape as a biological weapon. Its very lethality made it attractive to scientists and military specialists attempting to develop biological agents. Today, anthrax has emerged as a powerful tool in the arsenal of terrorists with the aim of spreading fear and panic across the country.