2-1: On Bioterrorism

Laurie Garrett’s “The Bioterrorist Next Door” discusses whether there should be more governmental regulation on publishing or performing research that could lead to the development of biological weapons. On the one hand, regulation could theoretically prevent the knowledge of how to create dangerous biological agents from falling into terrorist hands. However, the “brothers with degrees in microbiology or chemistry” that Al Qaeda asked for help could have much of the same background knowledge as the scientists who created the superflu, for instance, and could design their own research leading to the creation of a new superflu even if they did not explicitly know of the previous superflu research. It would be wise to have some sort of security regulations against publicly publishing explicit protocols for creating very lethal and/or contagious viruses and other dangerous biological agents, but in a way that would allow the scientific community to access this knowledge, possibly with a simple background check, in order to allow for research on how to defend against such viruses or agents to take place. — Rebecca