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Friday

All threats are not equal

Not all objects are designed to go boom...some are designed to spread disease.
Last week we reported on a situation involving two guys with "suspicious" devices (cell phones tapped to empty bottles, watches tapped together, knives, box cutters...over thirty items by some reports) who each missed flights, changed travel plans in mid-stream, and whose luggage continued to different destinations than they did as they're on the way to Yemin. The Dutch hold them on suspicion of plotting to commit terrorism, the U.S., not wanting to jump to conclusions, believes the situation to be a matter of coincidence. See my post Diligence or Paranoia, Profiling or Protection September 1, in Mitigation Journal.

Today, CNN.com is reporting that the Miami airport...all of the Miami airport...was closed because of a suspicious item in a travelers luggage. The man in question, arriving in Miami from Brazil, is said to have an item the looked like a pipe bomb in his suitcase. According to CNN.com, the 70-year-old man was detained (not arrested) while the bomb squad evaluated the item. The article goes on to state that nothing hazardous was found, there were no traces of explosives. This story might sound like a bit of over kill. That is until  you find out that the 70 year-old man in question has a history of imprisonment for transporting (illegally) biological agents...including plague.

With good reason we've focused on explosive devices recently. This story being reported by CNN.com is a reminder that another potential exists. The treat of biological terrorism has not been front page lately, but we have to keep in mind that biological events could kill thousands more that any given improvised explosive device. While bombs detonate (or, defligrate, for the purists) they give us a call to action...a heralding event that alerts us to the fact that something is going on. We put our guard up. We take appropriate actions and precautions.

Biological event lack that "big bang" or that heralding event. Biological agents can be spread by a variety of delivery methods and devices. Perfume bottles, aerosol spray cans...even the automatic air fresheners in the men's room at the mall. There wont be a call to action. We wont know to put up our defenses. And since most of the CDC A List biological materials will present with signs and symptoms similar to cold and flu, we probably wont know anything is going on till it's well underway.

The explosive bang is nothing compared to the biological whisper.

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