Thursday, May 14, 2009

Not the field for contention

President Obama has chosen Tara O'Toole for undersecretary for the science and technology directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, but there are plenty of people who think she's not qualified.


"She's a bad choice," George Smith, a protein chemist and senior fellow at, told "Her predictions on biotoerrorism don't seem to be based on any reality I share."

"This is an administration that claims that it is looking for rational fact-based policies," said Milton Leitenberg, a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland. "If so, this person is a catastrophic appointment."


That's not really the type of field where you want to have your peers telling the press that you're a "catastrophic appointment." That won't make Americans sleep well at night.

But Richard Ebright, a microbiologist and homeland security policy critic at Rutgers University, told that O'Toole helped put a response in place after the 2001 anthrax attack that "has dramatically increased the risk of further attack of the same nature" -- because more people are working with biological agents in U.S. laboratories.

He noted that since 2001, more than 400 institutions and 15,000 individuals have been authorized to handle deadly agents, calling the response "irrational" and "counterproductive."

I would have to agree. When you allow more people to access to biological or chemical weapons, then you will inevitably lose some control of them. Losing any degree of control with weapons grade agent is stupid, and is bound to result in something. . . catastrophic.

What really troubles me is that one of O'Toole's supporters unknowingly agrees with me:

"There's so much information he [Ebright] doesn't have access to," Larsen told, arguing that the threat of bioterrorism is real, even if Al Qaeda terrorists lack the sophistication to produce those weapons. "We're not worried about some guy in a cave making a biological agent. We're worried about a biologist becoming a terrorist."
So he's defending O'Toole's plan that drastically expanded the number of people who handle biological weapons, and then says that he's worried about a biologist using the bio agent for nefarious purposes. What could go wrong?

The solution to this conundrum is to. . . . . . .hire more scientists, give them access to weapons grade Anthrax, and task them to find out what to do in case a rogue scientist who has been given access to weapons grade Anthrax decides to go postal!!

I feel safer already!

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