Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 5

12/11/2014

Like

EvaluatingEbolaasaBiologicalWeapon|Stratfor

996

Tweet

373

Tweet

373

Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon


SecurityWeekly OCTOBER23,2014|08:00GMTPrint TextSize

ByScottStewart
Overthepastfewweeks,I'vehad
peopleatspeakingengagements
askmeifIthoughttheIslamic
Stateorsomeothermilitantgroup
isusingEbolaasabiological
weapon,orifsuchagroupcould
dosointhefuture.Suchquestions
andconcernsarenotsurprising
giventheintensemediahypethat
surroundsthedisease,even
thoughonlyonepersonhasdied
fromEbolaoutofthethree
confirmedcasesintheUnited
States.ThemediahypeaboutthethreatposedbytheIslamicStatetotheUnitedStatesandtheWestis
almostasbad.BothsubjectsofallthishypewerecombinedintoatidypackageonOct.20,whenthe
WashingtonPostpublishedaneditorialbycolumnistMarkThiesseninwhichheclaimeditwouldbeeasyfora
groupsuchastheIslamicStatetouseEbolainaterroristattack.DespiteThiessen'sclaims,usingEbolaasa
biologicalwarfareagentismuchmoredifficultthanitmightappearatfirstblush.

The 2014 Outbreak


Inthepast,therehavebeenseveraloutbreaksofEbolainAfrica.CountriesincludedSudan,Uganda,the
RepublicoftheCongoandtheDemocraticRepublicoftheCongo,andseveralcomparativelysmalloutbreaks
occurredinGabonaswell.Inmostcases,peoplewhohandledorateanimalsinfectedwiththedisease
startedtheoutbreaks."Bushmeat,"orportionsofroastedmeatfromavarietyofwildanimals,isconsideredby
manytobeadelicacyinAfrica,andinacontinentwherehungeriswidespread,itisalsoanecessityformany
hungrypeople.Afterseveralmonthsofmedicalinvestigations,epidemiologistsbelievethecurrentoutbreak
mostlikelybeganwhenatwoyearoldchildinGuineatouchedorperhapsatepartofaninfectedanimalsuch
asabatormonkey.
Thesourceofthediseasemeansitishighlyunlikelythatsomemalevolentactorintentionallycausedthelatest
outbreak.Besidesthefactthatthecurrentoutbreak'scausehasbeenidentifiedasanaturalone,evenifa
transnationalmilitantgroupsuchastheIslamicStatewasabletosomehowdevelopanEbolaweapon,it
wouldhavechosentodeploytheweaponagainstafarmoredesirabletargetthanasmallvillageinGuinea.
WewouldhaveseenthemilitantsusetheirweaponinalocationsuchasNewYork,ParisorLondon,or
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/evaluatingebolabiologicalweapon#axzz3LYI2zVeV

1/5

12/11/2014

EvaluatingEbolaasaBiologicalWeapon|Stratfor

againsttheirlocalenemiesinSyriaandIraq.
Asfarasintentgoes,thereisverylittledoubtthatsuchagroupwouldemployabiologicalweapon.Aswe
notedlastmonthwhentherewasincreasedtalkabouttheIslamicStatepossiblyweaponizingplaguefora
biologicalattack,terroristattacksareintendedtohaveapsychologicalimpactthatoutweighsthephysical
damagetheycause.TheIslamicStateitselfhasalonghistoryofconductingbrutalactionstofosterpanic.
In2006and2007,theIslamicState'spredecessor,alQaedainIraq,includedlargequantitiesofchlorinein
vehiclebombsdeployedagainstU.S.andIraqitroopsinanattempttoproducemasscasualties.The
explosivesinthevehiclebombskilledmorepeoplethanthechlorinedid,andafterseveralunsuccessful
attempts,alQaedainIraqgaveuponitschlorinebombingsbecausetheresultswerenotworththeeffort.Al
QaedainIraqalsoincludedchemicalartilleryroundsinimprovisedexplosivedevicesusedinattacksagainst
AmericantroopsinIraqonseveraloccasions.Again,theseattacksfailedtoproducemasscasualties.Finally,
accordingtohumanrightsorganizations,theIslamicStateappearstohaverecentlyusedsomeartillery
roundscontainingmustardgasagainstitsenemiesinSyriathegrouppresumablyrecoveredtheroundsfrom
aformerSaddamerachemicalweaponsfacilityinIraqorfromSyrianstockpiles.
Theproblem,then,liesnotwiththeIslamicState'sintentbutinsteadwithitscapabilitytoobtainand
weaponizetheEbolavirus.Creatingabiologicalweaponisfarmoredifficultthanusingachemicalsuchas
chlorineormanufacturedchemicalmunitions.Contrarytohowthemediafrequentlyportraysthem,biological
weaponsarenoteasytoobtain,theyarenoteasytodeployeffectivelyandtheydonotalwayscausemass
casualties.

The Difficulty of Weaponization


Ebolaandterrorismarenotnew.NoristhepossibilityofterroristgroupsusingtheEbolavirusinanattack.As
wehavepreviouslynoted,theJapanesecultAumShinrikyoattemptedtoobtaintheEbolavirusaspartofits
biologicalwarfareprogram.ThegroupsentamedicalteamtoAfricaunderthepretextofbeingaidworkers
withtheintentofobtainingsamplesofthevirus.Itfailedinthatmission,butevenifithadsucceeded,the
groupwouldhavefacedthechallengeofgettingthesamplebacktoitsbiologicalwarfarelaboratoryinJapan.
TheEbolavirusisrelativelyfragile.Itslifetimeondrysurfacesoutsideofahostisonlyacoupleofhours,and
whilesomestudieshaveshownthattheviruscansurviveonsurfacesfordayswhenstillinbodilyfluids,this
requiresidealconditionsthatwouldbedifficulttoreplicateduringtransport.
Ifthegrouphadbeenabletogetthevirusbacktoitslaboratory,itwouldhavethenfacedthechallengeof
reproducingtheEbolaviruswithenoughvolumetobeusedinalargescalebiologicalwarfareattack,similar
toitsfailedattacksonTokyoandotherJapanesecitiesinwhichthegroupsprayedthousandsofgallonsof
botulinumtoxinandAnthraxspores.ReproducingtheEbolaviruswouldpresentadditionalchallenges
becauseitisanextremelydangerousvirustoworkwith.Ithasinfectedresearchers,evenwhentheywere
workinginlaboratorieswithadvancedbiosafetymeasuresinplace.AlthoughAumShinrikyohadalargestaff
oftrainedscientistsandastateoftheartbiologicalweaponslaboratory,itwasstillunabletoeffectively
weaponizethevirus.
ThechallengesAumShinrikyo'sbiologicalweaponsprogramfacedwouldbemultipliedfortheIslamicState.
AumShinrikyooperativesweregivenagreatdealofoperationalfreedomuntiltheirplanswerediscovered
afterthe1995sarinattacksontheTokyosubway.(Thegroup'spreviousbiologicalweaponsattackswereso
unsuccessfulthatnobodyknewtheyhadbeencarriedoutuntilafteritsmemberswerearrestedandits
chemicalandbiologicalweaponsfactorieswereraided.)UnliketheJapanesecult,theIslamicState'severy
moveisunderheavyscrutinybymostoftheworld'sintelligenceandsecurityagencies.Thismeansjihadist
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/evaluatingebolabiologicalweapon#axzz3LYI2zVeV

2/5

12/11/2014

EvaluatingEbolaasaBiologicalWeapon|Stratfor

operativeswouldhavefarmoredifficultyassemblingthepersonnelandequipmentneededtoconstructa
biologicalweaponslaboratory.SincerandomlyencounteringaninfectedEbolapatientwouldbeunreliable,
thegroupwouldhavetotraveltoacountryimpactedbytheoutbreak.Thiswouldbeadifficulttaskforthe
grouptocompletewithoutdrawingattentiontoitself.Furthermore,oncegroupmembersreachedtheinfected
countries,theywouldhavetoenterquarantinedareasofmedicalfacilities,retrievethesamplesandthen
escapethecountryunnoticed,sincetheycouldnotcountonrandomlyencounteringaninfectedEbolapatient.
EvenifIslamicStateoperativesweresomehowabletoaccomplishallofthiswithoutkillingthemselvesin
theprocessEbolaisnotanidealbiologicalwarfarevector.Thevirusishardtopassfrompersontoperson.
Infact,onaverage,itsbasicreproductiverate(theaverageamountofpeoplethatareinfectedbyanEbola
patient)isonlybetweenoneandtwopeople.Therearefarmoreinfectiousdiseasessuchasmeasles,which
hasabasicreproductiverateof1218,orsmallpox,whichhasabasicreproductiverateoffivetoseven.Even
HIV,whichisonlypassedviasexualcontactorintravenousbloodtransmission,hasabasicreproductiverate
oftwotofive.

Ebola's Weakness as a Weapon


TheEboladiseaseisalsosomewhatslowtotakeeffect,andinfectedindividualsdonotbecomesymptomatic
andcontagiousforanaverageof810days.Thedisease'sfullincubationperiodcanlastanywherefromtwo
to21days.Asacomparison,influenza,whichcanbetransmittedasquicklyasthreedaysafterbeing
contracted,canbespreadbeforesymptomsbeginshowing.ThismeansthatanEbolaattackwouldtake
longertospreadandwouldbeeasiertocontainbecauseinfectedpeoplewouldbeeasiertoidentify.
BesidesthefactthatEbolacanonlybepassedthroughthebodilyfluidsofapersonshowingsymptomsatthe
time,thevirusinthosebodilyfluidsmustalsosomehowbypasstheprotectionofaperson'sskin.The
infectiousfluidmustenterthebodythroughacutorabrasion,orcomeintocontactwiththemucus
membranesintheeyes,noseormouth.Thisisdifferentfrommorecontagiousviruseslikemeaslesand
smallpox,whichareairbornevirusesanddonotrequireanydirectcontactortransferofbodilyfluids.
Additionally,theEbolavirusisquitefragileandsensitivetolight,heatandlowhumidityenvironments,and
bleachandothercommondisinfectantscankillit.Thismeansitisdifficulttospreadthevirusbycontaminating
surfaceswithit.TheonlywaytoinfectalargeamountofpeoplewithEbolawouldbetospraythemwithafluid
containingthevirus,somethingthatwouldbedifficulttodoandeasilydetectable.
Thiessen'spiecesuggestedthattheIslamicStatemightimplementanattackstrategyofinfectingsuicide
operativeswithEbolaandthenhavingthemblowthemselvesupinacrowdedplace,sprayingpeoplewith
infectedbodilyfluids.Oneproblemwiththisscenarioisthatitwouldbeextremelydifficulttogetaninfected
operativefromthegroup'slaboratorytotheUnitedStateswithoutbeingdetected.Aswehavediscussed
elsewhere,jihadistgroupshavestruggledtogetoperativestotheWesttoconductconventionalterrorist
attacksusinggunsandbombs,aconstraintthatwouldalsoaffecttheirabilitytodeployabiologicalweapon.
Evenifahostilegroupdidmangetogetanoperativeinplace,itwouldstillfaceseveralimportantobstacles.
BythetimeEbolapatientsarehighlycontagious,theyarenormallyveryillandbedriddenwithhighfever,
fatigue,vomitinganddiarrhea,meaningtheyarenotstrongenoughtowalkintoacrowdedarea.Theheat
andshockofthesuicidedevice'sexplosionwouldlikelykillmostofthevirus.Anyonecloseenoughtobe
exposedtotheviruswouldalsolikelybeinjuredbytheblastandtakentoahospital,wheretheywouldthen
bequarantinedandtreatedforthevirus.
Biologicalweaponslookgreatinthemovies,buttheyaredifficultandexpensivetodevelopinreallife.Thatis
whywehaverarelyseenthemusedinterroristattacks.Aswehavenotedforadecadenow,jihadistscankill
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/evaluatingebolabiologicalweapon#axzz3LYI2zVeV

3/5

12/11/2014

EvaluatingEbolaasaBiologicalWeapon|Stratfor

farmorepeoplewithfarlessexpenseandeffortbyutilizingtraditionalterroristtactics,whichmakesthethreat
ofasuccessfulattackusingtheEbolavirusextremelyunlikely.

Sendusyourthoughtsonthisreport.
Like

996

Tweet

373

Tweet

373

Reprintingorrepublicationofthisreportonwebsitesisauthorizedbyprominentlydisplayingthefollowing
sentence,includingthehyperlinktoStratfor,atthebeginningorendofthereport.
"EvaluatingEbolaasaBiologicalWeaponisrepublishedwithpermissionofStratfor."
Simplycopyandpastethiscode:
"<ahref="http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/evaluatingebolabiologicalweapon">EvaluatingEbolaasa
BiologicalWeapon</a>isrepublishedwithpermissionofStratfor."

ARTICLE AUTHOR

Scott Stewart
ScottStewartsupervisesStratfor'sanalysisofterrorismandsecurityissues.BeforejoiningStratfor,hewasa
specialagentwiththeU.S.StateDepartmentfor10yearsandwasinvolvedinhundredsofterrorism
investigations.

View Full Biography

Get our FREE weekly Intelligence Reports


EnterYourEmailAddress
GET REPORTS!

Join over 350,000 readers on our FREE intel reports list.


Wewillneversellorshareyouremailaddressorinformationwithanyone.

EDITOR'S CHOICE

Mexico's Normalista Protests Threaten to Spread

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/evaluatingebolabiologicalweapon#axzz3LYI2zVeV

4/5

12/11/2014

EvaluatingEbolaasaBiologicalWeapon|Stratfor

Lower Oil Prices Carry Geopolitical Consequences

Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/evaluatingebolabiologicalweapon#axzz3LYI2zVeV

FREE

FREE

5/5