Contamination of Street Drugs:
After the World Trade Center was reduced to rubble on September 11 and now that the Pentagon has a major hole in one side of it, we?re all waiting for the next shoe to drop. Most of us are worried about contaminants being dropped from the air or slipped into water supplies. But future attacks may not come from such obvious sources.
A government spokesman recently warned that they are worried about tainted heroin from poppies grown in Afghanistan being shipped to drug addicts in the U.S. Something like this actually happened in Scotland a year ago, where 23 drug users died after injecting contaminated heroin. More than 40 people across the U.K. and Ireland are also believed to have died after taking the drug.
Doctors investigating the outbreak, which also affected drug users in the Liverpool and Dublin, described an ?unprecedented outbreak of severe illness? among 60 users in Scotland, mostly in Glasgow, between April and August 2000. It is still not known how the heroin was contaminated, although the bacterium was identified as clostridium novyi.
All of the victims developed a serious abscess after they had injected into muscle or accidentally outside a vein. Most addicts inject into their veins and oxygen in their blood kills the bacterium in the heroin. But there is no oxygen in muscles, meaning the poison could grown unnoticed. The Glasgow health board?s Dr. Syed Ahmed said, ?This is the first ever outbreak anywhere in the world.?
A special police unit was established to deal with the deaths and medical experts from the United States were called in to help track down the cause. Doctors initially feared the illness was anthrax but ruled that possibility out after tests at the government?s chemical weapons research center.
Most street drugs are accessible to contamination, but it would, of course, be far harder to damage legitimate pharmaceuticals because of the quality controls involved in their manufacture.
Stealth Nuclear Terrorism.
Another potential danger comes from electromagnetic pulse?a powerful, split-second wave of energy from a nuclear bomb. You wouldn?t need to detonate a big bomb or actually destroy any major cities in order to do major damage to our infrastructure.
As recently as 1999, Congress was warned that detonating a relatively small, 10-kiloton nuclear bomb over the U.S. would produce a burst of energy equal to 10,000 tons of TNT. Such a burst, sometimes referred to as an EMP, could yield tens of thousands of volts of energy and cause widespread damage to computer chips and electronic equipment. The phenomenon could cripple an economy like ours, which is dependent on computer networks and electronic communication systems. The damage from burnout or overloads on electrical circuits would extend far beyond the area directly affected by the blast and radiation.
Some of the last full-scale nuclear weapons tests conducted in 1992 at the Nevada Test Site northwest of Las Vegas were designed to protect or ?harden? military systems against electronic failure in a nuclear exchange. However, little of that preventive technology has been applied to civilian equipment. ?I don?t think there has been any significant effort to harden the private sector against electromagnetic pulse,? says John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a defense and intelligence policy organization based near Washington, D.C.
Officials with Nevada Power Company and the Southern Nevada Water Authority say their electrical systems have no protections against EMP. ?We did not design our system with that in mind,? Nevada Power spokeswoman Sonya Headen says. ?To our knowledge, there isn?t any utility in the country that was designed to withstand EMP.?
Pike says the risk to FAA systems from electromagnetic pulse is probably classified. However, government scientists have discussed the issue of potential EMP damage on military and civilian systems during congressional meetings.
Lowell Wood, a physicist from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, told a House Armed Services subcommittee in October 1999 that nuclear warheads on a kiloton scale can have a greater EMP threat than nuclear warheads on the megaton scale. He told the subcommittee in 1997 that civilian passenger jets are also at risk?particularly at night, when they could be lost without communications, landing beacons and runway lights.
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