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Anthrax Disease in the News paper * Jenny Abarca * University Of Phoenix * HCS 330 * Professor: Jeff Kuhr, Ph.D.
University of Phoenix

Anthrax: The Deadly Terror
It is difficult to imagine that one’s own governmental agencies may have played a role in releasing among it is own citizens one of the deadliest viruses known to humankind. Such is the affirmation made by Thomas L. Rempfer in his 2009 controversial article entitled “The Anthrax Vaccine: A Dilemma for Homeland Security”. His argument essentially relies on the thesis that both the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Resources orchestrated an irrational climate of fear among the American people in which their vulnerability to anthrax and other potential terrorist was highlighted and presented as an issue of national security (2009). The primary reason for such shocking actions by these trusted and respected US institutions was to justify the continued testing of an anthrax vaccination that was imposed on American soldiers as part a mandatory anthrax vaccine immunization program (2009). According to Rempfer, the army and the Department of Defense officials believed that only the threat of an anthrax epidemic would force the government to reconsider closing the mandatory testing of the vaccine on the reluctant soldiers. He argues that the Department of Defense, as well as the Department of Health and Human Resources, played an unintentional role in the highly publicized 2001 anthrax attacks in which random individuals were targeted through the postal system.

Scholars disagree on the actual causes of the anthrax scare. Some focus their reasons around national security concerns prompted by 2001, and there are those who agree with Rempfer that various governmental agencies collaborated and actually introduced the deadly virus to the American people. One scholar who supports the idea of governmental responsibility in the deadly attacks and potential spread of the virus is Leonard Horowitz who in his 2002 article entitled The CIA Role in the Anthrax Mailings: Could our Spies Be Agents for Military Industrial Sabotage, Terrorism and Even Population Control?” believes that it was this agency who hired Americans, in particular professionals such as scientist, to undertake espionage related duties that led to American committing terrorist attacks against their own nation. Horowitz believed that the CIA would engage in such activities in order to instill a fear of terrorism in the minds and hearts of the American people. Although, both scholars agree on the idea of governmental agency complicity, including the military, they disagree on which governmental agencies and military arm holds primary responsibility for re-introducing the deadly bacteria unto American soil.

Of the two scholars, the Rempfer article appears more credible in several regards. First, many people are not interested in and do not believe in conspiracy theories and therefore are not likely to accept unsubstantiated arguments against their government that also have an unpleasant taste of anti-patriotism. Rempfer supports his arguments by providing the more critical in-depth argument for military involvement that is also logical and sustainable. Secondly, he is less dependent on a conspiratorial thesis than Horowitz, the latter of whom makes an unlikely assumption that covert activities could secretly be occurring in the backyards of CIA and other governmental agencies without their knowledge; a highly unlikely possibility (2002).
Third, Rempfer article is of interest to governmental officials as it is published on the Homeland Security Affairs website which provides undisputable credibility to Rempfer arguments. Hence, it is readily accessible to scholars, and military and other governmental officials alike. Finally, he has a distinguished military history that is in itself a statement of his patriotism and loyalty to the American government. Rempfer is a Lieutenant Colone, an Air force Command Pilot and a “distinguished” graduate of the U.S. Air force Academy. Additionally, he has he has testified before the White House and Congress providing evidence of military interest in the continued testing of the Anthrax vaccine through the army’s mandatory anthrax vaccine immunization program.

Rempfer in his article focuses primarily on how the American people became vulnerable to the spread of the anthrax bacteria when the two governmental agencies, the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Defense made a decision to create a social panic surrounding the virus in order to build solid support for the Army’s mandatory vaccine program. He argues first, that during the 2001 anthrax postal letter incidents the usual security measures were not in place by either governmental agencies and that it was they who re-introduced what was to be a limited use of the anthrax vaccine, BioTrax (2009). According to Rempfer it was the joint responsibilities of these two agencies based on a presidential directive to determine which vaccines and drugs were to be preserved. As such, large quantities of the drug were available in what was called the Strategic National Stockpile to be used in cases of emergency as a prophylaxis for American citizens. However, there were major conflicts and discrepancies within the departments such as regulatory problems and ethical conflicts that resulted in the deception of national security threats in order to justify the vaccine testing according to over site reviews (2009). Secondly, he suggests that the resistance by soldiers who were used like test rats to determine the vaccines effectiveness could have led to the program closure, and according to Rempfer it became the Defense Department’s primary goal to further their right to test the vaccine immunization inspire of the soldier’s opposition. He further argues that in this regard, the 2002 anthrax postal scare may have been an intentional effort by the Defense Department; based on their history with anthrax; to create social and political panic, fear and to instill a sense of urgency that America may be under an anthrax terrorist attack. Oversight reviews, according to Rempfer suggested such a pattern did exist within the fabric of the Department. Third, he argued that the vaccine that the army wanted to keep was old and it may have been ineffective in protecting against anthrax which is another strong argument in favor of the program’s closure. BioTrax had previously been limited, but not banned by the Bush Administration in 2001 when soldiers became ill as a result of the vaccination. It had also been used in the Gulf War and in the 1950’s. In addition to the ineffectiveness of the vaccine, Rempfer also makes the argument that legally it has never been proven that it even fights the anthrax bacteria. Fourth, it is within this context the Defense department attempted to fuel the insecurities of 9/11 and gain support for their program by creating a false sense of security vulnerability.

The strategy of fear was designed to pressure the federal government into compliance with the wishes of the Department of Defense and the Army. Continuation of the program, Rempfer argues, essentially would lead to further testing of ineffective vaccines and possibly lead to new anthrax vaccines they may be equally useless. From their point of view, it was through the anthrax postal incidents that justification could possibly be merited.
Rempfer discusses the importance of understanding the Defense Department’s misuse and manipulation of the term “potential threat” whenever they need to justify unpopular policies and practices or unlawful and unethical conduct as somewhat say occurred in justification of the Iraq war under George W. Bush. Finally, the author concludes his article with the argument that some positive has resulted as it has helped ignite better medical assessments under new leadership of the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services that is currently taking place under the President Barack Obama’s administration. It is their goal to create new and effective vaccines against anthrax.

Many Americans, especially after the terrorist attacks of 2001, have been concerned not only about national security, but have not felt the same level of safety provided to them by their nation that they had become accustomed. Although, there have not been any newly reported incidents of an anthrax threat by health officials since the bacteria became popularized through a serious of post office incidents in 2002, it nonetheless remains a mysterious national and personal threat in the eyes of many (Rempfer 2009). However, because there has not been a reported case in 8 years it is not considered by governmental officials and relevant agencies to be a current threat to the United States (Rempfer 2009).

There are a lot of misconceptions about anthrax; in particular, how it is spreads through the human population. According to Rempfer, it is a deadly blood disease, but unlike aids, tuberculosis or even the common cold, it is not spread through direct human contact (Hyde 2001). Hoofed animals, such cows, have historically been the vehicle for the spread of the disease. Interestingly, although it cannot be spread through human contact it can be transmitted to humans from animals infected by the disease through blood, discharges and growth (Hyde 2001). Unlike some of the diseases seen in the past, it is classified by the health officials as a sporadic disease since it cannot be spread by casual human contact. Rempfer states that governmental agencies may have played a role in further misleading Americans into believing that anthrax was an epidemic type disease in which they were at risk of contracting from human contact.

With the 9/11 attacks fresh in their minds, the postal incidents in which anthrax was spread through mail to inspecting people made it easier for those who had such an interest to convince citizens that they were now under the threat of a virtually unknown and deadly epidemic called anthrax. The case of the army scientist who is believed to be the person that spread the bacteria by contaminating letters delivered through the postal system is the primary incident that brought anthrax to the attention of the average American. Many people were unfamiliar with the bacteria until this occurrence and it was for the most part presented to them as a disease which they could contract just by opening their mail (Jernigan, Raghunathan, Bell, 2001). Nonetheless, confusion as to how it spreads still persists as well as a lack of clarity on the symptoms to look for in case a person believes they may have contracted the bacteria. Essentially, people need to self-educate themselves in order to separate myths from fact to better protect themselves and their families. Rempfer article focuses primarily on the manipulation of the virus by governmental agencies, rather than the disease itself, however it at the same time highlights thoughts on how it could be used as a deadly tool of mass destruction if placed in the wrong hands.

Horowitz, Leonard G. (2002). The CIA Role in the Anthrax Mailings: Could our Spies Be Agents for Military Industrial Sabotage, Terrorism and Even Population Control?” Tetrahedron Publishing Group. Hyde, Rosemary C. (2001). “Anthrax Symptoms and Homeopathic Treatment”. Jernigan, Raghunathan, Bell (2001). Investigation of Bioterrorism-
Related Anthrax, United States, 2001: Epidemiologic Findings.

Rempfer, Thomas L. (2009). “The Anthrax Vaccine: A Dilemma for Homeland Security”. Homeland Security Affairs. The Journal for the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Security. Vo. 5. No 2.

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