Has the massive expansion of biodefence research in the US since the anthrax letters of 2001 made America a safer place, or more dangerous?The chief suspect in the 2001 anthrax case is thought to be Bruce Ivins*, a biodefence researcher who committed suicide shortly before charges were brought against him last year. It is a bit of a murky affair and lots of alternative theories of varying plausibility abound though.
That's the burning question among specialists in infectious disease, after a flurry of concerns about safety at labs handling potential bioweapons agents.
However it seems likely that the anthrax was sent by someone who only had access to weaponised anthrax in order to prepare a response in case anyone use weaponised anthrax. In other words if it weren't for the efforts to prepare for an anthrax attack there would have been no anthrax attack.
So wouldn't the safest method of avoiding future attacks with biological weapons be to stop making them? As it is it seems to be somewhat of a self fulfilling prophecy, to prepare for biological warfare by getting leading scientists to develop more effective forms of biological warfare.
Most terrorist groups can't develop weapons themselves because they have neither the resources nor the expertise to carry out complex research and development. Countries can make them, and in some cases probably are doing so, but by and large those most likely to use them would be more likely to harm themselves than to harm the countries with the highest standards of public health and the best medical researchers on the planet.
* He appears to have been the scientific equivalent of those firemen/arsonists, releasing the anthrax in order to push the US government to increase research on anthrax.