The New Coronavirus as a Weapon?

March 27, 2020
Richard Pilch

This article is part of World War “V”: The COVID-19 Pandemic, a collection of all CNS COVID-19-related articles.

The following is an excerpt of an article published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Scientific Animations (CCBY-SA 4.0)

Scientific Animations (CCBY-SA 4.0)

On March 26, CNN reported that US agencies now consider the intentional spread by extremist groups of the coronavirus causing the current pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, to be a growing threat in the United States. The referenced agency documents have not been made public; however, one such Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document is quoted as saying: “Members of extremist groups are encouraging one another to spread the virus, if contracted, to targeted groups through bodily fluids and personal interactions.”

The CNN report seems to contemplate the possibility of US domestic terrorism and “the threat from white supremacist and other extremist groups related to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Last year, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies completed a detailed assessment of the risk that Islamist terrorists might use infected humans to spread a contagious disease. Our experts found that Islamist terrorists, and extremist groups more generally, are not bound by ideological or psychosocial norms that prohibit such behavior. In addition, the use of infected humans to spread a contagious disease requires comparatively limited technical know-how. Our experts concluded that such an attack “could prove to be highly lethal to the targeted population(s), provide a low cost weapon, have a traumatic psychological shock value … undermine a country’s public health and medical infrastructure’s ability to respond, and erode faith in the government’s ability to protect the public.”

In view of this assessment, I believe the possibility that extremist groups may attempt to deliberately spread SARS-CoV-2—the virus causing the current pandemic—should not be ignored. In fact, one of the primary limiting factors to such an attack—recruiting humans willing to infect themselves—does not apply in this case; potential perpetrators would come from the ranks of those already infected with the virus. So we are faced with a genuinely challenging task: preemption.

Continue reading at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

See Also

World War “V”: The COVID-19 PandemicWorld War “V”: The COVID-19 Pandemic
A collection of all CNS COVID-19-related articles

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