Reminded of what a friend and fellow critic of Homeland's Plum Island bioterror lab relocation project told me a year ago: "If it is built, it needs to be built underground."
He - and I - support the need for this research (that of it we are allowed to know about) but worry about the explosion of biological agents in labs and campuses across the country. I have deep reservations about the lack of debate or intellectual curiosity shown by Texas' political leaders in our quest to land this germ lab as if it were an assembly line employer with a golden-egg-shaped pucker.
If and when Plum is converted to the N-BAF, a likely $600-million above-ground bunker handling some of the most dangerous diseases known — including a handful with no known cure that freely pass between both human and non-human animals (yes, you're one too!) — it needs to be buried.
A reminder of just why this work needs be subterranean comes from the Hartford Courant's editors this week.
The arrest of a U.S.-educated Pakistani woman underscores why concern
for security — not politics — should be key in choosing the site of a
proposed $451 million National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
Siddiqui, who holds a biology degree from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, is suspected of being an al-Qaida associate and of
helping potential terrorists enter the United States. Authorities say
she vanished in Pakistan in 2003, then resurfaced in Afghanistan, where
she was detained in July.
Ms. Siddiqui is accused of grabbing a
soldier's rifle and trying to kill Army officers and FBI agents during
an interrogation. She is charged with attempted murder.
criminal complaint says that Ms. Siddiqui was carrying a "wish list"
when she was apprehended. The handwritten document refers to a "mass
casualty attack" and names several American landmarks for destruction,
including Plum Island, the federal government's 24-acre biological
research complex off Long Island in the Sound. Other alleged targets
include the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Ms. Siddiqui has not been charged with terrorism. Homeland security officials apparently found no evidence of a credible plot.
Plum Island's appearance on the list is unnerving. Tens of millions of
Connecticut and New York residents live within an easy drive of Long
The new biodefense facility will be conducting
research on some of the most virulent threats facing mankind —
including some that are incurable. Public safety should be a paramount
So far, homeland security officials seem inclined to
let political concerns intrude as well. This summer, officials
announced the selection of a site in Flora, Miss.
went against the recommendations of the agency's own staff. Flora was
ranked near the bottom of a list of 17 locations around the country.
But Mississippi happens to be the home state of Rep. Bernie Thompson, a
powerful Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee,
and Sen. Thad Cochran, a top Republican on the Senate Appropriations
The proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility
will house leading research on bioterrorism for the next half-century.
Ms. Siddiqui's case is a powerful reminder that the decision-making
about this facility should inspire Americans' highest confidence.