CNN Homeland Security Correspondent
**See CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen's take on the WMD report tonight at 10pm on AC360
Imagination isn’t a good thing if you cover homeland security. You mull over all kinds of threats, and spin out all kinds of scenarios. But none has haunted me the way biological terror has.
The new report from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction underscores the danger. It tells us that terrorists are likely to hit in the next five years using a weapon of mass destruction…most likely a biological weapon.
For a sense of what that would mean take a look at The Great Influenza, a powerful book about the epidemic of 1918 which killed 20 to 40 million people worldwide. In excruciating detail author John Barry writes about the disease and what it wrought. Then imagine something like that in our world.
Yes. Science is better. We know much more about disease and how to stop it and treat it.
But our healthcare system is already overtaxed, and our society is much more demanding. If illness keeps the utility workers and farmers and truckers and others away from work how will we cope? Can we manage with intermittent electrical or water service? Who will harvest the crops and get them to market? If we can’t go to the store because the risk of contracting a communicable disease in a crowd is too great, will we have any food in the cupboard?
You see what I mean about imagination?
Much is likely to be made about the new report’s major recommendations…better security, improved international cooperation…but the very last chapter is titled “The Role of the Citizen.” It doesn’t tell you to stockpile duct tape and plastic sheeting…but it does say we should all be better informed and better prepared.
You’ve heard it before…and probably ignored it. Terrorism seems so far away, right? Well this report says an attack with a WMD is more than a hypothetical threat. It is something that could materialize in the next 5 years. Maybe it is time to pay more attention?
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