A national security expert tells Forbes magazine that the Ebola threat could be potentially multiplied should the virus fall into the hands of a terrorist organization like the Islamic State (ISIS). Sending ISIS terrorists to West Africa to bring back toxic bodily fluids for use to contaminate large cities is not out of the question.
Retired Capt. Al Shimkus, a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, tells Forbes that the use of terrorists as carriers for a deadly virus is potentially on the horizon. “The individual exposed to the Ebola Virus would be the carrier,” he explains, adding, “In the context of terrorist activity, it doesn’t take much sophistication to go to that next step to use a human being as a carrier.” The most complex part of the operation would be returning to the area the carriers wish to infect before dying of Ebola, assuming they do not receive treatment. The virus can incubate up to 21 days in a person without the person exhibiting symptoms, however, which would allow for freer travel.
While Shimkus warns that the possibility exists, given that ISIS jihadists revere death in “martyrdom” and often commit suicide attacks, he notes that the dissemination of the virus in an area with a solid healthcare infrastructure is difficult. As a column in Scientific American notes Friday, experts have found that the rapid spread of Ebola throughout West Africa is largely attributable to human error–faulty design and use of protective gear, inadequate disposal of toxic elements, and other factors not directly related to the strength or resilience of the virus itself.
The Daily Mail reports that the potential for Ebola use as a bioweapon has been in the United States government’s radar for years. A decade ago, President George W. Bush, anticipating the potential of jihadist groups using Ebola as a weapon, passed a law for funding a project called Project Bioshield. The $5.6 billion project, according to a source speaking to the Mail, was, in part, designed to combat an Ebola threat. The project, the paper notes, “ensures generous funding for scientists researching bioweapon counter-measures, as well as accelerating research against chemical, radiological and nuclear agents.”
Earlier this year, conservative activist James O’Keefe brought the use of Ebola as a potential bioweapon to national attention through a stunt in which a man disguised as an Islamic State terrorist carrying Ebola crossed the United States-Canada border and freely roamed Cleveland.