Scientist in Bird Flu Study Not Convinced Censorship is Safeguard

“In our opinion, nature is the biggest bioterrorist.”

The New York Times interviewed Ron A.M. Fouchier, one of the authors of the bird flu paper that the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity wants to censor from publication.

Some notable comments made by Fouchier:

… this is an unprecedented issue in science…

The N.S.A.B.B. advice is that we can share this in a restricted form.

We would be perfectly happy if this could be executed, but we have some doubts. We have made a list of experts that we could share this with, and that list adds up to well over 100 organizations around the globe, and probably 1,000 experts. As soon as you share information with more than 10 people, the information will be on the street. And so we have serious doubts whether this advice can be followed, strictly speaking…

I cannot disclose the methods, because the methods are supposed to be a recipe for bioterrorism…

It is not very easy [to recreate this virus]. You need a very sophisticated specialist team and sophisticated facilities to do this. And in our opinion, nature is the biggest bioterrorist. There are many pathogens in nature that you could get your hands on very easily, and if you released those in the human population, we would be in trouble.

And therefore we think that if bioterror or biowarfare would be a problem, there are so many easy ways of doing it that nobody would take this H5N1 virus and do this very difficult thing to achieve it.

You could not do this work in your garage if you are a terrorist organization. But what you can do is get viruses out of the wild and grow them in your garage. There are terrorist opportunities that are much, much easier than to genetically modify H5N1 bird flu virus that are probably much more effective…

If we get this in the hands of labs that can already do it — such as the C.D.C. or N.I.H. laboratories — they would be able to repeat our work in a matter of weeks. But for rogue countries or terrorist groups, this would take years of work…

The only people who want to hold back are the biosecurity experts. They show zero tolerance to risk. The public health specialists do not have this zero tolerance. I have not spoken to a single public health specialist who was against publication. So we are going to see an interesting debate over the next few weeks between biosecurity experts and public health experts who think this information should be in the public domain.

So it basically looks like the NSABB simply wants to set a precedent for future censorship.

Read the full interview.

3 thoughts on “Scientist in Bird Flu Study Not Convinced Censorship is Safeguard”

  1. The argument presented is flawed. If there is the slightest chance that any rogue, terrorist or enemy government group has the equipment that is sophisticated enough to weaponize this virus then it must never be published for this one reason only. It would not take much to start a pandemic. Is that what these morons wish, or are they so egotistical about their great discovery that they want fame and recognition over safety concerns?

    “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

  2. Security by obscurity is generally accepted as a failing policy. Security by obscurity generally results in only the bad guys knowing about the threat. The good guys, being kept in the dark, are not adequately prepared. The details of his flu will leak out to the bad guys one way or another.

  3. Fouchier brings up an excellent point.
    If the objective of the ‘terrorist’ is mass death (which makes him a genocidal maniac and not a ‘terrorist’) then there are far easier ways to accomplish that – methods I will not discuss.
    If the objective of the terrorist is truly terror (widespread fear and panic in a population that does not necessarily entail mass murder) then that would require a highly visible, dramatic action that the public recognizes *could* happen to anyone with little or no notice, with drastic consequences, and with no chance of escape. Another flu epidemic hardly qualifies.

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