Spring 2001 Conference

Public Responsibility and Mass Destruction: Facing the Threat of Bioterrorism


Conference Description

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA

April 2 to April 3, 2001

This conference, held just five months before September 11 and its subsequent anthrax attacks, involved a collaborative effort to capture the breadth and depth of the bioterrorism challenge in America. In recent years, an unintended consequence of media coverage has been the unwitting “marketing” of terrorism exports: fear and ideology. This has been referred to as “violence as communication.” Now in this new century, with biologic weapons infecting postal workers as they are mailed to legislators, tabloid editors and news anchors, “violence as communication” has now devolved into “communication as violence.”

This 2001 annual conference of CIAG focused on bioterrorism’s potential impact on America. Using case studies of the West Nile Virus and the Tokyo Subway attack, the conference focused on the challenges of leadership as well as issues of recovery.

Distinguished Guests

Kenneth Alibek – Former First Deputy Chief, civilian branch of the Soviet Union’s offensive biological weapons program.

Eileen Barker, OBE, FBA – Professor of Sociology with Special Reference to the Study of Religion, London School of Economics; Director, INFORM.

Lt. General Ronald R. Blanck – (USA ret.) former Surgeon General of the Army

Wilton S. Dillon – Senior Scholar, Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Mr. Akira Kuwayama – National Police Agency of Japan; Second Secretary and Assistant Police Attache of NPA at the Embassy of Japan in Washington D.C.

Jonathan Moreno – Professor of Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia, Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics

Takashi Murata – Counselor for Political Affairs, Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC, Representative of the National Police Agency of Japan to the United States

Stephen M. Ostroff, M.D. – Associate Director for Epidemiologic Sciences in the National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID), Centers for Disease Control

Ford Rowan – former NBC News correspondent

Key Panels and Discussions

West Nile Virus was presented as a model for a possible terrorist attack. This issue, as well as a potential anthrax attack, were examined in relation to leadership challenges. The symbolism of weapons of mass destruction and new religious movements were both examined by special guests. Although the sarin attack in the subways of Tokyo was not a biologic attack, it was examined as a model for widespread urban attack of a biologic agent.

Representative Insights

“This is a highly significant contribution to the United States’ War on Terrorism. For the past several years, I have been privileged to be a member of the Critical Incident Analysis Group (CIAG). In conducting post mortems on attacks by terrorists and extremists, the CIAG has been well out in front in recommending ways to prevent, cope, and recover from such attacks.” – Edward L. RownyFormer Ambassador and LTG USA (Ret)

“No issue is more important today than that of protection from the modern threat of bioterrorism. The preservation of health, as a universal human value, is essential for the continuation of freedom and indeed, the very survival of civilized society. The Critical Incident Analysis Group of the University of Virginia provides a vital forum for exchange of ideas from which will emerge strategies for response and prevention.” – Robert M. Carey, M.D., M.A.C.P.Dean, University of Virginia School of Medicine

“The mission of the University of Virginia’s Critical Incident Analysis Group – to ‘periodically examine the events and the incidents that really affect our democracy, that affect the bonds of trust between government and the public’- might have been written by our founder, Thomas Jefferson. While CIAG’s focus on bioterrorism, violence in the schools, and other contemporary threats to our democracy would not have matched Jefferson’s list of concerns, the group’s guiding principles are very similar to his own: preservation of life and the pursuit of truth.” – John T. Casteen IIIPresident, University of Virginia

“One of the biggest lessons we learned in preparing for the anthrax immunization was the power of other than conventional media.” – Ronald BlanckFormer U.S. Army Surgeon General

“We have not developed a national strategy, we do not have a national plan, and we have not identified who is in charge.” – John O. Marsh Jr.Former U.S. Secretary of the Army