Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options Skip directly to A-Z link Skip directly to A-Z link Skip directly to A-Z link
Volume 5, Number 4—August 1999

The Prospect of Domestic Bioterrorism

Jessica Stern
Author affiliation: Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C., USA

Main Article


Anthrax incidents in the United States, 1992 – 1999a

1992 1997 1998
No.incidents 1 1 37
No. persons affectedb 20 100 5,529
Persons decontaminated, treated, or quarantinedb 20 30 1,202
Targets Residence Religious organization Government buildings and officials, indiviuals, clinics, religious instiutions, antiabortion activists financial institutions, schools, retail establishments, office buildings, media, nightclub
Purported motivators Malicious Anti-Semitism Antigovernment, alleged research, antiabortion, pro-choice retaliation, student pranks, delay court appearance
Dissemination technique(s) Splattering Mail Dispersal on premises, modified cigarette lighter, moist towelettes, mail (envelope), explosive device, ventilation systems
Responses Perimeter sealed, medical treatment Perimeter sealed decontamination, medical, treatment On-site inspection, evaluation perimeter sealed, pamphlets provided, quarantine, decontamination, medical treatment

aThese data are presumed incomplete and may contain errors. Numbers are based on press reports and are not available for all years. Data not independently confirmed.
bFigures do not include incidents in which numbers are not available; actual totals, therefore, may be understated.
Chart prepared by Darcy Bender.

Main Article

1This essay summarizes Jessica Stern, "Terrorist Motivations and WMD," in Peter Lavoy, Scott Sagan, and Jim Wirtz, ed., Planning the Unthinkable, in press, 2000.

2Brian Jenkins has made this statement about terrorists on numerous occasions. For example, see Brian Michael Jenkins, "International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict," in David Carlton and Carolo Schaerf, eds., International Terrorism and World Security (London: Croom Helm, 1975), 15. On terrorists' purported aim to harass, see Kenneth Waltz, "Waltz Responds to Sagan," in Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate (New York: Norton, 1995), 94-96.

3For examples, see Jessica Stern in Lavoy.

4See for example Paul Slovic, Baruch Fischoff and Sarah Lichtenstein, "Facts and Fears: Understanding Perceived Risk," in Richard Schwing and Walter Albers, eds., Societal Risk Assessment: How Safe is Safe Enough? (New York: Plenum Press, 1980), 181-216.

5While millenarian doctrines are generally religiously based, some are not. See Jean E. Rosenfeld, "Pai Marire: Peace and Violence in a New Zealand Millenarian Tradition," Terrorism and Political Violence, 7, no. 3 (autumn 1995), 83.

6"End Times Jitters," interview with Michael Barkun, Klanwatch Intelligence Report (summer 1997), 17.

7FBIS-SOV-97-09, 6 May 1997. Source Moscow Trud, 6 May 1997, 1-2.

8Author Interview with Larry Wayne Harris, 9 February 1999.

9Testimony of Larry Wayne Harris, State of Ohio v. Stephen Michael Wharf.

10The nature of the constituency is a key variable here. If the terrorists' constituents see the targeted group as subhuman, or if terrorists have no clear constituency, political constraints against macro-terrorism are less likely to bind.

11Quotes from Klanwatch Intelligence Report (May 1996), 6-8.

12Gail Appleson, "Bomb Mastermind Gets Life in US Prison," Reuters, 9 January 1997.

13Hans Zinsser, Rats, Lice and History (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1963), 110.

14Author interview with William Pierce, 22 April 1997.

15Madeline Baro, "FBI: Men Knew of Cactus Weapons, Threats," Associated Press/Corpus Christi Online, 27 October 1998; found at:

16Statement for the Record of Louis J. Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, before the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations; Subcommittee for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies; February 4, 1999.

17One informant said that Harris said he had "military-grade anthrax." Another said Harris referred to a vaccine or a placebo. Proceedings before the Regular Federal Grand Jury, Testimony of Robert James, February 25, 1998, United States District Court, District of Nevada, p. 17. United States of America v. Larry Wayne Harris, Complete Transcript of Proceedings, CR-2-95-093, March 6, 1998, United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio.

18Judith Miller and William J. Broad, "Bio-Weapons in Mind, Iranians Lure Needy Ex-Soviet Scientists," New York Times, 8 November 1998, A1 and Miller and Broad, "Germ Weapons: In Soviet Past or in the New Russia's Future?" New York Times, 28 December 1998, A1.

19James Adams, "Gadaffi Lures South Africa's Top Germ Warfare Scientists," Sunday Times, 26 February 1995; Paul Taylor, "Toxic S. African Arms Raise Concern; US Wants Assurance `80s Program is Dead," Washington Post, 28 February 1995.

20For example, Kerry Noble claimed that if CSA leader James Ellison met someone who knew something about biological agents, he might consider using them. Author interview with Kerry Noble, March 2, 1998.

21See Louis Beam, "Leaderless Resistance," The Seditionist, Issue 12, February 1992. Found at:

22Bruce Hoffman, "Viewpoint: Terrorism and WMD: Some Preliminary Hypotheses," Nonproliferation Review (spring-summer 1997): 45-52. Hoffman provides slightly different numbers in "Holy Terror": The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative (Santa Monica: Rand Corporation, P-7834, 1993).

23Hoffman, "Viewpoint," 48.

24Author interview with Pastor Millar, 21 April 1998.

25Author interview with Trochman, 9 February 1999.

26Author interview with William Pierce, 22 April 1997.

27Author interview with William Pierce.

Page created: December 13, 2010
Page updated: December 13, 2010
Page reviewed: December 13, 2010
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.