ABSTRACT

On 18 September 2001, two letters laced with B anthracis bacteria, addressed to NBC Nightly News and the New York Post, were postmarked from Trenton, New Jersey. On 3 October, photo editor Robert Stevens was diagnosed with pulmonary anthrax and placed on a respirator. Two days later, he became the fi rst anthrax death in the United States in 25 years. On 9 October, two more anthrax-laced letters, addressed to US Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy, were again postmarked from Trenton. In the weeks that followed, a total of fi ve Americans died of anthrax and 17 more were infected. Although this set of events and the attacks of 11 September 2001 on the Pentagon and World Trade Center were almost certainly of separate origin, in combination they generated intense fears in the United States of a future biological attack causing mass casualties. The US government had been aware of the increasing potential for biotechnology to be misused long before the anthrax envelope attacks, and the Clinton administration had begun bolstering US biodefence capabilities in the late 1990s. In the ‘post-9/11’ atmosphere, however, annual federal government spending on biodefence programmes has increased enormously – from US$434 million in FY2001 to US$5.2 billion in FY2007. For the years FY2002-FY2007, the average amount spent on biodefence annually was around US$5.3 billion (Lam et al., 2006: 114).