On Friday, a panel of lawmakers declared that the United States is currently at risk of a major biological or chemical attack, with targets ranging from food supplies to any particular individual’s DNA.
As Axios reports, the comments were made during a gathering of the Aspen Security Forum. Present at the event was Army General Richard Clarke, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as Congressman Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).
Clarke explained that chemical weapons, such as chlorine or mustard gas, are primarily used by non-state actors such as terrorist organizations like ISIS. Such weapons were already being used in countries like Syria and Iraq in the mid-2010s, primarily “because they instill fear,” Clarke said.
However, Clarke also warned that certain nations are also prepared to use such weapons for more particular means.
“Russia is willing to use those against political opponents,” Clarke continued. “They’re willing to use them on their own soil, but then to go in on the soil of a NATO ally in the UK and use those. As we go into the future, we have to be prepared for that eventuality. And I don’t think we talk about it as much as we should and look for methods to continue to combat it.”
Congressman Crow gave a similar warning, saying that “there are now weapons under development, and developed, that are designed to target specific people.”
“That’s what this is, where you can actually take someone’s DNA, you know, their medical profile, and you can target a biological weapon that will kill that person or take them off the battlefield or make them inoperable,” the congressman revealed.
Crow expanded upon the role that private companies play in individual DNA falling into the hands of adversarial nations, explaining how “people will very rapidly spit into a cup and send it to 23andMe and get really interesting data about their background — and guess what? Their DNA is now owned by a private company. It can be sold off … with very little intellectual property protection or privacy protection, and we don’t have legal and regulatory regimes that deal with that.”
Senator Ernst’s warning focused on the vulnerability of the American food supply, asking “what can our adversaries do with biological weapons that are directed at our animal agriculture, at our agricultural sector?”
“Highly pathogenic avian influenza, African swine fever, all of these things have circulated around the globe,” Ernst said. “But if targeted by an adversary, we know that it brings about food insecurity. Food insecurity drives a lot of other insecurities around the globe. There’s a number of ways we can look at biological weapons and the need to make sure not only are we securing human beings, but then also the food that will sustain us.”