Anthrax Security Gap: 'Worse Than McDonald's'

Background checks failed to reveal scientist's mental illness
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2008 9:45 AM CDT
The number of labs equipped to handle deadly biological agents has multiplied since 2001 and there are concerns that security measures around them are dangerously lax.   (Flickr)
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(Newser) – The case of anthrax suspect Bruce Ivins has raised fears about security protecting Americans from the world's deadliest germs, the Washington Post reports. The scientist thought to be behind the deadly 2001 attacks had serious mental health problems and expressed homicidal thoughts to his frightened therapist—but his supervisors at an Army lab were never informed. Lawmakers are demanding security be tightened.

Some 14,000 scientists and technicians at 400 institutions have access to potentially dangerous biological agents, but the background checks for clearance are less stringent than for federal agents. The only legal security requirement for labs is that doors must have locks. "This is less security than at your local McDonald's, which does have video surveillance," said an expert at the Centers for Disease Control.