Biggest Bioterror Attack in US Was All About an Election

It was a dry-run in the lead-up to Election 1984
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2016 2:12 PM CST
Biggest Bioterror Attack in US Was All About an Election
Salmonella is shown in this petri dish.   (Getty Images / Linde1)

(Newser) – If the run-up to Election 2016 has given you agita, take comfort in that fact that it could have been worse: It was literally sickening back in 1984. Writing for Gizmodo, Matt Novak digs into the story of what he frames as the "single largest bioterrorism attack on US soil," which was foisted on an Oregon town in September that year as a sort of dry-run before an intended November election attack. Some 751 people in The Dalles were sickened after dining out, but there was no common ingredient consumed among the 10 affected restaurants and their patrons. It was a a year before tips led law enforcement to the cause—salmonella sprayed on salad bars—and the culprit, a cult looking to dominate the local election.

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Rajneeshpuram, the brainchild of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, counted 64,000 acres in Oregon among its locations around the world. That community came to be in 1981, but relations with the locals soon grew frosty and political. In order to have smoother sailing when it came to things like obtaining building permits, members started running for office, successfully. As their ambitions swelled, the salmonella plan was hatched as a way to potentially keep their opposition home from the polls, though it's unclear why a second attack wasn't launched (Gizmodo suggests it might be because a plan to bus in 4,000 homeless people to vote was foiled, weakening their potential voting contingent). Read the full piece to learn about the woman who went to prison for the attack. (Read more bioterrorism stories.)

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