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Context of 'June 22-23, 2001: Bio-Terror Exercise Simulates Smallpox Attack'

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sends “samples of a strain of West Nile virus to a microbiologist at a university in Basra.” [Associated Press, 12/21/2002]

Entity Tags: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

A dozen leading politicians, scholars, journalists, and security experts meet at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for an exercise simulating the consequences of a biological terrorist attack, in this case the release of smallpox by terrorists. The participants include: Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), who plays the president of the United States; former presidential adviser David Gergen as the national security advisor; Governor Frank Keating (R-OK), who plays himself; James Woolsey playing the CIA director; and Jerome Hauer as the FEMA director. The exercise, named “Dark Winter,” starts with three states suddenly confronted with an outbreak of smallpox. Americans are no longer vaccinated against this virus because it was eradicated decades ago. Thousands quickly fall ill. The medical system is overwhelmed. Masses start to flee from the infected areas, but are stopped at the borders of neighboring states. Faced with chaos, the exercise ends with the president declaring martial law. Reviewing the exercise, participants and observers agree that the nation is vulnerable to biological terrorism and unprepared for an actual attack. [Time, 9/24/2001; US Medicine, 12/2001; Center for Biosecurity, 2002; O'Toole, Mair, and Inglesby, 4/1/2002] In the days following 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney will watch a video report on the exercise, and, at his urging, the National Security Council will receive a “harrowing” and “gruesome” briefing on September 20, on the possibility of a biological attack. [Mayer, 2008, pp. 3-4] At about the same time as Dark Winter is taking place, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) returns smallpox to the list of reportable diseases. Smallpox had been removed from the list decades ago after worldwide eradication. The agency says it is increasing its surveillance efforts of infectious pathogens that could be used in a biological terrorist attack. [United Press International, 5/31/2001] After the 9/11 attacks, public health officials will deny that the re-listing of smallpox was the result of any specific intelligence warnings. [UPI, 10/22/2001]

Entity Tags: James Woolsey, Sam Nunn, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Frank Keating, David Gergen, Jerome Hauer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dark Winter

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

CNN reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing emergency-response teams as a precaution. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Timeline Tags: Environmental Impact of 9/11, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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