PAUL WILENIUS: The fear of germ warfare
can cause almost as many problems as the germs themselves. It can infect
a normally rational population , creating the deep unease seen recently
in America and elsewhere. So far Western governments have avoided panic
, but still have a lot do to reassure their anxious publics. Though there
has been no specific threat against Britain, there are still real worries.
MALCOLM DANDO: A hundred kilograms of anthrax spores,
distributed in the right way, under the right conditions across Washington
DC would cause between one and three million fatalities.
FRED BROUGHTON: We have faced terrorist attack
before in the last thirty years in this country but I think we clearly
understand this is the biggest crisis facing our country since the Second
WILENIUS: There's an air of anxiety
now hanging over Britain's tallest buildings like Canary Wharf. The area
was bombed by the IRA ,but it was nowhere near the scale of the carnage
unleashed on New York on September the eleventh. . So now there is real
concerns about the type of terrorist attacks we might face and the of the
government to cope with them.
The destruction of the
twin towers of the World Trade Center traumatized the world. It showed
that there was no longer any moral restraint on acts of terror. Osama Bin
Laden's network now appears willing to use any weapon it can against the
West. It's already told Muslims to stay out of planes and tall buildings.
And, those in a position to know, say the British government must be ready
for any kind of terrorist response.
RICHARD BUTLER: I don't think it
would be wise to assume that these people would restrict themselves to
hunting after Americans. I suspect that people in the UK as the UK is
aligned in this fight against terrorism, I suspect that people in the UK
should be aware of the possibilities that action against the UK could also
COLONEL MIKE DEWAR: We have to realise that we
have put ourselves in the firing line by aligning ourselves so obviously
with the United States and being brave enough to do so. So yes, I think
we face tanker lorries, I think we face political assassination is a possibility,
we face biological warfare, we face car bombs, we face unfortunately the
whole array of terrorism.
WILENIUS: The War Report commissioned
a poll to determine the scale of the Fear of Terrorism. We asked: "How
worried are you about the prospect of chemical or biological weapons being
used in a terrorist attack on the UK?"
We found that fifty per cent were worried while forty nine per cent
were less so. Women are also twice as likely to be concerned as men. Sixty
four per cent of women are anxious compared to just thirty five per cent
In New York people were
trying to get back to normal and put the horrific plane attacks behind
them . But in recent days a new deadly threat has been delivered to America's
door. Although it's difficult to use anthrax for mass attacks and only
a few people have been infected, it's bred fear and deep worries that this
may only be the beginning.
DANDO There are other agents which
have been weaponised and some of those are even more dangerous than anthrax.
The anthrax is a bacterium, another bacterium is plague. Everyone knows
the historical record as regards plague. If you, if a terrorist was to
get hold of plague and to be able to use it and it was effective then it's
different from anthrax because it causes infection after the first victim.
So you would have the possibility of an epidemic spread and that would
be extremely difficult to deal with.
BUTLER: If one looks at the Iraqi
programme, Iraq did have in its biological weapons programme, and I assume
still does today, not only anthrax but botulism toxin, gangrene gas, plague
and there are reasons to think that it may have been trying to acquire
or find some way of getting into smallpox. If people had said to you
before September eleventh that some persons were going to take civilian
aircraft and turn them into missiles, fly them into the World Trade Center
towers, I think we all would have fallen on the floor laughing. So, you
know, we've got to think again in today's world.
WILENIUS: To reassure anxious members
of the British public major cities have been flooded with police in recent
weeks. This very public display of force, is meant to deter terrorists
and show that our guard is up. Fear of a potential threat posed by car
and tanker bombs, led to the sudden appearance of new concrete barriers
in front of Parliament itself.
BROUGHTON: Our responsibility is very clear,
we have to reassure the public, we have to identify and stop terrorist
attacks, I mean that's very clear to us, that's a very difficult job, but
at the moment the attack might be diverse, it could from, from bombs or
it could be from biological attack, so it's very complicated at the moment
but we understand that's clearly our responsibility.
DEWAR: Most of the policemen you
see on the streets of London, isn't it funny, you never see a bobby for
months on end and then suddenly hundreds of them appear from nowhere? Most
of those have been drafted in from the suburbs to Central London and quite
frankly most of them are there for public reassurance purposes, it's a
PR exercise if you like, it's to make us feel better.
WILENIUS: Security around key government
buildings , airports, oil refineries, ports and nuclear power stations
has been tightened. But what of the threat posed by flying hi-jacked jets
into big cities?
DEWAR: That is still a possibility
and we should not rule it out and that is why for instance Tornado interceptors
have been brought further south from Lucas in Scotland and stationed in
Lincolnshire and there are now procedures in place to intercept clearly
hijacked aircraft or unauthorised aircraft. So precautions have been taken.
WILENIUS: Although the police and
emergency services in London are used to dealing with terrorist outrages
, there are doubts about their ability to cope on their own, if there was
a massive terrorist attack .
IAN HOLT: If we had something that
happened you know in any county in this country on the scale of what happened
in New York, then it's obvious that the local responding agencies would
be completely overwhelmed by that. And in that sort of instance we would
be looking to a very strong lead from central government taking as an umbrella
over-arching approach and leading the response.
BROUGHTON: All of us in the police service
in the last week or so have been looking at what exactly we do and how
we do that in relation to a chemical or biological attack. And the answer
is we've not faced that threat before on the scale that we may face it
in the next few weeks. And so what's happening at the moment is, is assessing
exactly how we're going to deal with that and what training is necessary-
it's pretty clear that we need to first of all look at the American experience
in recent days and to make sure that we prepare ourselves for any such
WILENIUS: Our poll showed that
a small majority of the country thinks the Government is doing enough.
When asked "How well prepared do you think the Government is for an attack
using chemical or biological weapons?" forty five per cent felt it is prepared
but forty per cent of the public said it was not.
Emergency planners all
over the country like Ian Holt were issued with new guidelines last week
on how to deal with any chemical or biological weapons attacks. Underground
crisis command centres like this one in Hampshire have been fired up. Thousands
of doctors have been put on alert, and millions of doses of anthrax medicine
have been ordered. But there are those who feel more needs to be done.
HOLT: If you asked the
government, you asked ministers, they would want this country to be prepared
for whatever emergency disaster situation we may face in the future. If
they do want that to happen, then obviously they've got to put their money
where their mouth is. We in the Emergency Planning Society we'd like to
see a ballpark figure of in the region of hundred million pounds put towards
WILENIUS: Our poll asked "Do you
feel you have been given sufficient information about what you should look
out for or do if a chemical or biological attack is made in the UK?" seventy
six per cent said they hadn't, while only twenty per cent said they had.
So the public IS seeking
more information from the authorities. They are not alone. The War Report
tried for over a week to get a senior Metropolitan Police Officer to come
on the programme and address the public's concerns. But repeated requests
failed to produce a spokesman .
DANDO: I think it's absolutely
essential that people are given more information, so that we don't get
wild panics driven by misinformation. To the extent possible, the government
should be trying to give clear accurate information to the public, so that
people understand what the risks are and understand what needs to be done
to reduce them.
WILENIUS: In the event of a major
terrorist attack, Ministers would set up a crisis centre here in the Cabinet
Office . But they need to do more to reassure a jittery British public
that we can cope with anything the terrorists can throw at us. For in the
long-term, even some experts fear the worst.
WILENIUS: Before September the
eleventh I felt it was, bio-terrorism causing mass casualties was a very
low risk. In part because of the technical difficulties but more because
I felt there was a moral restraint which would prevent, would prevent terrorists
from doing this kind of thing. It was difficult to see any political reason
why anyone would want to kill large numbers of people. What September
the Eleventh did was remove that assumption. So we're now down the technical
restraints against mass casualty bio-terrorism.
WILENIUS: Images like these have
heightened the public's concern. But one of the leading experts on weapons
of mass destruction has an even greater worry: that terrorists could one
day get their hands on the ultimate weapon.
BUTLER: My biggest fear is nuclear
weapons. There are far too many nuclear weapons in the world and as long
as they are there it is inevitable and this is dangerous right, it's a
prediction but I'm here to make it with you on the BBC, it is inevitable
that one day a terrorist group will get hold of nuclear weapons or weapon
and use it, and I think that's the greatest danger we face.
WILENIUS: There's little doubt
that there's a clear and present danger of further attacks on innocent
civilians. But the exact scale of that threat is still unknown. Experts
agree there are considerable technical difficulties which terrorists would
need to overcome, before they could use such apocalyptic weapons against
the West. The public will be hoping they don't overcome those difficulties,
before they're finally hunted down .