September 16, 2013
SO IF THE REPORT IN THIS PIECE ON BIOTERRORISM IS CORRECT — and it’s in Salon, so who knows? — there’s something interesting:
Just as anthrax had been supplanted by botulinum toxin in October 2001, highly classified intelligence around the time of the first anniversary of 9/11 warned the Bush inner circle of the possibility of terrorists wielding smallpox, a disease that had been eradicated in America and was therefore considered particularly virulent if clandestinely reintroduced. This was actionable intelligence of a different sort — not a connecting of the dots to target some high-level al Qaeda leader or suicidal martyr, but early warning for the executive agents and the XYZ to take action. “We were each informed individually of whether we’d be vaccinated but not told who else was on the list,” recalls Condoleezza Rice. “We were all convinced that it was al Qaeda’s second wave.” Exactly who in the administration and the federal government would be inoculated was known by the executive agents alone.
Now ordinary smallpox vaccines weren’t especially hard to come by in 2002. My secretary, who was getting her MPH and transitioning to a job with the Knox County Public Health Department, got one. (I surprised her by walking into the office, smelling the familiar baking-bread smell, and saying, “So, got your smallpox vaccination, did you?”) So I can’t imagine why smallpox inoculations in the White House would be rationed this way — unless it was a non-standard smallpox vaccine aimed at countering a non-standard variety of the smallpox virus. (Perhaps a weaponized Soviet or Iranian strain?) If that’s the case, then this would be news, and seemingly worthy of more than a single throwaway paragraph.