Al-Qaeda Targets Lethal Disease Research Facility on NY Island

Until her arrest in Afghanistan this summer, Aafia Siddiqui was the FBI's most wanted woman in the world. Now the U.S.-educated, Pakistani mother of three is being held in New York's Metropolitan Detention Center facing attempted murder charges.

Aafia Siddiqui holds biology and neuroscience degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and Brandeis University. In 2003, she vanished from Pakistan and reappeared on July 17, 2008, outside the governor's compound in Ghazni, Afghanistan. According to the FBI indictment against her, Siddiqui was carrying "various documents, various chemicals, and a computer thumb drive."

Aafia Siddiqui is believed to be an al-Qaeda operative. Among the documents in her possession were handwritten notes referring to a "mass-casualty attack" listing locations commonly known to be targets: Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building. But one target, Plum Island, remains virtually unknown to the American public. If Siddiqui really is an al-Qaeda operative, the consideration that this government facility (officially known as the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center) is a target is unnerving.

Located approximately eight miles off the coast of Connecticut, the 840-acre research facility is home to the most virulent zoonotic diseases in the world. The lethal diseases stored and studied on Plum Island are transmitted to humans by animals. The only U.S. strains of foot-and-mouth disease (eradicated from American soil in 1929) are secured in freezers on Plum Island, as are strains of polio, hog cholera, and African Swine Fever. None of the animals on the island ever leave; those that come uninvited, like deer that sometimes swim there from the mainland, are shot.