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BU biolab ups security plans

The recent linkurl:suicide;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54907/ of microbiologist Bruce Ivins, pegged by the US government as the culprit in a spate of deadly anthrax mailings in 2001, is already spurring a boost in linkurl:security procedures;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53626/ and screening at labs working on deadly pathogens. Boston University's biolab, a controversial high-security facility under construction in the city's South End neighborhood, plans to vet prosp

By | October 14, 2008

The recent linkurl:suicide;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54907/ of microbiologist Bruce Ivins, pegged by the US government as the culprit in a spate of deadly anthrax mailings in 2001, is already spurring a boost in linkurl:security procedures;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53626/ and screening at labs working on deadly pathogens. Boston University's biolab, a controversial high-security facility under construction in the city's South End neighborhood, plans to vet prospective researchers by investigating their psychological history, financial stability, and other factors. "We consider someone who is under financial duress to be a risk," Gary W. Nicksa, BU's vice president for operations, linkurl:told;http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2008/10/14/bu_outlines_biolab_safety_steps?mode=PF the Boston Globe. "Do you want someone who could . . . have access to sensitive information or sensitive materials in a position that they could be approached by someone who says, 'Would you be willing to do something for me?'" A public hearing on the lab is scheduled for tonight (October 14) at 6:30 pm. Already, in order to study certain deadly and highly infectious pathogens, researchers must undergo a security check by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and about 15,000 researchers have clearance for such work. BU plans to go beyond the FBI requirements and will also install high-tech cameras that ascertain the identity of anyone working in the facility, and trigger security if a worker stays out of the camera's range for too long. The BU biolab's construction has been linkurl:stalled;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54271/ at least until next year as the university and a specially appointed NIH panel conduct additional safety reviews. An activist group linkurl:sued the NIH;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23468/ in 2006, claiming proper risk assessments had not been done.
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Comments

Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

October 14, 2008

It wouldn't be a problem for me at least, to get all sorts of things out with those camera systems. \n\nBasic security says that the reasons why people do things are primarily four: \n\nA. Foozle - They have financial problems, and can be approached to do something for money. This is not the primary way it happens though, because for the agent doing the approach, it is extremely high risk. Instead, these people volunteer. They seek out parties they think would pay. (Yes, foozle is a word from auditing.) \n\nB. Ideology - People who have a world view that tells them to commit acts are very high risk. If a person holds an ideology that supports it, they will do amazing things. The best acquisitions are ideological agents. With Islam, the agents can be expected to die for the cause. Even the UNABOMER had an ideology - he was his own thought leader. And everyone who commits an act, for any reason, will rationalize what they do. \n\nC. Blackmail - This is why it used to be that homosexuality was a disqualification. Now that it is out of the closet, it isn't a big problem. People with secrets will do things. This is a more reliable tool for agents seeking unwilling recruits. Get the goods, and then get them going. Once they commit once, then the blackmail is more secure. There was man and wife team of soviet agents who worked the Washington D.C. orgy circuit with tremendous success. \n\nD. Love - This is a remarkably effective method used by agents for thousands of years. What men and women won't do for love has not been invented. This goes for people of all ages. Generally, the love object is much more attractive than the one manipulated by it. But sometimes it is just plain loneliness. Scientists can be expected to be extremely vulnerable to this compromise. A lot of older scientists are lonely people. \n\nSo that is how I would rank them, in roughly increasing order of risk. If BU is thinking they are tightening security by just looking for financial motive, they aren't doing anything very important.
Avatar of: THERESA SWAYNE

THERESA SWAYNE

Posts: 1

October 15, 2008

E. Hunt wrote, "With Islam, the agents can be expected to die for the cause."\n\nPlease don't confuse Islam (a religion with a billion adherents) with the ideologies of terrorists and terror groups. \n\nIt was probably an unintentionally offensive statement, but it highlights a significant concern I have with some security procedures. If they consciously or unconsciously classify entire religions as inherently risky, they may miss the individual loonies that can be found in every religious and social group. From what I've read, Dr. Ivins (whether guilty or not) identified as a devout Christian.\n\nAs for good security measures, anyone smart enough to work in a high-level lab should be able to beat almost any surveillance technology. On the other hand, low-tech (and admittedly annoying) approaches like a "buddy system" for lab workers might be a way to fight the various temptations and pressures Dr. Hunt outlined.\n\n

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