One warning came in black-and-white in 1993: A U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment report projected that releasing 100 kilograms of aerosolized anthrax spores upwind of the U.S. capital could kill between 130,000 and 3 million people-a lethality at least matching that of a hydrogen bomb. Last year, a U.S. Justice Department exercise revealed that discharging pneumonic plague in Denver could create 3,700 or more cases, with an estimated 950 or more deaths within a week.1 Then, according to recent results from a U.S. Air Force exercise, if smallpox were released in Oklahoma City, it would take less than two months to kill 1 million people-throughout the world.

While the deadly repercussions of these incidents is clear, the probability of them occurring remains debatable, even after the recent albeit less deadly, anthrax incidents in Florida, New York, New Jersey, and the nation's capital area. The amounts of material required,...

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