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Phantom Menace or Looming Danger?: A New Framework for Assessing Bioweapons Threats

by Kathleen M Vogel Johns Hopkins University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 384 pages
AU$72.00 NZ$74.78
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The horrifying terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the anthrax strikes that soon followed gave the United States new reason to fear unconventional enemies and atypical weapons. These fears have prompted extensive research, study, and planning within the U.S. military, intelligence, and policy communities regarding potential attacks involving biological weapons. In Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? Kathleen M. Vogel argues for a major shift in how analysts assess bioweapons threats. She calls for an increased focus on the social and political context in which technological threats are developed.

Vogel uses case studies to illustrate her theory: Soviet anthrax weapons development, the Iraqi mobile bioweapons labs, and two synthetic genomic experiments. She concludes with recommendations for analysts and policymakers to integrate sociopolitical analysis with data analysis, thereby making U.S. bioweapon assessments more accurate. Students of security policy will find her innovative framework appealing, her writing style accessible, and the many illustrations helpful. These features also make Phantom Menace or Looming Danger? a must-read for government policymakers and intelligence experts.

''Intriguing, original, and deeply informed. Focusing on potential threats, Vogel shows in engaging historical detail that technical problems are inherently social. She has made an important scholarly contribution to science and technology studies and to studies of intelligence. At the same time, she speaks directly to the policy world. The combination of depth of scholarship and practical implication is remarkable.''—Lynn Eden, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

Part I: The Bioweapons Threat and Assessment Problem
1. Bioweapons and National Security
2. Technological Frames and Narratives in U.S. Bioweapons Assessments and Policymaking
Part II: Science in a Social Context
Overview: The Biosocial Frame
3. Synthetic Genomic, the Biotech Revolution, and Bioterrorism
4. Societ Bioweapons Know-How and Proliferation Threats
Part III: Analytic Failures in Bioweapons Assessments
Overview: "Curveball" and the Iraqi Mobile Bioweapons Threat
5. Expertise and Analytic Practice
6. Current Intelligence Reporting and CIA Analytic Practice
7. Secrecy and the Production of the Iraqi Mobile Bioweapons Threat
Part IV: Alternative Analytic Solutions
8. A New Knowledge Model for Bioweapons Intelligence Assessments

"Kathleen Vogel has authored one of the most important books written about biological weapons in recent years... Vogel tackles head-on the conventional wisdom regarding the biological weapon (BW) threat, successfully, challenging assumptions that have gone largely unexamined by the broader biodefense community... She also uncovers some deeper organizational and social forces that have shaped US intelligence and threat assessments since the end of international security, not just those with an interest in biodefense or intelligence. This, this book is a must-read for scholars and practitioners in the field of international security, not just those with an interest in biodefense or intelligence."

Kathleen M. Vogel is an associate professor in the department of science and technology studies and at the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, Cornell University.