1 January 2012

Laurie Garrett: Reporting on biosecurity from America to Zaire

Award-winning radio and newspaper reporter Laurie Garrett, now a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, describes the mistakes and misjudgments made by government officials in response to the anthrax attacks of 2001 and provides recommendations for what should be done now. Garrett says it is important to view 9/11 and the anthrax mailings as connected events in any evaluation of the government response. She criticizes the emphasis placed on a smallpox vaccine, which diverted attention from other health issues. She lists circumstantial evidence that points toward Al Qaeda, rather than bioweapons scientist Bruce Ivins, as the anthrax culprit. Garrett assesses the mistakes made in response to the anthrax mailings based on what turned out to be incorrect assumptions. She calls for a thorough investigation of the attacks, comparable to The 9/11 Commission Report, to understand what went wrong. And she explains why transparency, within and among government agencies, as well as in communications with the public, is essential in the future.