NEW MADRID - It is not a matter of if bioterrorists
will strike, it is a matter of when, David Spicer
bluntly told New Madrid County law enforcement
officers and city and county officials.
Spicer, who is with the Missouri Department of
Health's Emergency Management, has spent much of his
career in law enforcement. Today he works with the
state of Missouri to mesh the Department of Health's
services with those of law enforcement, on the local,
state and federal levels.
In making his presentation at the New Madrid County
Department of Health this week, Spicer explained that
terrorism is a crime committed with a political or
social objective. He also noted it is not a new idea,
dating bioterrorism back to 1343 when attackers
attempted to spread disease within a European city
under siege by catapulting dead bodies within the
town's walls and to the French and Indian Wars when
blankets infected by smallpox were given to Indians.
The problems bioterrorists face, Spicer said, are the
hazards involved in dealing with a deadly germ or
spore. "You can't always predict where it will
spread," he said, noting the terrorists are often
among those infected.
While most law enforcement officers prefer to believe
terrorists are a problem somewhere else, Spicer
pointed out extremist groups are found in Missouri.
These include the anti-abortion Creators Rights Party,
the Animal Liberation Front, Christian Identity
Movement, Black Hebrew Israelites and the Aryan
"But what I would look out for is ... the lone wolf,
the individual or the small select group," he warned
Also he urged the audience to take any threat they
hear seriously. "Be a responsible citizen. Idle
threats should be reported because it may prevent
violence," he said.
Spicer said since Sept. 11, his office has
investigated 150 credible threats - almost four times
the amount they investigated in the previous year.
Offering some criticism of the news media, he
emphasized that there have been no cases of anthrax in
Also Spicer offered his opinion on the recent anthrax
cases, describing them as "terrorism of opportunity"
and most likely the work of a domestic terrorist
rather than a foreign group. If profiling the suspect,
the officials said he would look for a white male,
between the ages of 30 and 50, with a science
background. "He could be married, but probably doesn't
have children. He probably doesn't go out much
either," he suggested.
Terrorists often target individuals because of their
politics, social standing, economic well-being and for
personal reasons. Spicer cautioned those attending
this could very well mean local political officials
and law enforcement officers.
He urged them to be aware of what groups or
individuals might target in their area and to work
with others, such as local pharmacists, to track
suspicious activities or changes in routines.
If they do face a possible act of chemical or
bioterrorism, Spicer said to handle the package as
little as possible. "Treat it as a threat until proved
otherwise," he said. "The odds are it will be nothing
but it is better to be safe than sorry."
As first responders to emergency situations, Spicer
offered law enforcement and city officials advice:
"Know your limitations. Don't become a victim
He explained many terrorists today will not only
explode a bomb at a scene but will have a secondary
device timed to explode as assistance arrives. Spicer
theorized this might have been behind the Sept. 11
airplane crashes at the World Trade Center, pointing
out the planes were 18 minutes apart, and the plane,
which crashed in Pennsylvania, would have crashed into
the Pentagon as assistance was being provided the
victims of the first crash there.
Local health department officials were pleased with
the turnout of nearly two dozen people to Spicer's
presentation Tuesday night.
"This is a subject we all hoped we would never have to
prepare for," admitted Michelle Brazel, administrator
for the New Madrid County Health Department. But, she
continued, since Oklahoma City (bombing), Sept. 11 and
the anthrax scare, officials even in small rural
communities must face the possibility of bioterrorism.
"I think everyone was already aware of the possible
dangers but I hope they now realize they have a
resource they can call to get answers to their
questions. And if (Spicer) doesn't know, he will find
out for them," added Dr. Charles Baker, assistant
administrator for the Health Department.