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Weaponizing Smallpox

Date: 06-09-14
Host: George Noory
Guests: Terry Hayes, Frank Ahearn

Australian screenwriter, Terry Hayes, best known for writing Road Warrior, Dead Calm, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and other blockbuster movies, spoke about his recent espionage novel which deals with the homemade manufacturing of the smallpox virus as a terrorist weapon. The eradication of the smallpox virus (one of the deadliest and most painful diseases known to humans) was the biggest achievement of medical science, Hayes noted, but in subsequent years the World Health Organization destroyed stockpiles of the smallpox vaccine-- not anticipating the possibility of its use as a biological weapon. Russia, for instance, has developed 20 metrics tons of vaccine-evasive smallpox to load on warheads, he said, and that's the kind of weapon he featured in his novel.

Yet, rather than a nation state, it's more likely that some type of rogue group would unleash weaponized smallpox if they were able to produce or procure it, he continued. Many items, including medical products coming into America are not well monitored, and a rogue organization could make use of a "cleanskin," a terrorist not in any database, who could elude standard forms of surveillance and tracking. "We're now in this brave new world of bio-engineering," and since no cure has ever been found for smallpox, "it is the most frightening of all the weapons, and the most likely to be used," he warned.

Hayes discussed his screenwriting career-- in particular the Mad Max films, which have attained cult status with their dystopian portrait of the future. He also touched on working with a young Mel Gibson, as well as Nicole Kidman in the thriller Dead Calm (1989), which was her first big break.

How to 'Disappear'

First hour guest, privacy expert Frank Ahearn talked about how he helps "disappear" people out of society, and what we can do to erase our digital footprint, and protect our private information. The types of people who may want to disappear include victims of stalkers, businesspersons who've gotten into bad situations, wealthy individuals looking to avoid abduction, as well as those simply wanting to avoid Big Brother, he detailed. Ahearn doesn't give them new identities, but teaches them how to disconnect from the system, using such things as third party services, offshore accounts, and prepaid cell phones.

News segment guests: Lauren Weinstein, Christian Wilde

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