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Panorama Sunday, 28 October, 2001, 22:18 GMT
Your comments on Bin Laden's Biological Threat
Your Comments on Bin Laden's Biological Threat

Scary stuff! But no-one has said anything about how long spores might stay around. Gruinard ss was off limits for 50 years; will those POs in America be contaminated for 50 years, or is there now some method to debug such areas?
Tony Stockdale
Hastings, NZ

I must take serious issue with the view of the London Fire Brigade - essentially there is no difference between Chem and Bio threat. The difference could not be more marked. Chem weapons are of the mass destruction type in all cases and will have an immediate effect but have severe constrictions on their delivery. They can be detected mechanically and physically in quick time providing the means is available. Bio weapons are very variable in their means of delivery and may be 'dormant' for short to medium periods until their effects are discovered. In most cases they are only detectable by medical analysis and treatment. Few are detectable physically. Not all are treatable but these type are those of a selective nature rather than mass. There is little defence against bio attack but as is the evidence from America those affected are relatively few in number compared with other types of attack. It is for the main part a means of disruption and psychological attack.

The truth probably is that since the demise of the 'cold war' the scale of preparation and planning for N B & C defence has very much taken a 'back seat' by all governments, which might be defensible but now we are reaping that reward. The only other comment that I might make is that letters of the type from Salim Afsahi, should not be published. It shows how steeped he is in thought and obviously completely ignorant of the facts surrounding not only the history of such warfare but WW2 in particular. This is a complex subject but should be put to the public in simple terms.
Brian Sayers

If I were a terrorist I would have loved that programme. If I didn't already know, I would be fully aware now that I could release smallpox or some other deadly biological weapon by placing a light bulb in an underground station. I would also cherish the fact that Britain is so ill-prepared for a chemical or biological attack. BBC's Panorama: the terrorists best friend.
Anila Ahmad

I am writing to express my concern at the broadcasting of this programme. I should say that I find Panorama to be one of the better programmes dealing with current affairs but I feel Sunday's program was unnecessary. The programme was nothing less than scare-mongering on the part of the BBC. I am all for knowing the truth but there are some circumstances when ignorance is truly bliss - if only the programme had been a guide to surviving a bio-terrorism attack.

There is unfortunately little anyone can do in the event of an attack using the Small Pox virus, for example. What do they hope to achieve by saying that in the event of such an attack the city attacked would be sealed off, no one would be allowed to enter or leave, Marshall Law would be imposed, etc.? In addition, the fact that such an attack would be undetectable until it is too late is not particularly encouraging. This is why I feel the programme was unnecessary. The terrible events of September 11 have opened all eyes to the possibility of a new and much more devastating form of terrorism, which can only be reinforced by the emergence of Anthrax in the USA. What we need is encouraging information rather than the doomsday scenario presented.
Alexander Krogstad

I think that people such as Max who implies that killing innocent people is right in order to fight terrorism are wrong. This way of thinking is very careless and just as evil as terrorism. Why are we fighting terrorism? To protect our lives from terrorism so we could live a peaceful life and fearless of threats to kill us. You cannot justify killing of innocent lives to protect our lives. This is selfish and the Afghanis are the real victims of the terrorist attacks. Max, think again, think if you were an Afghani women or child threatened with Tomahawks and cruise missiles for doing nothing, for being innocent, for living in your home land!

This programme has opened my eyes.

After Watching Panorama I personaly think the West are blaming Saddam Hussain the Iraqi President for the Anthrax so they could attack them next. As a result of this there will certainly be response from the Muslim World and the US coalition will not stand together any further.

I found the programme one sided and misleading. The objective was to draw together "evidence" that proves or links Osama bin Laden and Iraq with the anthrax scares, while US authorities still consider domestic terrorism as the cause. This programme misleads the people like Max (Belgium) to think and make dangerous assumptions that Osama Bin Laden is the perpetrator therefore war on Afghanistan is justifiable.

About a year to 18 months ago, a TV documentary described the advances being made in selective biological warfare. With the human genome now mapped, it was claimed that the genetic engineering of biological agents such as Smallpox to target specific human characteristics (such as those for particular ethnic origin) could be possible within 5 years. Iraq apparently was recruiting microbiologists for this activity. Time is now passing, and the threat is no doubt approaching reality. Perhaps the public should be reminded of this activity, and updated on the latest intelligence of progress in this scary scenario.
Ray Wood

It was interesting to watch what the 'sophisticated terrorists' could do, but it gave very little information on WHY they would do this. If the reason, as it was mentioned, is to liberate the 'holy places' from the Americans, then would it be possible to have more information on HOW and WHY they were occupied? Besides how the oil and the gas in the area motivate them? Was the Gulf war about oil and the Afghanistan war about oil and gas? Why US has to control the oil in the Middle East?
Emma Nelson

It's pretty obvious that we're not prepared in which case we'll just die. Oh well it had to happen sometime right, if not from bio terrorism then surely from old age. I don't know why everyone is taking this so seriously. Those bio weapons have been around for a long time. Terrorist could have gotten their hands on it then, as they can do now. We're not all obliterated yet, so let's just be grateful and continue with our lives.

Although I am not part of the WWII generation myself, I have come across the saying 'careless talk costs lives'. In many respects Panorama last night seemed like an instruction manual for terrorists, publicising where laboratories, which are illegally holding the smallpox virus, are located in the world or how to disseminate anthrax spores or similar substances on the tube in order to achieve the biggest impact easily.

Terrorists got further encouragement through learning that the British government has apparently done very little indeed to cope with the possible event of a bio terrorist attack. Who benefits from this kind of documentary? Why was there no discussion or even mention of a nation-wide vaccination programme? Wouldn't this be the best way of protecting the general public for the eventuality of such an attack? Would such a vaccination programme be at all feasible? Last night's Panorama special was sensationalist but left such vital questions unanswered.

After watching your programme I like many others am worried about the future, as a father I worry more for my children than myself. If the resources are there then surely mass vaccination against smallpox would be the answer. I'm sure that Tony Blair and the rest had theirs weeks ago.

A programme with much hear-say evidence which appeared as an excuse for another attempt to annihilate another poor country. Panorama is being used by the Government to quell any humanitarian concerns that we have. The whole thing is almost a re-run of the Gulf war. Shoddy reporting from Panorama.
K Urban

I came in part way through last night's Panorama programme. I was surprised that no reference was made to vaccination as a way of combating anthrax if administered before being subjected to it. The present policy of dealing with an anthrax attack appears to be to treat for it once it is within the community rather than vaccinate against it before the event. This policy relies heavily on hospital capability & presupposes that hospitals will be working normally & will be able to cope with large numbers. The success rate of recovery from the inhaled form of anthrax appears to be not good whereas prevention of infection by vaccination has a proven track record. It is reported that currently, anthrax vaccine is only made available where anthrax is an occupational hazard & that enough vaccine is presently held in reserve for administrating to emergency services.

The above considerations would equally apply to smallpox, the plague & possibly botulinum. Obviously, two major problems would be 1) the time scale of producing & making the injections available en masse to the general public - presumably some months but we are told to prepare for a long war 2) Cost. In this respect, other than for cases of hardship, I imagine that people generally would be prepared, as part of the "war effort" to pay for the facility of vaccination against these likely weapons of terrorism.

I do wonder sometimes which side the BBC is on. Admittedly, the programme was informative & definitely lifted the lid on how (apparently ) ill-prepared our country really is. However, one question that you at the Beeb and also the general public must ask themselves is - Why do you think the Governments plans for a Bio-terrorist attack are so top secret? - because the real answers to what the Government are willing to do with such an attack are terrifying, and would scare the nation as a whole witless.

Because Britain is so densely populated, there is very little the Government can really do to combat such a heavy attack. Based loosely upon Civil Defence plans of the 60's, 70's and 80's, against nuclear attack, the operation would be for containment, not cure. There would not necessarily be any emergency services to respond to such a heavy attack, because potentially they would all have been pulled out. Consolidate the assets you have rather than waste them on something you cannot realistically deal with!! What we saw last night with reference to Civil Defence planning are merely token gestures. Remember this, The Government had well defined plans set up as to how to deal with a nuclear threat. Of course many facilities have been closed down since then, however the plans are still there, and only need a few alterations to bring it up to speed, if they haven't done so already!
Jason Roberts
Tunbridge Wells

I found Tom Mangold's programme very interesting, having read his book written in conjunction with Jeff Goldberg called "Plague Wars". The issues raised in the Panorama programme seemed to be a brief summary of this book. One area which was left out was the fact that biological war games took place in Manchester in November 1995 at The Greater Manchester police training school where the then Home Secretary Michael Howard played an active part. This exercise was called "Firestorm" and involved a terrorist attack using anthrax. The exercise ended in a shambles where police and local authorities couldn't agree in whether to evacuate 200,000 from Manchester and other issues arose which the local and national government were not able to deal with.

Firstly, based on this exercise the then government should have created the infrastructure to deal with this type of issue. Why have the government not given straight answers on the preparedness for a biological attack?. In my view we have been caught out and we took the probability of an attack against the financial investment as being not worth it. Should we have put together a proper biological attack programme - only time will tell.
Alan Wilson
Cuparmuir, Fife

Although the previous Panorama - 'Clash of Cultures' was outstanding, was this programme broadcasted in order to create an alibi for US, to attack Iraq? What other countries possess anthrax apart from Iraq? What sort of mass destruction weapons does the UK possesses? Is it reasonable to attack a country because it possesses these sort of weapons? We continually watch grieving New Yorkers campaigning against the crime of attacking innocent people, while US is retaliating mercilessly against a whole country. This is a disgusting hypocrisy, which makes people very angry against US. Instead of preparing ourselves for a bio-terrorist attack, why not try to prevent it peacefully? Why don't the Americans just liberate the Muslim 'holy places' so we are through with this nightmare?

Can't people understand the need to "prepare" for any such case of bio attacks? Governments across the world should point out and clearly tell the members of public to prepare for this kind of attack. Most of us feel completely unable to stop these attacks nor any other terrorist attack. I think people would take the truth openly rather than be told lies.
Chris Cohen

After watching the programme this evening I am very disturbed by the fact that one person and his followers actually have the power to bring the world to a halt, to be able to control people by threatening the world with biological warfare. I think it is a disgrace in this day in age that one person could have this power and control. Is there nothing at all that can be done to put a stop to this? Personally I don't like living in fear of the person that has the power to say whether we all live or die.
Lucy (age 16)
Dublin, Ireland

This programme has been done base purely on fictional facts. The objectivity and the integrity of it is questionable, merely one-sided. It might only succeed to alienate more people in this country against the Taleban which by the way do not have the technology to deploy such attack. The west are manufacturing those deadly weapons - should you blame other people for their use? We shouldn't have made them in first place. Stop this type of propaganda warfare, it is not constructive.

We found some of your programme's allegations of lack of preparedness in the UK and good preparedness in NYC lacked credibility. You alleged a lack of plans. There are a reasonable set of authoritative response plans at the PHLS web-site - It is ludicrous to suggest that any health professional who suspected anthrax, plague, smallpox etc would wait to contact the PHLS until the end of a reporting period. Standard PHLS guidance is that they would contact the 24 hour CDSC/PHLS duty doctor service.

In reality New York has had major problems in dealing with the anthrax scare, partially because its health emergency plans had little or no in-built redundancy and sadly it lost its only health emergency command post and laboratory along with some key staff. This was in one of the World Trade Centre towers. The UK would be better placed with having more of a network of laboratory approach (the PHLS) than the centralised NYC model.
Mary Braham and Angus Nicoll
St Albans, Herts

Having watched the programme and whizzed through some of the comments previously published on this site, we were amazed at the amount of people who have missed the plot. The key, in our view, is not prevention of bio-terrorism but how we deal with it when or if it occurs. We feel that it is critical that the general population is kept as well informed as possible as it is the response of the population to the attack that is important. If the population is aware, then it won't panic and therefore the outbreaks will be quickly dealt with. If the population feel they are being lied to they will panic and anarchy will prevail. It is not in the interests of national security for the government to treat the electorate like mushrooms in this matter. This kind of warfare directly attacks civilian populations and therefore the civilians have to deal with it. This requires co-operation between all the civilian sectors of the community, i.e.: medics, police, fire-brigade, welfare organisations and the population themselves.
Dennis & Christine

I am very disturbed by the percentage of people that seemingly do not want to face reality. I am old enough to remember WW2 and the divided arguments that caused many to close their eyes to what was really going on. What if we knew then what we know now about WW2? Wasn't the US ready to shoot down a plane with innocent fellow Americans in order to save more deaths and destruction at the intended target? Yes, it is deplorable that innocent people die in Afghanistan or anywhere else for that matter, India, the Philippines, Indonesia etc. But is a stray bomb or an unintendedly hit target reason to stop the effort to find those who are on the warpath to kill other innocent people.

The Islam world uses the bombing of Hiroshima as a false excuse for terrorism. If there had been the sort of weapons then, as we have now, surely they would have been used at that time, because democratic governments have no use for killing innocent bystanders. And if you think it cannot happen to you or you don't want to know about getting prepared, think again!
Antwerp, Belgium

I'm sorry, but this programme was quite pathetic. The 'evidence' was circumstantial, there was no new information and its conclusions almost wild: assuming that the same people are behind anthrax attacks in the US that were behind the attacks of 11th September is too weird; one was incredibly simple and the other is by far too complicated. It simply doesn't make sense. Surely, water supply systems and air-conditioning systems should be heavily guarded to protect our populations?

My main concern arising from the programme is why we can't all be vaccincated against small pox if this is a real possibility? Better safe than sorry!

It's shocking to see that Whitehall's priorities are still more about covering their own ass than protecting the residents they supposedly represent. As a dual US/UK citizen living in London, I find it shocking that government is allowed to get away with such secrecy. Where is the freedom of information and government accountability to the taxpayer? The difference should be apparent to everyone watching the programme that there's a wide gulf between the openness with which the NYC govt. agencies deal with crises and that of their British counterparts. When will we start demanding an open government? What frightens me most about a possible terrorist attack in London is this secrecy which only covers up the government's appalling lack of preparedness.
H. Brooke

Surely, whilst we are worrying about what's going to happen to London, it's possible something could happen to say Manchester or Birmingham. Terrorists don't just pick on capitals, see New York for example.

Having watched the feedback on tonight's Panorama Programme this is not the time for division. All who have made their homes in these British Isles are united. Do you think any attack on this nation will only effect those who are not Muslim? Of course not. Our collective economy effects us all. We are all, in the start of the twenty-first century, so intimately united for our freedom and well-being that those who attack this nation, attack every one of us. We are in this together and it's about time that we recognised that. For better or worse, we are married. Division is what makes our enemy strong. The time to recognise what we share and enjoy together is now.

I found your programme quite informative, but mostly disturbing. It does not seem that our country is at all prepared for what seems a real and very serious threat. I am left feeling alarmed and very worried about something I can do nothing about. I hope you have a follow up programme to clarify the situation.
Sarah Smith

How apt it was to have watched a programme recently about London's plague of the 16th century and to now watch tonight's episode of Panorama which considered plans to cope with potential biological and chemical attacks on the city of London. As far as preventative measures of such disasters being taken, nothing has changed that much has it? Do the authorities really expect us to believe that they have the slightest idea of what is involved in taking the most basic of precautions? The vision: 20,000 infected people being asked to wait patiently in hospital corridors whilst administration is bogged down with sorting out repairs to the toilet facilities that survived the blitz, let alone find the authorising signature for the requisition order pads to release anti-biotics.

It is impressive to hear Jerry Hauer in the New York speak of having statistics placed on his desk each morning detailing such indicators as the quantity of over-the-counter medication sold the previous day for the treatment of diarrhoea. How long would it take the Health authorities here to agree on holding a feasibility study to look into how such data could be gathered in this country? Five, or maybe six years? And then there would have to be the proposal stage on how best to put the finding into operation. Who should we be considering are our enemies here? Do we have a National Advisory Council on Public Health Preparedness or any such advisory department in Britain?
Mark Texidor

The public should be informed about the level of preparation that is in place for a biological attack

Edward, Bournemouth
After watching the programme I have a bad feeling that the government's unwillingness to talk about their contingency plans for a biological attack, suggests that they are in fact very poorly prepared for such an eventuality. The public should be informed about the level of preparation that is in place for a biological attack, and I feel that the majority of the population would not be panicked by this information.

If a large number of people do contract deadly diseases by the use of biological terrorism, we will have to deal with the repercussions. These may include treating a large number of people by GPs who may not be able to cope in these circumstances. It would be helpful to know whether there are measures in place to help our doctors cope in such a situation.

Have you taken leave of your senses? You programme will scare the living daylights out of large numbers of people in the UK and will encourage criminal hoaxers to cause misery and anguish for thousands and may worst of all give fresh information to people wanting to commit terrorist and criminal acts. This has not been well thought out.
Lynne Myers

We cannot stop bio terrorism if we cannot trap bio terrorists! Until we all have ID cards they will keep on acting anonymously and then disappear into the populous! I would rather risk losing privacy than having a terrible death because of these people!

The West needs state that in no uncertain terms, that in any attack of this nature there will be massive retribution

Kevin, Worthing
I found tonight's programme very upsetting especially as there were no reassurances for us worried parents watching a very scary scenario unfold, whilst our innocent children lie sleeping, trusting, oblivious, in their beds. What kind of reassurances can I give them after such a programme?

I question the wisdom in making this programme. If we are so obviously ill-prepared for a biological attack then any potential terrorist living in this country had only to turn on the TV tonight to be encouraged. To help prevent this horror the West needs state that in no uncertain terms, that in any attack of this nature there will be massive retribution.

I found the programme very disappointing because it only focused on the possibility that Iraq or Bin Laden could have been the main culprits for the anthrax released. It did not review the possibility of the anthrax coming from a domestic source. Remember, America is the country with the largest stockpile of anthrax in the world.
Usman Sheikh

Tonight's programme was informative. However, why wasn't there any mention of the American stockpile of biological agents and their testing programme? Too many fingers point towards the Middle East, Russia and Bin Laden without real proof. Why not give the real reasons for the war in Afghanistan and stop generating fear which in turn generates anger and support for an unnecessary war on the innocent?
Pamela Schaffer

Having just watched your programme I have to say that anger stopped me switching off. This is just the type of scaremongering that we could all do without just now. To tell us basically that there is not much we can do to stop anyone determined to launch an attack of this nature and then go on to graphically detail how ill equipped we are to respond to it, is in my opinion helping to do the terrorists dirty work. As a mother of two young children I find this situation worrying enough without your ill judged attempts at journalism striking further fear into hearts. Shame on you all!
G Ogilby
Port Glasgow

Terrorist attacks are more for the threat than the actual attack. Terrorists can trade on the effects of Sept 11th without having to carry through another atrocity. Likewise with chemical or biological, the success is the reaction to threat rather than the attack. As you point out with the Anthrax threat, those actually affected are very few but the disruption is great.

Preparations should be put in hand to vaccinate the entire, unprotected population against smallpox as soon as possible.
West Midlands

A most revealing programme that has shown the stark reality of how vulnerable we are and how ineffective and unresponsive the government are to the reality of a probable attack here in the UK. With hospital beds as well as medical staff already at breaking point, what chance do the public have. At least we divers (and perhaps fire fighters) have some short term means of defence against an attack. God help the rest of you! Keep up the good work.
Mr. P. Renucci

What is the point of putting out a programme that can only frighten and worry the general public?

Anne Salmon, Durrington
Just how irresponsible can broadcasting become? I have a son who lives and works in Manhattan. He watched from his apartment building as the Twin Towers collapsed. He is now too scared to travel to work on the underground - he drinks only bottled water and even cleans his teeth with it. How do you think I and others who have relatives in American feel when you spread such scaremongering. There is nothing that the general public can do to protect themselves or prevent biological attacks, and seemingly we are not to be told what if, anything, our government plans to do for us if such an attack should occur. What, therefore, is the point of putting out a programme that can only frighten and worry the general public? Thank you Panorama, I shall now go to bed with a heavy heart and wonder if my son will be safe tonight.
Mrs. Anne Salmon
Durrington, Wilts.

We should keep at the front of our minds that Bin Laden and his side kicks will be enjoying the aftermath of Sept 11 as much as they will surely have been cheered by that terrible event itself. Let us not feed Bin Laden and his supporters even the slightest satisfaction or encouragement by over reacting to their threat.

There is only ONE rogue state which has ever used weapons of mass-destruction to kill people en-masse and it is USA (in Hiroshima and Nagasaki). What is shocking is that even decades after that event, USA developed these biological weapons and went as far as carrying out trial-runs of the dispersal process. You deserve what you get, so don't blame someone else for the seeds that you have sown. It's time that the CIA and State Dept officials be prosecuted and their cold-war activities be made public so that the blind amongst us know who the real criminal here is.
Salim Afsahi

Any mild sceptics might be forgiven for wondering if the veil of secrecy covering UK biological or chemical counter-terrorism contingencies exists more to mask a total absence of any form of comprehensive planning than to protect any such existing strategy.

People have commented that the people who would carry out such biological attacks probably have the weapons already. This is true. The only way to prevent this is eternal vigilance and this perhaps means more police powers.
John Nolan
Dublin, Ireland

A report was written by the National Focus (An agency paid for by the Emergency Planning Unit of the Dept of Health) Jan 2001, regarding NHS preparedness for a chemical incident, over half of the NHS hospitals does not have basic equipment (Dedicated bucket & sponge to decontaminate casualties). How then if we are not capable of dealing with chemical incidents can the government insinuate that the UK has secret plans to implement in the event of a biological attack!
Jane Doe

Extremely worrying!! If a large populated area like Hounslow is as ill prepared as it sounds for any Bio-Hazard, what chance does the rest of the country have? Is there a way of waking-up the government to inform the rest of us about they're plans, even on a basic level?
Peter Taggart

London must surely be a prime target because of our alignment with the US

Anne Pilling, Hartley Witney
I was disgusted but not surprised at the aloof response of government agencies when invited to comment on their preparedness to deal with a biological attack on London. Statements like 'there are no specific or major threats to the UK' are meaningless when it's so easy to release material into the underground system. London must surely be a prime target because of our alignment with the US and the increased likelihood of devastation in face of the appalling complacency of our so-called public servants. Please do not let this move out of the spotlight.
Anne Pilling
Hartley Wintney

My guess is that the Govt isn't being secretive - it just hasn't got a plan. We were told Foot and Mouth Disease was under control round about early March - where are we now - October.

'Bin Laden's biological threat' failed to demonstrate any link of such a threat to Bin Laden - Sorry. 'Evidence' was again mythical (but I suppose necessary for propaganda, Islamophobia and hysteria). Research into this ugly class of weapon should be banned. We would all be grateful if the USA would lead by example.

I think that this programme has highlighted the very real threat of bio-terrorism. It has raised important questions, many of which, people have been afraid to ask. The recent attacks using anthrax are, in my opinion, the tip of the iceberg. As a nation I think we need to address these problems rather than bury our heads in the sand. It is time to wake up to the bitter reality of the new age that we are now living in.
Elliot Meldrum

This was an excellent programme and obviously well researched. The whole object of biological warfare is to put a large number of the target population in a state of serious ill health and so tie up a nation's resources in treating the casualties. A by product of this form of attack is the widespread chaos and fear in the target nation. I do believe that Al Quaeda and various other terrorist groups and countries have stocks of these weapons available and have the means of delivery. Chemical weapons will kill people instantly and are equally accessible to these same nations and organisations. I believe that if anyone ever subjects a nation, and I'm not just referring to the current situation, to any of these weapons, they should be obliterated without remorse wherever they are found.

There will always be someone willing to carry out the unthinkable for their cause

M Shawyer, Berkshire
It does not matter which countries have the capability to unleash these weapons as terrorists are "nation-less". They will have obtained these weapons already. It is just a matter of time before they are used. It is all down to the security services to monitor all known suspects, throughout the world. I do not believe that this can be done forever. Somewhere, sometime, we will face the unthinkable just like the USA. Iraq seems the most likely source of any biological weapons getting into terrorist hands and if this is proved World War Three will result. Has our government got any stock piles of antibiotics, vaccines, etc available should something occur tomorrow? I doubt it! But they had better get a move on! Sorry to be doom and gloom, but there will always be someone willing to carry out the unthinkable for their cause.
M Shawyer

I disagree with the Govt's view that making the 'state of preparedness' known to the public would jeopardize the affectivity of these plans. If only, it would act as a sort of deterrent if it's known to the whole world that we are prepared and well-equipped to handle such a threat. Sep 11 has shown that surprise is the biggest weapon in terrorist's armour.
James White

This was an excellent programme by the BBC. The truth however is that the government are completely unprepared for biological attacks. What's even more disturbing though is that they can't actually do anything to prevent an attack. If or when it comes they should only prepare the NHS to treat the victims though at the moment this is beyond them.
Richard Wright

Tonight's programme was disappointing and full of assumptions and the material was not only old but had not been updated. Today we were informed that the Anthrax attack in New York was probably carried out by someone in America and not related to Bin Laden or Saddam H. The programme only generated unecessary fear.

The Panorama programme has shocked. As a grandmother and a responsible person, it is our duty to demand that contingency plans for any terrorists attacks are put into place. We need to defend ourselves. Our children are at risk. I will be writing to my MP forthwith. Mass immunisation should be considered.
Eileen Taylor

Too much information can be as damaging as too little

Carline Strachan, Montrose
Having watched tonight's programme I feel compelled to state that I found it loaded with details re New York's plans in the case of biological attack quite unnecessary. People are already feeling extremely anxious and uptight about what may or may not happen in our world tomorrow without the televising of such voyeuristic detail to fuel their fertile imaginations. I know that at one point in your programme you did ask if you may be creating further anxiety by just asking the questions of those willing to provide detailed information. I do think the answer is that too much information can be as damaging as too little, and you overstepped the mark. Had you been able to provide a little more information about Britain your report may have been balanced; as it was, this was not available so you gorged on that which was. Shame on you for sensationalising.
Caroline Strachan

I watched tonight's Panorama with interest and I noticed Tom Mangold's repeated assertions that a biological attack on London was "remote". I disagree. Given the impact anthrax has had over the last few weeks in the USA, it seems the most likely next step in the terrorists' campaign in the West will be that of biological attack. It's ease of operation, insidious nature, ready deniability, difficulty to combat and ability to cause massive disruption to society in general make it an attractive option to any group hell-bent on mass terror. Everyone is made to feel vulnerable, even though the actual threat to any one individual's personal health may be remote. I believe that at least the major cities in the UK should demonstrate that they are taking the threat seriously and, like New York, take credible steps to monitor sickness statistics daily. They should then go public to reassure the population of the steps they are taking. In these situations, the greatest threat is that of fear itself.
T. Bennett

It is just not true that the whole world is vulnerable to smallpox as stated in the programme. In this country, for instance, most people from early thirties and older will have been vaccinated in early childhood. I would also dispute the often stated opinion that vaccination is "too dangerous" to be used. It was universal, and at one time compulsory, in Britain until not that long ago. It is true that people with certain medical conditions are at risk but the majority get nothing worse than a painful blister.
Dr Liz Robinson

I am disgusted at this programme. I found it very worrying and I would say that any elderly people would find this most distressing. I thought that TV was for entertainment not for creating panic in some people. I feel that the producer of this type of programme should be reprimanded and not be allowed to make another programme of this nature again.
Ray Berland

After the government's shambolic handling of the Foot and Mouth Crisis, why should we be surprised if it takes days or even weeks before a biological attack is detected, bearing in mind the state of the NHS which can barely cope with overly predictable flu let alone smallpox. Perhaps this programme can help pull Whitehall out of its typically relaxed attitude to this threat.
Nick Connolly

I very much hope that our government is prepared for such an attack

Steve Fuller, Brighton & Hove
Tom Mangold's report tonight highlighted the very great threat, I think, we are all under. Biological warfare is being, and has been, developed for many years. The current situation is very serious, as Bin Laden will not hesitate to use these sort of weapons against the West. Iraq appears to have possible access to these weapons as well. I now wonder if the war will have to be carried on beyond Afghanistan? With the use of these weapons becoming an even bigger threat, I very much hope that our government is prepared for such an attack.
Steve Fuller
Brighton & Hove

I felt very uneasy watching the programme. Britain should not underestimate the threat posed by Bin Laden and those who follow him. We need proper contingency plans carefully devised for a range of biological or chemical attack. I think that by keeping the public in the dark about plans only increases their fear rather than diminishing it.
Carol McKnight

It appears so typical of the British Government to keep us all in the dark about our security in the UK - Not even bothering to comment on Biological warfare protection. And, what has the government really done about the welfare of the UK families left in the face of September 11 attack? Very little I presume.
Michael Stewart

I have watched your programme and appreciate the information it has imparted. I am very concerned with the lack of information that has been provided about the situation specific to London. I think it is a real and present possibility that the terrorists may attack London. We need information so that we can prepare and hopefully reduce the disastrous effects of a possible attack. If the Tube is a high risk area, then what are the London Authorities doing to handle that threat? Are they placing sensors like the US Authorities? I understand that there is the danger of creating a false sense of panic but at the same time we mustn't hold our heads in the sand.
Sean De Souza

I think it's highly improbable that Bin Laden will mount a high-tech biological attack. Sep 11 attack shows clearly that he relies on the simplest of methods for affectivity. He did not employ any high-tech or advanced bombs, but used harmless pen-knives to unleash the most heinous terrorism ever seen. Producing and dispensing Anthrax needs considerable resources, which definitely Afghanistan lacks. Still, I do not think the UK govt has taken the threat seriously enough to prepare for it. However unlikely the event may be, the govt needs to be sufficiently prepared to protect the citizens. I am absolutely aghast at the secretive mentality of UK govt. Just who are they attempting to kid? We know there may be 'no evidence of a credible threat' here, but hasn't the events of Sep 11 taught them anything? Would they need a specific threat to be leaked before they start acting? Or do they think their MI6 agents are more intelligent and connected than CIA's?

After tonight's programme, if we didn't know before, then we should know now why every terrorist in this world must be destroyed, if not, then they will surely destroy us.

Bin Laden's Biological Threat

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