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The Protective Oversight of Highly Consequential Biological Research

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Deliberate terrorism is clearly the most frequently mentioned danger from biotechnology, but it is not the most imminent threat. The greater problem arises from national government programs conducting threat assessment activities that are protected from international scrutiny by national security classification. That process generates reverberating suspicion and creates conditions under which competitive national government programs might create the threats they imagine they are attempting to defeat. The best protection against that danger is to conduct all threat assessment research under public health jurisdiction and rules of transparency.

John D. Steinbruner is Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland and Director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM).