NEW YORKIn an eerie prelude to the current anthrax hysteria, an American microbiologist was captured by the FBI in Ohio during the late 1990s with vials of bacterium that causes the bubonic plague. He also told a major magazine he had "recovered" anthrax.
For his role in purchasing the bubonic samples, microbiologist Larry Wayne Harris was eventually convicted of wire fraud. He was arrested at his Lancaster, Ohio, home with three vials of Yersinia pestis stashed in the glove compartment of his Subaru. He supposedly bought the inert samples by mail for $240 from a Maryland lab.
Harris had belonged to the Aryan Nations and allegedly participated in the racist Christian Identity Church activities.
For now, speculation about the recent anthrax scare centers on Muslim extremists. But white supremacists cannot be ignored, especially as abortion clinics around the country report receiving letters containing suspicious powder. Some of these letters reference domestic terrorists like the Army of God.
Harris, 44, said that his self-published book Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America was designed to help people survive a biological attack and that he never intended to harm anyone. But, according to Intelligence Report, a nonprofit outfit that tracks far-right activities, "the scope and depth of information in the book also make it an effective do-it-yourself manual for mass destruction through biological terrorism."
In his book, Harris says rats and airplanes are a good way to deliver bacteriological agents. He says the Cessna 150 is an ideal aircraft for biological attacks. That's the same model of plane that crashed into the White House grounds in 1994.
In a September 1997 interview with US News, a reporter asked Harris, "How hard is it to create biological weapons?" To which he replied: "Not hard at all. I recovered anthrax, it took just 10 days. I checked the newspapers and found the last outbreak in Ohio, it was in the 1950s. I found where the cows were buried and used a long prod to get a sample. It's very deadly stuff."
Harris added that he cultured another disease-causing organism using fairly simple technology. "You can do it tabletop," he told the magazine. "The only thing you need is a good microscope, an autoclave, an incubator."
Harris said he thinks other microbiologists were doing the same thing in their home labs. And he added, "You haven't seen anything yet. Wait till you see what's getting ready to go on the Net. The people I'm talking too, they're going to post step-by-step instructions on how to obtain anthrax, how to disperse it."
In his book Harris recounts the supposed story of a 1993 encounter with a woman Iraqi microbiologist at the Ohio State Library. He writes that the woman was a member of a terrorist band preparing to unleash biological attacks in the U.S. "some time in the next few years."