Screening – Anthrax War
The film begins in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks when anthrax-laced letters, mailed to media offices in New York and to the U.S. Senate in Washington, spread fear and panic across the United States and beyond. Filmmaker Bob Coen probes troubling questions still surrounding the FBI’s investigation of the 21st Century’s first act of biological terrorism.
The search for answers takes him from the United States to the United Kingdom, then to the edge of Siberia and to Southern Africa and leads them into an underworld in which leading scientists working with germs die under mysterious circumstances. The growing list includes Bruce Ivins, who the FBI claims was the only person behind the U.S. anthrax murders; Dr. David Kelly, the former Head of Microbiology at the UK’s Porton Down lab; and Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik, an important Soviet defector.
The filmmaker penetrate what they come to call the “biological warfare mafia” and uncover the development of terrifying new weapons – genetically mutated germs, some with the ability to target specific ethnic groups. In a rare interview, the man known as “Doctor Death”, who headed South Africa’s apartheid-era biological warfare program that developed germs aimed at the country’s black population, reveals that he received help from the U.S. and U.K. The filmmaker also learns that some of these germs may be for sale on the black market today.
Anthrax War goes on to reveal how the 2001 Anthrax Attacks have spawned a $50 billion dollar “Bio-defense” boom in which biological weapons research is now being conducted, with little oversight, by corporations and private labs – the new “Bio-Terrorism Industrial Complex”.
The film underscores how fear of terrorism combined with the lure of extraordinary profits may be leading to a global germ war arms race that could be hurtling the planet toward catastrophe.