South Africa, Project Coast
Apartheid South Africa had a very extensive biological warfare program, code-named
Project Coast. Unlike South Africa's terminated nuclear weapons program, the
status of Project Coast is now unclear. Pathogens remain unaccounted for,
and there are indications that "research" is continuing.
It is also known that many of the agents have ended up in private hands.
Incredibly, these agents may be for sale to the highest bidders.
Anthrax was a key focus in Project Coast, genetically modified to make it
incurable by any conventional vaccine. The arsenal also included
plague, salmonella and botulism, as well as antidotes for many
of the diseases. The weapons were usually modified and packaged in
a way that avoided traditional detection mechanisms. The original intent
was that this stealth would aid in assassination efforts against
opponents of the government, particularly in the black community.. However, this
stealth technology also makes these weapons ideal for more global terrorism.
For this reason this technology probably commands a particularly
high price in the global black market.
Perhaps even more threatening were the
pathogenic characteristics added to common human bacteria. For example,
Project Coast isolated a toxin-producing gene from
Clostridium perfringens. C perfringens causes a variety of fatal
conditions including gas gangrene, a severe form of gangrene which attacks
living tissue. Technicians spliced this gene into
Escherichia coli, an intestinal bacterium found in every human being.
Should this modified bacteria ever escape and establish itself in
human populations, the result could be a universal epidemic of gangrene.
It's believed that Project Coast made similar modifications on other
common human bacteria. The status (and whereabouts) of these agents is now unknown.
Biodefense experts have long worried about the implications of such genetic
modification for biological warfare and terrorism. In Project Coast
their worst nightmares are realized: genetic modifications executed
in an expert fashion, packaged and weaponized, and then "disappeared"
into the global marketplace.
Also unknown is the location and disposition of many of Project Coast's
scientists. A few are now believed to be working overseas in clandestine
efforts. And there have been dark rumors of private transactions,
various individuals coming to South Africa in order to buy weaponized
agents. The public record
does not state whether any of these transactions has yet been completed.
Amazingly, one of these private transactions involved the United States
government. In 2002 Daan Goosen, a former Project Coast researcher, offered
to sell to the United States government some biological weapons. As
a measure of his good faith and mark of his credentials, he sent to
the American FBI a sample of these weapons. Ironically, he chose
the genetically-modified Escherichia Coli as his calling card.
Freeze-dried and packaged inside a tube of toothpaste, he mailed the
parcel to a CIA officer who couriered the microbes the rest of the way.
The Americans confirmed the potency of Dr. Goosen's sample. However they
were more appalled than interested in making a buy. Therefore the
deal was never done.
No matter. There are surely others in the world who will be interested
in acquiring this pathogen, or others like it.
Biological weapons are extremely valuable, easily hidden and
easily transported. There are eager sellers and eager buyers.
The situation is analogous to the global illegal drug trade.
History teaches that, in such situations, a marketplace always
develops and is virtually impossible to control.
Link: Report On South African Project Coast - Germ Warfare
Link: US Doctor Helped South African Bioweapon Development
Link: Summary Of South African Biological And Chemical Efforts
Bitter South African Germ Scientists Being Recruited By Rogue Nations
South African Chemical and Biological Programs: An Overview