Woodward Gives Talk on Biological Weapons Threat

May 23, 2016

Woodward DC

Association of Former Intelligence Officers President James R. Hughes, a BU alumnus, thanks Professor John Woodward for his presentation.

John D. Woodward, Jr., Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, was a featured speaker at the May luncheon meeting of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) held in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia on May 20, 2016.

Introduced by AFIO President James R. Hughes, a veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service (BU M.A. IR 1970), John briefed the 200 attendees on the topic, “The Hard Problem of Countering the Use of Biological Weapons.”

A former CIA officer who served in the Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Science and Technology, Woodward urged greater policymaker attention to the biological weapons threat, explaining the ways in which biological weapons pose a human, economic, and societal threat.

Woodward then detailed biological weapons risks as terrorists and others leverage advances in the life sciences and information technologies to ramp up the types of attacks they may seek to launch.

“We know that non-state actors like Al Qaeda and the Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, tried very hard to develop offensive biological weapons capabilities in the 1990s.  They manifested clear intent to possess biological weapons; they lacked the capability,”  Woodward said. “As the technology advances and processes become deskilled, it becomes easier and easier for more and more malevolent actors to produce biological weapons.”

Woodward’s presentation also included possible policy approaches to focus greater attention on intelligence measures the US and global communities can take to prevent or disrupt biological weapons attacks.

In light of the upcoming presidential election, Woodward concluded by noting that “Based on their prior statements and writings, both presumptive candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are aware of the grave threat posed by biological weapons.  For example, as President Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton spoke about the transnational threat posed by biological weapons and how transnational action is required to counter it.  Mr. Trump, in his book, The America We Deserve (2000), made several references to biological weapon risks and offered counter-biological weapon policy ideas.”

Incorporated in 1975, AFIO is a national non-profit educational association for current and former intelligence professionals as well as individuals and organizations with an interest in the U.S. intelligence community.

Woodward is a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer. During his twenty-year CIA career, he served as an operations officer in the Clandestine Service and as a technical intelligence officer in the Directorate of Science and Technology, with assignments in Washington, DC, East Asia, Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Learn more about him here.

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