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`Anthrax' arrests are a warning

Nerve agents used as weaponry strike fear into the populace and create consternation among military and law-enforcement officials - and that's when used on foreign soil. When an alleged plot to use deadly anthrax bacteria for terrorist purposes was uncovered in Henderson, Nev., it hit much too close to home. Even when the substance turned out to be a perfectly safe anthrax animal vaccine.

The FBI deserves more credit than blame for quickly making the arrests, given the perception of potential widespread danger.While there were initially questions about whether the anthrax carried by Larry Harris and William Leavitt was livestock vaccine or stronger military grade, initial reports indicated it was intended for untoward purposes. The reputation of Harris did nothing to counter those concerns.

In an affidavit, the FBI indicated Harris had spoken last summer about plans to release bubonic plague in New York City subways, causing a massacre that would destroy the economy, surprise the military and be blamed on the Iraqis. He has a documented fascination with biological weapons and their potential catastrophic effects.

Though there was no specific target mentioned in connection with last week's arrests and charges against both men have been dropped, the incident understandably caused a furor in and around Las Vegas with shock waves expanding outward. It rekindled memories of the insidious and cowardly Oklahoma City bombing, subway attack in Tokyo, World Trade Center bombing and other domestic terrorist incidents.

Running throughout those tragedies and this false alarm is the common thread of community vulnerability, a particular issue with biological weapons.

Had this been military grade anthrax, microscopic spores could kill humans so quickly that by the time symptoms appeared, it would be too late to treat them. Other types of biological agents are equally as deadly and difficult to detect and withstand.

Some estimates indicate at least 1,600 known terrorists and terrorist groups exist in the United States. This latest incident is another wake-up call to the concern that, without continued stringent law-enforcement and military protection, they may inflict horrendous casualties through barbaric and senseless acts of domestic terrorism.

One only hopes such unstable souls are apprehended before committing crimes or that they reconsider using inhumane and violent acts as an impetus to effecting political and social change. Innocent suffering is the only lasting impact of such warped misdeeds.