Biosafety Laboratories: Congress Investigates Perimeter Security


By: Jim Kouri, CPP

Biosafety labs under the US Bioterrorism Act are primarily regulated and must be registered with either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Select Agent Regulations.

Currently, all operational biosafety level (BSL) 4 labs are registered with the CDC and thus are regulated by the CDC, not USDA. BSL-4 labs handle the world’s most dangerous agents and diseases. In fact, of the four BSL designations, only BSL-4 labs can work with agents for which no cure or treatment exists. GAO was asked to perform a systematic security assessment of key perimeter security controls at the nation’s five operational BSL-4 labs.

To meet this objective, GAO performed a physical security assessment of the perimeter of each lab using a security survey it developed. GAO focused primarily on 15 physical security controls, based on GAO expertise and research of commonly accepted physical security principles.

Select Agent Regulations do not mandate specific perimeter security controls that need to be in place at each BSL-4 lab, resulting in significant differences in perimeter security between the nation’s five labs. While three labs had all or nearly all of the key security controls GAO assessed–features such as perimeter barriers, roving armed guard patrols, and magnetometers in use at lab entrances–two labs demonstrated a significant lack of these controls.

Specifically, one lab had all 15 security controls in place, one had 14, and another had 13 of the key controls. However, the remaining two labs had only 4 and 3 key security controls, respectively. Although the presence of the security controls GAO assessed does not automatically ensure a secure perimeter, having most controls provides increased assurance that a strong perimeter security system is in place and reduces the likelihood of unauthorized intrusion.

For example, the two labs with fewer security controls lacked both visible deterrents and a means to respond to intrusion. One lab even had a window that looked directly into the room where BSL-4 agents were handled. In addition to creating the perception of vulnerability, the lack of key security controls at these labs means that security officials have fewer opportunities to stop an intruder or attacker. The two labs with fewer security controls were approved by the CDC to participate in the Select Agent Program despite their weaknesses.

During the course of our review, GAO noted that the three labs with all or nearly all of the key security controls GAO assessed were subject to additional federal security requirements imposed on them by agencies that owned or controlled the labs, not because of the Select Agent Regulations.



Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.

He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri’s own website is located at http://jimkouri.us

About The Author Jim Kouri, CPP:
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.
Website:http://jimkouri.us

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