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Designing DNA Specific Bio-Weapons

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the poison-just-for-you dept.

The Military 227

Hugh Pickens writes writes "The Atlantic reports that experts in genetics and microbiology are convinced we may be only a few years away from the development of advanced, genetic bio-weapons able to target a single human being based on their DNA. The authors paint a scenario of the development of a virus that causes only mild flu in the general population but when the virus crosses paths with cells containing a very specific DNA sequence, the sequence would act as a molecular key to unlock secondary functions that would trigger a fast-acting neuro-destructive disease that produces memory loss and, eventually, death. The requisite equipment including gene sequencers, micro-array scanners, and mass spectrometers now cost over $1 million but on eBay, it can be had for as little as $10,000. According to Ronald Kessler, the author of the 2009 book In the President's Secret Service, Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched—they are later sanitized or destroyed—in an effort to keep would-be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material. However no amount of Secret Service vigilance can ever fully secure the president's DNA, because an entire genetic blueprint can now be produced from the information within just a single cell. How to protect the President? The authors propose open-sourcing the president's genetic information to a select group of security-cleared researchers who could follow in the footsteps of the computer sciences, where 'red-team exercises,' are extremely common practices so a similar testing environment could be developed for biological war games. 'Advances in biotechnology are radically changing the scientific landscape. We are entering a world where imagination is the only brake on biology,' write the authors. 'In light of this coming synbio revolution, a wider-ranging relationship between scientists and security organizations—one defined by open exchange, continual collaboration, and crowd-sourced defenses—may prove the only way to protect the president.'"

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fox.... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803033)

....die!!!!....blargh

Re:fox.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803131)

I tried to watch the Fox News business block on Saturday over the weekend. It was so hyper-partisan it was unwatchable, I had to switch to a different channel. All I wanted was some commentary and opinions on the markets and the economy. All I was getting was anti-Obama and anti-union bullshit, repeated ad nauseum. I'm not even a Democrat and it was way over the top.

Re:fox.... (1)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#41803433)

I thought this was troll, too, but as pointed out here [slashdot.org] it's very much relevant.

FOXDIE is an engineered retrovirus developed by the DIA for the Pentagon. It is programmed to kill specific people by identifying the person's DNA and their nanomachines then causing cardiac arrest. The only known host for FOXDIE was Solid Snake.

Socialism or barbarism! (1, Interesting)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#41803045)

It's time for the workers to take power and put an end to the rule of the nuclear-armed madmen imperialist butchers.

Capitalism sucks!

Yeah, because (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803047)

this is a brilliant idea. Great work once again.

Also, that's not how open source works.

Frank Herbert's The White Plague (5, Informative)

Lundse (1036754) | about 2 years ago | (#41803051)

Just throwing that out there... Basic scenario; brilliant biochemist does exactly this to wreck revenge on Ireland and England for the conflict that took his family. Mild flu in males, deadly to females. Some of his best work outside Dune, btw...

Re:Frank Herbert's The White Plague (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41803087)

Iran must be quite worried. Struxnet was nothing.

Re:Frank Herbert's The White Plague (2, Insightful)

thej1nx (763573) | about 2 years ago | (#41803275)

Are you an idiot? what you need to worry about now is Iran AND all the countries that do NOT like USA, pulling off this crap themselves. So let us make a couple of lists. How many countries hate Iran? Okay now... how many countries hate USA? Who should be more worried, do tell?

Re:Frank Herbert's The White Plague (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41803363)

Are you an idiot? Who has the resources to put something like this together? Does PayPal even allow sign-ups from Iran?

Persians vs. Arabs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803417)

The Persians and Arabs have a long history of animosity. Israel, with her strong education and technology infrastructure, would be a formidable bio-weapon maker.

Iran has a pretty homogenous population; whereas the US is quite diverse - targeting any group of people wouldn't be as near as devastating as targeting Persians only.

So, in short Lundse is correct. You are not.

Re:Frank Herbert's The White Plague (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803307)

Eh? You know any country that has stable power can have a deadly biological weapon program going. The equipment is easily obtainable (since it is medical related.)

Re:Frank Herbert's The White Plague (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#41803175)

Yeah, that was exactly what I was thinking.

There was also a mention in Marvel Comics, forget the title, starring Shang-Chi of the CIA developing race-specific genetic weapons.

Somehow, we missed the science fiction story where:

``... the protagonists are would-be thieves or revolutionaries who seem to have all the superstitiousness of medieval peasants, but it turns out that it's merely behaviour to defend against such high-tech genetic snooping.'' ( http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3192557&cid=41689163 [slashdot.org] )

I hate it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803057)

This is just cruel. A bullet would be more humane than to cause an eventual death by progressively shutting down their body.

Re:I hate it (5, Funny)

Custard Horse (1527495) | about 2 years ago | (#41803135)

A bullet would be more humane than to cause an eventual death by progressively shutting down their body.

You've just described old age. You do know that Logan's Run is not a documentary right?

Yeah right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41804157)

You do know that Logan's Run is not a documentary right?

Then how come at the end it says, "Based on a true story"?

EXPLAIN that

Re:I hate it (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#41803613)

That's how lethal injections work.

Re:I hate it (2)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 2 years ago | (#41804017)

That is one of the reasons that civilized countries do not have the death penalty.

What a great thing. (5, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 2 years ago | (#41803059)

For every interest group when they figure out that they can target "unwanted" groups of people. And imagine what the Nazis of Germany could have done during WWII - a virus designed to kill off everyone that wasn't pure Arian.

Re:What a great thing. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803125)

... a virus designed to kill off everyone that wasn't pure Arian.

The correct spelling is Aryan, you Uentermensch.

Re:What a great thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803823)

The correct spelling is Aryan, you Uentermensch.

The correct spelling is Üntermensch, you Üntermensch :P

Re:What a great thing. (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41804013)

The correct spelling is Untermensch, you Üntermensch :P

FTFY. Ja, I'm an Überspeller!

Re:What a great thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803865)

Yeah! Arian is a class of religious retard.

Re:What a great thing. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41803985)

a virus designed to kill off everyone that wasn't pure Arian.

Ironically, Nazis persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses, these Arians of the modern era, with the same vehemence they persecuted Jews. So if you ever take a visit to Nazi Germany in your time machine and want to survive it, make sure that your "I'm an Aryan" statements have the right vowels in them!

Re:What a great thing. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803145)

I don't think Hitler would have supported that given his personnal genetic background.

Re:What a great thing. (1)

Tanuki64 (989726) | about 2 years ago | (#41803171)

Really? Too bad, if I had black skin and lived in the USA, I would worry even today.

Re:What a great thing. (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41803227)

I don't think we have to be afraid of race-based targeting. Ethnic groups aren't homogenous enough for that to be possible. Would the Nazis have invented a Jew-killing virus, Hitler would've been the first of its victims.

Re:What a great thing. (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#41803231)

The problem that people like this often overlook is the fact that the majority of the Nazies, including Hitler, were not pure "Arian" Targetting any particular race would likely kill off large portions of your own people.

Re:What a great thing. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803957)

As if the US has ever been concerned about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. This would also play in nicely with the UN proposal to depopulate the world by 80%.

Re:What a great thing. (2)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#41803505)

In my comic Genocide Man:

The Palestines and Jews designed viruses to wipe out each other.
Someone in Asia created a plague to kill everyone with red hair.
China was largely devastated when their population fell victim to a targeted airborne rabies.
The global police force used a targeted viral outbreak to crush and occupy Korea.
Oslo, Seattle, Mexico City, and Hong Kong were sites of accidental viral releases that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

...and I think I'm underestimating the actual technology. In my comic's timeline [genocideman.com] we're not supposed to have targeted plagues until 2030 or so.

Biowarfare is no freakin' joke. It's bad enough when superpowers have them, but when maniacs have the knowledge to design viruses in their own basement this world is going to have serious problems. (How are people going to get that knowledge? In my comic I blamed the Open Source movement...and with projects like AMOS [sourceforge.net] , they may prove me right.)

Re:What a great thing. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41803629)

And imagine what the Nazis of Germany could have done during WWII - a virus designed to kill off everyone that wasn't pure Aryan.

Most likely, we'd all be dead, because not even the Germans, and certainly not Hitler, would have qualified as pure Aryans. This problem is actually the plot of an early Babylon 5 episode, in which an alien race had created a living weapon that only took orders from "pure" members of their own race, and the weapon killed everyone living on the planet because nobody actually qualified as "pure".

Re:What a great thing. (1)

mikael_j (106439) | about 2 years ago | (#41803749)

I've actually been thinking about this every now and then the last few years. That in a not-too-distant future someone will be able to whip up a virus that can kill only those its creators want to kill.

Like you what I thought wasn't targeting individuals so much as ethnic groups, some white supremacist in the US targeting genetic traits mostly found in black Africans (and their recent descendants), European right-wing extremists going after Arabs, certain groups in the Arab world going after ethnic groups which are predominately non-Muslim and so on.

If I was one of these crazies I'd also take other factors into account, for example, certain cultures are predominately patriarchal so you could perhaps limit your weapon to men, thus not completely depopulating a region. Or how about some crazy cultists targeting women in general?

It's really quite scary to think of.

Re:What a great thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803921)

I actually own a book along those lines.

[Spoliers]
Ex-Nazi becomes doctor in US and does some genetic experimentation to turn the main characters baby into a walking bio-bomb (she becomes pregnant via IVF iirc). This viral bomb was a a version of the Spanish flu i believe and was targeted at Jews. Don't remember the name and it's packed away in storage, so sorry.
[/Spoliers]

Re:What a great thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41804179)

Or for the Japanese... (I say this in reference to Lewis Perdue's cautionary tale "Slatewiper". It's good, though it does at times ask me to suspend an awful lot of disbelief, like how superduperawesome the main character is, and how she always manages to get away... I had to keep telling myself "she's the main character, of course she manages to escape the hailstorm of lead trying to get back aboard Tagcat II," or, "of course she escapes that gay hotel room, even though the people shooting at her had ten minutes as she went sliding down the roof to fill her ass with lead...")

But the idea is (SPOILER ALERT) that if you're stupid enough to play with something this dangerous, it could bite you in the ass, especially if you fail to check into the background of someone who turns out to have every reason he could want to want to do to you what you want to do to someone else...

Anyway, the idea of targeting someone's genetic code specifically would require you to create a virus with tremendous selectivity, and to target a whole "ethnicity" or "race" still could have unintended consequences. No one should be fucking with this shit for the same reason most nations abandoned any kind of offensive warfare using gas after world war one. You're totally at the mercy of the wind, and a change in the weather could mean that by deploying deadly gasses, you are basically playing Russian roulette with yourself and your troops.

You'd have to be sure it couldn't possibly attack you. In a way, this is good for everyone. The sooner it becomes obvious to the shits running this toddling little planet that individual humans are becoming dangerous enough to kill huge numbers of their fellow human beings, the sooner they will realize all the petty bickering and bullshit have to FUCKING END! The stupidity of man needs to be mitigated through education, the lunacy of religious belief needs to go, because that's really just a failure to think, and an embarrassing one at that. People argue, at the end of the day, and will fight and/or kill and/or die for few things. Human resources, (power and influence over others, by which I mean "getting other people to do what you want," and money, (really a form of power too, as long as it's perceived as valuable, and people are willing to go out of their way to get it. Natural resources like arable land, the water to wet same, minerals, etc., are another, natural, logical thing to fight over, since having either of these can translate as an individual survival advantage that may well benefit the group as a whole, as well.

To secure their future, people must also pursue and secure the means of reproduction. To fail, or lose a fight in this department reduces your genes chances of having a future beyond YOU. It's most natural to fight over this, and we see it nearly throughout the animal kingdom. Then there's religion. Fighting over who's god can beat up whomever else's. What a stupid reason to fight, kill, or die. Downright moronic. But that's what a lot of people are fighting about these days. Who can convince the most credulous fools that their imaginary friend is no more real than the characters in any other work of fiction?

But the idiots are willing to fight, so they probably will. When any one person can be so deadly that everyone who even COULD decide to run out and start killing people do so. The only safety would be figuring out a cure and immunizing everyone, or start taking crack-pots and start "feeling up" nutcases out, when it becomes obvious that he or she is a dangerous lunatic...

I had to cringe (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803067)

We haven't yet found a cure for cancer, or other horrible and debilitating diseases, but we've found time to research something like this?

Idiots (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803153)

We've found cures for many cancers. "cancer" isn't a disease, it's a family of diseases, and killing is a whole lot easier when you're less selective. By the way, this isn't research, this is spouting notions. The two are only conflated in think tanks and idiots. but I repeat myself.

Re:I had to cringe (1)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#41803337)

It hasn't been researched or developed. It's been noticed that such a thing is possible with current technology, so they're taking precautionary measures.

Re:I had to cringe (1)

Shaman (1148) | about 2 years ago | (#41803589)

Uhm... you have no idea what the U.S. government or any of its allies or protagonists have that has not yet seen the light of day. The U.S. in particular has a next-generation arsenal they are sitting on which has never yet been used in a conflict.

Re:I had to cringe (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#41803775)

Yes, but this actually COULD be a treatment for some caused by mutations(a fair percentage, I'm lead to believe). Sequence the tumors and the native cells. Make a virus that kills only cancer cells.

Besides, we've had nuclear weapons and mutated smallpox for years, ready to go. This is basically a NICER choice for genocide.

Re:I had to cringe (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41803833)

Actually research into this is targeted at fighting cancer. If you can kill cells with defective DNA you can cure cancer.

It has been obviously for a long time that such techniques could target particular races or individuals as well. These researchers are just pointing out that the cost of the technology needed to create such a weapon is rapidly falling, and that the equipment is freely available on eBay.

I'm a little confused... (2)

bistromath007 (1253428) | about 2 years ago | (#41803071)

I'm on bluesnews, right? This is an announcement for another Resident Evil game?

Collecting DNA (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#41803075)

If I was a foreign power wanting to build a genetic weapon to specifically target the President, I would haver been collecting the DNA of all the top echelon politicians well before they came close to running their presidential campaigns. If I can think of this in 10 seconds of reading TFS (not even TFA) then I'm sure that the bad guys have already thought of it - unless you subscribe to the theory that the bad guys are always dumb.

Re:Collecting DNA (2)

Meneth (872868) | about 2 years ago | (#41803113)

Considering how dumb our bad guys are, I wouldn't be sure of anything. :)

Re:Collecting DNA (4, Funny)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#41803141)

Considering how dumb our bad guys are, I wouldn't be sure of anything. :)

Can't we have any discussion without mentioning the current Presidential election?!?!?!?

Re:Collecting DNA (1)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#41803127)

If I was a foreign power wanting to specifically target the President, I wouldn't be concerned about the collateral damage of the rest of the people wherever he was. You could argue they might be interested in remaining undiscovered, but that's just an application of military secrecy to whatever you plan anyway.

And the president has a publicly announced schedule for a lot of things, an easily-discovered schedule for the majority of what remains, and will be in secure military facilities for whatever is left anyway.

As a terror plot, it's not really very interesting, and the complexities involved go slightly beyond lumping a few scientists in a room with some kit from eBay. The effort-payoff ratio just isn't worth it, like almost all "potential" terror scenarios, but it makes a nice headline, like almost all "potential" terror scenarios.

In fact, what would happen is one of several thousand people watching him (or her) give some speech somewhere would have a conventional weapon. Effort-payoff is vastly increased and you can probably get a lot of attempts before you need one to be successful or run out of opportunities.

Now if we were talking about a genocide-weapon, then the possibility is more realistic. There are countries and dictators that would happily spend whatever it took to wipe out people with whatever-variant in their DNA, not care about being too specific, and applying it globally, and if the technology had been around in the Second World War, things might have played out a LOT differently.

Re:Collecting DNA (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 years ago | (#41803285)

As a terror plot, it's not really very interesting, and the complexities involved go slightly beyond lumping a few scientists in a room with some kit from eBay. The effort-payoff ratio just isn't worth it, like almost all "potential" terror scenarios, but it makes a nice headline, like almost all "potential" terror scenarios.

I agree it s unlikely given the current state of technology, but I can see why an assassination technique that doesn't look like assassination is attractive.
 
To give an analogy consider a discussion I had years ago about the merits of Judo/Jiu-jitsu vs Tae Kwon Do with my Judo Sensei if you are caught up in an altercation in a bar. Both forms are equally effective in incapacitating your opponent and leaving them lying on the ground. But using a Tae Kwon Do crescent kick to your opponent's head will also get your opponents friends all riled up over the violence you imparted and the insult you implied by obviously beating their friend to a pulp - plus when the police get called they can easily spot the bruises all over your opponents face. However by using a subtle Judo take down combined with some nerve point attacks, your opponent's friends won't be sure what happened - was it an attack, or did your opponent simply slip on the wet floor?? Plus when the police come there is no residual physical damage to your opponent, so they are more likely to believe that he just fell on the floor by himself.
 
Now compare this with the President being shot in the head vs dying of some virus, and what the likely public reaction will be.

Re:Collecting DNA (1)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#41803389)

Agreed, and I do mention that in my post (albeit discretely).

But the fact remains that the pay-off won't be there. The cover-up element is only a part of the story, though. The difference, though, is that it's also much easier to fake such "indicators" if they are public - getting a gunman who aligns to your enemy and thinks he's working for them to do the dirty work and you immediately implicate them (falsely). You can't do that with a "stealth" assassination.

Hell, there are still countries technically at war / not at war after ten years with other countries because of a terrorist that operated from inside one of those countries (not the country itself). And I've repeatedly seen that China is "cyber-attacking" the US, which I'd love to know how they know that and/or how they are sure they aren't being used as a proxy target.

The value of steering a misdirected retaliation probably far outweighs any benefit of secrecy (especially secrecy at ENORMOUS expense).

I have an even bigger question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803393)

... so what? Has american become so mindless that cutting off it's 'figurehead' will have an effect for more than an hour?

Seriously if our president dies, BFD, we've got the VP, the head of the senate, and then whoever else is next in line to take over custodianship of the presidency if the aforementioned are incapacitated or eliminated. That's our system at work. Honestly if more people thought like this maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal. If thousands of our servicemen are acceptable losses in a foreign nation, then why isn't a figurehead in our own backyard? It's not like it would suddenly change policies. It MIGHT have some effect on political visits with foreign dignitaries (since if you can't secure YOUR leader, how can they expect you to secure theirs?), but as far as direction and control of the US proper it would only have as much effect as could be politically leveraged for 'favorable' emergency bill passages, much like the WTC was for the DHS, TSA, and company.

Re:Collecting DNA (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | about 2 years ago | (#41803193)

"Now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb."

Re:Collecting DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803259)

especially in the US where there are these huge multi-stop campaigns of presidential candidates. I doubt it would be nearly as hard to snag some DNA from those events and then sit on it until they found out who wins the election and then they already have the DNA

Re:Collecting DNA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803773)

Actually it has gotten harder to do.

Just think how easy it would have been to get Bill Clinton's DNA.

Re:Collecting DNA (1)

LordNightwalker (256873) | about 2 years ago | (#41803265)

If I can think of this in 10 seconds of reading TFS (not even TFA) then I'm sure that the bad guys have already thought of it - unless you subscribe to the theory that the bad guys are always dumb.

I wouldn't worry too much.. The bad guys can't shoot straight either!

Re:Collecting DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803277)

Actually the bad guy's weakness is that he will always take time to monologue his evil plot to whatever agent is trying to thwart him. Then BAM! watch laser to the eye. Rest easy Mr President.

Re:Collecting DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803325)

If the biological weapon is advanced enough, they don't need even exact copy of the DNA of the assassination target. Having access to the relatives, especially parents, gives enough information for targeting. Inexact copy from parents means that you just have to allow more than one possible variation at each/most targeted loci.

Or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803083)

Sure, or if you really wanted to kill the president you could just shoot him during a public appearance.

The main security used to protect politicians is that only crazy people try to kill them, and crazy people are bad at assassinations.

I doubt they're any better at biology.

Produces memory loss? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803089)

It seems that they are already attacking our politicians with this method, since they never seem to be able to remember anything they said before they were elected.

Sounds Fascinating... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803093)

I wonder if it could be used to get rid of niggers.

Or does it only work on humans?

Horrible (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803101)

What a horrible thing to do with advances in science. We should be working to cure the world's ills, not create new ones. And those who think that by doing such things in order to prevent them is a good idea, are sadly mistaken. You just know that the goal is destruction, not prevention, for those who create in order to protect.

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803163)

The very first thing that crossed my mind was a world devoid of independent thinkers and anyone with the mind to challenge coercive authority. A world where individualism is dead and conformity is god. If that is indeed the future, then I'm glad I'll be dying before it happens.

Not worth the effort (2)

tstrunk (2562139) | about 2 years ago | (#41803121)

Maybe, but only maybe the article is right and it would be possible to design a protein, which binds specifically to a DNA sequence motif of a single human being killing the host. Currently this is a lot of work even for a few (as in 18) bases and not solvable by standard means. The design of a protein binding specifically to any random DNA sequence ( think huuuuuugee Zinc-Finger Nucleases : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc_finger_nuclease [wikipedia.org] ) is in my opinion still nobel prize material.

If that was actually possible, people would use it to do good (Gene therapy etc). To knock out cancerous genes, while retaining the good ones. To bind specifically to Virus RNA or to just identifiy gene segments, which are connected somehow to genetical disorders (minus the killing of course in this case).

My point is: I don't think there is enough motivation in the scientific community to develop this just to kill a political target. There are definitely less costly ways, which leave less traces.

Re:Not worth the effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803747)

"To knock out cancerous genes"

Sounds like the beginning of "I Am Legand", while i doubt rampant zombie/vampirism would be the result I can't see this going well.

Re:Not worth the effort (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41804127)

If that was actually possible, people would use it to do good (Gene therapy etc).

We're working on gene therapy, but so far it has killed test subjects. But if the goal is killing people... Phage therapy is a thing, and it works, so I suspect it's possible.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803143)

It was in a fringe episode wasn't it???? lol..... amazing to see how sci-fi is slowly moving to science reality

Why worry about just the President? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803169)

As bad as killing a head of state might be, I worry more about the problem of a buggy (pun intended) first release that goes like Frank Herbert's White Plague and kills lots of others.

Also, it seems a lot of effort to kill a President when the same amount of money might fund several "traditional" attempts

Protecting BHO genes from comparison with MalcolmX (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803189)

> Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched—they are later sanitized or destroyed—in an effort to keep would-be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material

They do this, not because of life attempt fears, but because the US president, nom du guerre Barack Hussain Obama, is actually Barack "Bari" Malik Shabazz, the illegitimate biological son on Malcom X, the slain Black Panther leader and US negro civil rights hero and he does not want that link to come to light via DNA testing.

What the whole world, especially Europe, cannot understand is, why does Pres. Barack need to keep this quite royal and proud familial lineage secret? There was even a fake car accident arranged in 1994 to have Bari M. Shabazz declared dead, but the decease report was not signed by a coroner and the "anecdotal" marking bit remained set in the computerized register. Apparently many analysts in the USA still think it is impossible to become president with a Malcolm X background, because texans consider that guy was an anti-white muslim militant rebel. Therefore the fake "birther" scandal was arranged to allow the texans and the b-belters fool and ridiculize themselves on a non-existing obstacle to B.H.O. presidency.

Anyhow, B.H.O. aka B.M.S. is physiognomically so similar to to his father Malcolm X, that DNA testing is mostly redundant. It is also well-known that his mother had a relation with M.X. at the right time.

what could POSSIBLY go wrong? (4, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | about 2 years ago | (#41803191)

We're already very aware of how viruses constantly mutate. So, how long before this one mutates such that the "switch" is always in the "ON" position, and then proceeds to wipe out most of the human population?

BRILLIANT idea. brilliant. It's these sorts of mad scientists that truly scare me.

Add to that, there's no "kill switch" if you have a problem. Anyone caught making a virus weapon needs to die by fire. Along with the ones that funded and assisted them. The whole world needs to be completely clear about this, because it's a serious danger to every living soul.

Re:what could POSSIBLY go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803745)

Those are not scientists! They are of the same group as Dr Mengele, psychopathic mass-murderer, and similar monsters.

But hey, in the USA, all you need, is a vague complete-lie/bullshit justification about your victims potentially being people that potentially were of the same group that potentially may be a possible danger to you (not even the nation), and you'll be called a "OMGHERO!!!!111one" for mass-murdering those people.

The USA disgusts me, like the inquisitors of the dark ages and the worst Nazis combined.
(And *exactly* because of that I think the USA needs help [in the psychotherapy sense], not hate [in the USA sense].)

Re:what could POSSIBLY go wrong? (2)

HPHatecraft (2748003) | about 2 years ago | (#41803869)

"You bet! M-O-O-N, that spells "zombie apocalypse"!

Re:what could POSSIBLY go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41804181)

The first reaction from reading the summary was "Who the fuck uses viruses!?" There is a reason anthrax is encapsulated the way it is when used as a weapon. A weapon is predictable, repeatable and reliable means to prevent or reduce the possibility of your adversary to do what you don't want them to do, not a zombie apocalypse madness generator thingy. Better polish up those nukes, everybody.
  Then there is the other point. In a functioning democracy, based on rule of law the absolute guarantee of the president surviving every eventuality is absolutely not necessary.

Why the focus on one person? (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | about 2 years ago | (#41803205)

The summary is all about defending POTUS against this, but would either political party be very inconvenienced over losing their nominal figurehead? It would probably cause a temporary drop in worldwide market values but political agendas would be unchanged and it would probably provide an opportune moment to implicate an unwanted faction and clamp down further on individual freedoms.

Re:Why the focus on one person? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 2 years ago | (#41803465)

Fear, intimidation, and control.

You bump off one man bend, shape, and mould foreign politics to your liking. Those that are alive will eventually catch on to the MO of the ideology and catch on to toe said ideological momentum. That ideology can be in the form of God fearing Conservatism (religious), Communism, Socialism, or any other 'ism' you can think of.

Highly specific (2)

overshoot (39700) | about 2 years ago | (#41803215)

Or at least it's highly specific as long as the virus replicates itself perfectly, even for nonessential DNA.

It's a good thing that viruses never mutate, isn't it?

Re:Highly specific (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#41803343)

Theoretically you can put in a generation limit; a mutation that appears only after a number of generations that kills the virus and makes it untenable. That's easier to do with bacteria, but it might still be possible with virus agents. Then even if the infectious agent mutates, it will still die out after X number of replications, limiting your plague to a small region.

Re:Highly specific (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803569)

Unless the mutation ends up different and you are in the same boat as before without a stop state.

Excellent (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803229)

Now that sounds like a good idea. Brilliant. Given the fact that we know exactly how DNA, the human body and related things work, this can only end well.

And don't think they won't do it just because I'm being a cynical old so-and-so.

FUD much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803245)

Wow I can't believe there are government dollars being wasted on this. Since the preseident just transfered his skin cells to thousands of people on the campaign trail, it's good to see that the big brains in washington think it's important to take all bedsheets, glasses etc.

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803269)

All this means is that the entire world will be constantly sick as the US, Soviets, Chinese, and Arab governments continually release viruses in order to kill off all the dissenters in their own respective countries. I think they'll be too busy oppressing their own populations with this technology they won't even think of using it against another country.

FOXDIE (2)

Mike Domanski (1700470) | about 2 years ago | (#41803273)

Reminds me of the FOXDIE [wikia.com] virus from the original Metal Gear Solid game.

How is it morally acceptable, ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803295)

... to even *think* about something like that?
This is vile and vicious organized murder!

Only a complete psychopath could say such a thing and act like it's all "normal".

A state should not even allow to *think* that, without major public outcry and the hacks who thought it up, together with their bosses, never ever being able to get a job ever again!

Whew, reassured. (2)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 2 years ago | (#41803305)

I feel relieved that, knowing that moderate funds and a scientific background are now sufficient to create a disease that could kill billions, or target entire ethnicities for genocide, at least the president is safe.

Re:Whew, reassured. (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#41803475)

I feel relieved that, knowing that moderate funds and a scientific background are now sufficient to create a disease that could kill billions, or target entire ethnicities for genocide, at least the president is safe.

Oh, that's been possible for at least a decade and is easier than this. You just transfer one nasty gene (there are several choices) into a flu virus and let it go. It's the targeting specific people that's new. But still, what could go wrong? The fact that people actually think they could control something like that is proof of some kind of god complex.

"Genocide" (2)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 2 years ago | (#41803311)

DNA-tailored bio-weapons would give a whole new meaning to the word "genocide". Sure they'd make for a good assassination tool, but wouldn't the same DNA watermarking technques apply when dealing with groups of genetically related individuals? While current genetic theories rule out race-specific weapons of mass destruction that don't suffer from huge collateral damage, they could be used effectively to settle scores between Mafia-style crime families.

Too soon! (1, Interesting)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#41803317)

Damnit, this technology is the entire conceit behind my comic Genocide Man [genocideman.com] , but it's not supposed to exist until the year 2030 or so. The 21st century is consistently being more lethal than even I predicted.

How to protect the President? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803333)

How about "Why to protect the President?"? There's something wrong with your system of government if you have a single point of failure and can't cope with a single person being taken out of action, for whatever reason.

Re:How to protect the President? (1)

skywire (469351) | about 2 years ago | (#41803787)

But in fact the particular warm body currently occupying the office of President is not a single point of failure. He is an easily replaceable politician whose life is of no more value than yours or mine. It amazed me, the turn the story took into this silly business of protecting His Highness.

What's the damage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803357)

What actually is the ROI? All the effort to get to one man, plus being a gamble on if such a virus were to actually reach the individual in question. So, the virus kills off the president? The veep takes over, the houses still sit and the country runs as before. To cause any real damage the whole chain would need to be crippled in some way, and which would mean other, more conventional attacks, or a less specific virus. Both of which would negate the need for the targeted virus.

Of course, as a non American, I do acknowledge there is a little more power (or perception of power) assigned to this one individual and obviously certain ideological influences would disappear with his or her passing, but really not enough to be worth the effort.

For a terrorist, there isn't any payback. The president died of complications caused in a freak reaction to the flu. Who's to say any different? And nation states already realise the futility (and MAD for leaders) in going after the top man. such a weapon would be more a useful economic warfare tool. Releasing the virus in the main offices, crippling productivity and lopping off the head (ceo) would cause greater damage.

As others have said, the biggest threat is a more generalised virus targeting ethnic groups with specific dna sequences. However, it would be a brave or stupid hate group that wouldn't fear (think of all the non-aryan Nazis, seeing as somewhere near specifically mentioned hitler) killing half their followers or a mutation biting back.

No, with got more to worry about from good old fashioned normal viruses than something like this.

Swine flu and SARS vs Mexicans and Arabs (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#41803367)

Hmm, the circles keep getting smaller, like the previous SARS that only killed Chinese, the swine flu from a few years ago, that only killed Mexicans and the current wave of SARS that is only killing Qatari Arabs.

Hide those nail clippings and hair trimmings (1)

Tex Bravado (91447) | about 2 years ago | (#41803375)

and don't get pulled over for anything.
I wonder how big is the DNA content in a breathalyzer test?

President (1)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | about 2 years ago | (#41803401)

Americans sure are obsessed with their president.

Only practical use is genocide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803405)

There are far less dangerous ways of killing an individual. Since this "flu-like" virus can't even be guaranteed to reach its target, and there is always some risk of it changing and getting a lot more people, it's just safer and more practical to use drones, car mounted bombs, lasers, whatever to get an individual. If you want to be untraceable there are ways to handle that too. So the only thing that leaves this useful for is elimination of lots of people with particular genetic characteristics - i.e. genocide.

Anybody remember that SCIFI story The Trigger? (1)

tanveer1979 (530624) | about 2 years ago | (#41803473)

They create something that disables guns, eventually being able to create the device which can disable "DNA". thus creating the perfect assassination machine.
Its quite amazing how science fiction is becoming true.

And this is the way the world ends..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803477)

Scenario A: A virus targeted at a laundry list of "terrorists" is released into the general population of the middle east. A few years after killing its intended targets the trigger mutates to be always on, killing indiscriminately.

Scenario B: Someone gets a hold of it and tries to use it as a tool for genocide, they target a more generic DNA base (eastern European, western European, Russian, Caucasian, Black, Asian, etc), it begins to kill whatever group it is targeted to but mutates somewhere along the way, killing anyone it infects.

Viruses don't remain static, they mutate. You can add all of the self destruct coding you want and they will still find a way to mutate. You cant predictably control billions of tiny cells subjected to an infinite level of variables (temperature, radiation (em, infrared, nuclear), salinity, etc). Why do you think life on earth is so diverse?

Time for - WILD SPECULATION!!!!!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803543)

1) This could possibly happen if X, Y, and Z all fell into place, which is about as likely as everything my ass touches turning to gold.
2) The law of unintended consequences would almost ensure this is a very, very bad idea. It is, at the best, uncontrollable. At the worst it would end civilization. Not really the parameters most nations work in, even - DUN DUN DUUUUUN - IRAN (Booga, booga).

Sanitized or destroyed (1)

RDW (41497) | about 2 years ago | (#41803623)

Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched-they are later sanitized or destroyed-in an effort to keep would-be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material.

Was this policy introduced towards the end of the Clinton Administration..?

Re:Sanitized or destroyed (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41803873)

Nah, they are talking about malefactors, while in *that* security incident, the female factor was definitely involved.

Re:Sanitized or destroyed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803915)

It's been in place since the reptilians took over. Can't have us find out that our leaders are not genetically related to the rest of us. /joking - not really a conspiracy nut.

This sounds like a GREAT idea. (1)

Roger Wilcox (776904) | about 2 years ago | (#41803665)

What could possibly go wrong?

Bah... (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41803683)

"Navy stewards gather bedsheets, drinking glasses, and other objects the president has touched—they are later sanitized or destroyed—in an effort to keep would-be malefactors from obtaining his genetic material."

All it takes is one ML-1 Monica surveillance drone!

More tactics of potential threats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803719)

to justify weaponization in the field of genetically engineered viruses. Even if the research to counter these potential threats is valid, it seems like a recurring issue these days.

Aparteid Era South Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803855)

I remember reading that doing Aparteid the South African government worked on something like this against the African population.

they tried this on macgyver and it did not work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41804045)

they tried this on macgyver and it did not work

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