Cablegate: Btex Forensic Epidemiology Workshop Catalyzes G8 Efforts Against Bioterrorism


DE RUEHLO #1062/01 0791109
P 201109Z MAR 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 8958
B. 06 STATE 112285
C. 05 STATE 230244

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The UK and Germany co-hosted, with
U.S. co-sponsorship, the G8 "Forensic Epidemiology
Workshop," in London March 13-15, 2007 (Ref A).
Although the U.S. was the primary source for workshop
design and facilitation, all three nations worked
collaboratively to plan and execute the event. The
highly successful workshop combined principles of
public health, epidemiology, and law enforcement in
investigating suspected bioterrorism -- and brought
together for the first time public health, law
enforcement, and foreign affairs officials from all G8
nations plus the EU/EC. Incorporating innovative
tabletop exercises, the workshop was an important
first step in strengthening communication and
collaboration both across sectors and across borders.
Importantly, the dynamic workshop stimulated the
first-ever public declarations of support from Germany
and other G8 partners for the ongoing work of the G8
Bioterrorism Experts Group (BTEX). Germany also noted
publicly the synergy with extant G8 Counterterrorism
efforts through Roma-Lyon -- a critical step in moving
forward with G8 efforts to combat bioterrorism. END

2. (U) The UK and Germany co-hosted, with U.S. co-
sponsorship, the G8 "Forensic Epidemiology Workshop,"
in London March 13-15, 2007 (Ref A). Although the
U.S. was the primary source for workshop design and
facilitation, all three nations worked collaboratively
to plan and execute the event. The highly successful
workshop combined principles of public health,
epidemiology, and law enforcement in conducting
concurrent criminal and epidemiological investigations
of suspected bioterrorism threats or incidents -- and
brought together for the first time public health, law
enforcement, and foreign affairs officials from all G8
nations plus the EU/EC. Incorporating U.S.- and UK-
designed tabletop exercises along with plenary
sessions and country presentations on joint law
enforcement-public health investigations, the workshop
was an important first step in strengthening
communication and collaboration both across sectors
and across borders. The Chairs' Summary (para 9)
highlights, in particular, the workshop's formidable
political and policy achievements in catalyzing G8
partners to an enhanced commitment to combating
bioterrorism; a full USG report on the workshop itself
will follow via septel.

--------------------------------------------- -
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) Since initiating at Sea Island in 2004, the
G8 efforts to combat bioterrorism through the G8
Bioterrorism Experts Group (BTEX), the U.S. has
usually been the primary or, at times, only voice
within the G8 pushing for continued work in this
critical area of counterterrorism cooperation.
Various G8 partners have supported the U.S. in this
(most notably Canada, Germany, and Japan), but most G8
partners have typically been more passive partners --
reacting to U.S. initiatives but rarely if ever
proactively engaging in G8 efforts to prepare for or
respond to bioterrorism. But, the Forensic
Epidemiology Workshop in London represents a
pronounced shift in G8 support for BTEX's continued
work. The UK decision in late 2006 to co-host the
workshop was the first step in this shift -- and was a
direct result of FBI and HHS/CDC discussions with
their UK law enforcement and public health
counterparts who, in turn, encouraged their colleagues
at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to
take action. Together, the U.S. and the UK approached
Germany about co-hosting the workshop (given the
German G8 Presidency). According to German officials,
Germany came on board somewhat reluctantly and unsure
of the potential value of this work. The months of
preparatory work -- involving collaboration among law
enforcement, public health, and foreign affairs

officials from all three countries -- set the stage
for the dynamic and successful workshop and,
significantly, German and British forceful
declarations of support for BTEX's ongoing efforts,
which also recognized the unique multi-sectoral nature
of BTEX initiatives.

4. (SBU) All G8 nations sent robust, thoughtfully
composed delegations for the Workshop. While not
every delegation included all three sectors (law
enforcement, public health, foreign affairs), all
delegations participated actively and extensively in
every aspect of the workshop -- including the three
tabletop exercises focused on the themes of: (1)
intersectoral information sharing, (2) overt
bioterrorism attack, and (3) covert bioterrorism
attack. Notably, for the first time ever, Russia sent
an appropriate delegation from Moscow for a BTEX
event, including two foreign affairs officials from
the MFA's New Threats (counterterrorism) division, and
two public health experts. While it was clear that
countries are at varying levels of sophistication in
intersectoral collaboration in bioterrorism-related
investigations, it was equally clear that the workshop
(particularly the innovative, interactive tabletop
exercises) stimulated great interest in ways to
develop such multi-sectoral capacity -- and strong
linkages were forged between sectors and across
borders on these issues. Although not an official
host, the U.S. was clearly seen as the leading force
both in this workshop and in this work in general --
and the workshop participants drew particularly on the
combined expertise of the eight U.S. facilitators from
the FBI, HHS, and CDC. These U.S. facilitators, along
with several UK counterparts (from Scotland Yard and
the Health Protection Agency) and two German
facilitators with infectious disease backgrounds, were
responsible for bringing a diverse group of technical
and policy officials through a complex, interactive
series of exercises and plenary sessions. Their
design and preparation paid off handsomely in a
smoothly run workshop that stimulated energetic
discussion, recognition of the concrete importance of
multi-sectoral collaboration, and, importantly,
declarations of G8 nations' support for the importance
of BTEX's continued work.

--------------------------------------------- -----
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) At the German-hosted reception during the
workshop, the German head of delegation (Alexander
Olbrich) emphasized in his toast that the workshop
reinforced for Germany the critical importance and
value of G8 efforts to combat bioterrorism through
BTEX's work. Olbrich and the UK's Sarah Broughton had
each indicated, in earlier conversations, strong
Russian resistance to continued support for BTEX under
the G8 Nonproliferation Directors' Group (NPDG), and
Olbrich took the dramatic step of indicating that as
far as Germany was concerned, BTEX work would continue
and expand in 2007 -- if not through NPDG then through
G8 counterterrorism (Roma-Lyon) efforts or other G8
channels. Germany's remarks generated quite a buzz
among G8 delegations, and many sought out the U.S.
head of del (Marc Ostfield) for consultation about
U.S. ideas for next steps for BTEX, including creating
a G8 BTEX tabletop exercise on Food Defense (Ref B),
and, most notably, the possibility of moving G8 BTEX
work to the Roma-Lyon channel where it would have
greater synergy with extant G8 counterterrorism
efforts. It was clear that not only were Germany, the
UK, Japan, and France making strong declarations of
support for BTEX, but that they were interested in
exploring ways for BTEX to become a Roma-Lyon
subgroup. Acknowledging that BTEX never had much
traction within NPDG, these delegations -- composed
primarily of MFA non-proliferation officials -- were
motivated to find a better G8 fit for BTEX to further
the G8 agenda on combating bioterrorism.

6. (SBU) It is worth noting that Olbrich also
stated in his toast that G8 BTEX efforts were "valued-

added" and not redundant with the bioterrorism work in
the Global Health Security Action Group (GHSAG), the
coalition of Health Ministers of the so-called "G7
plus Mexico." In subsequent conversations, officials
from the UK, France, and Japan echoed Olbrich's
sentiment about BTEX. In fact, a UK health official
expressed the opinion that the G8 forum was
particularly productive because BTEX includes foreign
affairs, law enforcement, agriculture, and other
sectors beyond just health. Such sentiments help
enhance G8 nations' support for BTEX's continued work.

7. (SBU) On the workshop's final day, Broughton
arranged for Esther Blythe of the FCO's
counterterrorism division to meet with Ostfield and
Lindsey Hillesheim of the U.S. delegation. Blythe
expressed clear UK interest in constituting BTEX as a
subgroup of G8 Roma-Lyon efforts, and offered that the
UK could possibly co-sponsor with the U.S. such a
proposal at the upcoming Roma-Lyon meeting in Berlin.
Separately, Olbrich had likewise indicated that he
would talk with his Roma-Lyon counterparts in the
German foreign ministry to advocate for continuing
BTEX work under the auspices of Roma-Lyon
counterterrorism efforts. Japanese and French
officials signaled that they, too, would be having
similar conversations in Tokyo and Paris. (NOTE:
Canada had, almost two years earlier, signaled its
awareness of BTEX synergy with G8 CT efforts and had,
as far back as December 2005 (Ref C), switched its
representative for BTEX from a nonproliferation
official to a counterterrorism official with
responsibility for Roma-Lyon efforts. Russia,
meanwhile, had indicated to UK and German officials
its disdain for BTEX in NPDG channels. However,
Russia, by sending MFA CT officials to the Workshop,
has possibly signaled its openness to G8 work on
bioterrorism and to continuing BTEX in Roma-Lyon
channels. END NOTE.)

8. (SBU) Thus, in addition to being an important and
concrete example of valuable interagency teamwork
involving FBI, HHS, CDC, and State, the Workshop was
an invaluable catalyst for a deepening commitment
within the G8 for further efforts to combat
bioterrorism. Since 2004, the U.S. has sought to keep
BTEX and G8 bioterrorism-related work alive through
the somewhat passive (on this issue) UK G8 Presidency
of 2005, and the resistant (on this issue) Russian G8
Presidency of 2006, the dynamic bioterrorism workshop
last week created the perfect venue and opportunity
for Germany to signal its strong support for BTEX.
Germany has now indicated its interest in hosting
follow-on G8 bioterrorism-related work in Berlin later
this year, along with the next BTEX policy meeting in
2007. German support has, likewise, helped encouraged
enhanced Japanese interest -- of particular importance
because Japan takes up the G8 Presidency in 2008.
Japanese officials are now contemplating the
possibility of hosting in 2008 the proposed G8 BTEX
Food Defense Tabletop Exercise (Ref B). The U.S.'s
exemplary interdisciplinary and interagency teamwork
in developing the Forensic Epidemiology Workshop has
helped solidify the groundwork for potentially two
solid years of support for collaborative G8 efforts to
combat bioterrorism.



The G8 held a workshop from 13-15 March 2007 to share
perspectives on the importance of a coordinated
approach by public health professionals, law
enforcement, and other agencies in conducting joint
epidemiological and law enforcement bioterrorism
investigations and to recommend ways to pursue and
promote such an approach more widely.

This was the first multi-sectoral meeting for public
health, law enforcement and foreign affairs officials
in the G8 framework on this important topic.
Participants came from all G8 members as well as a

representative from the UN as an observer.

Within G8 countries levels and experience of joint
investigations varies. Participants heard examples of
where joint working had been used in the past
successfully and discussed the potential benefits of
joint working. Participants agreed that joint
investigations add value and are beneficial.

Participants shared perspectives and experiences on
collaborative efforts by law enforcement and public
health officials to investigate suspected bioterrorism
incidents. Through three table-top exercises and
plenary discussions, workshop participants shared and
discussed national law enforcement and public health
policy and procedural issues in order effectively to
identify, assess, respond to a bioterrorism/weapons
attack and to enable a prosecution. All delegations
presented their current experience of joint working
between law enforcement and public health.

Participants considered potential impediments to law
enforcement-public health collaboration, and agreed
that it would be useful to develop effective
strategies to address them within a nation and among
G8 nations.

The workshop emphasized the international dimension of
bioterrorism and noted that some lines of
communications exist on the law enforcement side by
using Interpol offices but that bilateral contacts are
currently the primary mechanism. On the public health
side there are also bilateral contacts and the
established reporting and alarm systems of the WHO,
designed primarily for natural diseases.

Participants agreed that to pursue effective forensic
epidemiology through law enforcement-public health
collaboration to assist with investigations into
bioterrorism and other relevant incidents it was
necessary at a national level to:

-- Identify all the relevant public bodies responsible
for investigating crimes affecting the public's
health, as well as those responsible for investigating
the cause of infectious diseases and preventing their
spread and create networks to enable collaborative

-- Develop and implement or refine procedures or
arrangements for conducting joint investigations on
potential biological terrorism incidents or other
public health problems resulting from criminal or
other intentional actions;

-- Identify ways to strengthen the capacities of
public health and law enforcement official public
bodies related to joint investigations of bioterrorism
events, such as: disease surveillance and reporting;
laboratory capacities for testing and identifying
biological terrorism agents; training law enforcement
and public health representatives to understand the
priorities of epidemiologic work on a crime scene; and
developing common procedures for the safe collection
of samples and to maintain a chain of custody that
fulfills both the requirements of jurisdictional
prosecution as well as laboratory and medical

Internationally, it would be beneficial to identify
regional and international organisations that can help
to build networks and procedures towards enabling
collaborative investigations.

Participants agreed that the workshop was very useful
and a successful exchange of views and experiences in
national and international co-operation of law
enforcement and public health. It provided insights
and ideas that may provide information for improving
national systems or agreeing best practices.
Participants agreed that further work in the G8
grouping on forensic epidemiology and other topics
relevant to bioterrorism would be valuable. The
successful outcome of this workshop is an incentive to

continue close co-operation of G8 members in the
Bioterrorism Experts Group (BTEX) to improve G8 common
efforts in combating bioterrorism.


10. (U) This cable has been cleared by the USG BTEX

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