tv Public Affairs Events CSPAN October 9, 2017 7:13pm-8:01pm EDT
next we hear from former senator and presidential candidate joe lieberman who joined a panel on i/o technology and the threats posed by it. posted i george washington university, this was part of a daylong conference on intelligent and national security. >> our second panel of the day will tackled the dangers of warfare biological agents, and biotech innovation. addressing these issues requires focus not only from the intelligence community, but also development of national and international strategies, consensus on laws, standards, and authorities. we have an awesome group to shed some light on these issues moderated by my good friend charles, thedr. honorable senator joe lieberman who we are thrilled to get back
on campus, and dr. william roper. over to you. thank you. [applause] >> good morning, everyone. i think we ared, delighted to be here. ares one that i think we looking forward to and i thought what we would do before we dive into the topic itself is to connect each of you with the topic area and your areas of interest and focus. you are a bio scientist with the cia, you can tell us what you do on a daily basis. explains scientist who scientific concepts and technology to non-scientists. i do not rectus science in the lab anymore but i use my skills and background to write and
policymakers when it to provide warning about the implications. my area is in biological weapons and my background is in virology and microbiology. lieberman, we know you from your many incarnations, campaigns, but you have throughout your career a very serious focus on national security and we will talk about this, you're also focused on biological crimes and terrorism. it is -- tell us more about that. senator lieberman: when i went to college, there was still a science requirement but they had a special track of science for non-science majors. >> one of them was called something like physics for the
intimidated. senator lieberman: half the year geology and astronomy. for the last three years, i have been on a blue-ribbon study panel, bio defense. bys is -- was created [inaudible] because of concerned individuals, and the hudson institute. doing -- happy to do it, i was involved in homeland security, i had always worried about the threat of bioterrorist attacks but also the very related and in some senses
similar risk of infectious disease pandemics which will muchbly not talk about today. we have done a series of reports and the conclusion is that the of bioterrorist attacks and infection -- infectious disease epidemics israel and -- oureal and growing and government is not [inaudible] >> i was trying to find the most interesting profile of you and i think i did. from fox news not too long ago. roper's resume- reads like the big bang theory. he is a rhodes scholar, received a presidential commendation for founding and directing it tutoring program that serve 400
poetia schools and he is a and essayist and has performed in chamber choir and has a black elk. -- black belt. it is interesting the secretary of defense tells the world what -- tell the world what you do. >> the job was not something we could talk about publicly. i would be interested to discuss that with you especially as it applies to biology. it is interesting when you are brought out from behind the door and there is no paper trail about you online and you get a news article that puts together your 18-year-old college self because there is a description of you on the internet with your 38-year-old modern self. simple, to get the department ready for the next war. there is a lot of special efforts over the last decade to do with terrorism and that is not going away, but we not --
have not done a lot of thinking about how to get a military that has been predictable but unstoppable over the last 25 years, how to get it ready to deal with modern competition, comes warfare and bio into that strongly because it is a new kid on the block. it is not something that has been at this level of maturity with his level of investment from the private -- this level of investment from the private sector that could create for foreign countries that do not have the same ethics we have. my fear is we will be playing defense while the rest of the world made choose to play offense and defense is harder so we will have to start earlier. >> let's dive in. the issue of the bio threat reflects a two-sided coin. in many cases it is a direct result of the opportunities to -- the breakthroughs that come from a technology and bio-discovery.
i would like to ask each of you when you think about biotechnology, where do you see the greatest breakthroughs? perils, whatto the do you see as the opportunity? broadly, when we look at the news and we see the approaches enable the creation of animal models to this -- study diseases and pathogenesis. -- they have hypotheses and basically new discoveries. the models have been lacking. few but not as good. we have the potential to improve the ability to make the models and make them faster.
that pyramid of knowledge that can be misused but also used for great things. senator lieberman: let me say a two sidesrd about the of the coin. we have a long track record of thate taking advances improve the way they live and then using them for warfare or some other adverse. you can take it through to today's headlines with the growth ofary information technology, social media. now we find a hostile country has used facebook and twitter to control our elections.
pretty amazing. and unnerving. we are dealing here with a problem that the human race has tired -- thebut biotechnology revolution is moving not only to different areas but rapidly, incredibly rapidly. informationng is technology, cyberspace. ?hat are the great potentials you could say this is going to be the century of biotechnology. positively speaking. things will happen as a result of iron technology that will -- biotechnology that will cure diseases, enable us to live that are -- better. to use an example, you can , next year is the
100th anniversary of the influenza epidemic of 1918. between 50 million and 100 million people died in that pandemic. we were not anywhere near as globalized. biotechnology offers the promise to seek through genomic sequencing editing, you can step in quickly and figure out a medical countermeasure. that is the bright side. >> what excites me is anytime you have two fields that have not overlap, that is exciting. be at theve to intersection of biology and computer science which is what gene editing is. i would love to be at the intersection of biology and design based engineering. image molecules at the
subatomic level. that would be exciting to be a researcher and you have people working together who have not worked together. biologists who do not understand computer sciences and computer scientists who do not understand why lg. there will be greater leaps ahead. be producing data, new results, new technologies, new findings at a rate that policy and governments will not be able to keep up with. defenserimarily playing on this or the u.s. will be. we have to be better, faster, stronger than any foreign government that may be tempted to make modern biological weapons or future biological class ofhe next strategic weapons. i worry because i find the u.s. government is not good about recognizing a long-term trend are the slow ticking clocks that are going to go off and making sound investments overtime to get ahead of us.
>> we think about some of the breakthroughs, we know they have led to vaccines, hundreds of them that are being developed or in development. i was talking with a food expert who is talking about taking a gene from camel and putting it into rice so it needs less water. rice, but youpy know. you is as weo ask turn to the threat side, with the proliferation of these technologies and access to the data and information around them, how much more vulnerable are we and to what? >> i can address one element of that question in the sense that while technology is becoming more democratized or available, what you have to marry up that is the skill set used in the
technology and the way you want to use it to achieve some outcome. some scientists have the ability to troubleshoot problems in biology that are not just something you find on the internet. there is a certain level of empirical tacit knowledge that comes with being a scientist that does temper what you are saying a little bit. on the flipside it is true that proliferate,oaches discoveries made in medicine could be picked up via iowa been here in son -- by a bio weapon here. is limited by the creativity of the individual that is applying it to some and. there is a variety of things to worry about. imagine bad actors saying i would like to edit your genome.
not in a way that will do something today but will coerce you into acting the way i want. basically a long ticking clock, e thatfuse -- a long fus will have a huge psychological impact and that would a -- be a strategic weapon. i worry about taking biological mechanisms that are well adapted to living in the world around us and giving them features that would never or likely never anpened unless we get in influence them -- and influence them. the idea is how to do research will change when you start mixing the artificial in the real and biological machines are interesting. that is where research is going, to see the basic mechanics that make molecules work. that is what the recent nobel
prize was given about. we are where our stone age counterparts are. we are trying to find the wheel and levers and pulleys. we are trying to find them at the molecular or atomic level and once we are able to engineer those, a b future militaries have huge components that you cannot even see. back to offense will be easier than defense. if that is a possibility in the not too far future, then it needs some strategic investment to make sure we are not caught off guard area >> your -- caught off guard. >> your job is to imagine future wars. what does that look like? foreigne play what a country, not the u.s. could do. i might decide as opposed to going into nuclear weapons which i may decide are too difficult for me to make or too costly or do not have the technical
research in-house them i might decide to go down the isle at who path. it might be cheaper and faster and i could catch it under the auspices of medical research. by fixing yourself you are one step away from hurting yourself. i worry about that. it is the kind of development that would be hard to put your finger on it and say that is purely for malpurposes. i worry about that kind of future. i worry about the future where there is significant human performance enhancement which again, we will have lots of ethical barriers in the u.s., but other countries will not, and how do we have our operators as awesome as they are, it is one of the great privileges of this job is getting to work with our operators and i go to work every day despite all the things to worry about, but i do not like the idea of them going is stacked deck that
against them because of enhancement. those of the first areas that the biology machines -- now we haven: right a good reason to believe our -- believed that countries who do not wish us well have biological capacity. the russians, the syrians. short-run danger we have talked about in our investigations is -- and nonstate actors who have been been very terrorists, clear they are working on properly --apacity,
probably at a level that is relatively primitive, but still capable of doing a lot of damage and taking a while for us to detect. i was thinking of those listening to my colleagues, i spent a fair amount of time on cyber security in the senate, and what was toar to me -- no surprise anybody in this room -- we were way ahead in our offensive summer capacity. way -- we were way behind in our defensive capabilities. that is where we are in terms of misuse of technology. we still invest more in wire technology, assisted by the government. but we do not invest hardly to the misuse of biotechnologies, and there are other countries, including
china, particularly for both commercial and potentially belligerent uses. they are investing a lot of money and biotechnology. yousesno: let me ask something that was quite controversial and notable at the time, and this is a piece from the bulletin of the atomic scientists that i pulled this front, when the director of national intelligence testified about a year ago, more than a year ago, about genetic editing. genetic here -- "how editing became a national security threat." it sent shockwaves to the national security community with the assertion that gino editing have become a danger. he went so far to include the weapons of mass destruction section. he said the discovery of the
double helix, progress exceeding that of any other technology in human history. biotech is a weapons of mass destruction? the statement of leading toward biological weapons can become the next strategic class of weapons. we rely these were different from a conventional bomb. what is different about and what will be scary to think about policy and laws to govern them is this is a strategic weapon that in many cases you could reverse the effect of, that you could pull the trigger and then unpull the trigger, so there are strategic weapons who will have more likelihood of use. mr. sesno: what are you talking about? mr. roper: if you could edit, you could undo those. you have the poison and the
nuclear, and the way a weapon has no edited once you pull the trigger. you have to deal with the confidences and those consequences are dire. it is the reversibility of strategic effect that i think will be difficult and challenging for us because it will feel like it has the effect of weapons that you cannot take -- butut it will be have it will have that take back ability. what thatard about means for warfare, you have to keep up with the science. to the point earlier, a lot of defense is trained in things we centuries, radars, fighters, stealth, summaries. we are not pushing people hard in my allergy. we're not pushing people heart insights. >> it will be much more difficult to detect with genome pathogen higher lead
-- a highly virulent mr. lieberman: pathogen. mr. lieberman:i'm using a term where it is not related, but it will be, with an unconventional threats we are facing in our time. in most cases not attack -- byes, -- why play planes, etc. this will be terrifying because it will be essentially invisible, and we have some programs. our panel's conclusion is it his way beneath we need to create a system in which we can accurately detect an attack as it is going on. honestly, to go back what you
history,king at thinking at the enormous potential for biotechnology use for bad purposes, it is not hard -- in the at not-too-distant future, for want term, ther biotechnology arms race, and we are not ready for it yet. mr. sesno: one of the issues that comes up is regulation of surveillance of breakthrough. there have been discussions about conventions and various ways of doing that. there has been pushed back from the scientific community. how do we make sense of this, and what do we need from the perspective of you watching national security? dr. charles l: balance is important. as the concern between accidents if you are doing experiments perhaps on the edge while you are studying disease
processes. the flu research done a few years ago with the avian influenza kicked off a lot of these discussions in these -- in this regard. that is something that has flooded to the scientific community as a buzz phrase. there are real concerns there. there are some experience that answer questions in pathogenic research that you might need to do that are a little rescue, -- risky. how can we develop a better intervention? how do you balance against that against the needs for security is a challenge. i would not claim i have an answer to that. but it is something that needs to be thought out pretty carefully. but you do not want to hinder your own defense. and not make the problem overly dire. the solution, there is going to be huge emphasis on making new
biotech the next medicine at the level. i see a lot of hope if the government starts encouraging startups who are trying to work in this is is to work on things monitoring back and begun by people extensively at home, especially if that monitoring has a lot of medical applications. the dual use of the technology is a strength if we have a national strategy for how to interweave medical research and make sure we're not lined on the things we will need for national security applications. but salvation for most companies is eventually this biotech is cheap enough you will be doing it at home on a routine basis, and that is why there is hope to detect these kinds of attacks in the future as long as we are pushing the readability faster than its uses. mr. sesno: this is a perfect setup to the study panel that you participated in the had a
gathering just yesterday. mr. lieberman: yes. mr. sesno: "u.s. not prepared to detect purple barriers of cybercrime." having these surveillance models , that is a good thing. it is like using social media to make us safer. we know there a flip side to that. mr. lieberman: as part of our ongoing report -- ongoing work was part of attribution. we have good reason to believe that a bioterrorist attack has occurred. it is important for government , first,le to figure out you want to treat people and other questions about whether our public health system is prepared to do that adequately.
and then you want to find out to the best of your ability, who did it? mr. sesno: you need to find out fast because you need to know what they are planning to do. mr. lieberman: what they are planning to do, and one of the members of our panel, a former prosecutor, approached this from a criminal law perspective, which is reasonable. you got to hold people at hannibal and how can you determine it from happening again, but probably the more relevant question will be in the case of a bioterrorist attack, can you gather enough information to tell the national command authority, the president, who did this, and then to enable the president to be able to decide how to respond. mr. sesno: are we prepared for this? mr. lieberman: no. we have some capacity, i'm there are a lot of people thinking about it. there are some groups at defense and state. the intelligence community -- we have not talked about this.
part spot -- cia part sponsored in any way. again, we are going to need a whole level of intelligence here that will be just critical. i mean, without it, we will not be able to rapidly -- it will not be easy, but we need to be labs, businesses. we have to be gathering information so we know who is taking the turn from good biotechnology to that. but i would add is you face a multifaceted challenge in an attribution scenario following a biological attack. that toway you analyze contribute to an attribution mightigation like the --
be fraught with scientific challenges. people have not thought about that challenge set. they do not give grants in that area. that is one element. i would also caution it is not merely the analysis of the microbiological evidence to give you attribution. it is part of a larger picture of other pieces of information that you think of a traditional whodunit kind of problem. you have other intelligence sources you can rely on. you have the analysis of the physical evidence to generate needs for an investigation. intelligencehe community to look under rocks we have not looked under yet. all those things conjured to the puzzle, but in the area scientific challenges, there are lot questions that are not answered, how do you do in the houses of particular type of evidence.
what this comparison of viral you? -- sequence buy can you make comparisons that are meaningful that lead to a trail back to potential perpetrator? mr. lieberman: i totally agree, which is what i ended up talking about the importance of intelligence, which is a way to have an early warning or some basic information in the case of an attack where you can go back and look at the potential sources of that attack. based on intelligence more than what happened in the attack. mr. sesno: i will come to your questions and audience questions in a couple minutes. >> the key is what do we incentivize and the government? this research is going to have brought funding from venture capitalists cause there will be huge people. mr. sesno: it already does. it is going to be done by
multinational corporations across borders. mr. roper: what the government can do when most of the money spent is not government money is tried to create channels where outside money flows faster and gets to results, gets to profitability earlier. my opinion is we ought to be going all in on early detection of any of these three big veins we talked about, gene editing, artificial allergy, or biological machines. we will not be able to build a wall to keep it out. in my view that is a dead-end before you begin. happen in the trend the last century when cancer went from being basically a death sentence to something that is very survivable because we shift emphasis for early detection, which allowed better treatment options to come forward. predicting and a lot is going to happen here, but we need to incentivize industry that will give us that protection, and we need cultural awareness for what
this means. that means the government that is much, much smarter on the science and implications of what we've been talking -- mr. sesno: are you making this a priority? >> this is a big priority for me this year. this is an area where everything i read i'm excited when i think about personal applications in terms of living longer, letting better, but when i flip it and put my day job hat on, i worry. mr. sesno: at the senator said, this is not news, but you are in real time raising this as a priority at the department of defense in your sort of -- herroper: my goal is to get leadership more aware, not necessarily getting the details of the science, but telling them what the invocation is and where the trend is, because we need to make investment. r& funding, we need to maked
smart choices in bio, and we need to make choices from areas in the past that no longer -- mr. sesno: you mentioned this before. what are the actual realities of en, augmented, genetically altered, super soldiers, super athlete, run farther, jump higher -- is that something that you could about? is that real? mr. roper: i had to think about that these are, because some in an audience were asking if we can make a human to swim as fast as a shock. mr. sesno: i invite them to washington. a realer: i could race shark in shark week. --t is hard for me to see not in my timeframe in thinking about the next war, but i can think about modifications and make more people alert, that
allow them to have better attention spans to deal with more data, that avoids fatigue, that avoid the need for rest immediately, that gives people better stamina, and all those things to get those approved, to go out to the battlefield for the u.s., there is a mountain of law and policy makers and reviews and safety checks that have to be climbed. it is one of the hardest areas of research. if you want to change the mre, the meals ready to eat you, that is harder than changing a ager weapon system. so how we are going to do that against countries that do not have those aussie implications and that -- those policy implications, scares me the most. i do not like when the slope of development is very different between us and the rest of the world. it will be in biology for the foreseeable future. dr. charles l: if you look at where we are now, we are at the
level of pharmaceutical intervention for enhancement. that is enabled by our understanding of various processes. these genome editing tools enable us to build better systems to study things in animals where we cannot ethically do experience -- experiments like that in humans. the first eu see is improvement in the pharmaceutical aspects. genetically engineered individual has the powers. x-men is far-fetched unless you can find why logical corollaries for it. my pastic book nerd in youth, characters like storm who can control the weather. there is not a biological corollary to that. it is cool to imagine, but somebody like wolverine, has wound healing. the wound-healing process has a
biological corollary. it is a well-study process, and we do not understand it fully. complex interaction of cell types, all that kind of thing. but understanding that process will enable better interventions to promote faster or promote wound healing where it normally would be difficult to occur, such as in severe burn cases. i see those types of advancements on the horizon more than i see the superpowered super soldier of the x-men. mr. sesno: i want to go to the floor and your questions. i see one over here. go ahead. , and iohn wyler appreciate the corollaries the government efficiencies in information technology, and a study of 10 years looking at the impediments, we seem to have not been able to overcome these impediments in bureaucracy red
in adjusting commercial innovations. if we do not fix that, with the same problems in beat our solutions in -- in teedo our solutions in biotechnology? mr. lieberman: also, one of the things we found in our study in the american government, it is disorganized. it is spread throughout the government. the government in self cannot tell -- itself cannot tell you how much we are spending each year on by our defense. there is no unified budget. we had to go to the university of pittsburgh to get us and estimate. this is two sides of acorn. you mentioned before, part of what distinguishes us is we try to apply rules and values to developments. while we might be able -- i think we are going to begin to
have the technological, why logical capability, maybe not to x-women, but or to move in that direction. you can bridge the gaps between organic and inorganic material, the gene editing going on. some country is going to do it that does not worry about roles. the other thing about a role-based society is weak in the way of achieving our goals. mr. sesno: we have seen that with the olympics and looking at teams where athletes were enhanced. another question from baltimore. -- from the floor. is, with the food chain being a sensitive aspect
asset for daily life in any country. and yet i do not see the fda or rigorousy doing more control, particularly in the waters, regularly on vegetables. we have vegetables imported from china. we do not know what earth what those vegetables were grown, what fertilizer was used. canink this biohazard easily come in the food chain. mr. sesno: food. mr. roper: if we cannot make the fundamental sensing unit of biological change, whether modification or artificial feature, if we cannot make it cheap enough to make an attachment to your smart phone, then we will be vulnerable, ble and it is tailora something that will hit us in our personal life. that's a cheap this is what the
medical community wants. they want this so you can consume this science and you want it. what is really needed is a national strategy to basically make that consumer investment drive and improve our lives cannot not leave us with caps on national security. my five years in the government -- and that is not nearly enough compared to the senator here -- show me we are not good at this kind of strategy, not good at grand strategies. this technology will force us to have one, though. mr. lieberman: to make sure you do not get any sleep tonight, so it is another area our panelists looked at, which is bioterrorist attacks on our food supply. we are actually looking at the introduction of pathogens, synthetic pathogens into, for instance, poultry in america, in our agricultural
industry, not even thinking about from abroad. if you start to get into raising safety standards on food coming in, wow, thinking about the screaming of globalization and we are trying to stop trade. it is a real concern. as i studied this, i must say i both surprised and grateful that we have not suffered a terroristsattack by yet, thank god. because when you think about it, it is not easy, but it is relatively less daunting than other kinds of attacks they could carry out. >> i worry about defending the food supply, lessig of the thing that was great coming in, and more about attacking the genome of corn or things without them
anye is no economy within country that depends on them for their food source. these are things that can be attached -- attacked in the future. mr. lieberman: we have a convergence of violent she -- how biology and computer science. then becomes the possibility of essentially hacking into the to our and distorting it great harm, so you could think a lot of ways about how that could happen personally and more broadly in terms of food supply. >> also one of the chief means dna.se now to detect is gn faster, better, cheaper, smaller. if you have an attachment on your smart phone that can pour perform those
activities, where not there yet, but that technology will become or diffuse and become available to inspectors and others who can scream things you looking for things out of the ordinary. there is hope on the technology front in that regard. there are a lot of good drivers. mr. sesno: another question, over here. the mike is on its way. is not reallythat a scientist, my question is more on the strategy part. as major powers continue to invest in biotechnology and it becomes part of the arsenal of most major powers, how do you see it being used strategically? do you see it like nuclear weapons where it is more like a or as it is used only covertly, or do you see major
powers using this technology openly to harm other people? perhaps address that in how you might want to think about it. a set of questions you might want to ask and posted people. if an adversary want to pursue a biological weapon to add to their military toolbox, what might they want to do with it that they were not able to do with any other weapon systems, i would provide an advantage in a certain scenario, and then you have to game that out. that is one way to approach it. if you do that, you start to narrow your field of the possible. as i said earlier, by threats are potentially limited to buy the creativity of the unethical biologists who want to go down that road. it is difficult to game that out. it is predicting based on where the science is going, but i predict there will be a class of biological weapon or capability bethe future that will
designated as strategic in nature. fitting the category of nuclear, major cyber attacks that creates an existential threat. and we will work on strategies of deterrence so those weapons are never used. how to draw that line is going to be difficult thing. easy to draw for nuclear weapons. it will be hard to draw for cyber. it is hard to draw it for biological. other kinds of apology -- kinds improving ourke health, that will be in a conventional class that we will define as being ok. allsesno: gentlemen, we are must out of time, and it has been a fascinating conversation. i want you to leave us with a look ahead. what do you feel that most needs to be happening within the intelligence community and the if we have a scorecard and we are really going to be seeing ourselves
prepare for some of these very frightening eventualities? dr. charles l: we are in the areas -- we look at it part of that involves our goal as scientists in the agency to interact with scientists in the industry. they have things get concern them. how do you make those connections happen? there are areas where there could be improvement. it is good now. >> we need to encourage those investments. >> your last word. >> thanks. so based on our panel, we need to get our act organized within this. the vice president, we cannot
think of anyone better to create a position. and then to adequately fund intelligence in this area to continually create a climate for predecessors in biotechnology. the other thing to say at the strategic level is there is a biological weapons convention. people argue that it hasn't worked very well, but this hasn't worked for everybody but it works for some. to me, this is covered but i constructived be if the u.s. opened discussion more specifically about the of this through weapons conventions. and continue to put it on the screen at lea