"Audit Finds Research Labs Slow to Improve Security"

"Government officials have been slow to upgrade security at U.S. laboratories that handle deadly germs nearly a year after congressional investigators found weak security controls, a new audit finds.

Two of the labs found to have security problems have made some improvements despite 'limited action' by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work out a comprehensive safety plan, the report from the Government Accountability Office said.

Investigators urged the CDC to set uniform perimeter security for all five of the nation's Biosafety Level 4 labs. Those labs handle organisms that cause diseases without a cure -- such as the Ebola virus and smallpox -- and require the highest level of security.

The report, set for release later this week, was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

'Although CDC has taken some modest steps for studying how to improve perimeter security controls for all BSL-4 labs, CDC has not established a detailed plan to implement our recommendation,' the report said.

While the GAO did not identify the vulnerable labs, the AP has previously identified their locations as Atlanta and San Antonio."

Sam Hananel reports for the Associated Press August 5, 2009.

Thursday, August 6, 2009