Tara O'Toole

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Person.png Tara O'Toole   C-SPANRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(academic, spook)
Tara o'toole.jpg
Alma materVassar College, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University
Member ofCouncil on Foreign Relations/Members 2, In-Q-Tel
Interests • “pandemic”
• public health
• “national security”
• biological weapons
A fellow bioweapons expert stated 'she makes Dr. Strangelove seem sane'.

Dr. Tara J. O'Toole is a biological weapons expert and the arranger of several pandemic preparation exercises. She was a principal author of Dark Winter (2001) and Atlantic Storm (2005) about a smallpox outbreak in the US.

"She makes Dr. Strangelove look sane"

When President Obama nominated O'Toole for Under Secretary for Science and Technology at the Department of Homeland Security, her fellow expert Rutgers microbiologist Richard Ebright stated[1]:

 "She was the single most extreme person, either in or out of government, advocating for a massive biodefense expansion and relaxation of provisions for safety and security," he adds. "She makes Dr. Strangelove look sane".
 O'Toole supported every flawed decision and counterproductive policy on biodefense, biosafety, and biosecurity during the Bush Administration." 
 "O'Toole is as out of touch with reality, and as paranoiac, as former Vice President Cheney. It would be hard to think of a person less well suited for the position."


The bioweapons expert Tara O’Toole is Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President at In-Q-Tel, a nominally private strategic investment firm that links the US Intelligence services and venture-backed start-up firms on the leading edge of technological innovation, that will deliver novel and disruptive, ready-soon technologies within a 36 months time-frame.[2]

('Biodefense' is a fluid definition, since offensive bioweapons are banned by international treaty while defensive research is allowed. But since it is the same pathogens, the difference between developing offense and defence is often a legal fiction).

In a radio interview. she stated[3]:

 "all powerful technologies are dual use, including biology...we do not have to do gene editing to make very powerful bioweapons, if you were a terrorist....all the problems that faced the offensive U.S. bioweapons program in the 60s, and there were many of them, have been solved, mostly by the pharmaceutical industry....when we get really good at [gene editing], there are a lot of things we can do, some of which we shouldn't do.

From 1989-93, Dr. O’Toole was a senior analyst at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Prior to OTA, she practiced internal medicine in community health centers in east Baltimore as part of the US Public Health Service.

From 1994-98, Dr. O’Toole served in President Clinton’s administration as Assistant Secretary for Environment Safety and Health in the Department of Energy. There, she led of a comprehensive study of Cold War experiments involving human exposure to radiation.

She also led a US delegation to Russia to have a close look at Russian nuclear capabilities, with the official purpose being joint studies of pollution left in the wake of Soviet nuclear weapons production.

In the decade before beginning in Homeland Security, O’Toole founded and directed two university-based think tanks devoted to civilian biodefense. She was a professor of Public Health and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which was the first academic center devoted to biosecurity policy.

In 2003, the Center and its staff became affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh, while remaining based in Baltimore. Dr. O’Toole was CEO and Director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

Department of Homeland Security

From 2009-2013, Dr. O’Toole served as Under Secretary of Science and Technology (S&T) at the Department of Homeland Security. Her high profile “Apex Initiatives” pioneered new partnerships between technology and homeland security operations, and provided innovative technologies to meet DHS’ operational needs, including the use of advanced, “Big Data” analytics by Immigration Control and Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection.

There, she began construction of an "urgently needed, long -delayed high containment laboratory for emergent and contagious animal diseases".[citation needed]


Event Planned

Operation Dark Winter22 June 200123 June 2001Washington DC
Andrews Air Force Base
An exercise where senior former officials would respond to a bioterrorist induced national security crisis. Uncannily predicted the 2001 anthrax attacks and other narratives. Held June 2001.


Events Participated in

Atlantic Storm14 January 200514 January 2005New York
A scenario designed to mimic a summit of transatlantic leaders forced to respond to a bioterrorist attack. Recommended militarization, vaccination and stockpiling drugs. Held January 2005.
Clade X15 May 201815 May 2018A pandemic/biowarfare preparation exercise by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Held May 2018.
Operation Dark Winter22 June 200123 June 2001Washington DC
Andrews Air Force Base
An exercise where senior former officials would respond to a bioterrorist induced national security crisis. Uncannily predicted the 2001 anthrax attacks and other narratives. Held June 2001.


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:All Roads Lead to Dark Winterreport1 April 2020Whitney Webb