Friday, December 10, 2004

Portion of CIA's Report on WMD Threat Probablity

The threat of terrorists using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) materials remained high. Many of the 33 designated foreign terrorist organizations and other nonstate actors worldwide have expressed interest in using CBRN; however, most attacks probably will be small-scale, incorporating improvised delivery means and easily produced or obtained chemicals, toxins, or radiological substances. Although terrorist groups probably will continue to favor long-proven conventional tactics, such as bombings and shootings, the arrest of ricin plotters in London in January 2003 indicated that international mujahidin terrorists were actively plotting to conduct chemical and biological attacks.

Increased publicity surrounding the anthrax incidents since the September 11 attacks has highlighted the vulnerability of civilian and government targets to CBRN attacks.

One of our highest concerns is al-Qa'ida's stated readiness to attempt unconventional attacks against us. As early as 1998, Usama Bin Ladin publicly declared that acquiring unconventional weapons was "a religious duty." In 2003, an extremist cleric who supports al-Qa'ida issued a fatwa that purports to provide a religious justification for the use of WMD against the United States.

Al-Qa'ida and associated extremist groups have a wide variety of potential agents and delivery means to choose from for CBRN attacks. The success of any al-Qa'ida attacks and the number of ensuing casualties would depend on many factors, including the technical expertise of those involved, but most scenarios could cause panic and disruption.

Several groups of mujahidin associated with al-Qa'ida have planned "poison plot" attacks in Europe with easily produced chemicals and toxins best suited to assassination and small-scale scenarios. These agents could cause hundreds of casualties and widespread panic if used in multiple simultaneous attacks.
Analysis of an al-Qa'ida document recovered in Afghanistan in the summer of 2002 indicates the group has crude procedures for making mustard agent, sarin, and VX.
Both 11 September attack leader Mohammad Atta and Zacharias Moussaoui-arrested by the FBI before the 11 September attacks-expressed interest in crop dusters, raising our concern that al-Qa'ida has considered using aircraft to disseminate BW agents.
Al-Qa'ida is interested in radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) or "dirty bombs." Construction of an RDD is well within its capabilities as radiological materials are relatively easy to acquire from industrial or medical sources.
Documents and equipment recovered from al-Qa'ida facilities in Afghanistan show that al-Qa'ida had conducted research on biological agents. We believe al-Qa'ida's BW program is primarily focused on anthrax for mass casualty attacks, although the group most likely will pursue opportunities to produce and use other biological agents in smaller-scale attacks.

Information from 2003 details the construction of a terrorist cyanide-based chemical weapon that can be made with easily available items, requiring little or no training to assemble and deploy. The plans are widely available to any terrorist. Such a device could produce a lethal concentration of poisonous gases in an enclosed area.

Usama Bin Ladin and other al-Qa'ida leaders have stated that al-Qa'ida has a religious duty to acquire nuclear weapons. Documents recovered in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom show that al-Qa'ida was engaged in rudimentary nuclear research, although the extent of its indigenous program is unclear. Outside experts, such as Pakistani nuclear engineer Bashir al-Din Mahmood may have provided some assistance to al-Qa'ida's program. Bashir, who reportedly met with Bin Ladin, discussed information concerning nuclear weapons. Al-Qa'ida has been seeking nuclear material since the early 1990s, according to the testimony of a government witness-Jamal Ahmad Fadl-during the 2001 trail on the al-Qa'ida bombings of the American Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Fadl claimed that al-Qa'ida pursued the sale of what they believed was enriched uranium in Sudan in the early 1990s. This effort may have been a "scam" operation, and there is no credible evidence al-Qa'ida actually acquired the uranium. Al-Qa'ida has been the victim of other nuclear "scams" in the past, but it probably has become sensitized to such operations in recent years, in part due to media coverage of nuclear smuggling and scam operations.

In addition, we are alert to the very real possibility that al-Qa'ida or other terrorist groups might also try to launch conventional attacks against the chemical or nuclear industrial infrastructure of the United States to cause panic and economic disruption. In a video aired by Al-Jazirah in September 2002, senior al-Qa'ida members said they had contemplated striking nuclear power plants early in their decision making on targets but dropped the idea for fear it would "get out of control."

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