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Chemical & Biological Weapons: Issues in Terrorism

Describe the most likely terrorist use of chemical or biological agents.

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OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

Chemical & Biological Weapons: A Terror Threat

One of the most dreaded scenarios in security planning is the possibility that terrorists and criminals having access to chemical and biological agents. In risk and security assessments, this scenario is most feared in that its effects could be devastating in the event that such weapons would be used by terror groups and criminal organizations in their 'war' and efforts against governments and nations. A 2003 report by Audrey Cronin for the US Congress proposed that while the past use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare and in terrorism was rare, the psychological effect is quite powerful primarily because of the potential devastation and the fact that since it is highly unlikely that a city will ever be truly ready for such an attack, predictions and trends analysis can provide only a hazy picture of what can be expected which does not help in ensuring preparedness. For Cronin, since terrorist attacks are 'designed to surprise', the likely victims will probably never see it coming and, dependent on the chemical or biological pathogen, probably suffer either prolonged or instantaneous death (with the latter a much better proposition). The US of course has a stockpile of vaccines and most hospitals have been equipped with facilities and specialists who can quite capably respond to the threat. But in cases where a massive percentage of the population will be affected, the likelihood that they can respond accordingly and attend to all the sick, injured and dying is low which in itself becomes 'nightmare scenario' where ...

Solution Summary

The solution is a 1,097-word tutorial module that looks at the scenarios of most likely terrorist use of chemical or biological weapons in their campaign. It looks at current concerns of governments (particularly the US) in relation to this possibility and then lists reasons why acquisition of said weapons are of interest to terror groups. References are listed for the purpose of further research. A word version is attached for easy printing and digital use.