How Serious is the WMD Terrorism Threat?: Terrorist
How Serious is the WMD Terrorism Threat?: Terrorist Motivations and Capabilities for Using Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Weapons Gary Ackerman Director, WMD Terrorism Research Program Center for Nonproliferation Studies Monterey Institute of International Studies E-mail: [email protected] Jeffrey Bale Senior Research Associate, WMD Terrorism Research Program Center for Nonproliferation Studies Monterey Institute of International Studies E-mail: [email protected] September 28, 2005
WMD Terrorism Hype Hype Hype Security condition upgrades Government warnings How far we have come from 1950s Duck & Cover to 2003 Duct tape & Cover your windows Hype or Threat? Media want to inform us
but inevitably sensationalize things. After Sept 11, government officials dont want to be accused of being complacent or not warning public, so tend to dwell on worst-case scenarios. Conflating Events? Conflating Events Again? WMD Terrorism Database Incidents per Year Year
Key Motivational Factors Relevant determinants of terrorist behavior: Factors Relating to the Nature of the Group Ideology, Organizational Structure, Organizational Dynamics, Organizational Lifecycle Status, Demographics, Resources, Operational Capabilities Factors External to the Group Historical Events, Relations w/ External Actors (media; other extremists; state apparatus; targeted audience; non-targeted audience; supporters), Security Environment, (Potential) Target Characteristics Factors Relating to Decision-Making General Planning Characteristics (risk thresholds; time horizons), Perceptual Filter, Operational Objectives Who makes the Decisions? Decision to carry out attack X Individual
Organization Leadership Individual terrorist Individual terrorist All members (democracy) Committee Individual terrorist Individual
terrorist Sub-groups Capabilities Main questions: Do terrorists currently have the capability to engage in true WMD attacks? Is the capability of terrorists with regard to WMD increasing? If terrorists WMD capabilities are increasing, what is the rate of this change? Capabilities Broad Trends Terrorist capabilities in general are increasing Societal changes can increase vulnerabilities and facilitate terrorist capabilities
Capabilities Organizational Capabilities Logistical Resources Financial Resources Knowledge/Skill Acquisition Materials and Technology Acquisition C,B,R, and N differ Initial Production of Agent C,B,R, and N differ
Weaponization of Agent C,B,R, and N differ Desiderata Insiders State sponsorship Attacks on Facilities CBRN Terrorism Risk Plane RISK = Probability x Consequence Probability (based on capability considerations Conventional Explosives
only) Radiological Chemical Biological Nuclear Consequence Terrorists and Technology Traditionally, terrorists have tended in their use of weapons and tactics to be both: Conservative Path of least resistance terrorists generally seek to use the easiest, cheapest, tried-and-true methods Imitative Terrorists often utilize the successful tactics and weapons
types of other groups (albeit with some localization, e.g. Mao to Carlos Marighella) Why? Most groups have limited resources and there are costs associated with identifying, researching and implementing new technologies, in terms of time, finances, personnel etc. There are also often uncertainties about the reliability of any new technology in terms of achieving desired effects. Soft targets vulnerable to traditional weapons are plentiful. Terrorists and Technology BUT, there are exceptions to the above (may be becoming more common) where terrorists will seek new technologies: A. Specific ideological orientation towards innovating technologically
Examples: Aum Shinrikyo sending operatives to explore the documents of Nikola Tesla in hopes of building an earthquake generating machine; in some groups ideology may drive members to push the technological envelope, such as in a conceivably violent version of the Raelian cult (who pursue human cloning and worship extraterrestrials). B. Existing methods insufficient to achieve aims For example, when current weapons do not (or are perceived to not) result in enough casualties, publicity, or psychological impact. New means are needed to circumvent protective measures. C. Perceived competition
Perceive the need to stand out from the crowd and remain relevant. D. Group has very high level of resources Allows opportunity to engage in long-term development and explore different tools (two examples: Aum and Al Qaida). E. Costs associated with adopting new technology are lowered For example, the electronic privacy movement has enabled groups with very little resources, such as radical environmental extremists, to use the latest encryption and steganographic tools. Advent of commercial biotech kits and commercial modified PCR.
Group recruiting members with advanced technical capabilities. The Future: More CBRN? E. If costs associated with adopting new technology are lowered No. of casualties per $1 cost* 1000 Tipping Point 5 2000 2015
Year Hype or Threat? Bad News Terrorism trends are ominous Significant increase in number of incidents Al Qa`ida sustained enemy Other groups: cults, militias, lone actors? More threat assessment is necessary
Bad News September 11 confirmed that terrorists will seek to inflict mass casualties Anthrax attacks showed that the capability to get the agents is there (almost) Theoretically, a single person could now be capable of causing 1,000s of casualties and willing to do so. But Some Good News Very few incidents involving warfare agents More difficult to cause mass casualties with WMD than often assumed difference between AGENTS and WEAPONS!
BUT The threat must be countered before this becomes easier to accomplish The Bottom Line Threat of CBRN terrorism is real, but often distorted by hype. Remain mindful of more boring (but deadly threats): terrorism using conventional weapons is still likely to be prominent. Dont Panic: Terrorists want us to panic thats why its called TERRORism. The End
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