Chemical and biological weapons – ultimate terrorist devices for near future or still a threat “in perspective”? MHSE Yastrebova Olga
CB terrorism has been practiced through the history and in all types of society Most recent attacks: • Sept. 1984, the Dalles, Oregon, Rajneesh religious cult used Salmonella typhimurium to cause food poisoning. 751 became ill • Match 1995, The Japanese apocalyptic religious cult Aum Shinrikyo released the nerve gas sarin in the Tokyo underground system. 6 deaths, 600 injured • 2001, “Anthrax” letters in the U.S.
3 W’s of CB terrorism • Why terrorist will follow this path • Who, along the spectrum of terrorist groups, would be most likely copycats • Why the premium attacks have NOT been duplicated yet
“Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead” Brian Jenkins • Nowadays: New ruthless breed of terrorists. Why? • Significant change in motivation • More “sensational’ attacks needed to grab the media spotlight • Weapons, technologies are more available (Internet, black market) • Mastering of the terrorists’ craft • State-supported terrorism • Anonymity has become more preferable
3 W’s – short answers • WHY? See previous slide. New generation of terrorists – nihilistic, apocalyptic, angry • WHO? Religious terrorists, state-sponsored terrorists, extreme single-issue groups, fanatical nationalists, right wing militias, psychopaths • WHY NOT? Reasons: • Moral objections • Danger • As the effects are delayed it’s hard to claim responsibility for a biological attack • Fear of loosing the supporters • Difficult to obtain and produce CBW • Fear of fury reaction of the state
Biological weapons– living organisms…or infective material derived from them, which are intended to cause disease or death and which depend for their effects on their ability to multiply in the person, animal, or plant attacked Types: bacteria, viruses, riskettsia, fungi, toxins. Incubation periods, morality rates vary among diseases. Acquisition: natural sources, culture collections, research laboratories and public health facilities, state sponsors or discontent employees of countries that maintain a biowarfare capability. Biological agents are easy to acquire, synthesize and use. Small amounts of agent needed. Easy to conceal, transport and disseminate.
Toxicity: Tiny amounts of biological agents can kill. Lethal doses of toxins are measured in micrograms (1 X 10~6 grams); those of biological agents are generally measured in picograms (IX 10~12 grams). • Speed of action: Live biological agents act slowly. The agent must multiply in the victim before the victim will exhibit symptoms, a process that can take from several hours to several weeks. The incubation period of anthrax, for example, is from one to six days. Treatment must begin before symptoms appear. Toxins act immediately. • Specificity: Biological agents are specific: most affect either plants, humans, or other animals exclusively. • Controllability: The effects of biological agents are highly dependent on difficult-to- control variables such as meteorological conditions and terrain. The spread of contagious agents is particularly hard to control or predictbecause victims may infect others. Some biological agents may be spread not only by human travelers but also by animals and migratory birds. • Residual effects: Most biological agents will not survive long in the atmosphere. Anthrax in spore form, however, persists in soil of structures for many years.
Ways of delivering, dissemination and detection • Delivery: bomb, aerosol, food & water contamination, crop contamination, BM /submunitions/ • Dissemination: BA must be dispersed as fine particles less than 5 microns in size. Agricultural crop-dusters, aerosol generators on small boats, truck, or cars, backpack sprayers, air-handling system • Detection: • >Disease (or strain) not endemic • >Unusual antibiotic resistance patterns • >Atypical clinical presentation • >Case distribution geographically and/or temporally inconsistent • >Other inconstant elements (e.g., number of cases, mortality and morbidity rates, deviations from disease occurrence baseline)
Chemical Weapons • chemical substances, whether gaseous, liquid, or solid, which are used for hostile purposes to cause disease or death in humans, animals or plants, and which depend on direct toxicity for their primary effect • Types: • blister agents that destroy exposed skin tissue (e.g., mustard gas and lewisite); • blood agents that, when inhaled, block oxygen circulation within the body (e.g., hydrogen cyanide and cyanogen chloride); • choking agents that inflame the bronchial tubes and lungs, possibly causing asphyxiation (e.g., phosgene and chlorine); • and nerve agents that short circuit the nervous system, resulting in respiratory failure and death within minutes (e.g., tabun, sarin, soman, and VX).
Toxicity: Lethal or incapacitating doses of chemical agentsare measured in milligrams (1/1000 of a gram). • Speed of action: Chemical agents can kill within minutes. • Specificity: Chemical agents affect all living things. • Controllability: As with biological agents, the effects of dispersed chemical agents are highly dependent on difficult-to-control variables such as meteorological conditions and terrain. • Residual effects: Volatile chemical agents, such as sarin or chlorine, dissipate within minutes. Less volatile agents, such as mustard or VX, persist for hours or days. Mustard reportedly persists even longer when contained under ground
Main aspects of chemical terrorism • Highly toxic per unit; relatively resistant to the atmosphere, capable of being produced in high quantities • Easy to acquire or synthesize • Easy to acquire all necessary equipment
Delivery and dispersing of a Chemical Agent • Contamination of food and water supplies • Munitions /terrorists may fashion their own devices/ • Aerosol/spray • Crops contamination Main factors to be considered for successful dissemination: Temperature, sunlight, wind action, rainfall, urban settings, buildings and etc. Main problem:chemical agents are highly susceptible to weather conditions
Rethinking the lessons of Tokyo • It was a dawn of a new era of terrorism • CBW are really easy to acquire and use. • Only 7 people died, but no one can be 100% sure that the small number of the dead would have been the same or slightly more, if there hadn’t been low-grade sarin and low-tech methods of delivery used. • Maximum protective gear and total decontamination should be the iron-clad rules of responding to an unconventional terrorist attack. • It’s important to reduce the anxiety of people • The response should be directed by experienced professionals. • Communications are important. • If intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been watching close enough, they would have detected signs of approaching attack. • Religious organizations shouldn’t’ be shielded from undue government interference
Main conclusion it is much more reasonable to apply all forces to answer not when or who will attack first, but what should be done for preventing the attack or making its consequences less devastating