Terror Essay, Research Paper

Countering Terrorism

There are currently more than 1500 terrorist

organizations and groups being monitored in the United

States. Terrorists by definition kill people and

destroy property in order to advance a political

agenda. We must make every effort to protect American

citizens from these attacks. In the future that will

require both state of the art measures to monitor

terrorist activities and the movement of materials

used for these activities, but also response scenarios

in the event of an actual incident. The United States

has consistently set a good example of no negotiations

with terrorists and attempting to bring alleged

terrorists to trial. We need to support humanitarian,

political, and educational efforts to decrease the

incidence of terrorism across the world. That includes

measures to eliminate the production and deployment of

nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. We need to

maintain a high level of vigilance to protect the

security of the United States.

The FBI is the lead agency in the the fight against

terrorism. This FBI has been very effective in

coordinating the efforts of other agencies. They have

been successful in finding the perpetrators of

terrorist activity and preventing many terrorist

incidents. The problem is that no federal agency can

be expected to find all of the terrorists, before they

commit violent crimes. The bombing incidents at the

World Trade Center and Oklahoma City are two examples.

In both of these incidents, conventional explosives

technology was used to kill people and destroy

property. There are current efforts coordinated by the

FBI to obtain intelligence on the groups that would

use these methods and intercept them before the

incidents occur. These incidents will continue to

require concerted efforts by national and

international law enforcement agencies. But there are

possible incidents that could lead to greater loss of

life. Those incidents would occur if terrorists used

biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons.


Bioterrorism is using biological warfare agents to

commit terrorist crimes. There are various estimates

of the effects of terrorists releasing various

biological weapons on an unsuspecting population. The

Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian

Biodefense suggest that the three most likely

biological agents that could be used include smallpox,

anthrax, and plague. There are several other bacteria,

viruses, and biological toxins that are also

considered candidates for biological warfare or

terrorism. On October 1, 1999 Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov, a

former Soviet military officer who was second in

command of their biological weapons division appeared

on ABC News Prime Time Live. He had defected from the

Soviet Union in 1992. He wrote a classified report at

that time that this program had produced hundreds of

tons of anthrax and several tons of small pox virus

and plague bacteria. He said that the Russians were

continuing to actively work on biological weapons.

This allegation was subsequently denied by Russian

officials. The most significant threat from biological

weapons currently has to do with the security of the

Russian supply of these materials. Because these

weapons are inexpensive to produce and deploy there

are concerns that they may be the agents of choice for

some states that sponsor terrorist activity. The World

Health Organization has estimated the lethality of

these weapons. The lethality of smallpox, anthrax, and

plague are given in the table below:


Case Fatality Rate

Treatment and Prevention






Vaccination, Antibiotics



Vaccination, Antibiotics

The Working Group on Civilian Biodefense has concluded

that of the total number of known biological agents

only a few would be suitable as weapons of mass

destruction. Various estimates about the lethality of

these agents are available. A 1993 report by the

Congressional Office of Technology Assessment

estimates that an aircraft release of 50 pounds of

anthrax spores over a large metropolitan area would

result in 130,000 to 3 million deaths. This is the

same magnitude of the expected casualties expected in

a nuclear attack. The main problem in the case of a

biological weapon attack is recognition of the illness

and taking the appropriate treatment measures. Some of

the symptom presentations are difficult to figure out,

and any delay in diagnosis can lead to further poor

outcomes and further spread of the illness. If the

attack is not announced, the only early sign may be a

large increase in serious respiratory disease in a


Nuclear Terrorism

Nuclear terrorism is a consequence of nuclear

proliferation and advanced technology. As early as

1980, the Soviet Union and the United States produced

working suitcase sized nuclear weapons that could be

used for the purpose of terrorism. The United States

subsequently disposed of these weapons. Dr. Alexie

Yablokov gave testimony to the Research and

Development Subcommittee in 1997 and asserted that

these “suitcase bombs” exist and that many were

unaccounted for. The Committee Chairman,

Representative Curt Weldon said that in other contacts

as many as 132 of these devices were built in Russia

and that only 48 could be located. There was some

controversy about the health effects of dispersing

plutonium into the water supply or air, rather than

using it for weapons. The main problem that any

terrorist group would have is getting plutonium to

produce a weapon. There are currently nine countries

that stockpile weapons grade plutonium. They hold

approximately 250 Tons of this material. The largest

supplies are thought to be in Israel and India. It

takes about 3-4 kg of plutonium to produce a nuclear

warhead. This stock can produce about 80,000 nuclear


The real current danger in terms of the nuclear threat

of terrorist “suitcase bombs” is the availability of

weapons grade plutonium to terrorists. It is estimated

that a few kilograms of this material could be

purchased on the black market for several million

dollars. There are rumors that attempts to make these

purchases have already occurred. The availability of

plutonium for sale to terrorist organizations also

depends on the stability of a country’s economy. It is

thought that a destabilized economy increases the

likelihood of a transaction with terrorists. To

directly deal with this threat, Congress has initiated

and maintained various program since 1991 to assist

Russia in providing adequate security to nuclear

materials, assist in dismantling weapons that were not

necessary for its defense, assisting in converting

reactors from plutonium production to power

generation, and providing funding to research

facilities so that nuclear scientists and technicians

would not emigrate to other countries and provide

assistance in nuclear weapons technology. These

provisions are known as Nunn-Lugar after the senators

who sponsored the initial bill. They are also known as

Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs.

What Can Be Done at This Time

While researching this issue, I frequently came across

expert opinion that: “It is not a question of if, but

when terrorists will attack” using some of these

weapons. In spite of this level of concern by the

experts there are no visible initiatives at the state

and community level. In my opinion those initiatives

should include education and organization around

prevention and response to terrorist attacks. There

should also be more information available on the

importance of nuclear non-proliferation and assisting

Russia with improving the security of its nuclear

stockpiles and expert personnel. I would work on the

following anti-terrorism agenda if elected:

1. Rigorous support for Nunn-Lugar or CTR programs:

Preventing terrorist organizations from getting

nuclear material that could be incorporated into a

small device and imported into the United States is a

priority. The best chance we have to do this is to

assist Russian in dismantling their offensive nuclear

weapons and supporting research by their current

nuclear scientists into other areas. These programs

have many documented successes, and the potential cost

is too high if we become less vigilant in this area.

There are signs that we are becoming less willing to

fund some of these measures. For example, the

installation of radiation detectors at all of Russia’s

border locations would cost several billion dollars.

Instead we have pledged a few million dollars, or

enough to put detectors at a few key locations. We

clearly need more resolve in this area. Another

possible advantage of these programs may be new ideas

on how to reduce and contain chemical and biological


2. Halting Production of Enriched Uranium and


Both of these elements can be used to build nuclear

weapons. The best way to assure more safety for the

United States and the rest of the planet is to press

for the cessation of the production of enriched

Uranium and Plutonium.

3. Support for Recommendations by the Working Group on

Civilian Biodefense:

In the initial papers written by this group they

emphasize the need for increased medical awareness and

knowledge of these organisms and toxins. They also

prioritize more rapid diagnostic techniques, and

better knowledge about therapy, infection control, and

decontamination strategies. Where it is needed they

also recommend improved vaccines and increased

stockpiles and production capacities of the specific

vaccine. In the case of certain bacteria, antibiotic

resistance has been demonstrated in the same organisms

used for weapons. The Working Group recommends further

study of this resistance phenomenon.

4. Local Experts and Treatment Protocols:

The knowledge of what to do in a terrorist attack that

potentially involves weapons of mass destruction

currently exists in a few specialized facilities in

the country. This expertise needs to be disseminated

to local multidisciplinary teams and members of the

medical community. These groups need access to the

latest specialized information and potential hazards.

If elected, I will work very hard in this area to make

sure Minnesota has the local experts and they in turn

have access to the information they need to respond to

terrorist threats and actions.

5. Support for Current Counter Terrorism Efforts:

The FBI is currently the lead agency for these

efforts. They have been successful in intercepting

terrorists in this country and tracking down

terrorists who have completed an act of violence. An

active dialogue between this agency and Congress is

needed to make sure that this agency has the resources

and cooperation it needs to be effective in this area.

6. Preventive measures to Reduce the Risk of a

Successful Attack:

The current public literature and commentary describes

a high risk of attack in the next 25 years. So far

there has been very little discussion of what citizens

can do to prevent attacks and protect their families

and communities. This discussion has to occur. I do

not believe we can focus only on how to manage the

consequences of an attack after it has occurred. This

is an opportunity for involvement by all citizens. If

elected, I will push for these strategies and

encourage their dissemination to all citizens.

All of these measures are important priorities because

of the risks inherent in not paying attention to these



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16. Additional Bioterrorism and Biological Warfare



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