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WMD attack likely, says new blue ribbon panel report

By Jim Kouri
web posted December 8, 2008

Terrorists are likely to use a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world in the next five years, a congressional blue-ribbon panel reported. The panel, chaired by former Florida Senator Bob Graham, released a preliminary report on December 1 that created a huge amount of Washington buzz.

However, the Graham panel's report is not the first to point out the dangers facing the United States by international terrorist groups.

Terrorism is the most significant threat to our national security. In the international terrorism arena, over the next five years, it's believed that the number of state-sponsored terrorist organizations will continue to decline, but privately sponsored terrorist groups will increase in number.

In addition, the terrorist groups will increasingly cooperate with one another to achieve desired ends against common enemies. These alliances will be of limited duration, but such "loose associations" will challenge our ability to identify specific threats. Al-Qaida, and Hezbollah, and their affiliates will remain the most significant threat over the next five years.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation forecasts that sub-national and non-governmental entities will play an increasing role in world affairs for years to come, presenting new "asymmetric" threats to the United States, according to a report submitted to the National Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement and security organizations.

Although the United States will continue to occupy a position of economic and political leadership -- and although other governments will also continue to be important actors on the world stage -- terrorist groups, criminal enterprises, and other non-state actors will assume an increasing role in international affairs. Nation states and their governments will exercise decreasing control over the flow of information, resources, technology, services, and people.

The most significant domestic terrorism threat over the next five years will be the lone actor, or "lone wolf" terrorist. They typically draw ideological inspiration from formal terrorist organizations, but operate on the fringes of those movements.

Despite their ad hoc nature and generally limited resources, they can mount high-profile, extremely destructive attacks, and their operational planning is often difficult to detect. An excellent example of this is the lone gunman -- a Muslim -- who entered a Jewish center in Seattle and killed one woman while wounding five others.

Globalization and the trend of an increasingly networked world economy will become more pronounced within the next five years. The global economy will stabilize some regions, but widening economic divides are likely to make areas, groups, and nations that are left behind breeding grounds for unrest, violence, and terrorism.

As corporate, financial, and nationality definitions and structures become more complex and global, the distinction between foreign and domestic entities will increasingly blur. This will lead to further globalization and networking of criminal elements, directly threatening the security of the United States.

Most experts believe that technological innovation will have the most profound impact on the collective ability of the federal, state, and local governments to protect the United States. Advances in information technology, as well as other scientific and technical areas, have created the most significant global transformation since the Industrial Revolution. These advances allow terrorists, disaffected states, weapons proliferators, criminal enterprises, drug traffickers, and other threat enterprises easier and cheaper access to weapons technology.

Technological advances will also provide terrorists and others with the potential to stay ahead of law enforcement countermeasures. For example, it will be easier and cheaper for small groups or individuals to acquire designer chemical or biological warfare agents, and correspondingly more difficult for forensic experts to trace an agent to a specific country, company, or group.

In the 21st Century, with the ready availability of international travel and telecommunications, neither crime nor terrorism confines itself territorially. Nor do criminals or terrorists restrict themselves, in conformance with the structure of our laws, wholly to one bad act or the other. Instead, they enter into alliances of opportunity as they arise; terrorists commit crimes and, for the right price or reason, criminals assist terrorists. Today's threats cross geographic and political boundaries with impunity; and do not fall solely into a single category of our law.

To meet these threats, we need an even more tightly integrated intelligence cycle. We must have extraordinary receptors for changes in threats and the ability to make immediate corrections in our priorities and focus to address those changes. And, we must recognize that alliances with others in law enforcement, at home and abroad, are absolutely essential.

The global Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) threat to the United States and its interests is expected to increase significantly in the near term. We expect terrorists to exploit criminal organizations to develop and procure WMD capabilities. Globalization will make it easier to transfer both WMD materiel and expertise throughout the world. The basic science and technologies necessary to produce WMD will be more easily understood. Similarly, raw materials will be more available and easier to obtain.

Violence by domestic terrorists will continue to present a threat to the United States over the next five years. The number of traditional left wing terrorist groups, typically advocating the overthrow of the US Government because of the perceived growth of capitalism and imperialism, have diminished in recent years. However, new groups have emerged that may pose an increasing threat. Right wing extremists, espousing antigovernment or racist sentiment, will pose a threat because of their continuing collection of weapons and explosives coupled with their propensity for violence.

The threat from countries which consider the United States their primary intelligence target, adversary or threat either will continue at present levels or likely increase. The most desirable US targets will be political and military plans and intentions; technology; and economic institutions, both governmental and non-governmental. Foreign intelligence services increasingly will target and recruit US travelers abroad and will use nonofficial collection platforms, including increasing numbers of students, visitors, delegations, and emigres within the United States.

Foreign intelligence activities are likely to be increasingly characterized by the use of sophisticated and secure communication technology to handle recruited agents and to be more likely than in the past to occur almost anywhere in the United States.

(This article is based on a lengthy FBI report received by the National Association of Chiefs of Police. Only parts pertaining exclusively to law enforcement personnel and strategies were omitted.) ESR

 

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