Research Paper: Large Terrorist WMD Attack

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[. . .] The Office of Homeland Security is liable to take quick measures for identifying all such areas where the installation of sensors is feasible. It must also ensure the nonstop evaluation and adequate security of the information those sensors will deliver (Kelly 2010).

High priority must also be given to the transportation and there must be a routine check on scrap metal yards and land fill sites. This is necessary for avoiding unlawful removal of hazardous radioactive materials. Existing detection technologies must also be improved and plans be devised for the same. USA also have a need of developing an effective system that is strong enough for "quickly gauging the extent of the damage, identifying appropriate responders, developing a coherent response plan, and getting the necessary personnel and equipment to the site rapidly"[footnoteRef:11] (Kelly 2010). [11: Kelly, H. "Dirty Bombs: Response to a Threat." Journal of the Federation of American Scientists 55, no. 2 (2002).]

Biological Terrorism

There are a number of options and resources that are available to conduct a Biological attack. A tech-savvy as the materials needed are easy to obtain and are usually low-priced. Such materials include anthrax, botulinal toxin, ricin, hydrogen cyanide, mustard gases, tabun or VX etc. (Purver 1995). The likelihood that one day the biological agents may be used by the terrorists is unavoidable. Despite the fact that bioterrorism has not occurred in the past, "there are several reasons to believe that biological weapons will eventually be seriously considered and probably used in some manner by terrorists"[footnoteRef:12] (Purver 1995) in the future. The unconventional biological weapons may be used by the terrorist groups that experience major setbacks by government authorities. Such groups may conduct biological attacks as a last alternative for regaining momentum or avoiding total disintegration of their movement. [12: Purver, R.. "Chemical and Biological Terrorism: The Threat According to the Open Literature." CSIS, June 1995, 1-4.]

At present, it is an uneasy task to detect and identify self-protective measures that could be used to avoid or lessen the effects of a biological terrorist attack. However, researchers have concluded a number of measures that can be employed to avoid such an attack including gathering intelligence before an attack, the prevention of the attainment of biological agents by terrorists, "passive" protective measures before an attack (such as development of new detection technologies), "active" measures to respond to an attack that is in progress and post-attack mitigating measures (such as the establishment of an emergency preparedness program).

Releasing Small Pox

Variola, "the causative agent of the smallpox"[footnoteRef:13] (Tucker & Zilinskas 2002) is a distinctively human disease as the virus is only capable of replicating inside a human body. It can be considered the perfect weapon for bioterrorism as it is airborne. Since the 9/11 attacks on USA and the following anthrax attacks, bioterrorism has resurfaced as a major global threat and it is the most to be feared of all diseases. The Soviet Union is likely to be the source of this disease as it was there in the late 1980s that smallpox was developed and stockpiled. The smallpox virus "was designed to be delivered from biowarheads, which would float to earth on parachutes, bursting apart as they neared the ground to throw out fans of carbon-dioxide-pressurized bomblets, each of which would let out a deadly mist of variola"[footnoteRef:14] (Marriott 2003). The other fact that makes smallpox virus fearsome is that if it kept in a refrigerator, the virus can survive for decades. This is the reason why bioterrorist attacks by releasing smallpox virus may probably be in the pipeline of terrorists' plans. [13: Tucker, J.B. & Zilinskas, R.A. "The 1971 Smallpox Epidemic in Aralsk, Kazakhstan and the Soviet Biological Warfare Program." Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project, July 2002.] [14: Marriott, E. "Fearsome Weapon of Choice; Terrorists Are Keen to Get Their Hands on Smallpox - and 200 Tons of the Deadly Virus Are Missing." The Evening Standard (London), January 13, 2003. (accessed January 25, 2013).]

Smallpox is extremely contagious and is spread when people sneeze, cough, shake hands after wiping their mouths, just same as what happens in colds and flu. Therefore, the main concern in case of an attack would be to segregate the sufferers so that the infection chances can be prevented. However, it is only possible to detach the victims of smallpox virus if the attack is identified rapidly (Laurance 2001).

The disease caused by smallpox virus results in a rash. Afterwards, the skin starts showing pustules' development that can be recognized very easily. However, just as flu, fever and aches are the symptoms of smallpox in the earlier stages. It is acknowledged widely that there are only 2 virus stockpiles that are present on the planet out of which one is in USSR and the other one is in the United States of America. It is feared that some of this stock has fallen into terrorist hands that could eventually use it for accomplishing their ill purposes[footnoteRef:15] (Laurance 2001). [15: Laurance, J. "War on Terrorism: Infectious Smallpox Holds Advantage as Killer Weapon." The Independent (London), October 23, 2001. (accessed January 25, 2013).]

Smallpox is not vulnerable to antibiotics like all other viruses. The dangerous virus is only effectual against bacteria. It is believed that smallpox carries a forty percent mortality rate. However, this level can vary according to natural immunity. Thus, the respiratory tract is the easiest route through which the smallpox virus can enter into the body. Therefore, it can prove to be a useful weapon for terrorists as it can be inhaled as an aerosol (Laurance 2001).

Potential Targets for Terrorism

There are a lot of places that can be targeted by terrorists to conduct an attack. Such places include airports, train stations, bus terminals, ports, hotels, hospitals, clinics, medical centers, post offices, restaurants, resorts, amusement parks, malls, religious places and landmarks, nuclear power plants, natural gas facilities, important buildings and bridges, casinos, subway stations, gas stations, electric power facilities, coal power plants, stadiums, arenas, foreign embassies, educational institutions, railway and highway bridges and so on.

Probable Forms of Terrorist Attack

The main form of a likely terrorist attack would be the creation of a dirty bomb as the materials required for its manufacturing "are relatively common and the required technical skills are minor, compared to other unconventional weapons"[footnoteRef:16] (Grotto). This combination of radiological matter with usual explosives has the possibility of creating mass casualties. [16: Grotto, A.J. "Defusing the Threat of Radiological Weapons: Integrating Prevention with Detection and Response." American Progress. (accessed January 2, 2013).]

Secondly, nuclear plants can be attacked as it also has the potential to create panic and mass casualties. Thirdly, airplanes can also be used for attacking buildings and other skyscrapers just as it was done in 9/11 attacks. Another probable attack could be conducted by first stealing a nuclear weapon, selling it to any terrorist organization and then trying to smuggle it into the target nation which is chosen for attack.


The 9/11 events have formed a condition for the United States administration to review, judge and evaluate her defense needs in a very cautious manner and make sure that the resources spent for safety measures are connected with the most necessary security threats. On the other hand, it is an unavoidable brutal reality that no scientific remedies have been developed till this moment that can offer absolute guarantee to the world that the human beings are safe from a radiological, biological or viral attack. Decisive, mean and immoral terrorist groups might still find out a technique to exploit radiological and biological weapons or other means when their only motive is to kill innocent people. The terrorist groups generally do not have any consideration to protect themselves from harm. Therefore, it is not unexpected that they might use radiological weapons that could even harm them. This is also a reason why radiological and "biological weapons proliferation is a serious problem that is increasing the probability of a serious bioterrorism incident"[footnoteRef:17] (Kortepeter & Parker 1999). [17: Kortepeter, M.G., and G.W. Parker. "Potential Biological Weapons Threats." Emerging Infectious Diseases 5, no. 4 (1999): 523-527.]

It is the high time to be well-prepared to act in response in an appropriate manner if any radiological, biological or viral forms of weapons are used by the ill-minded terrorist organizations. It is not an untold secret that the knowledge, technology, expertise and intellectual capacity is present today for a well-funded, extremely provoked terrorist group who are ever-ready to conduct such attacks. Such weapons possess the ability to cause a greatest realistic happening "to paralyze a large city or region of the country, causing high numbers of deaths, wide-scale panic, and massive disruption of commerce"[footnoteRef:18] (Kortepeter & Parker 1999). [18: Ibid.]

To cut a long story short, radiological and biological weapons can turn out to be an alternative for any future terrorist attacks due to their easy accessibility and lower technological handling. Thus, the world needs to better plan for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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