WMD Terrorist Strike in U.S. ‘Simply a Question of Time’
The State Department’s top counterterrorism official says it is only a matter of time before terrorists use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons on U.S. soil.
There is a “very high” probability that a terrorist group will strike using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said in comments published Tuesday. “I rate the probability of terror groups using (weapons of mass destruction) as very high,” U.S. State Department counterterrorism coordinator Henry Crumpton was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph newspaper. “It is simply a question of time.”
Crumpton said a biological attack was potentially the most troubling scenario. He said evidence from Afghanistan suggested al-Qaeda had been seeking to develop anthrax before the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. “It is not just the nuclear threat that bothers me,” he was quoted as saying. “I think, if anything, the biological threat is going to grow.” “As catastrophic as a nuclear attack would be, it would be self-contained. But if you look at a worst-case scenario for a biological attack, it would be difficult to determine whether or not it was a terrorist attack, and it would be far more difficult to contain.”
Crumpton is almost certainly right. Terrorists are no doubt trying to obtain WMD and they will eventually be successful. That some groups, notably al Qaeda, would actually use these weapons once acquired is also a virtual certainty. Such proclamations are hardly new. CIA chief Porter Goss and Yosef Bodansky, former director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, made similar statements quite some time ago.
Aside from laying the ground for failure, however, the value of these pronouncements is unclear. While academics and think tank analysts have the luxury of intellectual detachment on such issues, the government should take the stance that failure is not an option.