Carnegie Moscow Center
16 September 1999


Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you today.

There are two areas of research that I am focusing on. The one that brings me to Moscow this week is a research project funded by the International Science and Technology Center’s (ISTC) grants to chemical and biological weapons institutes. These are scientific research grants to work with chemical and biological weapons institutes. The other major research effort that I have underway is what I am going to talk to about today. I have found that when I talk to colleagues overseas, they are greatly puzzled by the programs that the U.S. Government has underway to prepare for a possible terrorist use of a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon. I hope this evening makes it easier for you to understand why the United States Government is going to spend $1.4 billion dollars next year on this effort.

What is driving these programs? Several events, including actual terrorist incidents, are helping to raise awareness in the United States about this problem. The bombing of the World Trade Center in February 1993 did not include the use of a chemical agent, but the person who committed this act did have access to these agents and threatened to use them. Moreover, unlike terrorists with political objectives, who may explode a bomb but try not to kill too many people, the objective of these terrorists was to kill as many people as possible. Fortunately they did not succeed. The total collapse of one these skyscrapers easily would have killed at least forty thousand people.

Another major event motivating the U.S. preparations is the cult, Aum Sinrikyo’s, attack in Japan. As you probably know, in March 1995, members of this cult released the nerve agent Sarin in the subway of Tokyo. Fortunately, this was not military strength Sarin: it was only about 25-30% military strength. If it had been a full military strength agent, instead of a dozen killed and over five thousand wounded, you would have probably seen five thousand fatalities. What is not as well-known about Aum Sinrikyo is that they have made at least nine attempts to disseminate biological agents. Here again, fortunately they were unsuccessful and they did not have [inaudible] strength.

Other important events that got the attention of the U.S. policy makers include the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995, the bombing of the U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia, and bombings just last year of two U.S. embassies in Africa. The man believed to have planned the embassy bombings, Usama Bin Laden, has also threatened to use chemical and biological agents against Americans. This has the attention of our senators and our President.

In response, two Presidential Decision Directives (PDDs) have been approved. One – PDD 39 -- finalized in June 1995, was designed to generally improve the organization of the federal government and its capabilities in the CBW defense and response field. More recently, PDD 62 was issued in May 1998. This Decision Directive, among other steps, establishing a national coordinator for U.S. terrorism activities.

The first legislative actions in this area came in 1996 in the Defense Authorization Act, which instructed the Department of Defense to train firemen, police, ambulance, technicians, paramedics, emergency [inaudible] positions, and city managers in the one hundred and twenty largest cities in America. These officials are being trained to recognise chemical agents to protect themselves, so that they do not become victims during the course of a rescue; they are being trained to decontaminate victims, administer medical antidotes, and in general cope with a terrorist event involving a chemical or biological agent.

The Department of Health and Human Services also initiated, at the same time, a program to form special medical response teams in a dozen cities across the United States. These response teams have extra medical capabilities, antidotes, and special training to cope with weapons of mass destruction.

In 1998 the U.S. Government spent $48.5 million on terrorism preparedness. Next year, as I have noted, they will spend $1.4 billion. The training program will expand from 120 cities to 157 cities. There will be more of these Special Medical Response teams and the Department of Defense has decided to involve the National Guard in these efforts. Initially, the Defense Department decided to form ten special response teams in the National Guard. Now, the plans call for practically every state in the country to have a National Guard response team. The FBI is training the special units.

My point is very simple - there are more than 40 government agencies that claim to have a mission responsibility in the area of terrorism response. In short, there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

So what is driving this overreaction of the U.S. Government? If you live in the United States, barely a week goes by that you do not see a story in the media, either in a newspaper or on one of the television newsmagazines. Several books have come out on the subject. Movies sensationalize the topic. We are saturated with this information. Serious scholars are writing about this, including Jessica Stern’s recently released book called the Ultimate Terrors.

Today there has been only one truly major terrorist event involving chemical or biological agents, that by Aum Sinrikyo. So are we overreacting? A database, maintained by RAND, studying international terrorist events tells us that in the 1990s, although the number of international terrorists incidents is going down, the number of casualties in these incidents is rising. This is something to pay attention to: terrorist are more willing to kill and, in particular, terrorists who are motivated by religion appear to be willing to kill indiscriminately.

The Monterey Institute of International Studies maintains a database specifically studying incidents that involve chemical and biological agents. From 1990 to May 1999 their database records 520 incidents around the world involving chemical and biological agents. 46% of these incidents were of criminal nature and attempted to "assassinate" someone. 54% of these incidents they categorise as the "terrorist" incidents. Of the 282 terrorist incidents, they tracked 68 hoaxes; 21 conspiracies to use these weapons; 11 incidents where a terrorist group attempted to acquire a chemical or biological agent; 26 cases where a terrorist group possessed a chemical or biological agent; 55 where terrorists threatened to use a chemical or biological agent; and -- this is perhaps what should catch our attention -- 71 occasions where terrorists actually used a chemical or biological agent.

I will wrap this up by letting you know that it is not just literature and the databases that are discussing this; it is the leaders of the U.S. Government. President Clinton has made this a topic in his speeches; so have the Secretary of Defense and the President’s National Security Advisor. To a certain extent it may be true that we are overreacting, but on the other hand it is difficult to ignore what Aum Sinrikyo did, and it is also difficult, and perhaps foolish, to ignore the changing nature of terrorism. Not only do terrorists appear more willing to kill indiscriminately, but also unfortunately the weapons they now have access to include the weapons of mass destruction.

I will be candid with you. There are many, many people in the United States now making a very good living of this topic, including defense contractors. So to my mind, preparations for a possible terrorist attack have to do with the perception of this threat in the United States. In large part it really does not have to do with anything that is happening overseas, although there is one possible exception.

Of course, policy makers are paying attention to international terrorists like Usama Bin Laden who have threatened to use these weapons. But as regards Russia and other former Soviet states that maintained an incredible group of institutes that worked with these materials, there is concern that some materials and expertise from these weapons institutes might find their way into the possession of terrorist groups.