HLS 101 - Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Now let’s shift to homeland security and weapons of mass destruction. WMD’s are the greatest threat to the public safety and instill fear in the American people.

Types of Weapons of Mass Destruction

There are three types of WMD’s: Biological, Chemical, and Nuclear. While there is only one recorded WMD attack by the Taliban, there is a long history of such methods being used.

Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction

Biological WMD’s were first used the United States in 1763 when British officers planned to distribute blankets with smallpox. Attempts such as this continued during war as soldiers were steadfast in killing off their enemies. Today, however, the use of biological weapons have been used primarily by individuals, rather than groups. Types of biological weapons include bacterial, which is plague, anthrax or Q fever. Viruses, including small pox, hepatitis, the avian influenza, and toxins, such as botchalism, ricin and staff. There are three ways biological weapons work: One is contact with the skin, two is gastrointestinal, and three is pulmonary. This type of weapon is quite hazardous and easy to create or get a hold of. A biological attack on the United States could cause casualties not only locally but globally as well due to the issue of spreading.

Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction

Chemical WMD’s go back as early as 1000 BC, when the Chinese used arsenic smoke. They were used extensively in World Wars I and II. More recently in 1995, sarin was used to attack subway trains in Tokyo byalm. And ricin was found in a motel room in 2008 in Las Vegas. Types of chemical weapons include blister agents, blood agents, choking hazard agents, nerve agents, tear gas, vomiting agents and psychiatric compounds. Chemical weapons work by either making contact to the skin or through consumption. This type of weapon is not as dangerous as biological weapons due to the inefficiency, the need for significant amount of the chemical, and as it relates to a lower number of casualties. The main difference however, between biological and chemical weapons is that chemical is immediate. Nevertheless, a chemical attack would have to have a very sophisticated delivery system in order to have a significant effect.

Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction

Of the three types of WMD’s, nuclear weapons represent the greatest threat. There are a few ways to acquire a nuclear weapon: smuggling such weapon into the US, combining radiological materials with a conventional explosive device across a wide area, utilizing conventional explosive attacks, nuclear facilities, and or materials already in the US, and acquiring a chemical that can be weaponized and deployed against a population. While WMD’s instill fear in the American people, there are a few reasons that keep terrorists from actually using such methods: organizational capabilities, financial resources, and logistical resources, knowledge, skills, and acquisitions, materials and technology acquisitions, production, weaponization, and delivery. State sponsorship terrorist groups may decide to acquire and use WMD’s for ideological reasons to enhance their state's or group's prestige in a region of the world, provide a country with more leverage in the world community or for strategic motivational factors. Regardless of their actual decision, WMD’s can be destructive. There are nine countries possessing nuclear weapons, numerous countries possessing chemical and biological weapons, and 29 countries are suspected to have or had biological chemical weapons programs. For this reason there remains the potential for terrorist groups to cause mass casualties and disrupt a nation's or region's economy.

Next week we will review cyber crime and terrorism as well as discuss terrorist financing. As always please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or post your questions to the virtual office or class lounge.