oversight

Combating Terrorism: Need for Comprehensive Threat and Risk Assessments of Chemical and Biological Attacks

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-09-07.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Report to Congressional Requesters




September 1999
                   COMBATING
                   TERRORISM

                   Need for
                   Comprehensive Threat
                   and Risk Assessments
                   of Chemical and
                   Biological Attacks




GAO/NSIAD-99-163
United States General Accounting Office                                                                  National Security and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                                            International Affairs Division



                                    B-282772                                                                                         Letter

                                    September 14, 1999

                                    The Honorable Arlen Specter
                                    Chairman
                                    The Honorable John D. Rockefeller IV
                                    Ranking Minority Member
                                    Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
                                    United States Senate

                                    The Honorable Ike Skelton
                                    Ranking Minority Member
                                    Committee on Armed Services
                                    House of Representatives

                                    The Honorable Christopher Shays
                                    Chairman
                                    Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans’ Affairs, and
                                     International Relations
                                    Committee on Government Reform
                                    House of Representatives

                                    As you know, many conflicting statements have been made in public
                                    testimony before Congress and in the press concerning the ease or
                                    difficulty with which terrorists could effectively disseminate a chemical or
                                    biological agent on U.S. soil and cause mass casualties. Nevertheless,
                                    numerous federal agencies are spending billions of dollars to prepare for
                                    the possibility of a terrorist attack with chemical or biological weapons.
                                    The President’s fiscal year 2000 budget proposes $10 billion1 for
                                    counterterrorism programs—an increase of more than $3 billion over the
                                    requested funding of $6.7 billion for fiscal year 1999. Some agencies have
                                    experienced rapid increases in funding for programs and activities to
                                    combat terrorism in recent years. For example, the Department of Health
                                    and Human Services (DHHS) increased its spending from $7 million in
                                    fiscal year 1996 to about $160 million in fiscal year 1999 and has requested
                                    $230 million for fiscal year 2000 for its bioterrorism initiative. As part of the
                                    same initiative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an


                                    1
                                     Of the $10 billion, $8.6 billion is for combating terrorism, including defending against weapons of mass
                                    destruction, and $1.4 billion is for critical infrastructure protection.




                   Leter            Page 1                                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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                      operating division within DHHS, will continue to develop the national
                      pharmaceutical stockpile to prepare for terrorist incidents involving
                      chemical or biological agents.

                      In view of the conflicting information and the substantial investments being
                      made to counter an uncertain threat, you asked us to review the scientific
                      and practical aspects of a terrorist carrying out large-scale chemical or
                      biological attacks on U.S. soil. Specifically, we examined the technical ease
                      or difficulty for terrorists to acquire, process, improvise, and disseminate
                      certain chemical and biological agents that might cause at least 1,000
                      casualties (physical injuries or deaths)—the number DHHS uses for
                      planning purposes—without the assistance of a state-sponsored program.
                      You also asked us to determine the extent to which the U.S. government
                      has assessed the threats and risks posed by chemical and biological
                      terrorism in the United States to serve as a basis for planned investments.
                      As agreed with your offices, for the purposes of our work, we defined
                      terrorists as non-state actors not provided with a state-developed weapon.
                      The terrorists could be of foreign or domestic origin and would be
                      operating illegally and outside a state-run laboratory infrastructure or
                      weapon program. As also agreed, we will later report on the mechanisms in
                      place to track medical inventories and the adequacy of medical inventory
                      tracking systems.



Results in Brief      Chemical and biological experts and intelligence agency officials believe
                      that the ease or difficulty for terrorists to cause mass casualties with an
                      improvised chemical or biological weapon2 or device depends on the
                      chemical or biological agent selected. Experts from the scientific,
                      intelligence, and law enforcement communities told us that terrorists do
                      not need sophisticated knowledge or dissemination methods to use toxic
                      industrial chemicals such as chlorine. In contrast, terrorists would need a
                      relatively high degree of sophistication to successfully cause mass
                      casualties with some other chemical and most biological agents.
                      Specialized knowledge would be needed to acquire the right biological
                      agent or precursor chemicals,3 process the chemical or biological agent,


                      2
                       A few biological agents (e.g., plague and smallpox) are communicable and can be spread beyond those
                      directly affected by the weapon or dissemination device. Every biological agent, even one that is highly
                      communicable, must be disseminated by some means that infects enough individuals to initiate a
                      disease epidemic.
                      3
                       Precursor chemicals are materials from which chemical agents are synthesized.




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improvise a weapon or device, and effectively disseminate the agent to
cause mass casualties. Throughout the different stages of the process,
terrorists would run the risk of hurting themselves and of being detected
and would have to overcome technical and operational challenges. Some
virulent biological agents and precursor chemicals are difficult to obtain,
and others are difficult to process or produce, especially in the quantities
needed to cause mass casualties. In addition, effective dissemination of
chemical and biological agents can be disrupted by environmental and
meteorological factors. Terrorists with less sophistication could make a
chemical or biological weapon and disseminate agents, but these would be
less likely to cause mass casualties. Preventive measures and medical
treatments are available for some, but not all chemical and biological
agents that might be used by terrorists.

The intelligence community has recently produced National Intelligence
Estimates (NIE) and other high-level analyses of the foreign-origin terrorist
threat that include judgments about the more likely chemical and biological
agents that would be used. Unlike the foreign-origin terrorist threat, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) analysts’ judgments concerning the
more likely chemical and biological agents to be used by domestic-origin
terrorists have not been captured in a formal, authoritative, written
assessment. A formal assessment of the domestic-origin threats, combined
with existing assessments of the foreign-origin threat, would provide an
authoritative, written, comprehensive, intelligence community view on
specific chemical and biological terrorist threats. Moreover, a national-level
risk assessment of potential chemical and biological terrorist incidents also
has not been performed. A risk assessment is a decision-making support
tool that is used to establish requirements and prioritize program
investments. Soundly performed risk assessments could help ensure that
specific programs and related expenditures are justified and targeted
according to the threat and risk of validated terrorist attack scenarios
generated and assessed by a multidisciplinary team of experts. To perform
a sound risk assessment, a multidisciplinary team of experts would use
valid, current, documented threat information, including NIEs, to develop
valid threat scenarios, rank the likelihood of a successful attack, and assure
that program countermeasures are not based solely on worst-case
scenarios.

We have previously reported that federal programs to combat terrorism,
such as DHHS’ national pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpile, are being
initiated without the benefit of a sound threat and risk assessment process
that helps prioritize and focus investments on appropriate



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             countermeasures and programs.4 In the case of the DHHS national
             stockpile initiative, without valid threat and risk assessments, we question
             whether stockpiling for the items and quantities discussed in the
             Department’s plan is the best approach for investing in medical
             preparedness.

             We are recommending that the Attorney General direct the FBI Director to
             produce an authoritative threat assessment of the more likely chemical and
             biological agents that would be used by domestic-origin terrorists working
             outside a state-run laboratory infrastructure. In addition, we are
             recommending that the Attorney General direct the FBI Director to
             sponsor a national-level risk assessment using NIEs and other inputs to
             help guide and prioritize appropriate countermeasures and programs
             designed to combat chemical and biological terrorism.



Background   The 1995 attack by Aum Shinrikyo, an apocalyptic religious sect, in the
             Tokyo subway using the chemical nerve agent sarin elevated concerns
             about chemical and biological terrorism. Twelve people were killed and
             many more were injured as a result of that incident. Some experts have
             noted that despite substantial financial assets, well-equipped laboratories,
             and educated scientists working in the laboratories, Aum Shinrikyo did not
             cause more deaths because of the poor quality of the chemical agent and
             the dissemination technique used. Although not as widely publicized, a
             limited number of incidents involving biological agents have also occurred
             in the United States. For example, in 1984, the Rajneeshee religious cult in
             Oregon contaminated salad bars in local restaurants with salmonella
             bacteria to prevent people from voting in a local election. Although no one
             died, 751 people were diagnosed with the food-borne illness.

             These events and concerns about other threats prompted Congress to
             establish a commission to assess the federal government’s organization
             concerning weapons of mass destruction proliferation and to make




             4
               Combating Terrorism: Observations on Federal Spending to Combat Terrorism
             (GAO/T-NSIAD/GGD-99-107, Mar. 11, 1999); Combating Terrorism: Threat and Risk Assessments Can
             Help Prioritize and Target Program Investments (GAO/NSIAD-98-74, Apr. 9, 1998); and Combating
             Terrorism: Observations on Biological Terrorism and Public Health Initiatives (GAO/T-NSIAD-99-112,
             Mar. 16, 1999).




             Page 4                                                 GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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recommendations for improvements.5 In July 1999, the commission
concluded that the United States is not effectively organized to combat the
threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons proliferation. The
commission believes that an effective capability to respond to the use of
these weapons by state or subnational groups, whether at home or abroad,
is critical not only in the event of an attack, but also as a deterrent. This
panel recommended that the President name a national director for
combating proliferation who could coordinate the response of government
agencies.

While intelligence agencies continuously assess and report on various
threats, an NIE analyzes issues of major importance and long-term interest
to the United States and is the intelligence community’s most authoritative
projection of future developments in a particular subject area.6 An NIE is
intended to help decisionmakers think through critical issues by presenting
the relevant key facts, judgments about the likely course of events in
foreign countries, and the implications for the United States. Examples of
critical issues are threats from foreign terrorism and foreign missiles. NIEs
are generally focused on foreign-origin threats. The National Intelligence
Council (NIC), an organization composed of 12 National Intelligence
Officers--including one from the FBI--who report directly to the Director of
Central Intelligence, produces NIEs. To prepare an NIE, the NIC brings
together analysts from all the intelligence agencies that have expertise on
the issue under review.7 In the final analysis, an NIE is the Director of
Central Intelligence’s assessment, with which the heads of the U.S.
intelligence agencies concur, except as noted in the NIE’s text. Other
high-level intelligence community products include Intelligence
Community Assessments.

Intelligence and law enforcement threat information is a key input into a
risk assessment process. Risk assessments are widely recognized as valid

5
 The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 (P.L. 104-293) created the commission. The
Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1999
(P.L. 105-277) extended the commission’s reporting deadline to July 18, 1999. John Deutch, former
Director of Central Intelligence, was the commission’s chairman. Senator Arlen Specter served as vice
chairman.
6
 Foreign Missile Threats: Analytic Soundness of Certain National Intelligence Estimates
(GAO/NSIAD-96-225, Aug. 30, 1996).
7
 The following organizations may participate in preparing an NIE: NIC, Central Intelligence Agency,
Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and
Research, FBI, intelligence organizations of the Departments of the Treasury and Energy, and military
services.




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decision support tools to establish and prioritize program investments and
are grounded in risk management, an approach to dealing with security
issues. Risk management is the deliberate process of understanding risk—
the likelihood that a threat will harm an asset or individuals with some
severity of consequences—and deciding on and implementing actions to
reduce it. A threat analysis--the first step in determining risk--identifies and
evaluates each threat on the basis of various factors such as its capability
and intent to attack an asset and the likelihood and the severity of the
consequences of a successful attack. Valid, current, and documented threat
information, including NIEs, in a risk assessment process is crucial to
ensuring that countermeasures or programs are not based solely on
worst-case scenarios and are therefore out of balance with the threat. Risk
management principles acknowledge that (1) while risk generally cannot
be eliminated, it can be reduced by enhancing protection from validated
and credible threats and (2) although many threats are possible, some are
more likely to be carried out than others. Risk assessments form a
deliberate, analytical approach that results in a prioritized list of risks (i.e.,
threat-asset-vulnerability combinations) that can be used to select
countermeasures to create a certain level of protection or preparedness.
Because threats are dynamic and countermeasures may become outdated,
it is generally sound practice to periodically reassess threat and risk. To
perform a realistic risk assessment of terrorist threats, a multidisciplinary
team of experts would require several inputs, including written foreign and
domestic threat analyses from the intelligence community and law
enforcement.

Chemical and biological agents pose different sets of problems for
emergency planning and preparedness. For example, most chemicals
quickly affect individuals directly exposed to the agent within a given
geographical area. In contrast, the release of a biological agent may not be
known for several days, and both perpetrators and victims may be miles
away from the point of release when an incident is identified. Also, some
biological agents produce symptoms that can be easily confused with
influenza or other less virulent illnesses. If communicable, the biological
agent can spread throughout the population.

Many federally funded programs and initiatives have been established to
better prepare for dealing with a possible large-scale chemical or biological
terrorist incident, but no federal agency has defined what constitutes mass
casualties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department
of Defense (DOD), the Department of Justice, and DHHS (including CDC)
do not have a working definition of what constitutes mass casualties. The



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metropolitan medical response systems that DHHS is establishing across
the nation use 1,000 casualties as a basis for planning local medical systems
and for equipping and supplying the response teams.8 DHHS acknowledges
that this number is arbitrary but believes it is reasonable for planning
purposes. Other federal agency representatives stated that whatever
number overwhelms the local medical system could be considered mass
casualties.

Terrorists operating outside a state-run laboratory infrastructure would
have to improvise a weapon or device and effectively disseminate an agent
through a delivery system. There are different stages in the process of
improvising a chemical or biological weapon to cause mass casualties.
Figure 1 shows the stages required for such an undertaking.




8
Combating Terrorism: Opportunities to Improve Domestic Preparedness Program Focus and
Efficiency (GAO/NSIAD-99-3, Nov. 12, 1998) and Combating Terrorism: Observations on the
Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program (GAO-T-NSIAD-99-16, Oct. 2, 1998).




Page 7                                               GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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              Figure 1: Stages for Terrorists Working Outside a State-run Laboratory to Conduct
              Chemical and Biological Terrorism

                                     Acquire precursor chemicals or
                                       Acquire precursor chemicals or
                                     virulent biological seed cultures
                                      virulent biological seed cultures



                                       Synthesize chemical agents
                                        Synthesize chemical agents
                                        from precursors or grow
                                          from precursors or grow
                                       biological agents in culture
                                         biological agents in culture
                                     (unnecessary for toxic industrial
                                      (unnecessary   for toxic industrial
                                                chemicals)
                                                 chemicals)



                              Process the chemical or biological agents into a
                               Process the chemical or biological agents into a
                                form which can be effectively disseminated
                                  form which can be effectively disseminated
                                 (unnecessary for some chemical agents)
                                   (unnecessary for some chemical agents)


                                    Improvise an agent delivery device
                                     Improvise an agent delivery device



                                    Disseminate chemical or biological
                                     Disseminate chemical or biological
                                    agents to effectively to cause mass
                                     agents to effectively to cause mass
                                                 casualties
                                                  casualties




              Source: GAO, on the basis of analysis and discussion with chemical and biological warfare experts.




Scope and     To perform our review, we obtained lists of potential chemical and
              biological agents that might be used by terrorists from intelligence
Methodology   agencies, military medical health experts, the FBI, and documents provided
              by government officials. We discussed in detail the characteristics of these
              agents with numerous experts in the disciplines of science, medicine, law
              enforcement, intelligence, and chemical and biological warfare. We spoke
              with and obtained documentation from officials at the U.S. Army Medical
              Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Maryland; the CDC
              in Atlanta, Georgia; the DHHS Office of Emergency Preparedness in
              Rockville, Maryland; the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Washington,
              D.C.; the Soldier and Biological Chemical Command and its Technical
              Escort Unit in Edgewood, Maryland; and the Defense Threat Reduction
              Agency in Dulles, Virginia. We discussed the production, weaponization,
              and dissemination of chemical and biological agents with experts formerly
              with U.S. and foreign biological warfare programs and with several medical
              and scientific experts in academia. We analyzed manuals, handbooks, and


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texts on infectious diseases and biological and chemical casualties. We
gathered and reviewed materials, studies, and reports on chemical and
biological terrorism and attended conferences on the topic.

To develop the report’s appendixes on selected chemical and biological
agents, we analyzed and summarized information obtained from different
sources. Specifically, for chemical agents, we reviewed Army Field Manual
3-9, Potential Military Chemical/Biological Agents and Compounds, as well
as other information that we supplemented with discussions with the
Defense Threat Reduction Agency and CDC. The primary source of our
appendix on selected biological agents was the Medical Management of
Biological Casualties Handbook (July 1998) by the U.S. Army Medical
Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Also, we discussed the
characteristics of each biological agent with infectious disease experts,
including those from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of
Infectious Diseases and CDC. Renowned academicians from Stanford
University, Johns Hopkins University, the Rockefeller University, the
Monterey Institute of International Studies, and RAND Corporation
provided information from the disciplines of physics, meteorology,
virology, biology, microbiology, and terrorism—all of which are technical
and operational aspects of chemical and biological terrorism. Biological
warfare experts formerly with offensive programs of the United States, the
United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union gave us detailed information
on the acquisition, growth, production, and dissemination of biological
agents. We also discussed biological and chemical agents and obtained
documentation from chemical and biological defense experts and the
Defense Threat Reduction Agency. We reviewed classified documents and
reports from the intelligence community and unclassified handbooks,
manuals, textbooks, reports, and other open-source materials. Chemical
and biological experts reviewed portions of the draft report and provided
comments. In addition, technical experts from the Office of the Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict
reviewed the draft appendixes and offered comments as appropriate.

As agreed with your offices, we limited our review to terrorist chemical or
biological attacks that could be carried out by individuals or groups
without access to state-run laboratories or weapon programs and that
would not receive chemical or biological agents or weapons from such
countries. We assumed that potential terrorists would have to acquire a
biological agent or precursor chemicals, produce the agent, weaponize the
agent, and deliver it. We limited our evaluation to agents that could cause
mass casualties using the DHHS planning guidance of 1,000 casualties. We



Page 9                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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                      focused on methods that cause mass casualties among humans by means of
                      improvised weapons or devices and not through contamination of water,
                      food supply, agriculture, or livestock.

                      Officials from individual intelligence agencies briefed us and provided
                      access to analyses on specific chemical and biological agents and on the
                      threat of chemical and biological terrorism in general. In addition, we
                      reviewed pertinent NIEs and Intelligence Community Assessments. We
                      also reviewed other intelligence analyses related to terrorism. FBI officials
                      provided their assessment of the domestic-origin terrorist threat and
                      information on past cases of terrorism, including data on terrorist incidents
                      in the United States from 1987 through 1998.

                      We interviewed and obtained documentation from DHHS and CDC officials
                      about the proposed national stockpile of pharmaceuticals and vaccines,
                      including the methodology used in developing an operating plan to
                      establish a stockpile and continuing efforts to further develop the
                      stockpile. Information on the threat and risk assessment process was
                      developed in our previous work on combating terrorism.



Ease or Difficulty    Chemical and biological experts and the intelligence agencies believe that
                      the ease or difficulty with which terrorists could cause mass casualties
Depends on Chemical   with an improvised chemical or biological weapon9 or device depends on
or Biological Agent   the chemical or biological agent selected. Experts from the scientific,
                      intelligence, and law enforcement community told us that terrorists do not
Selected              need sophisticated knowledge or dissemination methods to use toxic
                      industrial chemicals. In contrast, these experts believe that terrorists face
                      serious technical and operational challenges at different stages of the
                      process (described in fig. 1) to cause mass casualties when working with
                      other chemical or any biological agents in the scope of our review.

                      According to these experts, to cause mass casualties with many chemical
                      and all biological agents in our review, terrorists would have to handle the
                      risk of hurting themselves and of being detected, overcome acquisition and
                      production difficulties, and effectively disseminate a chemical or biological


                      9
                       A few biological agents (e.g., plague and smallpox) are communicable and can be spread beyond those
                      directly affected by the weapon or dissemination device. Every biological agent, even those that are
                      highly communicable, must be disseminated by some means that infects enough individuals to initiate a
                      disease epidemic.




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agent. In addition, these experts believe that capability, access, and
specialized knowledge that are not readily available are needed when
weaponizing or disseminating certain chemical agents and nearly all
biological agents. Further, obtaining access to the proper strains of
biological agents is a difficult hurdle to overcome. Chemical experts
believe that many variables may deter terrorists from using chemical
agents (other than toxic industrial chemicals). For example, precursor
chemicals necessary for the production of some chemical agents are
controlled by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention that has been in
force since April 1997. According to chemical experts, illegal acquisition of
precursor chemicals would raise suspicions and attention due to the
provisions of the convention. Moreover, the Special Assistant to the
Director of Central Intelligence for Nonproliferation recently testified that
“the preparation and effective use of BW [biological weapons] by both
potentially hostile states and by non-state actors, including terrorists, is
harder than some popular literature seems to suggest.”10

Individuals with expertise in the disciplines of chemistry, biology, virology,
microbiology, physics, meteorology, and former chemical and biological
warfare programs described the more salient technical and operational
challenges of working with chemical and biological agents. We discuss
these challenges in more detail in the following chemical and biological
sections. Specifically,

• the right precursor chemicals and biological agents or strains are very
  difficult to obtain, and some chemical and many biological agents are
  difficult to produce, especially in sufficient quantities to produce mass
  casualties;
• except if using toxic industrial chemicals, terrorists would need a
  relatively high degree of sophistication to successfully and effectively
  process agents, improvise a device or weapon, and disseminate the
  agents to cause mass casualties;
• a crude weapon can be made with less sophistication, but it would be
  less likely to cause mass casualties;
• environmental (e.g., pollution) and meteorological conditions (e.g., sun,
  rain, mist, and wind) might disrupt the effective dissemination of
  chemical and biological agents; and



10
   Unclassified statement on the worldwide biological warfare threat to the House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence, March 3, 1999.




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                               • location of the weapon or device (interior or exterior) can play a critical
                                 role in its effectiveness.


Ease and Difficulty of Using   Experts from the scientific, intelligence, and law enforcement communities
Chemical Agents                we spoke with agreed that toxic industrial chemicals can cause mass
                               casualties and require little if any expertise or sophisticated methods.
                               Generally, toxic industrial chemicals can be bought on the commercial
                               market or stolen, thus avoiding the need to manufacture them. Chlorine,
                               phosgene, and hydrogen cyanide are examples of toxic industrial
                               chemicals. DOD classified further details concerning the use of toxic
                               industrial chemicals.

                               Experts believe that unlike toxic industrial chemicals, for various reasons,
                               most G and V chemical nerve agents are technically challenging for
                               terrorists to acquire, manufacture, and produce. Examples of the G-series
                               nerve agents are tabun (GA), sarin (GB), and soman (GD). VX is an
                               example of a V-series nerve agent. According to chemical experts,
                               developing nerve agents requires synthesis of multiple precursor
                               chemicals. On the basis of our review of a technical report,11 we concluded
                               that some steps in the production process are difficult and hazardous.
                               Although tabun production is relatively easy, containment of a highly toxic
                               gas (hydrogen cyanide) is a technical challenge. Production of sarin,
                               soman, and VX requires the use of high temperatures and generates
                               corrosive and dangerous by-products. Moreover, careful temperature
                               control, cooling of the vessel, heating to complete chemical reactions, and
                               distillation could be technically infeasible for terrorists without a
                               sophisticated laboratory infrastructure. Blister chemical agents such as
                               sulfur mustard, nitrogen mustard, and lewisite can be manufactured with
                               ease or with only moderate difficulty. However, experts told us that buying
                               large quantities of the precursor chemicals for these agents is difficult due
                               to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Appendix I describes some chemical
                               agents’ key characteristics that we developed on the basis of technical data
                               and reviews with experts. DOD classified additional details for appendix I.

                               Chemical experts believe that chemical agents need to be in vapor or
                               aerosol form (a cloud of suspended microscopic droplets) 12 to cause

                               11
                                  Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology
                               Assessment (Dec. 1993).
                               12
                                 Fog and smoke are examples of visible aerosols.




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                                optimal inhalation exposure to cause an effect. Vapors and aerosols remain
                                suspended in the air and are readily inhaled deep into the lungs. Another
                                method is to spray large droplets or liquid for skin penetration. A chemical
                                agent could be disseminated by explosive or mechanical delivery. Further,
                                chemical agents can be disseminated in vapor, aerosol, or bulk droplet
                                form from delivery devices. According to the experts, terrorists could
                                disseminate chemical agents using simple containers such as glass bottles
                                with commercial sprayers attached to them or fire extinguishers. However,
                                the chemical agent would need to withstand the heat developed if
                                disseminated by explosives.

                                Moreover, according to chemical experts, the successful use of chemical
                                agents to cause mass casualties requires high toxicity, volatility (tendency
                                of a chemical to vaporize or give off fumes), and stability during storage
                                and dissemination. Rapid exposure to a highly concentrated agent in an
                                ideal environment would increase the number of casualties. These experts
                                agree that disseminating a chemical agent in a closed environment would
                                be the best way to produce mass casualties. Weather affects exterior
                                dissemination, particularly sunlight, moisture, and wind. Some chemical
                                agents can be easily evaporated by sunlight or diluted by water. The
                                experts stated that it is also difficult to target an agent with any precision or
                                certainty to kill a specific percentage of individuals outdoors. For example,
                                wind could transport a chemical agent away from the designated target
                                area.


General Difficulties of Using   According to experts in the many fields associated with the technical
Biological Agents               aspects of dealing with biological agents, including those formerly with
                                state-sponsored offensive biological weapon programs, terrorists working
                                outside a state-run laboratory infrastructure would have to overcome
                                extraordinary technical and operational challenges to effectively and
                                successfully weaponize and deliver a biological agent to cause mass
                                casualties. Terrorists would require specialized knowledge from a wide
                                range of scientific disciplines to successfully conduct biological terrorism
                                and cause mass casualties. For example, biological agents have varying
                                characteristics. Information and technical data from these experts,
                                intelligence, and authoritative documented sources indicate that some
                                biological agents such as smallpox are difficult to obtain.13 In the case of



                                13
                                  Known smallpox culture stocks exist only in the United States at CDC and in Russia.




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other biological agents such as anthrax14 and tularemia (both of which are
bacteria), it is difficult to obtain a virulent strain (one that causes disease
and injury to humans). Other agents such as plague are difficult to produce.
Biological toxins such as ricin require large quantities to cause mass
casualties, thereby increasing the risk of arousing suspicion or detection
prior to dissemination. Furthermore, some agents such as Q fever
incapacitate rather than cause death. Finally, many agents are relatively
easy to grow, but are difficult to process into a form for a weapon.
Appendix II describes some biological agents’ key characteristics we
developed from technical documents and reviews with experts. DOD
classified additional details for appendix II.

According to experts from former biological warfare programs, to survive
and be effective, a virulent biological agent must be grown, handled, and
stored properly. This stage requires time and effort for research and
development. After cultivation, the agent is wet. Terrorists would need the
means to sterilize the growth medium and dispose of hazardous biological
wastes. Processing the biological agent into a weaponized form requires
even more specialized knowledge. According to a wide range of experts in
science, health, intelligence, and biological warfare and the technical
report we reviewed, the most effective way to disseminate a biological
agent is by aerosol. This method allows the simultaneous respiratory
infection of a large number of people. Microscopic particles that are
dispersed must remain airborne for long periods and may be transported by
the wind over long distances. The particles are small enough to reach the
tiny air sacs of the lungs (alveoli) and bypass the body’s natural filtering
and defense mechanisms. According to experts, if larger particles are
dispersed, they may fall to the ground, causing no injury, or become
trapped in the upper respiratory tract, possibly causing infections but not
necessarily death. From an engineering standpoint, it is easier to produce
and disseminate the larger particles than the microscopic particles. Other
critical technical hurdles include obtaining the proper size equipment to
generate proper size aerosols, calculating the correct output rate (speed at
which the equipment operates), and having the correct liquid composition.

According to key experts with experience in biological warfare, biological
agents can be processed into liquid or dry forms for dissemination. Both


14
   Anthrax is the disease caused by the biological agent Bacillus anthracis. Throughout the report we use
the related disease term when referring to biological agents. We found that the disease term is used
synonymously with the biological agent in discussions with the many experts we interviewed and
documentation we reviewed.




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                           forms pose difficult technical challenges for terrorists to effectively cause
                           mass casualties. These experts told us that liquid agents are easy to
                           produce. However, it is difficult to effectively disseminate aerosolized
                           liquid agents with the right particle size without reducing the strength of
                           the mixture. Further, the liquid agent requires larger quantities and
                           dissemination vehicles that can increase the possibility of raising suspicion
                           and detection. In addition, experts told us that in contrast, dry biological
                           agents are more difficult to produce than liquid agents, but dry agents are
                           easier to disseminate. Dry biological agents could be easily destroyed when
                           processed, rendering the agent ineffective for causing mass casualties. A
                           leading expert told us that the whole process entails risks. For example,
                           powders easily adhere to rubber gloves and pose a handling problem.
                           Effectively disseminating both forms of agent can pose technical
                           challenges in that the proper equipment and energy sources are needed. A
                           less sophisticated product and dissemination method can produce some
                           illness and/or deaths. DOD classified further details on technical challenges
                           of effectively processing and disseminating biological agents.

                           According to the experts we spoke with, exterior dissemination of
                           biological agents can be disrupted by environmental (e.g., pollution) and
                           meteorological (e.g., sun, rain, mist, and wind) conditions. Once released,
                           an aerosol cloud gradually decays and dies as a result of exposure to
                           oxygen, pollutants, and ultraviolet rays. If wind is too erratic or strong, the
                           agent might be dissipated too rapidly or fail to reach the desired area.
                           Interior dissemination of a biological agent through a heating and air
                           conditioning ventilation system could cause casualties. But this method
                           also has risks. Security countermeasures could intercept the perpetrators
                           or apprehend them after the attack. Successful interior dissemination also
                           requires knowledge of aerodynamics. For example, the air exchange rate in
                           a building could affect the dissemination of a biological agent. Regardless
                           of whether a liquid or dry agent is used in interior or exterior environments,
                           experts believe that testing should be done to determine if the agent is
                           virulent and disseminates properly. The numerous steps in the process of
                           developing a biological weapon increase the chances of a terrorist being
                           detected by authorities.


Availability of Pre- and   Medical preventive measures and treatments are available for some but not
Post-exposure Medical      all chemical and biological agents. Early treatment following exposure to
                           chemical agents is critical. The availability of effective medical defenses
Treatments Varies
                           from or treatments for a chemical or biological agent could be a risk factor
                           and influence terrorists’ choice of weapon. The lack of an effective vaccine



                           Page 15                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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or antibiotic/antiviral treatment for biological agents—or of an antidote for
chemical agents—would pose a potential public health challenge but also
pose a significant risk for terrorists as well. In the absence of medical
defenses, a chemical or biological agent—if effectively acquired,
processed, and disseminated—could become a more desirable choice
because it might result in greater casualties. However, processing, testing,
and disseminating the agent could equally endanger terrorists because they,
too, would have no effective protection against the agent.

Medical and biological warfare experts agree that anthrax when inhaled is
an agent of concern due in large part to the difficulty of diagnosis and
treatment once symptoms appear and its very high lethality.15 We recently
testified on DOD’s anthrax vaccination program,16 pointing out that

• the anthrax vaccine is effective for preventing anthrax infections
  through the skin such as those sometimes contracted by unprotected
  workers who handle wool and hides and
• the vaccine appears to be effective against inhalation anthrax in some
  animal species for some, but not all, strains.

However, due to the absence of known correlates of immunity,17 the results
of the animal studies cannot be extrapolated with certainty to humans.
DOD is in the process of vaccinating military personnel against anthrax.
The efficacy of the vaccine for inhalation anthrax in humans has not been
proven.18

According to CDC, supplies of the plague vaccine do not exist in the United
States; however, small supplies of killed plague vaccine may exist in
Australia and the United Kingdom. CDC does not consider a vaccine useful
to control an outbreak nor protect a population against a terrorist incident.
Further, there are no vaccines for other potential biological agents such as
ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers, brucellosis, glanders, or


15
   Post-exposure treatment for inhalation anthrax consists of using the vaccine and the antibiotic
ciproflaxin, but treatment must begin immediately after exposure and before the influenza-like
symptoms appear. Because the symptoms mimic common influenza, proper diagnosis may come too
late for effective treatment.
16
  Medical Readiness: Safety and Efficacy of the Anthrax Vaccine (GAO/T-NSIAD-99-148, Apr. 29, 1999).
17
  Correlates of immunity refer to biological markers that represent immunity against disease.
18
   DOD believes it is prudent to vaccinate U.S. military forces against anthrax exposure, even though
efficacy for inhalation anthrax has been based on animal testing.




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                          staphylococcal enterotoxin B. Similarly, there are no specific antidotes for
                          a number of chemical agents such as the toxic industrial chemicals
                          chlorine and phosgene. Treatment for exposure to these chemical agents
                          consists largely of decontamination, first aid, and respiratory support. An
                          antidote kit comprised of amyl or sodium nitrite exists for hydrogen
                          cyanide. Appendixes I and II contain information on medical treatments for
                          chemical and biological agents, respectively.

                          Prevention and treatments are available for a number of other agents. For
                          example, there is an effective vaccine for known strains of smallpox, 19 and
                          there are new investigative vaccines for several other possible biological
                          agents, including botulinum, Q fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and
                          tularemia. Antidotes such as atropine, pralidoxime chloride, and diazepam
                          can be used to counteract the effects of a number of chemical nerve agents.
                          The treatment for some chemical and biological agents includes respiratory
                          support with a ventilator. The types and quantities of vaccines,
                          pharmaceuticals, and other items that should be available in the event of a
                          chemical or biological attack can be determined through a
                          methodologically sound threat and risk assessment.



U.S. Intelligence         To determine the extent to which the foreign- and domestic-origin chemical
                          and biological terrorist threat in the United States has been assessed, we
Assessments of the        obtained information from U.S. intelligence agencies. The U.S. intelligence
Foreign and Domestic      community has issued classified NIEs and Intelligence Community
                          Assessments that discuss the foreign-origin chemical and biological
Terrorist Threat in the   terrorist threat in some detail. However, the FBI’s assessment of the
United States             chemical and biological agents that would more likely be used by
                          domestic-origin terrorists working outside a state-run laboratory
                          infrastructure has not been formally reflected in a written threat
                          assessment. Producing assessments of both foreign- and domestic-origin
                          threats could provide an authoritative, written, comprehensive intelligence
                          community view on specific chemical and biological terrorist threats.

                          The possibility that terrorists may use chemical or biological materials may
                          increase over the next decade, according to intelligence agencies.
                          According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), interest among


                          19
                             Vaccination after exposure to weaponized smallpox or a case of smallpox is effective in preventing
                          disease if given within 7 days after exposure. However, it is unclear whether post-exposure treatment
                          with smallpox vaccine would be effective due to the difficulty in diagnosing the disease within 7 days.




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                               non-state actors, including terrorists, in biological and chemical materials
                               is real and growing and the number of potential perpetrators is increasing.
                               The CIA also noted that many such groups have international networks and
                               do not need to be tied to state sponsors for financial and technical support.
                               Nonetheless, the CIA continues to believe that terrorists are less likely to
                               use chemical and biological weapons than conventional explosives. We
                               previously reported that according to intelligence agencies, terrorists are
                               less likely to use chemical and biological weapons than conventional
                               explosives, at least partly because chemical and biological agents are
                               difficult to weaponize and the results are unpredictable.


Intelligence Analyses of the   The intelligence community has analyzed and made judgments about the
More Likely Chemical and       more likely foreign-origin chemical and biological terrorist threat agents.
                               This information has been produced in a new NIE and Intelligence
Biological Terrorist Threat
                               Community Assessments. The CIA classified the specific agents identified
Agents                         in intelligence assessments that would more likely be used by
                               foreign-origin terrorists. The CIA also classified the intelligence judgments
                               about the chances that state actors with successful chemical and/or
                               biological warfare programs would share their weapons and materials with
                               terrorists or terrorist groups. Unlike the foreign-origin threat, the FBI’s
                               analysts’ judgments concerning the more likely chemical and biological
                               agents that may be used by domestic-origin terrorists have not been
                               captured in a formal assessment. However, FBI officials shared their
                               analyses of the more likely biological and chemical threat agents on the
                               basis of substances used or threatened in actual cases.

                               In analyzing domestic-origin threats, FBI officials grouped chemical and
                               biological agents and did not specify individual agents as threats. Although
                               the FBI has not addressed the specific types of chemical or biological
                               weapons that may be used by domestic terrorists in the next 2 to 5 years,
                               FBI officials believe that domestic terrorists would be more likely to use or
                               threaten to use biological agents than chemical agents. The FBI’s
                               observation is based on an increase in reported investigations involving the
                               use of biological materials. In 1997, of the 74 criminal investigations related
                               to weapons of mass destruction, 30 percent (22) were related to the use of
                               biological materials. In 1998, there were 181 criminal investigations related
                               to weapons of mass destruction, and 62 percent (112) were related to the
                               use of biological materials. Most of these investigations involved threats or
                               hoaxes. The FBI estimated that in 1997 and 1998, approximately 60 percent
                               of biological investigations were related to anthrax hoaxes.




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                        The FBI ranks groups of chemical and biological agents on its threat
                        spectrum according to the likelihood that they would be used.

                        • Biological toxins: any toxic substance of natural origin produced by an
                          animal or plant. An example of a toxin is ricin, a poisonous protein
                          extracted from the castor bean.
                        • Toxic industrial chemicals: chemicals developed or manufactured for
                          use in industrial operations such as manufacturing solvents, pesticides,
                          and dyes. These chemicals are not primarily manufactured for the
                          purpose of producing human casualties. Chlorine, phosgene, and
                          hydrogen cyanide are industrial chemicals that have also been used as
                          chemical warfare agents.
                        • Biological pathogens: any organism (usually living) such as a bacteria or
                          virus capable of causing serious disease or death. Anthrax is an example
                          of a bacterial pathogen.
                        • Chemical agents: a chemical substance that is intended for use in
                          military operations to kill, seriously injure, or incapacitate people. The
                          FBI excludes from consideration riot control agents and smoke and
                          flame materials. Two examples of chemical agents are sarin (nerve
                          agent) and mustard gas (blister agent).



Risk Assessments Can    Risk assessments are widely recognized as valid decision-making support
                        tools to establish and prioritize program requirements. We have previously
Help Guide Investment   reported on the need for threat and risk assessments performed by a
Decisions for           multidisciplinary team of experts to properly focus programs and
                        investments for combating terrorism and to establish program
Chemical/Biological     requirements.20 Risk assessments incorporate but go beyond intelligence
Preparedness Efforts    threat analyses by using a multidisciplinary team of experts to

                        • generate valid attack scenarios,
                        • assess and rank the risks (likelihood and severity of consequences) of
                          the attack scenarios, and
                        • decide on actions or programs focused on reducing or otherwise dealing
                          with the risks as assessed.

                        Risk assessments should include sound inputs and information, such as the
                        best available intelligence and law enforcement information and analyses,


                        20
                         Combating Terrorism: Threat and Risk Assessments Can Help Prioritize and Target Program
                        Investments (GAO/NSIAD-98-74, Apr. 9, 1998).




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                           including NIEs and Intelligence Community Assessments. Soundly
                           established requirements could help ensure that specific programs and
                           initiatives and related expenditures are justified and targeted, given the
                           threat and risk of validated terrorist attack scenarios. We have testified and
                           reported on several occasions21 that individual government programs to
                           combat terrorism have not been based on soundly determined
                           requirements derived from a formal threat and risk assessment process.22 A
                           national-level assessment has not been performed that addresses the
                           overall threat and risk of terrorism, including terrorist attacks using
                           specific chemical or biological materials. Performing a sound threat and
                           risk assessment at this level could provide a strategic guide to help shape,
                           focus, and prioritize federal efforts to combat terrorism.


Many Counterterrorism      Individual agencies request funding for numerous programs and initiatives
Efforts Are Not Based on   without the benefit of a threat and risk assessment. For example, under the
                           Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program, first responders in
Risk Assessments
                           120 cities are being trained and equipped to enhance their capabilities to
                           respond to terrorist chemical attacks, and DHHS is funding medical
                           response teams in 27 cities as well as deployable national teams. The
                           Department of Justice has sponsored training programs, has funded several
                           centers and training venues related to combating terrorism, and is
                           implementing an equipment grant program. The Army National Guard is
                           establishing 10 of possibly 54 assessment and detection teams.

                           We recently testified about another example in which a threat and risk
                           assessment process would be beneficial.23 Beginning in fiscal year 1999,
                           DHHS is establishing a national pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpile to
                           prepare medical responses for possible use of chemical or biological
                           weapons by terrorists. We found that several of the items DHHS plans to


                           21
                            Combating Terrorism: Observations on Federal Spending to Combat Terrorism
                           (GAO/T-NSIAD/GGD-99-107, Mar. 11, 1999); Combating Terrorism: Observations on Crosscutting Issues
                           (GAO/T-NSIAD-98-164, Apr. 23, 1998); and Combating Terrorism: Spending on Governmentwide
                           Programs Requires Better Management and Coordination (GAO/NSIAD-98-39, Dec. 1, 1997).
                           22
                              However, several federal government organizations apply some formal threat and risk assessment
                           process in their programs. For example, as required by the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996
                           (P.L. 104-264), the Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI perform joint threat and vulnerability
                           assessments on each airport determined to be high risk. The FBI provides threat data (i.e., intelligence
                           and law enforcement information) that the Federal Aviation Administration is using to develop threat
                           assessments specific to the airport or the metropolitan area in which the high-risk airport is located.
                           23
                              Combating Terrorism: Observations on Biological Terrorism and Public Health Initiatives
                           (GAO/T-NSIAD-99-112, Mar. 16, 1999).




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              procure (1) do not match intelligence agencies’ judgments, as explained to
              us, of the more likely chemical and biological agents terrorists might use
              and (2) seem to be based on worst-possible consequence scenarios
              generated by an ad hoc interagency group of health and medical
              representatives. The DHHS decision-making process was not formal, based
              on a particular methodology, or documented and did not incorporate the
              many disciplines of knowledge and expertise or divergent thinking that is
              warranted to establish sound requirements for such an emerging, complex,
              and challenging threat. For example, experts in processing and
              weaponizing chemical and biological agents, intelligence, terrorism, law
              enforcement, and other related areas not necessarily associated with
              program and funding stakeholders would comprise a multidisciplinary
              team qualified to (1) generate valid threat scenarios, (2) assess and
              prioritize scenario risks in terms of likelihood and severity of
              consequences, and (3) determine appropriate countermeasures or other
              programmatic responses.24 As we previously reported, without valid threat
              and risk assessments, we question whether stockpiling for the items and
              quantities discussed in the Department’s plan is the best approach for
              investing in medical preparedness.



Conclusions   The ease or difficulty for terrorists to cause mass casualties with an
              improvised chemical or biological weapon or device depends on the agent
              selected. Experts agree that toxic industrial chemicals can cause mass
              casualties and require little if any expertise or sophisticated methods. Most
              chemical nerve agents, however, are technically challenging for terrorists
              to acquire, manufacture, and produce. Also, terrorists working outside a
              state-run laboratory infrastructure would have to overcome extraordinary
              challenges to effectively and successfully weaponize and deliver a
              biological agent and cause mass casualties. The intelligence community
              has issued NIEs and other assessments that discuss foreign-origin chemical
              and biological terrorist threats, including judgments about the more likely
              chemical and biological agents that would be used. However, the FBI has
              not produced a formal written assessment of its judgments concerning the
              most likely domestic-origin chemical and biological terrorist threats. Such
              an assessment would complement existing assessments of the
              foreign-origin threat and provide a comprehensive view of the threats.
              Taken together, these assessments of the foreign- and domestic-origin


              24
                 CDC officials told us that since CDC is responsible for establishing the stockpile, it intends to review
              the planned items and quantities based on a multidisciplinary assessment.




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                      threats would be important inputs for a risk assessment that could help
                      form the basis for and prioritize programs to combat chemical and
                      biological terrorism.

                      Moreover, a sound national-level risk assessment that could provide a
                      strategic guide to help shape, focus, and prioritize federal efforts to combat
                      terrorism has not been performed. Such an assessment--which
                      incorporates but goes beyond intelligence threat assessments--would be
                      conducted by a multidisciplinary team of experts on intelligence, terrorism,
                      chemical and biological agents, weapons, law enforcement, and health and
                      could include other experts not necessarily associated with program and
                      funding stakeholders. This team could use sound inputs, including NIEs, to
                      (1) generate valid threat scenarios, (2) assess and prioritize scenario risks
                      in terms of likelihood and severity of consequences, and (3) determine
                      appropriate countermeasures or other programmatic responses. Without a
                      valid threat and risk assessment, it is questionable whether federal
                      agencies will be able to establish soundly defined program requirements
                      and prioritize and focus the nation’s investments to combat terrorism.



Recommendations       We recommend that the Attorney General direct the FBI Director to
                      prepare a formal, authoritative intelligence threat assessment that
                      specifically assesses the chemical and biological agents that would more
                      likely be used by domestic-origin terrorists—non-state actors working
                      outside a state-run laboratory infrastructure.

                      We further recommend that the Attorney General direct the FBI Director to
                      sponsor a national-level risk assessment that uses national intelligence
                      estimates and inputs from the intelligence community and others to help
                      form the basis for and prioritize programs developed to combat terrorism.
                      Because threats are dynamic, the Director should determine when the
                      completed national-level risk assessment should be updated.



Agency Comments and   DOD, CIA, the Department of Justice, and DHHS provided official
                      comments on a draft of this report. Comments from DOD, CIA, and DHHS
Our Evaluation        were classified and could not be printed in this report. Comments from the
                      Department of Justice appear in appendix III. All of the agencies provided
                      technical comments that we incorporated as appropriate.




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DOD and CIA commented that recently produced intelligence community
products partially responded to the first recommendation in our draft
report. Also, Justice commented that the FBI is the appropriate entity to
implement the recommendation. As originally written, our
recommendation suggested that the Director of Central Intelligence
request an NIE assessing the more likely chemical and biological terrorist
threats and incorporate an FBI assessment of domestic-origin terrorist
threats. On the basis of our subsequent review of these intelligence
community documents, we believe that these assessments partially satisfy
our recommendation. However, the intelligence community assessments
do not incorporate a written, authoritative FBI analysis of the more likely
chemical and biological threats from domestic-origin terrorists. As a result
of our review of recent intelligence assessments and Justice’s comments,
we adjusted the recommendation to call for the Attorney General to direct
the FBI Director to prepare a formal written assessment of domestic-origin
threats.

DOD, the CIA, and Justice agreed with the second recommendation in our
draft report calling for a national-level risk assessment. However, the CIA
suggested that we change the wording so that the Director of Central
Intelligence not be the sponsor of such a risk assessment. Justice stated
that the FBI, as the lead agency in domestic terrorist incidents, is the
appropriate federal agency for coordinating a threat and risk assessment.
Justice also commented that it already had a statutory mandate to develop
assessments similar to those we recommend in this report. We are aware
that legislation requires the Attorney General, in consultation with the FBI
and others, to develop and test methodologies for assessing the threat and
risk of terrorist employment of weapons of mass destruction against cities
and other local areas.25 However, these assessments do not substitute for
the broader national-level risk assessment that we are recommending in
this report. The former assessments are intended to be city-specific
whereas the latter would provide an overarching guide for program
investments at the national level. At the time of our review, the FBI was
considering methodologies for risk assessments at the city level, and had
not yet actually performed such an assessment.

We agree that the FBI could sponsor a national-level threat and risk
assessment. Further, the national-level threat and risk assessment process
and results should provide a valuable guide for the city-specific threat and


25
  Section 1404(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999 (P.L. 105-261).




Page 23                                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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risk assessments to be facilitated by the FBI. Based on Justice’s comments,
we have modified our recommendation to suggest that the Attorney
General direct the FBI Director to sponsor a national-level threat and risk
assessment. Justice otherwise generally concurred with the draft report.

DHHS generally agreed with our recommendations but commented that the
assessment that we recommended should include all possible sources of
the chemical and/or biological threats such as state-sponsored terrorists.
The scope of our work was to examine aspects of the terrorist threat
operating outside a state-run program. Nevertheless, we agree that a risk
assessment should consider a wide range of possible chemical and
biological threats. A multidisciplinary team of experts should then assess
these possible threats in terms of their likelihood of occurrence and
severity of consequences, since funding countermeasures for all possible
scenarios is not likely to be affordable. Assessing the risk of these threats
through generating validated scenarios would allow agencies to focus their
program countermeasures and investments on the more likely scenarios
with the more severe consequences.

DHHS also commented that we underestimated the threat of a bioterrorist
event and relied on data that relates to war-zone activities and conditions
and not specifically to urban and metropolitan civilian populations. As our
report states, our objective was to assess the technical ease or difficulty of
executing a successful, large-scale bioterrorist incident. To satisfy this
objective, we obtained information from biological warfare experts who
have in-depth experience and knowledge of processing and effectively
disseminating biological agents to cause large numbers of human
casualties (whether military or civilian). Also, we obtained information
from a wide range of experts, including those in the fields of infectious
diseases, virology, and civilian disaster management, and reviewed
pertinent intelligence assessments. We believe that the collective expertise
of those consulted for our report provided a sound basis for our
conclusions about threats to civilian populations. We did not discuss
biological warfare between combatants on a battlefield with these experts.

We conducted our work from September 1998 through April 1999 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
this report earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until
30 days after the distribution date. At that time we will send copies to



Page 24                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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appropriate congressional committees, the federal agencies discussed in
this report, and the Honorable Jacob Lew, Director, Office of Management
and Budget. We will also make copies available to other interested parties
upon request.

If you have any questions about this report, please contact me or Carol R.
Schuster at (202) 512-5140. Key contributors to this report are Davi M.
D’Agostino, Deborah A. Colantonio, Richard A. McGeary, and Richard H.
Yeh.




Norman J. Rabkin
Director, National Security
 Preparedness Issues




Page 25                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Contents



Letter                                                                                             1


Appendix I                                                                                        28
Characteristics of
Selected Chemical
Agents

Appendix II                                                                                       30
Characteristics of
Selected Biological
Agents

Appendix III                                                                                      33
Comments From the
Department of Justice

Related GAO Products                                                                              36


Figure                  Figure 1: Stages for Terrorists Working Outside a State-run Laboratory to
                          Conduct Chemical and Biological Terrorism                               8



                        Abbreviations

                        CIA        Central Intelligence Agency
                        CDC        Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
                        CWC        Chemical Weapons Convention
                        DHHS       Department of Health and Human Services
                        DOD        Department of Defense
                        FBI        Federal Bureau of Investigation
                        IND        investigational new drug
                        NIC        National Intelligence Council
                        NIE        National Intelligence Estimate




                        Page 26                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Page 27   GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Appendix I

Characteristics of Selected Chemical Agents                                                                                                   Appenx
                                                                                                                                                   Idi




                                                                                                                                         a
Agent          Ease of manufacture       Agent            Lethality         First aid treatment                     GAO observations
               and precursor             persistence
               availability
Choking agents
Chlorine (CL) Industrial product. No     Not persistent   Low               Move to fresh air. For skin contact,    Likely agent due to
              precursors required.                                          flush with water. No antidote.          availability as a
                                                                            Provide supportive therapy for          commercial product.
                                                                            respiratory and cardiovascular
                                                                            functions.
Phosgene       Industrial product. No    Not persistent   Low               Move to fresh air. For skin contact,    Likely agent due to its
(CG)           precursors required.                                         flush with water.                       availability as a
                                                                                                                    commercial product.
Nerve agents
Tabun (GA)     Not readily available     Intermediate     High              Move to fresh air. For skin contact,    Likely agent due to
               manufacturing                                                flush with water. Provide atropine or   availability of
               instructions, but                                            pralidoxime chloride or diazepam        precursor chemicals
               precursors available.                                        injections.                             and relative ease of
               Relatively easy to                                                                                   manufacture.
               manufacture.
Sarin (GB)     Moderately difficult to   Not persistent   High              Move to fresh air. For skin contact,    Likely agent due to
               manufacture.                                                 flush with water. Provide atropine or   demonstrated use by
               Precursor chemical                                           pralidoxime chloride or diazepam        Aum Shinrikyo,
               covered by Chemical                                          injections.                             although restrictions
               Weapons Convention                                                                                   on precursors could
               (CWC).                                                                                               create difficulties for
                                                                                                                    production.
Soman (GD)     Difficult to           Intermediate        High              Move to fresh air. For skin contact,    Not likely agent due to
               manufacture. Precursor                                       flush with water. Provide atropine or   difficulty of
               chemical covered by                                          pralidoxime chloride or diazepam        manufacture and
               CWC.                                                         injections.                             control of precursor
                                                                                                                    chemical.
GF             Moderately difficult to   Intermediate     High              Move to fresh air. For skin contact,    Not likely agent due to
               manufacture.                                                 flush with water. Provide atropine or   difficulty of
               Precursor chemical                                           pralidoxime chloride or diazepam        manufacture and
               covered by CWC.                                              injections.                             control of precursor
                                                                                                                    chemical.
VX             Difficult to           High                Very high         Move to fresh air. For skin contact,    Not likely agent due to
               manufacture. Precursor                                       flush with water. Provide atropine or   difficulty of
               chemicals covered by                                         pralidoxime chloride or diazepam        manufacture and
               CWC.                                                         injections.                             control of precursor
                                                                                                                    chemical.
Blood agents
Hydrogen       Industrial product.       Very low         Low to moderate Move to fresh air. Provide                Likely agent due to its
cyanide (AC)   Precursor chemicals                                        supportive therapy. Provide amyl          availability as a
               covered by CWC.                                            nitrite or sodium nitrite or sodium       commercial product.
                                                                          thiosulfate.                              Precursor availability
                                                                                                                    may be a problem.
                                                                                                                                 (continued)




                                               Page 28                                            GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
                                                   Appendix I
                                                   Characteristics of Selected Chemical Agents




                                                                                                                                                       a
Agent            Ease of manufacture        Agent             Lethality             First aid treatment                         GAO observations
                 and precursor              persistence
                 availability
Cyanogen         Not easily produced.       Low               Low to moderate Move to fresh air. Provide                        Likely agent, although
chloride (CK)    Available as                                                 supportive therapy. Provide sodium                precursor availability
                 commercial product.                                          nitrite or sodium thiosulfate.                    may be a problem.
Blister agents
Sulfur       Easy to synthesize.            Intermediate      Can produce           Flush skin with water and                   Not likely agent due to
mustard (HD) Large quantity buys of         to high           incapacitation        decontaminate clothing. Provide             difficulty in obtaining
             precursor chemicals                              because of            oxygen/intubation, bronchodilators.         precursor materials
             without detection                                blistering. Can                                                   and moderate
             difficult. Precursors                            also produce                                                      production
             are covered by CWC.                              death if inhaled                                                  requirements.
                                                              or a toxic dose
                                                              absorbed.
Nitrogen         Easy to synthesize.        Intermediate      Can produce           Flush skin with water and                   Not likely agent due to
mustard          Large quantity buys of                       incapacitation        Decontaminate clothing. Provide             difficulty in obtaining
(HN-2)           precursor chemicals                          because of            oxygen/intubation, bronchodilators.         precursor materials
                 without detection                            blistering. Can       Provide culumine ophthalmic and             and moderate
                 difficult. Precursor                         also produce          topical antibiotics and dressings.          production
                 chemicals covered by                         death if inhaled                                                  requirements.
                 CWC.                                         or a toxic dose
                                                              absorbed.
Nitrogen         Easy to synthesize.        High              Can produce           Flush skin with water and                   Not likely agent due to
mustard          Large quantity buys of                       incapacitation        Decontaminate clothing. Provide             difficulty in obtaining
(HN-3)           precursor chemicals                          because of            oxygen/intubation, bronchodilators.         precursor materials
                 without detection                            blistering. Can                                                   and moderate
                 difficult but available.                     also produce                                                      production
                                                              death if inhaled                                                  requirements.
                                                              or a toxic dose
                                                              absorbed.
Lewisite (L,     Moderately difficult to    Intermediate      Can produce           Flush skin with water and                   Not likely agent due to
HL)              manufacture and            to high           incapacitation        Decontaminate clothing. Provide             difficulty in obtaining
                 moderately difficult to                      because of            British anti-lewisite for systemic          precursor materials
                 acquire precursor                            blistering. Can       effects.                                    and production
                 chemicals.                                   also produce                                                      requirements.
                                                              death if inhaled
                                                              or a toxic dose
                                                              absorbed.
                                                   a
                                                    Our observations are based on a research synthesis of discussions with experts in chemical warfare,
                                                   science, intelligence, law enforcement, and medicine and of an analysis of manuals, handbooks,
                                                   textbooks, studies, and reports on chemical agents.
                                                   Note: The following assumptions are used:
                                                   1. Dosage and concentration are maximized for an interior environment.
                                                   2. The venue occurs at a high-profile event where a large population has gathered.
                                                   3. The terrorists have the technical competence (first-year graduate student in chemistry) and
                                                   motivation to obtain and implement the dispersion of agents.
                                                   4. The interior environment has an accessible heating, ventilation, and air conditioning distribution
                                                   system.




                                                   Page 29                                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Appendix II

Characteristics of Selected Biological Agentsl                                                                                                     AppenIx
                                                                                                                                                         di




                                                                                                                                               b
Agent         Ease to acquire Agent stability             Lethality    Laboratory Vaccine          Treatment            GAO observations
                                                                                    a
              and process                                              safety level
Bacterial agents
Inhalation    Difficult to obtain   Spores are very      Very high.    Level 3.   Yes, primate     Virtually always     Possible terrorist
anthrax       virulent seed         stable. Resistant to                          tested. Some     fatal once           biological agent, but
              stock and to          sun, heat, and some                           sources view     symptomatic.         requires
              successfully          disinfectants.                                efficacy for     Treatable very       sophistication to
              process and                                                         inhalation       early with           effectively
              disseminate.                                                        anthrax as       antibiotics and      manufacture and
                                                                                  questionable.    supportive           disseminate to create
                                                                                                   therapy.             mass casualties.
                                                                                                                        Use could indicate
                                                                                                                        state sponsorship.
                                                                                                                        Symptoms mimic flu
                                                                                                                        and might not be
                                                                                                                        quickly identified.
                                                                                                                        Very high fatality rate
                                                                                                                        once symptomatic.
                                                                                                                        Not transmissible
                                                                                                                        from person to
                                                                                                                        person.
Plague        Very difficult to     Can be long-lasting, Very high.    Level 3.   No.              Very early           Possible agent, but
              acquire seed          but heat,                                                      treatment with       not likely. Fairly
              stock and to          disinfectants, and                                             antibiotics can      difficult to acquire
              successfully          sun render                                                     be effective,        suitable strain and
              process and           harmless.                                                      supportive           difficult to weaponize.
              disseminate.                                                                         therapy.
Glanders      Difficult to          Very stable.          Moderate     Level 3.   No.              Antibiotics, but     Potential agent, but
              acquire seed                                to high.                                 no large             not easy for a
              stock.                                                                               therapeutic          non-state actor to
              Moderately                                                                           human trials.        acquire, produce,
              difficult to                                                                                              and successfully
              process.                                                                                                  disseminate.
Tularemia         Difficult to      Generally unstable    Moderate     Level 3.   Investigational Antibiotics very Possible agent but
                  acquire           in environment.       untreated,              new drug        effective in early difficult to stabilize.
                  correct           Resists cold but is   low                     (IND).          treatment.         Low lethality when
                  strain.           killed by mild heat   treated.                                                   treated.
                  Moderately        and disinfectants.
                  difficult to
                  process.
Brucellosis       Difficult to Very stable. Long          Very low.    Level 3.   No.              Antibiotics          May not be a highly
                  acquire seed persistence in wet                                                  moderately           likely agent because
                  stock.       soil or food.                                                       effective if given   of difficulty in
                  Moderately                                                                       early when           obtaining virulent
                  difficult to                                                                     infected.            strain, long
                  produce.                                                                                              incubation period,
                                                                                                                        and low lethality.


                                                                                                                                    (continued)




                                                    Page 30                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
                                                  Appendix II
                                                  Characteristics of Selected Biological Agents




                                                                                                                                               b
Agent          Ease to acquire Agent stability           Lethality     Laboratory Vaccine             Treatment          GAO observations
                                                                                    a
               and process                                             safety level
Q Fever           Difficult to Stable. Months on         Very low if   Level 3.      IND. Tested in   Self-limited       Not a likely agent.
(rickettsial      acquire seed wood and in sand.         treated.                    guinea pigs.     illness without    Low lethality.
organism)         stock.                                                             Produces         treatment.
                  Moderately                                                         adverse          Antibiotics
                  difficult to                                                       reactions.       shorten illness.
                  process and
                  weaponize.
Viral agents
Hemorrhagic       Very difficult Relatively unstable.    Depending Level 4.          No.              Antiviral drug     Unlikely agent due to
fevers (e.g.,     to obtain and                          on strain,                                   and aggressive     difficulty in acquiring
Ebola)            process.                               can be                                       supportive care.   pathogen, safety
                  Unsafe to                              very high.                                   Effectiveness of   considerations, and
                  handle.                                                                             any treatment is   relative instability.
                                                                                                      questionable.
Smallpox          Difficult to    Very stable.           Moderate      Level 4.      Yes.             One potential      Very high
                  obtain seed                            to high.                                     antiviral, but     consequence agent,
                  stock. Only                                                                         generally no       but likelihood of
                  confirmed                                                                           effective          usage questionable
                  sources in                                                                          chemotherapy.      due to limited access
                  United                                                                                                 to the pathogen
                  States and                                                                                             beyond state actors.
                  Russia.
                  Difficult to
                  process.
Venezuelan        Difficult to    Relatively unstable.   Low.          Level 3.      IND.             Supportive         Possible agent if
Equine            obtain seed     Destroyed by heat                                                   therapy,           seed stock can be
Encephalitis      stock. Easy     and disinfectants.                                                  anticonvulsants.   acquired, but
                  to process                                                                          Antimicrobial      unstable with low
                  and                                                                                 therapy            lethality.
                  weaponize.                                                                          ineffective.
Toxins
Ricin             Readily        Stable.                 Very high.    Not available. No, but         None (unless       Not a mass casualty
                  available.                                                          candidate       ingested).         agent.
                  Moderately                                                          vaccines
                  easy to                                                             under
                  process but                                                         development.
                  requires ton
                  quantities for
                  mass
                  casualties.
Botulinum         Widely          Stable. Weeks in       High        Level 3.        IND. Tested in Antitoxin (IND)      Difficult to weaponize
(Types A-G)       available but   non-moving water       without                     primates.      and respiratory      and not considered a
                  high toxin      and food.              respiratory                 Toxoid vaccine support.             mass casualty agent.
                  producers       Deteriorates in        support.                    against some
                  not readily     bright sun.                                        types (A-E).
                  available or
                  easy to
                  process or
                  weaponize.




                                                  Page 31                                             GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
                                              Appendix II
                                              Characteristics of Selected Biological Agents




                                                                                                                                                    b
Agent      Ease to acquire Agent stability          Lethality      Laboratory Vaccine                   Treatment            GAO observations
                                                                                a
           and process                                             safety level
Staphylococcl   Difficult to  Very stable in dry    Low.           Not available. No.                   No effective         Lower likelihood due
Enterotoxin B   acquire high form.                                                                      antimicrobial        to low lethality, lack of
                yielding seed                                                                           treatment.           transmissibility.
                stock.                                                                                  Ventilatory
                Moderately                                                                              support for
                difficult to                                                                            inhalation
                process.                                                                                exposure, fluid
                                                                                                        management.
                                              a
                                                Biosafety level 3 applies to agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease as a result of
                                              exposure by inhalation. Among the many precautions is a ducted exhaust air ventilation system that
                                              creates directional airflow that draws air from clean areas into the laboratory toward contaminated
                                              areas. The exhaust air is not recirculated to any other area of the building and is discharged to the
                                              outside with filtration and other optional treatment. Passage into the laboratory is through two sets of
                                              self-closing doors and a changing room. Showers may be included in the passageway. Biosafety level
                                              4 is required for work with dangerous and exotic agents that pose a high risk of aerosol-transmitted
                                              laboratory infections and life-threatening disease. A dedicated non-recirculating air ventilation system
                                              is provided. The supply and exhaust components are balanced to ensure directional airflow from the
                                              area of least hazard to the areas of greatest potential hazard. The differential pressure/directional
                                              airflow between adjacent areas is monitored and alarmed. The airflow in the supply and exhaust
                                              components is monitored, and the components are interlocked to ensure inward, or zero, airflow. A
                                              specially designed suit area requires a one-piece positive pressure suit that is ventilated by a
                                              life-support system. Entry to the area is through an airlock fitted with airtight doors. A chemical
                                              shower is provided to decontaminate the surface of the suit before the worker leaves the area.
                                              b
                                               Our observations are based on a research synthesis of discussions with experts in biological warfare,
                                              science, intelligence, law enforcement, and medicine and of an analysis of manuals, handbooks,
                                              textbooks, studies, and reports on biological agents.




                                              Page 32                                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Appendix III

Comments From the Department of Justice                         AppeInIx
                                                                       di




               Page 33       GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Appendix III
Comments From the Department of Justice




Page 34                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Page 35   GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
Related GAO Products


                   Combating Terrorism: Observations on Growth in Federal Programs
                   (GAO/T-NSIAD-99-181, June 9, 1999).

                   Combating Terrorism: Analysis of Potential Emergency Response
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                   Combating Terrorism: Issues to Be Resolved to Improve Counterterrorist
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                   Combating Terrorism: Observations on Biological Terrorism and Public
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                   Combating Terrorism: Observations on Federal Spending to Combat
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                   Combating Terrorism: FBI's Use of Federal Funds for
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                   Combating Terrorism: Opportunities to Improve Domestic Preparedness
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                   Combating Terrorism: Observations on the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici
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                   Combating Terrorism: Observations on Crosscutting Issues
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                   Combating Terrorism: Threat and Risk Assessments Can Help Prioritize
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                   Combating Terrorism: Spending on Governmentwide Programs Requires
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                   Combating Terrorism: Federal Agencies’ Efforts to Implement National
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                   Chemical Weapons Stockpile: Changes Needed in the Management
                   Structure of Emergency Preparedness Program (GAO/NSIAD-97-91,
                   June 11, 1997).




(701148)   Leter   Page 36                                GAO/NSIAD-99-163 Combating Terrorism
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