Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Terrorism: The Threat According to the Current Unclassified Literature   [open pdf - 280KB]

In light of the potential severity and assessed increasing likelihood of confronting CBRN-armed terrorists, the Center for Counterproliferation Research was tasked with reviewing the open-source literature on the subject, with special emphasis on three types of information: Why a terrorist group might resort to the use of CBRN weapons, and the circumstances or conditions in which this could be most likely; What type of organizations, according to their characteristics and objectives, might be most likely to use CBRN weapons; and which of the CBRN weapon types, and, as possible, which particular agents, would most likely be used, and for what intended effect(s). In light of the abundance of available open-source literature on the subject of CBRN terrorism, the Center sought a representative sampling of recently published books and monographs, scholarly and professional journal articles, and studies and reports (available through the Internet or in hard-copy form) authored by think-tanks or other nongovernmental institutions. Intended to be illustrative rather than exhaustive, the review was constrained in three key ways: (1) only materials within the 1998-2002 time frame were considered; (2) no newspaper or weekly periodicals were reviewed; and (3) governmental reports and congressional testimony were not examined. Nonetheless, this review suggests the need for a broader examination of official government sources, testimony to Congress, additional Internet-based material, and a systematic review of the classified literature on the subject. Similarly, the classified and unclassified literature on the related subject of nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare threats and response may yield additional, potentially important insights.

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