Homeland Security Authorities Fear Chemical Terrorism in U.S.

Homeland Security Authorities Fear Chemical Terrorism in U.S.

WASHINGTON -- In recent months, federal and state homeland security officials have become increasingly concerned that terrorists and other groups might attempt to imitate the insurgents in Iraq and employ chlorine-bombs and other chemical weapons within the United States.

Even before insurgents in Iraq began detonating trucks carrying bombs combining conventional explosive with industrial chlorine, U.S. government and non-government experts had identified the United States as potentially vulnerable to terrorist attacks against chemical plants or rail tankers transporting toxic chemicals such as chlorine. In their "National Planning Scenarios" (pdf file), analysts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identified a dozen possible homeland security incidents the department views as most plausible or devastating. One scenario involved the hypothetical detonation of a large chlorine storage tank that killed 17,500 people and injured more than 100,000.

In the annual FBI threat assessment (pdf file) delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in January 2007, Director Robert Mueller stated that the acquisition of WMD by terrorist groups "continues to be a growing concern." In Mueller's assessment, while terrorists may not currently possess the capabilities to produce the complex biological and chemical agents necessary to carry out a large-scale attack, "their capability will improve as they pursue enhancing their scientific knowledge base, including recruiting scientists to assist them."

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