Terrorism (n): The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition
Nowadays, the fear arises not from the potential deployment of a nuclear bomb by another nation, but by non-governmental terrorists groups. The importance of conflict between states has declined, and the role of nonstate actors, especially transnational terrorist organizations, has grown in the 21st century. For many citizens of the United States, the fear of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union has been replaced by the nightmare of a terrorist attack involving biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons.
Terrorist groups do not participate or sign international treaties and are not bound by international law. Many groups also utilize suicide tactics, which renders many traditional forms of arms control obselete.
"A terrorist said at one time: You have to be vigilant, you have to be correct all of the time. We only have to be successful once. We only have to be successful one time and there is mass destruction. You have to be successful all of the time. The terrorists have the upper hand. We have to maintain a constant vigilance and its extremely difficult in a nation as large as the United States. We're about the largest of the free nations and its very difficult to protect ourselves." - listen
Mr. Barry Zimmerman, Author of Killer Germs
In the past terrorist and insurgent groups have considered the use of WMDs to be detrimental to their long-term political goals. Nowadays, the "new breed" of terrorists have no reservations in inflicting mass casualties. According to terrorism expert Walter Laquer, "The state of affairs is different with regard to terrorists of the lunatic fringe, certain religious fanatics, and terrorist groups that are not interested in negotiations, but want to destroy the enemy."
We [al Qaeda] don't consider it a crime if we tried to have nuclear, chemical, biological weapons
Osama bin Laden, Newsweek, 1999
In 1996, Osama bin Laden, a key member of al Qaeda, reportedly purchased 20 tactical nuclear weapons (also known as "suitcase nukes") from the Chechen mafia. Others sources mention that al Qaeda purchased tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine, but this allegation was denied by Ukranian and Russian officials, who declared that all nuclear weapons were removed from Ukraine in 1996 and there were no weapons to sell. According to Paul Williams, journalist and former FBI consultant, there are Soviet-made tactical nukes around various locations in the US which were smuggled in using existing drug-smuggling routes. Since the 2002 invasion of Afghanistan, production of highly-refined "Number 4" heroin in Afghanistan has not ceased. In fact, Afghanistan continues to produce and export a majority of the world's supply of heroin, which in turn funds terrorist activities. Supposedly, Osama bin Laden used profits from the heroin trade to purchase Soviet tactical nuclear weapons. Osama bin Laden's possesion of nuclear weapons was acknowledged by Yossef Bodansky, head of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, in Washington D.C. to a congressional committee in 1998.
There is no longer much doubt that bin Laden has succeeded in his quest for nuclear suicide bombs.
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On the workday morning of March 20, 1995, five members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious terrorist group released sarin nerve gas throughout the Tokyo subway system. The victims of the attack were carried to over 100 hospitals, where injured people sprawled on the chairs and floors of emergency rooms. When the commotion was over, 12 people had died and more than 5000 were injured. Most people recovered, but some were left with serious, permanent injuries such as blindness.
"...Each one of those incidents are kind of difficult to give generals. Biological agents-It may take up to 72 hours to know that it's actually a biological attack, depending on the agent that's being released. If there is no onebody that is directly initially willing to accept responsibility for the incident, you may or may not know what's going on with it. It may just be a case that you have several people that are sick. Those are the kinds of things that you look for. A responder is looking for multiple patients with like symptoms... In a nucelar attack, obviously there would be widespread devastation from the detonation of a nuclear device. Radiation, that's not something that's going to be readily detected..." - listen
"Across the board if you're equipped to handle that, you suit up and go into the scene and try to mitigate whatever the incident is. The number one priority is life safety-ours and then the civilians that are affected. Then we look at property conservation and incident mitigation..." - listen
Mr. Doug Vorp, Deputy Chief, Plainsboro Fire Company