Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

Qaeda WMD Threat Remains After Bin Laden's Death, Ex-Official Says Qaeda WMD Threat Remains After Bin Laden's Death, Ex-Official Says

This ad will end in seconds
 
Close X

Not a member? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation
 

 

Defense / NATIONAL SECURITY

Qaeda WMD Threat Remains After Bin Laden's Death, Ex-Official Says

July 29, 2011

This article originally appeared in Global Security Newswire, produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group whose mission is preventing the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

The death of Osama bin Laden has not eliminated the danger that al-Qaida or an affiliated terrorist group will seek to carry out a strike using a biological or chemical weapon, the recently retired director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center said on Thursday.

"We still have pockets of al-Qaida around the world who see this as a key way to fight us," the Associated Press quoted Michael Leiter as saying. "The potential threat from [Yemen-based] al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is very real."

"The most likely ... are simple forms of chemical or biological weapons" instead of a nuclear strike, Leiter said.

 

He cited the lethal toxin ricin, which is fairly easy to produce, as one bioweapon that might be used. Ricin is derived from commercially available castor beans and can be lethal in very small doses. There is no known antidote.

"Is it going to kill many people? No. Is it going to scare people? Yes," the ex-NCC director said.

Leiter told attendees of the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado that younger generations of violent extremists recognize that causing the deaths of a handful of U.S. citizens can cause the same amount of panic as the much larger-scale plots favored by bin Laden.

"Bin Laden was really prioritizing the big attack," Leiter said. "Some of them may have fantasies about pulling off another 9/11"; however, al-Qaida offshoots understand they can affect U.S. policy and the country as a whole with lower-level strikes.

"Anwar al-Awlaki gets that," Leiter continued, referring to a leader of al-Qaida's Yemen franchise. The Pakistani Taliban, which provided training to the failed 2010 Times Square bomber, also understand that, he said.

Leiter said that the U.S. populace would do well not to blow out of proportion future low-level terrorist attacks, The New York Times reported.

"The American people need to understand that at least the smaller-scale terrorist attacks are with us for the foreseeable future," he said in Colorado.

"The way that we fundamentally defeat that threat, which is very difficult to stop in its entirety, is to maintain a culture of resilience. Although this threat of terrorism is real and there will be tragic events that lead to the deaths of innocent people, it is not, in my view, an existential threat to our society," he said.

Bin Laden's replacement, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is believed to "probably favor smaller targets," ex-CIA Deputy Deputy Director John McLaughlin said at the Aspen event.

The two former officials agreed that al-Qaida's central operation saw its strength reduced following the early May shooting death of bin Laden by U.S. commandos who surprised him at his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, AP reported.

"I think it is now possible ... to actually visualize, to imagine its collapse," McLaughlin said of the organization responsible for plotting the September 11 attacks. He cautioned, though, that Zawahiri and his adherents should not be counted out.

"He's not as charismatic ... but he may be more disciplined," McLaughlin said, noting the longtime Qaida deputy's interest in acquiring and using unconventional weapons.

Leiter appeared skeptical of recent U.S. assessments that the central Qaida leadership in Pakistan was on the brink of elimination, saying those contentions were without "accuracy and precision," The Times reported.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta earlier this month said that U.S. forces were "within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaida."

While allowing that the al-Qaida operation in Pakistan was "on the ropes," Leiter argued that "the core organization is still there and could launch some attacks" and that "Pakistan remains a huge problem."

LIKE THIS STORY? Sign up for Early Bird

Sign up for our daily newsletter and stay on top of defense coverage.

Sign up form for Early Bird
Job Board
Search Jobs
Professional Development Program Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Farmington Hills, MI
Biomedical Service Internship Position
American Society of Civil Engineers | Flint, MI
Deputy Director of Transit Operations
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Jose, CA
Structural Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | New Haven, CT
Transportation Planner
American Society of Civil Engineers | Salinas, CA
Assessment and Remediation Team Lead
American Society of Civil Engineers | Regina, SK
Quality Systems Manager
American Society of Civil Engineers | Greensboro, NC
Quality Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Attica, IN
Senior Water Resource Project Manager
American Society of Civil Engineers | Fairfax, VA
Civil Engineering
American Society of Civil Engineers | Steamboat Springs, CO
Entry Level Geotechnical Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Albany, NY
Sales Engineer-Process Automation/Instrumentation
American Society of Civil Engineers
Senior Project Manager- Transportation
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Antonio, TX
Materials Engineer 2
American Society of Civil Engineers | IL
Land Surveyor
American Society of Civil Engineers
 
Comments
comments powered by Disqus