A new CIA report says al-Qaeda is getting ready to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons “to cause mass casualties.” However, the report says, “most attacks?will probably will be small-scale, incorporating relatively crude delivery means and easily produced or obtained chemicals, toxins or radiological substances.”

The CIA says al-Qaeda has access to nerve gases, bioweapons, anthrax, ricin and “dirty bombs.” Successful strikes would depend on the terrorists’ technical expertise, but even a small, failed attack would succeed to some extent, in that it would cause “panic and disruption.” The report notes that “Osama bin-Laden’s operatives may try to launch conventional attacks against the nuclear industrial infrastructure of the United States in a bid to cause contamination, disruption and terror.”

Several al-Qaeda cells have already tried to conduct attacks in Europe using chemicals and poisons. The report says, “These agents could cause hundreds of casualties and widespread panic if used in multiple, simultaneous attacks.” Their nukes could be made from radioactive material taken from industrial or medical facilities. An al-Qaeda document found in Afghanistan showed plans for a crude device capable of causing a nuclear blast. The report says, “Use of a [radiological dispersal device] by terrorists could result in health, environmental and economic effects as well as political and social effects. It will cause fear, injury, and possibly lead to levels of contamination requiring costly and time-consuming cleanup efforts.”

Al-Qaeda’s plans for chemical weapons were revealed in another document found in Afghanistan that “indicates the group has crude procedures for making mustard agent, sarin and VX.” Mustard is a blistering agent, while sarin and VX are nerve agents that can kill using small amounts. The terrorists can also make ricin, which “is readily available by extraction from common castor beans,” the report says. “There is no treatment for ricin poisoning after [the toxin] has entered the bloodstream. Terrorists have looked at delivering ricin in foods and as a contact poison, although we have no scientific data to indicate that ricin can penetrate intact skin.”

Mohamed Atta, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now on trial in Virginia, both “expressed interest in crop dusters, raising our concern that al-Qaeda has considered using aircraft to disseminate [biological warfare] agents.” The CIA report includes photographs of a training video they found in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan showing chemical agents being tested on dogs.

Thank goodness there’s more than one way to defend ourselves.

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