1998 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Janet Reno
Attorney General

Before the
Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information
Committee on the Judiciary

Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Senate

"The Threat of Chemical and Biological Weapons"

April 22, 1998


It is my privilege to appear before you today to discuss the efforts of the Department of Justice, working together with other agencies throughout government, to address the threat of terrorist attacks within the United States utilizing chemical or biological weapons.

The protection of our nation and its people from acts of terrorism is among the greatest challenges faced by this Administration and is one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice. It is clear that American citizens and interests may be the targets of terrorists.

Whatever the origin or misguided motivation of the particular terrorist or terrorist group, the potential consequences of terrorist acts can be enormous. For example, the magnitude of human suffering flowing from the bombings of the World Trade Center, the Murrah Building, Khobar Towers, and PanAm Flight 103 is incalculable.

Yet, each of those terrorist tragedies was carried out using conventional explosives technology. As chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction become more accessible, we face the potential of even more catastrophic acts of terrorism. Such weapons are relatively inexpensive to produce and have the capability of causing widespread death if released on an unsuspecting populace. The nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult was a grim warning of this potential.

The threat posed by chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction presents a particular challenge in the context of our free and open society. We must work aggressively to protect this nation and its people from the scourge of such terrorist acts. At the same time, our efforts must be conducted with full respect for the individual rights and liberties for which this nation stands.

Since the issuance of Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39) on June 21, 1995, substantial steps have been taken to develop an effective capability to address the threat posed by chemical and biological terrorism. The objective is to do everything possible to deter and prevent such terrorist acts. At the same time, however, we are working to ensure that the necessary capabilities and procedures are in place to respond to such an act, so that we can effectively manage the crisis and mitigate its consequences. To achieve these objectives, I am coordinating closely with the President’s National Security Adviser as he develops for the President further Presidential Decision Directives that build upon and reaffirm PDD-39 while further enhancing our capabilities in this vital area.

A key aspect of our efforts under PDD-39 has been to enlist the involvement of all federal agencies which have relevant expertise and to develop mechanisms for effective coordination among those agencies. Similarly, we are reaching out to state and local authorities in an effort to ensure that their resources and capabilities are effectively integrated into the overall crisis response and consequence management plans and preparations. This close interaction among agencies is critical, as it produces insights and strengths that no agency acting alone would have and permits us to leverage our resources for maximum impact.

The focus of my testimony today will include a discussion of the coordination mechanisms that have been developed and an illustration of how they are utilized in deploying resources in response to a threat or act of chemical or biological terrorism.

Although we have made substantial progress over the past three years in developing capabilities to detect, prevent, defeat and manage the consequences of terrorist acts involving the use of chemical and biological weapons, much work remains to be done. This form of terrorism presents extraordinary challenges, which require that we engage in further concerted efforts within government and that we enlist the assistance of the private sector. I will address some of the areas which require additional attention or the development of new solutions.

As we focus on the development of these new solutions, it is important to note that chemical substances present somewhat different challenges from biological pathogens. The presence of a dangerous chemical substance can usually be detected quickly due to its immediate effect on the health of people exposed. However, decontamination and administration of antidotes must be undertaken almost immediately to be fully effective. In contrast, the presence of a biological pathogen is more difficult to detect, as its impact on public health is delayed. While this delay provides greater time for undertaking remedial procedures, it also poses the risk that the infectious agent will be transmitted widely before the problem is detected.

The Conference Committee Report accompanying the 1998 Appropriations Act for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies directs me to develop a Five-Year Counterterrorism and Technology Plan by December 31, 1998, to serve as a baseline for coordination of national policy and operational capabilities to combat terrorism. The plan is to be representative of all agencies involved in the government’s counterterrorism effort and to draw upon the expertise of academia, the private sector, and state and local law enforcement.

In close cooperation with my colleagues across government, I intend to devote the full resources of the Department of Justice to the development and implementation of this plan. No aspect of that effort will be more important than its work relating to the threat posed by terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons. To that end, I have established an interagency resource and review group composed of representatives of key federal agencies with counterterrorism responsibilities. That Core Agency Group recently supervised an ambitious survey which collected information and insights from those agencies concerning their current and proposed programs, and recommendations for actions that need to be taken during the next five years to improve the counterterrorism capabilities of the United States.

The next step in the development of the Five-Year Plan is the convening of interagency working groups which will meet during May and June to address seven major categories of issues. One of these groups will focus exclusively on terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, such as biological and chemical weapons. This working group will identify the direction the government’s counterterrorism strategy should take in the next five years to deter the unlawful dissemination and use of chemical and biological weapons; to prevent terrorist acquisition of such agents and their precursors; to improve federal, state, and local capabilities to respond to terrorist incidents involving biological and chemical weapons; and to ensure that we are adequately prepared to respond to a terrorist incident involving biological or chemical agents that threaten U.S. citizens and property overseas. Another interagency working group will focus its attention on research and development and technology issues, including those implicated by chemical or biological terrorist incidents. Among its concerns will be the development and enhancement of equipment for the early detection and identification of chemical or biological substances as well as the enhancement of health and medical services systems capable of responding quickly and effectively to such incidents.


I would like to focus first on how the federal government has organized its resources and its decision-making processes to respond to terrorist threats and events. Increasingly, the departments and agencies of the federal government, together with state and local authorities, are working together to implement and advance the Administration’s counterterrorism strategies. These interagency mechanisms and resources are the baseline from which we are developing the Congressionally-mandated Five-Year Plan to further enhance our existing processes.

A. Intelligence Collection and Assessment

The paramount objective is to prevent terrorist acts before they occur. This is, of course, particularly critical where the planned terrorist act involves use of a weapon of mass destruction, such as a chemical or biological weapon.

Intelligence is the lifeblood of prevention, as it provides timely information about the identity, motives, movements, plans, resources, and possible allies of the perpetrators. The CIA is responsible for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of foreign intelligence regarding terrorist groups. Its efforts are coordinated by its Counterterrorist Center (CTC). Whenever information is developed concerning a possible terrorist attack within the United States, it is furnished to the FBI.

The FBI collects, analyzes, and disseminates intelligence on the activities of international terrorists targeting interests within the United States and terrorist groups operating in this country. The resulting information, whether derived from the CIA or developed by the FBI, is used to assist in the development of on-going investigations or in the initiation of new ones. Further, the information is used to disseminate early warnings to all pertinent federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and, where appropriate, to potential targets of terrorist activity.

Through the effective development and use of intelligence information, the FBI endeavors to initiate investigations as early in the chain of conspiratorial events as possible. This maximizes the potential of making arrests prior to the execution of terrorist acts. For example, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and numerous co-defendants were arrested in 1993, and subsequently convicted for their roles in conspiring to wage a war of urban terrorism against the United States which, had it been successful, would have involved bombings of buildings, tunnels, and a bridge in Manhattan.

B. Senior Level Interagency Coordination

Information concerning the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack within the United States may be developed by any one of a variety of federal agencies. When credible information is developed, the government has specific procedures to facilitate a prompt, coordinated interagency response.

When the threat involves an act by international terrorists, coordination of issues requiring senior level interagency review is handled through the Coordinating Sub-Group (CSG) of the Deputies Committee. That Committee is comprised of the Deputy Secretaries, or their equivalents, of the Cabinet agencies involved in counterterrorism. Its purpose is to ensure interagency coordination, cooperation, and decision making at the chief operating officer level, and to provide coordinated advice to Cabinet Secretaries and to the President.

The agency coming into possession of credible information relating to an international terrorist threat immediately notifies the office of the NSC official who chairs the CSG, which has the capability of convening an emergency meeting of that group, via teleconference, in a matter of minutes. For potential acts of terrorism within the United States that are not of an international nature, the same expeditious coordination mechanism is available, except that the Department of Justice, through the FBI, is the organization which convenes and chairs the meetings.

The regular CSG members include the NSC, State Department, Defense Department, CIA, the Department of Justice and the FBI. The CSG is also able to notify and involve established points of contact in a variety of other federal agencies when the circumstances of the particular terrorist threat warrant the inclusion of one or more of those agencies. They include the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture, as well as FEMA, EPA, and the NRC. For a threatened terrorist act involving a chemical or biological weapon, the CSG meeting would include, in addition to the regular members of the CSG, representatives of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the EPA, and FEMA.

Among the actions which the CSG can recommend to the Deputies Committee is deployment of a Domestic Emergency Support Team (DEST). A specialized module of this team is available as needed to address chemical and biological threats or acts of terrorism.

When activated, a DEST team can assemble its components and equipment within a few hours for airlift to the incident area. Once on site, the DEST team is available to provide expert, highly specialized advice and guidance concerning the most appropriate response to the terrorist threat or incident. This on-site information, in turn, provides an informed basis for further decision making concerning the deployment of additional federal resources.

C. Operational Coordination Mechanisms

PDD-39 sets forth lead agency responsibilities for combating terrorism. The Department of Justice, acting through the FBI, has lead responsibility for responding to terrorist threats and incidents occurring within the United States.

As described in PDD-39, the federal response to terrorism includes two components:

- The crisis management component is led by the Department of Justice through the FBI, and includes measures to identify, acquire, and plan the use of resources needed to anticipate, prevent, and resolve a threat or act of terrorism. It is primarily a law enforcement response.

- The consequence management component is coordinated by FEMA, in support of state and local governments, and includes measures to protect public health and safety, restore essential government services, and provide emergency relief to governments, businesses, and individuals affected by the consequences of an act of terrorism.

1. Crisis Management

The Department of Justice, in conjunction with other pertinent agencies, has drafted “Guidelines for the Mobilization, Deployment, and Employment of U.S. Government Agencies in Response to a Domestic Threat or Incident in Accordance With PDD-39,” which provide a detailed delineation of operational responsibilities and coordination mechanisms. Although these Guidelines, which are referred to as the “Domestic Guidelines,” have not been formally approved, they are in the final stages of interagency coordination and are utilized when a domestic terrorist event arises.

The Domestic Guidelines facilitate interagency coordination, in support of the FBI’s lead role in combating domestic terrorism, by providing detailed guidance concerning, e.g.,:

- roles and responsibilities of federal agencies in responding to a terrorist incident, including one involving a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon of mass destruction;

- use of the Domestic Emergency Support Team (DEST);

- command responsibilities, including those of the On-Scene Commander and DEST Team Leader;

- structure of the DEST and the Joint Operations Center (JOC);

- circumstances under which military resources can, consistent with federal law, be used for technical assistance or law enforcement support;

- procedures for seeking military assets and, when utilized, the interrelation between military forces and the FBI.

Let me address briefly the issue of using military personnel as part of the Government’s response to a threat or incident of chemical or biological terrorism, as it appears to be the subject of substantial misunderstanding.

The “posse comitatus” restriction on the use of U.S. military forces to enforce laws within the United States is not contained in the Constitution but rather in a post-reconstruction era Act of Congress. See 18 U.S.C. § 1385. That Act expressly recognizes that Congress can enact statutes authorizing military involvement in law enforcement. Further, its provisions have been construed by the courts to be limited to activities that involve the direct execution of laws, e.g., making arrests. In contrast, the Posse Comitatus Act has not been construed to preclude the military from providing logistical, technical, and other forms of assistance to law enforcement. For example, the military has traditionally provided assistance to law enforcement in explosive ordnance disposal.

As part of Nunn-Lugar II, Congress enacted statutes specifically addressing the use of the military in response to terrorist incidents involving chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. 10 U.S.C. § 382; 18 U.S.C. §§ 175a and 2332e. Further, more generic statutes authorize the President to use military forces to resolve domestic emergencies. 10 U.S.C. §§ 331-333. I fully expect that the FBI, working in concert with other federal enforcement agencies and its state and local colleagues, will be able to resolve the law enforcement aspects of most terrorist incidents. However, where the military possesses superior capabilities in the disarming and disposal of a chemical or biological device, I will not hesitate to ask Secretary Cohen to make that assistance available. Such assistance comports fully with applicable law, and the protection of the American public demands nothing less than the Government’s best efforts.

Consistent with the Domestic Guidelines, additional mechanisms for coordination have been created relating to incidents involving the actual or threatened use of chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction. For example, the FBI has created a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Operations Unit, which includes detailees from other federal agencies, and DOD has created a National Response Center emergency hotline, which operates in conjunction with the FBI.

Although the FBI’s WMD Operations Unit functions broadly in coordinating the national response to a chemical or biological terrorist incident, it plays a particularly critical role in the initial assessment of a WMD threat. The threat analysis process includes an assessment of the threat from three perspectives:

- Technical Feasibility: this involves an assessment of the capacity of the threatening individual or organization to obtain or produce the biological or chemical substance at issue; it utilizes the expertise of HHS and, when needed, DOD.

- Operational Practicability: this involves an assessment of the feasibility of delivering or employing the substance in the manner threatened; this also utilizes the expertise of HHS and DOD.

- Behavioral Resolve: this involves a psychological assessment by the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit of the likelihood that the subject(s) will carry out the threat, and includes a review by behavioral scientists of any written or verbal statements by the subject or subjects.

Pursuant to the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act, DOD has established a telephone hotline to provide relevant data and expert advice to state and local officials responding to emergencies involving a weapon of mass destruction. The assigned DOD component, the Army’s Chemical and Biological Defense Command (CBDCOM), works closely with the FBI to ensure effective coordination. All incoming calls detailing a WMD release are connected to the relevant DOD experts as well as the appropriate FBI field office. All FBI field offices have established procedures to interface with hotline personnel.

2. Consequence Management

FEMA is assigned the leadership role in the area of consequence management and exercises its responsibilities through the structure established under the Federal Response Plan (FRP). The FRP defines the relationships and roles of 28 federal departments and agencies and the American Red Cross in the consequence management of any disaster or emergency in which FEMA is called on to respond. Further, pursuant to its responsibilities under PDD-39, FEMA has developed a Terrorist Incident Annex to the Federal Response Plan in coordination with DOD, HHS, DOE, FBI, and EPA. Among other things, the Annex defines policies and structures to coordinate consequence management with crisis management during a nuclear, chemical, or biological terrorist incident.

D. Responding to a Chemical or Biological Event Within the United States

1. Crisis Deployment Strategy

When we are confronted with a major terrorist threat or act within the United States, it is almost always local authorities who must address the initial response. It is their efforts in the minutes following a terrorist act that we rely on to save lives, contain the scope of the crisis, and apprehend terrorists who may be fleeing the scene. It is for this reason that programs that provide training and support for local authorities, such as those provided for by the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996 (Nunn-Lugar II), are so important.

As a matter of established practice, local authorities quickly notify the local FBI office of a terrorist threat or event. FBI field offices are trained to initiate immediately and simultaneously a number of responsive actions when confronted with a major terrorist incident, including notification of FBI Headquarters and the local U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In the event of a threatened terrorist act utilizing a chemical or biological weapon, the field office would contact the FBI’s WMD Operations Unit for an assessment of the threat. That Unit would activate an interagency team which would collaborate by conference call and prepare an aggregate assessment of the credibility of the threat using the three criteria discussed above. Assuming that the threat is deemed to be one which must be taken seriously, the FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC), would undertake coordination of the federal response.

In this capacity as on-scene federal commander, the SAC would have three concurrent responsibilities: (1) preventing a threatened act from being carried out or an existing terrorist act from being expanded or aggravated; (2) ensuring that planning is being undertaken to address the potential consequences; and (3) identifying and apprehending the perpetrator of the threat or act, and developing a criminal case against him. The primary initial concern, however, is the safety of the public.

To accomplish the objectives, the SAC would undertake a number of actions, including the following:

- Coordinate with local emergency responders, and as appropriate with elements of HHS and DOD, in an effort to ensure optimal efforts to save lives and prevent additional risk to life, while avoiding any unnecessary disruption of evidence that may be important to a later prosecution.

- Initiate an assessment of the scene of the incident to evaluate the presence of a continuing danger and to develop preliminary information on the relevant forensic aspects of the crime.

- Form a Joint Operations Center (JOC) to bring together representatives of all pertinent federal, state, and local agencies and to serve as the focal point for coordinating the response.

- Establish a Joint Information Center (JIC), comprised of federal, state, and local authorities, to serve as the central point of contact for dissemination of information to the public.

- Consult with the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit to assess the capabilities of local and state authorities to identify, package, transport and analyze a sample of the chemical or biological substance.

- Coordinate with FEMA to ensure that it is appropriately represented in the JOC and the JIC and that it is carrying out its consequence management responsi-bilities in a way that is fully integrated with the Bureau’s overall management of the crisis.

While these activities are underway in the field, DOJ and FBI Headquarters act immediately to bring together the pertinent Headquarters support apparatus. The FBI Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) is immediately activated and staffed on a 24-hour basis with agents and prosecutors who have terrorism experience. The Counterterrorism Center, which combines the resources and expertise of representatives of 18 federal agencies, supports this effort, and representatives of pertinent agencies are integrated into the SIOC operation.

Additionally, officials at Headquarters, coordinating through SIOC, evaluate with the FBI’s on-scene commander and the local U.S. Attorney the deployment of additional specialized resources to the scene. Those resources include:

- The Chemical/Biological Module of the DEST, which combines the expertise of representatives of the FBI, DOD, HHS, EPA, and FEMA, and is available to participate in the JOC and provide guidance to the on-scene commander.

- The FBI Hazardous Materials Response Unit.

- Experts in crime scene reconstruction and evidence preservation.

- Evidence response teams.

- Rapid Start computer database team.

- Laboratory personnel and behavioral scientists.

- Agents with pertinent skills from surrounding federal investigative field offices.

- FBI SACs with specialized training in crisis response so that ample management and leadership skills are available on a 24-hour basis; when multiple SACs are sent in to augment the local SAC, one is selected as the overall on-scene commander.

- Prosecutors comprising a specially trained Attorney Critical Incident Response Team to advise and assist the local U.S. Attorney.

In the event the chemical or biological aspects of the terrorist incident exceed the staffing or capabilities of the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit and other available civilian components, the Attorney General is authorized by statute to request that the Secretary of Defense supply military assets to handle the deactivation and transport of a weapon of mass destruction.

Through the utilization of these and other procedures, it is possible for the Department of Justice and the FBI, working together with numerous other agencies, to quickly mount a response to a terrorist threat or act. The response is designed to integrate the efforts of all federal, state, and local personnel on-scene through the JOC while utilizing the SIOC to ensure that the nationwide -- and, if pertinent, worldwide -- support of all appropriate federal agencies is available in a prompt and coordinated manner. The JOC and SIOC are in virtually constant contact. During particularly critical periods, an open communication line is maintained between the two facilities.

These efforts, coordinated through the JOC and SIOC, would continue until the crisis has abated, all primary investigative work has been completed, and, if possible, the perpetrators have been apprehended. During that period, FEMA’s consequence management efforts, in coordination with state and local authorities, would continue.

While we believe that the crisis response plan under the Domestic Guidelines is fundamentally sound, we recognize that the threat posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction presents tremendous challenges that require that capabilities and coordination be enhanced at all levels of government. Training exercises are conducted frequently to evaluate progress. For example, exercises sponsored by the FBI often involve personnel from FBI Headquarters and multiple field offices as well as personnel from other pertinent federal, state, and local agencies. Similarly, consistent with Nunn-Lugar II, DOD sponsors multiagency field training exercises involving weapons of mass destruction scenarios.

In February of this year, crisis response coordination was tested during an incident in Las Vegas in which significant information was developed indicating that two subjects possessed anthrax, a highly dangerous biological agent. The credibility of the information was bolstered by the fact that one of the subjects had been convicted of wire fraud based on his having fraudulently obtained a biological agent in 1995 which causes bubonic plague. Although the substance which the two subjects possessed subsequently proved not to be dangerous, at the time of the event the test of the FBI’s crisis response mechanism was very real.

The interagency response in that incident proved to be prompt and efficient. In addition to the FBI, the participating federal agencies included: DOD, HHS, and FEMA. The legal issues were coordinated among the two pertinent U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Terrorism and Violent Crime Section.

- The FBI’s WMD Operations Unit effected the coordination of the operational response among the FBI’s Las Vegas office and other relevant offices, the FBI Laboratory’s Hazardous Response Unit, and the FBI Bomb Center at Quantico.

- The FBI’s Las Vegas Office quickly coordinated an integrated crisis management response with local police, fire, and a local military unit with hazardous materials response capabilities. In light of the emergency nature of the threat, DOD approved the use of that unit until the arrival of FBI and other DOD responders.

- The suspected substance was seized by FBI Las Vegas SWAT and safely removed by properly trained and equipped officials of the Hazardous Materials Response Unit and the Technical Escort Unit of the U.S. Army with no danger to the public.

- The substance was safely transported to a DOD facility capable of analyzing its potential as a hazard.

- The substance was identified as quickly as possible, permitting authorities to assure the public that anthrax was not present and that the substance had not posed a danger.

The performance in this matter demonstrated the government’s ability to deal with a situation involving a substance which is seized before it has been released. Had the substance at issue in this instance proven to be real anthrax, it would have been safely removed and the perpetrators arrested, all without danger to the public. In contrast, had anthrax been released, the responding authorities would have been faced with a far more difficult challenge. We are continuing to prepare and train to address more far-reaching challenges involving chemical and biological weapons.

2. Consequence Management

PDD-39 designates the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead agency for coordinating the consequence management of acts of terrorism, including the use of weapons of mass destruction. FEMA is responsible to prepare for, coordinate, and respond to the aftermath of a terrorist attack. FEMA is responsible for working with state and local governments to restore order and to deliver emergency assistance. During a terrorism crisis within the United States, FEMA acts in support of the FBI until the Attorney General is satisfied that addressing the consequences of the act should assume primacy over dealing with the immediate crisis situation. The “Domestic Guidelines” address the procedures for the transfer of such responsibility.

When the Attorney General approves the decision to transfer the federal lead agency role from the FBI to FEMA, FEMA’s designated Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) will coordinate federal actions in support of state and local governments to provide effective consequence management appropriate to the incident. Under the Federal Response Plan, FEMA will draw upon other Federal agencies as needed, including HHS, EPA, and the Department of Energy.

3. Prosecution of Terrorists

The prevention of terrorism also requires that we have the capacity to bring to justice those who are planning to or have committed a terrorist act. Although we unfortunately may not be able to prevent all terrorist acts, we will vigorously investigate and prosecute terrorism cases. If an act of domestic terrorism occurs, federal prosecutors become involved with the FBI, as well as state and local law enforcement authorities, in an around-the-clock effort to develop evidence and to identify and apprehend those responsible.

We have created an Attorney Critical Incident Response Group, or ACIRG, composed of expert federal lawyers in Washington and around the country, whose job it is to provide the Department’s leadership with an improved capacity to manage the incident and, on occasion, support the United States Attorney in the on-scene response to the crisis. The ACIRG concept is flexible in nature; it contemplates the formation of task-tailored teams to fit the particular crisis. In some instances the teams will be involved in monitoring events and providing periodic updates to senior Department officials. In others, the teams will provide a full-time presence at the FBI’s SIOC to provide on-the-spot legal advice. Finally, when the crisis is a particularly grave one, team members will deploy to the field to provide expert advice to the local U.S. Attorney, coordinate multi-district matters and, in very rare cases, assume on-site responsibility.

During such exigencies, the Criminal Division’s Terrorism and Violent Crime Section (TVCS), some of whose members are part of the ACIRG, will provide legal advice and perform liaison functions as needed. Additionally, the Department of Justice has developed and conducted training for ACIRG members and for a prosecutor in each district who has been designated as a Crisis Management Coordinator (CMC). In addition, as part of the Attorney General’s “critical incident response plan,” the CMC in each U.S. Attorney’s Office has been tasked to develop a crisis response plan that includes coordination with local, state and federal responders.


A. Recent Programs and Initiatives

1. Nunn-Lugar II and related efforts to develop State and local partnerships

While much progress has been made in preparing for possible chemical or biological terrorist attacks, much work remains to be done. In partnership with Congress, we must continue forging ahead to improve our capabilities to combat terrorism. As a cornerstone of this effort, the Five-Year Counterterrorism Plan will chart the course ahead for all of the agencies involved in counterterrorism. For now, let me highlight a few examples of our new programs and initiatives.

The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, enacted as the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Amendment (Nunn-Lugar II) to the DOD Appropriations Act for FY97, mandates that the Executive Branch undertake a number of requirements relating to preparedness to respond to the terrorist use of chemical and biological weapons within the U.S. Among other things, the legislation requires the Executive Branch to assess its capabilities to assist state and local governments in preventing and responding to terrorist incidents involving such weapons. It mandates that DOD, in coordination with other relevant federal agencies, establish programs to advise and train civilian emergency preparedness personnel at all levels of government in planning for and responding to WMD incidents. Additionally, it directs DOD to establish rapid terrorism response teams for the purpose of assisting such authorities in the detection, neutralization, containment, dismantlement and disposal of weapons of mass destruction.

The FBI and other federal agencies such as FEMA, the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the Department of Energy, EPA, and HHS, are supporting the Department of Defense in this initiative to provide WMD training to state and local “emergency responders.” These consist of state and local law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel who would likely provide the initial response to a WMD incident. This initiative, which commenced in late FY 97, will eventually train emergency responders in 120 cities throughout the United States. To date, officials from 19 cities have received training; an additional 31 cities are due to be introduced to the training in FY 98; and 35 more will be visited during FY 99. Through these efforts, State and local governments will not only be better able to deal with threats of terrorism through effective planning and increased response capability, but as a related benefit we are also improving the overall ability of the community to protect citizens from chemical accidents from industrial facilities or transportation.

In addition to the Nunn-Lugar II initiatives, the FBI pursues continuous crisis management planning in conjunction with other Federal agencies, as well as with local police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. For example, to further enhance the federal-state-local approach to combating terrorism, the FBI has, to date, established 16 Joint Terrorism Task Forces in field locations. The objective is to ensure that all entities that would respond to an act of terrorism, involving either a WMD or a conventional weapon, are coordinated at the state and local, as well as the national, level.

2. The Counterterrorism Fund

In 1998, Congress provided $52.7 million in the Counterterrorism Fund. Twenty one million, two hundred thousand dollars has been allocated to ensure that State and local first responders have basic equipment and training to respond to chemical or biological incidents as well as those involving improvised explosive devices.

A total of $5.2 million is provided for the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. These funds will be used for the expansion and renovation of the Hazardous Devices School to increase the number of bomb technicians trained each year on response to improvised explosive devices as well as nuclear, biological, and chemical incident matters. The funding will also provide certain items and articles of equipment for bomb squad use.

Further, $16.0 million is authorized for the provision of operational response equipment and training to state and local agencies that will enhance their capabilities to respond to an incident involving weapons of mass destruction. The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) will administer these funds as follows.

Working with the FBI, OJP is developing a $12.0 million grant program to provide equipment to state and local authorities who would be called upon to respond to an incident involving weapons of mass destruction. Such categories of equipment include items necessary for personal protection, detection, decontamination, and communication during an actual response. The FBI and OJP will coordinate with Nunn-Lugar and other efforts that also provide equipment to first responders to insure that overlap does not occur.

In addition, $2.0 million is provided for OJP to establish and administer a training center for state and local first responder personnel at Fort McClellan, Alabama. This Center will provide first responder personnel with state-of-the-art training, including “hands-on” field and laboratory exercises to improve their capabilities to respond to and manage terrorist incidents, including those involving chemical agents and explosive devices. This Center will work in cooperation with a consortium of universities and other specialized facilities which offer resources and expertise critical to first responder training.

OJP will coordinate its administration of the Fort McClellan program, both training and curriculum, with the FBI. Two million dollars is also provided for the operation of a similar training center in conjunction with the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, in Socorro, New Mexico. OJP will administer this program as well, working with the FBI and the Institute to define and develop curriculum and training appropriate to the Institute’s capabilities and expertise in a manner that does not duplicate other available facilities and resources.

B. Possible Additional Improvements

As previously discussed, I have directed that the study group currently involved in developing the Five-Year Counterterrorism Plan give priority to the development of proposals which would improve the government’s ability to prevent and respond to terrorist acts involving weapons of mass destruction. While a number of ideas are currently being evaluated on a priority basis within the Department and the Administration, let me share with you a few of our areas of focus.

The widespread use of strong encryption by terrorists and other criminals, unless it provides for lawful access to plaintext by law enforcement authorities, would have catastrophic implications for our ability to detect, prevent, and investigate incidents of chemical or biological terrorism. Unbreakable encryption allows terrorists to communicate about their criminal plans with impunity.

Developing a balanced approach to robust encryption is an extremely serious public policy issue that urgently needs to be resolved, and requires attention from federal, state, and local government officials and from the private sector. To this end, the Administration has launched a focused initiative to work closely with the information technology industry to develop technical and policy solutions that represent balanced approaches to strong encryption. To facilitate that effort, we have requested a legislative moratorium on encryption matters while we attempt to develop these solutions.

Another area that requires further scrutiny relates to existing federal criminal statutes pertinent to chemical and biological terrorism. Currently, those statutes require a close nexus between the possession of a biological agent or chemical substance and its use as a weapon. 18 U.S.C. §§ 175, 2332a, and 2332c. Mere possession of such an agent or substance, without proof of its intended use as a weapon, is not a crime under federal law, notwithstanding the existence of factors -- such as lack of scientific training, felony record, or mental instability -- which raise significant questions concerning the individuals’ ultimate reason for possessing the substance.

We recognize that any criminal statutes which might be enacted to address this concern will require a careful balance between public safety and the requirements of legitimate scientific researchers on whom we are dependent for medical and technological advances. However, when a person who lacks the requisite scientific training or has a demonstrated record of irresponsible conduct possesses a highly lethal substance for which he has no legitimate use, there is a clear public safety concern. In the area of toxic chemicals, the implementing legislation for the chemical weapons convention (S.610), currently pending in Congress, would prohibit the possession of such chemicals, and their precursors, unless they are held for legitimate purposes as prescribed under the convention. We are examining the potential for developing a comparable legislative proposal relating to the possession of biological pathogens.

Another area which is currently being considered within the Administration concerns the availability of medication and medical supplies needed in the treatment of persons exposed to potentially lethal chemical substances or biological agents.

A major chemical or biological terrorist incident could require the prompt availability of massive quantities of medication. This may require that the government procure vaccines, antidotes, and antibiotics for stockpiling for civilian use. Further, even if the stockpiles were adequate, it would be critical that we be able to obtain and deliver the required items to the affected area on an immediate basis.

To address this concern, the President has ordered a review of whether to purchase significant quantities of vaccines, antidotes, and antibiotics needed to treat persons exposed to known chemical or biological agents which present a potential threat to public safety. Those medications would be strategically placed throughout the country under a procedure that would maintain the shelf life of stockpiles and would facilitate their prompt availability in the event of a major chemical or biological incident. As the Administration further considers such a program we will consult with Congress concerning its details and funding requirements.

Since biological pathogens can be altered in composition, it is also imperative that we prepare ourselves for the potential use of a genetically altered pathogen. To this end, the Administration is evaluating the potential for undertaking a research and development program designed to ensure that the nation is in the best possible position to respond quickly to the presence of an altered pathogen.

Similarly, it is critical that improved detection devices be developed, and made available to federal, state, and local authorities throughout the nation, to facilitate the earliest possible detection of the presence of a hostile biological or chemical agent or substance and the accurate identification of it. Further, we are considering the need for decentralized laboratory capabilities, located strategically throughout the country, to authoritatively confirm the field identification. Finally, we must ensure that the requisite training and expertise is available for the prompt analysis of the resulting data, thereby ensuring that no time is lost in targeting a multi-disciplinary response to the event.

As we continue to examine these and other potential programs, it is important that the government work in partnership with the Department of Energy national laboratories, academia, and private industry. This will ensure that we always have access to cutting-edge technological developments so critical to an effective program to address the threat of chemical and biological terrorism. New biological/technical advances provide both opportunities and challenges for the government. It is essential that we reach out to the private sector to utilize these opportunities.

Further, we may need to develop an approach which will permit the government to accelerate the normal procurement procedures to quickly identify and deploy new technologies and substances needed to thwart terrorist threats and respond to terrorist acts. These procedures would be used not only to purchase medications and other needed tools, but also, in some instances, to borrow medications or tools from, or to enter into effective partnerships with, both academia and industry.

As we strengthen our capabilities to prevent, respond to, and manage the consequences of emerging terrorist threats such as chemical and biological weapons, we must achieve even greater coordination of the counterterrorism plans, resources, and programs of the many departments and agencies that have counterterrorism responsibilities. It is also important for us to focus on coordinating government efforts in partnership with the private sector to protect our critical infrastructures against these and other threats. To achieve these objectives, I am working closely with the President’s National Security Adviser as he develops for the President Presidential Decision Directives that build upon and reaffirm PDD-39 while further enhancing our efforts to achieve greater coordination and focus on these vital issues.

I look forward to continuing to work with Congress as we pursue the critically important effort of preparing our nation to prevent and respond to potential acts of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction.