30 April 1999
Source: http://www.usia.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/washfile/latest&f=9904302.plt&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml

USIS Washington File

30 April 1999


(Says weapons of mass destruction pose real threat to U.S.) (1740)

Washington -- The FBI's focus in counterproliferation efforts is "the
identification, penetration, and neutralization" of WMD (Weapons of
Mass Destruction) proliferation activities, an agency counterterrorism
official says.

Testifying April 29 before the Commission to Assess the Organization
of the Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of Weapons of
Mass Destruction, Deputy Assistant Director Dale Watson stated that
"it is possible to reduce the susceptibility to WMD terrorist attack
by taking security precautions, remaining vigilant in pursuing WMD
terrorist activity, and improving preventive measures, as well as
civil preparedness."

Watson cautioned that "the threat of WMD use in the United States is
real, however, we must not inflate or understate the actual threat."

Addressing the success of the FBI's counterterrorism program, Watson
said the agency has "uncovered a significant number of attempts by
foreign powers to obtain U.S. technology for their own WMD development

Following is the text of Watson's statement as prepared for delivery:

(begin text)

Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the FBI's Weapons of Mass
Destruction counterproliferation efforts with you today.

I'd like to start by highlighting our position on WMD proliferation.
The FBI views the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as a
serious threat to national security and has developed a broad-based
program to counter it both from a proactive standpoint and from a
response standpoint.

We define WMD proliferation like the rest of the U.S.
counterproliferation community as the spread of nuclear, chemical or
biological weapons, and/or their means of delivery. We also recognize
that because WMD proliferation often centers on the United States as a
source of the technology needed for a foreign power's WMD development
program, the FBI has a responsibility under its foreign
counterintelligence (FCI) programs to investigate this exploitation.

The mission of all the FBI's WMD-oriented programs is the prevention
of the malevolent use and/or proliferation of WMD, to include
chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, through foreign
counterintelligence investigations, criminal/counterterrorism
investigations, international cooperation, and proactive domestic
programs. Our WMD-related investigations attempt to prevent the
acquisition or use of WMD devices by terrorists or others, uncover the
breadth of U.S.-based proliferation activity, determine the modus
operandi of proliferators, and develop operations to eliminate the
activities of proliferators operating within the United States.

Of course, our counterproliferation activities represent only one
element of the counterproliferation activities of the U.S. government.
To clarify and specify the FBI's role let me summarize it by stating
that our focus is on the identification, penetration, and
neutralization of WMD proliferation activities involving U.S.

The Bureau has several initiatives underway to identify the threat of
WMD proliferation and to hamper the ability of others to obtain
materials, equipment, information or technology from the U.S. for use
in WMD development. In this forum, only a general discussion is
possible to highlight our findings.

The FBI aggressively investigates all alleged criminal activities
involving nuclear, chemical or biological material, as well as all
alleged attempts to obtain information or technology for WMD
development by countries of proliferation concern. We have several
major efforts in this area to help us facilitate the use of the large
volume of information that is available concerning allegations of
proliferation activity involving U.S. entities. These initiatives have
allowed the FBI to develop an initial picture of the scope and breadth
of proliferation activities occurring within the United States and
should help facilitate a proactive program to help the law enforcement
community halt those activities.

We have uncovered a significant number of attempts by foreign powers
to obtain U.S. technology for their WMD development programs. In some
cases, the technology targeted had direct WMD device application, but
by far the predominant number of cases involved dual-use, or general
purpose technology that helped foreign powers develop the
infrastructure required for a WMD development program. Often, U.S.
firms and individuals are unwitting participants because of the use of
front companies and overseas intermediaries to conceal the identities
of the actual end users.

However, there is limited evidence that some proliferant countries are
relying on witting U.S.-based procurement agents to acquire equipment
on behalf of their WMD programs. Overall, our cases demonstrate that
U.S.-based WMD proliferation is widespread and highlight the need to
better address the exploitation of U.S. technology that is occurring
in foreign power WMD development.

I'd like to point out that we could not have developed as clear an
understanding of the WMD proliferation threat if not for the
cooperation of our intelligence community and law enforcement
partners. We routinely work with both to exchange information and
ensure U.S.-based proliferation investigations are coordinated among
agencies. Often, these investigations have overlapping investigative
jurisdiction between the FBI, the U.S. customs service, and the
Department of Commerce. Therefore, our headquarter's
counterproliferation program has agents detailed from both of those
agencies who work as part of our U.S. law enforcement
counterproliferation team.

A second proactive counterproliferation initiative I want to mention
is the DOD/FBI counterproliferation assistance program. Congress
mandated this program after recognizing the serious threats to U.S.
national security posed by WMD proliferation. Congress provided
authority, through the National Defense Authorization act of fiscal
year 1995, for up to $10 million in reprogrammed Department of Defense

These funds were to be used in the development and implementation of a
counterproliferation assistance program intended to train and equip
foreign law enforcement personnel to detect, prevent, and investigate
incidents involving the illegal trafficking in WMD, and to improve
U.S. efforts to deter the possible proliferation and acquisition of
WMD by organized criminal groups and individuals in Eastern Europe,
the Baltic states and countries of the former Soviet Union.

So far, we have provided basic law enforcement counterproliferation
training for government officials from Kazakhstan, Krygystan, Georgia,
Uzbekistan, and Moldova and are counting to plans to engage additional
countries. This program is intended to assist in the establishment of
a professional cadre of international law enforcement personnel who
are trained to detect, deter, and investigate any aspect of crimes
related to the proliferation and diversion of nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons and their delivery systems, as well as illicit trade
in related materials. The DOD-FBI counterproliferation program also
calls for the provision of a certain amount of detection equipment, as
appropriate, and the examination of the legal systems of these
countries to suggest improvements to their ability to prosecute those
involved in illegal proliferation activities.

The final area of our WMD responsibilities I want to mention today
involves the operational response to a WMD terrorist incident. Within
the United States, the FBI has been assigned the lead role in
responding to acts of WMD terrorism or other criminal-related
incidents in which the FBI maintains jurisdiction. The FBI derives its
fundamental legal jurisdiction to deter, investigate, direct,
organize, and prepare for a WMD incident from an assortment of federal
statutes and Presidential Decision Directive 39.

Terrorist events such as the World Trade Center bombing, the bombing
of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and the
pipe bomb at the Olympic Games in Atlanta revealed the United States'
increased susceptibility to terrorist assaults. These attacks, coupled
with the March 1995 Tokyo subway attack, where the weapon of choice
was the chemical nerve agent sarin, exposed the threat of use of WMD
within the United States. The threat of WMD use in the United States
is real, however, we must not inflate nor understate the actual
threat. The United States is experiencing an increased number of
hoaxes involving the use of chemical or biological agents perpetrated
by individuals wishing to instill fear and disrupt communities.
Yesterday's bomb threat has been replaced with a more exotic
biological or chemical threat. While the FBI continues to investigate
these hoaxes, other on-going investigations reveal that domestic
extremists, as well as international terrorists with open anti-U.S.
sentiments, are becoming more interested in the potential use of
chemical and biological agents.

Examining the increased number of WMD criminal cases the FBI has
opened over the past several years highlights the potential threat of
use we face. WMD criminal cases are those cases primarily dealing with
the use, threatened use, or procurement of chemical and biological
materials with intent to harm within the United States. These criminal
cases have shown a steady increase since 1995, rising from 37 in 1996
to 74 in 1997, 181 in 1998, and 114 to date for 1999, with
three-quarters of these cases threatening a biological release. The
biological agent most often cited in 1998 and 1999 was anthrax.

Despite the increase in fabricated threats, the WMD threat remains.
Since the early 199Os the FBI has investigated a number of domestic
extremist groups and associated individuals interested in procuring or
ready to employ chemical or biological agents against innocent
civilians. In February 1999, members of a right-wing splinter group
were sentenced to 292 months (over 24 years) in prison for threatening
to use a weapon of mass destruction against federal officials. These
individuals intended to modify a cigarette lighter in order to shoot
cactus quills tainted with HIV-blood or rabies.

It is impossible to eliminate all vulnerabilities in an open society
without taking draconian measures that impinge on civil liberties.
However, it is possible to reduce susceptibility to WMD terrorist
attacks by taking security precautions, remaining vigilant in pursuing
WMD terrorist activity, and improving preventive measures, as well as
civil preparedness. The FBI is currently undertaking all of these
steps. The United States is preparing itself for unconventional
threats like WMD terrorism by coordinating federal, state, and local
law enforcement and emergency responders in their ability to ferret
the fabricated threats and meet the challenges posed by a potential
chemical or biological terrorist attack.

It is important to recognize the breadth of The Bureau's activities in
the WMD counterproliferation and counterterrorism areas. The FBI works
through our FCI, criminal and counterterrorism jurisdiction to uncover
U.S. involvement in WMD development. We have developed proactive
programs to counter the WMD proliferation threat, and we are prepared
to pursue, arrest and prosecute those who use, or threaten to use WMD
in the United States.

(end text)