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DHS/FBI Issues Warning Regarding the Threat of Chemical Terrorism

A joint release to law enforcement by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI highlights the ongoing risk of terrorist used of chemical weapons in an attack. According to the release:

“Violent extremists continue to encourage the use of toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) to conduct attacks through violent extremist Internet forums and English-language terrorist propaganda publications.1,2,*† Although terrorists are most likely to use small arms and improvised explosive devices in homeland attacks, if homegrown violent extremists (HVE) pursue a chemical attack capability, these individuals would most likely choose TICs.‡ This is due to their greater availability and ease of handling compared with more difficult to obtain precursor chemicals and the higher level of expertise needed to produce more advanced chemical warfare agents. Preventing attacks with TICs challenges law enforcement, as many chemicals of concern are available through commercial, industrial, research, government and academic facilities, and can often be purchased without arousing suspicion.”

According to the report, the following are possible indicators of use of chemicals for nefarious purposes

  • Injuries or damage to clothing consistent with those sustained in the production, handling, or use of chemicals, such as recent chemical burns, missing hands or fingers, unusual stains or damaged clothing without a reasonable explanation;
  • Noxious or unusual fumes, liquids, or odors coming from a location incongruous with chemical use;
  • Ordering, delivery, or possession of an unusual amount of TICs, chemical protective garments, masks, respirators, chemical hoods, and/or secondary exhaust or ventilation systems inconsistent with location that would arouse suspicion of terrorism or other criminal activity in a reasonable person;
  • An unusual amount of chemical containers or laboratory equipment discarded in dumpsters or personal trash that would arouse suspicion of terrorism or other criminal activity in a reasonable person;
  • Unusual interest in or possession of production literature or instructions for chemical manufacturing and dissemination, such as inquiries to companies involved in the production, distribution, or sale of TICs that would arouse suspicion of terrorism or other criminal activity in a reasonable person;
  • Attempts to conceal activities, identities, evasiveness, or reluctance to explain the need for possessing, purchasing, or inquiring about chemicals and equipment, especially if the individual appears to lack reasonable justification for possession of material or scientific and technical knowledge or skills that would arouse suspicion of terrorism or other criminal activity in a reasonable person;
  • Research or unusual purchases that would arouse suspicion of terrorism or other criminal activity in a reasonable person, such as dispersal devices, including handheld sprayers or sprayers that can be mounted on trucks, trailers, aircraft (manned and unmanned), or boats; also agricultural chemical sprayers or aircraft without an articulated need; and
  • Theft of equipment or materials which may be used in the preparation or dispersal of chemicals or poisons.

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