Association of Former Intelligence Officers

AMERICA'S ACHILLES HEEL: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack - by Richard Falkenrath, Robert Newman and Bradley Thayer, MIT Press, 1999, $22.50. This small book by a Harvard professor and his co--authors is both reassuring and sounding an alarm bell. By using a methodical (dry) mechanistic approach to dissecting terrorism, they establish limitations on terrorism and its goals as well as production and employment. Political reality dictate limits on terrorist capabilities even in "rogue" states - or they may be used against themselves by the terrorist groups. There are special hazards in the production and handling of unconventional materials, and most potential attackers "lack the resources, knowledge, and skill required to exploit fully the openings that exist."

On the other hand, the economic, educational and technological barriers to producing these weapons are eroding, and detecting a covert attack remains difficult. And the attack may come from elements within rather than necessarily from outside the country. The authors conclude with a steps to reduce the likelihood of successful terrorist attacks. Strategic planning (recognizing the problem), Intelligence and threat identification are top priorities. Human Intelligence (HUMINT) is an essential component. The authors demonstrate that the topic can be intelligently discussed in other terms than media, bureaucratic or political theater and hype, and that the threat can be reduced by sustained effort, attention to detail, and patient application of multiple and sustained deterrent measures. It appears that those type of efforts are underway. (Reviewed by Jody Robinson in WTimes 13 Feb, pA19) (RoyJ)

Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #09-99, 3 March 1999

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