Tag Archives: disaster

Future Threats

Aside from hoax attacks, where credible threats occur based on purposeful counter-intelligence efforts of terrorists, I suspect large-scale events to be the modus operandi of terrorists in the next decade. According to LaFree, Yang, and Crenshaw (2009), anti-U.S. terrorists have ample intent on attacking the U.S. on our soil; however, this would be a huge and logistically complicated undertaking. For this reason, any future organized act of terror on U.S. soil will be designed to be significant, causing extreme loss of life or toppling a significant structure or both.

Biologic weapons would be the choice for terrorists who wished to inflict harm to the greatest amount of people, though releasing biologic material lacks the sudden impact usually sought, and weaponized biologics are not easily grown or economical (Levitin, 2005). Chemical weapons are typically easier and cheaper to manufacture, though they lack effectiveness and tend to merely create a scare of equivalent magnitude of a hoax (Levitin, 2005). Aside from basic explosives, this leaves the radiologic threat, a threat that I believe, coupled with a significant target, will cause devastating effects not unlike 9/11.

A dirty bomb is a conventional explosive used to disseminate radiologic materials over an area. I foresee a coordinated attack on the financial districts of the U.S. using dirty bombs. The bombs would, first, cause physical destruction to the buildings causing immediate disruption of the financial sector of the U.S. economy, along with a large death toll. Second, the radiation dispersed over the area would cause difficulty in cleaning up the area, inhibiting recovery and further impacting the financial markets.

A law enforcement response to such an attack would certainly be large in scale. The local police department would be first to respond, along with state police, then the WMD Coordinator at the local FBI field office would be apprised of the situation. As responders start arriving on scene, personal radiation detectors would start to tone indicating the release of radiologic material. This further information would prompt the WMD Dictorate in Washington, D.C., to order a full asset response by the FBI and other federal terrorism partners (e.g. the Joint Terrorism Task Force). The response to this type of incident should be trained on in cooperative exercises involving all levels of law enforcement. Additionally, personal radiation detectors (and other detectors) should, at a minimum, be placed in police vehicles for early warning of environments immediately dangerous to life and health. Adequate training, equipment, and preparation are the only ways in which to prepare for responding to large-scale terrorist attacks.


LaFree, G., Yang, S., & Crenshaw, M. (2009). Trajectories of terrorism: Attack patterns of foreign groups that have targeted the United States, 1970-2004. Criminology & Public Policy, 8(3), 445-473. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00570.x

Levitin, H. W. (2005). Debunking myths: How law enforcement can help diffuse the public’s fear. On the Beat. Retrieved from http://www.adl.org/learn/columns/Levitin.asp

Fear of Terrorism

As terrorism becomes more prevalent within a society, concerns about the psychological effects are brought to the forefront. The psychological effects of terrorism, in general, should have an impact on the ability of law enforcement and the public to interface appropriately. A recent study by Bleich, Gelkopf, and Solomon (2003) of the psychological effects of terrorism on the public in Israel showed surprisingly low levels of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms despite high incidences of direct exposure to terror events. This study demonstrated that, although up to a third of the respondents acknowledged a “limited sense of safety and substantial distress [they] reported adapting to the situation without substantial mental health symptoms and impairment, and most sought various ways of coping with terrorism and its ongoing threats [, possibly linked to] processes of adaptation and accommodation” (p. 619). The study found that the most effective and widely used coping mechanism was checking on the well-being of friends and family. As people tend to cope well with trauma, attitudes towards protective measures seem to acquiesce for the common good, and this can be assistive to law enforcement.

One of the protective measures people tend to adopt that would help law enforcement is a sense of hypervigilance (Bleich, Gelkopf, & Solomon, 2003). Hypervigilance allows the people to be more attentive to things out of the ordinary (e.g. unattended packages, suspicious loitering, anxious mannerisms of others, et al.). This promotes a line of communication with law enforcement not only regarding terrorism but for other criminal activity, also.

Another protective measure, which goes towards acquiescence, is the ability of the people, in general, to accept an increased presence of law enforcement in their daily lives. When faced with a proximal event, the bulk of the citizenship contend that it is, indeed, a function of government to protect the masses from further harm, and these citizens tend to accept limits on personal liberty for perceived increases in security (Klein, 2007). This is a double-edged sword, however. People tend to want to return to a normal state of affairs (Bleich, Gelkopf, & Solomon, 2003). Though an increased police presence is initially welcomed and embraced, the people will eventually resent the loss of liberty and require law enforcement presence to recede. How this occurs will either enhance or detract from the ongoing relationship with law enforcement. An example of this is easy to see when considering both local law enforcement and the federal effort of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Local law enforcement seems to have decreased their presence, at least in my area, and are respectfully viewed as helpful, whereas the TSA, an agency that continues to irrationally impede on liberty, is viewed negatively by the traveling public.

Law enforcement is a service-based industry where the public is the customer. Police need to understand both the rights and the fears of the people in order to maintain the appropriate level of service, which waxes and wanes.


Bleich, A., Gelkopf, M, & Solomon, Z. (2003). Exposure to terrorism, stress-related mental health symptoms, and coping behaviors among a nationally representative sample in Israel. Journal of the American Medical Association, 290(5), 612-620.

Klein, L. (2007). Civil liberties and national security in the post 9-11 era: State power and the impact of the USA Patriot Act. Conference Papers – American Sociological Association, 1-8.

WMD Coordinator

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI; 2007) and the U.S. Department of Justice (2009), the WMD Coordinator, a designated Special Agent within each field office, is responsible for initiating the federal response to any possible WMD event. “The Attorney General has lead authority to investigate federal crimes, which includes the use or attempted use of a WMD. 28 U.S.C. § 533 (2008) and 18 U.S.C. § 2332(a) (2008). The Attorney General has delegated much of this investigative authority to the FBI” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009, p. 1). The WMD Coordinator helps to fulfill this mandate by being the point of contact for local and state officials when an event involving an WMD is suspected to have occurred.

In the Mattapan scenario, the initial response by the Boston Police Department and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Police Department unveil a possible attempt to utilize an explosive to disseminate a chemical or biologic material in a public place. As soon as this plot is uncovered, an emergency response plan should be initiated, which involves notifying the Boston FBI field office of the suspected WMD event. The WMD Coordinator of the Boston field office would be the person receiving this notification. The Massachusetts State Police would also be notified to respond as they are able to provide their own subject matter experts and resources.

As a WMD subject matter expert, once notified of the circumstances, according to the FBI (2007), the WMD Coordinator responds to the scene and assists local and state law enforcement in determining the threat. Once it is established that an WMD is involved, whether by direct investigation at the scene or based on reports from law enforcement, the WMD Coordinator would immediately notify the WMD Directorate at FBI Headquarters. This notification would activate a team of WMD experts who would participate in a conference call with the WMD Coordinator to further identify the threat and, also, identify the additional federal resources needed to respond to the event. The additional resources could be individual experts, federal response teams from other departments or bureaus (e.g. the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives), or the special teams of the FBI, including the Chemical and Biological Sciences unit (to identify the particular payload material), photo operations personnel, an explosives team (based on the dispersal mechanism being explosives), the disaster squad (to identify any potential victims), and the national level Hazardous Material Response Unit and the local Hazardous Material Response Team to collect evidence from the scene. The WMD Coordinator would, then, be responsible for leading the investigation.

The WMD Coordinator would most likely fulfill his role within the unified incident command structure as Law Enforcement Command. This position would allow him or her to delegate the responsibilities of the response, including the need to provide information to the public. Public Information Officers provide a critical role in major response efforts. They provide enough information to the public to allay any unfounded fears, provide direction and instructions when needed, and filter sensitive information so that it does not become public knowledge. It is important for the public to be apprised of the situation in a calm and authoritative manner to assure them that everything necessary is being done. It is also important for the public to understand the risks of the situation in a realistic manner to prevent a mass overreaction.

The WMD Coordinator position is a valuable tool of the FBI and the federal government. Though the value of this position has been criticized for the lack of readiness and training, preparations are being undertaken to ensure a quality approach to responding to WMD events in the future (McDonald, 2009; U.S. Department of Justice, 2009).


Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2007, March 5). WMD threats: How we respond. Retrieved from http://www2.fbi.gov/page2/march07/wmd030507.htm

McDonald, J. (2009, October 8). FBI WMD Coordinator program needs improvement [Web log]. The OC Sheriff Blog. Retrieved from http://blog.ocsd.org/post/2009/10/08/Audit-of-FBI-Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction-Coordinator-Program-Recommends-Improvements.aspx

U.S. Department of Justice. (2009, September). The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Weapons Of Mass Destruction Coordinator program (Audit Report #09-36). Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/FBI/a0936.pdf

The Role of Federal Law Enforcement

The role of federal law enforcement has changed with the inception of the National Response Framework (NRF; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008). In the past, according to the obsolete National Response Plan (NRP; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2004), the effort of the federal government was to support local efforts and only take charge if necessary or requested to do so by the responsible jurisdiction. The NRF furthers this goal. However, according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice (2010) report, federal law enforcement is ill-prepared to provide a robust and organized response to an act of terrorism on U.S. soil, save for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

For instance, assume that a small group of terrorists detonate a bomb, otherwise known as a ‘suitcase bomb’, designed to shower radiologic material over an area approximately 9 city blocks in downtown Los Angeles. What chain reaction, in regards to a law enforcement response, would this event trigger?

First, calls to 9-1-1 reporting a large explosion would trigger a local response by both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, along with other emergency services. As local assets begin arriving, hopefully they determine the large and possibly catastrophic nature of the event and advise their communications center to make the appropriate notifications. These notifications would be contingent on the preplanned incident action plans of each agency, which would, hopefully, open emergency operations centers (EOCs) for the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, and the State of California. These EOCs would be responsible for making further notifications and coordinating the response with mutual aid agencies as well as state and federal assets. Common to most all preplans in the event of a suspected terrorist attack is the notification to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is responsible, according to the Department of Justice (2010) report and the NRF, for coordinating all law enforcement and investigative activities of federal agencies (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008).

A suitcase bomb is significant as it involves the spread of radiological materials that are harmful to humans. According to the Department of Justice (2010) report, the only federal law enforcement agency prepared to deal with such an event is the FBI. Thus, the FBI would be expected to offer expertise and specialized teams to the Los Angeles Police Department in a cooperative effort to begin law enforcement and investigative procedures as soon as possible.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2004). National response plan. Retrieved from http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/nrp/nrp.pdf

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2008). National response framework. Retrieved from http://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/nrf/nrf-core.pdf

U.S. Department of Justice. (2010, May). Review of the department’s preparation to respond to a WMD incident (OIG Report# I-2010-004). Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/plus/e1004.pdf

The Need for Multi-Agency Coordination

Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, typically choose targets that have value in societies or philosophies that they oppose (LaFree, Yang, & Crenshaw, 2009). For instance, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (n.d.), al Qaeda, under the leadership of Usama bin Laden, had their sights on the World Trade Center, a symbol of global capitalism, for many years. Another example, involving domestic terrorism, is the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier. This target was chosen as a representation of the federal government, which McVeigh and Nichols despised, citing the incident involving federal agents in Waco, Texas, two years earlier.

Considering local community events that might be of significant interest to terrorists as potential targets, the Bristol Fourth of July Parade comes to mind. The parade is a major component of the oldest celebration of our nation’s independence and is attended by over 200,000 people each year (Fox Providence, 2011). The parade is symbolic and casualties could number in the thousands, depending on the tactics and strategies used.

There is limited egress from the Town of Bristol (see figure 1). Hope Street and Metacom Avenue are the only two roads that provide a route in and out of the town. Both lead to the Town of Warren to the north, and Hope Street converges with Metacom Avenue just before exiting the town by way of the two-lane Mount Hope Bridge to the south. Both roads are heavily trafficked during the parade inhibiting both evacuation and emergency response.

In the event that a significant terrorist act was to occur at this parade, the initial law enforcement response would be limited to those officers already on site. These officers, operating under the auspices of the Bristol Police Department would be primarily Bristol police officers with a small contingent of off-duty officers from neighboring jurisdictions. There is usually a small contingent of Rhode Island State Police troopers present. These officers would be on their own for a length of time, some of them probably affected by the attack.

Secondary responders would include both Rhode Island and Massachusetts State Police, along with mutual aid officers from approximately 10 to 15 neighboring communities; however, as people flee the initial attack, a secondary attack could create further confusion and increase the likelihood of severe traffic jams at all three evacuation points further inhibiting a timely response. Once the degree and scope of the incident is ascertained and the access difficulties are identified, it would make sense for a contingent of law enforcement to board helicopters and boats out of Providence and cross Narragansett Bay. Once on land, these officers (most likely consisting of U.S. Coast Guard, Providence Police, U.S. Border Patrol, and other federal law enforcement entities housed in Providence, RI) would rely on alternative means (walking, bicycles, ATVs, et al.) to reach the scene.

Colt State Park, to the southwest, would make a viable forward area command, allowing access for all types of vehicles, including single-engine fixed-wing aircraft. There is also an added benefit of a strong sea breeze to help direct any plume away from this forward area command post.

I have to consider that the law enforcement entities, along with the local emergency management authorities, have a working disaster plan in place for the Bristol Fourth of July parade; however, the plan must detail the fact that all resources would be overcome due to the scope and severity of such an incident; therefore, contingencies, such as stand-by assets, must be established and ready to respond by alternative means in the event that a catastrophic event were to occur, whether criminal or accidental in nature.


Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Famous cases & criminals. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/

Fox Providence. (2011, July 5). Inbox: Fourth of July festivities. Retrieved from http://www.foxprovidence.com/dpp/rhode_show/inbox-fourth-of-july-festivities

LaFree, G., Yang, S., & Crenshaw, M. (2009). Trajectories of terrorism: Attack patterns of foreign groups that have targeted the United States, 1970-2004. Criminology & Public Policy, 8(3), 445-473. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00570.x

Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. (2008). State of Rhode Island hurricane evacuation routes: Town of Bristol [Map]. Retrieved from http://www.riema.ri.gov/preparedness/evacuation/Hevac_Bristol.pdf

Figure 1.

Bristol RI Evacuation Route
“State of Rhode Island hurricane evacuation routes: Town of Bristol” (Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, 2008).

Expansion of Law Enforcement Post-9/11

Prior to 1993, federal law enforcement agencies, specifically the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), felt more than adequate in investigating and preventing terrorism on U.S. soil (Smith & Hung, 2010). On September 11, 2001, as has been done on numerous emergent occassions, the U.S. government all but suspended Article III, Sec. 2 and Amendments II, IV, V, VI, IX, X, XIII, XIV of the U.S. Constitution in the name of protecting liberty; a premise I find sadly ironic.

According to an article by Abramson and Godoy (2006), the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) promotes intelligence sharing among the intelligence community, utilization of technological tools to combat tech-savvy terrorists, allows easier access to the business records of suspected terror supporters, allows search warrants to be affected without undermining other concomitant investigations, and allows wiretaps to be dynamic in order to follow the target suspect more easily. Detractors of the USA PATRIOT Act, however, argue that these measures undermine certain liberties that Americans are right to enjoy. These detractors warn of information cataloging that could lead to massive data stores of private information of regular citizens, unwarranted investigations, searches, and seizures of casual contacts of someone under investigation, and general use of “sneak and peek” warrants for the investigation of petty crimes.

One particular part of the USA PATRIOT Act, the usage of letters of national security that demand secrecy of government involvement from the recipient, was struck down by a federal judge based on Constitutional freedom of speech issues (Liptak, 2007). This is no surprise. Passing 357 to 66 in the House of Representatives and 98 to 1 in the Senate just six weeks after 9/11 and with little debate, this knee-jerk legislation was destined for failure, at least where public relations is concerned (Weigel, 2005).

The USA PATRIOT Act (2001) grants immeasurable power to law enforcement to investigate and prevent terrorism, this is a good thing; however, most of the provisions seem to fail whenever exercised against a U.S. citizen or lawful resident (Weigel, 2005). We need to rethink our approach to terrorism and ask the question of ourselves: is our safety worth every ounce of our liberty?


Abramson, L. & Godoy, M. (2006, February). The Patriot Act: Key controversies. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/news/specials/patriotact/patriotactprovisions.html

Liptak, A. (2007, September 7). Judge voids F.B.I. tool granted by Patriot Act. The New York Times, pp. A18. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Smith, C. S. & Hung, L. (2010). The Patriot Act: issues and controversies. Springfield, IL: Thomas Books.

USA PATRIOT Act. P. L. 107-56 Stat. 115 Stat. 272. (2001).

Weigel, D. (2005, November). When patriots dissent. Reason, 37(6). Retrieved from http://www.reason.com/news/show/33167.html

Using the U.S. Patriot Act to Fight Terrorism

Many of the fundamental tenets of a free American society are founded on the basis of liberty. Americans enjoy liberty, but I surmise that many are unfamiliar with term. We as Americans can enjoy certain freedoms because of liberty. Liberty describes the condition of man to be able to govern him- or herself with regard only to the consequences of actions and decisions, the responsibility of liberty. Merriam-Webster (2011) defines liberty as “freedom from arbitrary or despotic control, the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges, and the power of choice” (para. 1). Using liberty as a foundational political philosophy, our forefathers prescribed our abilities as citizens in our freedom.

Faced with horrible, vicious, and unfamiliar terror, our society became frightened and called on our lawmakers to ease this fear. Without a full understanding of that which we were facing, the knee-jerk reaction that is the USA PATRIOT Act (2001) was signed into law. The unfortunate reality is that this law violates almost every libertarian prescription codified in the U.S. Constitution and those of the many states. No longer are we, as citizens, free to travel interstate by a common means of the day (air travel) without undue and warrantless searches and seizures. No longer can an American citizen be knowingly free to have private phone conversations without the fear of wiretaps, save for those that are reviewed by a judge to be warranted.

It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of . . . those liberties . . . which make[s] the defense of the Nation worthwhile” (U.S. v. Robel, 1967, pp. 258, 264). (as cited in Strossen, 2004, p. 368)

America is resilient because of the liberties enjoyed by every citizen. Legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT ACT (2001), undermines these liberties and creates a weaker nation as the focus turns towards government for the protection of the individual instead of the individual protecting the government as it has been since America’s inception. Focusing more on our freedoms and liberties while restating the need for each citizen to take an active role in their personal security and that of their community would go much farther than any knee-jerk legislation could ever hope to. I agree with Strossen (2004) that the USA PATRIOT Act is unnecessary, overreaching, and counterproductive the security of our free State.


Liberty. (2011). The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberty

Strossen, N. (2004). Terrorism’s toll on civil liberties. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 9(3), 365–377. doi:10.1300/J146v09n03_07

USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (2001).

Hacking Cyberterrorism

Although not particular to cyberterrorism, for this discussion I have chosen hacking as a type, or means, of cyberterrorism. Hacking covers virus loading and denial of service attacks, also. In order to carry out a cyberterrorism attack, it must be based on some sort of hacking. First, however, we must agree on the definitions of hacking and cyberterrorism. US Legal, a website dedicated to providing legal reference, broadly defines hacking as “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access” (Computer hacking law & legal definition, n.d., para 1). Cyberterrorism is, according to Denning (2006):

…[H]ighly damaging computer-based attacks or threats of attack by non-state actors against information systems when conducted to intimidate or coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are political or social. It is the convergence of terrorism with cyberspace, where cyberspace becomes the means of conducting the terrorist act. Rather than committing acts of violence against persons or physical property, the cyberterrorist commits acts of destruction or disruption against digital property. (p. 124)

Arguably, in order to use a computer system to do any of the above, it involves hacking, but without hacking, there can be no cyber- component to cyberterrorism, which leaves mere terrorism. Fortunately, using these definitions, there has never been a cyberterrorism attack ever in history (Brunst, 2008; Conway, 2011). Brunst (2008) goes further using the term terrorism to include the planning (and, even pre-planning) phases of an event. I disagree with this tact in scholarship. Brunst fails to provide the distinction between cybercrime and cyberterrorism. Thinking simply, having a Facebook account in order for ease of communication does not amount to meeting for coffee. Messaging a friend on Facebook and organizing a meeting does not constitute meeting for coffee. The act of two or more persons meeting for coffee is a conventional one, however it was planned. This is the same with terrorism. I argue that, although much planning and radicalization can occur using computer networking (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, general information websites, et al.), any terroristic act that stems from such organization would still be considered conventional terrorism unless the act, itself, is described as being technological in nature (Conway, 2011).

There is potential for a cyber-attack to generate fear, economic impact, and the loss of life. This is why we concentrate on security measures to ensure difficulty in accessing systems without proper credentialing, rapid identification and response to active intrusions and threats, and recovery techniques to identify and repair data, networks, and nodes that were involved. For this reason, networks are designed with human redundancy. Human redundancy, as Clarke (2005) explains, integrates human decision points within a technological operational structure in order to detect, indicate, explain, and correct an error. Additionally, infrastructure, a commonly regarded target by the experts, tends to be resilient by its own nature making cyber-attacks inefficient and ineffectual (Conway, 2011; Lewis, 2002; Wilson, 2005)


Brunst, P. W. (2008). Use of the internet by terrorists: A threat analysis. Responses to Cyber Terrorism, 34(1), 34–60.

Clarke, D. M. (2005). Human redundancy in complex, hazardous systems: A theoretical framework. Safety Science, 43(9), 655-677. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2005.05.003

Computer hacking law & legal definition. (n.d.). US Legal. Retrieved from http://definitions.uslegal.com/c/computer-hacking/

Conway, M. (2011). Against cyberterrorism: Why cyber-based terrorist attacks are unlikely to occur. Communications of the ACM, 54(2), 26-28. doi:10.1145/1897816.1897829

Denning, D. (2006). A view of cyberterrorism five years later. In K. E. Himma (Ed.), Internet security: hacking, counterhacking, and society (pp. 123-139). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Lewis, J. A. (2002, December). Assessing the risks of cyber terrorism, cyber war and other cyber threats. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from http://www.steptoe.com/publications/231a.pdf

Wilson, C. (2005, April 1). Computer attack and cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and policy issues for Congress (CRS Congressional report No. RL32114). Retrieved from http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA444799&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

Cyberterrorism vs. WMD

Perhaps in an Orwellian society where computers are independant and there is very little human-to-computer interaction could a cyberterrorist cause such an impact as to be equal with a weapon of mass destruction. This is not true, however, regarding the technology of today. According to James Lewis (2002) from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “cyber attacks are less effective and less disruptive than physical attacks. Their only advantage is that they are cheaper and easier to carry out than a physical attack” (p. 2). Studies of the implementation of efforts to reduce the effectiveness of infrastructure during war show a resiliency that is poorly respected. Redundant systems in conjunction with a focused human response provides mitigation to reduce the impact of disruptive efforts on infrastructure (Wilson, 2005). It seems the more important the system, the larger and focalized the response.

The northeast blackout of 2003 provides a decent case study, although the cause was a systems failure and not related to terrorism. According to the article by Minkle (2008), within an hour and a half, 50-million subscribers lost power in eight states and parts of Canada for a few days, yet it only contributed to about 11 deaths within the affected area. While the impact was significant, geographically, it was more or less a nuisance for most people.


Lewis, J. A. (2002, December). Assessing the risks of cyber terrorism, cyber war and other cyber threats. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from http://www.steptoe.com/publications/231a.pdf

Minkle, J. R. (2008, August 13). The 2003 northeast blackout — five years later. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/

Wilson, C. (2005, April 1). Computer attack and cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and policy issues for Congress (CRS Congressional report No. RL32114). Retrieved from http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA444799&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

Bioweapons of Mass Destruction: Actual Use or Hoax

Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) provide an alternative impact when compared to conventional weapons (e.g. artillery, firearms, blades and knives, batons, et al.). WMDs can be chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) in nature attacking the human body in manners not typical of conventional weapons (Cameron, Pate, McCauley, & DeFazio, 2000). WMDs can, therefore, have devastating effects on the preparedness of the health care system (Macintyre et al., 2000; Subbarao, Bond, Johnson, Hsu, & Wasser, 2006).

Considering an attack such as a mass contamination of the money supply, there are two possibilities: actual contamination and hoax contamination. In actual contamination, the epidemiology of illness will correspond with the travel of contaminated bills, reaching long distances in short periods of time (as evidenced by the website http://www.wheresgeorge.com). As the contaminated money travels from one consumer to the next (possibly also infecting adjacent bills, wallets, counter-tops, and register drawers), it will do so undetected until the incubation period lapses and the first wave of infected people begin presenting to health care facilities for treatment (presumably, with a difficult diagnosis – an uncommon pathogen). These people should be geographically dispersed so that identification of the terrorist act is yet to be made. Not until epidemiologists track the vector to the money supply will the threat be discovered. Once this occurs, the populace will be suspicious of money, causing an entirely different catastrophe, but the fear will be real.

On the other hand, if the attack is a hoax, there will be no incubation period or actual illness, yet psychogenic effects will be almost immediate, causing many people to seek medical care at once overburdening the health care system (MacIntyre et al., 2000). Arguably, this type of attack will be short-lived; however, the effects can be disastrous.

Regardless of the type of attack, whether actual or hoax, there will be a large, resource-intensive response from national, state, and local levels of government and the private sector (Walsh et al., 2012). This would place a strain on response resources and other infrastructure, such as health care as previously mentioned. In both instances, though, lives could be lost, also. With the real attack, many people could die from the disease, but if resources are taken away from other sick patients, they are at risk of dying also. This holds true for hoax attacks. As many healthy people flood emergency rooms with mysteriously fleeting symptoms, truly sick patients are not being managed efficiently and are put at serious risk.

Though the example attack might not be feasible for one reason or another, it is interesting to think of the many ways in which we as a nation are vulnerable. This leads to the question of how much we value our freedom vs. how many freedoms are we willing to give up in order to feel safe. I have decided that I value my freedom, the freedom that most foreign terrorists despise, so much that I am not willing to part with it to any extent. So long as we live free and without fear, the terrorists cannot win.


Cameron, G., Pate, J., McCauley, D., & DeFazio, L. (2000). 1999 WMD terrorism chronology: Incidents involving sub-national actors and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials. The Nonproliferation Review, 157-174. Retrieved from https://www.piersystem.com/clients/PIERdemo/ACF1D7.pdf

MacIntyre, A. G., Christopher, G. W., Eitzen, E., Gum, R., Weir, S., DeAtley, C., … Barbera, J. A. (2000). Weapons of mass destruction events with contaminated casualties: Effective planning for health care facilities. Journal of the American Medical Association, 283(2), 242-249. doi:10.1001/jama.283.2.242

Subbarao, I., Bond, W. F., Johnson, C., Hsu, E. B., & Wasser, T. E. (2006). Using innovative simulation modalities for civilian-based, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive training in the acute management of terrorist victims: a pilot study. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 21(4), 272-275. Retrieved from http://www.hopkins-cepar.org/downloads/publications/using_sim_modalities.pdf

Walsh, D. W., Christen, H. T., Callsen, C. E., Miller, G. T., Maniscalco, P. M., Lord, G. C., & Dolan, N. J. (2012). National Incident Management System: principles and practice (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.