A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Research identifies most likely non-state chem-bio threats

Jihadists predominate, but other actors also featured as top threats

Among violent non-state actors, the threat of chemical or biological (CB) weapons pursuit and use lies heavily with violent jihadists of all stripes, according to a new START Research Brief. Jihadist actors occupied seven of the top 10 spots in a qualitative analysis; Nine of the top 10 in a quantitative analysis, and half of the top 10 in an elicitation analysis.

“The possibility that violent non-state actors, including terrorists and criminals, might employ chemical or biological weapons has understandably attracted much attention in both policy and government circles,” said Gary Ackerman, Director of Special Projects at START. “This is primarily a result of credible evidence of terrorist interest in these weapons and demonstrated terrorist willingness and capability, albeit thus far via conventional means, to inflict mass casualties.”

The project, Anatomizing Chemical and Biological Non-State Adversaries, aims to improve understanding of, and more effectively identify, perpetrators and potential perpetrators of attacks employing CB agents.

The goal of the project is to enhance the capability of defense practitioners to protect the United States by including more detailed specifications of the threat component in risk assessment calculations, in addition to the already well-developed vulnerability and consequence elements.

Although the project’s focus was on ideologically motivated violence, the research also provides some insight into criminal use of CB materials, which can significantly impact public security.

The project is led by START Investigators Gary Ackerman, Victor Asal and Amanda White.

Read the Research Brief.