Two national security experts said in a Wednesday analysis on the CNN website that information collected since Sept. 11, 2011, suggests that home-grown U.S. militants pose a greater threat to acquire and use WMD materials than foreign terrorists (see GSN, June 22).
"After 9/11, there was great concern that al-Qaida or an allied group would launch a terrorist attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons. But in the past decade, there is no evidence that jihadist extremists in the United States have acquired or attempted to acquire material to construct CBRN weapons," according to Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland, both of the Washington-based New America Foundation.
"By contrast, 11 right-wing and left-wing extremists have managed to acquire CBRN material that they planned to use against the public, government employees or both," they added in the piece that cited figures from database established by their organization.
Those figures do not account for a late 2011 case in which four Georgia militia members -- three of them senior citizens -- allegedly planned to manufacture ricin toxin as part of a plot against the government.
A table posted on the organization's website lists 15 identified individuals and one unknown person -- all cited as "non-jihadist" who have obtained or sought to acquire anthrax, ricin, cyanide or the nerve agent sarin. The most famous case is that of Bruce Ivins, the military researcher identified by the Justice Department as the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks (see GSN, Oct. 17, 2011).
The analysis was posted in the wake of a Sunday incident in which a man connected to the U.S. white supremacist movement killed six Sikhs in Wisconsin before reportedly fatally shooting himself during a confrontation with police.
"Right-wing extremist individuals over the past decade in the United States were as likely to use violence as a means to express their political or social beliefs as those motivated by Osama bin Laden's ideology," according to Bergen and Rowland. "Even more worryingly, during the same time period, right-wing and left-wing extremist groups and individuals have been far more likely to acquire toxins and to assemble the makings of radiological weapons than al-Qaida sympathizers" (Bergen/Rowland, CNN, Aug. 7).
Two national security experts said in a Wednesday analysis on the CNN website that information collected since Sept. 11, 2011, suggests that home-grown U.S. militants pose a greater threat to acquire and use WMD materials than foreign terrorists.