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Chemical/Biological Terrorism: Coping with a New Threat

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2016

Jonathan B. Tucker
Monterey Institute of International Studies, USA


In March 1995, Japanese terrorists released nerve gas on the Tokyo subway, causing eleven deaths and more than 5,000 injuries. Although terrorists have sought to acquire chemical/biological (C/B) agents in the past, and a few have employed them on a small scale, the Tokyo attack was the first large-scale terrorist use of a lethal chemical agent against unarmed civilians, weakening a long-standing psychological taboo. This tragic incident has therefore drawn worldwide attention to the emerging threat of chemical/biological terrorism. Despite significant technical hurdles associated with the production and delivery of C/B agents, such weapons are within the reach of terrorist groups that possess the necessary scientific know-how and financial resources. This article proposes a C/B counterterrorism strategy based on preemption and civil defense, and recommends several short-term and longer-term policy options for mitigating this emerging threat.

Roundtable Article
Copyright © Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 


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