It’s Your Call
a serious issue: chemical, biological, and
we call weapons of mass destruction or WMD—being
used to attack the U.S.
The threat is real. The
anthrax attacks of 2001 killed five Americans
and terrorized the nation. And al Qaeda has
openly pursued WMD and would likely use any
weapons they build or buy against our nation.
Our top priority, as with all forms of terrorism,
is prevention: making sure such WMD attacks
never get off the ground. But how do we protect
a country as large as ours with just 13,000
agents and many other investigative responsibilities?
One important answer, in addition
to our national and international investigative
and intelligence work: through
outreach and education.
“We obviously don’t have the
resources to be everywhere,” says Special
Agent Jeffrey S. Muller, chief of our WMD
Countermeasures unit. “With our outreach
programs and the partnerships we’ve
developed over the years, we don’t have
Muller’s unit—part of our new
Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate—focuses
on preventing agro-terrorism, bio-terrorism,
chemical terrorism, and the use of nuclear
and radiological weapons. Much of its work
involves teaching companies and others what
they need to know to help prevent WMD attacks.
That outreach takes place largely at the
local level: each of our 56 field offices
has a WMD coordinator who has built relationships
across government and private industry. We
also attend national conferences, association
meetings, and trade shows for different manufacturing
and trade groups to explain our role in preventing
terrorist attacks and how organizations can
help. And we send our agents to universities
to make students and faculty aware of how
they are possible targets for attack and potential
recruiting and training sites for terrorists.
What specific kinds of information
do we offer? One example: a vulnerability
assessment for at risk businesses and organizations
(such as chemical plants) to point out potential
security weak spots and suspicious warning
A few questions we might ask to
see if you’re being targeted for attack
or for the theft/purchase of raw materials
that could be used for WMD:
- Are you getting phone calls asking about
your use of security guards, your operating
hours, and your total number of employees?
- Have you any gotten bomb threats lately
(they could be security probes)?
- Is someone taking pictures of your facilities?
Watching with binoculars? Taking notes?
- Are people fishing around for information
about your products but can’t explain
what they’re going to use them for?
- Are potential customers unaware of basic
safe handling practices for dangerous materials
and willing to pay cash for large orders?
- Do customers want delivery to a non-operating
facility or other suspicious location?
In the business of prevention, relationships
are invaluable. “What I’d
say to you is this: if you’re in a
sensitive industry and haven’t been
contacted already, please reach out to your
ask for the WMD coordinator, and get a relationship
in place,” says Muller. “The
worst time to make that first phone call
is when something bad has already happened.”