was just another Mondayor so it seemed.
On January 8, we were sent scrambling by two
scares 1,700 miles apart.
Austin, Texas, dozens of birds fell dead on
the streets, causing the city to close its
downtown. At the same time, thousands of New
Yorkers were gagging on an unidentified smell.
attacks in progress? No, it turned out.
But the FBI responded immediately, just in
it's our standard operating procedure:
to be on the scene anywhere and anytime we
suspect the use of a weapon of mass destruction,
or WMDwhich includes biological, chemical,
and radiological agents; nuclear devices;
and conventional explosives above a certain
we get something unusual on the radar, we
immediately jump on it to determine whether
it's WMD and possibly linked to terrorism,"
says Special Agent Michael F. Varacalli, chief
of our Weapons of Mass Destruction Operations
Unit. "Constant vigilance is key."
what happens when we get word that something
is amisslike in Austin and New York?
First, our local WMD coordinator (there's
one in each of our 56 field offices) works
with authorities to quickly find out what's
going on. These coordinators, by the way,
have built close relationships with local,
state, and other officials to make sure the
FBI is "in the loop" when something
odd is reported.
The coordinator alerts the new WMD
Directorate at FBI Headquarters about the
possibility of a WMD event.
Then, a conference call is set up between
the local coordinator and our WMD experts
at Headquarters to evaluate the event. The
call lets our experts get telling details
from the local WMD coordinator about the scene.
What does the coordinator see? Hear? Smell?
Other federal and local agencies also
take part in the conference call as necessary
to coordinate the response and offer insight.
The team of experts then determines
what additional FBI resourcesif anyshould
key for us is that conference call,"
Varacalli says. "We can cover any WMD
issue we need to quickly and thoroughly."
the threat is deemed serious, the following
resources may then be tapped:
not just sitting back waiting for the bell
to ringwe're constantly working here
and nationwide to make sure a WMD attack never
gets off the ground," said Jeffrey S.
Muller, chief of our WMD Countermeasures Unit.
"But if something does happen, we're
the months ahead we'll talk about how we work
to prevent WMD attacks from ever happening.
Directorate | FBI