By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor
If you try to forecast the future of terrorism in the next seven years--as catastrophe modeler Risk Management Solutions Inc. does in its pieces in this issue--you might see that the likelihood that terrorists will carry out a plot to use weapons of mass destruction--chemical biological radioactive or nuclear, or CBRN, in today's parlance--is increasing "daily," according to noted terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University Bruce Hoffman, who spoke at the annual terrorism risk seminar put on by RMS in New York City.
"I don't think the good news trumps the bad news," Hoffman said, regarding CBRN.
First, the good news. The best of it is that the capabilities for CRBN use don't appear to be there yet, even for sophisticated groups like al-Qaida. Nuclear weapons are even farther off--"day dreams" as Hoffman put it. Counterintelligence and terrorism experts have also detected less "chatter" about CBRN among terrorists and terrorist wannabes. What's more, terrorists see Afghanistan as the preferred battleground to attack the West and the United States.
The bad news? Jihadis are still attracted to CBRN weapons because they could act as a "force multiplier," meaning their use by one man could have the similar effect of an army's efforts. And jihadis have the religious justification to use such weapons, according to Hoffman, because of past edicts by radical imams. And as for that chatter, a majority of what there is of it is focused on chemical attacks, which would be the easiest to perpetrate. Think a "terrorist Bhopal," said Hoffman.
In the 2009 terrorism outlook from RMS, the modelers also have figured on an increased risk of CBRN attacks, with an eye on similar chemical attacks as the chlorine bombings that had occurred in Iraq in early 2007.
But if it makes you feel any better, terrorists also abide by a certain "econometric" trend whereby cheaper is better, according to Andrew Coburn, vice president of catastrophe research and director of terrorism research at RMS.
"They have learned to do much more with a one-ton bomb," he said, rather than using, say, using more and more "monster" truck bombs.
Another consolation to the property and workers' comp insurers and their policyholders in major American cities? RMS holds the position that the federal safety net that would kick in with cash for the insurance industry in the event of a major attack already includes CBRN. After all, it would take such a devastating attack just to trigger TRIPRA.
?By Matthew Brodsky
September 15, 2008
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