We have examined intelligence reports and assessments on the links between terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, and the use made of that intelligence, from when it began in the early 1990s to emerge as a topic of interest to the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). For the purpose of illustrating the contribution made by intelligence to policy formulation by the Government and to actions taken on the basis of that policy, we have focussed on the scope and quality of intelligence reports and assessments on the use by terrorists and extremists of unconventional weapons, and the extent to which they were validated by subsequent discoveries in Afghanistan. To avoid prejudicing current operations, we do not cover in this Report more recent intelligence assessments or findings.
THE PERIOD UP TO 1995
In the late 1980s, the possibility that terrorist groups might seek to use unconventional weapons was considered remote. In surveys of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons proliferation in 1989, the JIC dealt briefly with the possibility that such technology might be used by terrorists:
We believe that even the most sophisticated and well-organised terrorist group is highly unlikely to be able to steal and then detonate a nuclear weapon within the foreseeable future. . . . At present the most feasible terrorist nuclear incident would probably be a credible hoax. A terrorist threat to detonate a nuclear device would be difficult to dismiss entirely in view of the increasing number of producers of fissile material in a variety of countries and the problems of accounting fully for all material produced. Terrorists might see a seemingly plausible and preferably well publicised warning of an imminent nuclear attack as potentially a very effective means of blackmailing governments.
[JIC, 3 July 1989]
We have no intelligence that any terrorist group makes CBW agents,possess es any such agents or is currently contemplating attacks using CBW agents or other toxic chemicals. The use of CBW agents by terrorists would generate widespread fear and could cause large numbers of casualties. The mere threat of such use could be sufficient to cause panic.
A terrorist would need only small quantities of CW agents. The simpler ones could in principle be made by anyone with a knowledge of A-level chemistry using readily
This section is limited to intelligence on the use by terrorists of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. The large majority of terrorist actions employ conventional armaments and explosives, and are not relevant to this Review.