assess that he lacks the expertise or facilities even to begin making a nuclear weapon,but he might seek to make a radiological device.
[JIC, 25 November 1998]
Seven months later, in June 1999, the JIC had received more intelligence, and re- assessed the threat from Usama bin Laden’s organisation accordingly:
Most of UBL’s planned attacks would use conventional terrorist weapons. But he continues to seek chemical,biological,radiological and nuclear materi al and to develop a capability for its terrorist use. There is insufficient evidence to conclude that he has yet acquired radiological or nuclear material. In contrast,we now assess that his followers have access to some unspecified chemical or biological material. Some have received basic training in its use against individuals or in confined spaces.
In April a leading Egyptian terrorist,apparently believing the informat ion was already known to the authorities,told an Egyptian court that UBL had CB ‘weapons’ w hich he would use against US or Israeli targets.
[JIC, 9 June 1999]
Intelligence reports of bin Laden’s associates falling for nuclear materiel frauds suggested, however, that they were not well advised on nuclear matters.
A month later, in July 1999, the JIC explained an important change in one of the major assumptions underpinning its previous assessments – some terrorists were no longer reluctant to cause mass casualties, for example some Islamist extremist terrorists and Aum Shinrikyo:
Over the 1990s there has been a significant increase in the quantity and quality of intelligence that some terrorists are interested in CBRN – and particularly in chemical and biological – materials as weapons. The risk of a CBRN terrorist incident has risen,albeit from a low base. In part this increase reflects the rise of Isla mic extremism and ethnic hatred as terrorist motivations: some of the terrorists thus motivated are less constrained by considerations such as public support, casualties among innocent bystanders,or the prospect of retaliation. It may also refl ect the increasing availability of information about making and using CB materials,and the
publicity attracted by major incidents and hoaxes. Whether the attacker’s aim
political or economic blackmail,or severe disruption,society’s vulner terrorist attack from CB or radiological materials is high,exacerbated b y a tried and tested CB counter-terrorist response in some countries.
ability the lack
is to of
[JIC, 15 July 1999]
In the same assessment, the JIC made its own judgement, in the absence of specific intelligence, that Usama bin Laden had after several years been successful in acquiring non-conventional weapons. That judgement was later shown to be correct:
There have been important developments in [Islamist extremist] terrorism. It has become clear that Usama Bin Laden has been seeking CBRN materials . . . His wealth permits him to fund procurement,training and experimentation to a n extent