unmatched by other terrorists. . . . Given the quality and quantity of intelligence about his interest in CB materials,the length of time he has sought them,an d the relative ease with which they can be made,we assess that he has by now acquir ed or made at least modest quantities of CB materials – even if their exact nature and effectiveness are unclear. The significance of his possession of CB materials is that, in contrast to other terrorists interested in CB,he wishes to target US,Br itish and other interests worldwide. There is also intelligence on training in the use of chemicals as weapons in a terrorist camp in Afghanistan,although it is not yet clear if this is under Bin Laden’s auspices. The CB threat is likely to be higher abroad than in the UK,reflecting the location of Bin Laden and his allies,the vulnerabi lity of potential targets,and the effectiveness of local security authorities. Targets may include British official sites or related facilities overseas. That said, Bin Laden’s attacks remain more likely to employ conventional weapons than CB materials.
[JIC, 15 July 1999]
However the JIC still retained its overall conclusion, that: . . . the indications of terrorist interest in CBRN materials have yet to be matched by a comparable amount of evidence about possession and intent to use CBRN. Most terrorists continue to favour conventional weapons,as easier to use,mor e reliable, safer and more controllable than CBRN materials. [JIC, 15 July 1999]
By January 2000, in an assessment of conventional threats, the JIC summarised bin Laden’s aspirations for non-conventional weapons: UBL retains his interest in obtaining chemical,biological,radiologica l and nuclear (CBRN) materials and expertise. In autumn 1999 there was intelligence that he had recruited . . . chemicals specialists . . . . Our assessment remains that UBL has some toxic chemical or biological materials,and an understanding of thei r utility as terrorist weapons. But we have yet to see hard intelligence that he possesses genuine nuclear material.
[JIC, 12 January 2000]
By August 2000, the JIC was clear that, although there were other Islamist extremist groups5 with an interest in non-conventional weapons, Usama bin Laden posed the most severe threat:
Some [Islamist extremist groups] are interested in exploring the use of chemical or biological materials as weapons. In the forefront is UBL . . .
[JIC, 9 August 2000]
In January 2001, the JIC reported at length on the terrorist threat from unconventional weapons and emphasised the unique nature of the threat from Usama bin Laden:
The JIC was a year later to comment that the word ‘groups’ can be misleading in the context of Islamist extremist terrorists. “There are established groups in different countries,usually working to a national agenda,but the networks associated with UBL are changeable ad hoc groupings of individuals who share his agenda,and who may come together only for a particular operation. Nevertheless,‘groups’ is used as a short form for want of another available term.”