Cbrne Event and Response Term Paper

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CBRNE Event and Response

Over the last several years, the safety of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive related weapons (CBRNE) has been increasingly brought to the forefront. Part of the reason for this, is because downfall of the Soviet Union has meant that acquiring these materials from failed states have increased exponentially. As, the stockpiles in many of these areas have questionable security procedures that are allowing terrorist and other rogue organizations to have access to these materials. (Prosser, 2011)

At the same time, the total amount of countries that are possessing these materials have increased dramatically. As different nations, are using these weapons to protect against possible military attacks or internal insurrection. In a number of cases, the majority of states that possess CBRNE's are more than likely considered to: have questionable human rights records or they may not have signed different international provisions limiting the proliferation of these weapons. Evidence of this can be seen by looking at the below table.

Nations that currently possess CBRNE's


CBRNE Status


Possess chemical weapons


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

Great Britain

Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

United States

Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.


Possess chemical and biological weapons.


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.


Possess chemical and biological weapons.


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and working on developing nuclear weapons.


Possess chemical and biological weapons.

North Korea

Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

South Korea

Possess biological weapons.


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.


Possess chemical, biological, radiological and working on developing nuclear weapons.


Possess biological weapons.


Possess chemical and biological weapons.

("Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons at a Glance," 2011) (Prosser, 2011)

These different elements are important, because they are showing how the overall threat from a CBRNE related incidents has increased dramatically. The reason why, is the majority of these countries have questionable human rights records and they are susceptible to corruption or theft. In either case, this increases the odds that some kind of terrorist organization could be able to obtain these materials. Once this takes place, the chances increase that they will use these substances to commit some form of mass murder on a major target of opportunity.

A good example of this occurred with the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system by an extremist group of religious fanatics, who were able to obtain sarin gas. They subsequently, released these substances into the city's metro killing 8 people. This is significant, because it is showing how CBRNE related materials can be used by small groups (such as terrorists) to kill large numbers of people and create chaos. To fully understand the significance of this event requires looking at: what went right, wrong, the length of time it took to identify the event and what can be learned from this incident. Together, these different elements will provide the greatest insights as to the significance of these attacks. Once this occurs, is when we will be able to understand how the overall nature of the threat and what steps can be taken to address these issues. (Zalman, 2011)

Background on the 1995 Tokyo Subway Attacks

On March 20, 1995 the Tokyo subway system was the subject of five coordinated attacks involving sarin gas. What happened was, members of cult named Aum Shirnikyo released these chemicals during the rush commute. The way that this was accomplished was with five different teams placing these substances on three different trains in the form of water bottle. They discovered that a poisonous gas is released when there is a leak inside these containers. Once this occurred, is when the gas would completely fill the airspace inside each car (causing the largest number of casualties possible). (Zalman, 2011)

At first, authorities were unsure about who was responsible for perpetrating the attack. However, the information released by the government revealed that this cult had been planning these events for over two years. After raiding their locations throughout Japan, the police discovered that they had large amounts of substances that were capable of producing sarin gas. At the same time, they also found $7 million in cash, enough chemicals to kill 4.7 million people and a large array of documents (which provided them with enough information to create chemical / biological weapons). This is important, because it is showing how the downfall of the Soviet Union and the lack of controls inside many countries are giving these groups access to CBRNE's. Moreover, the increased amounts of available material on how to construct these weapons and conduct attacks using these substances, are illustrating how changes in technology have increased the scope of the threat. As a result, this is highlighting how in the future these kinds of incidents will become more common if steps are not taken to deal with these challenges. (Zalman, 2011)

What went right?

Despite the tragedy that occurred on the subway system, there were number of things that Japanese officials did right to include: working the evidence, corroborating with other officials and quickly responding to the incident. As far as working the evidence is concerned, the Japanese government was unsure about who committed this attack at first. The reason why, is because most people believed that this was not possible in Tokyo. As, the city was not known for being a high profile threat in comparison with other urban centers such as: New York and London. This created a false sense of security prior to the attacks. (Alfred, 2009)

However, once it became clear that this was a CBRNE incident, the police quickly moved to determine who was responsible for these attacks. Within 48 hours, law enforcement began quickly raiding all of the different properties that belonged to the cult. They found out that they had an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion and that they were involved in several legitimate religious activities. This allowed them to easily raise funds for a wide variety of purposes. (Alfred, 2009)

In 1990, the group first decided to construct a chemical weapon. As, they wanted to use it to: make a statement about current society and issues that could be affecting the cult itself. Once this occurred, it meant that the group quickly created a large factory. That was designed for the construction and testing of these weapons. This allowed them to: perfect manufacturing and refine their preferred methods of delivery. What this is showing is the ability of law enforcement, to able to quickly determine who was responsible. This led to key evidence that was obtained during the raids. Once this occurred, it prevented the cult from being able to conduct more attacks in the future by: cutting off their sources of funding, seizing their weapons and arresting the ring leaders. (Alfred, 2009)

At the same time, they discovered that the group had several different members who were scientists and technicians, with the ability to create a variety of chemical as well as biological weapons. This lead to these individuals conducting research on different kinds of CBRNE's to include: the testing / development of anthrax, botulinum, Q-fever and Ebola. After working with various compounds, they were able to create a method of delivery and begin actively searching for possible targets. Over the course of time, this would result in a number of attempted terrorist attacks throughout Japan with the group using what they had learned. Below are several of these events that took place prior to the attack on the Tokyo subway system. (Carus, 1997)

Early June 1993: Once the group had conducted tremendous amounts of research in the area of CBRNE's, they believed that they developed weapons that could cause mass casualties.

This first target was the wedding of Prince Naruihito of Japanese royal family. What they did, was to drive around in the area of downtown Tokyo where the wedding was taking place. The idea was that they could spread botulinum into the atmosphere (using an automobile attached to an air spray device). This was supposed to cause mass casualties and create panic, with the hope that the wedding party would be affected. (Carus, 1997)

Late June 1993: After realizing that the system was ineffective. The group decided to conduct another attack inside Tokyo. This time they were going to disperse anthrax into the air from a building that they owned over the course of 4 days. (Carus, 1997) However, the wind kept changing directions and the effects of the gas were negated.

In both incidents, no one was injured. However, Japanese authorities were made aware of the cult and their activities. At the time, nothing was done to prevent any kind of further actions from these individuals. This is because, there were no casualties and the activities of the cult were gaining in popularity. As a…

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