Harvard report: al-Qaeda WMD threat a reality

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By Joshua Wilwohl / josh@theklaxon.com / 01.26.2010

Updated on: 01.25.10 at 11:38 pm

President Barack Obama said in November 2009, “The single most important national security threat we face is nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.”

A January report by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and director of intelligence and counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy, emphasizes Obama’s statement.

The Harvard University Kennedy School report reveals “…al-Qaeda’s top leadership has demonstrated a sustained commitment to buy, steal or construct WMD.”

“In 1998, Osama bin Laden declared that ‘acquiring WMD for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty,’ ” according to the report.

Since then, the pursuit of acquiring WMD capability and partnering or attempting to over-throw regimes who possess the technology has been a major focus of al-Qaeda.

In 2007, bin Laden said in a statement, “Escalate the killing and fighting against you (Americans). The capitalist system seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations under the label of globalization in order to protect democracy.”

Mowatt-Larssen’s report said such “…statements should not be interpreted as empty rhetoric and idle threats: Osama bin Laden has signaled a specific purpose for using WMD in al-Qaeda’s quest to destroy the global status quo.  The purpose is to create conditions more conducive to the overthrow of apostate regimes throughout the Islamic world.”

Bin Laden released an audio tape Jan. 24 that signals another message to the U.S., “…that America will never dream of living in peace unless we live it in Palestine. It is unfair that you enjoy a safe life while our brothers in Gaza suffer greatly.”

These hardly are idle threats and should not be considered as such.

Some might question the timeline of terror attacks in the U.S.—as the study traces from 1988 to 2003.

However, it must be noted that terrorists are incredibly patient—waiting years to plan an attack.

“If Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants had been interested in employing crude chemical, biological and radiological materials in small scale attacks, there is little doubt they could have done so by now,” according to Mowatt-Larssen. “However, events have shown that the al-Qaeda leadership does not choose weapons based on how easy they are to acquire and use, be they conventional or unconventional weapons. They choose them based on the best means of destroying the specific targets that they have in mind.

Granted, Mowatt-Larssen also makes note that some terror groups do use the threat of a WMD as a “…mere saber rattling in an increasingly desperate bid to remain relevant, to frighten their enemies, and to rally their followers.”

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