The late 2016 arrest of two California teenagers for allegedly planning a “mass casualty event” by carrying out a chemical attack at a local high school pep rally highlights how individuals can use online resources to plan crude chemical or biological attacks. Violent extremists continue to circulate often ineffective or misleading how-to instructions for producing and disseminating poisons, crude biological toxins, and toxic industrial chemicals that in many cases are commercially available and easy to obtain. While we have no indication the suspects in this case subscribed to or consumed material related to violent extremist ideologies, their activity highlights one path to conducting a potential chemical or biological attack.
(U//FOUO) DHS-FBI Bulletin: Indicators of Suspicious Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Activity
Law enforcement and first responders may encounter chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) related material or equipment at private residences, businesses, or other sites not normally associated with such activities. There are legitimate reasons for possessing such material or equipment, but in some cases their presence can indicate intent or capability to build CBR weapons, particularly when other suspicious circumstances exist.
On May 5-6, 2012, the Minneapolis-St. Paul area conducted a major test of the National Postal Model for distribution of medicine to the public in an emergency, using U.S. Postal Service assets to supplement mass dispensing sites and other strategies. The May exercise, known as Operation Medicine Delivery, was the culmination of planning efforts that began in February 2004, with a memorandum of agreement signed by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and the Postmaster General. Parties to the 2004 MOA agreed to make USPS resources available for distributing emergency medicine in response to a bioterrorist attack. A subsequent presidential executive order (December 2009) called for the development of a federal capability to distribute medical countermeasures (MCM) in response to a bioterrorist attack.
National Postal Model for the Delivery of Medical Countermeasures developed following Executive Order 13527 “Establishing Federal Capability for the Timely Provision of Medical Countermeasures Following a Biological Attack”.
(U//FOUO) DHS Identifying Clandestine Biological, Chemical, Explosives, and Methamphetamine Laboratories
The purpose of this assessment is to assist members of the law enforcement and public safety communities in differentiating among four types of clandestine laboratories: biological, chemical, explosives, and methamphetamine. It provides descriptions, distinguishing features, and hazards of each type of laboratory and includes four reference guides for distribution to public safety personnel. This assessment expands on a related product—Distinguishing a Biological Agent Production Laboratory from a Methamphetamine Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 22 January 2008—by including indicators and warning signs associated with clandestine chemical and explosives laboratories.
The Technical Support Working Group’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Countermeasures (CBRNC) Subgroup, in cooperation with law enforcement and intelligence agencies, conducts comprehensive assessments of chemical and biological materials, devices, and countermeasures. As part of their efforts, they evaluated the potential effectiveness of production methods found in the form of recipes from open-source improvised production handbooks that may be used by extremists groups. They assessed the skill level required to follow the instructions and determined the availability of the necessary equipment and ingredients.
(U//FOUO) Many innocuous reasons exist for the possession of some types of biological agents and associated laboratory equipment. For example, hobby, educational, or artistic uses such as home brewing or pilot-scale biotechnology research may include the same or similar equipment used in the malicious production of pathogens (see Figure). In some instances, however, the presence of a biological laboratory at an unconventional site could be an indicator of possible intent or capability to conduct bioterrorism.
FOUO DHS Biosecurity Infrastructure Protection Assessments and Activities Brief, August 2009.