Counterterrorism Leadership Changes, Chemical Attacks on Public Transport

Topics in this issue of CBRNE Particles include the need for DHS acquisition systems updates, building downtowns safe from vehicle attacks, and the persistence of the radioactive bogeyman.

In This Article


Top US Counterterrorism Chief Stepping Down at End of Year

The top U.S. counterterrorism official is leaving the federal government at the end of the year, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Wednesday. When President Donald Trump took office in January, administration officials asked Nick Rasmussen to stay on as director of the National Counterterrorism Center through the transition. More recently, Rasmussen decided to end his 27 years of government service, including three years as director of the center and more than two years as deputy director. Washington Post >

These Cities Are Building Downtowns Safe from Vehicle Attacks

How do you stop a terrorist, a crazy person, or just a rage-filled asshole in a commercial vehicle from ramming into a sea of people? Don’t bother: According to the Los Angeles Times, it’s near impossible. The article briefly acknowledges the protective role that bollards—those hitherto unsung heavyweight stanchions—can play in stopping vehicles should they try to invade pedestrian space. But nowhere does it consider the possibility that cars should be banned in areas where driving can inflict this much harm, as advocates and policy analysts have suggested. CityLab >>

Trump’s Homeland Security Pick is Caught Up in a Conflict of Interest Complaint

President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, has been guided through her Senate confirmation process by a private consultant who represents companies seeking millions in DHS contracts, an arrangement that creates conflicts of interest, according to a government-ethics watchdog group as well as current and former national security officials. Washington Post >>

Why Updating the Department of Homeland Security’s Acquisition Systems Matters

Early development of user requirements remains essential to successful acquisitions. Research and development activities provide useful opportunities to learn about possibilities, experiment with concepts and refine system requirements. Users become better consumers through R&D activities, can better define their requirements and will likely have a final product that better reflects their operational needs. National Interest >>

Commentary: America Is Great at Fighting Terrorism, but Terror Is Alive and Well

A relatively unknown radical selects an unprotected public space, turns a widely available tool into a weapon, and introduces himself to the world by attacking unsuspecting, innocent neighbors without warning. This scenario, repeated several times this year, appears to be the new normal for terrorism threats. The unfortunate reality is that this evolution in terrorism may be the fruit of America’s success in the War on Terrorism. Fortune >>


New Delhi: NDMA Training Program for CBRN Emergencies Concludes

The training program aimed at improving the preparedness of Parliament House Complex (PHC) security staff to respond to threats emerging from the use of CBRN material. The program consisted of lectures, live demonstrations of detection and decontamination as well as use of PPE. The participants were also trained on Basic life support, triage and casualty carrying techniques. New Kerala >>

It Took USNS Comfort 39 Days to Get Pierside in Puerto Rico. That’s a National-Security Problem.

It took USNS Comfort two full weeks to reach Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria cut power to every hospital on the devastated American island. Once it arrived, the 70,000-ton hospital ship spent three more weeks underutilized offshore, connected to the injured population by a thin stream of helicopters and seemingly forgotten by FEMA and the Joint Staff alike. With just 33 of Comfort’s hospital beds occupied in mid-October, Military Sealift Command sadly tweeted advice to “contact your local health provider if you need care.” Defense One >>

RAD Event & CBRNE Attack Resources You Should Know About

Well-prepared individuals know how to protect themselves and others when facing a RAD event or CBRNE attack. Today’s firefighters, HAZMAT specialists, law enforcement officers, security teams, military personnel, and other emergency responders require frequent training to stay prepared. American Security Today >>


Measuring Radiation Doses in Mass-Casualty Emergencies

GMU biodefense professor and graduate program director Dr. Gregory Koblentz and doctoral candidate Mary Sproull (who is also a radiation guru at the Radiation Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health) are teaming up to address diagnostic challenges and technologies in the event of a nuclear attack. Pandora Report >>

Securing North Korean Nuclear Sites Would Require a Ground Invasion, Pentagon Says

The only way to locate and secure all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites “with complete certainty” is through an invasion of ground forces, and in the event of conflict, Pyongyang could use biological and chemical weapons, the Pentagon told lawmakers in a new, blunt assessment of what war on the Korean Peninsula might look like. Washington Post >>

The Questions Raised by Trump’s Iran Deal Decision

The administration’s policy raises several questions: First, why punt the issue to Congress when Trump can, in fact, impose sanctions unilaterally? Second, if Iran is an untrustworthy partner, why seek a complementary deal on its regional activities and ballistic-missile program? Third, if the deal negotiated by the Obama administration was so bad, why not walk away? Defense One >>

How We Persuaded 122 Countries to Ban Nuclear Weapons

The authors describe how the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons used gumshoe advocacy and demanded from states the meaningful participation of survivors, affected communities, medical professionals, faith leaders, humanitarian agencies, activists and academics in the conversation of the risk of nuclear weapons’ effects. Just Security >>

Two Nuclear Deals, Two Countries, Three Decades Apart

President Trump is expected this week to decline to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The deal’s supporters have warned that such a move could eventually prompt Iran to abandon the multilateral agreement and continue work on its nuclear program, which was frozen under the pact. The Atlantic >>


DHS Publishes 2017 CSSS Presentations

DHS updated the 2017 Chemical Sector Security Summit web page with links to some of the presentations that were made at this year’s Summit. Unfortunately, even with the Summit including web casts of several of the presentations, the links provided only provide copies of the slides used in the presentations. Chemical Facility Security News >>

ISCD Publishes Personnel Surety Program Fact Sheet

The DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) posted a link to a new program fact sheet on the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Knowledge Center. The fact sheet provides some basic data on the implementation of the personnel surety program, or the screening for terrorist ties portion of the Risk Based Performance Standard (RBPS) 12. Chemical Facility Security News >>

For Chlorine Safety, Follow the Jack Rabbit

DHS’ Jack Rabbit Project aims to understand the dangers faced by first responders and others in the event of a catastrophic chlorine gas release. Chlorine has an IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) level of 10 ppm. In experiments conducted by the researches, concentrations reached over 100,000 ppm. Even at 200 meters away from the source, levels topped 70,000 ppm. Researchers also studied how wind affected the dispersal and path of the gas plume. The conclusion was simple: “Wind is King” (though terrain is important, too). Homeland Security Digital Library >>


North Korea and the Threat of Chemical Warfare

No one outside of the North Korean government knows with certainty the composition of the country’s chemical stockpile, but intelligence from defectors and the South Korean government suggests that Pyongyang has 2,500 to 5,000 metric tons of some 20 chemical warfare agents. NY Times >>

How the Latest OPCW Reports Provide More Connections Between the Syrian Government and August 21st 2013 Damascus Sarin Attacks

A careful reading of the latest OPCW reports on the Al-Lataminah and Khan Sheikhoun Sarin attacks reveals not only more details about those two incidents, but the earlier August 21st 2013 Damascus Sarin attacks, increasing the certainty that the Syrian government was responsible for those attacks, despite claims by some that rebel forces were responsible for the attack. Bellingcat >>

Let’s Not Forget Canada’s Legacy of Gas Warfare

On a blustery night in 1917, a group of bone-weary Canadians crouched in a trench in northern France, rose to check the wind, issued a terse order and reached down to open valves on the steel tanks buried in the mud. Over the hours that followed, Canada’s release of chlorine and phosgene gas would kill or badly injure more than 700 people, mostly their own comrades, who slowly suffocated on their inflamed lungs or were shot by Germans as they writhed in agony. Globe and Mail >>

Cambodia Asks for Help in Dealing With ‘Chemical Weapons’

Cambodia’s foreign minister has requested the aid of the OPCW to verify the remnants of reported chemical weapons unearthed in the country. The request from Prak Sokhon came amid tensions between the United States and Cambodia which has seen Prime Minister Hun Sen criticize Washington for what he said was its reticence to deal with the remnants of its wars in Southeast Asia. Voice of America >>

Chemical Attack on Public Transport – A Likely Scenario

As IS continues to lose control of territory in Iraq and Syria, supporters increasingly resort to unconventional means of causing mass disruption. Unconventional means for IS to cause mass terror are only expected to rise as thousands of foreign fighters return home. Domestic Preparedness >>

Pentagon report on Assassination of Kim Jong Un’s Brother with Nerve Agent

The Center for Nonproliferation Studies estimates North Korea has between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including a large supply of VX, the deadliest nerve agent ever created. VX was used by two alleged North Korean assassins to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother in a Malaysian airport in February. Newsweek >>


Ban on Killer Robots Urgently Needed, Say Scientists

While military drones have long been flown remotely for surveillance and attacks, autonomous weapons armed with explosives and target recognition systems are now within reach and could locate and strike without deferring to a human controller. A treaty banning autonomous weapons would prevent large-scale manufacturing of the technology. It would also provide a framework to police nations working on the technology, and the spread of dual-use devices and software such as quadcopters and target recognition algorithms.  The Guardian >>

Unmanned Aircraft Systems – On the Way to the Jetsons’ Era

Today, UAS are affordable, come in different shapes and sizes, and have different capabilities, which have made them one of the hottest gift ideas for the past couple years. With many benefits and requests for them to be integrated into the national airspace, this trend is expected to continue well into the future. In addition, individuals or groups can use UAS as disruptive technology for nefarious purposes such as invading privacy, advancing criminal enterprises, or conducting terrorist activity. Domestic Preparedness >>


Calling all New Preparedness Coordinators and Experienced Preparedness Professionals!

Applications are being accepted for new preparedness coordinators and preparedness mentors to participate in the 2018 Roadmap to Ready Program. Roadmap to Ready is a training and mentoring program that helps new emergency preparedness coordinators navigate the complex landscape of public health preparedness. Deadline 4 Dec. NACCHO >>

Speedway Hosts Counterterrorism/WMD Response Convention

More than 350 people were at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week to learn more about how agencies across the world are responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. As part of the conference organized by CBRNe World, the Indiana branch of the FBI conducted a cross-agency Weapons of Mass Destruction awareness and training seminar. Indiana Public Media >>

Stranger Things: Neuroscience—and the New Weapons of the Mind

Threat assessments regarding neuroweapons can sometimes seem alarmist, but that does not mean they are without merit. Scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of the biological basis of behavior and cognition have given rise to numerous treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders. These treatments have improved the quality of life for many people all over the world. But these technologies have dual-use potential. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

Amazing Race Canada Is Looking for Paramedics

Casting is underway for season six of The Amazing Race Canada, and they are excited to start the search for incredible teams from around the country! The theme for Season 6 is HEROES. THE AMAZING RACE CANADA is seeking courageous Canadians – paramedics, first responders, community leaders, mentors, athletes, and other everyday heroes with a story to tell – to join the Race for Season 6 and be a part of an adventure that could change their lives forever. Deadline 29 Nov. Paramedics Association of Canada >>

The Persistence of the Radioactive Bogeyman

Most movie buffs know about Godzilla and Mothra, but the range of radiation-themed horror movies extends far beyond those Japanese monsters. Since 1950, in fact, a remarkable number of American and European horror movies have used radiation as a central plot device. It is a rich, if not distinguished, history. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists >>

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