Weapons of Mass Destruction
The FBI is the lead federal agency for responding to threats from weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The Bureau investigates and collects intelligence on WMD-related threats and incidents to prevent attacks and respond to them when they occur.
Established in 2006, the WMD Directorate (WMDD) is part of the FBI’s National Security Branch. The WMDD leads the FBI’s efforts to mitigate threats from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive weapons.
Definition of WMD
A WMD is defined by U.S. law as any of the following:
- A destructive device, such as an explosive or incendiary bomb, rocket, or grenade;
- A weapon that is designed to cause death or serious injury through toxic or poisonous chemicals;
- A weapon that contains a biological agent or toxin; or
- A weapon that is designed to release dangerous levels of radiation or radioactivity.
The WMDD provides leadership and expertise to domestic and foreign law enforcement, academia, and industry partners on WMD issues. The FBI approaches these issues through four major areas: preparedness, countermeasures, investigations/operations, and intelligence.
The WMDD prepares the FBI and its U.S. government partners to respond to WMD threats by developing comprehensive strategic and operational plans. Training exercises not only enhance the FBI’s capabilities, but they also improve collaboration with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.
A critical part of the FBI’s work in preventing and responding to WMD attacks are special agents who serve as WMD coordinators in all 56 field offices and in some overseas FBI offices. WMD coordinators build relationships with partners in law enforcement and the private sector. The goal of these relationships is to promote information sharing and ensure the FBI has an early warning of emerging WMD threats.
As part of the countermeasures program, WMDD personnel work with academic and industry partners to protect advances in scientific research and biotechnology development and to prevent the misuse of biological knowledge, material, and technology. The WMDD also supports U.S. health security in part by coordinating with Global Health Security Agenda partners to prevent, detect, and respond to biological incidents.
Investigations and Operations
The WMDD manages WMD-related investigations and leads the FBI’s coordination and investigative response to those threats and incidents. In addition to U.S. operations, WMDD agents in international locations assist host countries with training and WMD response, as appropriate.
Intelligence-driven investigations help the FBI and its U.S. government partners prevent and respond to WMD incidents. The WMDD’s intelligence analysts develop relevant and actionable intelligence related to WMD threats, including intelligence on WMD proliferation and other criminal activities.
- 03.26.2021 — Former Elementary School Teacher Pleads Guilty to Sending Suspicious Powder Mailings to Elementary Schools Throughout Central Florida
- 03.16.2021 — Pennsylvania Man Charged with Obstruction of Justice Relating to Attempts to Acquire Ricin
- 03.15.2021 — Dutchess County Man Sentenced for Mailing White Powder to Federal Offices Throughout New York
- 03.04.2021 — Northern Colorado Man Pleads Guilty for Possessing Pipe Bombs
- 03.04.2021 — Phoenix Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Planning to Release Stolen Radiological Materials in Scottsdale and Payson
- 02.25.2021 — Las Vegas Man Charged with Mailing White Powder to the New York State Gaming Commission
- 02.24.2021 — Bremerton, Washington Man Charged Federally for Possession of Unregistered Destructive Devices
- 02.08.2021 — Klamath Falls Man Pleads Guilty for Sending Threatening Cards Containing White Powder to Former Coworkers
- 01.27.2021 — Man Sentenced to More Than Nine Years in Prison for Making Hoax Threats, Violating Supervised Release
- 12.15.2020 — Canadian Citizen Indicted in Brownsville for Sending Powder-Filled Envelopes to Local Authorities
To report suspicious activity involving chemical, biological, or radiological materials, call this toll-free number: 855-TELL-FBI (855-835-5324). For more on reaching out to the FBI, including submitting an online tip, read our Contact Us page which provides detailed information, such as additional phone numbers and the addresses of our local and international offices.