Weapons of Mass Destruction

WMDD Personnel

In July 2006, the FBI created the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Directorate to build a cohesive and coordinated approach to incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) material—with an overriding focus on prevention. The WMD Directorate proactively seeks out and relies on intelligence to drive preparedness, countermeasures, and investigations designed to keep WMD threats from becoming reality.

WMD Basics 

Definition of WMD

Title 18 U.S.C. §2332a defines weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as:

  • Any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas, including the following: a bomb; grenade; rocket having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than four ounces; missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce; mine; or device similar to any of the previously described devices;
  • Any weapons that is designed or intend to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors;
  • Any weapon involving a disease organism; and
  • Any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life.

Nature of the Threat

According to national policy, WMD refers to materials, weapons, or devices that are intended to cause (or are capable of causing) death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals or precursors, a disease organism, or radiation or radioactivity, including (but not limited to) biological devices, chemical devices, improvised nuclear devices, radiological dispersion devices, and radiological exposure devices.

WMD terrorism and proliferation are evolving U.S. national security threats. The Director of National Intelligence has stated that dozens of identified domestic and international terrorists and terrorist groups have expressed their intent to obtain and use WMD—including nuclear materials. Indicators of this increasing threat include the 9/11 attacks, the Amerithrax letters, and multiple attempts by terrorists at home and abroad to use improvised explosives created from basic chemical precursors. The challenge presented by these threats is compounded by the large volume of hoax threats that distract and divert law enforcement agencies from addressing real threats.

Inside Our Operations

The WMD Directorate exists to ensure the FBI and partners are prepared to anticipate, mitigate, disrupt, or respond to WMD threats. With the continued evolution of the WMD threat and the possibility of an overseas origin or nexus, the Directorate advances WMD prevention activities by supporting international WMD capacity building, developing plans and policies at strategic and operational levels, developing partnerships, training, and conducting outreach endeavors.  By improving WMD security on a global level, the Directorate protects U.S. interests abroad and keeps WMD threats outside our borders

Evolution of Our WMD Program

On September 23, 1996, Congress passed the Defense against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, which included the FBI as one of the key federal agencies to work in partnership with other key agencies to better protect the nation from a WMD attack. This involved preparing the nation’s first responders to take action if one were to occur. Following the attacks of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks a month later, the FBI continued to evolve to meet the threat posed by WMD. The FBI determined the need for a program that not only met the current threat, but also prepared a workforce and organization to counter future threats and respond to incidents involving those threats. In 2005, then-Director Robert Mueller requested that the newly-formed National Security Branch design an organizational element to meet the WMD threat. By July 2006, the FBI had established the WMD Directorate.

The Directorate has achieved FBI National Program status, demonstrating its impact on the Bureau’s WMD program since its inception. Achieving program status gave the Directorate full oversight over initiatives and program activities—such as prevention, preparedness, countermeasures, investigations, and operational response—as well as the ability to lead field personnel.

Security Awareness Videos 

The Chemical Countermeasures Unit (CCU) of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate presents the following videos on security awareness.

Suspicious Sales: Retail Security Awareness

This video offers a realistic scenario that emphasizes the importance of maintaining awareness in retail stores and reporting suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. It is designed to be viewed by salespersons, cashiers, customer service representatives, and any employee who interacts with customers. Store managers, security personnel, and loss prevention officers will also benefit from viewing the video.

Chemical Indicators: Laboratory Security Awareness

This video offers a realistic scenario that emphasizes the importance of maintaining awareness in the academic laboratory environment and reporting suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities. It is designed to be viewed by faculty, students, and staff who work in and around laboratories, chemicals, and equipment. Industrial laboratory employees will also benefit from viewing the video.

Contact Us 

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.