Terrorism that makes use of CBRNE materials (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives) poses a clear threat to public health and safety, national security and economic and political stability on a global level. Accordingly, the prevention of such incidents is of the highest priority.
The threat of CBRNE terrorism is evolving and, with it, the risk of incidents intended to maximize the number of victims on a global scale. We know that terrorist groups are working hard to acquire CBRNE materials and the expertise to use them in their operations.
The possibility of unlawful acts using biological materials represents a growing concern for law enforcement, governments and public health officials around the world.
Biological materials – such as bacteria, viruses and toxins – are significantly cheaper and easier to produce, handle and transport than nuclear or chemical materials. They are difficult to detect and symptoms from exposure may not appear for days, possibly weeks.
Although it has been very rare to see biological materials being used as weapons, such incidents have increased recently. Even a hoax event can be an effective way of instilling widespread fear among the public. As the development of scientific techniques and discoveries rapidly evolve, we need to consider the threats we currently face, and those that may come in the future.
Our strategy for countering the threat posed by Bioterrorism consists of three main pillars:
- Intelligence analysis for police services;
- Programmes preventing the dispersal of biological materials in any form;
- Responding to and investigating any biological threat or incident.
A specialized team at INTERPOL makes daily assessments of data gathered from open sources news agencies, member countries, and other activities such as conferences and publications. The data is analysed and key issues placed in the INTERPOL CBRNE Monthly Digest.
The Digest covers the areas of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives weaponization. Commentaries are provided for each subject area as well as on emerging issues based on data gathered and further research conducted with other key international organizations.
This operation was created to enhance the safety and security of biological materials – which have the potential to be used for criminal purposes – in regions where it is most needed. This is done through raising awareness among law enforcement, public health officials, biosafety professionals and academia of how to safely and securely handle microbiological materials and safeguard their access.
Science is advancing at such a rate that there is also a need to monitor emerging technologies so that guidance can be provided regarding its use and safeguarding, without impeding future scientific developments. Operation S3OMMET also aims to enhance the implementation of disease surveillance mechanisms on a global scale.
We work to leverage partnerships with relevant regional and international organizations and agencies working in the field of biosafety and biosecurity. In collaboration with the International Federation for Biosafety Associations and the Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance, INTERPOL will conduct a series of regional workshops to spread awareness and perform gap analysis in the regions where it is needed the most.
Activities aim to:
- Assemble multi-agency representatives from law enforcement, public health, academia and biosafety;
- Allow INTERPOL’s member countries to raise their concerns and discuss the support they need;
- Provide ongoing support and guidance to targeted regions and individual countries;
- Empower the targeted regions to form close links and work together in the future.
Training and other resources
Since 2004, we have developed:
- Regional train-the-trainer sessions which help participants develop their own training capabilities and response units, and promote increased collaboration among national agencies in different sectors (law enforcement, public health, customs, academia and prosecution).
- International tabletop exercises, which assess national capabilities for biological threats and help to identify issues critical to a coordinated response to bio-incidents.
- Operational response to biological incidents course, an intensive one week course to train law enforcement and public health officials on the response to biological incidents including strategic planning and the forensic recovery of evidence.
In the case of an imminent threat or actual incident, INTERPOL will provide operational support to its member countries through:
- Deploying an Incident Response Team (IRT) with biological expertise to support law enforcement authorities in their criminal investigations;
- Conducting searches of INTERPOL's databases of nominal data, fingerprints, DNA profiles, and travel documents, upon request;
- Issuing notices, which are used to alert the international law enforcement community to wanted persons (red notices) or devices and weapons that pose a threat to public safety (orange notices);
- Providing strategic and tactical analytical expertise, upon request.
Biological threats are a global issue with transnational consequences. Therefore, international cooperation between nations and international organizations is a critical element in INTERPOL’s global strategy.
INTERPOL’s Biological Threats Team is ensuring the representation of the global law enforcement community within the different international frameworks that are built to counter the threat from the unlawful use of biological materials and ensure the establishment of more efficient mechanisms of biosecurity and biosafety.
- INTERPOL is taking an active role as an observer at the Meeting of States Parties of Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and on their destruction (BTWC).
- INTERPOL has the status of observer at the G8 ‘Global Partnership’ against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction.
- INTERPOL, through the CBRNE Sub-Directorate Biological Threats Team, maintains a close relationship with other relevant international organizations; such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations, International Federation of Biosafety Associations, the Coordinating Organisations for Regional Disease Surveillance, the International Organisation for Animal Health, and Europol.
- Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
- World Health Organization
- International Federation of Biosafety Associations