LYON, France – Preventive capacity building and building partnerships across all sectors against the threat of radiological and nuclear terrorism is the focus of the INTERPOL Global Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Conference which opened in Lyon today.
Gathering more than 200 delegates from some 60 countries, and representing the diplomatic corps, INTERPOL national and international partners – including Europol, the FBI and the IAEA – scientific experts and INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs), the two-day conference (18-19 May) marks the public launch of INTERPOL’s Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit. It crucially will expand the world police body’s anti-bioterrorism activities to take in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNe) threats by using an integrated approach that leverages international partnerships and expertise across all sectors.
INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said this integrated approach recognized ‘the CBRNe threat facing all of INTERPOL’s 188 member countries’. He said the destructive capacity the atom can unleash – as highlighted by the recent nuclear scare in Japan and the 1986 Chernobyl incident – was not lost on those who sought to use it to instill terror and threaten innocent lives.
“Only one week after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States was struck once again with the ‘anthrax case’, in which a single individual with scientific knowledge and access to the right biological strain was able to murder five people, injure 17 and temporarily shut down the entire mail system of the United States for an estimated loss of USD 1 billion, while terrorizing other countries in the process,” recalled Secretary General Noble.
Citing efforts by terror groups such as Al Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyo to exploit the CBRNe threat, the Head of INTERPOL said recognition by many countries, agencies and individuals that they were insufficiently prepared to face such a threat had compelled the world police body to address the need for strong preventive capacity building to face the very nature of the wider chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives menace.
In this respect, Mr Noble said the key objective of the conference and INTERPOL’s new Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit was “to build police capacity globally, to prevent the next bioterrorist attack. This objective requires police to have at its side the public, private and scientific sectors together as one in order to successfully address the whole threat spectrum.”
Thanking the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for its multi-year funding, the INTERPOL Chief acknowledged the key role and support of police forces with expertise in this area, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the UK Metropolitan Police and the Australian Federal Police, to provide their best officers and funding to INTERPOL regional training sessions and tabletop exercises.
Mr Noble highlighted in particular the technical contribution made by the FBI’s Assistant Director of its Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Dr. Vahid Majidi, to ‘a programme designed to bring together national and international partners, as well as police, regulatory and subject matter experts to prevent the most horrific of potential crimes’.
Speaking at the conference, Dr Majidi of the FBI said: “In working with INTERPOL we can contribute to the international community to raise the level of multilateral involvement in accessing a multitude of resources otherwise difficult to obtain or even unavailable. National law enforcement entities such as the FBI benefit from leveraging INTERPOL's international recognition and neutrality so we can work as a community to address extremely challenging radiological and nuclear issues.”
The conference heard that by closely teaming up with key players in the field of radiological and nuclear security such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and INTERPOL NCBs, the world police body was able to build and improve a major cross-border intelligence analysis tool such as its Project Geiger database, now containing more than 2,500 cases related to radiological and nuclear trafficking.
INTERPOL’s new CBRNe programme will combine intelligence analysis via global information sharing, capacity building and training, and will also provide operational support through the deployment of specialized teams.