At some point, most security analysts face the dilemma of balancing expediency with analytical thoroughness. Such is the case with Norway’s Anders Breivik. As his victims await burial, Breivik’s treatise—the 1500 page, 2083:
A European Declaration of Independence (click here for PDF link)—became available only a few days ago. While some researchers, mindful of the value of analytical completeness, patiently plod through this massive manifesto, analysts at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) conclude that the nature of Breivik’s attacks, compounded with the extraordinary content of his treatise, raise questions of such immediate concern that the formulation and release of initial analyses are prudent. We present such an effort here as both a highly formatted blog post and as a preliminary report. The former allows for a quick delivery of our preliminary investigation amid a platform for open discussion of a threat that remains, we believe, largely inchoate. The latter conforms to our professional dedication to robust research and application of various relevant analytical methodologies.
While Breivik’s unprecedented attacks alone warrant profound study, his treatise seeks to portend far greater acts of terror and destruction than those visited upon Norway on July 22nd. However, to date, no substantive effort addresses the document’s detailed exposition of the fabrication, delivery and general merits of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons (CBRN). The paucity of concern and immediacy revolving around Breivik’s assertions of forthcoming CBRN attacks likely result from two interrelated issues. First, Breivik is incarcerated and will likely remain so for the rest of his life; Breivik himself is no longer a threat. Second, some question his technical acumen with regard to CBRN; even if he were free, according to one putative CBRN expert, “Breivik’s WMD idea is not realistic.” We
largely agree with such conclusions. However, any proper risk assessment must conduct a so-called “assumptions check.” Such an exercise has two primary elements: 1) explicitly identifying conclusions that rely, in part or in whole, on assumptions and 2) identifying and evaluating the consequences should such assumptions prove false. Application of an assumptions check to the Breivik case, we believe, precipitates the need for serious and immediate analyses of the treatise’s content for two primary reasons.
First, Breivik has made claims, through his writing as well as to Oslo District Court Judge Kim Heger, that he is in league with extremist cells and that some of these co-conspirators “are already in the process of attempting to acquire chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials.” While it is likely that Breivik acted alone, we are not comfortable assuming that this is the case. Moreover, given the operational sophistication of his attacks, and, among other salient components in the case writ large, the overall operational security that he maintained for years, it is axiomatic that Breivik’s threats should be considered in great detail. Indeed, as renowned terrorism expert Gary Ackerman has warned, “History is replete with cautionary tales warning against basing threat assessments on static analyses of an opponent’s motivations and capabilities.” In short, it is possible that subsequent attacks—some perhaps even utilizing CBRN—may be forthcoming, and it is therefore prudent for the intelligence communities to carefully consider Breivik’s writings.
Second, our initial analyses of Brevik’s comprehension of the relevant issues surrounding the fabrication and employment of CBRN concludes that he was motivated and capable of credibly pursuing low-end CBRN attacks—specifically those likely to result in mass effect as opposed to mass destruction . As our report details, this is specifically the case with some biological and radiological agents. Should Breivik be part of a cell of violent extremists, it is possible that his confederates share an equal, if not greater, understanding of the technologies underlying certain CBRN. Moreover, they may have access to the necessary agents and technologies necessary to actualize Breivik’s more ambitious stratagems for the employment of CBRN.
We are presently inclined to conclude that Breivik acted alone. Consequently, his warnings of forthcoming CBRN events are likely invalid. However, given the nature of his attacks and the content of his treatise we urge the security community to seriously consider the possibility that cells of violent extremists are linked to Breivik; the pursuit of a CBRN capability—as well as the possibility of radiological and/or biological use—are a possibility.
Blog posts and reports from the FAS Terrorism Analysis Project are produced to increase the understanding of policymakers, the public, and the press about threats to national and international security from terrorist
groups and other violent non-state actors. The reports are written by individual authors—who may be FAS staff or acknowledged experts from outside
the institution. These reports do not represent an FAS institutional position on policy issues. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion contained in this and other FAS-published reports are the sole responsibility of the author or authors.