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Cyberterrorism and Biotechnology

When ISIS Meets CRISPR

Genetically engineered fish at the Taiwan International Aqua Expo in Taipei, October 2010. Nicky Loh / Reuters

For years, the international community has grappled with the threat of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism. And although al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) have demonstrated interest in and some capability to develop and use such weapons, there have been no successful mass casualty terrorist attacks involving them. Attempted attacks involving radiological dispersal devices or chemical and biological means have either failed or had a very limited impact. Experts such as John Parachini, Jeffrey Bale and Gary Ackerman, Adam Dolnik, and Rajesh Basrur and Mallika Joseph argue that the reason is terrorists’ inability to weaponize chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material. Others, including Brian Michael Jenkins, believe that the lack of mass causality attacks also has to do with self-restraint: perpetrators might not be able to control the consequences of such an attack. It could end up harming the members of the communities that the terrorists are purportedly

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