Persistence key to WMD attacks, study shows

A new study of the Japanese doomsday cult that conducted a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system shows that with time and determination, terror groups are capable of producing weapons of mass destruction.

Ex-Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and a team of experts from the Center for a New American Security describe how the Aum Shinrikyo cult was able to create the chemical and biological weapons that it used in terror attacks, including the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, according to

Scientists are currently debating how difficult it would be for terrorists to create effective WMDs. The authors of the study said that, based on AUM’s experience, chemical weapons are probably easier to make than nuclear or biological weapons.

The CNAS study is based on personal interviews and correspondence with the imprisoned leadership of the secretive organization over the past three years, according to the Washington Post.

The Aum case shows how terrorist organizations can be drawn to more toxic weapons over time. It also demonstrates how ineffective law enforcement can be in such cases when limited legal structures are in place, the study says. Though the Japanese police knew that AUM was producing chemical weapons, they were unable to prosecute because no Japanese laws forbade the production of poison gas.

Aum tried repeatedly to produce an effective toxin. Their first nine tons of botulism was useless, as were their attempts to spray anthrax. The group attempted to use VX nerve gas in assassination attempts, but also failed. Ultimately, however, their persistence paid off when they produced sarin nerve gas.

"Danzig and his co-authors make the essential point - In dealing with these extremist groups and cults, the world is playing Russian roulette: 'Many chambers in the gun prove to be harmless, but some chambers are loaded,'" David Ignatius, a Washington Post reporter, said, reports.