Panetta, Leiter speak on likelihood of bioattack

Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, recently answered questions regarding the likelihood of terrorists acquiring chemical and biological weapons.

At the full committee World Wide Threats Hearing for the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Leiter and Panetta were asked by Devin Nunes, R-CA, how they assessed the threat posed by terrorist groups with regard to chemical and biological weapons, according to Intelligence.House.Gov.

Leiter said he believes Al-Qaeda’s ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction in general to be greatly diminished since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. He believes Al-Qaeda’s affiliates, like Anwar al-Awlaki and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, are still in the process of trying to find precursor elements for such weapons.

“The intent remains high, in particular in Pakistan and Yemen,” Leiter said, according to Intelligence.House.Gov.

Leiter added that he believes likelihood of a terrorist group obtaining biological weapons remains higher than that of their obtaining nuclear weapons. He said such groups have focused on biological weapons in the past and believes that they will continue to do so.

Panetta said that the threat of terrorist groups using chemical and biological weapons remains high, though he said he believes there is a tendency to focus on nuclear element among the intelligence agencies. He added that he believes there needs to be focus on all priorities.