Evidence Reveals Al Qaeda Planning New Terrorism Attacks

With new evidence that Al Qaeda is looking to strike, the United States government has closed more than 20 embassies and consulates across the Middle East and Northern Africa. Global travel warnings have also been issued by the State Department, urging U.S. citizens to be alert to “the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.”

An intercepted message among senior Al Qaeda operatives led to the closures and warnings. According to a member of the House Intelligence Committee, the information was gathered from “chatter” accumulated from phone lines, computer outlets, websites and other communication outlets. The information indicates that members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are in the final stages of planning for an unspecified attack. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview with CBS that it was “one of the most specific and credible threats I've seen perhaps since 9/11.”


New Al Qaeda threat is most specific and credible since 911, says one lawmaker. Lawmakers say new Al Qaeda threat is most significant since 9/11.


The threats have also led federal authorities to tighten security here. The Department of Homeland Security is increasing security measures at all transportation hubs, including airports, train and bus stations. Travelers coming into the country will also be heavily screened by officials.

A joint intelligence bulletin was issued by the DHS and the FBI to state and local law enforcement agencies outlining the recent intelligence and urging authorities to remain alert and vigilant to any suspicious activity. That bulletin remains classified, highlighting just how serious the threat is.

Emergency Film Group offers a complete line of Terrorism Response training films. Appropriate for law enforcement, fire departments, emergency management, hospital personnel and security officers, the topics covered in series includes biological weapons, IEDs, VBIEDs, suicide bombers and WMD response. To learn more, read here. . .


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EFG Producing Program on Transportation Systems Vulnerability to Terrorism for TSA

Emergency Film Group has begun production of its latest project, Target: Transportation Systems. The training program is funded by the United States Congress and designed to support the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) and law enforcement efforts to prevent and deter acts of terrorism. The project is organized in four modules, describing the vulnerability of transportation systems to explosive device attacks and how transportation industry personnel can make major contributions to the security of the nation’s transportation network.

Filming of the first module recently took place on location at several Massachusetts transportation facilities. This program studies terrorist attacks on transportation systems around the world and filming included re-enactments of several major terrorist incidents. Both facilities personnel and local actors participated in the filming.

Several scenes were filmed at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, in West Tisbury, and featured different methods of concealments of improvised explosive devices (IED) as well as basic security procedures to prevent terrorist attacks.

EFG films at Martha's Vineyard Airport. EFG films at Martha's Vineyard Airport.

Another day of filming was spent at the Steamship Authority ferry terminal in Woods Hole, both aboard the SSA’s vessels and at the ferry terminal in Woods Hole. EFG’s crew, with the help of several local boat owners, the Falmouth Harbormaster and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute was also able re-enact examples of terrorist actions on the water.

The third day of filming was spent with the MBTA Transit Police Department.  Three MBTA facilities – South Station, World Trade Center Station and Courthouse Station - became the scene of “terrorist activity” as the EFG’s cameras rolled. Several MBTA Transit police officers participated in the filming, including the Transit Police’s bomb squad.


Other programs in the series will focus on in-depth look at IED components, the mind set of terrorists and how the set about to organize an attack, and responses to suspicious objects, including protective actions, incident command and response priorities.

As with all of Emergency Film Group’s productions, this program was created with the assistance of an expert technical committee, with members from Safe Skies, Office for Bombing Prevention (OBP), TSA, Transportation Explosives Security Training Center (TESTC), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), NYPD Bomb Squad and the FBI.


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What You Need to Know about Ricin

Responders to hazmat and WMD incidents who have been active since 911 are well aware of what happened in the wake of the anthrax attack in 2011. Thousands of anthrax scares kept hazmat teams scurrying to “white powder” calls, almost all of which turned out to be harmless substances. The newest scourge involves another biological agent - ricin.

Ricin letters have been sent to the President, a US Senator and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, and the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The letters attack the stance of persons and organizations who back stricter gun control legislation.


Capture Terrorist planting a powdered biological weapon.


When the anthrax attacks happened, news organizations worldwide turned to Emergency
Film Group because it had recently release a training film called Response to Anthrax Threats. As is the case now with ricin, little was known about anthrax.

In 2001, letters containing anthrax were sent to Senator Tom Daschle, NBC and other media outlets. The anthrax had been weaponized and milled to very fine dust. In the aftermath, there were nineteen confirmed cases of anthrax and five persons died. Many more were exposed and underwent treatment. Anthrax can kill up to 90% of its victims.  The most likely and most lethal route of exposure is through inhalation. Within one week of exposure acute respiratory distress and cyanosis may appear. A vaccine is available and certain antibiotics can be effective immediately after exposure. However, there is usually no effective treatment after symptoms begin.

In WMD training for emergency responders, biological agents are usually divided into four major categories: Viruses, Bacteria, Toxins, and Rickettsia.  Anthrax is categorized as bacteria, while ricin is a toxin.

Biological toxins are produced by plants, animals, or microorganisms. Ricin is a protein found in the castor bean plant. The plant (ricinus communis), generally found in areas with a year-round warm climate, is a fast-growing leafy plant that can grow ten feet in a single season. Oil from the castor plant has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years: everything from hair growth to a laxative.

Castor oil is the key component in numerous industrial applications. Its water-resistance has made it a component in paint and varnish. Castor oil can maintain viscosity at extremely high temperatures so has been used as motor oil and in nylon production.

The seeds contain between 40% and 60% oil. Ricin is also present in lower concentrations. A lethal dose of ricin is considered to be four to eight seeds for a healthy adult. However, reports of actual poisoning are relatively rare, and suicides involving ingestion of castor beans are unheard of.  However, a more lethal form of ricin can be extracted from castor beans by concentrating it. Videos on line have explained how to this- a fairly uncomplicated, but time consuming process using readily available supplies and chemicals.

The likely routes of exposure are through ingestion, injection, or inhalation. A lethal does may be as little as a few grains of table salt.

If the ricin is ingested, symptoms may be delayed by up to 36 hours but commonly begin within 2 to 4 hours. These include a burning sensation in mouth and throat, abdominal pain, purging, bloody diarrhea, and seizures. Within several days there is severe dehydration, a drop in blood pressure and a decrease in urine. Unless treated, death can be expected to occur within 3 to 5 days. Antidotes are under development, but there has only been limited testing with humans. Symptoms can be treated, but long term organ damage is likely in survivors. Commercially available castor oil is not toxic to humans in normal doses

Ricin is known to have been used by injection in at least two assassinations.  In 1978, the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was assassinated by Bulgarian secret police who surreptitiously injected him on a London street with a modified umbrella using compressed gas to fire a tiny pellet contaminated with ricin into his leg.  He died in a hospital a few days later; the pellet was discovered during an autopsy. Markov had defected from Bulgaria some years previously and had subsequently written books and made radio broadcasts which were highly critical of the Bulgarian communist regime

The United States restricts the possession or use of ricin since it is a potential weapon of biological terrorism. According to the 2002 Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Act, possessing, using or transferring ricin is prohibited. There are no federal regulations restricting the possession of castor bean plants.

The recent spate of ricin letters has often been treated in the press as part of the gun culture issue. But there should be no mistake, sending a ricin letter to anyone is an act of terrorism. The federal regulation is clear. Terrorism is “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Written by Gordon Massingham, the director and writer of the Emergency Film Group program “Terrorism: Biological Weapons.” Part II of the series will address sampling and decontamination issues.









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Possible Security Breach at Quabbin Reservoir

Massachusetts State Police say they are increasing routine patrols at water supply facilities around the state after a possible security breach incident at the Quabbin Reservoir near Belchertown, which is the primary drinking water source for Boston and forty other communities.

At approximately 12:30 am Tuesday, a trooper saw two cars parked at one of the reservoir park entrances and then noticed a group of people, five men and two women, walking towards the vehicles. When questioned, the male individuals said they were chemical engineers and had recently graduated from college. The group claimed to be at the reservoir for educational purposes and career interests.

The seven people were from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore and had addresses in Amherst, Cambridge, Sunderland, Northampton, and New York City. State Police provided the Commonwealth Fusion Center the identities of the group and details of the incident. The Commonwealth Fusion Center works with local, state and federal public safety agencies and private sector organizations in collecting, analyzing and distributing intelligence relevant to terrorism and public safety.


Quabbin Reservoir Quabbin Reservoir is the primary drinking water source for Boston and forty other communities.


A preliminary background check revealed no warrants, detainers or advisories for anyone in the group and they were allowed to leave after being cited for trespassing. In a statement to the press, State Police spokesperson David Procopio said both his agency will continue to investigate the incident.  “Further investigation is being undertaken because of the late hour when they were observed, their curious explanation for why they wanted to see the reservoir, and the fact that they were in an area marked no trespassing,” Procopio said.

Emergency Film Group’s Terrorism: Biological Weapons DVD training program provides training and response guidelines to emergency personnel who would be called upon to respond to a terrorist incident involving biological agents. To learn more, read here. . .


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