Pentagon, DHS Thinking of Naming New WMD

'Because of its strength, it's like nothing else that we've seen'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2019 6:11 AM CDT
Updated Apr 22, 2019 7:06 AM CDT
This photo provided by the US Drug Enforcement Administration's Phoenix Division shows some of the 30,000 fentanyl pills the agency seized in one of its bigger busts, in Tempe, Ariz., in August, 2017.   (Drug Enforcement Administration via AP)
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(Newser) – Fentanyl is already killing a staggering number of Americans—30,000 in 2017 alone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse—and authorities say it would be "disturbingly easy" to use the synthetic opioid in a terrorist attack. Pentagon and Homeland Security officials are considering designating the drug a weapon of mass destruction, a move that would bring new resources to the battle against black market opioids, CNN reports. Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and authorities say just 3 milligrams is enough to kill the average person. "Because of its strength, it's like nothing else that we've seen, beyond radiation, nuclear, chemical, and high explosive," a government consultant says. "It's something that is potentially very, very dangerous."

The drug's "high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking nonconventional materials for a chemical weapons attack," James F. McDonnell, Homeland Security's assistant secretary for countering weapons of mass destruction, wrote in an internal memo earlier this year seen by Task & Purpose. Chemical and biological defense expert Dan Kaszeta, however, says there are "literally dozens" of toxic chemicals that could be weaponized just as easily as fentanyl. McDonnell's memo "reads like somebody is laying the administrative background for trying to tap into pots of money for detecting WMD and decontaminating WMD," Kaszeta says. "It's an interdepartmental play for money, that's all it is." (Read more fentanyl stories.)

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