Terrorists could potentially use fentanyl – a synthetic opioid mainly produced in China that is the primary source of the fatal overdose epidemic in the United States – as a “weapon of mass destruction,” Bloomberg News recently reported, citing experts and echoing other articles.
On December 31, the Omaha World-Herald ran the Bloomberg piece published earlier in the month, which noted:
It would take only 118 pounds of fentanyl to kill 25 million people. That’s how much of the powerful opioid painkiller that Nebraska State Trooper Sam Mortensen found in April when he stopped a truck marked ‘U.S. Mail’ swerving onto the shoulder along Interstate 80.
The drug is “a significant threat to national security,” Michael Morell, a former acting CIA director under former President Barack Obama, wrote in 2017. “It is a weapon of mass destruction.”
In recent years, some U.S. lawmakers have also suggested that bad actors could weaponize fentanyl.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), who along with a group of Republicans have proposed bolstering mandatory minimum sentencing for trafficking fentanyl, said in March 2018 that the synthetic opioid is “as much a weapon of mass destruction as it is a drug.”
As a tool of terror, the drug would work best in a closed space, said Daniel Gerstein, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp. who served as acting undersecretary in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate in the Obama administration. Open-air release probably wouldn’t be as effective, as the drug could become too diluted, he said.
If ground-up fentanyl is placed on everyday objects, people could easily put their fingers in their mouths or rub their eyes and have a deadly reaction, Bloom said.
“Fentanyl-based drugs have been used in conflicts in other countries, so we know it’s possible, and we need to be ready to save lives and protect Americans from potential health security threats,” Rick Bright, the director of the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) charged with developing medical countermeasures, told Bloomberg.
Referring to Carfentanil, a deadly synthetic opioid drug believed to be a hundred times more toxic than fentanyl, Peter Ostrovsky, then- the assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, said in 2016, “Could it be weaponized? Yeah, it could be weaponized.”
“We don’t have any information that’s indicating to us that [carfentanil] will be weaponized. But just let your imagination run wild and you can see that somebody could use it as a weapon,” he added, according to Global News.
Reportedly, Russia has already weaponized fentanyl, noting the Kremlin used the drug against 50 armed rebels from the country’s Muslim-majority Chechnya region who held more than 800 hostages in a crowded theater in Moscow.
“After a few days, Russian forces used a gas, reported by state news agency Interfax to be fentanyl, to incapacitate the attackers, though more than 100 hostages were also killed,” Bloomberg pointed out.
Citing an internal U.S. intelligence report, the Daily Beast reported in 2009 that the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan were using the country’s bounty supply of heroin as a “tactical weapon” against American troops.
“Russian soldiers who served in Afghanistan in the 1980s returned to the motherland with an addiction rate than also approached 20 percent. This heroin bomb then does collateral damage back home. The returning soldiers brought home a heroin problem to Russian cities that grew exponentially during the past two decades,” the Daily Beast noted.
Authorities have investigated some U.S. troops for possessing, using, or distributing heroin and other opiates.
U.S. military troops have also fallen victim to fatal opiate overdoses while serving in Afghanistan. However, since the opioid problem reached historic proportions, the Pentagon has refused to release new figures among American forces in Afghanistan, prompting Judicial Watch to sue the government for access to the data beyond 2012.
The drug overdose epidemic in the United States intensified in recent years after the previous administration pulled tens of thousands of soldiers from Afghanistan when the U.S. declared its combat mission over at the end of 2014.
According to the most recent Pentagon data on drug testing in the military, the number of U.S. service members testing positive for opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, significantly increased between 2006 and 2011.
“Because of the significant threat from heroin in the Afghanistan theater of operations, all the military laboratories were instructed to perform 100 percent screening for heroin starting in FY 2005,” the Pentagon acknowledged.
Some U.S. officials have suggested there is a possible link between the skyrocketing heroin production in Afghanistan and the fatal drug overdose problem in the United States.
A Politico investigation last year revealed that Afghan heroin has contributed to the growing drug overdose epidemic in the United States. However, DEA has reported that heroin primarily originates from Latin America and fentanyl is smuggled into the United States from China. DEA officials have conceded that Afghanistan is the top supplier of heroin in neighboring Canada, which borders many of the U.S. states impacted by the overdose epidemic.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks on the American homeland, the New York Times (NYT) reported in October 2001, “The terror network headed by Osama bin Laden has tried to develop a high-strength form of heroin that it planned to export to the United States and Western Europe, according to intelligence reports received by United States officials.”
U.S. authorities believe fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. According to the American government, China, which borders the world’s top producer of heroin Afghanistan, is the leading source of fentanyl in the United States.
The Taliban still generates the majority of its funding from trafficking opium, the main ingredient in heroin.
Fentanyl is often mixed with heroin to increase the potency of the drug and its value since the synthetic opioid tends to be cheaper to produce. However, there is no evidence that the Taliban is mixing the drug with fentanyl from across the border in China, U.S. officials told Breitbart News.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy (NSS) deemed Latin American drug cartels who smuggle heroin and Chinese traffickers of the synthetic opioid fentanyl a top homeland security threat to the United States for killing “tens of thousands of Americans each year.”
The Trump administration has also declared a public health emergency over the number of fatal drug overdoses, which killed an unprecedented 72,287 people in the United States in 2017 – proving to be more lethal than terrorist attacks across the world that year, according to a Breitbart News analysis of U.S. government data.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids alone, including heroin (15,950) and drugs like fentanyl and its offshoot carfentanil (29,418) killed more people (about 49,000) than terrorist attacks across the globe in 2017, which left 26,400 individuals dead.