Weapons of Mass Destruction: Detection Methods


Lerner KL. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Detection Methods. Government Information Quarterly. Elsevier, 2005. (online) Draft Copy. Originally: Lerner, K. Lee and BW Lerner. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Detection Methods. Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security, Thomson Gale,. 2003.
Lee Lerner


Weapons of mass destruction (WMD), nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons are commonly detected by monitoring an array of activities common to their development and testing. Lack of access to weapons production facilities, which in the context of both state level and terrorist activities, offer special testing challenges and create the need for  sophisticated monitoring protocols as well as the capacity to detect weapons without access to suspect sites, while in transit, and/or while in component pre-assembly phases of development. WMD detection techniques and devices span and array of technologies. In the early 2000s, detection technology included devices like the Handheld Advanced Nucleic Acid Analyzer (HANAA) and techniques ranging from standard forensic laboratory testing to Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectroscopy (MALDI-MS). Autonomous Pathogen Detection System (APDS) and other deployable devices allowed rapid identification of biologic agents while portable devices were available that could identify chemicals in a vapor within minutes under challenging conditions. The genetic detection of biological agents is increasingly exquisite. Gene probe sensors can detect and identify bacteria based upon the presence of a stretch of genetic material that is unique to the microorganism. (more)

Last updated on 07/19/2019