Terrorism in the United States and the Potential Threat to Nuclear Facilities

by Bruce Hoffman

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This report examines the threat posed by terrorists to U.S. nuclear weapons production and research facilities. It identifies and reviews the activities of three classes of terrorist groups in the United States: (1) ethnic separatist and emigre groups; (2) left-wing radical organizations; and (3) right-wing racist, anti-authority, survivalist-type groups. Although the situation could change suddenly in the future, the historical record suggests that U.S.-based terrorist groups are unlikely to attack a defended site such as a nuclear weapons facility. However, it is not possible to rule out such an attack by a terrorist group operating in the United States at the behest and under the direction of a foreign government. These state-sponsored terrorists have greater resources and fewer political constraints, and therefore pose a potentially greater threat to nuclear weapons sites.

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