How realistic is terrorism using chemical weapons? The experts disagree. Some believe it is just too hard to make and disperse deadly gases; others think we shouldn't underestimate terrorists' ability and recklessness. But everyone agrees that we shouldn't make it easy for them. Which is why the experience of James M. Tour is so sobering.
While serving on a Defense Department panel to study the possibility of chemical terrorism, Tour--a Rice University organic chemist famous for co-inventing the world's smallest electronic switches--concluded that nothing stood in the way of someone trying to acquire the ingredients of a chemical weapon. In an article last year in Chemical & Engineering News, he argued for restricting the purchase of key chemicals. "They're too easily available," Tour says. "There are no checks and balances."
This article was originally published with the title Better Killing through Chemistry.