WMD Law - Weapons of Mass Destruction Law


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What Are the Laws Against Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Laws regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction are created through international treaties and agreements and generally enforced through organizations like the United Nations and by the military power of other nations. They are also created by the federal government to combat terrorism.

What Are Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Weapons of mass destruction are defined as those devices capable of extensive destruction when deployed in a manner intended to destroy large numbers of people. Weapons of mass destruction can be high explosives, nuclear or radiological devices, chemical or biological weapons, or any other device, even those not yet developed or disclosed, that are intended to kill large masses of people.

Treaties and Nuclear Technology

The development and use of weapons of mass destruction is governed by a number of international conventions and treaties. Not all countries have signed and ratified every treaty regarding weapons of mass destruction, however, though international policies have largely rendered this a technicality under the appropriate political conditions. These treaties include, among others, the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Seabed Arms Control Treaty, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Of primary importance to the laws governing weapons of mass destruction is the proliferation of nuclear technology to new countries. To date, the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons in wartime has been the United States during World War II. However, since that time eight countries have declared that they possess nuclear weapons (China, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States), but only five of those are members of the NPT. Israel is believed to have nuclear weapons, as well, and a number of other countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey) have access to nuclear weapons through sharing agreements.

Enforcement on the International Stage

,p>Generally, enforcement of treaties and agreements regarding weapons of mass destruction are enforced by organizations such as the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), and by the economic and military might of other countries. For example, fears of the stockpiling of chemical and/or biological weapons in Iraq served as a primary justification for the war in Iraq in the 2000s, spearheaded by the U.S. government. In other instances, crippling embargoes have been imposed against nations attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction, such as North Korea.

Terrorism

The federal government has defined a body of law criminalizing the possession or assembly of weapons of mass destruction by civilians. These laws are designed to curtail domestic terrorism by making it difficult to obtain or construct devices that could be used for such acts.

For more information about laws against weapons of mass destruction, please review the materials found below. You can also find attorneys who may be able to answer your questions or assist you with your legal concerns regarding weapons of mass destruction by vising our Law Firms page and finding an attorney in your area.

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Weapons of Mass Destruction - US

  • American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security

    The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security, founded in 1962 by then-ABA President and later Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., conducts studies, sponsors programs and conferences, and administers working groups on law and national security-related issues. The Committee's activities assist policymakers, educate lawyers, the media and the public, and enable the Committee to make recommendations to the ABA. The Standing Committee provides research and advice on such subjects as the legal responses to terrorism, the restructuring of the intelligence community and its role in law enforcement, and operational international law in the conduct of the military.

  • ASIL - Weapons of Mass Destruction and International Law

    The perceived threat from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has become one of the most important issues on foreign policy and national security agendas. The WMD threat has, for example, profoundly influenced the Bush administration's national security and homeland security strategies. [1] For the United States and like-minded allies, Iraq's alleged possession of WMD has become a casus belli. The rise to prominence of the WMD threat raises questions about the role of international law concerning WMD in this new environment.

  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent US Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior US policymakers.

  • Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism

    Congress established the bipartisan Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism to address the grave threat that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses to the United States.

  • Department of Homeland Security - Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense Office

    The Office of Health Affairs’ (OHA) Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Biodefense Office leads the Department’s biological and chemical defense activities in coordination with other Departments and agencies across the federal government.

  • Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act

    This bill authorizes spending for the construction of hundreds of miles of fence along the Mexico-US border, and increased nuclear-detection equipment in ports. Regarding chemical plant security, it authorizes the DHS to check security at chemical plants. The DHS must issue "risk-based performance standards" for chemical plants within six months.

  • Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010

    Makes appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for FY2010 for the Offices of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Under Secretary for Management, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Information Officer, the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding, and the Inspector General and for intelligence analysis and operations coordination activities.

  • Department of State - Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN)

    In April 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1540, establishing for the first time binding obligations on all UN member states under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to take and enforce effective measures against the proliferation of WMD, their means of delivery and related materials. UNSCR 1540, if fully implemented, can help ensure that no State or non-State actor is a source or beneficiary of WMD proliferation.

  • DHS - Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released an interim final rule that imposes comprehensive federal security regulations for high-risk chemical facilities. This rule establishes risk-based performance standards for the security of our nation’s chemical facilities. It requires covered chemical facilities to prepare Security Vulnerability Assessments, which identify facility security vulnerabilities, and to develop and implement Site Security Plans, which include measures that satisfy the identified risk-based performance standards.

  • FBI - Weapons of Mass Destruction

    The FBI investigates violations of weapons of mass destruction laws and the detection and disruption of the acquisition and use of WMD on our homeland by terrorists and other adversaries, including nation states. We use the full array of our intelligence and investigative capabilities—all the tools we use to combat terrorists, spies, and criminals—to counter the threat.

  • National Security Council (NSC)

    The National Security Council (NSC) is the President's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Since its inception under President Truman, the Council's function has been to advise and assist the President on national security and foreign policies. The Council also serves as the President's principal arm for coordinating these policies among various government agencies.

  • Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

    The Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen Tauscher, serves as Senior Adviser to the President and the Secretary of State for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament. In this capacity, the Under Secretary attends and participates, at the direction of the President, in National Security Council (NSC) and subordinate meetings pertaining to arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament and has the right to communicate, through the Secretary of State, with the President and members of the NSC on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament concerns.

  • US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)

    DTRA is the U.S. Department of Defense’s official Combat Support Agency for countering weapons of mass destruction. Our people are Subject Matter Experts on WMD, and we address the entire spectrum of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosive threats. DTRA’s programs include basic science research and development, operational support to U.S. warfighters on the front line, and an in-house WMD think tank that aims to anticipate and mitigate future threats long before they have a chance to harm the United States and our allies.

  • US Nonproliferation Sanctions

    The United States imposes sanctions under various legal authorities against foreign individuals, private entities, and governments that engage in proliferation activities. Announcements of such sanctions determinations are printed in the Federal Register and can be accessed through the Government Printing Office web page.

  • Weapon of Mass Destruction - Definition

    A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon that can kill large numbers of humans (and other life forms) and/or cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere in general. The scope and application of the term has evolved and been disputed, often signifying more politically than technically. Coined in reference to aerial bombing with chemical explosives, it has come to distinguish large-scale weaponry of other technologies, such as chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear. This differentiates the term from more technnical ones such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons (CBRN).

Weapons of Mass Destruction - International

  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service - Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

    The proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons, commonly grouped as weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as well as their delivery systems (missiles), have the potential to undermine international peace and security. Canada is a potential source of expertise, materials, and technology for countries pursuing WMD or ballistic missile programs, and is a potential target for clandestine and illicit procurement activities.

  • Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

    The CTBT bans all nuclear explosions on Earth whether for military or for peaceful purposes. It comprises a preamble, 17 articles, two annexes and a Protocol with two annexes. Another important text is the Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly establishing the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

  • Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT)

    The 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) prohibits nuclear weapons tests "or any other nuclear explosion" in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. While not banning tests underground, the PTBT does prohibit underground nuclear explosions that cause "radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control" the explosions were conducted.

  • United Nations - Treaty on the Non-Profileration of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

    The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The NPT represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.

Biological and Chemical Warfare Treaties and Organizations

  • Biochemical Warfare - Definition

    Biochemical warfare is defined as the employment in war of incendiaries, poison gases poison gas, any of various gases sometimes used in warfare or riot control because of their poisonous or corrosive nature. These gases may be roughly grouped according to the portal of entry into the body and their physiological effects.

  • Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

    The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction — more commonly known as the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) — was simultaneously opened for signature in Moscow, Washington and London on 10 April 1972 and entered into force on 26 March 1975.

  • Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

    On 29 January 2000, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a supplementary agreement to the Convention known as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

  • CDC - Bioterrorism Overview

    A bioterrorism attack is the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs (agents) used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants. These agents are typically found in nature, but it is possible that they could be changed to increase their ability to cause disease, make them resistant to current medicines, or to increase their ability to be spread into the environment.

  • Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991

    The purposes of this title are-- 1. to mandate United States Sanctions, and to encourage international sanctions, against countries that use chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or use lethal chemical or biological weapons against their own nationals, and to impose sanctions against companies that aid in the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons; 2. to support multilaterally coordinated efforts to control the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons; 3. to urge continued close cooperation with the Australia Group and cooperation with other supplier nations to devise ever more effective controls on the transfer of materials, equipment, and technology applicable to chemical or biological weapons production; and 4. to require Presidential reports on efforts that threaten United States interests or regional stability by Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and others to acquire the materials and technology to develop, produce, stockpile, deliver, transfer, or use chemical or biological weapons.

  • Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC or Convention). The OPCW is given the mandate to achieve the object and purpose of the Convention, to ensure the implementation of its provisions, including those for international verification of compliance with it, and to provide a forum for consultation and cooperation among States Parties.

  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Information Analysis Center (CBRNIAC)

    The Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense Information Analysis Center (CBRNIAC), formerly known as the CBIAC, is a full service Department of Defense (DoD) Information Analysis Center (IAC). The CBRNIAC is the authoritative resource for DoD Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defense and Homeland Security scientific and technical (S&T) information.

  • FEMA - Biological Threats

    Biological agents are organisms or toxins that can kill or incapacitate people, livestock, and crops. The three basic groups of biological agents that would likely be used as weapons are bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Most biological agents are difficult to grow and maintain. Many break down quickly when exposed to sunlight and other environmental factors, while others, such as anthrax spores, are very long lived. Biological agents can be dispersed by spraying them into the air, by infecting animals that carry the disease to humans, and by contaminating food and water.

  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) - e-Biosafety

    Biotechnology is transforming industry. It is an integral part of the emerging knowledge-based bio-economy and the main driver for increasing industrial sustainability and productivity. Its ever-increasing pace of the adoption of biotechnology requires the establishment of regulatory systems that safeguard public health and the environment in ways that do not compromise technological advancement and forfeit the potential benefits of its application. Compliance of national regulations with the provisions of the Cartagena Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as with the relevant agreements of WTO have become pivotal points for the long-term development and deployment of the technology. It is now widely accepted that the sound implementation of biosafety regulation in the developing world will not be possible without specialised skills in biotechnology risk assessment and risk management.

Organizations Related to Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)

    The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) was set up in 1996 with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It is an interim organization tasked with building up the verification regime of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in preparation for the Treaty's entry into force as well as promoting the Treaty's universality.

  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

    The IAEA is the world´s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

  • International Science and Technology Center (ISTC)

    The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Russia, Georgia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with their peers and research organizations in Canada, EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States. ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with Russian and CIS institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

  • NTI

    NTI is a place of common ground where people with different ideological views are working together to close the gap between the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the global response. Co-chaired by philanthropist and CNN founder Ted Turner and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, NTI is governed by an expert and influential Board of Directors with members from the United States, Russia, Japan, India, Pakistan, China, Jordan, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom.

  • Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC or Convention). The OPCW is given the mandate to achieve the object and purpose of the Convention, to ensure the implementation of its provisions, including those for international verification of compliance with it, and to provide a forum for consultation and cooperation among States Parties.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission

    The Commission should seek to identify desirable and achievable directions for international cooperation. It should present realistic proposals aimed at the greatest possible reduction of the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. These should comprise both short-term and long-term approaches and aim at preventing the further spread of weapons as well as at their reduction and elimination. The scope of the investigation should be comprehensive and include nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons and the means of delivering them, as well as possible links between these issues and terrorists.

Publications Related to Weapons of Mass Destruction Law

  • CIA - Chemical/Biological/Radiological Incident Handbook

    This handbook is intended to supply information to first responders for use in making a preliminary assessment of a situation when a possible chemical, biological agent or radiological material is suspected. When evaluating and taking action against a possible chemical, biological, or radiological incident, your personal safety is of primary concern.

  • Global Security - Weapons of Mass Destruction

    Presents articles, press releases and publications regarding weapons of mass destruction, biochemical warfare and other related topics.

  • National Terror Alert - Homeland Security News

    NationalTerrorAlert.com is a private homeland security blog and not affiliated with any government agency. We archive and comment on homeland security related news items from a variety of news sources and tips, as well as provide immediate updates on breaking stories, bulletins and any change in status to Homeland Security advisory. National Terror Alert has become America’s leading source for homeland security news and information. A collaborative resource of news and analysis related to homeland security events, threats and trends.

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