Author Biography

James J.F. Forest, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Security Research and Technologies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Joint Special Operations University. Dr. Forest has published 16 books and dozens of articles on terrorism, counterterrorism, WMD and homeland security, and served nine years (2001–2010) on the faculty at the U.S. Military Academy, six of those years as Director of Terrorism Studies in the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Contact info: james_forest@uml.edu.



Subject Area Keywords

Biological weapons, Chemical weapons, National security, Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, Terrorism / counterterrorism, Weapons of mass destruction


This article examines theories of practical and strategic constraints that collectively explain why so few terrorist groups in history have crossed (or attempted to cross) the WMD threshold. From this analysis, it becomes clear that a terrorist group's deliberations about WMD can be influenced (positively or negatively) by a variety of factors. Our projections of the future WMD terrorism threat must therefore account for changes in the kinds of practical and strategic constraints that could lead to an increased willingness and/or capability of a group to pursue these kinds of weapons. Further, there are ways in which governments can influence a terrorist group's decision-making and thus have a direct impact on the future evolution of the WMD terrorism threat.