Should Fentanyl Be Labeled a Weapon of Mass Destruction?
Is fentanyl a WMD?
What’s the story?
- The Department of Homeland Security is considering classifying fentanyl - a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine – as a weapon of mass destruction, or WMD.
- According to an internal memo obtained by military news outlet Task & Purpose, DHS said the painkiller would be labeled a WMD “when certain criteria are met,” and that federal officials have “long regarded fentanyl as a chemical weapons threat.”
What's in the memo?
- The memo, dated Feb. 22, 2019, was prepared for then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen by James McDonnell, the assistant secretary for countering weapons of mass destruction.
- "Fentanyl's high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking nonconventional materials for a chemical weapons attack," wrote McDonnell.
"In July 2018, the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate assessed that '...fentanyl is very likely a viable option for a chemical weapon attack by extremists or criminals.”
- Read the full memo at the end of this article.
What's the reaction?
- Dan Kaszeta, a defense expert, told Task & Purpose that the threat of fentanyl being used as a WMD is a “fringe scenario” since there are "literally dozens" of toxic chemicals that could easily be weaponized.
"It reads like somebody is laying the administrative background for trying to tap into pots of money for detecting WMD and decontaminating WMD," Kaszeta told Task & Purpose after viewing the memo. "It's an interdepartmental play for money, that's all it is."
- The department has not offered any comment on the memo or its contents.
What do you think?
Do you support DHS efforts to label fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto / BenDC)
The full memo:
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