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Exclusive: DHS is considering classifying fentanyl as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’

The Department of Homeland Security is considering designating the painkiller drug fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction “when certain criteria are met,” according to an internal memo obtained by Task & Purpose.


Dated Feb. 22, 2019 under the subject line “Use of counter-WMD authorities to combat fentanyl,” the information memorandum prepared for then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from James F. McDonnell, DHS assistant secretary for countering weapons of mass destruction, offered background on the drug and how some elements of the U.S. government see fentanyl as a potential “mass casualty weapon.”

“Fentanyl’s high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking nonconventional materials for a chemical weapons attack,” wrote McDonnell, a longtime Homeland Security executive appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office in May 2018.

“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,” he wrote.

The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment from Task & Purpose. The Department of Homeland Security also declined to answer any questions from Task & Purpose regarding the memo.

In 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency amid tens of thousands of American deaths traced to fentanyl overdose in recent years.

Roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is medically-prescribed to treat severe pain under such names as Sublimaze and Actiq, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The illegal version — usually sourced from China or Mexico — is sometimes manufactured and sold as powder, put in small candies and eye droppers, or mixed into other illicit drugs to increase their potency, which …read more

Read more here:: Task & Purpose

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