Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen spent more than two dozen years in intelligence, both in the CIA and U.S. Department of Energy. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he led the U.S. government’s efforts to determine whether al Qaeda had WMD capabilities and to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States. Mowatt-Larssen, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, put together a detailed time-line illustrating terrorists’ efforts to acquire WMD.

There are many plausible explanations for why the world has not experienced an al Qaeda attack using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, but it would be foolish to discount the possibility that such an event will occur in the future.

When I first sat down with Rolf and asked him to talk about this paper, he described to me an intelligence community that had a lot of information, but didn’t yet have an idea of the big picture. That conversation turned out to be an excellent springboard for the final product.

I designed the cover to play up the idea that all these messages were coming in but the big picture remained obscure. I reduced the text of the paper to 300 or so of the most often used words (excluding common words) and then proceeded to build up the image. The text/image was then used to differentiate the various sections of the publication.

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