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Obituaries

Michael Wermuth dies at 69; expert helped predict terrorist attack on U.S.

Michael Wermuth

Michael Wermuth, terrorism expert

(Rand Corp. )

Terrorism expert Michael Wermuth, an advisor to a government panel that predicted before 9/11 that there would be a terrorism attack on the U.S., died Sunday in Charleston, S.C., after a brief illness. He was 69.

Wermuth was formerly with the Rand Corp., which announced his death.

He joined the Santa Monica-based think tank in 1999 and headed its multi-year project to assess dangers from terrorists. The Congress-chartered commission that received Rand’s findings said in its first report, issued two years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, that “the threat of a terrorist attack on some level inside our borders was inevitable” and would be “more lethal than ever before.”

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Wermuth had several positions with Rand, including co-director of its Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy. In a study released in 2006, the center warned that a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb that exploded at the Port of Long Beach would kill 60,000 people immediately and expose an additional 150,000 to dangerous levels of radiation. The blast would also cause 10 times the economic loss of the 9/11 attacks.

“This report shows that an attack of this scale can have far-reaching implications beyond the actual point of the attack itself,” Wermuth said in a Times interview.

He was born Oct 4, 1946, in Birmingham, Ala., and received a bachelor’s degree in commerce and business administration at the University of Alabama in 1969. He served in the Army from 1969 to 1999, earning a law degree in 1974.

Previous to joining Rand, he held several government positions, including deputy assistant secretary of Defense for drug enforcement policy from 1989 to 1993.

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Wermuth retired from Rand in 2010.

david.colker@latimes.com


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