cominer

Not Exactly Bedtime Reading

In Crime, Politics, World on January 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Maybe it wouldn’t be so disturbing if it wasn’t bipartisan, if it was just the usual, well you’re from a different political party so the hell with you.

But a new report from the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism carries the headline, “Government Failing to Protect America from Grave Threats of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism.”

Great.

“Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bioterrorism,” said Senator Bob Graham, co-chairman of the commission. “Each of the last three Administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat. But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bioweapons.”

According to the report, the Commission found several areas where the risks to the United States are increasing: the crossroads of terrorism and proliferation in the poorly governed regions of Pakistan, the proliferation of biological and nuclear materials, and technology, and the potential erosion of international nuclear security, treaties and norms as we enter a nuclear energy renaissance.”

The report assessed United States efforts in 17 areas including tightening government oversight of high-containment labs to strengthening domestic and global disease surveillance networks to designating a White House principal advisor for WMD proliferation and terrorism.

While the commission gave several As and Bs, there were also three Fs including one for efforts to implement education and training programs to recruit and retain the next generation of national security experts.

The report warns:

There is direct evidence that terrorists are trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction and acquiring WMD fits the tactical profile of terrorists. Terrorists also have global reach and the organizational sophistication to obtain and use WMD. Finally, the opportunity to acquire and use such weapons is growing exponentially because of the global proliferation of nuclear material and biological technologies.”

Meanwhile, the CIA official who headed up the agency’s efforts to find weapons of mass destruction, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, has written a report for the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government stating that Al Qaeda has not abandoned its efforts to attack the United States with such a weapon.

“Al Qaeda is the only group known to be pursuing a long-term, persistent and systematic approach to developing weapons to be used in mass casualty attacks,” Mowatt-Larssen writes, adding that threats by Osama bin Laden to escalate attacks “should not be interpreted as empty rhetoric and idle threats.”

Mowatt-Larssen acknowledges that “there is widespread suspicion in America and abroad that WMD terrorism is another phony threat being hyped for political purposes, and to stoke fears among the public” and that “it is difficult to debunk this allegation, given the US government’s lack of credibility in the case of Iraqi WMD.”

But, he adds, “that said, WMD terrorism is not Iraqi WMD…There is no indication that the fundamental objectives that lie behind their WMD intent have changed over time.”

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