By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington(RushPRNews)12/05/08 â€” A new congressionally mandated report says the threat from a terrorist attack involving a biological, nuclear or other unconventional weapon is quite real and could happen within the next five years.
â€œUnless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013,â€ says a report from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.
â€œThe commission further believes that terrorists are more likely to be able to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon.â€
The report â€” World at Risk â€” is based on a six-month study by the commission, which Congress created in 2007 in keeping with one of the recommendations of National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The nine-member panel, led by former U.S. senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent, received briefings, conducted site visits including meetings in Russia, and interviewed more than 250 U.S. government and independent experts here and abroad.
Released December 3 in Washington, the report contains 13 recommendations that focus on thwarting bioterrorism; strengthening international organizations, like the International Atomic Energy Agency, to address the nuclear terrorism threat; and creating a comprehensive approach to deal with countries that harbor or provide a safe haven for terrorist groups.
The commission said the threats are evolving faster than the ability of the international community to respond. â€œIn our judgment, Americaâ€™s margin of safety is shrinking, not growing,â€ the report said.
President Bush praised the commission for the thoroughness of its report and findings. â€œThe administration worked closely with the commission during the course of its review and agrees that the threat of global terrorist organizations acquiring or developing [weapons of mass destruction] and using them against our homeland and interests abroad remains dangerously real,â€ the White House said in a statement on the report.
BIOTERRORISM THREAT INCREASING
â€œThe commission believes that the U.S. government needs to move more aggressively to limit the proliferation of biological weapons and reduce the prospect of a bioterror attack,â€ the reportâ€™s executive summary said.
Biotechnology has spread globally, and while it has led to significant advances in medicine and agriculture, it has also spread the availability of pathogens and technologies that â€œcan be used for sinister purposes,â€ the report said. And it said the United States has invested the largest portion of its nonproliferation efforts and diplomatic initiatives in preventing nuclear terrorism, but the priority now must be in preventing bioterrorism.
The life sciences community never has experienced a comparable iconic event such as the nuclear industry did with the advent of nuclear bombs, and as a result, security awareness has grown slowly, lagging behind the emergence of biological risks and threats, the report said.
â€œIt is essential that the members of the life sciences community â€” in universities, medical and veterinary schools, nongovernmental research institutes, trade associations, and biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies â€” foster a bottom-up effort to sensitize researchers to biosecurity issues and concerns,â€ the report said.
NUCLEAR TERRORISM THREAT RISING
The commission report said trafficking in nuclear materials and technology is a serious, relentless and multidimensional problem, â€œyet nuclear terrorism is still a preventable catastrophe.â€
The world community must move â€œwith new urgencyâ€ to halt the creation of new nuclear-armed nations, the commissioners said. And they urged the United States to lead in efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and safeguard nuclear material before it falls into the hands of terrorist groups, including by revitalizing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.