Earlier today I had a feeling history was repeating itself when I listened to the testimony of former Senators Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jim Talent (R-MO) before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Graham is the Chairman and Talent the Vice Chairman of the Congressionally-mandated Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Graham previously served as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The Commission outlined significant dangers posed by terrorist group production of WMD, but apparently not too many people view this as an important subject. The room was not crowded, few Senators attended, and there has been next to no coverage in the news media since the report was completed last month. The only significant exposure they received was when Senator Graham was a guest on Stephen Colbert’s comedy show.
This has happened before. On January 21, 2001, former Senators Gary Hart (D-CO) and Warren Rudman (R-NH) released the in-depth report of their Congressionally-mandated U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. The Hart/Rudman group said a hostile attack was increasingly likely on the U.S. homeland, and “America’s military superiority will not help us.” They warned of the dangers of terrorism and said rapid advances in information and biotechnologies would create new vulnerabilities for U.S. security.
The Hart/Rudman Commission was ignored and nine months later we were confronted with 9/11. The new report developed by Senators Graham and Talent is entitled “World at Risk,” and it calls for decisive international action. The Graham/Talent Commission members believe it is likely terrorists will use a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.
The first priority continues to be the potential use of a nuclear weapon by terrorists and rogue states. The report says North Korea has many ties to terrorist organizations and they already have at least 10 nuclear weapons. In addition, Iran has crossed numerous “red lines” set by the international community regarding weapons-related uranium enrichment.
They recommended increased security measures being devoted to Pakistan’s uranium and plutonium stockpile. The seizure of weapons grade material by terrorists would have enormous consequences, but they also emphasized the main threat comes from biological weapons.
The Senators briefed Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on their findings. Senator Talent told them “We know the terrorists want to get these weapons, we know they have tried to get these weapons and we know they are sophisticated enough organizationally to acquire this capability.”
The Commission members supported the Bush Administration’s cross-border attacks against extremists along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. The attacks were designed to stop the reconstitution of headquarters and training camps for al-Qaida.