Seven years and one war later, we’re even more vulnerable.
Some key measures experts have called for to thwart nuclear and biological terrorism have floundered since Sept. 11, 2001, increasing the risk that Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups will use a weapon of mass destruction and inflict far more civilian casualties, a government task force was warned yesterday.
Just five blocks from the site of the 2001 attacks, a congressionally-appointed Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism panel heard sobering testimony from law enforcement officials and national security specialists who believe the country is now more vulnerable to a catastrophic terrorist attack than it was seven years ago – in part because the government has dragged its feet in defending against the threat.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York testified that a new federal project to establish a ring of sensors around the city to detect radioactive and nuclear materials is inadequately funded in this year’s federal budget. Bloomberg’s police chief, meanwhile, said the federal government has no uniform standard for securing radioactive materials and biological pathogens, materials commonly used in hospitals and labs that could become components in a “dirty bomb” or germ-based weapon.
At the same time, a news anchor whose office was targeted in the anthrax attacks in the weeks after 9/11 complained that the Department of Homeland Security has not provided guidance on what to do if a biological agent is released. And some of the nation’s top specialists on nuclear proliferation told the panel they think the likelihood that terrorists could detonate a nuclear bomb in an American city has increased, not diminished.
[Photo via Michael Brenton-King @ Flickr]