A bipartisan commission will tell Vice President-elect Joe Biden today that the United States can expect a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack by 2013. It is scheduled to be publicly released Wednesday.
Prepared by former Senators. Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism report, says last week's rampage by a small group of gunmen in Mumbai could have been far more devastating in its impact had the terrorists had access to biological weapons.
"If those people had had access to a biological or nuclear weapon, they would have multiplied by orders of magnitude the deaths they could have inflicted," Graham said, adding that the attack served as a grim reminder that the global war on terror is far from over.
The report says the potential nexus of terrorism, nuclear and biological weapons is especially acute in Pakistan.
"Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan," the report states.
Both however, acknowledged that terrorist groups still lack the needed scientific and technical ability to make weapons out of pathogens or nuclear bombs, but warned that the gap can be overcome easily if terrorists should find scientists willing to share or sell their expertise.
The commission believes biological weapons are more likely to be obtained and used before nuclear or radioactive weapons because nuclear facilities are more carefully guarded. Civilian laboratories with potentially dangerous pathogens abound, however, and could easily be compromised.
"The biological threat is greater than the nuclear; the acquisition of deadly pathogens, and their weaponization and dissemination in aerosol form, would entail fewer technical hurdles than the theft or production of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and its assembly into an improvised nuclear device," the report says.
Suggesting that the incoming Obama administration bolster efforts to counter and prepare for germ warfare by terrorists, the report warns: "Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing."
The commission also is encouraging the new White House to appoint one official on the National Security Council to coordinate exclusively U.S. intelligence and foreign policy on combating the spread of nuclear and biological weapons, reports CBS.
"The United States should be less concerned that terrorists will become biologists and far more concerned that biologists will become terrorists," the report states.
It notes that the U.S. government's counter-proliferation activities have been geared toward preventing nuclear terror. The commission recommends the prevention of biological terror be made a higher priority.
Study chairman Graham said anthrax remains the most likely biological weapon. Graham said the threat of a terror attack using nuclear or biological weapons is growing "not because we have not done positive things but because adversaries are moving at an even faster pace to increase their access" to those materials.