December 2, 2008 in Nation/World

Study finds growing nuclear attack threat

By Joby Warrick Washington Post
 

WASHINGTON – The odds that terrorists will soon strike a major city with weapons of mass destruction are now better than even, a bipartisan congressionally mandated task force concludes in a draft study that warns of growing threats from rogue states, nuclear smuggling networks and the spread of atomic know-how in the developing world.

The sobering assessment of such threats, due for release as early as today, singled out Pakistan as a grave concern because of its terrorist networks, history of instability and arsenal of several dozen nuclear warheads. The report urged the incoming Obama administration to take “decisive action” to reduce the likelihood of a devastating attack.

“No mission could be timelier,” says the draft report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, which spent six months preparing an assessment for Congress and the president-elect. It adds: “In our judgment, America’s margin of safety is shrinking, not growing.”

The report, ordered by Congress last year, concludes that terrorists are more likely to obtain materials for a biological attack than to buy or steal nuclear weapons.

“Without greater urgency and decisive action by the world community, 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,” says the draft report, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post.

The new panel’s bipartisan members, chaired by former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., with former congressman James Talent, R-Mo., serving as vice chairman, conducted more than 260 interviews with government officials and experts around the world to assess the problem of weapons of mass destruction as well as offer proposals for reducing the threat.

While the panel found the risk of an attack with such weapons to be increasingly serious, “nuclear terrorism is still a preventable catastrophe,” the report says. It calls for aggressive steps to secure unguarded stockpiles of nuclear weapons material such as uranium and plutonium, as well as coordinated international efforts to discover and disrupt smuggling rings that traffic in atomic technology.


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