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U.S. Commission Raises Alarm Over WMD-Armed Terrorists

Terrorists will probably conduct a WMD attack in the next five years unless the United States and other nations act rapidly to stop them, according to a congressionally created commission that is due to release its formal report this week (see GSN, Nov. 19).

"Unless 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," says the executive summary of the report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. The report was prepared before terrorists conducted a well-coordinated attack in India last week, killing nearly 200 people at multiple locations around the city of Mumbai, the New York Times reported.

"America's margin of safety is shrinking, not growing," said the commission, led by former Senators Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.).

The panel issued 13 recommendations that addressed biological terrorism risks, nuclear proliferation concerns and worries about Pakistan, the Times reported.

"Pakistan is an ally, but there is grave danger it could also be an unwitting source of a terrorist attacks on the United States -- possibly with weapons of mass destruction," the summary says (Eric Schmitt, New York Times, Dec. 1).

The commission criticized the Bush administration for failing to devote adequate resources toward curbing bioterror risks, the Washington Post reported.

"The more probable threat of bioterrorism should be put on equal footing with the more devastating threat of nuclear terrorism," says the study, which raises concerns not just about terrorists using biological weapons, but also about security standards at a burgeoning number of U.S. biological defense laboratories.

"The rapid growth of such labs in recent years has created new safety and security risks which must be managed," the report says. "Rapid scientific advances and the global spread of biotechnology equipment and know-how are currently outpacing the modest international attempts to promote biosecurity" (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Nov. 30).

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