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Friday, December 5, 2008

U.S. intel panel sees WMD attack in next 5 years

WASHINGTON — The U.S. intelligence community expects a weapons of mass destruction attack by 2014.

A report by a U.S. commission asserted that Al Qaida or another insurgency network would launch a WMD strike over the next five years.

The Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, in a report based on U.S. intelligence analysis, said the attack would likely be that of a biological weapon, Middle East Newsline reported.

"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," the report, titled "World at Risk," said. "Terrorists are more likely to be able to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon."

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The report, released on Dec. 3, appealed to the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to prepare for a WMD strike in the United States.

The commission, led by former Senators Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, called on the next administration to assign a position that would coordinate the U.S. intelligence community to spread the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons.

"At this moment, Al Qaida is judged to be the sole terrorist group actively intent on conducting a nuclear attack against the United States," the report said. "For the forseeable future, no extremists or groups to which they belong will be able on their own to produce nuclear weapons-usable materials."

The commission, mandated by Congress, determined that no insurgency network contained the capability to launch a biological or nuclear strike. But members agreed that WMD material and technology were leaking from Pakistan and the former Soviet Union.

"The United States should be less concerned that terrorists will become biologists and far more concerned that biologists will become terrorists," the report said. "Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing. Were one to map terrorism and weapons of mass destruction today, all roads would intersect in Pakistan."

The commission warned that the assembly of biological weapons, particularly anthrax, was less of a technological challenge than nuclear weapons. The report said insurgency groups or state sponsors could acquire pathogens and convert them into aerosol spray.

"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 said.

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