Global Insights: Sounding the Toxin Tocsin

Global Insights: Sounding the Toxin Tocsin

A bipartisan commission last week reiterated its warning that the U.S. government is responding inadequately to the threat of bioterrorism. Shortly before last fall's national election, the U.S. Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism issued its major report (.pdf), "World at Risk." It included detailed guidance to the next U.S. presidential administration about what steps to take to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction or their potential use by terrorists.

The commission's latest report (.pdf), affirms that, "Progress has been made, but the clock is ticking." Like "World at Risk," the October 2009 report ignores the threat from chemical weapons. Although acknowledging the possible use of nuclear weapons by states or terrorists, it focuses on how to reduce bioterrorism dangers.

Former Sen. Jim Talent, vice chairman of the commission, explained the emphasis in a media conference call. "Our government as a whole has not become entirely comfortable with the idea that [the biological threat] is as significant a threat as a nuclear threat," Talent said. "And, so, the way the government is structured to address these things, we're just concerned that the bio-threat gets shorted."

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