World at Risk

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2008-12-03
  • Publisher: Vintage
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"The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world's most dangerous terrorists acquire the world's most dangerous weapons." The 9/11 Commission Report The bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism was established by the U.S. Congress to build on the work of the 9/11 Commission by assessing our nation's progress in preventing weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism, and providing a roadmap to greater security with concrete recommendations for improvement. The Commission has interviewed over 200 experts inside and outside of government. They have met with counterterrorism and intelligence officials here at home and abroad who are working to stop proliferation and terrorism The Commission's report examines the government's current policies and programs, identifies gaps in our government's prevention strategy and recommends ways to close them. The threat of terrorist attacks in the United States and elsewhere is still very real. The world remians at risk There is more that can and must be done. Our security depends on it.

Table of Contents

Letters of Transmittal Preface Executive Summary
One Biological and Nuclear Risks
Two Findings and Recommendations
Biological Proliferation and Terrorism
Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism Pakistan: The Intersection of Nuclear
Weapons and Terrorism Russia and the United States
Government Organization and Culture The Role of the Citizen
Appendices •Review of Implementation of the Baker-Cutler
Report •International Nonproliferation/Counterproliferation
Treaties, Regimes, and Initiatives •Acronyms and Abbreviations •Commissioner
Biographies •Commission Staff
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


Biological Risks They were agents on a mission and they came not at night, which might have looked suspicious, but in broad daylight. Hiding in plain sight on a city street in Atlanta, they walked the perimeter of one of America's five biological laboratories where scientists worked on the world's most deadly pathogens. They had come to this lab at Georgia State University in 2008 as part of their assignment to quietly case facilities designated as Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) labs, the highest level of biological containment, required for work with the most dangerous viruses. They were looking for even the slightest security vulnerability--anything that might give an edge to terrorists seeking to steal small quantities of Ebola virus or other lethal disease agents for which there are no treatments, no known cures. These individuals discovered that in a number of places, the lab was unprotected by barriers and that outsiders could walk right up to the building housing these deadly pathogens. Around back, they watched and took notes as a pedestrian simply strolled into the building through an unguarded loading dock. On another day, the same people went to San Antonio to check out another BSL-4 lab, the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. They discovered that the security camera covered only a portion of the perimeter, and that the only barrier to vehicles was an arm gate that would swing across the roadway. The guards assigned to protect this facility were unarmed. Once again, these individuals walked the perimeter. This time they spotted a window through which, standing outside, they could watch the scientists as they worked with top-security pathogens. Now they knew exactly where the world's most deadly pathogens were kept. This was precisely the lethal trove that al Qaeda's terrorists had been seeking for years. But luckily, these operatives on this mission were not from al Qaeda--they were from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, and they visited five of America's labs that are designated BSL-4. For more than a decade, U.S. government inspection teams have traveled to facilities in the former Soviet Union and reported back on the poor security and lax practices used in storing biological pathogens. Now, this latest study by GAO has shown that when it comes to materials of bioterrorism, America's vulnerability may well begin at home. The GAO report gave high marks to three of the five facilities investigated. The investigators measured how the labs fared in 15 security control categories, and these labs met the standards for, respectively, 13, 14, and all 15. Among the 15 security controls were having armed security guards visible at all public entrances to the lab, full camera coverage of all exterior entrances, and closed-circuit television and a command and control center so that any security breach could be instantly known throughout the facility. But the two lowest-scoring BSL-4 labs passed in only 3 and 4 of the 15 categories--a score that is even more troubling because, as GAO noted, both still met the requirements of the Division of Select Agents and Toxins of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite these shortcomings, the United States is actually at the forefront of laboratory security in the world today and has by far the most stringent regulations to restrict access to dangerous pathogens. Most developing countries, in contrast, have largely ignored the problem of biosecurity because of competing demands for their limited budgets. Security gaps at laboratories that store and work with dangerous pathogens, both in the United States and around the world, are worrisome because of continued interest in biological weapons. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said in a recent speech, "One of our greatest concerns continues to be that a terrorist group or some other dange

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