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12 March 2002

U.S. Goal: Keep Weapons of Mass Destruction Out Of Terrorists' Hands

(Bush administration works with allies to deny WMD access) (1500)
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Writer
Washington -- A primary U.S. goal in the war against terrorism is to
ensure -- as President Bush told the corps of cadets at the military
college of South Carolina last year -- that "the authors of mass
murder" are "never allowed to gain or use the weapons of mass
destruction (WMD)."
During his December 11 speech at the Citadel in Charleston Bush said
the great threat to civilization "is that a few evil men will multiply
their murders and gain the means to kill on a scale equal to their
"America's next priority [in the campaign] to prevent mass terror is
to protect against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
and the means to deliver them," the president said, thereby announcing
the establishment of a broad, clear goal -- the fulfillment of which
will reach to all corners of the globe.
In his State of the Union address on January 29, Bush warned that
countries such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea, and their terrorist
allies, constitute "an axis of evil" posing "a grave and growing
danger" for their pursuit of WMD. He said the United States "will work
closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors
the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver" WMD.
The need for such action is urgent. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Director George Tenet says WMD programs "are becoming more advanced
and effective as they mature and as countries-of-concern become more
aggressive in pursuing them." Because of the dual-use nature of
chemical and biological agents and the inherent difficulty in
distinguishing legitimate commercial ventures from offensive weapons
programs, he said, there is "a significant risk within the next few
years that we could confront an adversary -- either terrorists or a
rogue state -- who possess them."
Evidence of terrorists' intentions -- uncovered in their training
camps, safe houses, caves and tunnels in Afghanistan -- has included
instructions for making chemical weapons, diagrams of U.S. nuclear
power plants and public water facilities, descriptions of key American
historic landmarks, and maps of U.S. cities. Other al-Qaeda stashes in
Afghanistan have included documents ranging from fake identity papers
to bomb-making instructions, and the weapons caches included tons of
ammunition and artillery as well as armored tanks and anti-aircraft
While no evidence has yet surfaced that al-Qaeda members were building
a nuclear weapon, it is clear that they were accumulating relevant
information. A recent CNN report referred to a 25-page document about
nuclear weapons and design found abandoned in Afghanistan. Two
Pakistani scientists are also thought to have shared their knowledge
with the al-Qaeda network, according to the account.
The CIA believes that the network may have been seeking a radioactive
dispersal weapon, or "dirty bomb" as it is also known. In addition, a
former member of al-Qaeda provided testimony in a New York federal
court in 2001 that he had set up meetings in Khartoum in the 1990s to
help the network try to acquire uranium. Radio Free Europe also
reported last year on a failed al-Qaeda attempt to acquire nuclear
warheads from Chechen rebels in Russia in 1998.
Tenet told members of Congress that al-Qaeda "was working to acquire
some of the most dangerous chemical agents and toxins," and he
provided documents showing that a sophisticated biological weapons
(BW) research program was being pursued. While much of the evidence
outlined above has been accumulated as a result of the coalition
military engagement in Afghanistan known as "Operation Enduring
Freedom," al-Qaeda operatives are also said to have been active in 67
other nations.
Whatever progress has been made by al-Qaeda or a host of other WMD
aspirants, terrorists have demonstrated "suicidal tendencies and are
beyond deterrence," according to Senator Richard Lugar (Republican,
Indiana). "We must anticipate that they will use weapons of mass
destruction if allowed the opportunity. The minimum standard for
victory in this war (against terrorism) is the prevention of any of
the individual terrorists or terrorist cells from obtaining" these
In the absence of prevention, the world may face a horror like the one
experienced by the citizens of Tokyo when the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo
group attacked the subway system with the chemical nerve agent Sarin
in 1995. Aum Shinrikyo also reportedly made several botched efforts to
conduct attacks using biological agents.
The war against terrorism is being prosecuted in a world which Lugar
describes as being "awash with nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons and materials of mass destruction stored principally in the
United States and Russia but also in India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran,
Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Israel, Great Britain, France, China
and, perhaps, other nations."
A 2002 CIA report on proliferation states that "the threat of
terrorists using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
materials appears to be rising -- particularly since the September 11
attacks." It cites a senior Osama bin Laden operative as claiming
during a trial in Egypt in 1999 that his group possessed chemical and
biological weapons. The report also refers to bin Laden's 1988
statement that acquiring WMD is a "religious duty" and points to crude
nuclear weapons diagrams discovered in a suspected al-Qaeda house in
September 11 and the havoc spread by terrorists in New York and
Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. is etched in
everyone's mind as an illustration of what can happen when commercial
airliners are converted by terrorists into aircraft bombs. Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has cited the nexus of terror and WMD.
Turning jetliners "into missiles and driving them into buildings and
killing thousands of people -- we know roughly the effect of that. It
was thousands," the secretary said, referring to the innocent citizens
of 80 nations who were killed in those attacks. Biological, nuclear,
radiological dispersal, or chemical weapons in the hands of
terrorists, could, for example, "kill tens of thousands and hundreds
of thousands, not simply thousands," he added.
Defense Department officials are particularly concerned about the
potential of al-Qaeda to acquire and use chemical or biological
weapons because, unlike other terrorist groups backed by a
state-sponsor that might place restrictions on their use, al-Qaeda
doesn't have any state behind it that might stop them.
Bush's State of the Union message focused attention on WMD and turned
up the heat on certain countries which National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice said "are a clear and present danger" to the United
States and the rest of the civilized world. Why? "Because the
Iranians, who spread and support terror around the world, the North
Koreans, who proliferate these weapons, and the Iraqis, who make a
region of great importance to us unstable, clearly are a clear and
present threat to America, America's interests, and America's allies."
While the spotlight of the moment may be on these three nations, there
are other state-sponsors of terrorism. According to "Patterns of
Global Terrorism," published by the State Department in 2001, these
include Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Cuba.
Syria and Sudan have been faulted for providing safehaven to groups
such as the Palestine Islamic Jihad. According to another 2001 report
published by the Pentagon on proliferation, Syria is likely to
maintain and improve its missile programs, as well as its chemical and
biological weapons capabilities. While Sudan has been reportedly
interested in chemical weapons acquisition and use in the past, this
report suggests Khartoum's desire to moderate its image
internationally "will cause Sudan to proceed with its chemical warfare
program with caution." A 2002 CIA report on proliferation states,
however, that Sudan may be interested in a BW program.
Libya reportedly still maintains contact with the Palestine Islamic
Jihad and other groups and has yet to comply fully with UN Security
Council requirements related to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
The Pentagon report states that Libya continues to pursue an
indigenous chemical weapons production capability and wants to buy
long-range missiles.
Cuba allegedly has ties with Latin American insurgents and has
provided safehaven to some Basque terrorists, but is not a
Rumsfeld said the terrorist list includes a number of countries that
"are active, developing weapons of mass destruction, and ... have
relations with terrorist networks. And we must not sit idly by as a
country, as a world, and accept that outcome -- that eventually, if we
wait long enough, eventually it's reasonable to expect that terrorist
nations will provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist
In the end the issue is accountability. President Bush put it this
way: "For states that support terror, it's not enough that the
consequences be costly; they must be devastating. The more credible
this reality, the more likely that regimes will change their behavior,
making it less likely that America and our friends will need to use
overwhelming force against them."

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