Four years after a bipartisan Congressional commission concluded that a weapon of mass destruction would likely be used in a terrorist attack by 2013, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (PA-07) convened the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence Thursday to examine ways our nation has met the goals set forth in the report and what steps are necessary to fully protect our country.
Chaired by former Senators Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jim Talent (R-MO), the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction recommended that the United States take steps to secure the nation from the threat of WMD's and specifically a bioterrorism attack.
At Thursday's hearing, "WMD Terrorism: Assessing the Continued Homeland Threat", Meehan and the Subcommittee heard from the authors of a new report from the Aspen Institute that examines the federal government's response to the Graham-Talent findings, and the state of US preparedness.
"This hearing comes at a tumultuous moment in the Middle East," said Meehan. "As we speak, terrorists are attempting to penetrate gaps in leadership throughout the region, and as the terrorist group Hamas is escalating their attacks on our friend and ally Israel. Now more than ever we must be vigilant as al-Qaeda revamps and potentially has access to weapons stockpiles in Libya and Syria."
"Al-Qaeda leaders continue to push for the development and deployment of biological weapons," Meehan continued. "Syria, Iran, and Pakistan all possess active WMD programs that could be leveraged by a hostile government or fall into the hands of terrorist groups. And rapid advances in biotechnology in the last few years could be leveraged for malicious intent as easily as for their beneficial uses."
Meehan authored legislation, HR 2764, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Intelligence and Information Sharing Act based on the Graham-Talent findings. H.R. 2764 provides guidance for the Department of Homeland Security to engage in and support intelligence activities related to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats and to share timely intelligence and prevention tools with partners at the federal, state, and local levels. A new Aspen Institute report finds that the bio-threat remains undiminished.
"We heard in very clear terms: the United States must do more to prepare to prevent a chemical and biological attack," said Meehan. "The new head of al-Qaeda Ayman al Zawahiri is a biological weapons expert. Congress must act now and pass HR 2764 and fully implement a plan that protects our critical infrastructure from a CBRN attack."
HR 2764 also requires that DHS coordinate with others in the intelligence community in its efforts and that information analyzed by DHS be shared with state, local, and tribal partners. The legislation passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote in May 2012, and awaits action in the Senate.