Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction
June 27, 2005
Authors: Ashton B. Carter, Former Co-Director, Preventive Defense Project, Harvard & Stanford Universities, Juliette Kayyem, Lecturer in Public Policy (on Leave), Timothy Roemer, Senator Sam Nunn, Leonard Spector, Steven Brill
TERRORISM AND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
9/11 PUBLIC DISCOURSE PROJECT HOLDS PANEL DISCUSSION ON TERRORISM AND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
LOCATION: WASHINGTON, D.C.
SPEAKERS: TIMOTHY ROEMER,
FORMER 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER
FORMER U.S. SENATOR SAM NUNN (D-GA),
CO-CHAIRMAN AND CEO,
NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE
PREVENTIVE DEFENSE PROJECT,
JOHN KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT
CENTER FOR NONPROLIFERATION STUDIES,
MONTEREY INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RESEARCH,
BELFER CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS,
JFK SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT
THE AMERICA PREPARED CAMPAIGN, INC.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
ROEMER: I'm very pleased to be joined by former Senator Sam Nunn, who I will introduce shortly as one of the champions and leaders with respect to our efforts in Congress on this very critically important problem.
I also want to welcome the 9/11 family members here today. A jagged hole was ripped in the heart of America on 9/11. We lost 3,000 family members.
I can't imagine how big this room would need to be here today if it had been a nuclear or a biological or chemical attack. There's not a convention center in America that could probably hold the number of people that we would need for that kind of catastrophic event.
And yet we know, we're certain, from the intelligence that we have, from the 9/11 Commission report, on page 116, that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida desperately want to get these types of weapons.
We know, for instance, that Osama bin Laden has escalated his attacks on America. Back in 1993, he used a van and attacked the Trade Centers. In 2001, he used planes as missiles and killed 3,000 people. And we know that Osama bin Laden wants to get nuclear capabilities.
We know this man, we know his works. We know he's met with two Pakistani nuclear scientists. We know he's trying to secure nuclear weapons and has been since 1993. We know that he has instructed Al Qaida that it is a religious duty and obligation to get these weapons.
We have been warned that a nuclear 9/11 is a terrorist objective. Our political leaders also know this. Let me read a couple of quotes from some of the highest people in our government that have recognized this threat and this problem.
In the 2004 presidential debate, President Bush and Senator Kerry both agreed that the possibility of nuclear terrorism was, quote, "the single most serious threat to the U.S. national security," unquote.
Former CIA Director George Tenet said this, quote: "Al Qaida continues to pursue its strategic goal of obtaining nuclear weapons," unquote.
The words of the now-current director of the CIA, Porter Goss, quote: "It may only be a matter of time before Al Qaida or another group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear devices," unquote.
And the words of our current FBI Director, Bob Mueller, quote: "Intelligence continues to show Al Qaida's clear intention to obtain and ultimately use some form of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear material in its attacks against the United States," unquote.
ROEMER: Furthermore, the judgment of a CIA Counterterrorism Center expert: "Al Qaida probably has access," this person says, "to nuclear expertise and facilities, and there is the real possibility of the group developing a crude nuclear device."
And finally, coming from the Robb-Silberman Commission put together by the president of the United States — they say, quote: "The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Al Qaida was capable of fabricating at least a crude nuclear device if it could obtain the requisite nuclear material," unquote.
We know Al Qaida wants to get these weapons. We know Osama bin Laden has instructed his people to get these weapons. Our political leaders know this. So what are we doing about it? Are we making this the kind of priority that those kinds of facts have outlined?
The main problem that Senator Nunn has worked so hard to try to achieve is trying to secure the material used to build these nuclear devices.
Hundreds of tons of loose nuclear materials lie relatively unprotected in Russia. Over 100 lightly guarded nuclear research reactors from the Congo to Central Asia contain the material necessary to build a nuclear weapon.
Security remains a huge problem. At a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, a guard was bribed for $77 — $77 for a bribe.
In 2005, CIA Director Porter Goss said, quote, "There is sufficient material unaccounted for so that it would be possible for those who know how to construct a nuclear weapon," unquote, to possibly use something like that.
Our challenge is clear. The 9/11 Commission proposals are clear. Yet Congress and the administration have not sufficiently reacted.
To prevent a nuclear 9/11, we must lock down more nuclear weapons, more pounds of potential bomb-making material, do more on Proliferation Security Initiative, do more on cooperative arrangements with other countries, and do more in Congress and the White House to protect this country against this threat.
We said on the 9/11 Commission there needed to be maximum effort and a sense of urgency. The sense of urgency is more a mood of complacency today. Rather than a brisk pace of activity, we are more saying: Business-as-usual approach.
President Bush has said, and I quote, "We must do everything in our power," unquote, to prevent nuclear terrorism. I agree with these words, but we need more work in this area.
When we invest less than a quarter of 1 percent of our defense budget on efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, is that doing everything in our power? I don't think so.
When we move the timetable from four years to 14 years, is that doing everything in our power? I don't think so.
We must move ahead with the speed and sense of purpose equivalent to the task of defeating the enemy ahead.
We have called this conference today to bring together some of the most respected and talented public servants and academic experts in the country.
Our hope, my prayer, is the people of goodwill and the United States Congress will work together in a bipartisan way with this administration so that we find renewed commitment to ensure that we keep the world's worst weapons out of the most dangerous hands.
The 9/11 Commission has proposed three ideas, three ideas in our 9/11 Commission, to try to make sure that this — a nuclear catastrophe — doesn't happen in the United States.
We have not seen those three recommendations passed by the Congress and the White House.
So we want to try to prevent this by passing these reforms. And we think that, just as Graham Allison up at Harvard has said, that, "This is a preventable catastrophe. You can pass measures to try to protect the United States and the world from this kind of catastrophe."
ROEMER: I look forward to hearing from our guests, and I would challenge the administration and Congress. If not our three proposals, what three proposals do you want to pass? If not now, when? If not these, what? Let's work together to make this country safer.
I look forward to hearing from our guests in a lively and, I hope, entertaining forum today.
And I want to introduce one of my good friends to talk about this problem and some of the accomplishments that he has seen in the last several years with his proposal, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Initiative.
Senator Sam Nunn has served as the United States senator from Georgia from 1972 to 1996. One of his great legislative accomplishments, among many, is one that bears his name, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which provides assistance primarily to Russia and the former Soviet republics for securing and destroying excess nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Senator Nunn serves today as co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit organization working to reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
He has been an outstanding leader on national security issues for generations. We are, indeed, fortunate to have his leadership, his courage and his insight here this morning.
Senator Nunn, thank you.
NUNN: Thank you very much, Tim.
Well, appreciate very much your leadership, the leadership of Lee Hamilton, Tom Kean and the entire commission. And it's a great pleasure to be able to address this panel and this audience here today.
You mentioned the last best chance. As you know, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the organization that I co-chair — we're dedicated to try to do everything we can to reduce the risk of the use of, or proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Along that line, we believe that heightening the awareness of the citizens in this country and around the globe is absolutely essential and imperative to that task.
That's why we produced this video docudrama called "The Last Best Chance," which portrays a terrorist plot to set off nuclear weapons both in the United States and in Europe.
This is about 45-minute film. We are giving it away as long as our funds hold out. If anybody wants to order one, it's lastbestchance.org. And we encourage you to not only see it yourself but also to share it with others and to express your views on this to people who are in government, policy-makers, as to what we see to be the priorities — and I'm going to outline some of them today.
So, Tim, to you and the entire commission, I say thank you.
We believe that seeing the danger is the first step to improving security, and that public understanding is absolutely essential if we are to meet these challenges head on and if we are to get them on the front burner and keep them on the front burner for policy-makers.
In that spirit, we believe the country owes you and every member of the 9/11 Commission a huge debt of gratitude. You made the nation aware of the threats we face and the key steps we have to take to make ourselves more secure. This book outlines them very, very well.
But I believe your greatest contribution is what you and the commission members are doing after you have completed your primary task. I think the secondary task is just as important as the primary task.
You've refused to go away. You've refused to let this book just sit on the shelf. Instead, you are doing the job until the government does its job. And I think that's enormously important.
So I thank you for your hard work, for your vision for a more secure America and world, and most of all for your persistence and your absolute dedication and determination.
The 9/11 Commission report said clearly we have to make a maximum effort to prevent a nuclear 9/11. And Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chair Lee Hamilton and you, Congressman Roemer, have emphasized this in your public remarks.
I agree. In my view, the threat of terrorism with nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction presents the gravest danger to our nation and to the world.
We know that Al Qaida is seeking nuclear weapons. As you laid out very clearly, Mr. Chairman, we don't know how many other groups may also have similar ambitions.
NUNN: I recall very well, because I conducted the investigation in 1995 and '96, of the Aum Shinrikyo chemical attack in a Tokyo subway. And I recall very well that at that time, at the time that attack occurred, this organization had been in existence for several years.
It had members in Russia. It had recruited scientist working in Russian labs. It owned a radio station in Vladivostock. It had over a billion dollars in assets. It had bought land in Australia and was conducting sarin gas tests against sheep. And some believe it was also seeking natural uranium. And it had also sent a team to investigate the ebola virus, as to how they could pick that up and spread it in Africa.
All of that occurred and yet neither our FBI nor CIA had ever heard of the organization until that attack occurred in 1995. So we don't know how many other groups may be out there.
We're focused on Al Qaida; properly so. But we ought to also focus much more broadly, and we ought to recognize that no matter who's seeking weapons and materials, we have to lock them down everywhere they are, all over the world. And we have to get cooperation to do that.
We know that the nuclear material that would be desired by Al Qaida is housed in many poorly secured sites around the globe. We believe that if they get that material, they can build a nuclear weapon. And we believe that if they build a nuclear weapon, they'll use it. That's at least the premise on which our organization proceeds, and we think it is the correct premise.
And I believe that we are on the same wavelength, Mr. Chairman, with your commission.
A terrorist nuclear attack in one of our cities could kill hundreds of thousands of people. It could shatter our economy, erode our civil liberties, give blackmail power to the terrorist group that carried out the attack. And would also give what I call disruptive threat power to other groups or individuals who have no nuclear weapons, but who do have destructive intent.
You imagine people claiming all over the globe they are going to blow up another city after the first one goes up. That's the kind of horror that we would face.
So American citizens, and I think citizens all over the globe, have every reason to ask, "Are we all doing all we can to prevent a nuclear attack?" The answer is, no, we are not.
We have, however, taken important steps. I think it's important for people to realize that there is a foundation here, and that steps have been taken and that people are doing work, good work. So let me name a few to try to put this whole matter in some perspective.
First of all, the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program has been working since 1991 to secure and destroy weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union. This has been, in effect, a program working with the Russians.
In addition to helping Russia remove and safeguard thousands of warheads and dangerous materials, this funding helped Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus implement a critically important decision to give up all of their nuclear weapons.
So instead of having four fingers on the nuclear trigger after 1991, the break up of the empire, we ended up with only Russia. That was a huge, huge accomplishment, and we should in no way diminish that because it is enormously, enormously important.
Many people don't realize it, but 20 percent of our electricity in this country comes from nuclear power. And what is not realized is that 50 percent of the nuclear material that goes into producing the nuclear power comes from highly enriched uranium that was in warheads formerly aimed at America. So theoretically, one out of 10 light bulbs come from highly enriched uranium that was formerly in weapons aimed at American cities that was dismantled, reprocessed into lower enriched uranium, sold to America, and burned in our power plants.
And that program is ongoing. It has another 10 years to run.
Three years ago, the G-8 made a commitment to match the United States in threat reduction funding each year for the next 10 years. Another enormously important development.
The non-G-8 nations have joined this emerging global partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. So this is a program that G-8 has spearheaded. A number of other non-G-8 countries have joined, and the job now is to get the G-8 to live up to its commitment.
I think that is enormously important. Everyone who has a voice should not only ask what the G-8 is going to be doing at Gleneagles this summer on new initiatives, but what they've done with the last initiatives, which have yet to be fulfilled.
Last year, former Secretary of Energy Abraham and his Russian counterpart launched a global threat reduction initiative to remove and secure highly enriched uranium from research facilities around the globe. We at NTI call this the global clean-out. We've been preaching this gospel the last five years. We are very proud that it is now an initiative endorsed by the U.S. and Russian government.
It is just starting.
NUNN: It has a long way to go. There are over 40 countries with enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon and over 100 research facilities spread throughout the globe.
Those facilities must be either closed down or converted to low-enriched uranium. And in the meantime, the highly enriched uranium has to be secured. That is an absolute imperative.
In 2003, on the good news side, Libya committed to give up its nuclear weapons program, adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Test Ban Treaty and signed the additional protocol that would allow the IAEA to do more intrusive monitoring of the country's nuclear facility; a big breakthrough.
In April 2004, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution that requires countries to establish and strengthen domestic laws against export, sale or transfer of nuclear materials and technology and establish stringent standards for nuclear material security; a very solid foundation if implemented.
The Bush administration also has worked with other nations on the Proliferation Security Initiative, which allows nations to interdict transport of nuclear weapons that deliver systems and related technology; another enormously important initiative.
But I want to emphasize that the hardest place for terrorists to achieve their purpose of getting a nuclear weapon is where it is situated, where it's located.
Once they have got it, dealing with it in international commerce is really like a needle in a haystack. It doesn't mean we don't try, but the easiest job for us is securing the material where it is in connection with other countries. Once it leaves that source, our job multiplies enormously in terms of difficulty.
These are all indispensable steps toward greater security. The two presidents, President Bush and President Putin, at their most recent summit meeting agreed to enhance and accelerate cooperation to secure at-risk weapons and materials. They said all the right things but somehow or another, when they leave the summit, there's not the follow-through that we need.
So I think all of our job is to take those words and say to policymakers in this country and Russia and everywhere else, the G-8 and so forth, that, "These are your words; now we want deeds, we want programs, we want you to really do what you have pledged to do."
All of these are very important steps. It is essential now that both Presidents Bush and Putin become personally involved in eliminating the bureaucratic disputes that have blocked our progress, that they provide more resources and that they lead a global effort to address and reduce the nuclear threat. Nothing is more urgent.
I would start, Mr. Chairman, by saying that I hope in the next 30 days, the liability issue that has really, kind of, gummed up the works on the Nunn-Lugar program off and on for the last five years; it's interrupted Pete Domenici's initiative with the plutonium disposition program; the question, who's liable if something bad happens while we are dealing with these materials in Russia — that liability issue has got to be solved.
It is not that hard an issue. Common sense can solve it. Leadership can solve it. And I would plead with President Bush and President Putin to solve it in the next 30 days, announce it at Gleneagles, because it is absolutely a road block that has got to be removed.
Increasingly, we are being warned that an act of nuclear terrorism is inevitable. I'm not willing to concede that point, but I do believe that unless we greatly elevate our effort and the speed of our response, we could face disaster.
As I view it, Mr. Chairman, we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe and the threat is outrunning our response.
Let me offer my own, admittedly highly subjective, evaluation of our progress — by "our" I mean the United States and Russia.
In measuring the adequacy of our response to today's nuclear threats on the scale of one to 10. I would give us, overall — and you can break it down into components — but I would give us overall about a three out of 10, with the recent summit between President Bush and President Putin, because of their strong pledges, moving us closer to a number four.
The reason I rate the United States and Russia is because we have to have cooperation in order to get this job done. And to rate only the United States is to indicate that we can wave a wand, and if we do everything right all is going to be well in the world. Not true.
We've got to have help, we've got to have Russia's help and we've got to have help around the globe.
Let me explain, Mr. Chairman, my sense of urgency and why, despite all the important steps that I've outlined and we've taken, I would give us such a low mark, three or four out of 10.
Let me describe four nuclear-related threats we face today. And I'll really just outline three of them and incorporate the other one in the record in the interest of time.
Threat number one: Let's assume for a moment that a terrorist group gains access to nuclear material, builds a weapon and blows up one of the great cities of the world, whether it's New York or Moscow or London or Paris.
NUNN: The day after, what would we wish we had done to prevent it?
I believe we would wished we would have made our top priority a global effort to upgrade the security of all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material at their source to prevent theft or diversion.
I believe we would wish that we, the United States and Russia, had insisted on bilateral, transparent accountability of tactical nuclear weapons in both the United States and the Russian arsenals. These are small battlefield weapons that can be transported by one person, put in the back of a truck, and blow up a large part of a city of the world.
We don't know how many tactical weapons the Russians have or where they are located. We hope they do, but we are not confident of that.
Every time I have spoken on this subject, someone in Russia will pick it up and pretend I am talking about unilateral Russian disarmament and unilateral Russian giving America access to its tactical nuclear facilities.
I am not talking about that. I am talking about bilateral, I am talking about mutual, I am talking about reciprocal, I am talking about fairness, and I am talking about a threat that, if anything, is greater to the Russian people than to the American people. And I think those thoughtful people in Russia recognize that.
So I want to make that absolutely clear for the record. This is a concept that would be mutual, reciprocal and bilateral.
I believe that we would wish that the G-8's global partnership against the spread of weapons and weapons materials had met its commitments and directed its resources aggressively against the most urgent dangers, as it pledged to do almost three years ago in Canada. But those pledges, most of them, have not been met. They have gotten up to only $17 billion of the $20 billion pledged. And most of those pledges have not turned into programs, for, among many other reasons, some of the blockade issues, like the liability issue that I just mentioned.
I believe we would wish we had moved faster to implement the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to remove and secure nuclear weapons materials from research reactors around the globe.
As I mentioned, at NTI, we call this the global clean-out. It has just begun. There is a huge job ahead that requires U.S. and Russian leadership, G-8 leadership and the leadership of many nations around the globe. It requires cooperation.
I believe we would wish we'd stopped commerce in highly enriched uranium, thereby cutting off the wide distribution of this bomb-making material around the globe. It will not be instant. It will not be easy. But it has to be done.
We simply can't live with highly enriched uranium being used in commerce around the globe for the next 10, 20, 30 years without expecting and almost predicting an absolute disaster. We've got to face up to that issue.
The day after, I believe we'd wish we had done all of these things. And my question to all of us this morning is why aren't we doing them now.
Threat number two: Now imagine a terrorist group with insider help that acquires radiological material and detonates a dirty bomb in New York City's financial district, dispersing radiation across a 60- square-block area. The day after a dirty bomb attack, what would we have wished we had done to prevent that and to mitigate the damage if, God forbid, it occurs?
I believe we would wish that we'd worked harder to develop a risk-based global inventory of vulnerable radioactive sources and that we'd prioritized our efforts to secure them through a partnership effort throughout the globe.
I believe we would wished we'd worked harder to secure radioactive sources at every stage of their life cycle, from their production through their shipment, use and disposal; a cradle-to-grave approach to dangerous nuclear materials. I believe that is essential.
I believe that we would wish we'd accelerated the stockpiling of equipment at key locations and ensured that first responders had plans, protective gear and decontamination equipment in place.
And I believe that we would wish we'd greatly accelerated training exercises and mounted a serious public education program to mitigate the consequences of such an attack.
The day after, I believe we would wished we had done each of these things. And my question to all of us, again, this morning is why aren't we doing them now?
Mr. Chairman, I will skip scenario number three. It relates to the imperative of us understanding, in our nuclear force posture deliberations, which we don't do nearly enough, that we have an absolute imperative stake in the accuracy of the Russian warning systems.
Their warning systems, their satellite systems, their radar systems have gone down very substantially since the end of the Cold War, and they still have thousands of weapons pointed at America on hair trigger.
We have a stake in those warning systems working correctly. If their warning systems don't work, we could be the victims in our own country. So we have to deal with that. We have to begin to take a look at hair trigger in both inventories.
NUNN: We have to begin to work on a mutual basis on that.
We have to have confidence and assurance on each other's warning systems, and I think we need to increase the decision-making time of the president of the United States and the president of Russia.
If a Russian general ever walks in to the president of Russia and says to him, "I think, Mr. President, we have a missile attack launch from America. We can't be sure. Our warning systems aren't very good, but we have only seven, eight, 10 minutes to decide whether to launch a counter-attack or lose our weapons," I want the president of Russia to have an hour to make up that decision, and then I want him to have a week and then I want him to have a month.
That's the direction we need to be working in. It's not easy. It involves a lot of discussion.
But I at least think in 10 years after the Cold War, both of our presidents need to have time to have a black cup of coffee if they have been out to a cocktail party before they launch weapons that could basically terminate the existence of our country and, indeed, a lot of mankind.
Let's imagine — on threat number four — a sharp increase in the number of nuclear weapon states, including North Korea and Iran.
Unfortunately, as we all know, this is getting a lot easier to imagine. As Iran and North Korea become nuclear weapon states, other nations begin re-examining their options and following their example.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty becomes an artifact of history. After this occurs, what would we wish we had done to prevent it?
I believe that we would wish that we and our allies had developed a time-urgent, coordinated and direct diplomatic effort with North Korea and Iran to end their nuclear weapon programs using both carrots and sticks.
And that means very simply, we need to cook our carrots, and our allies need to sharpen their sticks.
We do not have that kind of coordinated approach vis-a-vis North Korea, nor do we have that kind of coordinated approach vis-a-vis Iran, and we must have.
I believe we would wish that nuclear weapon states, especially the United States and Russia, had visibly and steadily reduced their reliance on nuclear weapons at a time when we are asking others to renounce nuclear weapons.
In other words, I believe we would wish that we had set an example of devaluing rather than enhancing the importance of nuclear weapons.
I believe that we would wish we had followed the Treaty of Moscow with other substantive actions by adding benchmarks for progress, mechanisms for verification, timetables for reductions, and an obligation to eliminate warheads.
And I believe that we would wish we and other nations had insisted on a system of stronger rules and much stronger enforcement to prevent nations from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.
I also believe that we would wish we had created a nuclear cartel, as recommended by IAEA Director ElBaradei. That cartel would be made up of states with fuel cycle facilities, guaranteeing nuclear fuel at favorable market rates to other states but only if they agreed never to develop their own capacity to make nuclear weapons materials.
The day after we wake up and discover several new nations with their fingers on the nuclear trigger and with dramatically increased opportunity for terrorists to gain nuclear material, I believe we would wish we had done all of these things.
And again my question is, why aren't we doing them now?
During the Cold War, we saw what it looks like when world leaders unite, when they listen to each other, when they cooperate against common threats.
It is my hope that we will soon employ this model of international teamwork in responding to the threats from North Korea and Iran, in securing nuclear materials around the globe and in confronting the danger of catastrophic terrorism anywhere in the world.
The United States and its partners must be as focused on fighting the nuclear threat in this century as we were in fighting the communist threat in the last century.
Why wait until the day after? Why aren't we doing it now?
Mr. Chairman, you and the 9/11 Commission are leading the way to do it now, and I thank you.
ROEMER: Thank you, Senator.
You can see why somebody mentioned on the editorial Washington Post page the other day that Sam Nunn should be a bipartisan ambassador working on some of the most important national security problems for our country.
Very helpful, terrific remarks, Sam. Thank you so much for your insight and time spent on this very important problem for the country.
ROEMER: I want to start by just saying that the 9/11 Commission is working on these set of hearings, because when we had the opportunity to work with the Congress and the president, we passed on December 17, 2004, out of our 41 recommendations, about 50 percent of those recommendations. But none of those included the provisions on fighting nuclear terrorism.
So we are here today and tomorrow and next month and hopefully next year so that we can work with Congress and the administration to do more on this very important problem.
Senator, I wanted to ask you a question. We will be doing a report card in September from the 9/11 Commission grading the progress or the lack of progress on some of these issues.
And you and I were just talking about report cards. Three of my four children just received their report cards, getting out of school for the summertime, a 12, a 10, and an 8-year-old. Report cards are pretty important to try to assess both effort and grade.
My first question to you, Senator, would be, what kind of effort, maximum effort is the Congress and the administration putting forth on this critically important problem that you just addressed, that we address? If you could grade both the Congress and the administration.
I know you gave kind of a three, possibly a four on a scale of 10. But talk in a little bit more detail about the commission's maximum effort that is needed on this problem.
NUNN: Mr. Chairman, talking about your son, I remember, I saw a cartoon not long ago I got a kick out of. This little kid was showing his father the report card, and it had all Fs on the report card, and his father was about to explode, and he looked up and said, "Pop, I don't know whether it's the genes or the environment."
So I don't know whether it's genes or the environment, but I don't give...
ROEMER: Is this my grade or the administration's grade?
NUNN: I don't give us very good marks.
As I said, I think you have to put Russia and the United States in the same grading category, because to grade the United States as if we can do it all alone is not the reality.
We at our foundation are struggling with trying to find a way to communicate with the Russian people, because they have just as much threat as we do — probably more.
I mean, there are a lot of people that would like to blow up Moscow. And I think some of them know that, but generally speaking, we still have the Cold War hanging on, and they suspect that we are spying, and we suspect that they are stealing, and when you get through all of that, the suspicions too often block progress.
So I give overall grade of about three to four.
If I were looking for high grades, breaking it down, I would give us high grades on moving the four weapons states in 1992, '93, '94, and '95, in that time frame, from four weapon states to one. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus had more weapons than all the rest of the countries in the world combined, except the U.S. and Russia — more than China, more than France, more than Great Britain. They all got rid of them, and that was a 10. That was a 10.
In terms of weapon-grade materials, in Russia and the former Soviet Union, on a scale of one to 10, I would give us about a five there. We have helped them secure about 50 percent of their materials. That's the good news. The bad news is about 50 percent has not been secured to our standards.
On the question of the G-8, global partnership, they have pledged to match the United States Nunn-Lugar funding, a billion a year for 10 years. That's a total of $20 billion. $17 billion has been pledged. Almost none has been spent of their money.
I think you'd have to give them a seven or eight on the basis of the declaration of intent. I would give them a two or three in terms of implementation. That's the G-8 kind of grade.
In terms of tactical nuclear weapons — the battlefield nuclear weapons that, again, are a terrorist's dreams — and we don't have good counts on those. We don't know where they are, so forth. This is where we need mutual accountability and transparency between the United States and Russia.
On a scale of one to 10, I would give the United States and Russia only a one there, and the one would be for former president — first President Herbert Walker Bush's initiative to help incentivize the Russians to get them all back in Russia, back when he was president of the United States. That was a big move.
They did get them back in Russia, they are not spread all over 12 time zones, but Russia itself is many time zones, and they, as far as we know, are spread around Russia.
So I give us a one, meaning that's a very, very poor grade.
NUNN: On biological transparency — and here we're not going to talk about it that much this morning, but the biological threat, in the long run, in my view, is just as grave as the nuclear threat.
And on that one, we have no transparency, we have no accountability, we have very little cooperation with the Russians.
We are doing some things under the Nunn-Lugar program, but I would give us no more than a two or three on biological.
On chemical destruction, we have got all these plans, and we have got a place called Shchuchye, where there are 1,971,000 artillery tubes full of nerve gas, enough — Dr. Carter, you will hear from in a moment. He is our mathematician.
We went over there and we put on gas masks and went in those buildings. Most of them are not well enough built to house your favorite horse, let alone chemical weapons that could wipe out mankind.
But Ash Carter computed there was enough stored at that one site to wipe out everybody on the face of the Earth several times over, if properly disseminated — a nerve gas canister that could fit in a brief case and would be a terrorist's dream.
So we haven't started the destruction. That's another one that's been held up by bureaucracy.
I'd give us, on chemical destruction, seven or eight on intent, two or three on implementation.
The Congress — it's hard to grade, but I would give Congress, in terms of supporting the Nunn-Lugar program, laying the foundation, passing it at a time that was very difficult, continuing to support it in spite of a lot of opposition — I would give Congress seven or eight.
In terms of putting restrictions on, which make the president certify all of these things that, frankly speaking, all of them — we want them to happen. Every one of them is a good certification.
But if you back off of it and look at it, if you can't certify them, it means the Russians aren't cooperating on this, aren't cooperating on that. It probably means we need the Nunn-Lugar program more, not less.
But if the certification can't be made, they can't spend the money.
It has held up the programs — these certifications have held up the programs over and over again. They have interrupted them, they've wasted money, they've made them inefficient.
They need to either get rid of the certifications or give the president a permanent waiver — and Senator Lugar is working on that point, and he ought to be joined by colleagues in the House and Senate.
So that is kind of — it's probably more than you want to know, but that's a score card of a lot of different categories, and I probably left some of them out.
I would have to add...
ROEMER: ... tough grader, too.
NUNN: I would have to add Libya on the good side. The breakthrough in Libya, I would give a 10.
The Khan network breakup, which was our worst nightmare — a guy that knows all about this stuff sharing it, selling it all over the globe, transporting parts — I'd give us a five for breaking it up — well, more than that for breaking it up.
But we don't know what we don't know. We haven't gotten any cooperation from him. So we don't know what he may have done that we don't know about.
So I couldn't give us — I'd give a high grade for stopping it, but I would give us somewhere around a five in terms of really knowing what's going on there.
ROEMER: You talked, Senator, a little bit about security upgrades in the former Soviet Union.
According to reports that we have, comprehensive security upgrades have been completed for just 26 percent of the roughly 600 tons of nuclear bomb-making material in the former Soviet Union.
So only 26 percent completed — 600 tons of bomb-making material. I understand, at that pace, it will take another 12 years to complete those security upgrades.
Do we have 12 years? Do we have seven years? Do we have four years to do this, given what we'll probably hear from Juliette Kayyem, that these terrorists want to get these weapons now?
What is our time frame? Why is it that our time frame seems to move backwards and the terrorists' time frame seems to speed up?
NUNN: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think you put your finger on it.
From my perspective, the terrorists are racing and we are somewhere between a walk and a crawl, depending on the day of the week.
I think the question of how much we've secured is kind of complex. You are absolutely right, 26 percent is the number for comprehensive.
If you talk about rapid upgrades, we have done about 50 percent of the sites themselves. It's less than 50 percent of the material.
Some of the rapid upgrades don't need comprehensive, so it's a little bit hard to gauge, so I would roughly say we have done about 50 percent of the job.
The Department of Energy tells us that, last year, in '04, they secured less than they did in '03. Part of that is because of the liability issue and a lot of other issues that are slowing this program down, which have got to be removed.
But they believe that we are going to go up in '05 and '06, and we are going to begin taking out buildings that have more material.
So based on that, I think 50 percent is roughly the right number.
ROEMER: And do you have a grade that you would assign on that?
NUNN: On this one, I would give about a five out of 10.
ROEMER: Five out of 10, OK.
NUNN: About a five out of 10.
ROEMER: With respect to the average American who probably is watching today on CSPAN, and they might ask you, Senator — I get this question sometimes with regard to these very important programs, and it's a very good one, it's a very fair one — they may say to you, "Hey, Tim Roemer, Sam Nunn, why should American taxpayers have to fund a Russian problem?"
How would you respond to that kind of question from our taxpayers given what you've talked about in this movie is what could happen to an American city or a European city, or even a city in Russia?
NUNN: Well, it's fundamentally a Russian responsibility, but it's our security.
It's primarily Russia's job for doing it and we could take a position that we're not going to help at all, but what we will be doing is jeopardizing our own security and our own future.
And even if a weapon goes off in Moscow, the feeling around the globe would be, economically speaking, that it could go off in America next, because some terrorist group had the capability of doing it.
So I think wherever a weapon goes off, it jeopardizes the world economy.
The answer is we've got a huge amount at stake. We do not believe the Russians will, themselves, do the job as rapidly as it needs to be done. They will eventually do it as their economy improves, because it's in their security interests.
But I don't think we can take 50 years or 25 years to get this job done. I think we need to do it now, and we need to do it in the next three or four years.
Should other countries help? Yes.
Should we go forward even if they don't? Yes.
Is it hard dealing with Russia? Yes. But should we really be patient and deal with them? Yes.
Should we continue to treat Russia as a supplicant? No.
Russia ought to be a partner. We ought to basically have an atmosphere and a psychology with Russia, "You have been a great power, you will be again. You need to do this job with us all over the globe."
Russia can help us with a lot of countries in getting these research reactors closed down where we don't have the influence to do that. There are a number of countries that we just can't do it ourselves. Our diplomacy is not taken very seriously in those countries. Russia can help that.
Russia has this huge stockpile of chemical weapons, and they can never meet their chemical weapon obligations without our assistance and the assistance of other countries.
Russia not only — the Soviet Union not only didn't abide by the biological treaty; they made certain weapons back in the Soviet days like smallpox that were resistant to all known vaccines. So they have the expertise to develop very horrible biological weapons.
We have tried on the Nunn-Lugar to employ a lot of their scientists to give them an outlet so they will not end up in those kind of endeavors around the globe — 20,000, 30,000 of them have been employed. That's in our security interests.
You could ask why should we employ them? But it's because we're trying to protect America. That's the bottom line.
ROEMER: I think we want to talk a little bit more about that if we have some more time.
I want to ask you with regard to the Russian cooperation, are they throwing up obstacles? Are there bureaucratic problems there? What is the best single answer to solving some of those problems?
And then secondly, Senator, if you'd address — the Nunn-Lugar program is about 13 years old and it was started as a bilateral program directly between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
Would you recommend that we have bilateral programs to globalize Nunn-Lugar in the future?
Did you set up these kinds of arrangements with other countries directly?
Or is there a way to globalize this Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and how would you suggest that, given the threats from North Korea and Iran?
NUNN: I think on the first question, are the Russians putting up obstacles, they are on the biological side. And this is one where President Bush and Putin need to break through. They need to say to both the Russian bureaucracy and the U.S. bureaucracy, "We want you to cooperate. We demand you cooperate on the biological side."
We do certain defensive efforts on the biological side. Other countries, if they were doing them, we would probably suspect they were doing offensive experiments.
I don't think we are. I trust our government on the biological declarations that we're not doing offensive weapons.
But there is a thin line between defense and offense.
We need bilateral, in this case, transparency with the Russians on all defensive work on biological, and that means real transparency. That means working together. It means getting Russian scientists involved with NIH. It's a big gulp, but they know more than we do in some cases. We need their help. They need to be in the tent. We're going to have to have a psychological breakthrough, and it can probably only be done at the presidential level.
We've done a lot of that on the nuclear side — labs working together and so forth — but not on the biological side.
Are they putting up obstacles?
Yes, although I must say that I think that we have been part of the problem, too. I think on the liability issue — who is responsible in the case of an accident — both parties are going to have to give some there.
I don't think we have given nearly as much. There was an article in the Washington Post last week saying that we are now about to have a breakthrough. I hope that, one is correct. It's been an obstacle too long.
The Russians also, Mr. Chairman, particularly at local and state level over the last few years, they're desperate for revenue, and if it walks or talks, they want to tax it. And that includes foreign aid.
And, you know, it's very hard to give somebody money and say, "We're going to pay you taxes because we are giving it to you." In fact, we got to draw a line there. You can't let them do that. And they do try to do that occasionally, but, again, President Putin can overcome that, and I think in most cases they have.
So there are obstacles, they are putting up obstacles, but so is our bureaucracy in too many instances.
On the question of bilateral or multilateral around the globe, I think it's going to vary. I think, for instance, on the breakthrough on biological, where we need to have more transparency and accountability, that's got to be bilateral to begin with. I don't think we can open that arena up to everybody in the world now.
But eventually other countries ought to be part of this bilateral transparency, and scientists all over the globe are going to have to develop an ethic of dealing with dangerous pathogens.
The combination of genetic engineering and computer power today has put in the hands of individuals the most God-awful capabilities potentially in the biological arena you can even imagine.
So we are going to have to all understand. That's going to have to be cooperation.
But I would begin with U.S.-Russia bilateral, and then I would have that one expand.
I think the G-8 declaration on the nuclear side, where other countries are joining in, is a good foundation for making this a global partnership.
Senator Lugar and I went to Moscow about four years ago and we had a seminar over there. We called for a global partnership against catastrophic terrorism.
I think we do need a global partnership, not in terms of negotiating a treaty, but in terms of having people understand there's a mutual stake.
And I think all countries that have nuclear weapons and materials must be accountable to safeguard them and secure them, and I think any country that is willing to safeguard and secure that doesn't have enough resources, there ought to be international funds to help.
So that's an amorphous type of cooperative pattern that I call a global partnership against catastrophic terrorism, not just nuclear, but also chemical and biological.
ROEMER: Now, you have mentioned this liability issue two or three terms, and just to get the sense of how important this is, if the liability issue is not solved in the next few months between the Russians and the Americans, there is the chance, the likelihood that this program might go away. Is that correct?
And how much time do we have to act on this to keep this program viable and operating while we negotiate this liability issue?
NUNN: Well, the plutonium disposition has already been held up for a long time. That's the one that Senator Domenici sponsored.
There are other programs that are held up. Some have had to have waivers by the president, which is pretty unsatisfactory. So the liability issue is, indeed, a road block.
And I think there are a number of programs that terminate in the fall. I'll furnish the precise answer for the record, Mr. Chairman, but I think there are a number of programs that terminate in the fall unless we get this road block erased.
So it's imperative that Bush and Putin get it done. And I think if those two individuals say they want it done, it'll get done.
ROEMER: Finally, so that I can get to our next panel, what would you say, Senator, to the viewers, to members of Congress, to the administration, is the single most important thing that we can do in the next few months, whether that's legislation, whether that's people contacting their representatives, whether that's people voting on this issue as one of their priorities in the next election; what's the single most important thing that the American people can do to make this a higher priority than it is right now?
NUNN: I think supporting the 9/11 Commission recommendations in general.
I think asking the Congress to make these front-burner issues. I think taking a look at this film and sharing it with your neighbors and telling people you want something done about this, and asking your member of Congress and your member of the Senate what they are doing and where they stand on these programs.
Are they supporting the Nunn-Lugar initiative? Are they asking the president to remove the road blocks? Are we building cooperation with other countries around the globe?
I think all of those things, the citizens of the country have to do.
ROEMER: Thank you so much.
Terrific job by Senator Nunn.
And I want to welcome the next panel. And I'll start to introduce them as they come up.
Senator, can you stay?
NUNN: I'd be glad to.
NUNN: Mr. Chairman, could I ask — this is a publication that we do every year, our foundation pays for at NTI. And it's done by Matt Bunn and Anthony Wier at Harvard. And I think it's the bible of what we have been talking about this morning.
It's got a summary in it, but I would hope it could be put in the record. This is the updated 2005 version.
ROEMER: Senator, your entire remarks, especially those that you left out considering time issues, will be entered into the record. "Securing the Bomb 2005: The New Global Imperatives," will be entered into the record.
And as we welcome up the next panel, I will introduce them as you come up.
I just want to say if I know — Dr. Carter said that he wants his entire talk entered into the record, and he might speak a little bit more informally, so all of the next comments will be formally entered into the record.
Let me introduce our distinguished group of panelists: Dr. Ashton Carter, co-director, Preventive Defense Project at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Mr. Leonard Spector, deputy director, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies; Miss Juliette Kayyam, acting executive director for research, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government; and Mr. Steven Brill, journalist, author, entrepreneur, and founder and chairman of the America Prepared Campaign, Incorporated.
I want to welcome each one of you. I want to ask you to speak for about five minutes each.
I want to remind you that your entire prepared remarks are in the record, will be entered into the record. So if you have been so moved by Senator Nunn's impassioned plea to do more, I hope you will speak with that passion to our audience today.
And just let me say for about 40 seconds something about my good friend who has done so much to try to move this issue in the United States Congress and his dedication of work — Dr. Ashton Carter served as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during President Clinton's first term. His many Pentagon responsibilities included the topics we are discussing this morning: countering weapons of mass destruction worldwide, and policy regarding the former Soviet Unionwith respect to its nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
Dr. Carter is co-director of the Preventive Defense Project, a research collaboration of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Stanford University, and he teaches national security policy at the Kennedy School.
We are indeed fortunate to have Dr. Carter with us.
CARTER: Thank you very much, Chairman.
And thank you and all the members of the 9/11 Commission for the honor and privilege of appearing before you and for the service to American and global security represented by that historic report you did.
And I salute you also for sticking with it and seeing to the implementation of your recommendations.
Your report had recommendations on intelligence management, on improvements to the homeland security and counterterrorism structures of our government, and on actions to prevent weapons of mass destruction terrorism.
You ask about grading.
On the first, management of the intelligence function, I think it's too early to tell whether that's going to be improved or not by the appointment of a director of national intelligence. John Negroponte has only been in the job for two months.
Many have wondered why the 9/11 Commission, a commission established to look into terrorism, ended up making recommendations about intelligence, but that was easy for me to understand.
I've sat on many panels trying to improve one aspect or another of intelligence for a long time, and we always came up with perfectly good recommendations, but few of them were implemented, and the reason wasn't that they were poor recommendations or that they were resisted by the intelligence community, but because there was no manager of the intelligence community who could implement them.
As I said before the Robb-Silberman commission which came after yours, which wrestled with weapons of mass destruction intelligence the way you wrestled with counterterrorism intelligence, the U.S. intelligence community is not so much mismanaged as it is unmanaged.
Nowhere in that structure does authority, accountability and resources — do they come together in sharp managerial focus.
CARTER: The DNI that you recommended might — and was passed into law, at your urging — might at last provide that focus.
But I think I would have to say it's too early to tell.
Likewise, even though it's been two years and not two months since the Department of Homeland Security was created, in a different way, as the centerpiece of our nation's response to homeland security, it's too early to give a grade here either because DHS has been so slow to take shape.
So while it might be too early to give grades on intelligence reform and homeland security, it's not too early to give a grade to our response to the threat of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, because there's been almost none.
Here, the student dropped the course.
President Bush stated that keeping the worst weapons out of the hands of the worst people was an American president's highest priority. And so it is. But so far, almost all of the government's effort — and this is the executive branch and the legislative branch —has been on the worst people and far less on the worst weapons.
America, in my judgment, is as asleep at the WMD switch now as it was at the terrorism switch before 9/11
And I would like to explain my assessment briefly, if I may, Chairman, by focusing on nuclear terrorism, which both President Bush and candidate Kerry, as you indicated earlier, declared to be their highest priority.
What's ironic about the threat of nuclear terrorism is that it is possible to envision its complete eradication.
We don't know how to eradicate terrorism as a whole, because the well springs of terrorism are in all kinds of human motivations and groups and so forth, aberrant human emotions of great variety.
We don't know how to eradicate bioterrorism because infectious pathogens and the technology to devise them and spread them are ubiquitous and are an essential part of public health.
But we can envision eradicating nuclear terrorism. It's very funny — it's odd to say that but it's true. And the reason is that to make nuclear weapons, you have to have one of two metals, either highly-enriched uranium or plutonium.
Neither of these materials occurs in nature. They have to be made by people. And so far in human history, only governments have had the organization, the resources and the durability to do so because it turns out, thank goodness, from nature, that it's difficult to make these materials.
For now and the perceivable future, making them is beyond the reach of even well-organized and financed groups like Al Qaida and (inaudible).
So the recipe for eradicating nuclear terrorism is simple: Make sure that all HEU and plutonium made so far is safeguarded and stop more from being made where it cannot be safeguarded.
It's that simple.
And you can grade our progress in stopping nuclear terrorism since 9/11 by that metric. That's the best metric. And by that metric, how are we doing?
First, I will just echo and won't repeat what Sam Nunn said, the complex of U.S. and international programs that goes under the umbrella name Nunn-Lugar, which he and Senator Lugar founded, are almost unchanged in their level of activity since 9/11 — remarkable fact.
These are programs that are managed on a level of effort basis rather than a results-oriented basis.
At the time we were putting together a coalition againstIraq, Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar were urging a coalition in parallel against WMD terrorism.
I wish we had launched that coalition also at that time. We didn't and I think he has accurately characterized the progress there.
Two, there is no international arrangement devised yet to prevent the expansion of nuclear power for electricity generation, which, in my judgment, is necessary on economic and environmental grounds from resulting in the proliferation of uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capacity.
This critical loophole in the way the NPT has been interpreted must be closed. And President Bush gave an important speech last February on this subject, but I am yet to see the diplomatic effort that would follow from that speech.
I should mention that Senator Lugar has become seized of this matter and has appointed an advisory group to him of which I am co- chairman. And I am pleased to see that he is involved in this issue.
CARTER: And it's just amazing that Lugar and Nunn have been always 10 years ahead of everyone else in understanding the problems of weapons of mass destruction.
Third, the administration has devised, to my way of understanding at least, no discernible strategy for stopping the North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs.
Now, there's plenty of blame to go around here. This is not only an American problem in either case and the two situations are very different. But they have this in common: Each provides the world with a new path to nuclear terrorism.
First, if each of these countries itself has a history of terrorism, especially Iran, or sale of dangerous weapons, especially North Korea, and each might become politically unstable en route to regime change or collapse.
And second, if either of them goes nuclear, given the regions in which they are located, others in their region are likely to follow. And the more sources of fissile material and assembled bombs in more places there are, the more the chance of theft, diversion, sale to terrorists.
So after 9/11, we ought to have stopped thinking of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism as separable subjects. They are not. A.Q. Khan proved that.
And we are watching the worst proliferation disaster in the last 20 years unfold today in North Korea.
So it's inaction in these three areas and above all, the third, that suggests to me that the lessons of 9/11 have not been learned in the field of weapons of mass destruction terrorism.
The actions to stop nuclear terrorism that have been taken by us since 9/11, especially Libya and the disruption of the A.Q. Khan network, should be noted, graded highly. But others do not go to the decisive step of capping fissile material.
The concept of a multilayered defense against weapons of mass destruction is sound but, in fact, for nuclear weapons, there's only one really big layer, and that's the layer around the fissile material. After that, it gets very hard to find, to stop, to protect.
The Proliferation Security Initiative, which you noted and I support, for example, stands little chance of detecting or interdicting a grapefruit-sized piece of plutonium being flown from North Korea to the Middle East in one of the many aircraft that fly there all the time, or being carried on the back of one of the many refugees who cross from North Korea into eastern China.
The new office set up in homeland security, the DNDO, to find bombs in transit to the United States, also an excellent idea I supported, but get — we have to be serious. Neither highly-enriched uranium nor plutonium is very radioactive. And so it's very hard — these look like lumps of metal in transit.
So the fundamental fact is that the way to stop nuclear terrorism is at the source and by that metric, Chairman, I think you would have to judge that our progress since 9/11 has not been what it should be.
I am a physicist.
The half life of plutonium-239 is 24,400 years. The half life of uranium-235 is 713 million years. Think how many turns of the wheel of human history, how many weirdo groups, how many cults, how many movements, how many countries with unstable leaders there could be during the lifetime of those materials.
Once they are made, they are a lasting danger to humanity. It has to be stopped at the source.
So I think we have a war on terrorism, Chairman.
We don't have a war yet on weapons of mass destruction.
Americans and especially the families represented here regret that before 9/11 their government didn't take actions in the field of counterterrorism that seemed tragically obvious after the World Trade towers were down.
It will be, I think, unforgivable if the overhaul of our counterproliferation efforts have to wait until after a WMD catastrophe.
ROEMER: I am not sure we should — I want to run out of the room and do more to pass these things now after you have said that.
Let me introduce Mr. Leonard Spector, better known as Sandy Spector.
Served from 1997 to January, 2001, as deputy assistant secretary for arms control and nonproliferation at the U.S. Department of Energy. His wide-ranging portfolio included DOE's initiatives for proliferation prevention and nuclear cities initiative programs, which seek to provide nondefense job opportunities for former Soviet weapon of mass destruction scientists.
ROEMER: He is currently the deputy director at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and leads its Washington, D.C., office. He is a well-known authority on the topics before us this morning. We are delighted that he can join us.
Please proceed, sir.
SPECTOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you again, as Ash Carter has emphasized, for continuing to keep public attention on this extremely important issue and keeping the memory of 9/11 and the loss of the families before us all.
About a year ago, the Center for Nonproliferation Studies issued its own report on nuclear terrorism and our purpose, as well, was to have some very targeted recommendations, but also to keep public attention on this very, very important matter.
We looked at four different types of nuclear terrorism: the theft of a nuclear weapon; the theft of the fissile materials that we've been discussing and the possible fabrication of a improvised nuclear device; attacks on nuclear facilities, such as nuclear power plants or nuclear waste storage facilities; and the radiological dispersion device problem, the RDD, the dirty bomb.
I think we absolutely share the view that others here have expressed, that the most devastating danger we would confront would be the use of a nuclear explosive, an atomic bomb, on an American city or any city in the world.
But we also felt that there was a need to concentrate a bit more heavily on the radiological dispersion device problem, because developing a nuclear weapon, or seizing one, and making it go off is a very daunting challenge and it's probably the most difficult of the scenarios to bring about, whereas acquiring radiological materials and dispersing them through an RDD, a dirty bomb, will be rather easy.
And so in that context, let me just mention some of our findings because you will see they echo very much some of the comments we have heard today.
I think one thing that we determined as we looked at the motivations of terrorist organizations and their capabilities is that you are going to have a very limited number that really have the desire to cause mass destruction on the one hand and then have the capabilities to at least execute the most difficult of the nuclear terrorism scenarios involving actual nuclear detonations.
In fact, we felt that at the time of our study, about a year ago, there was probably only one organization globally that might be able to undertake this, and that was Al Qaida. There may be more that simply are not known to us or that have not yet surfaced or known to our intelligence community. But in that sense, the universe may be somewhat limited in terms of who is out there who could actually cause these kinds of dangers, at least to the United States.
The Chechens in Russia may be a separate group that is of particular concern there, but even if we could identify one or two other groups, the universe, as I say, is quite small.
And that's why we decided in our study to emphasize, in part, the importance of maintaining the current war on terrorism. If we can continue to disrupt the most organized, the most dangerous and most motivated of the groups, we may be able to do a good job of keeping this particular danger at some distance, the danger of the most dangerous, nuclear terrorism.
We also very, very emphatically endorsed the comments you have heard today about the need for securing nuclear materials. This is obviously something we want to do as aggressively as possible. I think we agree on this panel, the administration is working this issue actively, but not making the progress that we want to see.
In our report, we wanted to emphasize one of the nuclear materials a little bit more than the other one; that is to say, highly enriched uranium, as deserving a bit more attention than plutonium, because it is so much easier for terrorists to take that material and develop a nuclear explosive.
So we had the idea of an HEU first — a highly-enriched uranium first policy, which, when you were forced to confront a choice between going into this facility or that facility because our resources were limited or perhaps the Russians were not being cooperative, you would aim for the one that had the high-enriched uranium first, because that's the most easily used by terrorist groups.
The administration has moved to some extent down this road with the Global Threat Reduction Initiative that we heard about.
In addition, the megatons to megawatts program which takes 30 tons of highly-enriched uranium every year and transforms it into nonweapons usable material, low-enriched uranium for power plants, is crucially important.
And here, I would say, we have an indication, one specific case, where Congress intervened and slowed down a program.
The administration was working with the Russians to expand the elimination of highly-enriched uranium in Russia.
SPECTOR: We eliminated about 30 tons a year under this program. We were going to go to 31 or 32 tons, not a huge increase but still enough for 100 nuclear weapons. And it was the Congress who refused to fund this particular initiative.
So on the HEU area we not only see some efforts that could be done with a bit more energy, we actually saw a deliberate decision not to take this approach, I think, because of the funds that were going to be involved.
So, I think, looking back, that was definitely a setback that we want to try to correct in the coming year.
On the radiological dispersion device area, we felt that this was so much easier and there are so many of these radiological sources available in the world that we are likely to confront such an attack in the next decade.
In fact, we thought it would be almost inevitable because this is so easy to execute and so potentially damaging from the standpoint of disrupting our society and causing economic loss.
Again, the administration has begun to really focus in on this. That's good. But much, much more work needs to be done and this is through the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
In particular, we felt it was important to begin planning for the event that might occur after the fact — and Senator Nunn alluded to this. We need to be prepared in terms of first responders, in terms of preparing the public in particular as to how it might live with an event of this kind, and then also to look at the cases of what happens after the fact.
Do we absolutely say that a tiny fraction of contamination would be enough to exclude the use of a facility or part of a city? Or do we learn to tolerate a little bit of this in order for the society to march on the way you would in wartime?
The Department of Homeland Security has developed some new guidance on this which basically says after the fact we're going to have to look at the situation very specifically and determine can we tolerate a little bit of residual radiation in certain locations that we can't decontaminate so that we can continue to use such facilities.
This is going to be very important to start thinking about now so that in the event, we have a planning process under way and the public understands what's at stake.
Let me turn now, if I can, just to some of the points that were made by Ashton Carter.
I think whereas we know how to deal with the problem in Russia and in the former Soviet Union, and some of the research facilities around the world where the nuclear material is situated — we know we want more security, we know how to do it, we have good resources and a pretty good team, and our job, I think, is to keep the pressure on to get this done — there are some other locations where our tools are much less obvious.
And these are the cases of North Korea and Iran as mentioned by Dr. Carter, but also, in Pakistan, where it's crucial that there be continuity of government, that there be stability, that there be a reduction of tensions with India and that there be a gradual moderation of this entire society so that the jihadist elements slowly lose traction.
How do we go about that?
I think the administration is on the right track. This is a very, very hard problem to contain and I think we don't want to imagine that all aspects of the securing of nuclear materials and ensuring that they don't fall into the wrong hands can be secured only with the classic programs.
There's a lot of diplomacy here and, I think, again, our job as outsiders is to keep the administration focused on this and to try to ensure that the job gets done properly.
Finally, let me just raise an issue which has not come up yet. This would seem so obvious.
If you're in a hole, you stop digging. If we're in a situation where there's too much fissile material, we ought to stop producing it.
Now, in this country, we have, but in Russia, fissile material continues to be produced, not only in the military sector, but also in the civilian sector where there's absolutely no economic justification for the activity.
And what is especially troubling is that Japan is about to start on a major new plutonium facility; that is to say, to start operating it.
So, again, world stocks of this material are likely to be growing at a time when everyone in this audience certainly and everyone watching, I hope, appreciates the need to reduce these materials and making them easier to secure.
It's just astonishing that at a time when so many countries in the G-8 are investing in an effort to put plutonium back into spent fuel through the plutonium disposition program, there are countries in the world that are taking plutonium out of spent fuel and, in effect, creating new dangers for us.
I think, therefore, this needs to be part of our agenda.
I think I'll stop there, Mr. Chairman. And thank you very much.
ROEMER: Thank you, Sandy. Excellent presentation.
I want to introduce now Ms. Juliette N. Kayyem. Serves as the acting executive director for research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard and at the Kennedy School of Government.
ROEMER: Since 2001, she has been a resident scholar at the Belfer Center, serving both as executive director of the Kennedy School's Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness and as co-director of Harvard's long-term legal strategy for combating terrorism. She also teaches courses on law and national security.
Previously, she served on the National Commission on Terrorism chaired by L. Paul Bremer.
Ms. Kayyam, we're delighted to have you. And making that extra effort, congratulations on...
ROEMER: ... the third child, soon to come, a little boy.
This might be your last trip, so thank you so much for coming down to Washington.
KAYYAM: Yes. Thank you for inviting me.
It's an honor being here this morning, Commissioner Roemer. And I thank you and the rest of the commissioners for everything you've done since the attacks of September 11th.
To be honest, I had actually said no to this panel, because as you could hear from my short bio, I'm not a nuclear specialist or a nuclear proliferation specialist.
I'm a counterterrorism and homeland security specialist and felt in this company somewhat inadequate discussing what I know about terrorism and WMD.
But after some urging by Commissioner Roemer and Ash Carter, I came down because I thought what was an important question to ask that maybe I might have a unique perspective on is the question, why have there been no major attacks since September 11th? And why no major WMD attacks ever?
You've heard from the panel that it does seem inevitable or at least close to inevitable, given both the threats and vulnerabilities. So why have we been so — and I hate the word — lucky?
There are a couple plausible explanations that you hear from people.
One is that there's no desire from Al Qaida. I think that's absolutely untrue. Commissioner Roemer has stated that as well.
It may be true for terrorist organizations like the IRA or even the PLO that might have political agendas, but certainly not for the Islamist terrorist threat. The use of WMD to basically ratchet up what they were so successful doing on September 11th has been a desire in their own literature and certainly by their behavior.
The second explanation is, of course, the patience explanation — that Al Qaida is very patient in their attacks if you look at the 18- month time frame before September 11th on their attacks.
We're now hitting close to four years since September 11th, at least if you look at attacks in the United States. There's certainly enough going on abroad that we can talk about.
We're also — and the anthrax attacks being the — most FBI agents or most people who look at this stuff think the anthrax attacks in 2001 were probably different and homegrown.
So while the "they are very patient" explanation may be a good one, it also — we are hitting four years and so we should think that maybe there's possible other explanations.
And so the third one is that they presently don't have the capabilities to do the kind of WMD or nuclear attack that we all live in fear about.
And so I think to address the question of our greatest challenge, which is clearly the WMD attack, we must also take seriously the notion that the capability for terrorists to do so has been greatly reduced by our conduct since September 11th.
And the point here is to not stay safe and sound, but instead to figure out what conditions will make terrorist capabilities continue to be thwarted, undermined or more muted.
So Senator Sam Nunn says the day after a nuclear terrorist attack we should be asking, or what would we be asking, what did we do? What do we wish we had done so that this didn't happen?
I think the day before, that is where we are, in fact, what are we doing right that has made it not happen yet?
So let's begin with the threat, and let's start with Al Qaida.
The U.S. — I mean, basically the U.S., international intelligence institutions and certainly outside experts like myself all agree that Al Qaida retains the intention to conduct major attacks in the U.S. and certainly against U.S. interests abroad.
But Al Qaida, since September 11th, because of the war inAfghanistan, Al Qaida's central leadership structure and capabilities have certainly weakened.
In other words, Al Qaida is damaged but not defeated.
As Bruce Hoffman, the well-known counterterrorism expert, wrote last year, "Successive blows to Al Qaida's central leadership have transformed the organization into a loose collection of regional networks that operate more autonomously."
And if you talk to law enforcement intelligence officials, like I do -- I have been a law enforcement official — this also suggests that Al Qaida is less able to conduct catastrophic attacks given the magnitude of cost and organization, let alone communication and other things like that such an attack would entail.
This may be good news, of course. And thus, we have begun, I think, as a society, and certainly those of us in the field rightfully, to stop talking about the Al Qaida that the 9/11 Commission so eloquently documented in their history of Al Qaida and to talk about a new Al Qaida or a movement of militant Islamic sympathizers who now represent the pre-eminent threat.
KAYYEM: And it's important to remember, of course, that the ability of this movement to diversify or what I call flat line so easily was inherent in its early formation.
By the time of the terrorist attacks in 2001, Al Qaida had become already probably a coalition of factions operating throughout the world, as the 9/11 Commission noted, located in over 70 countries.
And so while the new Al Qaida can be as lethal as ever — I mean, look at Spain as certainly a good example, what happened in Spain — knowing that their intentions have always been to maximize death and to acquire WMD, there can be something there to suggest that their capabilities can't match their desires.
In other words, the threat remains the same but the capabilities for them are more difficult.
And so what does this mean for us? And in the report card, as you've asked, what can Congress, the president and certainly the international community do to prevent nuclear terrorism or WMD terrorism?
We must then ask ourselves, are we sure that we are rid of the old Al Qaida? If we believe that the new Al Qaida may be less capable vis-a-vis nuclear terrorism, how can we be assured that, that remains the case?
And so I have two potential solutions or responses to that question, both highly speculative at this stage but I think what we're seeing going on in the world right now, maybe they would be helpful for some of your examination of this.
Certainly, a cornerstone of ensuring that Al Qaida's leadership was destroyed was the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and replacing the pro-Al Qaida, Taliban regime with the pro-U.S. moderate government.
It was basically the end of Al Qaida having a host country. And if we focus on that issue of a host country — I mean, we have to focus on that issue of a host country.
It is just simply a cornerstone that cannot be abandoned or minimized today.
Nearly 18,000 troops today — and that's up from 10,000 when the war in Iraq started — are now in Afghanistan. And the results are certainly — if you travel in that area or you go to the Middle East a lot — are ambivalent, but I will say good news, cautiously optimistic.
Bin Laden and Zawahiri, of course, have escaped the war and they continue to elude U.S.personnel. And the U.S.government, I think, now agrees, though there was some debate a couple of weeks ago about it, that the trail has run cold.
The question really is, but does it matter?
I mean, the government does point to the capture or killing of senior Al Qaida leaders as evidence of progress against the old Al Qaida. The administration often tosses a 75 percent number, that 75 percent of all known Al Qaida leaders have been killed or captured. The emphasis, of course, is on the known.
When, two months ago, the administration announced that it captured bin Laden's number three, al-Libbi, it was a number with no meaning.
What does it mean to be number three in a flatlined organization? And what are we to make of the fact that the British intelligence agencies believed a week later, although you didn't hear much about it in our own media, that we had captured and, I quote them, "the flotsam and jetsam of the organization." That's basically who al-Libbi was.
This is not to say that to capture senior leaders is redundant or useful. Certainly, the capture of bin Laden will have important consequences for the movement's sense of imperviousness, let alone America's sense of justice.
But it's also to say that the conditions that made the old Al Qaida have ceased and that we must continue to ensure that, that is the case.
The increased frequency of audio and video statements from bin Laden and Zawahiri in 2004 and 2005 suggest that they may be trying to rebuild some of their support infrastructure and central direction.
And the question is, can they do it inAfghanistan?
This must be curtailed. Of course, the election in Afghanistan was great news and, I think, really did undermine support for the oldAfghanistan.
But basically, there's three wars going on in Afghanistan right now and we cannot afford to lose any of them.
One, of course, is the war against senior terrorist leaders. The second is the war against the networks, predominantly Pashtun Islamist insurgent groups like the Taliban. And then, third, there's this war against other forces, what we call the warlords.
Certainly, there may be a fourth war, the drug war, of course, where Afghanistan produces 87 percent of the opium in the world.
Just to give you a perspective, in one recent raid, 17 tons of heroin were seized, and that's enough to get every adult American high.
But for now the drug problem appears to be, inAfghanistan, extremely wide but not particularly deep. In other words, it's not like Colombiayet, although most people looking into this believe that it could be if left to fester over the years.
And the Pakistani border, as Sandy has noted, and what's going on in Pakistan also remain very important to this issue of whether Al Qaida is able to reform or have a host place to plan the kind of big catastrophic attacks that they were able to do before September 11.
This is certainly a long ways seeing that the victory over the old Al Qaida has clearly advanced, but is also quite complicated. If we are solely looking at why not, or why not again, then the absence of a host country, I believe, is one of the most significant contributions for explaining that question.
KAYYEM: We must ensure it does not happen again.
And so the recommendations in the September 11th report regarding this issue, I think, are almost as important as the one for nuclear terrorism as the ones directed solely at that issue.
One final thing, and it's worth saying before I get to the second quick answer — Iraq.
It must be said — because obviously what a difference a year makes for the commission — because what's happening in Iraq, the insurgency in Iraq, is not really a terrorist insurgency, although our shorthand in the media and public and politics certainly calls it that. It is not.
There's no evidence now for those of us who have been looking at the insurgency that Al Qaida seeks a host country there. Indeed, growing evidence suggests that there's a battle between the home-grown elements and the outside insurgents inIraq.
And so Iraq has probably emboldened the Islamic terrorist movement, but it hasn't necessarily empowered them in ways that, sort of, Afghanistan had so many years ago.
I will say, though, when we're looking at the numbers, when 40 percent of suicide bombers in Iraq now come from Saudi Arabia, we have to ask ourselves, are we looking at all the right countries anymore in terms of the growing terrorist threat?
But what Iraq does mean for counterterrorism today goes to my second quick point.
And that is if you travel around the Middle East like I do — I just came back from a trip — the issue about terrorism and WMD does come down to really focusing on what I call in your report the Chapter 12 issues; the issues that, unfortunately, I think people like us aren't very good at, which is the hearts and minds issues.
When you think about the fact that your report is best known for the major changes in governance and government that are going on in the U.S., and was basically unfortunately ignored on the Chapter 12 issues, I would urge that when you think about terrorism and what the terrorists have become, that those sort of hearts and minds issues, which other people are much better experts on, the governance issues in the Arab world and the desire of people like you and I to sympathize with terrorists because of their conditions, those are the issues that we need to address as part of this WMD effort.
So, thank you.
ROEMER: Thank you, Juliette. Terrific.
I want to introduce Steven Brill.
Steve has numerous accomplishments across many fields of endeavor. Currently, he's the founder and chief executive officer of Verified Identity Pass, a company that has created a private voluntary biometric fast pass system.
He's also the founder of the "American Lawyer" Magazine and Court TV.
His book, "After," traces the lives of several individuals directly affected by the events of September 11th and how they picked up their lives afterward.
He's chairman of the America Prepared Campaign, Incorporated, dedicated to giving Americans useful recommendations for preparing their homes and their families for a terrorist attack and disaster preparedness.
He has been a "Newsweek" columnist on all issues related to the aftermath of September 11th and a consultant to NBC.
Steve, you come to these questions with a different perspective. Given that background, we look forward to that perspective and to your comments, and then, hopefully, we can have a couple questions up here and then open it up to the audience for your questions.
BRILL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly come to these questions with a lot less expertise, that's for sure.
Juliette, if you were worried about being on this panel, you can imagine my worry.
Although, I think I'm here to talk about a different set of hearts and minds and that's the hearts and minds of the American people, and, indeed, the American media.
One of the great values of the follow-on work that the 9/11 Commission is doing and that the families are doing is attempting to keep these issues out there and not let them be forgotten.
I started the America Prepared Campaign about 18 months ago as a one-year effort and we pretty much have ended most of our activities by now as a pro-bono nonprofit effort after I expressed some frustration to Tom Ridge over dinner, after my book had come out, about how I thought the government just wasn't doing a good enough job getting the American people to focus on what they could do in their own homes and in their own businesses to be prepared for an attack.
BRILL: My theory was that this was not like when I was growing up and we'd sit in our schoolrooms -- where I went to school in Queens in New York — and every month or two we'd have a drill where we'd hide under a desk and that was going to protect us in case Nikita Khrushchev got angry at us.
This is different. It's greatly different. It's not an either/or proposition. There are things, as everyone in this room knows, that you can do to mitigate damage and to protect yourself.
So what I decided to do is to pull together people in media, advertising, other aspects of the private sector, and see if we couldn't inject a little bit of extra effort into this effort.
And we did a bunch of different things. I'll describe a couple of our projects.
One was we saw, when we conducted focus groups, that one of the reasons that people weren't buying all the essential ingredients for what is called a ready kit to have in their home was that it was complicated and expensive.
So we found a wholesaler and basically put him in business making ready kits. And then we went to Wal-Marts and Costco and Home Depot and places like that, and we encouraged them during something called National Preparedness Month, last September, to stock all these ready kits. And then we went to the media and we produced all kinds of ads and attempted to get people to buy ready kits.
And we sold several hundred thousand, maybe more than a million, and that was in part a successful effort.
To take another example, a very different example, I was very focused on the fact that in the research we did, people in no way understood the difference between a dirty bomb and a nuclear bomb, and in no way understood the kinds of calculations that you were talking about, Sandy, that there are dirty bombs and there are dirty bombs. It depends on exactly how bad it is and what the damage is.
But you could see the New York Post headline, or for that matter, the New York Times headline, you know, radiation bomb hits New York or Washington, and everybody just leaves.
So we pulled together a small dinner at my apartment in New York with Tom Ridge and with the anchors of all of the network newscasts as well as the news presidents, and we had Ridge basically walk them through what the differences were.
And then we tried to persuade them to prepare the graphics now and the research now — not to trust us or trust DHS or anybody else, but just go find experts now so that, God forbid, the day something like this happens that they just don't pull the first thing they see off of the Internet that says what a dirty bomb is, because who knows what that's going to be, but really satisfy themselves now. And I think they have made that kind of a preparation.
So I think that the America Prepared Campaign worked a little bit, but I have to tell you, it was frustrating and it certainly didn't have — and no efforts like this have had the impact that they should have because people really should be prepared just the way people should be obsessed about what we've been talking about earlier this morning, obsessed about the kinds of issues that Senator Nunn has been raising.
And I came to conclude when I was doing the book that Americans just not very good, and democracies are not very good at dealing with long-term crises. They're really good at turning on a dime if it's a short-term crisis.
Now, the best example that I found was the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, which I know has come in for lots of criticism, especially in the last year or so. But if you step back and think about it, TSA is the largest government agency ever to start from scratch and it stood up and federalized the screening forces at the airport against an impossible deadline of one year from the day the legislation was passed.
And they really did a good job. In that crisis environment, they got something done. And they did it because everybody was focused just on getting it done.
If there was a rule that said you had to take three months or six months before you could order uniforms and do a competitive bidding process, they said, "This is crazy. We have a month to get uniforms on these people. We just thought of it now. We're going to get it done." And they got it done.
BRILL: That's the good news.
The other part, though, of dealing with a crisis is that it tends to distort your priorities. The best example that I can think of from the work I did on the book was right after 9/11 a rule was promulgated that you could not park a car within 300 feet of an airport terminal because someone might leave a bomb in the car.
That's good, but what's so special about an airport terminal? I can park my car in a shopping mall. I can certainly park my car, and did the other day, within 300 feet of Yankee Stadium. Why an airport terminal?
The answer? Because that's where the terrorists struck first.
And so democracies and the people who get voted in or voted out by democracies tend to be really well-focused on the immediate crisis sometimes at the expense of the larger picture.
One other example is everything we've been reading about hand-held missiles being aimed at airplanes. And there's a lot of talk in this country about spending $10 billion, $20 billion or $30 billion to make sure that a plane can't get shot down.
Well, I'm not against that, but I certainly think we ought to think about spending that money on the kinds of issues and the kinds of work that Senator Lugar was talking about this morning as opposed to spending it on the much more far-fetched possibility that — I hate to say it — one airplane might get shot down.
It's dramatic when a politician holds a press conference about it, there can be all kinds of video showing a plane being shot out of the sky, but is that the best way to spend that money.
Now, how does a democracy deal with getting everyone to focus on a long-term crisis?
Well, the president, whatever else you might want to say or not say about his Social Security initiative, I think when he and his colleagues put their mind to it, they did get that long-term crisis, which at the end of the day is just about money — not that that's a small thing but it's just about money, not about life and death, they have managed to get that to the top of the agenda.
And it's impossible to read anything in the 9/11 Commission report to know anything about the work that my colleagues on this panel have been doing and not believe that we should, as a country, be obsessed — not simply mindful — but obsessed about the threat of weapons of mass destruction, particularly the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist.
And it just seems to me that all of these meetings have the sense of these are the meetings that The Times and The Washington Post are going to be writing about the day after an attack — you know, people sat in this room and they said this and they said that, and then nothing happened.
And I think the message I've been hearing this morning is that everybody here wants to say, "Well, let's not have those stories. Let's not have that public reaction. Let's galvanize everybody now."
Now, how do you do it? I don't know. I mean, I have thought about this for a long time. I think the movie is a great idea. I think anything that attempts to galvanize people, to focus on this, is a great idea.
But at the end of the day, there is one person in this country who has the bully pulpit. We can criticize the news media for spending more time on Michael Jackson than on this — and God knows it's true — but at the end of the day our elected officials need to lead.
And this is the greatest challenge we have as a democracy, which is to avoid this terrible sense — and I think everybody in this room may have it — that someday we're all going to be sitting around and some of us are going to be testifying before another commission and we're going to say, "Well, what did we do?"
And it can't be that we didn't know. I mean, we really aren't going to get any kind of a free pass on that anymore.
So I come to you really out of frustration. I don't have a good idea except that every single idea must be tried, and we really have to think about anything, whether it's protests, whether it's obviously the continued work of the commission, the continued work of Senator Nunn's organization. And we ought to ask of our political leaders on both sides of the aisle that they make this the high priority — the highest priority — that it should be.
BRILL: Thank you.
ROEMER: Thank you very much, Steve.
I want to come right back to you with a question directly related to something you said about halfway through your remarks.
We are getting on thinner and thinner ice as we look at this issue — the possibility of terrorists getting these weapons of mass destruction.
In the 9/11 Commission report, we specifically talk about spending too much money on last time's attack. And with particular emphasis on the TSA, we said about nine out of every 10 dollars — 90 percent of the money — was spent on the previous attack, not looking forward into the next attack.
One of the primary reasons is we have not done a threat vulnerability assessment. Four years after 9/11, we still have not put up this matrix as to how do you make your nuclear power plants more secure, do you prioritize nuclear weapons, how important are ports.
When will we do that?
I know you've done work on this. I believe Australia has done this. When do we do this? What kind of priority should this be? And how do we get government to act?
BRILL: Let's remember who the "we" is, though. The "we" was the Congress that passed a bill right after 9/11 mandating the federalization of the security force at the airports and mandating that every bag be screened — that every carry-on bag — they left out the cargo part.
Now, I don't think anyone in Congress, I don't think anyone in this room would necessarily vote against any of that, so it may not be that we spent too much on that. It's just that there are lots of other areas that we need to spend more on.
The ports I'm not so sure about. When I took a careful look at that, I think that at that time — this is 2001 not now, or 2002 — that the technology was not well enough developed. And, in fact, if we had spent more money then we'd be doing, in part, what we're now going to have to do at the airports, which is we'd be buying new technology all over again.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service, as it existed then, I wouldn't have spent a nickel on them because they were so incompetent that just no matter what you spent, it just would not have mattered. Reorganizing that and getting it into better management was the priority. I think that's the right priority.
But all of this stuff — the problem is that we need to have a rational, mature discussion in this country about what our priorities are. I used to tell people who were working for me that if you give me a list of priorities and there are 16 of them, that means you have no priorities, because you can't have 16 priorities.
And part of that is the courage of saying, "You know what? A plane being shot out of the air is an awful thing" — now I'm not necessarily endorsing this as a priority, but this is the kind of decision someone's going to have to make. Someone's going to have to stand up and say, "A plane being shot out of the air is an awful thing, but for that $20 billion here's what we could do with it, and this is smarter." It's risk management.
It doesn't mean that a plane isn't going to be shot out of the air, but we have to have a mature discussion, say will we accept that risk and get the benefit of not accepting that risk.
One issue is that, you know, your former colleagues will have a press conference every day — or every Sunday — and they can point — you could have 52 of those press conferences and point to 52 holes in our system, and you're going to be right 52 times. But that doesn't mean that those are 52 priorities. This is hard stuff.
ROEMER: And it shouldn't be your system, it shouldn't be my system...
ROEMER: ... it should be based on science, on intelligence, on risk and on resources.
BRILL: And risk means risk. Risk means you look the American people in the eye and you say, "We're doing this instead of this, and as a result of that, this may make you more vulnerable."
ROEMER: Actually, I want to shift quickly over to you [Ash Carter] for question A and B. In our legislation, we recommended the creation, stand-up of a counterproliferation center. Have we made any progress on that? I understand, no.
And two, on June 5th, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Proliferation Security Initiative has, they said, no offices and federal agencies to support, no international secretariat, no databases of successes or failures, and no established funding.
Is that accurate to what you know? And what would you assess is the current state of affairs there?
CARTER: Thanks. I'll be as brief as I can.
The counterproliferation center, just so everyone knows what that means, is to be a counterpart to the counterterrorism center, which has recently been named the National Counterterrorism Center, NCTC, a place where all the intelligence comes together and all of the operations against terrorists and terrorist groups are planned out of and carried out.
And the idea was to do for weapons of mass destruction what we've done for terrorism. And the answer to your question is, no, that's not been done yet. It is something that I think ought to be done. I think it's something that the Robb-Silberman commission also found, as did you, was a good idea.
I'll just note one thing, which is that the intelligence community has — needs to begin to serve all of the customers that now — in the government, that now need intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.
In the old days it was just the diplomats, and we in the Department of Defense actually didn't pay much attention to the weapons of mass destruction threat.
So the only people who consumed intelligence in the intelligence community were diplomats and some lawyers who had sanctions laws to implement.
In that environment, the intelligence community didn't work very hard on these problems, because nobody really cared what the answer was.
Good intelligence comes when you have good customers demanding good intelligence. And the point for — in saying this, in this connection, is that we won't have good intelligence on weapons of mass destruction until we have good policies and programs on weapons of mass destruction.
Intelligence doesn't come first. They look around and they see where is action, where are customers, where is somebody who cares? That is a galvanizing, focusing force for intelligence.
The fact that we've gotten our act together in counterterrorism in the last three years has — it has followed from that, that we are doing a lot better on counterterrorism intelligence.
Focused action needs to demand for focused intelligence, and you get it under that circumstance.
That's the theory behind a counterproliferation center. I think it's sound.
I hear rumblings that your recommendation is in the process of being implemented, but like so many things, the — it's going too slowly, in my judgment.
PSI, Proliferation Security Initiative is a grouping of countries led by the United States, and what we do is try to get our friends and allies to work with us to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction related stuff if we see it going on the high seas. Perfectly good thing to do.
However, we don't have any corresponding mechanism for the airways and so if this stuff flies rather than floats, you're not going to get it, and the bad guys know that and are flying and not floating. And if it rolls, we don't get it.
So there's lots of problems with the Proliferation Security Initiative. You're raising whether it couldn't be improved if it had a little bit more structure — I think it could.
The reason that it doesn't is kind of a curious ideological point, which is that those who established the PSI didn't want it to be an institution. They didn't want it to be like the IAEA or a U.N. agency, something that grows like topsy (ph) and becomes very bureaucratic. And that's a perfectly good impulse, but in this case we have gone too far in the other direction and you're right, PSI does not have the organizational structure that would allow it to be more effective.
ROEMER: Thank you, Ash.
Let me ask a quick question to Sandy, who really truly is an expert on these nuclear issues.
How would you assess the defensive measures and improvements that have been put into effect or implemented at U.S. nuclear power plants since 9/11? Do they have the needed level of protection?
SPECTOR: Well, when we looked at the different faces of nuclear terrorism we actually thought that nuclear power plants were probably better secure than a lot of other locations, even before our study and its recommendations came out, in the sense that they are inherently very robust. They all have very powerful, very strong containment structures where most of the key equipment is housed within the containment structure.
There are certain vulnerabilities. We've seen recent reports about spent fuel pools at some plants being a bit more vulnerable, which we had highlighted.
SPECTOR: We also saw the government, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, implement some very fast upgrades in terms of numbers of guards and procedures at nuclear sites in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, which then tapered down a bit.
What we thought was a concern was whether or not the — it's called a design basis threat, the assumptions you make about the adversary, whether they were strong enough so that indeed we were ready to take on a group of 11 highly coordinated, potentially well-armed individuals who might attack such a location.
And so I think there's been good progress.
This was a location and an area where people, you know, knew that work needed to be done and they took some rapid steps. I think they need to go a bit further, but it's not like, let us say, chemical facilities where there was great reluctance to really increase and where vulnerabilities continue.
ROEMER: Thanks, Sandy.
Let me shift very quickly to Juliette so that we can then open it up for your questions.
Juliette, you spent some time in your statement talking about the importance of taking out the Taliban and a host government that might support Al Qaida and terrorists.
Spend just a minute or two on the mind set of Al Qaida without that host government and other terrorist groups, because of the fact that Al Qaida has kind of metasticized (ph) across the world in 70 different countries. They don't need a host government in some ways.
Do they have the mind set to use these kinds of weapons against America or against other...
I think there's no question, I mean, in at least the pre- September 11 literature from Al Qaida, the stuff that we captured inAfghanistan, they had every intention, and I think the evidence suggests that. I'm just looking solely at Al Qaida, that their intention is to want it.
There's no reason to suspect that the Chechens don't either. I mean, there's going to be other terrorist groups.
But in terms of their capability, their ability to pull off a major attack I think has — is related in many regards likely to a host country, to having — (inaudible) what do I stay up late at night about?
Well, yes, I think about Afghanistanand how it's doing. I think about Pakistan and whether it can continue to survive.
I think about Egypt, which if you haven't been recently, is not inspiring. And you worry about what these countries become or what they're going to tolerate to remain in power.
I think that's the situation, to be honest, withSaudi Arabia. I think they're just willing to tolerate. When you look at the number of Saudis in Iraq, they're willing to tolerate that for staying in place, for still being in power.
And the question is whether we should be willing to tolerate it.
ROEMER: Thank you.
Let me ask for Adam's help here with the Public Discourse Project and take a few questions. If you could give your name please, we'll take about three questions and then the panel would be happy to go across the way and answer more press questions at the available time allocated.
So, please state your name and who you're with and we'll be happy to take them.
QUESTION: My name is Loreen Soledo (ph). I am American.
I am the mother of a 23-year-old son that was in Tower One on 9/11.
First of all, Mr. Brill, I would like to thank you for your comments to the 9/11 families who have tried to keep issues up in the forefront. Last week...
BRILL: You're welcome.
QUESTION: Last week, there was an article in a New Jersey paper which stated and made reference that this is no way for us to heal by trying to seek change. And I respectfully thank you for those comments.
As I've listened here, one of the areas that I have been concerned about since 9/11 has been the stopping of funds to the terrorists. As I listen here today, all of you have spoken about what actually is going on, how much money, in my opinion, it must take to purchase these weapons of mass destruction.
If you would comment, please, one, do you feel that it's a viable source that we should be working on to stop the flow of money to the terrorism?
And two, do you feel that our government should be cooperating in the areas where families are trying to work to freeze assets?
There are a lot of important documents that are still under national security by the State Department and are not able to be declassified.
QUESTION: And I'd like to see your spin on how this might help us by freezing monies to these people.
ROEMER: Not that he will spin it, but he will certainly answer it.
Dr. Carter, do you want to try that question?
CARTER: Well, I think it's an excellent point and one that we collectively didn't mention, but should have.
I don't know how much it costs on the black market to buy a bomb. I don't want to find out. Every once in a while somebody suggests that we just buy out the arsenals.
My problems with that is that there was a time I believe when Moammar Gadhafi offered to relieve India's entire foreign debt for one bomb. So you don't want to be bidding against these people who want a bomb so badly.
But you're absolutely right: It does cost money to do anything in the terrorism area, and probably more money to do something as complicated as building a bomb. And what we found in following financial records is not only that you follow them — even small amounts of money can be significant to follow. It's not the amount, it's who it's going to. And it's how you figure out who's connected to whom and who the networks are. So watching the money is a very lucrative source of intelligence.
Parenthetically, to get to your question of freezing, sometimes it's better to watch than to freeze, because you're learning something by watching.
That may explain some of the reticence at times to freeze. But there are other less laudable resistance to freezing funds: banks around the world who don't want their clients disturbed, don't want the U.S. intruding on their accounts, wish to be discreet about having such accounts. These are not reasons that are tolerable in a world of A.Q. Khans and Osama bin Ladens.
ROEMER: Well, I want to just conclude then.
First of all, to thank the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the chair and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, for their extraordinary work and leadership.
I want to thank the Center for National Policy, and their terrific work with the MacArthur Foundation, addressing this issue of nuclear terrorism and proliferation.
I want to thank these great panelists, who have really contributed terrific insight today, but work yesterday and tomorrow on addressing this issue.
And I also want to thank in particular the 9/11 families, who are here and watching and across America. We would not have passed the legislation to create the 9/11 Commission without you. We would not have been as nearly as effective as a commission without you. And we would not have had about 50 percent of our recommendations passed into law if it were not for you.
We're so grateful for your continuing efforts and work and principle and purpose on this. And we hope you will continue.
In conclusion, I can't say it better than our report says it. I want to quote a couple of sentences from the 9/11 Commission.
"We have come together with the unity of purpose because our nation demands it. September 11, 2001, was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering in the United States. The nation was unprepared. How did this happen, and how can we avoid such a tragedy again?"
Let's continue to work together with that unity of purpose and unity of effort.
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
For Academic Citation: