A congressionally chartered commission has warned a Senate panel that a terrorist attack using a biological weapon is more likely than a nuclear attack on the US.
Members of the commission also said at the Senate hearing on Thursday that a terrorist attack using biological or nuclear weapons is likely to occur somewhere in the world by 2013.
“As grim as it may be, I believe it is a credible assessment,” former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., a commission member, said during the hearing.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman, an independent Democrat, and Sen. Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, acknowledged their concern about terrorists obtaining biological pathogens, the Web site Government Executive reported.
Lieberman and Graham both expressed the view that biological pathogens are less expensive to weaponize than the cost of obtaining a nuclear weapon, and easier to smuggle into the country.
A report from the commission, established to help prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, stated: “Security gaps at laboratories that store and work with dangerous pathogens, both in the United States and around the world, are worrisome because of continued interest in biological weapons.”
But one problem security officials face is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is charged with regulating laboratories that use human pathogens, while the Department of Agriculture regulates labs dealing with animal pathogens, Collins noted.
The commission recommended putting one agency in charge of regulating all laboratories.
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