WASHINGTON -- Eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001 strikes and subsequent anthrax attacks, senators pushed Tuesday to tighten safeguards meant to thwart terrorists seeking to use biological weapons.
"We cannot let our guard down against the constant threat of terrorists intent on doing us harm," warned Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Lieberman and the panel's top Republican, Senator Susan Collins, introduced legislation in direct response to a stark warning in December 2008 that terrorists were more likely than not to strike somewhere in the world with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons by 2013.
Experts on a congressionally mandated commission on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction also warned that a biological attack was more likely than a nuclear strike.
"Terrorists have been active since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. America must not become complacent. Terrorists haven't given up; they haven't gone away," said Collins.
The legislation would identify the most dangerous biological agents and require the Department of Homeland Security to set robust security standards — including personnel checks and physical security — for the laboratories that handle such pathogens.
The bill would authorize $50 million for such security precautions.
The measure would also greenlight technical assistance to countries seeking help to bolster security at their laboratories.
And it would require better communication from government to the public after an attack, was well as promote the delivery of life-saving treatments.
© 2009 Agence France Presse.