As the nation prepares to mark the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., introduced legislation on Tuesday to prevent and prepare for terrorist attacks from biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD), according to a press release from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009 responds to a statement by the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell in December 2008 and the findings of a Congressionally-mandated WMD commission that a WMD terrorist attack is more likely than not to occur by 2013 and that a biological attack is more likely than a nuclear attack.
“The approaching eighth anniversary of the 9/11 and anthrax attacks reminds us that we cannot let our guard down against the constant threat of terrorists intent on doing us harm,” Lieberman said. “This legislation provides a comprehensive framework for protecting the United States from weapons of mass destruction and biological attacks, in particular, which the experts say is more likely than a nuclear attack.
“Our bill would strengthen security at labs using the most dangerous pathogens, improve our capabilities to assess the threat of terrorists acquiring WMD, ensure that citizens get critical safety information, and develop a means for quickly delivering life-saving drugs to areas that have been attacked.
“We dare not bury our heads in the sand and ignore the very real risks we face from a terrorist WMD attack. This legislation would help prevent such an attack and better prepare the nation to respond should one occur.”
“As the Commission noted in its comprehensive report, terrorists have been active since the attacks of September 11, 2001. America must not become complacent. Terrorists haven’t given up; they haven’t gone away. Our enemies remain fixed on their avowed goal of committing mass murder,” said Collins. “Nuclear proliferation and advances in biotechnology could give terrorists new means to wreak death and destruction around the world. That is why the Commission’s report is a call to action. And this legislation answers that call by proposing aggressive, urgent steps that will help safeguard our nation, particularly against the threat of biological attacks.”
The Lieberman/Collins legislation implements the recommendations of the Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, and would improve biosecurity by identifying the most dangerous pathogens and then requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop security standards for laboratories that handle those pathogens, including risk assessments, personnel reliability programs, and physical security.