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NUCLEAR TERRORISM
Taking a Serious Threat Seriously

06/15//07

Photograph of Dr. Vahid Majidi, head of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate
Dr. Vahid Majidi, head of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, said that the reaction to the conference was "universally positive."

Can we as a global community really afford to ignore the threat of nuclear terrorism, even if the likelihood of such an attack in the near-term is fairly low?

The collective answer that rang loud and clear during the FBI's week-long global conference on nuclear terrorism in Miami: a resounding no.

Not when we know that the consequences could be so incredibly devastating…and not when al Qaeda has made no bones about its desire to build, buy, or steal—and then use—nuclear or radiological weapons.
Photograph of Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Advisor to President Bush
Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Advisor to President Bush, addressed the delegates on Thursday.

"We must not let the world's most dangerous terrorists threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons," said Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Advisor to the President, who spoke to the delegates on Thursday afternoon.

The FBI-led conference, which wrapped up on Friday, brought together experts from 28 nations to examine the issue from many angles—from security at nuclear plants to intelligence and information-sharing ... from radiological detection equipment used at borders and travel routes to the extent of off-road trafficking and smuggling ... from national and international legal frameworks and protocols to the growing science of nuclear forensics. The conference included an in-depth table-top exercise, a mock drill showing how the FBI and its partners would respond to a dirty bomb, and several real world case scenarios.

Dr. Vahid Majidi, head of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate that spearheaded the event, said the conference was successful in “opening a dialogue with our partner agencies and the international community on the entire scope of weapons of mass destruction.”

As a specific example, he pointed to bilateral discussions that were held during the week between the U.S. and five countries—Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico—that will lead to improved intelligence sharing and joint exercises and training activities.


"By some estimates, there is enough highly enriched uranium in global stockpiles to construct thousands of nuclear weapons. And it is safe to assume that there are many individuals who would not think twice about using such weapons. The economics of supply and demand dictate that someone, somewhere, will provide nuclear material to the highest bidder and that material will end up in the hands of terrorists."
- FBI Director Robert Mueller, in his remarks at the conference on Monday


Photograph of New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly
New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly talks with conference delegates.

Majidi said delegates appreciated the broad range of topics and insights into how the U.S. is responding to the threat. “We received universally positive comments on the conference—the keynote speakers and presenters, the venue, the demo, the table top,” Majidi said. “Everyone was glad to be invited to participate.”

And going home with new perspectives, partnerships, and resolve to combat what is perhaps the pre-eminent threat of our time: nuclear terrorism.

Resources:
-- Day One of the Conference
-- Day Two of the Conference
-- Day Three: Mock WMD Drill