Senate Democrats

Democratic Leaders Address the Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Reid and Pelosi Receive Report from National Security Advisory Group

Washington, D.C. - The failure of action by the Bush Administration to fully protect Americans from the terrorist threat of weapons of mass destruction was addressed today by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who stood with members of the National Security Advisory Group, chaired by former Defense Secretary William J. Perry. Perry delivered a report to the leaders entitled, “Worst Weapons in Worst Hands: U.S. Inaction on the Nuclear Terror Threat Since 9/11, And A Path Of Action,” which details the significant shortcomings by the Bush Administration to contain these weapons and materials and offers key recommendations that will help to protect Americans from this threat.

“The most important threat we face is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, yet this Administration’s missteps in Iraq have made tackling that threat so much harder,” said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. “This report shows we must keep our eye on the ball.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said: “The report concludes that the U.S. is fighting a global war on terrorism, but not a global war on weapons of mass destruction. The Administration has failed policies on weapons programs in North Korea and Iran, on securing loose nuclear material in Russia and elsewhere, and on strengthening the world’s nuclear nonproliferation system,” “The lack of leadership by the Bush Administration in these areas has made the American people less safe than they should be.”

The Democratic Leaders discussed their resolve to do everything possible to protect Americans from terrorism both here and abroad. As the report outlines, the Bush Administration’s failure to remain focused on the nuclear threat posed by both North Korea and Iran has significantly increased the risk that weapons of mass destruction will fall into the hands of terrorists and greatly increase instability in two already unstable regions. The Democratic Leaders embraced the key recommendations to reverse the setbacks suffered with both of these regimes; expedite the process to secure all loose nuclear material, and strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

“I urge the President and his advisors to consider carefully the plan for action described by Secretary Perry, Secretary Albright, and the National Security Advisory Group in this excellent report,” Pelosi said. “Protecting the American people is a bipartisan responsibility, and Democrats stand ready to work with Republicans to protect Americans from terrorism.”

Reid said: “It’s time we did everything we can to protect Americans and focus in on the threats we face,” Reid said. “This report makes very serious recommendations, and Democrats intend to use them to put this country back on the right path. I hope my Republican colleagues will join us in taking up these recommendations and keeping Americans safe.”

The members of the National Security Advisory Group are William J. Perry, Madeleine K. Albright, Graham T. Allison, Samuel R. Berger, Ashton B. Carter, Wesley K. Clark, Thomas E. Donilon, Michele A. Flournoy, John D. Podesta, Susan E. Rice, John M. Shalikashvili, Wendy R. Sherman, Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall, and James B. Steinberg.

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WORST WEAPONS IN WORST HANDS

Report by National Security Advisory Group

The gravest threat facing Americans today is a terrorist detonating a nuclear bomb in one of our cities. The National Security Advisory Group (NSAG) judges that the Bush Administration is taking insufficient actions to counter this threat. The Administration is fighting a global war on terror, but not yet a global war on WMD.

REPORT ON ACTIONS TO COUNTER WMD AFTER 9/11

Actions Taken:

  • The invasion of Iraq was the principal action taken to counter WMD after 9/11, but, in fact, no WMD were found.
  • The renunciation of WMD by Qadaffi’s Libya was a major success of U.S. and British cooperative diplomacy extending over two administrations.
  • The exposure of the A.Q. Khan network by member states of the Proliferation Security Initiative stopped some trafficking in WMD technology, but an unknown amount is unaccounted for and the black market may still be functioning.

Serious Setbacks:

  • North Korea quadrupled its nuclear arsenal with impunity, and may now be so emboldened by U.S. acquiescence that it cannot be turned back.
  • Iran has retained its nuclear program for four years since 9/11, with the U.S. response limited to rhetoric, finally giving belated and tepid support for a European-led initiative. Iranian nuclear ambitions have become more entrenched because of U.S. inaction.

Inaction:

  • Efforts to secure “loose nukes,” such as the Nunn-Lugar program, are little changed from their pre-9/11 levels.
  • Diplomatic efforts to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty were touted by President Bush but have not produced results.

ADVISORY GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS

Reverse the Setbacks U.S. Nuclear Security has Already Suffered from North Korea and Iran:

  • North Korea might still be stopped diplomatically through the Six-Party talks, but to have a chance, President Bush must put an end to the debate within his administration between those who favor diplomacy and those who favor pressure. Diplomacy or pressure is not a choice; it is a sequence. The U.S. should devise a Plan A for diplomatic success to employ first, and then a contingent Plan B for pressure to use if diplomacy fails. Plan B serves two purposes: to aid Plan A by showing North Korea the penalty for failing to end its nuclear program; and to create a realistic prospect of containing and ultimately eliminating the nuclear threat from North Korea.
  • On Iran, to achieve any deal the U.S. government must settle on a course of action. A five-year global moratorium on all new enrichment and reprocessing, as called for by Mohammed ElBaradei, is the key. Will require international cooperation in assembling both a bundle of carrots and an arsenal of sticks. U.S., the EU3, Russia, and the IAEA need to present Iran with a bargain, packaged as an offer Iran cannot refuse. It would offer cover for Iran to comply with an international obligation without explicitly yielding to American or EU3 demands.

Expedite the Securing of all “Loose Nukes”:

  • Move from assistance to partnership.
  • Accelerate and strengthen U.S.-Russian cooperation. Build Russian commitment to sustain high levels of security once international assistance ends. Agree on what levels of security are needed and what standards should be met. Decide on specific deadlines for when all loose Russian nuclear weapons and materials will be contained and secured. Resolve remaining access and liability issues. Consolidate nuclear stockpiles. Develop nuclear “security culture.” Exchange “best practices” for securing nukes. Work together on nuclear security in the rest of the world to ensure that every weapon and every kilogram of material worldwide is secured and accounted for.
  • Improve Nunn-Lugar. Streamline to remove bureaucratic obstacles. Establish who is in charge.

Strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty System:

  • The United States should adopt four goals as U.S. policy; develop specific proposals for the U.S. to achieve each goal; and seek international support for each proposal. The four goals should be: preventing nuclear terrorism, stopping the proliferation of uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capability, strengthening verification and compliance of the NPT, and preventing “breakout” of the NPT.
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