ABC NEWS’ MATTHEW JAFFE REPORTS:
Vice President-elect Joe Biden Wednesday warned about the dangers of a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction after a bipartisan report concluded that such an attack is likely to occur somewhere in the world in the next five years.
Biden was in Washington for a briefing by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, which just released a report analyzing whether or not the country is taking every possible measure to prevent such an incident.
"The answer that jumps out very starkly is no," stated the vice president-elect before the briefing, slamming his hand down on the report for emphasis. "We’re not doing all we can or should and we’re not doing all we can to prevent the world’s most lethal weapons from winding up in the hands of terrorists."
"This report is more than a warning about what we’re doing wrong," he continued. "It’s a pragmatic blueprint for how to get it right."
The bipartisan commission, led by former Senators Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, was created by Congress to assess the country’s efforts to prevent the spread of WMDs and their use by terrorists. Concluded the task force’s new report, "The Commission believes that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013."
It was only six weeks ago that Biden guaranteed that if elected, Obama would be tested by an international crisis within his first six months in office. At today’s briefing, the Delaware lawmaker was joined by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
"The safety of our citizens, the safety of our homeland, and the elimination of the threat of global terrorism is our top priority," said Napolitano.
"The threat of a WMD attack on American soil can be dramatically reduced through a coherent and sustained strategy to improve our vulnerabilities and to adapt to a new and evolving threat," she observed. "It is the wisdom in this report that will help us to do that adaptation."
"We intend to be diligent and creative in our efforts and our measures to protect our homeland," pledged Napolitano, promising to act "urgently" and "deliberately".
"Our adversary has not been standing still – they have accelerated the pace of their progress," cautioned Graham.
"We have been losing ground," he said. "We are less secure today than we have been in the recent past."
At the same time, Graham noted that the report was released "not with the goal of raising a false sense of fear, but rather a cold analysis of the reality of the risks that we face and therefore the urgency to respond to reduce that risk."
"This is a near-term threat," warned Talent. "We use the word ‘urgent’ a lot in this. You know, in this town, the urgent seems to crowd out the important. Well, this is important and urgent and that theme is infused throughout the report."
One week after terrorists believed to have come from Pakistan killed at least 171 people in Mumbai, India, Talent emphasized the importance of a focus on Pakistan.
"A focus on Pakistan is clearly important. And you’ve known this, senator, for years because of your work in foreign affairs," said Talent, turning to Biden, who for years has chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It’s the epicenter, the nexus of all these threats right now and it’s deteriorating."