Report: World at Risk of Bio, Nuke Attack

Panel: "more likely than not" that a WMD attack will occur in the next 5 years.

ByABC News
December 2, 2008, 12:17 PM

Dec. 2, 2008— -- A biological or nuclear attack is likely to occur somewhere around the globe during the Obama administration or shortly thereafter, a new congressionally mandated report has warned.

The report, titled "The World at Risk," starkly states, "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."

The ominous study by the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism and obtained by ABC News, will be released Wednesday.

The biggest threat is a biological attack, which the report considers to be a greater possibility than a nuclear or radiological attack.

"Terrorists are more likely to be able to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon. The commission believes that the U.S. government needs to move more aggressively to limit the proliferation of biological weapons and reduce the prospect of a bioterror attack," it says.

"The acquisition of deadly pathogens, and their weaponization and dissemination in aerosol form, would entail fewer technical hurdles than the theft or production of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and its assembly into an improvised nuclear device," the report argues.

While terror groups lack the expertise to make biological weapons, the study warns that "terrorists are trying to upgrade their capabilities and could do so by recruiting skilled scientists."

As a cautionary example, "The World at Risk" cites the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, which the FBI and Justice Department have maintained were conducted by the lateBruce Ivins, a bio-weapons researcher at Fort Detrick.

The new report drew the same conclusions as a separate study released last month by the National Intelligence Council. That report, titled Global Trends 2025, predicted the threat from biological weapons would grow. "For those terrorist groups active in 2025, the diffusion of technologies and scientific knowledge will place some of the world's most dangerous capabilities within their reach. The globalization of biotechnology industries is spreading expertise and capabilities, and increasing the accessibility of biological pathogens suitable for disruptive attacks," it warns.