Preventing the Nuclear Terrorist Threat

Secretaries Gates and Clinton preview this week's Washington nuclear summit.

ByABC News
April 11, 2010, 4:32 PM

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2010— -- World leaders from 47 countries are descending on Washington this week for an unprecedented summit to discuss what is arguably one of the most pressing global security questions: What can be done to prevent a nuclear weapons attack by terrorists?

White House officials say the focus of the summit is to trigger a common sense of urgency about the threat of nuclear weapons from terrorists, as well as nation states such as Iran and North Korea, and to devise a plan for individual countries to better secure their nuclear materials and access to nuclear technology.

"We know that organizations like al Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon -- a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using," the president said Sunday.

"If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically, and from a security perspective would be devastating," he said.

Former CIA Agent Rolf Mowatt-Larssen has been working on nuclear threats since the Cold War. He recalls the moment when he first realized that the notion of terrorists procuring or manufacturing nuclear weapons wasn't so far-fetched.

"'Terrorists, men in caves can't do this,' was more or less what I thought coming in as a veteran intelligence officer and it was maybe a year or two later when I realized, 'Oh my God, these guys are actually trying to do this,'" Mowatt-Larssen said.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week" today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the goal of the summit is "to have everyone sign off on an agreed upon work plan that will enable us to begin to try to tie up these loose nukes ... to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands."