The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism said the Obama administration is not addressing urgent threats, including bioterrorism.
“Each of the last three administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat,” said former Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and chairman of the commission. “But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bioweapons.”
The White House responded quickly, saying the president in his State of the Union address on Wednesday will outline a new plan for a better and quicker response to bioterrorism threats and attacks.
Retired Air Force Col. Randy Larsen, the commission’s executive director, said the government was poorly prepared for the swine-flu epidemic in 2009, suggesting that the country is not positioned to respond to something more serious. He pointed to the early shortage of H1N1 vaccine despite a six-month advance warning from health officials that the disease would be potentially deadly.
The shortage, however, was largely a result of private manufacturing problems that the government hopes to alleviate in the future with a different process to make flu vaccine. The government’s work to identify the new flu virus and create “seed stock” for a vaccine quickly has been praised.
The WMD commission was formed by Congress to evaluate the government’s readiness for a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction.
In a related development, two Democratic senators, three Republicans and an independent on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. urging him not to place the purported 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, on trial before a federal court in Manhattan.
“We and many others have already expressed serious concerns about whether a trial in civilian court might compromise classified evidence, including revealing sources and methods used by our intelligence community. We are also very concerned that, by bringing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other terrorists responsible for 9/11 to the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, only blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood, you will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism,” the six lawmakers wrote.
Those senators include Mr. Lieberman and Miss Collins, as well as Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat; Sen. Jim Webb, Virginia Democrat; Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican; and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.