Michele Kearney's Nuclear Wire

Major Energy and Environmental News and Commentary affecting the Nuclear Industry.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: A Global Intelligence Imperative By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: A Global Intelligence Imperative
By Michael Jacobson

This afternoon, the Washington Institute published a piece by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the former DOE intelligence chief and head of the CIA's WMD Department in the Counterterrorism Center. In the article, Mr. Mowatt-Larssen lays out the threat the US still faces from nuclear terrorism, and outlines some steps the US and the international community should take to mitigate this dangerous situation. One particularly important step, in Mr. Mowatt-Larssen's view, would be to establish a full-fledged intelligence office at the IEAE.

Here is an excerpt from the piece:

As Mohamed ElBaradei's term as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) draws to a close, the organization is struggling to choose a new leader. After deadlocking on an initial vote in March, a new round of nominations closed on April 27, with the next vote scheduled in the coming months. While the IAEA sorts out changes at the top, the United States should try to expand the agency's mandate and responsibilities. One such change would be the establishment of a full-fledged intelligence office, which would dramatically improve the agency's ability to identify and deter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Post-September 11 Urgency

After the September 11 attacks, the CIA faced the daunting prospect of al-Qaeda seeking a nuclear bomb and collaborating with Pakistani nuclear scientists in an effort to build one. A mood of grim determination gripped the U.S. intelligence establishment, a sentiment highlighted by CIA Director George Tenet when he stated that "We are behind the eight ball" in tracking al-Qaeda's efforts to obtain WMDs.

This threat galvanized an unprecedented response, which stimulated a degree of risk taking, experimentation, and creativity that would have been impossible under normal circumstances. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies abandoned traditional methods of conducting business and worked together in unprecedented ways to defuse the threat. Government agencies agreed to colocate officers and work together as an integrated team, drawing from a well of capabilities that included everything at the U.S. government's disposal. The United States also shared raw leads and information with dozens of countries in the war on terrorism, most notably with our new Russian partners. Washington went to extreme lengths to ensure information was passed to anyone who might have answers, including Syria, Sudan, and Iran. Conventional rules limiting the sharing of information were suspended in favor of sharing everything with everyone. In all, the CIA passed WMD-related leads and analysis to over two dozen countries. In fact, in the process of averting a WMD-enabled al-Qaeda, the United States and its allies were able to thwart attacks in the formative stages in several countries.

To read the rest of the piece, click here

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