Thursday, December 04, 2008

Talent: Pakistan Most Dangerous Country

On the heels of his report that warns of a biological or nuclear attack within the next five years, former Senator Jim Talent told the KY3 Political Notebook Thursday that Pakistan is the country he most worries about being a danger.

"If you talk to a hundred different experts, they'll give you the same answer. Pakistan is the most dangerous right now. The epicenter is Pakistan," said Talent in a wide-ranging interview.

Talent lead a commission on preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction with former Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida. It began its work in 2007, and the commission unveiled its findings to the President, Congressional leaders and Vice-President elect Joe Biden Wednesday.

Talent said the report's primary recommendation is for the U.S. government to consolidate its efforts to prevent a weapons of mass destruction attack.

"The White House needs to have a single coordinator to deal with proliferation and terrorism, which they don't have. We hit Congress pretty hard, because this is like the third bipartisan commission that has told them we need a single appropriations committee for intelligence," Talent said. "We have 17 committees overseeing the Department of Homeland Security. It's ridiculous. There should be one," he added.

Talent said the goal of the report was to spark urgency about a possible attack. "In our interviews with hundreds of experts here and abroad, that's the consensus that emerged," he said.

The worst news, Talent said, is that efforts to protect against weapon proliferation are "moving away from us." He said terrorists now have more safe havens to to pursue dangerous weapons because of unstable governments. "Pakistan has deteriorated a lot. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are there. They're a nuclear power. And the government is unstable, which means its now subject to penetration, which means it could lead to a cascade of proliferation both on the nuclear and biological fronts," Talent explained.

The report does not name a specific area for an attack. "If we had gotten intelligence about an active plot, we obviously couldn't have shared that," Talent said, adding that pinpointing certain areas of the globe would be "irresponsible."

But he said another big worldwide priority should be the security and containment of the labs that hold many of the chemicals and ingredients used to make weapons. "We have very poor regulation and security of these labs in the United States and around the world. You wouldn't believe how these things are stored," Talent said.

The former U.S. Senator said a remedy to that problem would be creating a single worldwide security standard for such labs that would be administered by a single office.

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