Nuclear Terrorism Treaties Still Incomplete; Other Nations Look to U.S. as Example

Article excerpt


Congress hasn't given its best effort to prevent nuclear terrorism. Despite broad bipartisan recognition that nuclear terror is one of the biggest threats of our time, two common-sense anti-terrorism treaties have been on the to-do list for more than half a decade. The Senate has the opportunity to pass those treaties in the weeks ahead and should do so for one simple reason: They would make America more secure.

There is a long and commendable record of U.S. bipartisan support for policies and practices that prevent nuclear terrorism and impede nuclear proliferation. Successive administrations and both political parties have broadly agreed that combating nuclear terrorism ranks at the top of our foreign policy and national security agenda. The 9/11 Commission warned, The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world's most dangerous terrorists acquire the world's most dangerous weapons. Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates noted, Every senior leader, when you're asked what keeps you awake at night, it's the thought of a terrorist ending up with a weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear.

Despite these and other meritorious actions, including the elimination of Osama bin Laden, the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation is not going away. We need more tools and more legal cooperation with other states to fill gaps that enable terrorists and other rogue elements to exploit weaknesses in the international system, weaknesses that jeopardize our security and the security of our friends and allies. The 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) build upon past U.S. international initiatives to strengthen our hand against terrorism.

Implementing legislation for these two treaties is necessary because the treaties would expand existing legal protections against the loss or theft of dangerous materials and against acts of international nuclear terrorism. The amendment to the CPPNM requires parties to protect nuclear facilities and materials that are stored, used and transported domestically; the original treaty required physical protection of nuclear materials only when in international transit. The ICSANT provides an important international legal basis for cooperation with other parties to the treaty to investigate, prosecute and extradite alleged perpetrators of terrorist acts. …