Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Strategies Discussed

Article excerpt

On June 11, some 38 partner states of the nearly one-year-old Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism convened for the third meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, to discuss future prospects. In a simultaneous meeting, representatives from close to 30 countries attended the initiative's Conference on International Nuclear Terrorism Law Enforcement in Miami, Florida.

The anti-nuclear terrorism initiative was introduced jointly by President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2006 in an effort to combat the nuclear terrorism threat through a cooperative network of partner states. (See ACT, September 2006.) Since then, membership has grown to more than 50 countries, and participating governments have agreed to a statement of principles and a plan of work.

The statement of principles, which was agreed on during earlier meetings in Rabat, Morocco, and Ankara, Turkey, includes a list of commitments to tackle factors that facilitate nuclear terrorism. Member states pledge to address the security of nuclear storage facilities, the illicit trafficking of sensitive radiological and nuclear material, and the development of their countries' strategic response to nuclear or radiological terrorist attacks or threats.

In Astana, the 38 countries joined observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union to discuss the initiative's progress in furthering these principles and developing the plan of work, which includes capacity-building activities for participating states. Japan and Australia have completed the first two capacity-building activities by hosting the Seminar on Strengthening Nuclear Security in Asian Countries and the Asia-Pacific Seminar on Combating Nuclear Terrorism, respectively.

The Miami conference, hosted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sought to add meat to the bones of the initiative's objectives by specifically supporting the principle to enhance participants' abilities in "response, mitigation, and investigation" of nuclear terrorism activities.

For five days, more than 400 officials from law enforcement, intelligence, border control, nuclear security, and other related professions attended presentations on topics ranging from nuclear smuggling to nuclear forensics. Notable speakers included FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. Case studies, tabletop exercises, and demonstrations of technical procedure also supplemented the discussions.

On the third day, two Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams from the FBI and the Miami police staged a simulated drill at the Orange Bowl to demonstrate a response to a radiological dispersion device. Delegates from 28 countries watched the team demobilize a "terrorist cell" operating inside a fictitious warehouse and then use a specialized robot from the Miami Fire Department to destroy the mock radiological device.

Emphasizing the importance of information-sharing to achieve the principle's goal, Mueller stressed that "no one person, no one officer, no one agency can prevent a nuclear terrorist attack on its own. There are too many unlocked doors and unknown players, too many ports and porous borders. …