From the Pentagon and Capitol Hill to airports and corporate
boardrooms, fresh concerns over terrorism are prompting stepped-up
precautions - some unprecedented.
For the first time, the military is devising plans to protect
troops based overseas from chemical and biological terrorism.
Similarly, a bill passed last week by the Senate would provide
funds to train local police and firefighters in coping with the
aftermath of terrorist attacks in the United States that employed
chemical, biological, or nuclear devices.
Such measures underscore the deepening seriousness with which
politicians and policymakers are taking the terrorist threat. The
crash of TWA Flight 800 - if officially decreed the work of
terrorists - would be tragic proof of the correctness of their
Still, experts agree the US may be ill-prepared to cope with the
rising threat from extremists abroad and malcontents at home. They
note the nation may now be at a turning point in how it thinks
"There is a reevaluation going on in the United States and
elsewhere as to the nature and the intensity of the threat," says
Yonah Alexander, a terrorism expert at George Washington
University. "We have to do more in terms of personnel, in terms of
funding and strengthening international cooperation. It's really
the moment of truth."
Experts inside and outside government have long been cautioning
that the dangers of terrorism are intensifying because of a
post-cold-war proliferation of deadly materials and know-how. Their
warnings have been given new weight by the devastating June 25
bombing of the United States military compound in Dhahran, Saudi
Arabia, that killed 19 service personnel and a mounting belief that
sabotage is behind the TWA crash.
"We have seen in a lot of different countries in the world a
level of sophistication, a level of fanaticism, a level of
willingness to take on risks by terrorists than we have seen in the
past," says a senior Defense Department official.
"That's one reason that the threat has grown. Another is the
spread of technology, a spread of ... a level of knowledge of how
to make bombs. There are actual examples of terrorists using
chemicals," he says, referring to the gas attacks on a Tokyo subway.
No silver bullet
Experts stress that there is no "silver bullet" that can
eliminate terrorism: Indeed, senior administration officials worry
about even greater anti-US atrocities, involving weapons of mass
destruction. Officials and independent experts stress that
additional steps can be taken to better deter domestic and foreign
extremist groups and to limit the casualties and damage from those
that succeed in committing violent acts.
"Almost everybody now understands that we need to be much more
imaginative," says Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana. "There is a
need for new conceptual thinking. We are going to have to think of
military planning of a very different type."
The most sweeping new antiterrorism measures are under
development at the Pentagon, which was harshly criticized on
Capitol Hill for a lack of security precautions at the US military
compound in Dhahran.
Defense Secretary William Perry has announced plans to increase
protection for US military personnel in the Gulf. …