Cohen Assesses Terrorist Threat : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Yahoo Hong Kong News Monday, May 29 1:22 AM SGT WASHINGTON, May 28 (AFP) -

The United States faces a "quite real" threat of a terrorist attack on its soil with nuclear, chemical or biological arms within the next 10 years, US Secretary of Defense William Cohen warned Sunday.

"The likelihood is quite real," Cohen told NBC television's "Meet the Press" program. "There is a chance it is going to happen."

"The likelihood of an attack on American soil, using either a chemical or biological or, indeed, a nuclear weapon, is quite, not only possible, but probable," added the defense secretary.

The warning followed a reassessment of external threats facing the United States in the post-Cold-War world conducted by the administration of President Bill Clinton.

Military analysts believe that even though the collapse of the Soviet Union has left the United States the sole military superpower, it is likely to be confronted with unconventional security threats for which it may be ill-prepared.

"No country is going to take us on head-on," said Cohen.

"They'll look for asymmetric types of threats and attacks, for example, through the use of chemical or biological agents, through the use of cyberattacks," he explained.

He said the Clinton administration was aware that about two dozen nations were developing chemical and biological weapons but did not name them.

He also refused to rule out the possibility that a portable nuclear weapon could be smuggled and exploded on US territory by terrorists or hostile intelligence agents.

"We know that there are many nuclear weapons, small nuclear weapons that can be transported," noted the secretary of defense, arguing that the country should prepare itself for an attack, which would involve weapons of mass destruction.

Cohen said the government had already organized 27 "weapons of mass destruction civil support teams" deployed with the US National Guard around the country.

This week, the US government is wrapping up a major exercise designed to ready the country for a chemical or biological attack.

The 10-day drill code-named "TOPOFF" scheduled to conclude on Tuesday is being conducted in the US states of Colorado and New Hampshire and involves 27 federal agencies in addition to local

emergency services, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In New Hampshire, emergency teams are practicing a response to a simulated chemical weapons attack during a mass sporting event, while Colorado authorities are coping with a make-believe epidemic of "pneumonic plague" triggered by the use of biological agents.

To underscore to importance the US government attaches to raising the level of preparedness, US Attorney General Janet Reno and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala are taking part in the drill along with the governors of both states.

But the US government, including the Pentagon, had egg on its face last week, when the US Congress' investigative arm released a report showing that its investigators, brandishing fake law-enforcement badges and claiming they were armed had no trouble walking into 19 sensitive federal agencies.

The General Accounting Office reported that its agents penetrated the Defense, State and Justice Departments and Central Intelligence Agency, as well as secured areas at two major airports using fake badges like those that can be purchased on the Internet.

Cohen accepted the blame for the security breaches.

"That's a deficiency on our part," he said. "It certainly is, and it takes these kinds of tests to expose those deficiencies."

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), May 29, 2000

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