On the eighth anniversary of September 11, the media and cyberspace will be filled with articles and commentaries assessing the extent to which Americans are safer now from the threat of catastrophic terrorism. There is no question that much has been done to improve the nation’s security against terrorist attack and even natural disasters. Yet, the problem is so daunting, the targets the terrorists might strike so many and the ways they may go about causing us harm so varied that it is difficult to be confident that over the long-term we will not be struck again.
So, what to do? While there are many ways terrorists could do us harm, there are only a limited number of possibilities for inflicting catastrophic damage. One of these is by detonating a nuclear device, perhaps a so-called “dirty bomb” made up of high explosives and nuclear waste material, in a U.S. city. Another is to release a biological agent among the American population. Either event would cause massive physical, psychological and economic harm to this country.
My modest proposal is to focus more attention and resources on detection of both nuclear and biological threats. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has spent much of the last eight years developing new generations of improved sensors that could provide more rapid and accurate warning of potential nuclear and biological threats. Yet, DHS has dragged its feet in deploying these new capabilities. We would be much safer, at relatively modest costs, if every port of entry and major transportation hub were equipped with these new sensors.
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