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Napolitano Calls Fighting Terror 'Top Priority'

By Spencer S. Hsu
Homeland security secretary-designee Janet Napolitano called the elimination of global terrorism the top priority of the incoming administration before a private briefing today by a new congressionally chartered commission on weapons of mass destruction, presided over by Vice President-elect Joseph Biden.

"The safety of our citizens, the safety of our homeland and the elimination of the threat of global terrorism is our top priority," the Arizona governor said, addressing reporters at transition offices in Washington for the first time since being tapped Monday by president-elect Barack Obama. "We will act, in the words of the commission, with the urgency called for by the nature of the threat that confronts us," she said.

Biden and Napolitano took no questions before beginning a 45-minute private meeting with the nine-member Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, chaired by former senators Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.).

The panel reported Monday that the world is more likely than not to experience a WMD attack during Obama's term in office, particularly one involving biological agents. The country's "margin of safety" is shrinking, not growing, because of the spread of technology and scientific knowledge, the report said.

In the 161-page report, titled, "World at Risk," commissioners concluded that the ubiquity of hard-to-detect biological pathogens and the decentralization of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-inspired extremists are increasing the risk of WMD attacks faster than the U.S. has been able to secure dangerous materials.

"We have been losing ground and we are less secure today than we have been in the recent past," Graham said.

In particular, Talent said, "We really do think the government needs to raise the visibility of the bio threat."

Offering an example of where the Homeland Security Department "ought to be at the center" of new efforts, Talent said 15,000 researchers in government-regulated, high-containment laboratories work daily with highly contagious pathogens without a common regulatory or security regime. He said the total does not count unregulated private sector researchers or those working overseas, where there are even fewer controls.

"This is not acceptable," Talent said.

The commission also recommended greater international focus on Pakistan, a nuclear power in which al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations have carved out safe havens, and endorsed the appointment of a White House coordinator for counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism efforts at the National Security Council.

The panel also suggested reforming the State Department and U.S. foreign policy agencies along the lines of defense and intelligence community reorganizations.

Napolitano said the report "clearly shows that the United States must act urgently, deliberately, and in concert with nations across the globe to adapt to the constantly evolving threat of weapons of mass destruction."

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 3, 2008; 7:38 PM ET
Categories:  Cabinet  
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Next: Bailouts Back on the Agenda


You're welcome. Did it all come out okay?

Posted by: JakeD | December 5, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse




Is the Civil Rights Division of D.O.J. investigating this -- as has been requested multiple times?

Posted by: scrivener50 | December 4, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse


I'll be thinking of you.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | December 4, 2008 3:33 AM | Report abuse

"We will act, in the words of the commission, with the urgency called for by the nature of the threat that confronts us," she said.

The nature of the threat is that any punk - at home or abroad - can try to screw with us.

The Bush people conditioned us to think that Bin Ladin was some quasi-governmental organization. The truth is that the people who are targeting us are not "masterminds" they are thugs, pimps, drug dealers, and young punks who don't believe they'll see their 25th birthday- and don't care to.

That is the nature of the threat. I'm a bleeding heart liberal, but to think that privacy didn't die on 9-11 is to think wrong.

The Founding Fathers never cared more about the constitution than they cared about their friends, family and future generations.

Either the wiretap laws are passe or we are.

Posted by: jrob822 | December 4, 2008 2:26 AM | Report abuse

oh. OK, I thought you were referring to a public "center ring". Good luck with your medical procedure.

Posted by: JakeD | December 4, 2008 1:28 AM | Report abuse


I'm hoping to have a pain in the butt removed.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | December 4, 2008 12:16 AM | Report abuse


What's happening Friday?

Posted by: JakeD | December 3, 2008 11:44 PM | Report abuse

My soon to be ex- governor( thank God) is simply an open borders person and will do nothing in regards to illegal immigration. She was another carpet bagging pol like John McCain, both had no great love for Arizona. Glad she is gone, but fear for our safety with her at homeland security.

Posted by: TZAZ | December 3, 2008 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Napolitano is WRONG

The top priority is to dance to the tune of the American Taliban who will bring their donkey show to the center ring on Friday.

Keep repeating the big lie want to be sure the blog audience is ready at showtime.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | December 3, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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