Graham: 'Serious' bio-weapons threat in Middle East
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“The extent to which they may have done it is classified, but it is a serious threat,” the Florida Democrat said in an interview on the eve of his appearance at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on legislation related to weapons of mass destruction.
“A couple of weeks in the Middle East has given me a greater sense of urgency,” Graham said.
The danger of a conflict between India and Pakistan, or Israel and Syria, respectively, with nuclear or biological weapons is “dangerously high,” he said.
Moreover, he said, the close relationship between a segment of Pakistani intelligence and the Taliban, on the one hand, and Syria and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia, on the other, were special cause for worry.
All of which highlighted the need for Congress to focus its attention on the threat such weapons posed to the United States, Graham said, and to prepare better for the possibility of a biological attack.
“There’s been no significant legislation is recent years to establish a response capability.” said Graham, who also chaired the Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.
The commission’s vice chairman, former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) is also scheduled to brief the committee.
Graham said he has “recommended a significant upgrade” in the Public Health Service and hospital emergency rooms to screen for and treat the victims of biological weapons.
House Homeland Security Committee leaders Bill Pascrell (D-N.J) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) are expected to introduce legislation along those lines on Thursday.
UPDATE: In a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Pascrell and King described their bill, which they would introduce next week, CongressDaily's Chris Strohm reported.
| April 20, 2010; 2:16 PM ET
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