During the course of our fieldwork for this report, the members of the Commission had a near miss—and it served as a reminder of the urgency of our mission and message. Asked by Congress to recommend ways of preventing weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism, we were on our way to a place where these two concerns intersect—Pakistan. On September 20, 2008, we were in Kuwait City awaiting our connecting flight to Islamabad, where we would be staying at the Marriott Hotel. Suddenly our cell phones began buzzing with breaking news: the Islamabad Marriott had just been devastated by a bomb.
Minutes later, every television set in the airport was showing live footage of our destination. The Marriott was ablaze, a line of fire running its length. The hotel front was a mass of twisted iron and broken concrete. What once had been the lobby was now a huge black crater.
The world is also imperiled by a new era of proliferation of WMD. Our Commission was charged with recommending ways of halting and reversing this proliferation. We focused on two categories of WMD—nuclear and biological weapons—because they pose the greatest peril.
Terrorists are determined to attack us again—with weapons of mass destruction if they can. Osama bin Laden has said that obtaining these weapons is a “religious duty” and is reported to have sought to perpetrate another “Hiroshima.”
Our Commission is a legacy of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission). The independent reports produced by these commissions explained to the American people how and why the U.S. government failed to discover that terrorists, operating from Afghanistan, were infiltrating the vulnerable United States in order to use a most unconventional resource—commercial airplanes—as weapons that would kill thousands of people.
We have a far different mandate: to examine and expose the threats posed to the United States by the proliferation of WMD and terrorism in a world that has been changed forever by the forces of globalization.
- Letters of Transmittal
- Executive Summary
- Biological and Nuclear Risks
- Findings and Recommendations
- Biological Proliferation and Terrorism
- Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism
- Pakistan: The Intersection of Nuclear Weapons and Terrorism
- Russia and the United States
- Government Organization and Culture
- The Role of the Citizen
- Review of Implementation of the Baker-Cutler Report
- International Nonproliferation/Counterproliferation Treaties, Regimes, and Initiatives
- Acronyms and Abbreviations
- Commissioner Biographies
- Commission Staff
It is our hope to break the all-too-familiar cycle in which disaster strikes and a commission is formed to report to us about what our government should have known and done to keep us safe. This time we do know. We know the threat we face with the proliferation of WMD and terrorism. We know that our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing. And we know what we must do to counter the risk.
Call to Action
There is no excuse now for allowing domestic partisanship or international rivalries to prevent or delay the actions that must be taken. We need strong unity at all levels—nationally, locally, and among people all across the globe. There is still time to defend ourselves, if we act with the urgency called for by the nature of the immediate threat that confronts us. Sounding that call for urgent action is the purpose of this urgent report.