By LTC Joseph C. Myers
With all of our pressing focus on events in the War on Terror overseas, that is the most important question here at home. Historically the pattern of WMD proliferation in the world has been principally state to state: China to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and possibly North Korea; or North Korea to Pakistan, and maybe a former Soviet Republic to North Korea. I would have assessed it as a “low probability” that al-Qaida has a nuclear weapon, but potentially “high impact” if they do. With that probability assessment, however, I also would have low confidence in given the intelligence gaps and demonstrated U.S. intelligence shortfalls that have been publicly and exhaustively examined with respect to Iraq.
But the intelligence shortcomings detailed in the report released on March 30 by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction not only indicates that the state of our knowledge is worse than previously understood; but reading the commission’s own evaluation of the intelligence analysis, information and circumstances in Afghanistan pre- and post invasion actually leads me to raise the probability that al-Qaida has a nuclear weapon from low to a moderate probability [50-50]. Far from allaying my fears, it heightened them.
1. Al-Qaida has the desire to acquire nuclear weapons, as already publicly
stated by Osama bin Laden
2. It is moderate probability that they may possess one or more nuclear weapons, as already publicly stated by Laden
3. It has a fatwa that grants religious approval and authority for the weapon’s employment against the United States
4. It has access to sympathizers within the nuclear development structures of emergent nuclear states
5. It has the funds to purchase finished weapons and hire sympathetic experts to train them on the handling and employment of the weapons
6. The intelligence community cannot fully assess with a high degree of confidence the availability of nuclear weapons to al-Qaida via criminal or deliberate proliferation activities