WMD Threats Less Severe Than Thought, but Taken Seriously

Laura Holgate, the White House’s coordinator for weapons of mass destruction policies, tried to counter some of the public views on the threats from bio-terrorism, dirty bombs, and loose nukes, while stressing how seriously the government takes those threats. Speaking Oct. 3 at the Military Reporters and Editors Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., she addressed recent incidents of mishandling deadly disease samples at the Center of Disease Control and other facilities. “It’s always nice to know what’s in your refrigerator,” she said. The incidents led to a one-month “stand-down” for all offices handling such material and a plan to reduce the number of such repositories, said Holgate. The findings of a review conducted during that stand-down will come out shortly and “it won’t be as disturbing as some think,” she said. Holgate downplayed the risk of so-called “dirty bombs,” in which radioactive material is packaged with a conventional explosive. The type of material most likely to be used is of such low radioactive levels that the only way someone would be killed is if they were too close to the explosive, she said. Holgate also said the threat of a nuclear improvised explosive device is being addressed with “defense-in-depth” programs.