Scientists urge counterterror tech

"Making the Nation Safer - The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism"

A group of leading scientists is urging the federal government to take immediate steps to defend the United States against further terrorist attacks by developing new scientific and technological tools in the war against terrorism.

A report released today by the National Academies provides scientific and technical advice to the government. It lists key areas the Bush administration must address now and urges international partnerships for longer-term research projects. The study is aimed at helping the administration use the nation's scientific and technical resources most effectively to counter terrorism.

"Our society is too complex and interconnected to defend against all possible threats. As some threats are diminished, others may arise. Terrorists may change their goals and tactics," said the report, "Making the Nation Safer — The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism."

The group looked at nine areas — nuclear and radiological threats, human and agricultural health systems, toxic chemicals and explosive materials, information technology, energy systems, transportation systems, cities and fixed infrastructure, the response of people to terrorism and interdependent systems. In each area, the report provided a broad range of recommendations, including analysis and inventing technologies.

Among the most important technical initiatives:

* Developing systems for protection against nuclear weapons and keeping track of them.

* Preventing biological and chemical threats and treating their impact.

* Layering security systems for all transportation modes, especially shipping containers and vehicles that contain large quantities of toxic or flammable materials.

* Protecting energy distribution sources.

* Improving air filtration systems.

* Providing dependable communications networks for emergency responders.

"It is essential," the report said, "that we balance the short-term investments in technology intended to solve the problems that are defined today with a longer-term program in fundamental science designed to lay foundations for countering future threats that we cannot currently define."

Although the report did not talk about cost, it said, "a strategic long-term research and development agenda should be established to address three primary counterterrorism-related areas in IT: Information and network security, the IT needs of emergency responders and information fusion."

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