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Missile defense debate heats up

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001

WASHINGTON -- The terrorist attack on America was used Wednesday to support arguments for and against President Bush's prized missile defense plan.

Democratic lawmakers said the fact that airlines, not missiles, were the weapon of choice demonstrated that more attention should be paid to non-missile, terrorist threats. But Republicans said the attack showed more than ever why a missile defense is needed.

''Unfortunately, today our threat is not a threat of somebody launching nuclear missiles at us,'' said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., an opponent of Bush's emphasis on missile defense.

Leahy noted that a nuclear bomb would be more likely to carry ''a return address'' that would invite a certain and swift counterattack.

''The problem with an open, complex society like the United States is our Achilles' heel has always been well-organized terrorist attacks,'' he said.

But House Armed Services Committee Chairman Bob Stump said the next terrorist attack could easily take the form of a relatively short-range missile carrying chemical or biological weapons.

''They have the capability, they have chemical warfare materials, they have biological warfare materials,'' said Stump, R-Ariz. ''And they have, through China and Russia, the technology to deliver that on a missile.''

''It's only a matter of time before we face that,'' he said. ''I think we're only fortunate that they didn't employ chemical or biological weapons in this last attack.''

Stump acknowledged the need for more work in areas such as human intelligence, which relies on people, in addition to technology, to uncover crucial information. He bemoaned Congress' reluctance to approve more money to put people on the ground abroad.

''People don't like to vote for human intelligence or a lot of intelligence generally because they don't a get a big shiny plane or a big tank out of it,'' Stump said.



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