Missile defense opponent speaks in Fairbanks

Posted: Monday, September 24, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A former aerospace engineer turned arms control advocate says the Bush administration's missile defense plan won't work and its funding should be redirected to prevent more likely terrorist threats.

Donald Whitmore made his comments at weekend appearances in Fairbanks. Prior to his Fairbanks lectures, Whitmore spoke in Kodiak and Anchorage. Whitmore's trip to Alaska was sponsored by Citizens Opposed to Defense Experiments, a coalition opposed to missile defense development in Alaska.

Whitmore, a former Boeing engineer, said he hopes the events of Sept. 11 focused national attention on the need for greater security against attacks originating from within the United States rather than the danger from an intercontinental-range missile.

''I would like it to have higher priority than the current campaign,'' he said. ''We are having a hard time accepting our vulnerability to weapons of mass destruction. Sept. 11 probably made that easier for us.''

Whitmore said the United States is vulnerable to attacks by terrorists or rogue nations on many fronts. The nation's nuclear power plants are woefully unprepared for terrorist attacks and the trans-Alaska pipeline also is vulnerable, he said.

Whitmore maintains that domestic or offshore attack scenarios are far more likely than any attack using intercontinental ballistic missiles.

''National missile defense can't defend against any of those threats and those threats are a lot easier to do than launching intercontinental-range missiles,'' he said.

And even if such an attack happened, he said a missile defense system as designed now does not work.

No Nukes North coordinator Stacey Fritz admits that she has considered that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks may have ended the fight against a national missile defense system. Fritz was the local coordinator for Whitmore's lecture.

She's concerned that that no defense spending bill would be voted down in today's climate.

''I think that now especially, this issue is becoming more and more controversial and important,'' Fritz said. ''I'm hopeful now that the nation now will focus more on more real threats from terrorism.''

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