Woodbury, N.Y. In a chilling assessment of the United States' exposure to terrorism, former Defense Secretary William Cohen told a gathering of Long Island, N.Y., business leaders Friday that radical terror organizations are likely to launch future attacks on the nation with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
Cohen told the Long Island Assn., the region's largest business organization, that the odds of such attacks are high and that only a heightened vigilance will prevent such terrorist acts from being successful, he said.
The LIA's meeting was supposed to celebrate the organization's 75th anniversary, but after the Sept. 11 attacks, the LIA muted the festivities.
Cohen told the 1,000 attendees that the government had been lucky in thwarting past terror attacks. "But our luck ran out" with the assault on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, he added.
He said the nation's military intelligence failed the country and that it takes a long time to build strong intelligence worldwide. "Terrorists are like predators. They sit, watch, plan and go for the weak links," he said. He speculated that the terrorists will turn to biological weapons in future attacks.
Cohen said a 5-pound bag of anthrax released from a small plane over Washington could wipe out 70 percent of that city's population. He warned that smallpox could be another weapon used by terrorists against Americans.
Cohen said the task for Americans is to sustain the "collective spirit" that has swept America since the attacks and to maintain a "long-term commitment" to a war on terrorism.
Cohen said the nation has to turn to its military and financial might to foil terrorism, as well as using diplomatic means.
At the same time, he added, the nation "must make sure we don't harm innocent people. We are Americans not barbarians."