Last week (May 20 to be precise), the House passed the Nuclear Terrorism Conventions Implementation and Safety of Maritime Navigation Act of 2013 (H.R. 1073) by an overwhelming vote of 390-3.
This bipartisan legislation implements key requirements of the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the 2005 International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (as well as two other treaties related to the use of ships and fixed platforms for the purposes of terrorism). The Republican-led House approved similar implementing legislation last year, but the Senate failed to act on it before the end of the 112th Congress.
The amendment to the CPPNM expands the original treaty to require parties not only to protect nuclear material in international transit, but also to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear material that is stored, in transit or used domestically. ICSANT would establish a framework to strengthen cooperation among countries in combating nuclear terrorism and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Together the treaties update and strengthen the legal tools to prevent WMD terrorism and will help ensure that states treat nuclear security not only as a domestic concern but an international responsibility. They also complement other tools in the anti-nuclear terrorism toolkit, such as anti-smuggling efforts.
The George W. Bush administration submitted the treaties to the Senate in September 2007, and the Senate overwhelmingly approved them in September 2008. But prior to U.S. ratification, the agreements require the United States to pass legislation to criminalize specific offenses, many but not all of which are already covered under U.S. law. Last year, the Senate failed to pass the implementing legislation in large part because of a dispute between Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) over whether the death penalty should be applicable to certain offenses.
For more background on the treaties, implementing legislation, the irrelevant debate re: the death penalty, see this May 17 opinion piece Miles Pomper and I penned for the World Politics Review.