On November 13 I spoke on a panel at the Hudson Institute titled “Combating Nuclear Terrorism: Overcoming the Senate Impasse”. The event focused on the implementing legislation for two anti-nuclear terrorism treaties – the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and the 2005 International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) – which has passed the House in the form of H.R. 5889 but is currently stalled in the Senate. The legislation also implements the requirements of two other treaties concerning international protocols on maritime terrorism and the maritime transportation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Amendment to the CPPNM requires parties to protect nuclear facilities and material that is stored, in transit, and 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. However, prior to U.S. ratification of the treaties, the agreements require the United States to pass legislation to criminalize specific offenses.
I noted in my opening remarks that if the legislation is not passed in this session of Congress, which will run out in a matter of weeks, then we’ll be back to the drawing board, as the administration will have to reintroduce the legislation.
In a hopeful development, on November 14, four key Republican and Democratic leaders on the House and Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging prompt Senate approval of the implementing legislation. The letter notes that the underlying treaties are “important tools in the fight against terrorism” and that “this legislation provides an opportunity for the House and Senate to put aside partisan differences and reach across party lines in the interests of in the interests of America’s national security.”