Schiff Introduces Legislation To Safeguard Nuclear Weapons Material

Washington, DC – Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) today introduced bipartisan legislation, the Ending Nuclear Trafficking Act, to bolster efforts to deter and prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists.  The bill, cosponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), would establish nuclear trafficking as a crime against humanity, make it easier to prosecute international nuclear traffickers in U.S courts, and strengthen penalties for trafficking nuclear material. 

“There are large stockpiles of nuclear material that remain poorly secured,” said Rep. Schiff.  “These stockpiles pose a grave threat to the United States and securing them is an urgent priority. We must make every possible effort to stop this deadly trade, and the first step is to establish a global understanding that nuclear trafficking is one of the most serious international crimes – a crime against humanity. By stigmatizing this conduct around the world, in conjunction with current enforcement efforts through the Proliferation Security Initiative, we can move towards the eradication of nuclear trafficking.”

The Ending Nuclear Trafficking Act would:

  • Declare that the transfer of nuclear weapons, materials or technology to be used for terrorist purposes is a crime against humanity punishable under U.S. law; 
  • Establish jurisdiction for U.S. courts to prosecute those who traffic in nuclear weapons, materials or technology anywhere in the world when the recipient is a terrorist who has explicitly targeted the United States, or any terrorist where there is a connection to U.S. citizens, companies, financing, or material support; and
  • Direct our permanent representative to the U.N. to seek support from other nations for establishing illicit nuclear trafficking as a crime against humanity punishable in own their countries and by international tribunals.

“The transfer of nuclear weapons, materials, or technology to terrorists puts the world on the razor's edge of a crime of unimaginable dimensions,” Schiff said.

In March 2003, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University released a report describing a scenario in which a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb is smuggled into Manhattan and detonated.  The report showed that such an attack would result in the loss of 500,000 lives and $1 trillion in direct economic damage.

Congressman Schiff has been a leading voice in Congress on efforts to secure vulnerable stockpiles of weapons materials.  In April 2004, Rep. Schiff introduced H.R. 4212 which would have created a Presidential Task Force within the Department of Energy to focus on an immediate strategy to secure nuclear material around the world.  In May 2003, he introduced legislation (H.R. 2063) to expand the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program to include countries outside the former Soviet Union, such as Pakistan, India, North Korea, China, Iran and Iraq.  He also joined Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) in offering an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in May 2003 to strengthen the United States' efforts to safeguard or destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials around the world.