Osama bin Laden may be dead and Al Qaeda significantly compromised, but the odds of a nuclear terrorist attack are not diminishing, according to former vice president Dick Cheney.
"The biggest concern I have is another 9/11 only instead of showing up with airline tickets and boxcutters, [they'll] have nuclear or biological weapons [and will] sail into one of our harbors," Cheney told attendees this morning at TD Ameritrade Institutional's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.
A proliferation of people are going to have access to increasingly sophisticated technologies and the average American's concept of a nuclear weapon mounted to a warhead may not square with an emerging reality, he said.
"In our administration we found that North Korea had built a reactor [like their own one capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons] in the eastern desert of Syria," Cheney said, adding that North Korea developed its nuclear weapon with the help of Pakistan. "We need to prevent the technology from spreading."
Cheney said he would be supportive of the Israelis if they decided to attempt to destroy Iran's nuclear capability. "If Iran gets the bomb, it will set off a nuclear arms race in that part of the world," he declared. "If I lived there, I'd want one. And it could easily fall into the wrong hands."
Cheney warned that Americans need to get it out of their heads the only threat comes from Al Qaeda. He cited several homegrown terrorist threats in Europe and America, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Cheney's views on a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities stood in stark contrast to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served in both the Bush and Obama administrations and spoke the previous day. Gates pointed that Iran had intentionally designed its nuclear operations by spreading the facilities in dozens of locations after learning lessons from the Israeli attack on Iraq's nuclear operations in 1981.
"We could set back their nuclear operations by two or three years, that's all," Gates said.