By Charley Keyes
Osama bin Laden may have left a clue about one of the West's greatest vulnerabilities: reliance on oil imports.
"When we killed bin Laden, we saw oil tanker designs on his work desk," Gen. James Conway, the former Marine Corps commandant, said in a report released late Tuesday.
Conway was part of a group of 11 recently retired three- and four-star generals and admirals who prepared a report on American energy dependence as a national security threat.
In the report, Conway said that an oil tanker attack might now be beyond al Qaeda's capabilities, but the intent was clear.
He and the other military leaders said oil imports are directly linked to security, and that political compromise and resolve are necessary to slash demand by 30% within 10 years. Present circumstances give other countries or terrorists too much power to choke off oil supplies and cripple the U.S. economy, they say.
"Weaning America from oil in substantive ways will make us safer as a nation," the report says. "The pace and consistency of our country's movement along the path to energy security is a vital national security challenge."
The report was released by the military advisory board of CNA, a nonprofit research organization that operates the Center for Naval Analyses and the Institute for Public Research, according to its website. It will be presented Wednesday to members of Congress who make up the defense, energy and security caucus.
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Paul Kern, the chairman of the group that debated and wrote the report, said Tuesday that too often the energy debate only focuses on short-term concerns, with long-term goals postponed.
"The time has come," Gen Kern told CNN. We can't put this off anymore."
The report warns that even with strategic oil reserves, a major oil supply disruption would affect every aspect of life.
"We have seen how oil can be used as a weapon to attack our national security," the report says."We know this; our policy makers know this; our enemies know this."