May 26, 2008

Nuclear Terrorism: America must remain alert

"Make no mistake, obtaining and smuggling a nuclear device into America remains extremely difficult, my hope is that homeland security experts and those charged with policy creation in this matter will ensure it stays that way."

FrontPage magazine asserts that American Policymakers would be foolish to dismiss the more serious threats to homeland security including nuclear terrorism.

“Where a nuclear attack once may have been beyond the capacities of stateless terrorists, that is no longer the case. One need only consider Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), mastermind of 9/11 and chief operating officer of al-Qaeda, who revealed under intensive interrogation -- including the much-maligned tactic of waterboarding -- that a nuclear attack against the United States was a top priority for al-Qaeda.”

“According to the New York Daily News and its sources, the captive KSM told his interrogators that Osama bin Laden was planning a “nuclear hell storm” in America. Normally such a lurid claim would be disbelieved by our “inside-the-box” intelligence officers, but KSM’s recovered laptop had corroborating details.”

The “corroborating” details remain frightening and reveal names of the many participants involved including the father of the Pakistan bomb, Dr. A.Q. Khan, who himself exposed that in 2001, bin Laden and his deputy met with Pakistani nuclear scientists and thrashed out how al-Qaeda could build a bomb.

That such a scenario could be weighed up is disturbing enough without reading about instances of nuclear material missing from reactor sites.

“The night meeting went well. 'Jafer the Pilot" is the nom de guerre of U.S. citizen Adnan el-Shukrijumah. Young, intelligent, fluent in multiple languages and a trained jet pilot who had apparently been in flight schools with Mohammed Atta, Shukrijumah had studied and worked with other jihadis at the 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at McMaster University in Canada. But one day all the terrorists disappeared from campus forever.”

“John Loftus of WABC news reported on November 7, 2003, that in the immediate wake of Shukrijumah and his fellow travelers’ disappearance, 180 pounds of uranium ended up “missing” from the reactor. Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who interviewed Osama bin Laden in the wake of 9/11, reported bin Laden saying that one of the founders of al-Qaeda, Anas el-Liby, had helped the Pilot haul out the stash of uranium.”

Christopher Carson’s article details some of the highly dubious activities and movements of Adnan el-Shukrijumah, the so-called “pilot” between 2001 and 2005. It is almost understandable that MSM would ignore the story, especially given the distrust prevailing over intelligence sources however, when notables as William Perry and Graham Allison, Clintons former Secretary of Defense and Assistant Secretary of Defense respectively, estimate that the chance of nuclear terror is “at more than 50 percent over the next decade. That is, two respected experts in the field believe that the nuclear destruction of one or more American urban centers is more probable than not in the very near future,” then perhaps the media’s lack of interest is unwise. Senator, Lieberman has also weighed into the discussion.

“While the mainstream media currently mostly ignore this story and the almost certain fact that a nuclear plot is ongoing today, Senator Joseph Lieberman has held at least three separate hearings in 2008 of his Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on this very subject. The testimony from experts summoned to these hearings has been grim. Nobody doubts that once terrorists acquire fissile material, which is either Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) or plutonium, a bomb is within there theoretical capacity and will to make and use. A simple gun-type device, like that used for the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, is sufficient to yield a one to ten kiloton explosion.”

We can take comfort in the fact that one of the necessary fissile materials is enriched uranium, which cannot be mined, nor can terrorists produce it. Problem is, there are options available for those seeking it.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented 15 incidents of theft and smuggling of small amounts of separated plutonium or highly enriched uranium confirmed by the nations involved. But these 15 cases represent the tip of the iceberg of what has actually occurred. So there is always just approaching the right people and buying it—not an easy task, but not an impossible one either.

Nuclear terror expert Matthew Bunn testified last month that “Nuclear weapons or their essential ingredients exist in hundreds of buildings in dozens of countries, with security measures that range from excellent to appalling – in some cases, no more than a night watchman and a chain-link fence.”

"In recent months, shadowy surveillance teams have been reported scoping out secret nuclear weapons facilities in Russia. They probably don’t have to be: In February 2006, Russian citizen Oleg Khinsagov was arrested in Georgia (along with three Georgian accomplices) with some 100 grams of 89 percent enriched HEU, claiming that he had kilograms more available for sale. We can’t know how many thefts that occurred were never detected. Dr. Bunn told Senator Lieberman that “it is a sobering fact that nearly all of the stolen HEU and plutonium that has been seized over the years had never been missed before it was seized.”

“The Washington Post, right before last Christmas, reported a strange story. Sometime in the night of November 8, 2007, two coordinated teams of armed men attacked the Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Africa, where hundreds of kilograms of weapon-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) are stored. One of the teams was chased off by the guards, but the other team of four gunmen disabled the perimeter alarms, went to the emergency control center and shot a worker in the chest. Bleeding out, the worker was still able to sound the first alarm.”

“He might not have bothered. The attack team then spent 45 minutes inside the perimeter, without anyone harassing them. What they did next is unknown to the public. The team promptly disappeared through the same hole they had cut in the fence. South African officials later arrested three individuals, but soon released them. The South African government has since been close-lipped about what really happened last November, and it has refused earlier U.S. offers to remove the HEU at Pelindaba—if indeed any remains after the attack. We don’t even know how much HEU, if any, was spirited away.”

Thus we can can deduce that the risk of nuclear terrorism is not some vague probability in a distant apocalyptic future. Given that accessibility to nuclear materials is only going to increase and I suspect, that the number of terror groups with unwavering intent to inflict harm on America will also rise, if the U.S. keeps doing as little as it appears to be, then a catastrophe is a possibility.

Back in 2002, President Bush maintained, "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of uranium a little bigger than a softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." Now if al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah could achieve the same result we’re back to base.

Make no mistake, obtaining and smuggling a nuclear device into America remains extremely difficult, my hope is that homeland security experts and those charged with policy creation in this matter will ensure it stays that way. Effective intelligence is no easy affair, the collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence is a very complex and is made more challenging because it must be conducted under a shroud of great secrecy.

Says, Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence:

"Today, we face some of the greatest threats that any generation will ever know, and we must not be slow in confronting them. We must continue to emphasize integration across the Community to better serve our customers, provide frank, unencumbered analysis, and strengthen collection capabilities that continue to penetrate the seemingly impenetrable."

Links: Nuclear terrorism the ultimate preventable catastrophe

Comments most welcome

20 comments:

WomanHonorThyself said...

G'day Otto!..brilliant and necessary warning: While the mainstream media currently mostly ignore this story and the almost certain fact that a nuclear plot is ongoing today,..which is why we need to be so extra vigilant!!!

American Interests.blog said...

Thanks Angel and that was a terrific Memorial day post...

Debbie said...

That was a great article in FrontPageMag. I mentioned it a few days ago, wondering where Jaffer the Pilot might be. Rumors and sitings continue in Canada, in the Toronto area. He's older and doesn't look (probably) anything like the old pictures we have of him. I cringe when I read all the US connections he has.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

American Power said...

Have a wondeful Memorial Day Holiday, Otto!

subadei said...

A more practical way to view this threat is not to assume that a nuclear device will be smuggled into the States, rather that the fissile material will be smuggled in and then the device will be built here in the US.

Aside from that, how long did it take the entire government of the North Korean regime to realize a successful nuclear test? Even assuming that AQ Khan sold them a "nukes for dummies" manifesto it took a great deal of time and resources.

I'm not exactly discounting your concern, Otto as it's merited. But at the same time Al Qaeda's liquid structure (i.e. lacking the hierarchy and infrastructure of even a near failed state like NK) is a boon in terms of 4GW efforts but a bane in terms of protracted efforts like a nuclear weapons program.

Z said...

I'm sure this article's wonderful, but the title freaked me out and I'm going to delay the 'pleasure'!! (Smile) I WILL be back!
Otto, do you post at FPM? Do you know my moniker there? Do you have one? Maybe we've posted there back and forth?!?

American Interests.blog said...

debbie: Thanks I'll track down your write up

AP: Good on you Don...

American Interests.blog said...

Therefore more realistic and sensible to construct a device within the U.S? That’s interesting, albeit just as worrying, wonder why you see it that way?

Your second and third paragraphs make good sense. Any suggestion of a successful Al Qaeda nuclear program is simply unrealistic for now but time stops for nobody, it’s the short term future that concerns us …2012…2017…2025.

Z: Do not have a moniker there, wonder if I'll pick yours???

heidianne jackson said...

i have to agree with subadei that it did take nk quite a bit of time to have a "successful" attempt at a nuclear bomb. however, do we really think it will take any of the terror regimes as long?

my guess is, they will be getting help from nk and with help from iran, saudi and their "charities" their funds are nearly unlimited. this should help to speed things along as well.

i also think that subadei is right in his (her?) estimation that the fissile material will be brought in to the states and the device assembled here. not sure why that's better, it would seem to be worse to me. the fissile material can be easily concealed and not so easily found - especially if it comes in via car or rail from canada or mexico...

heidianne jackson
http://biggirlpants.typepad.com

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Excellent post Otto. This is why the 2008 election is so important. Islamo fascists have as their goal the death of all infidels including liberals.

Yet liberals refuse to accept the fact that it is ONLY because our military has been so successfull in defeating terrorists that a scenerio involving a dirty or nuclear bomb has NOT taken place.

Iran has duped much of the world into thinking that their nuclear ambitions are for energy only which as we all know is an out right lie.

If Obama or Hillary take the White House then the military will be taken out of the picture as these liberals appease countries like Iran and withdraw from Iraq and other fronts in the war on terror.

Within one year if either is elected a major attack most likely with some form of dirty bomb will take place. Most likely in the US and it will make 9/11 look small in scope and loss of life.

MK said...

Sobered me up real fast there Otto. We know they have the will to kill thousands, they only lack the means. Al-Qaeda might be hard to hurt because of their lack of "state". However we should never forget the power of the threat of tremendous pain and discomfort to any state that even thinks of aiding them.

A weakness that paralyzes the western world now is this stupid notion that we can beg/nag enemy states into cooperation. It won't work. A case in point is Iran, the only way they'll stop supporting terrorism around the world is if they feel a lot of pain and discomfort because of it.

Libya and Egypt learned quickly from the example made of Saddam Hussein. Some might argue that this might inflame the Iranians, well it's been a couple of decades of begging or negotiating and they sure ain't deflaming, if you catch my drift.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Scary! Especially after coming off the Front Page story and reading Kagan's Return of History -

"The willingness of the autocrats in Moscow and Beijing to protect their fellow
autocrats in Pyongyang, Tehran and Khartoum increases the chances that the connection between terrorists and nuclear weapons will eventually be made. When it comes to Iran, Syria and Hiz'B'Allah - Russia and China tend to see not terrorists but useful partners in a great global struggle."

Maybe it's time for some of those zero conditional meetings - if only to pass on what all could be retaliated against if...

David Schantz said...

This is why we should have been fixing a broken immigration/border security policy for how long now?

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

Incognito said...

Indeed, this is why it's so important neither Obama nor Hillary become our next Prez.

Very sobering!!

Z said...

Okay. I read it.
I don't feel a BIT better!!!

Karen said...

I know what Z means. Here I am, trying to catch up in the blogosphere and there is your title. I sharply inhaled and thought to myself, oh no, what has Otto uncovered now? Good Lord. It's all true what you say. I believe we are just around the corner from disaster. I hate the feeling but it's there.

It's the main reason I'm so strongly opposed to Obama. He's so dangerously naive. None of the madmen out there in the scary places are the least bit afraid of him. He wants to have tea and talk.

American Interests.blog said...

Heidianne: Subadei has a good knack at being able to step back and analyze objectively. Either way vigilance is called for, the risk of not remaining alert is too high…..

The Liberal Lie the Conservative Truth: Thank Ken, Obama and Hillary aye? I tend to shy away from U.S. political speak however I do believe you are right! In reality, I don’t even want to consider the possibility of a nuclear attack in the U.S. and yet that’s exactly what I did in the post. Such a scenario would change the world as we know it even if the Dems are in power. America will be a friend no more … “A powerful friend becomes a powerful enemy.”

MK: Fancy that, “the will to kill thousands”. I cannot believe that the weakness you speak of is even considered. “If they feel a lot of pain and discomfort because of it”, a good case for the rise of the neocons…

American Interests.blog said...

GSGF: Exactly “the connection between terrorists and nuclear weapons will eventually be made”… ZERO conditional meetings maybe just what’s called for….

David: I am all for strong border security here in Australia and implore America to do same….

Incog: I concur!

American Interests.blog said...

Z: lol, what’s it going to take to put a smile on ya face? Yea I know, it was a “serious’ piece...

Karen: Spot on, “dangerously naive “. Means well just not in the know…It’s too risky Karen if it must be a Dem I’d take her any day….if it must be that is…

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