July 14, 2004
Nukes and elections
Posted by McQ
At the risk of being called alarmist and a charter member of the tinfoil hat brigade, let me speak the unspeakable and throw this out for your consideration.
Per Newsmax, "Osama's Revenge: The Next 9/11: What the Media and the Government Haven't Told You," by Paul L. Williams (Prometheus Books) contains allegations that al-Qaida may have as many as 10 suitcase style nuclear devices in the US in sleeper cells.
To me this is an important story, but one that hasn't received the coverage and followup it deserves since it first emerged in 1996. So if you'll indulge me:
"The Chechen Mafia reportedly sold twenty nuclear suitcases in Grozny to representatives of Osama bin Laden and the Mujahadeen [in 1996]. For their weapons, bin Laden paid $30 million in cash and two tons of heroin."
Al-Qaida's leader, says Williams, is a major drug producer and runner in Afghanistan.
"It is the drug money, not the bin Laden family fortune, that is the financial engine for al-Qaida," he points out.
Today, Williams says, more than 40 Russian "nuclear suitcases" cannot be accounted for.
As I said, this is not new. We've been hearing it on and off for years, in fact since the story broke in 1997 of General Lebed's allegations that there were portable nukes missing from the former USSR. For instance, Fox/US News reported in January of this year:
Former Russian National Security Adviser Alexandr Lebed in 1997 alleged that up to 100 portable bombs that looked like suitcases were unaccounted for since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. He said the devices have an explosive capacity of one kiloton — the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT — and could be activated by a single person, killing as many as 100,000 people.
They also validate Williams story (or perhaps he validates theirs):
Usama Bin Laden allegedly has already purchased a number of nuclear suitcase bombs from Chechen organized crime groups and there have been reports that he has backpack bombs.
US officials, while not denying the existance of these devices have said they have no evidence of any missing nuclear weapons from the old Soviet Union:
"We have not seen any hard evidence of suitcase-sized nuclear devices unaccounted for or falling into the hands of terrorists or rogue states," former FBI Director Louis Freeh told Congress two years ago.
One must remember though that our intelligence community had no evidence of the 9/11 threat and did have evidence of WMDs. In other words, until proven conclusively to be true, Freeh's claim should be viewed skeptically. After all, Williams comes from the same organization, the FBI, as Freeh. And Williams claims precisely the opposite is true.
So what about the threat Williams describes. If true, what is the magnatude of the threat the US faces?
What kind of damage could such a weapon do? The CIA estimates the Russian nuclear suitcases to have an explosive yield approaching 10 kilotons.
Williams, referring to estimates by Theodore Taylor, a prominent American physicist who miniaturized the atomic bomb and visited the site of the World Trade Center in 1993, says a suitcase bomb could "emit intense thermal radiation, creating a fireball with a diameter that would expand to 460 feet. The core of the fireball would reach a maximum temperature of 10 million degrees Celsius ... ." The author says the heat that collapsed the Twin Towers never exceeded 5,000 degrees Celsius.
Had such a bomb been used in 9/11, Williams claims, "The World Trade Center towers, all of Wall Street and the financial district, along with the lower tip of Manhattan up to Gramercy Park and much of midtown, including the theater district, would lie in ruins."
Significant. Very significant.
Loss of life?
Of those who might survive the blast, 50 percent of the survivors could expect to die at the rate of "250,000 people on any given day," Williams reports.
How would they get them (or did they get them) in to the US?
Williams points out that the borders with Mexico and Canada are still dangerously porous and not equipped to detect the smuggling of nuclear materials.
U.S. seaports are even more vulnerable, he argues.
Another reason the "open borders" crowd isn't dealing with a full deck.
Though New York City would seem to be the No. 1 target of another attack by al-Qaida, Williams points out other U.S. cities have been mentioned in intercepted intelligence chatter.
Among those discussed: Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington and Rappahannock County, Va.
Why a small rural county in Virginia? Williams says it houses the underground command center the White House would use in time of war.
Another list included Las Vegas and Houston.
Again, I don't want to be or seem alarmist, that's not the point in this. The point is to lay out a how very significant this sort of threat is in general. Its also to specifically look at the the threat of OBL having suitcase nukes as Williams alleges.
Is Mr. Williams scenario a viable one? Well, based on what I've been able to Google, it seems credible. Its a story which certainly won't go away. For instance, in March of this year, Sky News reported:
Al Qaeda's second-in-command has reportedly boasted the terrorist group has bought nuclear bombs on the Asian black market.
Osama bin Laden's biographer Hamid Mir said Ayman al Zawahri made the admission during an interview. The Pakistani journalist talked to both Osama bin Laden and al Zawahri in 2001 and asked if al Qaeda had nuclear weapons.
Mr Mir said al Zawahri laughed and replied: "If you have $30m, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientist, and dozens of smart briefcase bombs are available.
"They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states and they negotiated and we purchased some suitcase bombs."
Mr Mir made his claim in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme.
Again, the experts all said "unlikely" but I've yet to see anything other than Freeh's claim that there isn't any indication of missing nuclear weapons ... and in light of Williams disclosures, that just doesn't give me a big warm fuzzy.
The concern about missing Soviet nuclear weapons began soon after the collapse of the USSR. Bin Laden's attempts to acquire them began in earnest in 1996. Here's a pre-911 write-up from the "Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies" (independent think tank devoted to studying security issues relating to South Asia) on the subject of his quest for nukes.
Assuming this report is accurate, it leads to a number of possibilities since that time.
The first possibility this report seems to give is if OBL was able to acquire nukes, they were not in the US as of April of 2001. That means the plan for their use may not have been complete at that time, 5 years after their acquisition.
A further possibility exits that the attack on Afghanistan might have either destroyed the weapons or sealed them forever in their deep caves. But to my knowledge we've never heard a peep from any source about finding such devices or indications of such devices in Afghanistan. So assuming they survived, they obviously were moved out of Afghanistan (Iran?). They could have also been moved prior to the war and are now in another location, perhaps the US itself.
Obviously, if they still exist, we have to believe the aim of al-Qaeda, if they already haven't done so, will be to get them into the US. Again citing the last report, that means between April of 2001 and now, barring their destruction in Afghanistan, they could have been or could be in the process of being smuggled into this country.
Serious stuff, especially in light of the threat by al-Qadea to disrupt the elections this November. Can you imagine a more devastating way in which to do so? Our emergency services would be immediately overwhelmed. It would be catastrophic.
Can our security appartus respond and prevent such an occurrance? Well, in the absense of information concerning the whereabouts of the bombs, I'd have to say probably not. We have huge and essentially unguarded borders. To believe we have them "covered" is simply foolish. We have no magic technology which allow us pinpoint these devices at will (if we did we would know if any were missing and where they are right now). As with the foiling of the bomb plot at LAX, it will take alert security forces, great detective work and a large dose of luck.
But I, for one, have never been one who's particularly fond of banking on good luck, especially with stakes this high. I hope this is all nonsense, but if not, it certainly brings the worry of a new terrorist attack to a different level. 10 "Hiroshimas" in this country at the same time do give the possiblity of bringing Ameria to its knees. And that's just not a pretty thought.