[Homestead] The nuclear bomb in your neighborhood
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Sun Sep 19 13:58:48 EDT 2004
It's easier than you think to make and plant one---and
needle-in-the-haystack to detect in time. The political drivel about gay
marriages and flag desecration will make a nuclear or biological attack
not only possible, but inevitable---thank you George Bush, you are such
a wonderful guardian of our security. Kerry may be no better, but
certainly couldn't be worse.
Al Qaeda wants to nuke a U.S. city. There are simple ways to stop it.
By Graham Allison
Graham Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of
Government. His new book is "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable
September 19, 2004
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — In October 2001, a top-secret team was dispatched to
New York City to search for a nuclear bomb. According to a CIA agent
code-named Dragonfire, Al Qaeda had gotten hold of a nuclear weapon
produced by the former Soviet Union and had successfully smuggled it
into the city. Under a cloak of secrecy that excluded even Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani, the Nuclear Emergency Search Team, or NEST, began a hunt for
the 10-kiloton bomb whose Hiroshima-sized blast could have obliterated a
significant portion of Manhattan.
NEST is a SWAT team of "nuclear ninjas." When mobilized, members drop
their day jobs as physicists, engineers and explosives experts to search
for and dismantle weapons before they explode into mushroom clouds.
Often undercover, a "sports fan" may hide his sophisticated
radiation-detection equipment in a golf bag, a "businesswoman" in her
attache case. If a nuclear device is found, teams compare it with NEST's
catalog of existing designs and possible home-made bombs for clues about
how to disarm it. But, as one member of the teams has conceded, even
locating a nuclear device amid background radiation is like "looking for
a needle in a haystack of needles."
As NEST teams scoured New York City, Vice President Dick Cheney left
Washington for a secret underground site, later disclosed to be on the
Maryland-Pennsylvania border. President Bush was concerned that Al Qaeda
might have smuggled a nuclear weapon into the capital as well. Several
hundred federal employees joined the vice president in his bunker for
many weeks, preparing an alternative government should a nuclear
explosion wipe out Washington.
The suspected nuclear device in New York City was never found. But the
threat was credible for good reasons. Did former Soviet stockpiles
include a large number of 10-kiloton weapons? Yes. Could the Russian
government account for all its nuclear bombs? No. Could Al Qaeda have
acquired one? Yes. Could it have smuggled a nuclear weapon through
border controls and into a U.S. city? Yes. In a moment of gallows humor,
one official quipped that terrorists could have wrapped a bomb in one of
the bales of marijuana routinely smuggled into cities like New York and
In the weeks and months following Sept. 11, the U.S. national security
community was waiting for the second shoe to drop. In the 1990s, when I
served as an assistant secretary of Defense, I prepared a highly
classified memorandum on possible terrorist attacks, ranked in terms of
potential damage to the United States, titled "A Hundred Horribles." An
attack by a hijacked aircraft on trophy buildings fell in the lower half
of the list. First place on everyone's list was the detonation of a
nuclear bomb in a U.S. city. Only a nuclear explosion can kill hundreds
of thousands of people instantly.
The factors that made Dragonfire's report plausible in October 2001 are
even more acute today. Osama bin Laden has declared the production of
nuclear weapons "a religious duty." Though New York City is regarded as
the most likely target, it is clear that Al Qaeda is not only capable
but also interested in mounting attacks on other U.S. cities, where
residents may be less prepared.
Imagine the consequences of a 10-kiloton weapon exploding in Los
Angeles. From the epicenter of the blast to a distance of approximately
one-third mile, every structure and individual would vanish
instantaneously. A bomb exploded at the intersection of Hollywood
Boulevard and Highland Avenue would vaporize the historic Mann's Chinese
Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Buildings three-quarters of a
mile from ground zero, like the Pantages Theater (the former home of the
Academy Awards show), would look like the Murrah Federal Office Building
in Oklahoma City after it was destroyed in 1995 by a massive bomb hidden
inside a rental truck. The fires and radiation of the blast's outer
circle would erase the sign in the Hollywood Hills.
Soil incorporated into the fireball would be made radioactive and would
return to Earth as radioactive fallout. This fallout would emit gamma,
alpha and beta radiation, but the effect on nearby cities would be
determined by environmental conditions, weather patterns, rain, wind,
Where could Al Qaeda obtain a nuclear bomb? Russia is the most likely
source in Bin Laden's quest for nuclear weapons. Russia's 12-time-zone
expanse contains more nuclear weapons and materials than any country in
the world, including 8,600 assembled warheads and enough weapons-usable
material for 80,000 more, much of it vulnerable to theft.
Pakistan ranks a close second as a potential source.
When I interviewed Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, earlier
this year, he claimed that within his army "even one bolt of a rifle
cannot be lost."
But as we now know, the father of Pakistan's atomic program, Abdul
Qadeer Khan, was the kingpin of a black market in nuclear technology,
fissile material and technical assistance stretching back more than a
decade. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency has called
Khan's network a "Wal-Mart of private-sector proliferation." And further
potential suppliers, especially North Korea, cannot be ignored.
The largely unrecognized good news about nuclear terrorism is that it is
preventable. Unlike bioterrorism, nuclear terrorism is a finite
challenge manageable with a finite response. The strategic narrows of
the challenge is preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons or
the materials from which a bomb could be made. It's a fact of physics:
no highly enriched uranium or plutonium, no nuclear explosion, no
It is that simple.
A serious campaign to prevent nuclear terrorism can be organized under a
new doctrine of "three no's." The first strand of the strategy — "no
loose nukes" — requires securing all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable
material, on the fastest possible timetable, to a new gold standard.
Equally the security of gold at Ft. Knox. "No new nascent nukes" means
no new national capabilities to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium.
The third no — "no new nuclear weapons states" — draws a bright line
under the current recognized nuclear powers and says unambiguously, "no
Al Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith has stated Al Qaeda's objective:
"to kill 4 million Americans — 2 million of them children — and to exile
twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands."
Nearly 3,000 died in the Sept. 11 attacks. It would take about 1,334
similar assaults to reach 4 million. Or it could take one nuclear weapon.
Al Qaeda has made its intentions clear. America's challenge is to
prevent the terrorists from succeeding.
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