‘Al-Qaida on brink of using nuclear bomb’?

Posted: February 1, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , ,

Can this be true today or is it an ongoing (or even recycled) story with a new sense of urgency?

Al-Qaida is on the verge of producing radioactive weapons after sourcing nuclear material and recruiting rogue scientists to build "dirty" bombs, according to leaked diplomatic documents.

Maybe, to paraphrase a former holder of high office, it depends on what you mean by “on the verge.”  Or maybe this story is largely being reanimated due to WikiLeaks.

A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a "nuclear 9/11".

Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing "workable and efficient" biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.

Without being a chem-bio person and without diminishing the potential threat, I’d think (hope?) attempts to build those sorts of weapons are more likely to kill the jihadi groups than the West.  They never seem to weaponize all that well for the Soviets (or for us for that matter).

Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.

No doubt it is a struggle.  In fact the President has said nuclear terrorism is the most significant threat we face (which itself adds to the unexplainable mystery of the effort poured into New START).  Here is some pertinent text from the DoD’s April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review:

As President Obama has made clear, today’s most immediate and extreme danger is nuclear terrorism. Al Qaeda and their extremist allies are seeking nuclear weapons. We must assume they would use such weapons if they managed to obtain them. The vulnerability to theft or seizure of vast stocks of such nuclear materials around the world, and the availability of sensitive equipment and technologies in the nuclear black market, create a serious risk that terrorists may acquire what they need to build a nuclear weapon.

OK, that part of the report was certainly written before its release in April 2010.  Does that quote make the whole Daily Telegraph article sound a bit like old news?  Still…

At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of "dirty radioactive IEDs", makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan.

Plotting?  Like millions of lottery players plot to win the Powerball payoff?  Or is the terrorism more plausible?

The briefings also state that al-Qaida documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that "greater advances" had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized. An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a "manifest attempt to get fissile material" and "have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb".

Again, not to dismiss the threat but is it possible there are some disinformation ops going on here?  Also, the Indian adviser told the Americans there had been a   manifest attempt?  (The good stuff would be to know the sources and methods used by the Indian adviser).  And technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb?  “What does that even mean?” as they say on TV.

In the meantime, let’s agree to take a deep breath off the bio-pack and consider major parts of this entire story as “under investigation.”

Senior British defence officials have raised "deep concerns" that a rogue scientist in the Pakistani nuclear program "could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon", according to a document detailing official talks in London in February 2009.

Now that part could easily be true if the reports of Pakistan having enough nuclear materials to build another 40 to 100 weapons are correct.

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