Nuclear attack 'a real possibility'greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
October 31, 2001
Nuclear attack 'a real possibility'
U.S. leaders would be bin Laden's target, White House fears
Richard Sale United Press International WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is concerned the al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden might try to use a small nuclear weapon in a super-spectacular strike to decapitate the U.S. political leadership, according to a half-dozen serving and former U.S. government and intelligence officials.
"They believe it's a real possibility," said one former senior U.S. government official, adding that secret plans for protecting the U.S. President and his successors in the event of a nuclear attack were in place.
The Bush administration believes that bin Laden -- the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks -- may possess one or more small, portable nuclear weapons, according to a former senior intelligence official. Other experts agree the danger is real. "We're not at all discounting that possibility," said Rose Gottemoeller, senior associate and Russian weapons expert at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Bin Laden's efforts to get hold of nuclear material are no secret. Peter Probst, an anti-terrorism analyst formerly with the Pentagon's Office of Special Operations, said the Saudi fugitive "has been obsessed with nuclear weapons."
During his trial for involvement in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, Jamal Ahmad al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative, outlined bin Laden's efforts to spend US$1.5-million to obtain a cylinder of enriched uranium.
Plans were made, said al-Fadl, to test uranium samples to see if they could be made into a bomb. The project fell through, he said, according to court documents.
This week, however, The Times of London cited unnamed Western intelligence sources as saying bin Laden had obtained nuclear materials from Pakistan.
And there have also been several reports -- variously citing unnamed intelligence sources from Israel, Russia and Arab nations -- about bin Laden's attempts to purchase a small nuclear device from the arsenal of a former Soviet republic, through terrorist or mafia groups in Chechnya or Central Asia.
According to Mr. Probst, what the U.S. intelligence community fears is that tactical nuclear weapons of one kind or another have been sold to terrorists via corrupt Russian military officers or the Russian or Chechen mafias with whom bin Laden is known to have had contact.
Mr. Probst explained that portable nuclear weapons were developed by the Soviets in the 1960s. They were designed for use by their Spetznaz special operations forces against NATO command and control sites.
A former senior U.S. intelligence and Eastern Bloc specialist cautioned that "the Soviets were able to build weapons of such smallness and lightness that they could be carried by one person," pointing out that one U.S. nuclear warhead weighs less than 30 kilograms.
"The possibility that these devices have been stolen and sold to terrorist groups is nearly anyone's worst nightmare," said Carey Sublette of the Federation of American Scientists.
General Aleksandr Lebed, the former Russian security czar, said in 1997 that portable nuclear bombs and tactical nukes had disappeared from Russia's arsenal. In testimony before the Congressional Military Research and Development Subcommittee in October, 1997, Gen. Lebed said there were bombs made to look like suitcases that could be detonated by one person with less than 30-minutes preparation.
Mr. Probst said he believes Gen. Lebed is correct about missing Soviet weapons. "I firmly believe that some were sold to groups by corrupt Russian military, probably in the Central Asian republics," he said. On Oct. 28, 1999, Congressman Curt Weldon said he believed some 48 Russian nuclear devices remained unaccounted for.
"We simply don't know what was floating around out there when the Soviet Union dissolved," an administration official said. "That's one of the questions we need to ask: What are the threats?"
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 31, 2001
Whoa! All of sudden all these nuke articles popping up. Starting to get spooky.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), October 31, 2001.
Gee, this sure won't help with the low museum attendance on the Mall in D.C.
-- Andre Weltman (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 31, 2001.
Don't worry, NO Nukes will be used by bin Laden, although Bush may soon use nuetron bombs (and thus start a worldwide jihad). BinLaden can achieve his main goals of destroying the western bankers and deposing the King of Saudi, with just the threat of nuking US cities... a bluff. Actually using nuclear weapons will block him from being the first leader of the Saudi republic and protector of Mecca.
-- Mark Blaine (email@example.com), October 31, 2001.
Do you think (if it happened) afterwards we could have an honest election
-- don park (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 31, 2001.