Posted tagged ‘suitcase nukes’

How much is that nuclear bomb in the window?

October 25, 2007

I scratch my head over the mainstream press when they debate whether Iran will get the bomb in two years or five years or 10 years. They’ve missed the big story: Nuclear bombs are available on the black market today!

The former Russian Security Council secretary, Alexander Lebed, said in an interview on 60 Minutes on September 9, 1997, that more than 100 suitcase nukes are missing from the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The situation is probably worse. In his book, The Al Qaeda Connection, Paul L. Williams speculates that even more nukes were at risk as they were transported from strategic sites to arsenals (arsenals that remain unsecured even to this day, see below):

“Yet the movement of the twenty-two thousand nuclear weapons occurred when everything in Russia was falling apart.…then secretary of defense Dick Cheney said that recovery of 90 percent of the nukes in Russia would represent ‘excellent performance’. Such an ‘excellent performance’ would mean that 220 weapons would have been lost, stolen, or otherwise unaccounted for.”

Mr. Williams continues at length documenting the history of the nuclear arms black market, including Al Qaeda’s attempts at purchasing them and their intent on using them. Two more passages from the book:

“In the first three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the black market in nuclear weapons and materials began to boom.”

“On October 11, 2001, George Tenet, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, met with President Bush to convey the news that at least two suitcase nukes had reached al Qaeda operatives within the United States… The news sent the president ‘through the roof’, prompting him to order his national security team to give nuclear terrorism priority over every other threat to America.”

Paul L. Williams is a journalist and formerly served as a consultant to the FBI and as an adjunct professor of humanities at the University of Scranton. Here’s the amazon link to this worthy book, which I’ll come back to at a later time.

Unfortunately, the unsecured Russian nuclear arsenals remain a big problem. I found little in the mainstream press on the subject so I dug up this press release from September 9, 2002, from California Congresswoman Ellen O. Tauscher of the House Armed Services Committee. Here’s an excerpt:

“Despite significant improvements, the most likely source for a terrorist to acquire nuclear materials is Russia. Everyone here knows that they have a vast nuclear complex with hundreds of tons of inadequately protected fissile material. We should assume that the world’s two most wanted men do, too. [This press release is from 2002 so the other most wanted man she’s referring to is Saddam Hussein.]

“Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist organization have made numerous attempts to buy stolen nuclear material and to recruit scientists to help them make a bomb….

“Through American nonproliferation efforts, Russia has taken steps to safeguard its nuclear arsenal, but they still have an insufficient inventory system and only 40 percent of their arsenal is truly secured.

“According to recent U.S intelligence, there have been numerous attempts in the last decade to steal fissile material from facilities throughout the former Soviet Union.

“According to the National Intelligence Council’s latest report to Congress, the Russian warhead security system ‘may not be sufficient to meet today’s challenge of a knowledgeable insider collaborating with a criminal or terrorist group.’

“According to the Energy Department, some 603 tons of weapons-usable nuclear material — enough to make over 40,000 nuclear devices — is located at 53 sites in the former Soviet Union that require security upgrades.

“To make matters worse, the recently-signed Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty will, ironically, make nuclear security problems worse because it does not commit either nation to actually destroying a single nuclear weapon. Instead, it will allow the United States and Russia to merely store weapons, like putting your car on blocks in a garage, leaving more nuclear parts in more locations where they will likely be less secure.

“The danger posed by unsecured nuclear material is not just a Russian problem. Enough civilian plutonium for many nuclear weapons exists in Germany, Belgium, Japan, and Switzerland, and some 20 tons of civilian highly enriched uranium exists at 345 operational and shut down civilian research facilities in 58 countries, sometimes in quantities large enough to make a bomb.”

Do you think this could get messy?