Hyping the dirty bomb threat is an unprecedented amount of dirty bomb propaganda which has been packaged as news and distributed via the mainstream and alternative media. Aside from terrorizing the public, dirty bomb propaganda spawned by government entities serves as plausible deniability for public officials in the aftermath of a dirty bomb attack.
Date: June 10, 2002
Abstract: Osama Bin Laden has made no secret of his ambition to join the nuclear club — he has even proclaimed it a "religious duty" for Muslim states to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to attack the West. But intelligence officials believe that the best he has managed to achieve, thus far, is a limited membership of that club, in the form of radioactive material that could be dispersed using conventional explosives — the so-called "dirty bomb."
Speculation over a possible al Qaeda nuclear threat has mounted since John Ashcroft announced the arrest of Abdullah Al Mujahir, a U.S. citizen and former Chicago street gang member for allegedly conspiring with al Qaeda to detonate a diry bomb inside the U.S.
But that plot isn't the only thing worrying U.S. officials. The Times of London in November reported that Western intelligence officials believe bin Laden's organization has acquired nuclear materials, allegedly from Pakistan. Although the Pakistani government pooh-poohed the reports and insists its nuclear program is in safe hands, it had earlier placed two of its best-known former nuclear scientists in "protective custody." One had been an outspoken supporter of the Taliban.
Concerns over Pakistan's nukes aren't limited to the possibility of small amounts of nuclear waste finding its way into the hands of Al Qaeda. Know-how remains an essential component of any nuclear weapons program, and Western intelligence services are plainly concerned over the possibility of bin Laden's network attracting sympathetic individuals from among Pakistan's nuclear scientists.
But even if Al Qaeda is in possession of nuclear material, it need not necessarily have come from Pakistan. Unsubstantiated rumors have abounded for much of the past decade about the possibility of small nuclear bombs being lost by Moscow during the breakup of the Soviet Union, and possibly being sold by criminals to terrorists. In the past eight years, 175 cases have been recorded worldwide of nuclear materials (not bombs) being smuggled out of former Soviet territories and other countries.
Such material could have reached bin Laden through criminals — intelligence officials reportedly believe Al Qaeda operatives have been stung more than once by con men offering them relatively harmless spent fuel disguised as weapons-grade radioactive material — or by sympathizers in Chechnya. Bin Laden operatives reportedly also tried in 1993 to buy enriched uranium produced in South Africa on the black market.
While it may be far from inconceivable that bin Laden's network may have the capability to create a dirty bomb, operating a nuclear program would be a Herculean challenge for an organization whose survival depends on its relative invisibility. Even fully-functioning states such as Pakistan have needed decades of research and the assistance of nuclear-capable allies to develop their bomb programs, and they haven't had to hide the extensive scientific and industrial infrastructure required to build nuclear weapons. And given that a dirty bomb's function is primarily to spread terror through contamination, terrorists may be inclined to view chemical and biological weapons as a more attractive investment.
But just as the September 11 terrorists created
fearsome weapons out of America's own civilian transport system, their
successors may seek to do the same with the U.S. civilian energy
infrastructure. The International Atomic Energy Agency warned last fall that
"we have been alerted to the potential of terrorists targeting nuclear
facilities or using radioactive sources to incite panic, contaminate property,
and even cause injury or death among civilian populations," and called for
massive new investment in the security of the world's nuclear energy
facilities. Indeed, the first order of business in defending against an Al
Qaeda nuclear threat may simply involve rendering America's atomic energy
plants safe from attack (TIME,
Title: Taking The Right Measures To End The WMD Threat
Date: June 18, 2002
Abstract: Last week's news of the recent arrest of an American felon allegedly scouting for an appropriate site for detonating a "dirty" bomb has reinforced U.S. fears that al Qaeda is plotting another attack. Its fanatics of course draw the line at nothing, however vicious. So the only question worth asking is what is within their means. Do they really have the capability to employ weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?
A dirty bomb, a conventional explosive device designed to scatter radioactive materials, is not a WMD unless the builders are sophisticated enough to encase it in highly radioactive material. The more likely design, using radioactive wastes from hospitals and other sources, would probably only poison people in the immediate vicinity. But public knowledge that even a small area had been contaminated could create panic, fulfilling the terrorists' objectives.
A true atom bomb would of course be another matter altogether. Even a small nuke would have a tremendous blast effect and would release enough radioactive debris to poison large numbers of people. There have been rumors that Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union lost track of some small nukes, often called "suitcase" bombs but actually closer to the size of a steamer trunk. But the Russians deny this and U.S. intelligence has no serious evidence that any suitcase bombs have fallen into the hands of rogue nations. Even if some were stolen or sold, it is not certain that the present owner would have the technical expertise to detonate them.
If it is any further comfort, the number of states in possession of nuclear weapons has declined in recent years. Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus prudently returned the Soviet nukes based on their soil to the Russians. South Africa, Brazil and Argentina abandoned efforts to build bombs.
A new book titled "Deadly Arsenals," published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, lists only eight countries known to have nukes. The U.S. and Russia have just agreed to drastically reduce their nuclear arsenals, Russia expects to cut the number of warheads on intercontinental missiles to under 1,000 from a current 5,000 in 10 years. The U.S. touched off this cutback by unilaterally deciding to go down to between 1,700 to 2,200 strategic warheads from a current level of nearly 6,000.
Carnegie credits anti-proliferation treaties for some of these achievements. The 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty now has 187 signatories, including five states that possess nuclear weapons, the U.S., Russia, Britain, China and France. Israel, widely suspected of having nukes, and India and Pakistan, which have lately been brandishing their nuclear missiles, are not signatories. Cuba also has not signed.
But if all this sounds at least somewhat reassuring, a closer look is more disquieting. President Bush's three "Axis-of-Evil" states, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, are believed to have clandestine nuclear weapons programs even though all three are NPT signatories. The U.S. is pressuring Russia to stop helping the Iranians with their nuclear program by selling them light water reactors, supposedly for peaceful use. Russia replies that the Clinton administration agreed to do the same thing for North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework, an effort to bribe North Korea into complying with NPT inspections. Both the U.S. and Russia know that with the proper facilities, the plutonium generated by such reactors could be converted to weapons-grade materials. North Korea is trying to develop an ICBM that could deliver a warhead to Alaska or perhaps the West Coast of the U.S.
How Russia might respond to the U.S. complaints about the Iranian reactors is not yet known, but the U.S. Agreed Framework deal with North Korea is under Bush administration review, even though it was planned to pour foundations for the two new reactors in August. The president has refused to certify that Pyongyang is abiding by the terms of the NPT. In a May 31 letter, Republican Congressmen Christopher Cox and Benjamin A. Gilman, along with Democrat Edward L. Markey, called on President Bush to suspend any further work on the reactors until it can be determined whether North Korea is cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency inspection regime.
But nukes aren't the only WMDs of concern to the Carnegie researchers. Weaponized biological and chemical agents are potential WMDs as well. They are the ones that give U.S. defense planners the most sleepless nights because they are better suited to terrorist use. They are far easier to make, transport and deploy than nukes. Last fall's anthrax letters, mailed to legislators and journalists, killed only five persons and infected another 18. But they demonstrated the potential for disrupting the life of a nation through the use of such weapons. The Axis-of-Evil states are all known to have biological and chemical weapons. The theory that the anthrax used in the U.S. letters might have come from Iraq still has not been disproved, despite efforts of U.S. anti-terrorism authorities to blame them on some unknown American psychotic.
Whatever the involvement of Saddam Hussein in the U.S. attacks, his supplies of weaponized poisons puts him at the top of the U.S. list of candidates for elimination under the new Bush policy of preemptive strikes at state sponsors of terrorism. Such a strike at Saddam, however, has to be carefully planned to try to remove the danger of his launching a chemical or biological weapon aimed at some U.S. ally, most notably Israel.
Egypt, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan have biological or chemical programs but only the first two are listed by the Carnegie report as having actual weapons of both types.
Contrary to claims by President Bush's natural critics that he is
whipping up terrorism fears for political purposes, it should be clear from
this catalog of dangerous games that there is plenty to worry about out there.
Arms control treaties have little effect on rogue states. That's why the
president turned to a policy of preemption. The trick now is to make it work (UCLA, 2002).
If A Dirty Bomb Hit London?
Date: February 14, 2003
Abstract: It wouldn't take much for terrorists to wreak havoc in London - just a simple explosive and some industrial waste. Such is the gruesome reality of the dirty bomb.
Fears of a terrorist attack on the UK by Islamic extremists are running at an all-time high.
The discovery of the deadly poison ricin in a London flat has heightened concerns and recently Tony Blair said it was not a case of "if" but "when".
One frightening possibility is the so-called dirty bomb - a crudely-made device that combines a simple explosive with any radioactive material. The idea is that the blast disperses the radioactive material willy nilly.
The dirty bomb is perhaps the least understood of all terror weapons, but new research by BBC Two's Horizon programme brings home the full horror of how a dirty bomb attack might affect London.
The dirty bomb is sometimes called the "poor man's nuclear weapon". But whereas the aim of a nuclear bomb is instant and outright destruction, a dirty bomb would have an entirely different effect.
It would wreak panic in built-up areas, see large areas contaminated and closed off and result in long-term illnesses such as cancer, caused by the dispersed radioactive material attacking living cells.
Using sophisticated modelling, experts commissioned by Horizon constructed a scenario around a radioactive material called caesium chloride, which in the old Soviet Union was used in seed irradiating.
Much of this and other radioactive material used by the Soviets is now unaccounted for. No one knows whether it has fallen into unsafe hands.
Experts working for Enviros, a consultancy that advises nuclear authorities around the world, modelled a fictional explosion combining a handful of caesium chloride - equivalent to the contents of one Soviet seed irradiating machine - with 10lbs of explosive.
They then "placed" the fictional bomb in Trafalgar Square.
The blast itself might kill 10 people immediately. As the emergency services arrived at the scene of the incident a few minutes later, they would realise this was no ordinary blast.
"The simple buoyancy of the air that's been heated may carry the radioactive material tens of metres up into the air," says Graham Smith, of Enviros.
Almost immediately, millions of tiny flakes of caesium chloride would be floating in the breeze over London. In seconds, depending on the direction of the wind, the plume could reach Whitehall. A minute later Charing Cross, then the City and within half an hour radioactive smoke could reach London's suburbs - 10 kilometres away.
"We've got contaminated air moving across London and there would be no indication that contamination was there," says Mr Smith.
Cancer Time Bomb
As the air began to cool, the particles would fall on people who are completely unaware of the danger around them. They would settle on parks, gardens, pavements and cars.
The worry then is of a cancer time bomb. Every day we are exposed to natural radiation, and in low doses this background level is harmless.
Anyone five km from the blast would face only a tiny increased risk of cancer - one in 1,000 - as the background level would be largely unaffected.
But at one km, radiation doses would rise to six times background level, increasing the risk of cancer by about one in 100. At 500 metres downwind from the blast, the risk of dying of cancer from this radiation exposure would be about one in 50 and at 200 m radiation levels would be 80 times background level, equating to a one in seven increased risk of dying of the disease.
The next challenge would be to deal with the contaminated parts of central London. Any clean-up job would be immense and costly, but left undisturbed the particles could remain harmful for 200 years.
One option might be to abandon or demolish parts of the city.
But perhaps the biggest immediate threat wrought by a dirty bomb is not the destruction or the threat to life, but its ability to stir blind panic among thousands, maybe millions, of people.
A leak of caesium chloride in the city of Goiania, southern Brazil, in 1987 contaminated 200 people. The experience gives a useful template for how other cities might cope.
When news of an attack breaks, there will be a clamour for information and help. People will want to know the extent of contamination, but it can be hard to supply answers.
In the Brazil example, medical services were swamped as a tenth of the city's population queued for radiation screening.
It is the dirty bomb's power to spread fear and spawn chaos that makes
it a really effective weapon (BBC, 2003).
Title: Horizon: "Dirty Bomb"
Date: January 30, 2003
Abstract: A dirty bomb is a radiological weapon but unlike a nuclear bomb, its purpose is to contaminate rather than destroy. It uses normal explosives to disperse radioactive materials in the local environment, creating a hazard to health that could last for years unless cleaned up.
The relative ease of making such a bomb means it is a potent terrorist weapon but Horizon's investigation shows that the risk to health from most such devices need not be great. It also underlines the need for governments to act to secure radioactive sources from falling into criminal hands. Horizon deliberately avoids outlining the production process in any detail.
Horizon publishes the results of specially commissioned research, modelling two possible dirty bomb scenarios: attacks on either London or Washington DC. The main conclusion is that the health risks from a dirty bomb explosion are localised to people who are close to the incident or are in contact with the contamination. Although the modelled attack scenarios could have wide-ranging economic repercussions, the majority of the population of either capital city would have only a negligible increase in their risk of developing cancer.
No one has ever exploded a dirty bomb in anger, but there has been at least one close call. In November 1995, a security alert in Moscow eventually unearthed a package of radioactive material, wired with explosives. The Russian authorities kept the incident from the public; a warning to the world about the risk of so called 'radiological dispersion devices' went unannounced. More recently, documents found in Afghanistan as well the FBI's arrest of Jose Padilla en route to Chicago have made security services the world over take seriously the risk of an attack.
A dirty bomb is a small and relatively simple device, sometimes inaccurately called a poor man's nuclear weapon. The radioactive material it contains is unrefined and plays no part in detonating the bomb. The amount of conventional explosive need not be large and may not kill anyone. Its power lies in the cloud of dust released at the same time, producing a nuclear fallout that has a range of health effects. All assessments of likely results make assumptions about the size of the dirty bomb (how much radioactivity it disperses), the type of radiation and the environment in which it explodes.
Anyone who comes into contact with radiation increases their risk of cancer. In a dirty bomb attack, only those who receive the very largest doses - perhaps if injuries prevent their immediate decontamination - could potentially suffer mild radiation sickness. Its symptoms include hair loss and vomiting. (At exposure levels far beyond any dirty bomb, radiation sickness can kill.)
Dirty bombs can make use of many different radioisotopes, substances that naturally produce alpha, beta or gamma radiation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna attemptsto keep track of all kinds of radioactive materials as they move around the globe.
It's December 2001 and the Agency's Abel Gonzalez hears alarming news from the former Soviet republic of Georgia: two woodcutters are in hospital with severe radiation burns. How have they been exposed to such high levels of radiation? Gonzalez immediately sends inspectors to the region, anxious to locate the radioactive source before anyone else might. The IAEA team eventually finds two canisters of low grade strontium-90. The sources are so dangerous that the collectors work 40 second shifts to limit their own exposure. 14 hours later, the strontium is safely inside lead-lined casks.
The strontium is in the forest thanks, it seems, to a plan by the then USSR to develop mobile electricity generators, powered by radioactivity. Thousands of the generators were built. The Agency has also learned of other Soviet initiatives - including an agricultural scheme that involved irradiating seeds using caesium chloride. It's becoming clear that the former Soviet Union is littered with unguarded (so called 'orphan') radiation sources.
There's no need to rely on Soviet relics for a supply of radiological material. Engineering industries and health services routinely use radioisotopes. In March 1998, the US town of Greensboro, North Carolina went on high alert after medical instruments used to treat cervical cancer disappeared from its General Hospital - each contained a small amount of radioactive caesium. Surveying the hospital with geiger counters showed they had not been misplaced. The State's radiological protection board took over. A citywide search on the ground and from the air failed to recover the equipment. Whoever took the caesium got away with it.
Yet it seems there is no criminal action needed to get hold of radiation sources. Also in North Carolina, in June 2002, a small quantity of caesium turned up amongst scrap metal in a junkyard. The industrial equipment it came from had been thrown away when a company had closed down. US authorities estimate that thousands of similar radioactive sources could be missing in general circulation.
The Horizon Scenarios
To assess the impact of a strontium or caesium chloride dirty bomb, Horizon imagined two credible attack scenarios - one in London's Trafalgar Square, the other on the Washington DC underground train network - and commissioned expert opinion on the effect of each.
Trafalgar Square Scenario
The fictional attack supposes a dirty bomb combining 4.5kg of Semtex plastic explosive with a large caesium chloride radiological source (activity rate: 74,000 gigabecquerels), detonated in the open air.
The blast itself kills the bombers and a handful of people nearby. The dust cloud from the bomb immediately carries the powdery caesium tens of metres up into the air. The plume travels downwind at 300m per minute.
As soon as the emergency services arrive on the scene, it becomes apparent that there is radioactivity present. Evacuation of the immediate area follows but there are few visible health problems. No one contracts radiation sickness, the problem instead is a potential cancer timebomb hanging over central London for a generation. How great?
Exposure to radiation is measured in sieverts (Sv), a unit that takes account of our bodies' varying susceptibility to alpha, beta and gamma radiation. 1Sv causes radiation sickness; 8Sv will kill you. Wherever you live there is natural background radiation, from the ground, the air, food and water. It typically amounts to 0.002Sv.
- Horizon's simulation suggests that anyone 5km away receives an additional radiation dose of just 0.001Sv (half as big as background); the cancer risk is marginal, rising by a factor of just 0.1%.
- People 1km distant sustain a 0.012Sv dose and run a cancer risk that is increased by 1%.
- It is only those who remain within 500m of the Square that face a major threat from the contamination. Anyone who continues to use the area within 200m of the bomb site for an extended period of time will receive a radiation dose 80 times background - 0.16Sv - sufficient to cause cancer in 1 in 7 people.
Washington DC Metro Scenario
This fictional dirty bomb incident uses a smaller device in a more contained space. The amount of caesium is 74 gigabecquerels, one thousandth of the mass in the London scenario. It's also cruder, using just a firework as its explosive force.
Detonated in a quiet corner of a subway station, the dispersal blast is over in a second and does not attract any attention. In fact, no one even realises there has been an attack, until the terrorists announce their action 24 hours later. In that time, thousands of commuters and hundreds of trains will have spread the radioactive caesium widely through the station and, more selectively, the entire underground network.
Modelling the health effects shows that the cancer risk to the general
public is very slight:
1. A typical commuter doubles their radioactive exposure, compared to background levels. Statistically they stand a 1 in 4,000 risk of contracting cancer in their lifetime.
2. It is Metro staff who face graver concerns. After a day's work, their cancer risk is 1 case in 100 people.
Responding to an Attack
The most serious effect of both dirty bomb scenarios is the uncertainty that would be sure to follow. Contamination could be patchy and it may be difficult to assess its extent immediately. The demands to screen people and assess the safety of buildings could be immense in either city.
Scientists do not have entirely to imagine what the response to a dirty bomb involves. They do have one case study to examine. In 1987, the Brazilian city of Goiânas suffered radiological contamination after a scrap metal merchant stole a small caesium chloride canister and cut it open. Despite its gentle and relatively contained release, the powdery dust drifted across the city. Four people died and around 200 were contaminated.
The understandable reaction of the million-strong population was to seek absolute reassurance about their own health. 10% demanded immediate screening to see whether they had been affected. Hospitals were overwhelmed and residents took to the streets in protest.
The Brazilian experience offers emergency planners information about the decontamination process too. Removing the radioactivity took six months; some buildings had to be demolished as too radioactive to be worth cleaning up.
And 'cleaning up' the radiation is perhaps a misnomer; 'moving it on' would be better. 3,000m³ of rubble, earth and debris was removed, enough to fill a football field waist high. All of it continues to be low level radioactive waste.
Responding to the Scenarios
Disaster planners are using the Brazilian example to predict the effect on other cities. In Horizon's Washington scenario, the likely result is the closedown of parts, perhaps all, of the Metro for decontamination.
In London, as in Goiânas, the cost of making some buildings safe would be too great. This could prompt a decision to demolish or abandon some limited areas. This would depend partly on the speed of response. An immediate clean up can remove around 50% of the radiological contamination but over time the particles combine with the cement in walls and pavements, making the radioactivity much harder to remove.
The greatest uncertainty for contingency planners is
the public reaction. What do you say to people once the news first comes out?
Would people understand the difference that the size and type of radiological
source makes? And would people follow the best advice, namely to stay put? The
more information people have, the better equipped they will be to deal with the
aftermath of any kind of incident (BBC, 2003).
Title: What Is A "Dirty Bomb"?
Date: October 9, 2005
Source: ABC News
Abstract: A "dirty bomb" is an explosive radiation dispersal device that uses a conventional weapon (e.g. dynamite) as its means of dispersing radioactive material. It is not the same as an atomic or nuclear bomb. Where a nuclear weapon uses fission to provoke an enormous explosion of radiation, a dirty bomb simply scatters radioactive material that is likely to contaminate an area but not cause mass casualties from fire or radiation poisoning. Dirty bombs are generally referred to as weapons of mass "disruption" as opposed to weapons of mass "destruction" because of their capacity to provoke widespread panic and fear of radiation, as opposed to large-scale casualties.
The local contamination impact of a dirty bomb depends on 1) the size of the bomb, 2) the type and amount of radioactive material, 3) the type and size of conventional weapon used, and 4) the weather conditions at the time the device is detonated and the physical surroundings.
Immediate deaths and injury are more likely to stem from the explosion than from any radiation. However, even low-level radioactive contamination of a city building or few blocks could take months to clean up. In certain cases, buildings may be more costly or difficult to decontaminate than to tear down and rebuild (ABC News, 2005).
Date: October 19, 2006
Source: Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
Abstract: A “dirty bomb,” also known as a radiological weapon or a readiological dispersal device (RDD), is a conventional explosive packaged with radioactive materials. A dirty bomb kills or injures through the initial blast of the conventional explosive, and by airborne radiation and contamination (hence the term “dirty”).
How much expertise does it take to make a dirty bomb?
Not much more than it takes to make a conventional bomb. No special assembly is required; the regular explosive simply disperses the radioactive material packed into the bomb. The hardest part is acquiring the radioactive material, not building the bomb. According to a March 2002 Washington Post report, the Bush administration’s consensus view was that al-Qaeda had radioactive contaminants, such as strontium 90 and cesium 137, which could be used to make a dirty bomb.
In January 2003, British officials found documents in the Afghan city of Herat indicating that al-Qaeda had successfully built a small dirty bomb. In late December 2003, homeland security officials worried that al-Qaeda would detonate a dirty bomb during New Year’s Eve celebrations or college football bowl games, according to The Washington Post. The Department of Energy sent scores of undercover nuclear scientists with radiation detection equipment to key locations in five major U.S. cities, the Post reported.
The relative ease of constructing dirty bombs makes them particularly worrisome. Even so, expertise matters. Not all dirty bombs are equally dangerous: the cruder the weapon, the less damage it causes. It is unclear whether terrorists have access to the sophisticated technologies needed to work with high-grade radioactive material.
Is a dirty bomb a weapon of mass destruction (WMD)?
Yes, but more because of its capacity to cause terror and disruption than its ability to inflict heavy casualties. Depending on the sophistication of the bomb, wind conditions, and the speed with which the area of the attack was evacuated, the number of deaths and injuries from a dirty bomb explosion might not be substantially greater than from a conventional bomb explosion. But panic over radioactivity and evacuation measures could create chaos. Moreover, the area struck would be off-limits during cleanup efforts, effectively paralyzing a local economy and reinforcing public fears.
Has a dirty bomb ever been detonated?
No. According to a UN report, Iraq tested a one-ton radiological bomb in 1987 but gave up on the idea because the radiation levels it generated were insufficient. In 1995 Chechen rebels planted, but failed to detonate a dirty bomb consisting of dynamite and cesium 137 in Moscow's Ismailovsky Park. In 2002 the United States arrested an alleged al-Qaeda operative, Jose Padilla, for plotting to build and detonate a dirty bomb in an American city. In 2003 British intelligence agents and weapons researchers found detailed diagrams and documents in Afghanistan suggesting that al-Qaeda may have succeeded in building a dirty bomb. Al-Qaeda detainees in American custody claim such a dirty bomb exists, but none have been discovered.
Which radioactive materials could be used to make a dirty bomb?
Many types of radioactive materials with military, industrial, or medical applications could be used in a dirty bomb. Weapons-grade plutonium or freshly spent nuclear fuel would be the most deadly, but these are also the most difficult to obtain and handle. Medical supplies such as radium or certain cesium isotopes used in cancer treatments could also be used. As little as a measuring cup’s worth of radioactive material would be needed, though small amounts probably would not cause severe harm, especially if scattered over a wide area (Council on Foreign Relations, 2006).
Date: February 2, 2012
Abstract: 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.
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.
At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaeda was plotting a
programme of "dirty radioactive IEDs", makeshift nuclear roadside
bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan.
As well as causing a large explosion, a "dirty bomb" attack would contaminate the area for many years.
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".
Alerts about the smuggling of nuclear material, sent to Washington from foreign US embassies, document how criminal and terrorist gangs were trafficking large amounts of highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The alerts explain how customs guards at remote border crossings used radiation alarms to identify and seize cargoes of uranium and plutonium.
Freight trains were found to be carrying weapons-grade nuclear material across the Kazakhstan-Russia border, highly enriched uranium was transported across Uganda by bus, and a "small-time hustler" in Lisbon offered to sell radioactive plates stolen from Chernobyl.
In one incident in September 2009, two employees at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled almost half a ton of uranium concentrate powder – yellowcake – out of the compound in plastic bags.
"Acute safety and security concerns" were even raised in 2008 about the uranium and plutonium laboratory of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear safety watchdog.
Tomihiro Taniguchi, the deputy director-general of the IAEA, has privately warned America that the world faces the threat of a "nuclear 9/11" if stores of uranium and plutonium were not secured against terrorists .
But diplomats visiting the IAEA's Austrian headquarters in April 2008 said that there was "no way to provide perimeter security" to its own laboratory because it has windows that leave it vulnerable to break-ins.
Senior British defence officials have raised "deep concerns" that a rogue scientist in the Pakistani nuclear programme "could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon," according to a document detailing official talks in London in February 2009.
Agricultural stores of deadly biological pathogens in Pakistan are also vulnerable to "extremists" who could use supplies of anthrax, foot and mouth disease and avian flu to develop lethal biological weapons.
Anthrax and other biological agents, including smallpox and avian flu, could be sprayed from a shop-bought aerosol can in a crowded area, leaked security briefings warn.
The security of the world's only two declared smallpox stores in Atlanta, USA, and Novosibirsk, Russia, has repeatedly been called into doubt by "a growing chorus of voices" at meetings of the World Health Assembly documented in the leaked cables.
The alarming disclosures come after President Barack Obama last year
declared nuclear terrorism "the single biggest threat" to
international security with the potential to cause "extraordinary loss of
life" (Telegraph, 2012).
Title: Breakthrough Could Allow Recovery
From Dirty Bomb Attack
Date: November 26, 2011
Source: Pix 11 News
Abstract: In a city that's been the victim of one of the world's largest terrorist attacks, and which is within a fifty mile radius of both the Indian Point and Oyster Creek nuclear power plants, one of the greatest fears in New York is of a radioactive emergency caused by terrorism or by accident. Now, however, a breakthrough has emerged to treat the devastating, fatal effects of such an incident.
"[It's] a groundbreaking study," Dr. Ofer Levy, 45, of the Children's Hospital, Boston and Harvard Medical School, told PIX11 News in an exclusive New York interview about a two-drug treatment that in clinical trials appears to create conditions that could help people survive some of the worst known health conditions. "[Such as] a nuclear leak, or war, terrorism or other sources of radiation," Levy said.
The newly released results of the five-year study Dr. Levy conducted with Dr. Eva Guinan of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center are remarkable. In the study, they combined two substances -- fluoroquinolone, an antibiotic related to Cipro, which is taken orally, and a protein called bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein, or BPI.
When that combination of substances was administered in trial after trial on mice that had been exposed to radiation multiple times the lethal level, not only did the mice survive, according to Dr. Levy, "We found dramatically improved survival in the animals who got the combination."
In other words, the health of the mice improved. Also, the two substances used in the study have not only been used on mice, they have been used separately, and safely, on humans for years. The study provided the first comprehensive results of fluoroquinolone and BPI being used together, and what's more, they were administered a full 24 hours after the radiation exposure, and still provided unprecedented results.
"That you can give them so late and that they both have a safety track record in humans," Dr. Levy told PIX11 News, "We believe makes this a a groundbreaking study."
One of the country's most prominent security experts agrees. Robert Strang is the CEO of Investigative Management Group, a company that provides security and intelligence gathering to some of the largest corporations in the U.S. He was also the head of the 9/11 Task Force, a group of high-level security experts that the state of New York and New York City convened after the September 11th attacks to analyze anti-terror needs in the wake of the tragedy. Strang told PIX11 News that a key scenario that the task force considered over and over was a dirty bomb attack on Times Square.
"How are we going to deal with so many people who were so sick, and how are we going to treat those people?" Strang said were the primary questions that emerged after 9/11, and he called Drs. Levy and Guinan's research a breakthrough in answering those questions.
Strang told PIX11 News that the task force made three main recommendations in the wake of the 9/11 attacks: redoubling efforts to eliminate terrorist cells and leaders, boosting intelligence resources, and developing methods to recover from the effects of the worst imaginable terrorist acts as quickly as possible.
He said that the Obama Adminstration's killing of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki and other terrorists accomplished the task force's first objective; intelligence services and police preventing more than a dozen planned attacks on New York since 9/11 accomplished the second, but the third, Strang said, of being able to recover as quickly as possible from the effects of a radiological attack, had yet to be accomplished until now. He called the Harvard Medical School research a breakthrough.
It's funded in large part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, a division of the Department of Defense. Strang is convinced that it's the first in a series of discoveries that will finally help security leaders achieve their third objective of developing methods to recover from the effects of terrorist acts as quickly as possible. "This is just another tool we will have available to us," Strang said, "if and when we have a dangerous event here or anywhere in our country."
Dr. Levy points out that, even though he is based in the Boston area, his research has important New York components. He was born and raised in Manhattan, and considers his discovery with Dr. Guinan to be a contribution to his hometown.
Also, Levy told PIX11 News, BPI, one of the two substances that are part of his anti-radiation poisoning treatment, was discovered in New York at his medical school alma mater, the NYU School of Medicine, by his mentors there, Dr. Peter Elsbach and Dr. Jerry Weiss (Pix 11 News, 2011).
Title: First Look: New High-Tech NYPD Helicopter Takes The Fight To The
Date: June 28, 2012
Source: CBS New York
Abstract: The NYPD has granted CBS 2 a first look at its expensive new helicopter — designed to do a lot more than simply fight terrorism.
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller was given a chance to go up for a ride recently.
The helicopter, a Bell 412EP, was funded with federal port security money and can carry up to 10 people, including a pilot, co-pilot, crew chief, NYPD SCUBA divers or Emergency Services Unit officers. It weighs 7,000 pounds, can travel 150 mph and costs $9.8 million, plus it carries another $4 million worth of sensitive equipment.
Part of its job is to confront the threat that terrorists might try to smuggle a nuclear device into New York City through its busy ports.
The chopper, which uses the call sign “Aviation 22,” is equipped with new radiation detection equipment that is so sensitive it can fly over a container, cargo or tanker ship and accurately detect a radiation signature from an altitude of 200 feet.
Miller: “What are the capabilities from the sky that you focused on, that would actually allow you to detect something farther out?”
NYPD Lt. Art Mogil: “The nice thing about the aerial capability is, one, you’re more mobile. You can hit more different areas and hit it faster. So we’ve done some research and we’ve looked at best of class and I think we’ve come up with a very robust system that has a very large sensor array.”
It is the very latest tool in New York City’s counter-terrorism arsenal and another sign of how critical helicopters have become in the counter-terrorism operations of the nation’s largest police department.
“We’re looking at the critical infrastructure of New York City, the symbolic buildings. Is there anything out of place, anything suspicious? Anything that we didn’t see the day before that now has changed and will require investigation?” said Capt. James Coan of the NYPD’s Aviation Division.
A normal police helicopter patrol might focus on commercial areas, looking for burglars on a rooftop, or over the water for a rescue, but the counter-terrorism patrol executed several times a day by the NYPD takes them off the beaten path.
Miller: “Is there something in particular you’re looking for that would set something off?”
NYPD Det. Bill La Paugh: “Small boats that shouldn’t be there, maybe with unusual activity. Numerous people messing around or something they shouldn’t be doing, looks unusual. We’ve got a few pipelines we also check.”
Every day they also patrol the Buckeye pipeline. Like with much critical infrastructure, most New Yorkers don’t even know it exists, but 10 million gallons of fuel travel through the pipeline to airport fuel distributors each day.In 2007, the pipeline was the target of a terrorist plot. Three men were convicted in that case (CBS New York, 2012).
Title: ‘Dirty Bomb' Nightmare Is Worst-Case Scenario For West
Date: April 28, 2012
Source: Gulf News
Abstract: The possible use of an atomic bomb by a rogue state or a terrorist organisation is the least worrisome factor considered by the Central Intelligence Agency. The most dreaded scenario is the use of "a dirty bomb" (of varying weight) which could be made with ease and its effects equal the devastation of any nuclear weapon of mass destruction. The CIA predicted in 2002 that "it is not whether or not such a nightmare scenario would happen, but it is a matter of when it would take place".
The two designated and most likely areas for this nightmare scenario are: "the lower tip of Manhattan and the city of Tel Aviv", according to the intelligence assessment. A simulated effect of detonation was made of "a certain dirty bomb of 50 pounds of explosives in the lower tip of Manhattan (the biggest business district in the world) will disperse radioactive material all over Manhattan effecting millions and millions of people". The radioactive dust will not cause immediate death to these millions, but in the long run if they stay in the affected areas, cancer is their fate.
"The dirty bomb is not a weapon of mass destruction, but a weapon of mass disruption rendering the affected areas to be unfit for human habitation". This type of radioactive dust would settle on buildings, grounds and people creating massive public panic and instant massive migration. The required decontamination in this case is considered an impossible task pertaining to affected areas which have to be destroyed, isolated and abandoned for many years to come. Dr Henry Kelly, President of Federation of Scientists elaborated on all of that when he testified before the senate foreign relations committee in March 6, 2002. Indeed, the actual threat of ‘a dirty bomb' is not an imaginary threat and the following examples testify to its absolute reality:
1. Chechnya rebels planted a 7.5kg of explosives packed with cesium - 137 in 1995 in Moscow. They directed a TV reporter to the bomb to be removed. They made their point without causing a catastrophe in Moscow.
2. Operative for Al Qaida tried and failed in Sudan to buy enriched uranium on the black market produced in South Africa. The BBC reported on January 30, 2003 that "Al Qaida attempts to manufacture a dirty bomb are much advanced than previously known. Al Qaida training manuals detailing how to best make and use dirty bombs were uncovered — as was a quantity of radioactive material in training camps in Afghanistan".
3. United Nations investigators found that "ingredients for dirty bombs can easily be obtained from the former member-states of the Soviet Union which are littered with forgotten cesium chloride".
4. An unintended incident of a contamination took place in Brazil in 1987. A scrap merchant stole radiation material from a hospital being closed in Goiania, Brazil. The amount was the size of a cigarette lighter of highly concentrated radioactive cesium chloride used for cancer patients. The radiation was released during cutting of the small container which created radioactive dust. Two hundred people were immediately affected and four died and were buried in lead coffins sealed in concrete. Pavements and buildings needed to be scrubbed and tons of soil had to be dug and crated away and 100,000 of people had to be tested and screened from the dispersal of radioactive material from a container smaller than a cigarette lighter that was cut, not detonated.
We have reached the end of the eleventh hour of the clock of the nightmare scenario which threatens the national security of the western countries and the very survival of the Hebrew state. On one hand, we have a colonial/ apartheid state being ruled by Jewish fundamentalists determined to completely Judaise Occupied Jerusalem and all historical Palestine and on the other hand we have an emerging tidal wave of fundamentalism sweeping the parliamentary elections in the Arab World.
The final catastrophic clash between the Zionist doctrine that is determined to complete the process of Judaisation of Palestine and the extremist doctrine of Al Qaida is inevitable, according to western intelligence experts.
Extremist doctrines are meant to blaspheme and negate their opponents. Negating the Palestinian people in Palestine by the Judaisation process by the Zionist doctrine which is making the Hebrew state the last colonial/apartheid power in our world is going to be met by the extremist doctrine of Al Qaida which is infiltrating a few political parties that politicised Islam and which is absolutely prohibited. The next generation of rockets raining on Israeli cities may be packed with easily available radioactive material of the worst kind which will force an instant mass migration from all the contaminated areas in Israel. It is now a deadly race between fundamentalist doctrines that are hell-bent on negating and annihilating each other.
The question now when the peace process is dead and buried is:
"Which doctrine is going to be the first to cause the mass transfer of
population of the other from Palestine?" And that is "the nightmare
scenario most dreaded by the western world and by every moderate Jew with
conscience in Israel and outside it" (Gulf
Title: Dirty Bomb
Threat Lurks In U.S. Hospitals, Fed Study Warns
Date: September 11, 2012
Source: ABC News
Abstract: Eleven years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Government Accountability Office has released a report saying that hospitals have been negligent in securing the radioactive materials they use to treat cancer patients, potentially putting the materials in the hands of terrorists who could use them to make a dirty bomb.
While authorities have identified no specific plot or target for this 11th anniversary of 9/11, the GAO, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, has warned Congress about lapses in hospitals, many of which routinely use equipment containing these radioactive materials.
"Although we realize how important these facilities and equipment are, they have to be secured," Gene Aloise, director of national resources and environment at the GAO, said.
Nearly four out of five hospitals across the country have failed to put in place safeguards to secure radiological material that could be used in a dirty bomb, according to the report, which identifies more than 1,500 hospitals as having high-risk radiological sources. Only 321 of these medical facilities have set up security upgrades, according to the GAO review, which found some gaping lapses of security in 26 hospitals.
At one facility, for example, a device containing potentially lethal radioactive cesium was stored behind a door with a combination lock -- but the combination was written on the door frame.
At another, a machine containing almost 2,000 curies of cesium-13 was stored just down the hall from a loading dock near an unsecured window.
At a third hospital, at least 500 people had unescorted access to radiological materials.
"In the hands of terrorists, these [radioactive materials] could be used to produce a simple and crude but potentially dangerous weapon," the GAO says.
According to the report, the National Nuclear Security Administration spent $105 million to complete security upgrades at 321 of more than 1,500 hospitals and medical facilities that were identified as having high-risk radiological sources. The upgrades include security cameras, iris scanners, motion detectors and tamper alarms.
But these upgrades are not expected to be completed until 2025, so until then, many hospitals and medical centers remain vulnerable, the GAO says.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission challenged the GAO's findings, saying that the agency and its partners are vigilant about protecting hospitals and medical facilities, and had developed layers of security to do so.
David McIntyre, a representative for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says that all hospitals are covered by legally binding security requirements imposed by NRC. McIntyre points out that these "layers of security" are voluntary measures promoted by Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration over and above the NRC requirements.
The American Hospital Association said it is reviewing the GAO's recommendations.
"Since September 11, hospitals
across the country have been upgrading their disaster plans to meet today's new
threats. Hospitals follow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's regulations on
how to secure radiological materials. In addition, the Joint Commission, which
accredits most hospitals, requires hospitals to ensure the safety and security
of radioactive materials," the AHA said in a statement (ABC
Bomb Attack Now A 'Real Threat' To Britain As Nuclear Waste Smugglers Swap Tips
Online, Foreign Office Warns
Date: November 1, 2012
Source: Daily Mail
Abstract: A dirty bomb attack is a ‘real threat’ faced by Britain, the Foreign Office warned today.
The government claims nuclear terrorism is still one of the biggest threats to global peace.
Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt used a speech in London to warn of the dangers posed by a rise nuclear weapons being smuggled around the world.
Alistair Burt will say countries around the world face a 'real and global threat' of a nuclear terror attack. South Korean radiologists are pictured taking part in an exercise in dealing with a possible radioactive terror attack at the Kimpo airport
He warned that information freely available on the internet combined with nuclear material become more widely available means an attack, once ‘unthinkable’ is not a ‘real and global threat’.
Mr Burt, who has responsibility for our counter-terrorism policy, said the UK’s National Security Strategy identified nuclear terrorism as a primary danger to Britain.
He said: ‘Nuclear
terrorism is a real and global threat. A successful attack, no matter
where in the world it came, would be catastrophic.
‘Catastrophic for the immediate devastation and terrible loss of life, and for the far-reaching consequences – psychological, economic, political, and environmental.
‘Such an attack was unthinkable just a generation ago. But it is now a possibility we need to confront with the utmost vigilance.’
Mr Burt said nuclear material is becoming ‘more available’ as more countries develop nuclear energy.
‘In today’s world of modern communication, information is spreading faster. Like nuclear energy, this brings huge benefits, but it also brings significant risks. There is more information about nuclear weapons on the internet than there ever has been.
‘As is the case in cyberspace, the danger is stateless in geographical space. It is impossible for any national government or police force, no matter how advanced, to contain on its own.
‘Global smuggling networks are thriving. Criminal cells operate across borders and across continents.’
He said the UK has
been at the ‘forefront’ of tackling illicit trafficking of nuclear material.
‘It was an issue very much at the forefront of our security preparations for our hosting of a successful London Olympics this summer.’
He also lifted the lid on the UK’s secretive Atomic Weapons Establishment which works on detecting the trade in nuclear material. ‘This is a rare opportunity to publically acknowledge that their work has been central to the defence of the United Kingdom for over 50 years,’ he said.
Mr Burt’s stark warning came as he addressed a meeting in London of experts from around the world discussing ways to prevent a devastating attack.
His warning comes as global experts gather in London to plot how to thwart catastrophic attacks that could kill thousands.
Fears were high that a bomb attack would target the London Olympics this summer, Mr Burt will admit.
Last month Senior Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi warned: ‘Nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest threats to our global peace and security.
‘A successful attack, no matter where in the world it came, would be catastrophic.’
The Foreign Office is working with dozens of countries to bolster the UN Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.The convention allows for international cooperation in the investigation, prosecution and extradition of anyone plotting terrorist acts involving radioactive material or a nuclear device (Daily Mail, 2012).