Skip to comments.Analysis: Will terrorists go nuclear?
Posted on 07/19/2008 1:51:09 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
One recurring question that has been at the forefront of most intelligence agencies since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by al-Qaida on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon just 1 mile outside Washington concerns the ongoing efforts by terrorist groups to acquire weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and mostly nuclear.
Each of the NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) weapons comes with a certain advantage and disadvantage -- for the terrorist, that is.
Of the three sorts, biological weapons are quite possibly the easiest to safely reproduce in a lab, assuming one knows what to do. A biological agent, as a weapon of mass destruction or as a terror weapon, is the least expensive as well as the easiest to disseminate. A bio-agent does not need a delivery mechanism and can be transported by a single person. It can pass through customs and border guards undetected, given that it is odorless and colorless.
All that is needed to spread an epidemic of botulism, for example, or mad cow disease, is to hang around a truck stop for a few hours until a semi pulling a load of cattle on its way to market in a nearby town drives in. Wait until the driver leaves his load unattended, then scrub a previously infected rag around the railings and the mouths of a few of the cattle, and let nature do the rest. The disadvantage, for the terrorist, is that the person carrying the rag is most likely to become contaminated himself (or herself). But with no shortages of jihadists queuing up to become "martyrs," finding two or three volunteers willing to die a horrible, slow and excruciatingly painful death should be no problem.
From a financial and cost-effective perspective, biological agents remain most likely the cheapest and, in all probability, the most likely agent of mass destruction to become available to terror groups.
In their haste to leave training camps and bases of operation in Afghanistan in the wake of rapidly advancing U.S. forces, al-Qaida agents left behind piles of documents, including videotapes showing tests and effects of chemical agents on animals.
Chemical weapons are more cumbersome to produce; they require larger amounts to cause enough damage to leave a psychological scar; and they require a delivery mechanism, such as an artillery shell.
Realistically, a bio-agent can cause far more deaths than a nuclear weapon, because it is not limited geographically, unlike a nuclear bomb. For example, an infected truck driver in Omaha infects a U.S. Army sergeant he met in a diner outside Tulsa, Okla. The GI travels by plane to New York, where he changes planes and boards one bound for Frankfurt. Again he changes planes, this time flying to Kuwait, where he joins up with several members of his unit heading into Iraq. Along the way the GI will have infected scores of people at every airport between Omaha and Baghdad. Those people in turn would have traveled on to Australia, South America, Canada, every European city and other parts of the world. Within a few days people from Sydney to Seattle could start dying.
A nuclear device, on the other hand, would completely devastate the immediate area and, depending on its size, would contaminate everything in a radius of several miles, but the damage would be confined to the immediate area of detonation, plus the fallout zone; in addition, depending on the wind direction and speed, radioactive particles could be carried hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. But psychologically the image of a nuclear blast carries greater impact.
Brian Michael Jenkins, who has just released a book titled "Will Terrorists Go Nuclear?" writes, "There is no doubt that the idea of nuclear weapons may appeal to terrorists." However, Jenkins stresses: "Nuclear terror can also have another insidious effect, one that imperils our very democracy. Terrorism does pose a terrible danger, but our fear of real and imagined threats must not persuade us to diminish our freedoms or our core values. There is no tradeoff between security and liberty. One does not exist without the other."
As Jenkins points out, it is important to differentiate between real and existing threats. A perfect illustration is his description of al-Qaida: "Al-Qaida may have succeeded in becoming the world's first terrorist nuclear power without possessing a single nuclear weapon."
Hijacking a LPG super tanker and detonating it in a major harbor would be nearly as destructive as nuke.
In regards to nukes and bio, some folk like to say that it can’t be done with “cave tech” like what the islamotards have on hand. You know the cave tech they’re talking about... it’s slightly better than the late ‘50s, early ‘60s tech that churned out those really big hydrogen bombs.
Anyone ever find out what happened to those hundreds, if not thousands, of former Soviet scientists that migrated out after the wall came down?
how many Fat Man or Little Boy sized bombs could fit in a standard issue shipping container? The tech that those were built by wouldn’t even rise to the level of current “cave tech”.
> or mad cow disease...
Or, if the terrorists aren’t complete idiots, select something that isn’t lethal to humans but highly contageous and devastating to economies. Such as foot-and-mouth disease, for example.
I am astonished that they haven’t tried this one out yet.
A liquefied petroeum tanker ship detonation would leave one ugly harbor for quite some time... but it would probably burn, not fully explode utilizing all of the potential chemical energy, and would probably fail to do much damage to the city outside of the port-side. It certainly wouldn’t have the body-count (few ports are within 5 miles of the population center) or the long-term effects of an actual nuclear attack... unless you meant a dirty-bomb assembled by the usual Middle East morons. It might approach that kind of damage.
> Hijacking a LPG super tanker and detonating it in a major harbor would be nearly as destructive as nuke.
Detonating a medium-sized grain elevator, or setting a sugar refinery alight, would do more than plenty of damage, without requiring any special level of technology.
Detonating a port grain-handling facility would be mighty inconvenient, and would require a level of technology bordering between the moronic and the imbecilic.
An e.coli outbreak would be childishly simple to engineer, and could be done over and over and over again, defying detection until lots of people were very ill.
Foot-and-mouth disease? An outbreak would be nearly impossible to contain in a place like the United States. With no risk to the terrorist, and no easy way to stop it happening again and again and again.
Well, ya don’t want to package multiples together. Multiple missile strikes on a target were staggered (the sequence of arrival) to keep them from minimizing the effect.
The problem with the Fat Man / Little Boy are at least two or three separate issues plus at least one common issue (to oversimplify). This assumes a weapons-grade supplier:
1) Handling the nuclear material requires special machinery and environment. The Saudis have the money to finance this surreptiously though movement of the equipment would be noticed. The tolerances are very fine as I understand it and crude formation can lead to a non-event or very low yield.
2) Triggering the compression simultaneously on Fat Man type weapon. These are part of the reason krytons (I may be too sleepy, LOL) are part of an inventory. Saddam had a few of these, no doubt hoping Osirak would come on line.
3) Formation of a shaped-mass for a Litle Boy type weapon to put the fired wedge into the receiving target mass and achieve detonation.
You can bet the farm they’d love to do it but they didn’t have one. Manhattan would have ceased to exist, or most of it.
I just wonder if they’ll be able to buy one before Iran gets closer with theirs. The day is surely coming.
This article is filled with scientific inaccuracies and misleading statements.
Without getting too technical, let me point out that botulism cannot be spread as described here.
The pathogenic bacteria Clostidium botulinum is an anaerob, which means that it connot thrive in an oxygen-laden environment. (However, its spores are a natural component of the soil, where it can survive in a dormant state.) The neurotoxin, botulin, which the organism produces, is what kills you. It cannot be used to "infect" cattle, etc. which then might spread it to consumers. As such, it is not infectious.
Wishful thinking, even if McCain is POTUS. Since we as well as the world import a huge percent of their oil from the ME.
Heck, they could even attack our major institutions like our financial, military and political structures and not get nuked....................Oh, yeah. Been there already!!!
Somehow, I doubt it. Seeing Saudi Arabia and Pakistan being rewarded as they are, after 9-11, what makes you think the ME would be nuked?
Besides, what would nuking one's own energy source do to one's economy?
You are underestimating them. The 'morons' are just cannon-fodder that the real players use. Think of them as 'smart bombs' but with human brains. The real players- the ISI (not exactly M.E, but they are a player, nonetheless), etc., are not as moronic as you might imagine. Read about them; they are an extremely dangerous and determined bunch.
The big attack is a big pr deal and deadly. But if anyone remembers what those two guys did a few years ago, sniping and shooting people all over the country and how disturbing it was, it is suggestive that constant small attacks over the country would be devastating. Just a constant chipping away at the sense of safety. I think anonymous shootings agt malls, service stations, busstops, school yards would be hideous, unpredictable and lead to everyone feeling terrorized.
Analysis: Will terrorists hijack passanger jets and fly them into major government and financial assets?
This wouldn't work too well. After a while, people get used to it. That's what happened in Israel and India.
Even a smallpox attack won’t have the effect as a nuke going off in 2 or 3 cities, and the threat that more are coming.
Nuclear attack is without a doubt, far FAR worse than the other options. A bio attack would be bad, but could possibly be no worse than the tomato scare or anthrax attack. It *can* be contained typically.
A few nukes going off randomly, and threats that any city will be next, will cause intense chaos (justifiably so) that can’t be imagined yet.
Nor can BSE (Mad Cow Disease). The incubation time in humans can be decades, and there is no way the pathogens could make the traverse described.
More than bio-terror, mega-arson scares me. Terrorists could burn millions of acres with virtually no technology whatsoever, if they hit at the right time and place.
"But how will they get them?" Iran will give them away, as soon as they have 25 or so left for themselves. While the west does nothing.
What I fear is economic terrorism, we are seeing a form of it right now and we have no defense for it.
I’d try a highly communicable diseasein an area of low resistance. Small pox spread in San Francisco bath houses for a start/ Maybe plague? That is relatively easy.
Doubtful. Previous attacks were predicated on the belief that cooperation would be exchanged for safety. That illusion was hopelessly shattered. Passengers would not go along with terrorists regardless of what weapons they had, because everyone knows the likely outcome of cooperation is death anyway. The terrorists would have trouble getting through the flight cabin door as well.
We routinely undersetimate the difficulty of producing reliable nuclear weapons. It turns out the Iranians have trouble launching 4 missles simultaneously, from OLD technology!
The yellowcake and the 100 buried fighter jets that we didn't know about suggest to me that vast quantities of deadly materials can exist without the media, or the "Iraq Study Group," ever knowing about it.
I am less certain that there has been a "doomsday note" sent to all ME governments that in the event of a major chem/bio/nuke attack on American soil, Mecca ceases to exist, but I don't entirely exclude it.
Not much of an analysis
And, the extra support provided by the thick glass flooring will go a long way in stabilising the drill column, and providing a good sealant for steam-injection oil extraction techniques to be employed. It’ll even convert some of the hardened crude into liquid, effectively boosting production.
Yeah, but those radioactive suits and full head gear you have to work in would be a bitch in 120 degree weather
Call me paranoid, but I have been suspicious about the ongoing salmonella infections. The Rajneeshi cult in Oregon spread salmonella by surrepticiously spraying salad bars. I wonder if there is a jihadi working in a vegetable distribution company somewhere in America? Homeland Security should be looking into this possibility.
> Call me paranoid, but I have been suspicious about the ongoing salmonella infections.
One of the things that this points out is the widespread damage that can already be done, even without biological or nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists.
Plenty of damage can be done by conventional means, like ordinary run-of-the-mill diseases. And one of the nifty byproducts is that we will never be certain whether an outbreak is due to ordinary causes or due to terrorist activity. This would allow them to claim all outbreaks as their own work, greatly multiplying their effectiveness.
Asymetrical warfare at its finest.
> I’d try a highly communicable diseasein an area of low resistance. Small pox spread in San Francisco bath houses for a start/ Maybe plague? That is relatively easy.
Product recalls get pretty expensive very quickly, too. Even if a company is insured, and even if the recall is found to be for a false alarm, the ongoing effects of a recall can be extremely damaging. Remember the Tylenol recall? Now imagine that, done on purpose, to say 100 different products in different industries.
How easy would *that* be for a terrorist group to finesse? And how many times per year could they carry it off?
Even if 99% of the recalls were false alarms, it would only take one or two to be real — with some nasty consequences — in order to make this a very legitimate terrorist weapon.
Have the terrorists thought of this one yet? They would be fools if they hadn’t. And one thing that they have demonstrated time and again is that they may be fanatics, but fools they are not.
Another unexpected bonus is the glass surface would reflect solar radiation far more efficiently than sand and dirt, cooling the planet and saving us from Global Warming.
Maybe an aerial spraying of silver oxide just before the nukes would glaze the surface with a mirror finish!
However, even hijacking a gasoline tanker and ramming it into a shopping mall, hospital or school would have almost the impact of a WMD.
The Russian suitcase nukes have never materialized. No doubt the terrorists are even now looking for the manual. Was it blue wire then red wire, or red wire then green wire?
The only routine underestimation going on is the threat, and the sole cause is outright cowardice.
Even a misguided belief on the part of such an aggressor that the US would not pursue them with unrelenting effort would greatly increase the likelihood of a CBN strike. Much of the Japanese military command did not believe we would respond to an attack on Pearl Harbor as we did. Admiral Yamamoto came to understand otherwise.
Well, we’ve been inundated with these dire scenarios for a long time now.
It’s really easy to scare the bejesus out of ourselves.
If you wanted to conduct terror, America could be a relatively easy place to conduct it in. Look at the number of nuts who go postal, etc.
The fact that nothing major has happened is telling.
Consider Gerald Posner’s theory that the Saudis themselves have boobytrapped their wells with nukes so as to negate any threat to them.
Pakistan, well, A PIA jet with a nuke crashing into CONUS would be treated as a “rouge” operation, :>>>