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US investigating whether nukes in country

By RICHARD SALE
UPI Terrorism Correspondent
Published 12/20/2001 6:29 PM

Federal law enforcement officials are investigating to determine whether sleeper cells or freelance agents of Saudi terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden may have smuggled small,

portable nuclear weapons or radiological bombs into the United States.

The deepest concern centers on the chance that bin Laden has acquired and will use a finished nuclear weapon. Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., chairman of the House subcommittee on national security, told United Press International: "It's possible, and it's very scary."

He added: "If you asked me if bin Laden really had these weapons, I would say, probably not, but, on the other hand, I wouldn't be the least surprised if there were a nuclear explosion in Israel or the United States."

One report currently being investigated by U.S. intelligence officials came from Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence sources who had conducted an interrogation of a "terrorist suspect" in early November. Under "coercion," the suspect said that agents of bin Laden had smuggled two portable nuclear weapons into the United States, according to the report seen by a U.S. government expert.

The government expert, who has had access to the Pakistani investigation, said ISI provided "the highest levels of the U.S. government" with materials from the ISI interrogation including a summary of the suspect's confession, which this source had seen. The summary did not give the specific dates of the smuggling, the method, or time of entry. The suspect said only that the smuggling had been carried out, the U.S. government expert said.

The sources of the report "were current ISI officers who had kept contact with U.S. counterparts" they had known from the 1980s, this U.S. government expert said. The summary was accompanied by "collateral" or supporting documents, he said. The package was given to senior U.S. officials in mid-November.

The ISI had not rated the report's credibility but felt it important enough to alert the U.S. government, this source said.

"What was disconcerting about the (suspect's) information was that he knew details of the activation of the weapons and their construction that are not in the public domain," the U.S. expert analyst said.

It could be a nuclear backpack weapon "or some other Russian portable nuclear weapon," he said.

National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack, asked Thursday about the report, had no comment but echoed past statements that the administration is working to ensure that bin Laden does not acquire or use any weapons of mass destruction.

On Dec. 4, the FBI put 18,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies on "highest alert" because intelligence culled from sources around the globe indicated the United States could expect a new bin Laden attack between mid-December and the holidays. The alert continues.

The FBI has dissolved its central command post, established after the Sept. 11 attacks, and set up separate counterterrorism teams. "They are all

out on the street, that's all I can tell you. They are out on the street looking," an FBI official said.

Jim Ford, a former Department of Energy intelligence official who dealt with nuclear smuggling, said: "The big, big fear is that nuclear weapons have been sold" to terrorists or nation states that sponsor terror.

Peter Probst, formerly of the Pentagon's Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, did not know of the Pakistani report, but said that there is "a great fear" within the Bush administration of a spectacular, follow-on strike by bin Laden aimed at decapitating the U.S. government, using either a finished nuke or a radiological device -- a core of conventional explosive wrapped inside nuclear waste such as iodine 131.

Probst acknowledged that, in connection with the latest terror alert, he had spoken with U.S. government officials who had expressed concern over Russian-made "backpack weapons and nuclear suitcase bombs."

Shays said that official records had confirmed that Russia had produced 132 such weapons and that currently 48 remain unaccounted for. All disappeared from Russian arsenals.

Shays added: "We know that bin Laden made strenuous efforts to buy these weapons, we know that security at some Russian nuclear arsenals was terrible, we know that some Russian officials were corrupt. We are told of attempted thefts and of plots that were foiled, but we are never told of the plots that succeeded."

Probst said: "It would seem probable that some (bin Laden) deals for purchasing weapons did go through."

Because of this nagging fear, the FBI is monitoring the major port cities of the United States mainland including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, among others, according to federal law enforcement sources.

Federal authorities are checking any "suspicious" cash rentals of trucks or leases of private aircraft, including flight plans, since a small, portable nuclear weapon could be dropped by terrorists via parachute into a remote area and retrieved by other cell members, U.S. intelligence officials said.

Air freight, thought by U.S. intelligence sources to be particularly vulnerable, is also being carefully monitored because, according to Probst,

"25 percent of air freight is carried by passenger aircraft and is never inspected."

A nightmare scenario would be a hostile nuke exploded aboard a plane by means of a carefully adjusted barometric detonator rigged to go off on

landing, said Probst, adding: "You could have a multiple take-down of aircraft."

"We are not neglecting any possibility in this -- we can't afford to, no matter how farfetched it seems," an FBI official told UPI.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, the weapons could easily have been smuggled in by ship, if the Pakistan report proves to be accurate. "We have zip port security," one such official said.

Stephen Flynn, senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said: "The United States has 16,000 ships entering its ports every day. Adding in shipments entering by truck, train or air freight,

the total of import shipments to the United States is 21.4 million per year."

He concluded: "You could put a nuclear or a chemical weapon in a container aboard a ship leaving Karachi, and that ship will land at Vancouver or Oakland, San Francisco, or the Gulf Coast, and we would never know the difference."

Flynn added that only 3 percent of ship containers ever get inspected.

Stefan Leader, president of Eagle Research and consultant for the Department of Energy, said that bin Laden is known to own 23 ships registered to various companies in various countries. Once on the high seas, "such ships are really difficult to find from a defense point of view," he said.

Russian backpack weapons are also a worrisome priority in the current alert. Said one former senior CIA official: "It's not a big reach at all to say that it's probable that bin Laden has been able to obtain this system."

The Soviet nuclear backpack system was made in the 1960s for use against NATO targets in time of war, U.S. intelligence sources said. It consists of three "coffee can-sized" aluminum canisters, which must be connected before detonation. In wartime, the system required a crew of five, including a commander, radio officer and three Army non-coms.

The weapon was formerly in the custody of the Ninth Directorate of the KGB, responsible for executive protection. Assigning a nuclear weapon to such a group was like "assigning a nuclear system to the secret service," a second

senior CIA official said. Other CIA officials said that assigning the weapon to that directorate probably meant that the teams "were close to the Soviet leadership."

According to information derived from SVR defectors and given the CIA, the three aluminum canisters are carried in green canvas cases with pockets on the outside. All three must be connected to make a single unit in order to explode. The detonator is about 6" long and carried in a "knife-like sheaf." It has a 3-to-5 kiloton yield, depending on the efficiency of the explosion, U.S. intelligence sources told UPI.

It is kept powered during storage by a battery line connected to the canisters.

During the first week of October, Israel's Mossad was reported to have detained a Palestinian attempting to enter Jerusalem from Ramallah who was wearing such a system on his back. The item was contained in a CIA Daily Threat Report. UPI has several times re-interviewed its sources who insisted that the item was in a such a report the first week of October.

Initially, there were conflicting reports as to whether the pack contained a radiological weapon or a nuclear system. UPI re-interviewed the sources who saw the Daily Report item, and they insisted that the weapon was nuclear, not

radiological.

Had the Palestinian been carrying a segment or the whole system? Israel has steadfastly refused to comment, but a former senior CIA official told UPI Sunday "the system is very small and could be easily carried and used by one person." There would be "no necessity to take it in segments."

Another former CIA official said that the Soviet backpack device "was a plutonium implosion" device and, said that UPI's description of it "is

accurate. The physics work."

Probst said of the Mossad item, "I don't discount the report at all. If bin Laden were going nuclear, a backpack weapon is the way he would go."

The backpack system remains classified and is not to be confused with a nuclear suitcase bomb, even though the two are often talked of as though they

were interchangeable.

A nuclear suitcase bomb is "as large as two footlockers," said former CIA countererrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro. "Bin Laden hasn't got any suitcase bombs. That's just total crap."

But Shays pointed out that "evidence isn't conclusive, and since it isn't, we have to work with the worst case."

According to former Soviet military intelligence officer Stanislav Lunev, suitcase bombs are actually Soviet-made RA-115s that can't be transported by suitcase. According to Cary Sublette in an article for the Federation of

American Scientists, "Osama Suitcase Bombs and Ex-Soviet Loose Nukes," they weigh about 60 pounds and have a yield of one kiloton. The dimensions of the suitcase bomb are 24"x16"x 8."

They are difficult to set up, said Lunev, because a small current of power is needed to store the weapon safely near its detonation site. This means the operator of the weapon would need to run a fine wire up to a power line. If someone discovered the wire powering the weapon and tried to walk it back, the wire is so fine it would break, he said. If the battery in the weapon

runs low, then the backpack was programmed to send a signal to a Soviet satellite or the nearest consulate.

If any one tampers with it, the nuclear materials are disabled, Lunev said.

Shays said that the Soviets had even made small nuclear weapons "that look like rocks," a fact confirmed by Lunev.

The sources of UPI's information on the backpack weapons came from CIA debriefings of SVR intelligence officers who had trained on the weapons.

Regarding the latest terror alert, "The pucker factor is very high," a former senior CIA official said.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Continuity of Government procedures have been in place that ensure, for example, that the president and vice president never occupy the same spot at the same time. They also provide for the orderly succession of power should a top U.S. leader be killed.

Some U.S. experts are skeptical of the use by terrorists of an "all-up" or finished nuclear weapon. Leader, while conceding that reports of any possible nuclear attacks must be treated seriously, said he still thinks use of

portable nukes by terrorists is "a low probability scenario."

Much more likely is the use of a radiological bomb or Radiological Dispersal Device, chiefly "because it's simpler to make and easier to use," he said. Probst agreed with this.

But Larry Johnson, a former State Department counterterrorism official, downplayed the threat, saying that while there should be concern over any nuclear threat, he believes that the present concerns are "exaggerated." He said: "It's not like a nuclear weapon has an eternal shelf life. If you don't use one by such and such a date, you're likely not to be able to use it at all. Look at your lawn mower that you left in the garage all winter -- it requires some work before you can use it again."

The truth remains hard to come by. One administration official said that nuclear threats are handled by "a host of highly-secret, highly compartmented programs, requiring a Special Compartmentalized Information clearance.

He declined to comment on the Pakistan report or any other threat issues.

And even Johnson conceded that U.S. concerns over terrorist nuclear weapons "can't be dismissed out of hand."

Ignorance is what tortures U.S. intelligence officials as the terror alert

continues, especially the question of how many loose nukes were floating around after the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991. "What's really

killing us is all that we don't know," said a former senior U.S. CIA official. "There is so much we simply don't know, and because of that, we

can't separate fact from conjecture."

Copyright © 2001 United Press International

1 posted on 12/21/2001 5:53:44 AM PST by nikola
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To: nikola
Good.
2 posted on 12/21/2001 6:00:14 AM PST by Huck
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To: Fusion;Hoplite;Wraith;Incorrigible;vooch;srpska vatra;joan;oxi-nato;hamiltonian
The infamous hunt for the "Allah Suitcase" that Fusion mentioned a few times.

PS: URL for the second article is here. Sorry about the omission.

3 posted on 12/21/2001 6:11:31 AM PST by nikola
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To: nikola
Anyone else NOT going to Times Square on New Years Eve?
4 posted on 12/21/2001 6:15:22 AM PST by week 71
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To: nikola
So, the terrorist in Jerusalem was carrying a backpack bomb.

UPI is a relatively credible source.

5 posted on 12/21/2001 6:15:56 AM PST by Sockdolager
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To: nikola
Very Informative.
7 posted on 12/21/2001 6:19:31 AM PST by AmericanDave
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To: nikola
Some useful info:

NBC/ABC Warfare Survival Skills Links

Tiny Nukes-- the backpack threat

The Poor-Boy Nuke-- Bioterrorism***

The Samson Option-- what is known about Israel's Nuclear Weapons?


-Index of Nuke articles--

-Index of Chemical Warfare/weapons articles--

-Index of Bioterrorism articles--

-Index of Terrorism articles--

8 posted on 12/21/2001 6:21:28 AM PST by backhoe
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To: nikola
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Continuity of Government procedures have been in place that ensure, for example, that the president and vice president never occupy the same spot at the same time.

That means that they never get to see each other?

I bet Clinton wishes that him and his missus had that sort of protocol.

9 posted on 12/21/2001 6:23:14 AM PST by marshmallow
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To: nikola
In other news, while certain anti-Soviet journalists absolutely jackhammer the snot out of all possible sources to find a Soviet connection to terrorism, US troops continue detonating US machine guns, ammunition, rockets, grenades, and surface-to-air missiles seized from Al Queda, who they armed some 20 years ago. Reality bites both ways, son.
10 posted on 12/21/2001 6:35:32 AM PST by mikhailovich
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To: nikola
Maybe, maybe not. The FBI's institutional love of publicity needs to be kept in mind.
11 posted on 12/21/2001 6:35:35 AM PST by Grut
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To: nikola; Bluester; Hoplite; Wraith; Incorrigible; Tonycavanagh; vooch
There is little doubt that the Islamic entente has acquired nuclear capability and soon plans to use it. "Allah's Suitcase" to remake the world in a blinding flash of light that delivers mankind toward the new Dark Ages...

With a yield of one point five kilotons these devices will level a dozen city blocks and kill tens of thousands if detonated in major metropolitan areas. Western law enforcement and intelligence officials stunned to learn in Afghanistan of the new Iraqi shielding design that makes these devices invisible to conventional detection...

The classic bin Laden attack utilizes multiple strikes and this thinking is in line with traditional Erfurthian views on using new weapon systems. London now appears to be the primary target as the Islamic entente seeks to splinter the Western alliance and overthrow the UK government with a popular uprising...

Texas (Houston -- El Paso, see AB reference below) still remains the primary target concern for American intelligence officials. Less emphasis now that a strike may occur in Chicago due to heightened Great Lakes security...

The administration very wise in slowly releasing these advisories to the American public. When the Islamic entente strikes again, the West will be prepared...

**********

Bluester

Remember that when it comes to mysteries, the Western style of thought that insists there is an answer for everything clashes sharply with the Eastern view that some things are unexplainable. Conspiracy theorists in the East are few in number because most people there believe/realize that the natural laws of the universe supercede man's desire to know all...

However perhaps you could help with a small mystery from Slovenia...

A few years ago Mr D wrote about a roadhouse of sorts he once visited on the road in Slovenia he took from Austria towards Zagreb. He mentions turning South a few dozen kilometers or so after this place so he and his friends could avoid the main crossing into Croatia and pass through at a less travelled venue.

The place was two storeys, with a small bar and restaurant below an upper floor with six or seven guest rooms. On a Saturday night the place was packed with travellers and he makes note of an old church across the road with an "ancient graveyard."

I realize Slovenia is a big country but would you know of such a place? I am curious because of some meetings he observed there and am interested in clearing up the historical record. Please let me know...

************

Humanitarian Warrior

Apparently your fractured fairy tale was a big hit in Albania -- your new best friend, Mr D, speaks highly of the "California scholar with no television" in the second Albania Briefings piece mentioned below...

Alas, Albania Briefings (AB) has no web presence so I am hesitant to post these pieces so as not to offend the internet sourcing purists. However I would be interested in hearing the thoughts anyone might have that knows the El Paso, Texas region in America.

Mr D writes that law enforcement and security officials believe a college football bowl game is a natural target for Islamic entente bombers. He feels that the Sun Bowl, December 31, offers a natural target for any kind of "dirty bomb." He notes the stadium sits high above the city, and that in late December there is usually a strong North wind for this game. A radiological device exploded there with that kind of wind would blanket much of El Paso.

Does anyone know if the stadium does sit above the city and if there is much wind there in December? Apparently this site is also close to the Mexican border. Is this accurate?

Dry is good and wind is better...

The second AB piece is somewhat involved. It is titled the "Revenge of Cartwright Jones" and discusses among other things the destruction of London by Islamic entente suicide bombers and gunmen -- their plan of operation, timetable, and an analysis of their operational and strategic goals.

My question for you (or anyone else) is -- can you advise who "Cartwright Jones" might be? I gather from the style of writing that he may be a fictional character from a film. Would be interested to know what this references...

Millions to die in the Third World War...

The forces of freedom on the move. Europe trembles.

12 posted on 12/21/2001 6:38:15 AM PST by Fusion
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To: nikola
(Each kiloton has an explosive power equal to 1,000 pounds of TNT.)

Correction - this should say "power equal to 1,000 TONS of TNT.

That is significantly larger than any conventional munition we have ever dropped anywhere.

13 posted on 12/21/2001 6:39:12 AM PST by sonofagun
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To: nikola
(Each kiloton has an explosive power equal to 1,000 pounds of TNT.)

Sigh. A kiloton is not the equivalent of 1000 pounds of TNT, but 1000 *tons* of TNT. That's why it's called a kiloton instead of a kilopound.

1 kiloton = 2 *million* pounds of TNT.

It's always depressing to watch these public-school graduates show off their math skills.

14 posted on 12/21/2001 6:43:28 AM PST by the_cleric
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To: nikola

He added: "If you asked me if bin Laden really had these weapons, I would say, probably not, but, on the other hand, I wouldn't be the least surprised if there were a nuclear explosion in Israel or the United States."

Scary, indeed . . . deep down inside a little voice keeps telling me . . . if UBL had such a suitcase nuke, he would surely have used it already. Why would he wait? It seems the longer he waits, the better we would be prepared and the higher the chances of finding and killing his sorry @ss.

FReegards . . .

 

15 posted on 12/21/2001 6:46:09 AM PST by gatorman
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To: nikola; goldilucky; TwoStep; 2sheep; veronica; BeAChooser;
""The question is whether or not bin Laden has had access to nuclear material," Weldon said. "I think it is better than a 50-50 chance that he does."

Lovely...

16 posted on 12/21/2001 6:52:09 AM PST by ChaseR
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To: nikola
bttt
20 posted on 12/21/2001 7:09:26 AM PST by texasbluebell
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To: nikola
Excellent post. Very, very troubling.
25 posted on 12/21/2001 7:23:47 AM PST by EyesWideOpen
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To: nikola
Frankly, I wish I had more confidence in the CIA and the FBI. The FBI has never been all that good. It gets almost all its information from informers, and there are not going to be a lot of informers in Bin Laden's sleeper cells.

Under clinton it spent almost all its energy on politically correct investigations, while virtually ignoring threats from Chinese spying (on direct orders from on high) and from Muslim terrorists, who were almost certainly involved in OKC and TWA 800.

I'm sure the clinton-reno FBI spent many more man-hours--black helicopters and all--looking for one suspected abortion-clinic bomber than they spent investigating Chinese theft of nuclear secrets. Even after clinton left office, there are signs that many of the top people in the agency continue to worry (and leak to the press) more about Christian fundamentalists than CBR attacks.

28 posted on 12/21/2001 7:38:34 AM PST by Cicero
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To: nikola
Perhaps the most startling testimony came from a defector from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, who testified in 1998 that the Russians secretly pre-positioned weapons, including small nuclear devices, in the U.S. and other countries around the world to be used for sabotage by its agents in time of war.

Spesnatz anti-bump.

I've never seen it refuted.

39 posted on 12/21/2001 8:11:05 AM PST by packrat01
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To: nikola,ChaseR,Chapita,rit,Hopalong,super175,BlueDogDemo,flamefront,rightwing2,aristeides,golitely
BUMP

China has the neutron bomb.

China closely supports Iraq and AlQaeda. Bin Laden gave two US cruise missiles to China after 1998.

Red mercury used in making miniaturized neutron bombs (baseball sized)was found in Iraq by UN weapons inspectors.

It is very possible that China has helped Iraq develop a neutron bomb and that Iraq could give a suitcase neutron bomb to AlQaeda and Bin Laden to bring into the US. China for that matter could also directly give a suitcase sized neutron bomb to AlQaeda and Bin LAden.

43 posted on 12/21/2001 9:19:07 AM PST by OKCSubmariner
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To: nikola
b
51 posted on 12/21/2001 10:49:37 AM PST by Johnny Shear
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