Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Imminent Doom?

I don't know how strong Ron Suskind's book is, but it sounds disheartening. What troubles me more, however, is found in this piece which questions why Ayman al-Zawahiri allegedly called off a cyanide attack on New York City. The author concludes that al-Qaeda is instead hoping for a nuclear attack, and goes on to describe the availability of nuclear technology. Personally, I doubt you can stop technical knowledge like that from falling into the wrong hands, and thus would rather focus on the materials needed to build a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, there's this:
"When asked by Congress in February 2005 whether he could assure Americans that no nuclear weapons were available to terrorists, then-CIA Director Porter Goss replied, 'No, I can't make that assurance. I can't account for some of the [Former Soviet Union's (FSU) nuclear] materials, so I can't make the assurance about its whereabouts.' In the spring of 2005, the U.S. National Intelligence Council also categorically assessed that 'undetected smuggling [of nuclear materials] has occurred, and we are concerned about the total amount of material that could have been diverted or stolen [from the FSU] in the last 13 years,' and a former Soviet military officer said that 'small tactical nuclear loads' had been found missing from the Soviet army's inventory in the 1990s [7]. Bin Laden himself has made clear that al-Qaeda has been nuclear shopping in the FSU. 'It is a fact,' bin Laden wrote to Mullah Omar on June 5, 2002, 'that the [FSU's] Islamic Republics region is rich with significant scientific experiences in conventional and non-conventional military industries, which have a great role in the future jihad against the enemies of Islam' [8]."

As usual, I don't want to be too alarmist, as the springboard for the piece is speculation based on the aforementioned alleged chemical weapons plan, and the "loose nukes" angle is hardly a revelation. However, it is a sobering reminder of the types of long-term dangers we face.

(Crossposted to American Footprints.)


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