Where al-Qaida shops for weapons
Posted 23 February 2003 - 02:46 PM
Where al-Qaida shops for weapons
Iraq among many places group could find nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
Sunday, February 23, 2003
By Jack Kelly, Post-Gazette National Security Writer
A central rationale for a U.S. attack on Iraq would be to prevent Saddam Hussein from supplying weapons of mass destruction to al-Qaida or like-minded groups that might use them against the United States.
The closeness of Saddam's ties to al-Qaida are in dispute, but one thing that's certain is that al-Qaida is shopping everywhere for the most destructive weapons it can find.
How high is Iraq on the list of potential al-Qaida suppliers? And how much of this threat would be eliminated by removing Saddam from power?
There are several countries where al-Qaida can look for nuclear weapons, and nearly a dozen where it might obtain biological or chemical weapons. Only four could provide the most deadly biological weapon -- smallpox.
North Korea, the other nation the U.S. is now confronting, albeit diplomatically, stands out as a possible weapons proliferator on all fronts.
Russia and former Soviet republics remain the greatest source of nuclear weapons expertise, and Russian organized-crime syndicates reportedly have offered for sale fissile materials, perhaps even bombs. North Korea or Pakistan could supply nuclear materials or expertise. Iran and Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, have not yet built nuclear bombs, but they have scientists who know how.
Russia and former Soviet republics are also the largest source of materials and expertise needed for biological or chemical weapons. North Korea, Iran and Iraq have extensive biological and chemical programs, as well, and are hostile to the United States. Syria, Egypt and Libya have chemical munitions, and Sudan has manufactured mustard gas.
"Bin Laden and his lieutenants already have the capability to carry out small-scale, relatively crude attacks using chemical and perhaps biological agents," Gary Ackerman and Jeffrey Bale of the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies have written. "It is certainly possible that they have also acquired the necessary materials and technical ability to be able to construct [radiological] 'dirty bombs'... The possibility remains that al-Qaida operatives will eventually be able to get their hands on fissile material that can be used to manufacture a nuclear device or, worse still, a tactical nuclear weapon."
Osama bin Laden approached a Pakistani nuclear scientist, Sultan Bahiruddin Mahmood, in 2000 and again in 2001 for help in building a nuclear bomb, his son told The Associated Press in December. Mahmood refused, his son said.
Bin Laden has repeatedly tried to buy "suitcase nukes" and fissile materials from Russian crime syndicates. In 1997, Gen. Alexander Lebed, a former security chief for Russia, said 48 small nuclear bombs were missing after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a book published last October, FBI terrorism consultant Paul Williams claimed al-Qaida had bought 20 "suitcase" bombs from former KGB agents in 1998.
Former CIA counterterror chief Vince Cannistraro has described such reports as "crap," and Ackerman and Bale are skeptical: "If bin Laden really had suitcase nukes at his disposal, why did he not use any of them to resist the coalition attack on Afghanistan, and why has he also continued expending efforts to acquire less destructive [weapons of mass destruction] like dirty bombs?"
According to U.S. officials, on at least two occasions al-Qaida bought what it thought was nuclear material from the Russian mob, only to discover it had been swindled.
An incident in Afghanistan suggests al-Qaida isn't sophisticated in the ways of nuclear weapons. In November 2001, U.S. forces found in a safe house in Kabul instructions for building a Nagasaki-type bomb. The document had come from a British humor magazine, the Journal of Irreproducible Results, and was entitled: "How to Build An Atomic Bomb In Ten Easy Steps."
Most experts believe the likelihood al-Qaida will acquire the know-how and facilities to build a nuclear bomb is low. But Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American well connected in intelligence circles, has painted a "nightmare" scenario in which an impoverished North Korea would sell plutonium to well-financed al-Qaida operatives, who could assemble a weapon with help from Pakistani scientists. Between February of 2000 and July of 2002, eight Pakistani nuclear scientists left the country without proper permits, according to Ijaz. Their whereabouts are unknown.
Around Christmas in 2001, British forces discovered in tunnels near Kandahar enough uranium-238 to build at least one "dirty bomb." Abu Zubaydah, the No. 3 man in al-Qaida before his capture in Pakistan last April, told interrogators al-Qaida knew how to build a dirty bomb and how to smuggle it into the United States.
A dirty bomb consists of radioactive material wrapped around conventional explosives. It is much less lethal than nuclear explosives, but can render uninhabitable for years an area the size of several city blocks.
"[A dirty bomb] isn't going to be a calamity. It's going to be a huge headache," said Leonard Spector of the Center for Non-proliferation Studies, which has just completed a study of radiological weapons. "The cleanup is going to be a mess, but the radiation is going to be less injurious than the conventional explosion."
"Dirty" bombs are relatively easy to construct and radioactive materials abound from which to build them, Spector said. Even medical waste, available almost anywhere in the world, could be used.
The most devastating attack al-Qaida could launch probably would be biological, several experts said. "Biological attacks are continuous," said Ken Alibek, former No. 2 in the Soviet bioweapons program. "It isn't a one time event, like a chemical attack. A biological attack is a long term crisis management issue."
Two months before the Sept. 11 attacks, a war game entitled Dark Winter was held at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. Three two-man teams of "terrorists" released smallpox in aerosol form at shopping centers in Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Philadelphia. It was a week before the Centers for Disease Control could identify the outbreak. By the end of the first month, 1,000 people were dead, 10,000 more infected and a pandemic was under way.
Dark Winter ended in catastrophe. The best protection against smallpox is vaccination; the only other way to stop its spread is isolation. There is no cure. By the time smallpox was diagnosed, it was too late for effective isolation. And because the disease was thought to have been eradicated more than 20 years ago, Americans are no longer routinely vaccinated.
Since Sept. 11, however, detection systems have been upgraded, enough vaccine for all Americans has been stockpiled, and vaccinations have begun among health-care workers. Vaccine can provide some protection up to four days after exposure.
At least 20 tons of smallpox were manufactured by Biopreparat, the Soviet biological weapons agency. The Soviet Union is no more and Russia, officially, is out of the bioweapons business. But in the 1990s, Iranian officals were offering former Biopreparat biologists and engineers as much as $5,000 a month (big money by Russian standards) to work for them. Besides Iran, Iraq, North Korea and France are thought to have covert stocks of smallpox.
Smallpox is so difficult to weaponize, however, that al-Qaida could likely get it only from Iran, Iraq or North Korea, several experts said. "The idea that a nonstate actor could weaponize smallpox is vanishingly small," said David Isenberg of the British American Security Information Council.
It is easier to weaponize anthrax, and the well-heeled al-Qaida could possibly produce some itself. In Afghanistan last March, U.S. forces discovered under construction near Kandahar an al-Qaida anthrax laboratory. Still, if al-Qaida has anthrax, it probably got it with help from a government.
Aum Shinri Kyo, the Japanese religious cult that released sarin gas in a Tokyo subway in 1995, had tried unsuccessfully for years to weaponize anthrax. "Aum had a lot of money, but they could not do anthrax," Spector said.
A group like al-Qaida could perhaps produce limited quantities of anthrax, but to make large amounts in powdered form almost certainly would require the assistance of a state, said Jonathan Tucker of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Iraq, Iran, North Korea and possibly Syria possess this expertise.
Terrorists prefer biological agents to chemical weapons because much smaller quantities are required to produce mass casualties. Bill Patrick, who worked on biological weapons programs for the U.S. Army, said a quarter teaspoon of powdered smallpox could infect 100 people.
The relative difficulty of using chemical weapons was illustrated by Aum Shinri Kyo's attack on the Tokyo subway. The cult placed packages of vaporized sarin on five trains. When punctured, the packages spread the nerve agent through subway cars and 15 stations. One thousand subway riders were hospitalized, but only 12 died because the nerve agent wasn't sufficiently concentrated.
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Jack Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1476.
Posted 24 February 2003 - 06:51 AM
However, trained by British and U.S. special intelligence services and the CIA, and armed by Israeli military networks, the very terrorist drug-runners in the Islamic world who were launched by Brzezinski and "adopted" by the Iran-Contra networks run by Lt. Col. Oliver North, under the elder George Bush's Executive Order 12333, have become the main suspects in terrorist attacks against the United States.
knock yourself out Imprerial Swine
Posted 24 February 2003 - 07:04 AM
Not true at all. When traveling E.Europe in '92-'95 in one of the Eastern capital's police busted Zhiguli car with conspicuous men carrying special case with 400g of plutonium. The news were briefly on but faded away quickly ...lol
Originally posted by Diogenes
Not nuclear or biological stuff, but it's easier now than it used to be. And that's a very good reason to keep rogue nations from having the capability to produce the stuff.
If you have cash, you can get anything. It is only a matter of staying alive in this business...
Posted 24 February 2003 - 07:24 AM
Must be so because they need a bunch of idiots to go ahead with the so called " war aginst terror ".
Good for the weapon industry, Bush and so on
At present - I think the only reall terrorist is the America - Israeli gang of robbers behaving like a middle age king.
Stealing - blackmailing and so on only to survive on cheap oil... and world dictatorship.
The End is near my friends.
Just wait when the world stops buying American goods, but then this will hurt mostly China where the are produced nowadays
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