|America in Ashes ? |
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 23, 2008
The latest audio message from al-Qaeda, reportedly from Osama bin Laden himself, is only the most recent confirmation that the jihadist threat to the West remains real and deadly serious. But the fact that it could take the form of nuclear terrorism should be most worrying to citizens and policy makers alike.
Where a nuclear attack once may have been beyond the capacities of stateless terrorists, that is no longer the case. One need only consider Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), mastermind of 9/11 and chief operating officer of al-Qaeda, who revealed under intensive interrogation -- including the much-maligned tactic of waterboarding -- that a nuclear attack against the United States was a top priority for al-Qaeda.
According to the
The agents learned that the chain of command for this new operation went simply: bin Laden, his terrorist doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, a mysterious scientist named “Dr. X,” and an operational coordinator. The scientist turned out to be Dr. A.Q. Khan, the founder of
Dr. Khan’s input was important: One month before 9/11, according to The Washington Post, bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met around a blazing campfire with Pakistani scientists from an A.Q. Khan-affiliated group called Umma Tameer-E-Nau, to discuss how al-Qaeda could build a nuclear device themselves and ship it to a target.
The night meeting went well. 'Jafer the Pilot" is the nom de guerre of
John Loftus of WABC news reported on November 7, 2003, that in the immediate wake of Shukrijumah and his fellow travelers’ disappearance, 180 pounds of uranium ended up “missing” from the reactor. Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who interviewed Osama bin Laden in the wake of 9/11, reported bin Laden saying that one of the founders of al-Qaeda, Anas el-Liby, had helped the Pilot haul out the stash of uranium.
But the Pilot and his atomically-inclined friends had not gone to live in a cave somewhere in
Whatever pangs of conscience remaining to the plotters as they contemplated burning millions of women and children alive was thoroughly assuaged by bin Laden’s diplomacy. The supremo had duly arranged for a compliant mullah to issue a fatwa, which expressly authorized the destruction of the United States of American in clouds of atomic ash. Entitled “A Treatise on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction Against Infidels,” and dated May 2003, this fatwa can be read online by all the faithful. FBI chief Robert Mueller has also said that there is a “clear intent” by al-Qaeda to acquire and use nuclear weapons against the
One thing is certain: homicidal doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri's made a decision when KSM was captured: Cancel that planned mass cyanide gas attack in the New York subway system. He told the operational plotters to stand down because "we have something better in mind,” which would presumably suck up all the resources then available to him. What would be “better” than a mass cyanide attack in a confined urban rush-hour space? There is only one thing more murderous.
Unfortunately, even in 2004, the American intelligence services tasked with protecting the country seemed about as prepared for the Pilot as they were for the Hamburg Cell of 9/11. One full year after KSM spilled his guts in a secret CIA prison in
It turns out that the Pilot himself need not have been panicked. Several days after the press conference naming Shukrijumah, a certain Samuel Mac, the manager of a Denny’s restaurant in
From behind his counter, Mr. Mac looked at these patrons again. He figured at least
The Pilot quickly resurfaced in Waziristan province,
Thus funded and instructed, the Pilot flew to
Why was the Pilot meeting with MS-13 gang leaders? The answer became painfully obvious that summer, when he was seen again in
The Pilot was now moving around at will, with no hindrance, all through
Al-Masri told his American captors that his bosses had arranged for nuclear supplies for bombs to be shipped into
Since 2005, the Pilot has vanished from sight.
While the mainstream media currently mostly ignore this story and the almost certain fact that a nuclear plot is ongoing today, Senator Joseph Lieberman has held at least three separate hearings in 2008 of his Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on this very subject.
The testimony from experts summoned to these hearings has been grim. Nobody doubts that once terrorists acquire fissile material, which is either Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) or plutonium, a bomb is within their theoretical capacity and will to make and use. A simple gun-type device, like that used for the atom bomb dropped on
Al-Qaeda has been increasing its recruitment for nuclear-skilled workers. Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri issued a public call in September 2006 for “people of distinguished skills and high levels of expertise…particularly…nuclear scientists and explosives engineers” to work with al-Qaeda-in-Iraq. The mainstream media and the Democratic officeholders ignored this proclamation, because the counterinsurgency effort in
The only good news is that terrorists cannot make HEU or plutonium; they have to get it from somewhere else. HEU is not found in nature and has to be juiced up from normal uranium. For that reason, HEU is highly prized on the world’s black markets. How will Adnan Shukrijumah get hold of this HEU (or even plutonium) to assemble into working bombs?
He has a range of options. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has documented 15 incidents of theft and smuggling of small amounts of separated plutonium or highly enriched uranium confirmed by the nations involved. But these 15 cases represent the tip of the iceberg of what has actually occurred. So there is always just approaching the right people and buying it—not an easy task, but not an impossible one either.
Nuclear terror expert Matthew Bunn testified last month that “Nuclear weapons or their essential ingredients exist in hundreds of buildings in dozens of countries, with security measures that range from excellent to appalling – in some cases, no more than a night watchman and a chain-link fence.”
In recent months, shadowy surveillance teams have been reported scoping out secret nuclear weapons facilities in
The Pilot doesn’t need too much HEU for his seven-city destruction plan. For one “simple” gun-type design HEU bomb, roughly 50 kilograms of HEU would be needed – roughly the size of a six-pack.
The Pilot could also try hitting up a HEU-based research facility, like his old alma mater
Or has he already? The Washington Post, right before last Christmas, reported a strange story. Sometime in the night of November 8, 2007, two coordinated teams of armed men attacked the Pelindaba nuclear facility in
One of the teams was chased off by the guards, but the other team of four gunmen disabled the perimeter alarms, went to the emergency control center and shot a worker in the chest. Bleeding out, the worker was still able to sound the first alarm.
He might not have bothered. The attack team then spent 45 minutes inside the perimeter, without anyone harassing them. What they did next is unknown to the public. The team promptly disappeared through the same hole they had cut in the fence. South African officials later arrested three individuals, but soon released them. The South African government has since been close-lipped about what really happened last November, and it has refused earlier
But surely the point is not whether the Pilot hit this specific facility. It is that he could well have—or dozens of others like it. We do know that if a 10 kiloton A-bomb, somewhat smaller than the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima, is set off at ground level in midtown Manhattan, the death toll would be perhaps half a million people. We could expect roughly $1 trillion in direct economic damage from this one bomb alone. Multiply this by seven bombs, and we can expect the wholesale depopulation of
The experts are not talking about vague probabilities far into the future. Former Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Graham Allison are among those who have estimated that chance at more than 50 percent over the next decade. That is, two respected experts in the field believe that the nuclear destruction of one or more American urban centers is more probable than not in the very near future.
Al-Qaeda keeps increasing the number of Americans it publicly dreams of killing in its nuclear hellstorm. In 2002, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s former official press spokesman, claimed the right for jihadis “to kill four million Americans.” Just one year later, in his fatwa declaring the use of WMD obligatory, Nasir al-Fahd put the number of Americans that it is permissible to kill without further ado at 10 million souls, roughly 3 million of them children.
Because a nuclear attack would achieve the greatest possible destruction on American soil, there is every reason to think that the terrorists are plotting its execution. The question confronting American policy makers is: Are we prepared to stop this threat before it becomes a terrible reality?