The United States again reasserted itself as the world’s police last week, leading the way to secure thousands of pounds of fissile materials that could be used to build nuclear weapons such as dirty bombs. Countries around the world have agreed to identify, secure and covert this material before it falls into the hands of criminal gangs that would gladly sell to the highest bidder.
Point #1 – Do not underestimate the sophistication of a terrorist group. We’ve routinely done that as a nation, and the consequences were deadly on 9/11. al Qaeda could certainly have the right people on the “payroll” – scientists, engineers, technical experts – infused with the radical Islamist ideology and ready to help the cause.
Point #2 – Do not underestimate the finances of terrorist groups. Many are engaged narcotrafficking, where millions of dollars trade hands daily.
Point #3 – Despite the best detection efforts at airports and in major cities, highly enriched uranium could easily be transported and smuggled. Expert Graham Allison (author of “Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe) says it takes only about 35 pounds (roughly the size of a grapefruit) of highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb. This amount of material is easily transportable and could be smuggled along established trafficking routes by highly paid “mules”.
Point #4 – On the subject of dirty bombs – the materials needed, like medical isotopes might be pretty easily obtained, and it is true they alone would not yield much radiation. The main issue with a dirty bomb would be the blast itself…unless the some relatively high-grade uranium was employed. Then a dirty bomb would not only have immediate, but long lasting radiation effects at the point of detonation.
Jenni Hesterman is a retired Air Force colonel, a contributing editor for The Counter Terrorist magazine, a full professor of counter terrorism studies at American Military University and a senior Analyst for the MASY Group, a global intelligence and risk management firm.
In addition to this, she is the author of the blog: www.counterterrorforum.com and contributor to National Terror Alert.
Her blog, Counter Terror Forum highlights items of interest regarding threats to national security, terrorism, transnational crime, organized crime, and gangs.
The site also serves to support the law enforcement and intelligence community with open source reporting and analysis.