Wired reports, in a press briefing yesterday, John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s adviser on Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, made an interesting claim: He said al-Qaida has been “scammed” in its efforts to obtain the material for building a nuclear device.
“There have been numerous reports over the years, over the past eight or nine years, about attempts throughout the world to obtain various types of purported material that is nuclear related,” he said. “We know that al-Qaida has been involved in a number of these efforts to acquire it. Fortunately, I think they’ve been scammed a number of times, but we know that they continued to pursue that.”
How, exactly, do you run a nuclear scam? Brennan hinted that it was a lucrative line of business for criminal groups in the former Soviet Union. “Sometimes they’re criminal gangs that have information that some material had come out from the, let’s say, the area of the former Soviet Union or some stockpiles and they will try to provide that material to other groups to sell,” he said. “As I said, a lot of it is scam, you know, red mercury, whatever else.”