Monday, August 24, 2015

Sam Nunn (former GA Senator associated with DADT) warns on dirty bomb threat in op-ed

The Washington Post has an alarming op-ed on p. A23, Monday August 24, 2015, “The Dirty Bomb Threat”, by Sam Nunn and Andrew Bieniawski (but not Charles Krauthammer).  The link is here
The thrust of the article is to argue that hospitals no longer need to use the potentially most dangerous materials (cesium) for radiation therapy, and could relieve themselves of some security and liability exposure by switching to other materials.

After 9/11, there was a lot of talk of dirty bombs (or “radiological dispersion devices) in the media for about six months. 
The device would not kill people and might not even expose people to significant radiation. But it could destroy property values quickly, especially in dense urban areas.  It is possible to imagine it not simply in connection with “jihad” but with extreme Left-wing class warfare known from the past (as in the CNN series “The 70s”) and such possibilities were known in the 80s even if not widely discussed.   For example, property owners would really owe money on property now worth zero and not be covered by insurance companies  (war risks and radiological damage is usually not covered), so the government would have the political problem of indemnifying them.  Renters could be better off.
This would not be a device easily deployed by a “lone wolf” and would normally require a more orchestrated plot, which might have a better chance of being detected by normal counter terrorism intelligence.  Such devices could be deployed by state actors (like North Korea, or Iran).

In the period shortly after 9/11, there was a lot of attention, especially from Sam Nunn, about accounting for loose nuclear waste overseas, most of all in the former Soviet Union (including many of the Republics, including probably the Ukraine).  I even got a bizarre couple of emails (one with a detailed map of Russia) about this in the 2002 period (and my April 2002 hack on a legacy site might have been related to it). There are reasons to think that some of the material might be concentrated in NW Russia, in the general area near the Finnish border.

Sam Nunn is a former Democratic Senator from Georgia, and was instrumental in challenging President Clinton’s first attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military in 1993.  Eventually, he and Charles Moskos wound up with an idea like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, now repealed.  Moskos gave up support of DADT after 9/11 when he started arguing for a military draft.

There is another threat sometimes debated by the “right”, like Roscoe Bartlett, of EMP devices, which have been discussed here before. Although most commentators “fret” over high-altitude nuclear blasts (like the novel “One Second After”), there is a possible danger from smaller conventional microwave flux devices which the Army uses now in deployed areas (like Afghanistan) and has used in Iraq (and could have left behind for ISIS to find).  The Washington Times had an article about this way back in 2009, as did Popular Mechanics in 2001, on the retail shelves one week before 9/11 (link ).   Forbes wrote about this on a larger scale July 2014 here

The idea of smaller devices has been little discussed (except in places like Maloof’s book “A Nation Forsaken”, book reviews April 13, 2013).  But a couple weeks ago I got an email (seems legitimate) about products from Fairview Microwave, which appeared legitimate.  Why would I get it?  This isn’t the sort of product that gets advertised in spam.

Picture: Afghanistan, Fort Eustis VA museum. 

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