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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-15-2006, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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Pop goes the weasel

The ongoing failure of imagination

By Graham Allison
September/October 2006 pp. 36-41 (vol. 62, no. 5) © 2006 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Prior to 9/11, most Americans found the idea that international terrorists could mount an attack on their homeland and kill thousands of innocent citizens not just unlikely, but inconceivable. Psychologically, Americans imagined that they lived in a security bubble. Terrorist attacks, including those on U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, occurred elsewhere. These beliefs were reinforced by the conventional wisdom among terrorism experts, who argued that terrorists sought not mass casualties but rather mass sympathy through limited attacks that called attention to their cause.

As we approach the fifth year without a second successful terrorist attack upon U.S. soil, a chorus of skeptics now suggests that 9/11 was a 100-year flood. They conveniently forget the deadly explosions in Bali, Madrid, London, and Mumbai, and dismiss scores of attacks planned against the United States and others that have been disrupted. [1] The idea that terrorists are currently preparing even more deadly assaults seems as far-fetched to them as the possibility of terrorists crashing passenger jets into the World Trade Center did before that fateful Tuesday morning.

As one attempts to assess where we now stand, and what the risks are, the major conclusion of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission deserves repetition: The principal failure to act to prevent the September 11 attack was a "failure of imagination." [2] A similar failure of imagination leads many today to discount the risk of a nuclear 9/11.



How great a risk? Risk equals probability times consequences. During the Cold War, strategists understood that even the slight possibility of a nuclear war that could kill every American made it imperative to do everything possible to avoid nuclear conflict. Similarly, the magnitude of the consequences of even a single nuclear bomb exploding in just one U.S. city swamps differences in judgments about the likelihood of such an attack. A terrorist armed with one nuclear bomb could murder a million people--killing in one day twice as many American souls as died in both World Wars combined.

On a normal workday, half a million people crowd the area within a half-mile radius of New York City's Times Square. If terrorists detonated a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon in the heart of midtown Manhattan, the blast would kill them all instantly. Hundreds of thousands of others would die from collapsing buildings, fire, and fallout in the hours and days thereafter.

The blast would instantly vaporize Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and every other structure within half a mile of the point of detonation. Buildings three-quarters of a mile from ground zero would be fractured husks.

Lest this seem too hypothetical, recall an actual incident that occurred in New York City one month to the day after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A CIA agent, code-named Dragonfire, reported that Al Qaeda had acquired a live nuclear weapon produced by the former Soviet Union and had successfully smuggled it into New York City. [3] A top-secret Nuclear Emergency Support Team was dispatched to the city. Under a cloak of secrecy that excluded even Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, these nuclear ninjas searched for the 10-kiloton bomb whose blast could have obliterated a significant portion of Manhattan. Fortunately, Dragonfire's report turned out to be a false alarm. But the central takeaway from the Dragonfire case is this: The U.S. government had no grounds in science or in logic to dismiss the warning.

A nuclear terrorist attack on the United States would have catastrophic consequences even for other countries. After the nuclear detonation, the immediate reaction would be to block all entry points to prevent another bomb from reaching its target, resulting in the disruption of the global "just-in-time" flow of goods and raw materials. Vital markets for international products would disappear, and closely linked financial markets would crash. Researchers at RAND, a U.S.-government-funded think tank, estimated that a nuclear explosion at the Port of Long Beach in California would cause immediate indirect costs worldwide of more than $3 trillion and that shutting down U.S. ports would cut world trade by 10 percent. [4]

Much more disturbing analysis here: http://www.thebulletin.org/article.p...fn=so06allison
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-15-2006, 06:35 PM Thread Starter
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This is especially thrilling.

Bot

Where could terrorists acquire a nuclear bomb? If a nuclear terrorist attack occurs, Russia will be the most likely source of the weapon or material--not because the Russian government would sell or lose them, but simply because Russia's 11-time-zone expanse contains more nuclear weapons and materials than any other country in the world, much of it still vulnerable to theft.

A close second would be North Korea. Its top leadership has openly boasted that it intends to sell fissile material and even a nuclear weapon--for the right price. During talks in Beijing in April 2003, North Korea's deputy director general for American affairs Li Gun told Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly that Pyongyang not only possessed nuclear weapons but might also export them, saying, "It's up to you whether we . . . transfer them." [15]

In addition, research reactors in 40 developing and transitional countries still hold the essential ingredient for nuclear bombs. In the past year, the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative partnered with the government of Kazakhstan to downblend 6,400 pounds of weapons-usable uranium--enough to make two dozen bombs--so that it is no longer suitable for weapons use. [16] The good news is that, as of October 2005, the material is no longer sitting at a research reactor in Aktau. The bad news is that there are dozens of sites that need similar interventions to keep bombmaking materials out of terrorists' hands.



When could terrorists launch the first nuclear attack? If terrorists bought or stole a nuclear weapon in good working condition, they could explode it today. If the weapon had a lock, the date of detonation would be delayed for several days. [17] If terrorists acquired the 45 kilograms of HEU needed for an elementary nuclear bomb, they could have a working bomb in less than a year.



How could terrorists deliver a nuclear weapon to its target? Two plausible methods would be to "follow the golf clubs" or "follow the drugs."

Imagine a woman who lives in Tokyo wants to play golf at Pebble Beach, but prefers to avoid the hassle of carrying her clubs through U.S. customs. How would she get her clubs to the resort? She would call a freight forwarder, provide a plausible description of the contents of her shipment, and have her golf bag picked up at her home. The clubs would travel by ship from Tokyo to the Port of Oakland in California and then by truck to the golf course. The chance of anyone inspecting her bag between her house and the links is less than 3 percent.

If that seems too risky, terrorists might "follow the drugs," tons of which find their way to U.S. cities every day. The illicit economy for narcotics and illegal immigrants has built up a vast infrastructure that terrorists could exploit. As Albert Carnesale, an arms control expert, has noted, no one should doubt the ability of terrorists to bring a nuclear weapon to New York: They could simply hide it in a bale of marijuana, which we know comes to all global cities.

In sum, my best judgment is that based on current trends, a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States is more likely than not in the decade ahead. Developments in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea leave Americans more vulnerable to a nuclear 9/11 today than we were five years ago. Former Defense Secretary William Perry has said that he thinks that I underestimate the risk. In the judgment of most people in the national security community, including former Sen. Sam Nunn, the risk of a terrorist detonating a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil is higher today than was the risk of nuclear war at the most dangerous moments in the Cold War. Reviewing the evidence, Warren Buffett, the world's most successful investor and a legendary oddsmaker in pricing insurance policies for unlikely but catastrophic events like earthquakes, has concluded: "It's inevitable. I don't see any way that it won't happen." [18]
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-15-2006, 10:27 PM
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........( bang ! )
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-15-2006, 10:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Botnst
This is especially thrilling.

Bot

Where could terrorists acquire a nuclear bomb? If a nuclear terrorist attack occurs, Russia will be the most likely source of the weapon or material--not because the Russian government would sell or lose them, but simply because Russia's 11-time-zone expanse contains more nuclear weapons and materials than any other country in the world, much of it still vulnerable to theft.

A close second would be North Korea. Its top leadership has openly boasted that it intends to sell fissile material and even a nuclear weapon--for the right price. During talks in Beijing in April 2003, North Korea's deputy director general for American affairs Li Gun told Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly that Pyongyang not only possessed nuclear weapons but might also export them, saying, "It's up to you whether we . . . transfer them." [15]

In addition, research reactors in 40 developing and transitional countries still hold the essential ingredient for nuclear bombs. In the past year, the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative partnered with the government of Kazakhstan to downblend 6,400 pounds of weapons-usable uranium--enough to make two dozen bombs--so that it is no longer suitable for weapons use. [16] The good news is that, as of October 2005, the material is no longer sitting at a research reactor in Aktau. The bad news is that there are dozens of sites that need similar interventions to keep bombmaking materials out of terrorists' hands.



When could terrorists launch the first nuclear attack? If terrorists bought or stole a nuclear weapon in good working condition, they could explode it today. If the weapon had a lock, the date of detonation would be delayed for several days. [17] If terrorists acquired the 45 kilograms of HEU needed for an elementary nuclear bomb, they could have a working bomb in less than a year.



How could terrorists deliver a nuclear weapon to its target? Two plausible methods would be to "follow the golf clubs" or "follow the drugs."

Imagine a woman who lives in Tokyo wants to play golf at Pebble Beach, but prefers to avoid the hassle of carrying her clubs through U.S. customs. How would she get her clubs to the resort? She would call a freight forwarder, provide a plausible description of the contents of her shipment, and have her golf bag picked up at her home. The clubs would travel by ship from Tokyo to the Port of Oakland in California and then by truck to the golf course. The chance of anyone inspecting her bag between her house and the links is less than 3 percent.

If that seems too risky, terrorists might "follow the drugs," tons of which find their way to U.S. cities every day. The illicit economy for narcotics and illegal immigrants has built up a vast infrastructure that terrorists could exploit. As Albert Carnesale, an arms control expert, has noted, no one should doubt the ability of terrorists to bring a nuclear weapon to New York: They could simply hide it in a bale of marijuana, which we know comes to all global cities.

In sum, my best judgment is that based on current trends, a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States is more likely than not in the decade ahead. Developments in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea leave Americans more vulnerable to a nuclear 9/11 today than we were five years ago. Former Defense Secretary William Perry has said that he thinks that I underestimate the risk. In the judgment of most people in the national security community, including former Sen. Sam Nunn, the risk of a terrorist detonating a nuclear bomb on U.S. soil is higher today than was the risk of nuclear war at the most dangerous moments in the Cold War. Reviewing the evidence, Warren Buffett, the world's most successful investor and a legendary oddsmaker in pricing insurance policies for unlikely but catastrophic events like earthquakes, has concluded: "It's inevitable. I don't see any way that it won't happen." [18]

Thanks for suppling yet another "how-to".

I am sure you quote from the source where they studied hard and long as of how to prevent it.

We are the sick society it seems, we do enjoy pictures of our destruction.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-16-2006, 08:43 AM
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I'm not as much worried about the bad guys setting off a bomb, as I am about the repercussions. There WILL be retaliation, and then, as my old sergeant said, "The balloon goes up." I'm too old to give a rat's butt one way or the
other, but I do care about the following generations, if there are any...........
In the old Soviet Union, they cared about human life, even though they wouldn't admit it very often. The Islamofashists clearly don't care, and I question the North Korean leadership as well. China, even though I think they feel they might survive a nuclear war, know they will be very weak and vulnerable to a secondary attack from Russia.
It's the ones that don't think they have anything to lose that scare me, and there are a few of them right now.

"Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon, the pigeon knocks over all the pieces, on the board and then struts around like it won the game."
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-16-2006, 08:53 AM
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Oh, a different weasel...

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-16-2006, 02:34 PM Thread Starter
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But wait, there's more ...

Book reviews. Look like interesting books. Anybody read either yet?

B

Freedom at War
Civil liberties in the age of terrorism.
by Peter Berkowitz
09/18/2006, Volume 012, Issue 01


Not a Suicide Pact
The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency
by Richard A. Posner
Oxford, 208 pp., $18.95

In late June, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times breathlessly reported on the front page, above the fold and under a big headline, that in the just-announced case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court "shredded each of the administration's arguments." The decision--which held that, as organized, the military tribunals the Bush administration had created to try unlawful combatants seized on the battlefield in Afghan istan, were contrary to federal law and a provision of the Geneva Conventions--was, Greenhouse gushed, "a sweeping and categorical defeat for the Bush administration."

Indeed, she proclaimed, the decision was a "historic event, a definitional moment in the ever-shifting balance of power among the branches of government that ranked with the court's order to President Nixon in 1974 to turn over the Watergate tapes or with the court's rejection of President Harry S. Truman's seizing [in 1952] of the nation's steel mills."

Never mind that the Court had not questioned the government's right to detain Salim Ahmed Hamdan, allegedly Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, without charge or trial, as an unlawful combatant, until such time as the conflict between the United States and al Qaeda comes to an end. Never mind that, in a paragraph-long concurring opinion, Justice Breyer emphasized that much, if not all, of the military tribunal procedures designed by the Bush administration would pass legal muster if explicitly authorized by Congress. Never mind that the Court's opinion commanded only a narrow five-justice majority. And never mind that Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito each authored powerful dissents that elaborated serious objections to which the majority's principal legal arguments are exposed. (Chief Justice Roberts did not participate in the case because, as judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, he joined the opinion, which Hamdan reversed, upholding the administration's military tribunals.)

What was truly remarkable about Greenhouse's performance--her lengthy article was not an op-ed column or piece of "news analysis" but a news story of the sort customarily intended to provide a dispassionate and well-rounded account of the facts--was the omission of a single reference to the features of America's national security situation that motivated the Bush administration to turn to the use of military tribunals. In this failure to put national security considerations into the balance, let alone give them their due weight, Greenhouse and her editors at the Times typify the complacency and shortsightedness in thinking about constitutional rights and the war on terror that Judge Richard Posner's trenchant new book seeks to correct.

Rarely ceasing to amaze over the last three decades or so with the range of his intellectual interests and the acuteness of his analytical powers (and occasionally with the irreverence of his observations and unconventionality of his conclusions), Posner has, in the last several years, turned his attention to questions of national security. In 2004 he published Catastrophe, a book on the regulation of grave but remote risk: For example, what policy should government adopt if a physics experiment poses a truly extraordinary harm--say, the destruction of the planet--but the harm has an exceedingly remote likelihood, perhaps a one-in-fifty-million chance, of coming to pass? And in the last year, Posner published Preventing Surprise Attacks, and a sequel, Uncertain Shield, which explore the nature of intelligence-gathering and analysis, the strengths and weaknesses of our pre-9/11 intelligence system, and post-9/11 reform efforts. (Both volumes appear under the imprint of Hoover Studies, a series for which I serve as co-general editor.)

With his new book, Posner carries forward his analysis of national security questions into the sphere of constitutional law. True to the pragmatic approach to judging that he has long championed, Posner grounds his analysis of national security law and the Constitution in an appreciation of concrete circumstances. The danger posed by jihadist terror, according to Posner, is novel, grave, and growing. As he explains with characteristic vigor, this is partly because of the weapons increasingly at our enemies' disposal:

[I]n the early years of the twenty-first century, the nation faces the intertwined menaces of global terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. A city can be destroyed by an atomic bomb the size of a melon, which if coated with lead would be undetectable. Large stretches of a city can be rendered uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, merely by the explosion of a conventional bomb that has been coated with radioactive material. Smallpox virus bioengineered to make it even more toxic and vaccines ineffectual, then aerosolized and sprayed in a major airport, might kill millions of people. Our terrorist enemies have the will to do such things and abundant opportunities, because our borders are porous both to enemies and to containers. They will soon have the means as well. The march of technology has increased the variety and lethality of weapons of mass destruction, especially the biological, and also and critically their accessibility. Aided by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by unstable nations (Pakistan and North Korea, soon to be joined, in all likelihood, by Iran), technological progress is making weapons of mass destruction ever more accessible both to terrorist groups (and even individuals) and to hostile nations that are not major powers. The problem of proliferation is more serious today than it was in what now seem the almost halcyon days of the Cold War; it will be even more serious tomorrow.

More at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilit...67&R=EDF2284B2
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-16-2006, 03:05 PM
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And occupying Iraq was the right move because somewhere there is a nuke waiting for USA soil? Shit why not just throw pennies in a wishing well.

Last edited by Shane; 09-16-2006 at 03:07 PM.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-16-2006, 03:17 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
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And occupying Iraq was the right move because somewhere there is a nuke waiting for USA soil? Shit why not just throw pennies in a wishing well.
You read the review articles and that's the extent of the message you got? Do not apply for a job with Cliff Notes.

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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 09-16-2006, 04:02 PM
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Assuming one buys into the frantic hand-wringing premise of the original piece...it seems that in addition to whole hollowing-out of our domestic economy thing, the "free" trade schemes imposed upon us by the Clintonistas et al, place us in even greater danger due to our unprecedented trade deficit. Because we rely so heavily upon our seaports for the importation of goods we used to produce domestically, and because we don't (and maybe can't) effectively screen and monitor what's entering the country, our economy will no doubt collapse when the ports are inevitably shut down again. I think it's quite conceivable that this scenario doesn't even require the detonation of a nuclear device, or have to happen in this country at all. All it takes is a plausible threat, or a significant strike somewhere else.

My magic eight ball indicates that sea ports will be the subject of the next airport/anthrax hysteria.

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