December 8, 2006

WE STILL DON'T GET WHY FOLKS ARE MOURNING HIM:

Trail of Polonium210, Jihad, suitcase nukes: Spy Death by Nuclear Poisoning Tied to American Hiroshima (Paul L. Williams Ph.D. & Lee Boyland, December 6, 2006, Canadian Free Press)

The death of Alexander Litvinenko by radiological poisoning points to the possibility that the former Soviet spy may have been involved with Islamic terrorists in the preparation of tactical nuclear weapons for use in the jihad against the United States and its NATO allies. [...]

[P]olonium-210 is a very rare radiological substance that is man-made by bombarding Bismuth-209 with neutrons within a nuclear reactor. It is expensive to produce and difficult to handle.

When Russian officials resorted to nuclear poisoning in the past-- including the assassination of two Swiss intelligence officials who were engaged with Russia and South Africa in the nuclear black market--they relied on such readily available radiological substances as cesium-137 in salt form.

According to nuclear expert David Morgan, killing a spy or political dissident with a grain or two of polonium-210 is as ludicrous as shooting a rat with a howitzer.

Litvinenko, who was born an orthodox Christian, was a convert to Islam with close ties to the Chechen rebels. His last words consisted of his desire to be buried “according to Muslim tradition.”

In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to suitcase nukes that were developed by U.S. and Soviet forces during the Cold War. Reliable sources, including Hans Blix of the United Nation, have confirmed that bin Laden purchased several of these devices from the Chechen rebels in 1996. According to Sharif al-Masri and other al Qaeda operatives who have been taken into custody, several of these weapons have been forward deployed to the United States in preparation for al Qaeda’s next attack on American soil.

This brings us to the mysterious case of Litvinenko.

MORE:
Italian emerges as an odd footnote in Litvinenko case (Ian Fisher, December 8, 2006, International Herald Tribune)

He first claimed to have been hit with five times the lethal dose of polonium 210, a radioactive substance, that killed the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. "I'm not in the best mood," Mario Scaramella said in a dramatic interview with Italian television from his hospital bed in London last month.

Then, two days ago, he walked out of the hospital, with minute traces of radioactive poisoning, but otherwise perfectly fine.

It seemed a classic performance for Scaramella, 36, who has emerged as the oddest human footnote in the mystery of Litvinenko's death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 8, 2006 10:49 AM
Comments

Read up on this guy Adnan el-Shukrijumah who was mentioned in the story. He has been in and out of the headlines for years. His story reads like some sort of James Bond villan, being spotted and chased all over the world with the FBI and CIA always 2 steps behind.

Posted by: BJW at December 8, 2006 11:27 AM

Where is Adnan Khashoggi?

And is "The Rings of Allah" supposed to be a take-off on the rings of Sauron?

Posted by: ratbert at December 8, 2006 11:39 AM

Countries produce nuclear weapons as a strategic deterence. Moving them into the world of spy vs. spy with things like suitcase bombs would nullify their deterence value. How would that make sense to the guys sitting around 'the big board'? Besides the smallest know geometries for nuclear devices would make ridiculusly huge suitcases.

Posted by: lebeaux at December 8, 2006 12:14 PM

This is a joke column, right? If Osama and the boys had already "forward deployed" several nuclear weapons into the U.S., we'd know about it. Because several American cities would be gone.

What are they waiting for? An okay from the loonies at some web site called the Canadian Free Press? The day al Qaeda smuggles a nuke into the U.S. will be the day it explodes. They ain't gonna sit around getting polonium on their hands.

Posted by: Casey Abell at December 8, 2006 12:28 PM

This is a joke column, right? If Osama and the boys had already "forward deployed" several nuclear weapons into the U.S., we'd know about it. Because several American cities would be gone.

What are they waiting for? An okay from the loonies at some web site called the Canadian Free Press? The day al Qaeda smuggles a nuke into the U.S. will be the day it explodes. They ain't gonna sit around getting polonium on their hands.

Posted by: Casey Abell at December 8, 2006 12:29 PM

I still think Litvinenko was just an industrial work accident over in the shipping dept.

Polonium-210 has a half life of around 150 days, which, like a lot of the best radionuclides, makes it a lose-it-or-lose-it propostiion for anyone planning to do anything with it. If something really is up, we'll all know about it by the time the Superbowl has been played (or State of the Union given.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 8, 2006 1:03 PM

Occam's razor is overused to the point of silliness, but I think it can be safely applied here: Putin did it. No need for vast, secret webs of intrigue. Putin did it.

Posted by: b at December 8, 2006 1:23 PM

Disinformation: from Putin to the Canadian Free Press via the Russian spy who was just kicked out of the Great White North.

Posted by: ic at December 8, 2006 2:16 PM

b:

How did the Russians suddenly become competent enough to assassinate Chechen terrorists abroad?

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 3:23 PM

He was living openly in London, not hiding in Chechnya. What's so hard about slipping him something nasty? If Zawahiri were living in Paris, we'd take him down no problem.

Posted by: b at December 8, 2006 4:46 PM

What anti-American activists have we assassinated?

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 4:55 PM

Get your story straight--was he an "activist" or a "terrorist"? Plus, you're bizarrely conflating "able to" with "willing to"...

Posted by: b at December 8, 2006 5:37 PM

We know he was a pro-Chechen activist--it's unclear whether he was actually supplying them with nuclear material. If you wait around for the activists to prove themselves terrorists you really have no one to blame but yourself.

However it was you who said that we'd whack these guys if we had a chance.

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 5:41 PM

I said we would whack terrorists if we have the chance, and we have in fact done so. I have no idea if this guy was a terrorist or not.

I still don't understand why you think it's particularly tough for any gov't to whack someone who's living in the open in another country.

Posted by: b at December 8, 2006 6:14 PM

It's hard for governments to do much of anything, let alone stuff out of fiction.

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2006 6:20 PM

b:

Even the Mossad shot the wrong guy in Norway, and then some of them got caught. Now, does stuff like that ever happen in the movies?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 8, 2006 8:26 PM

Here's my half-baked theory. The polonium was for construction of a dirty bomb to be detonated in the UK - perhaps a combined Chechen/AlQaeda operation. Litvinenko was the courier. The container was either defective or became damaged, resulting in his death and the contamination of numerous sites. It was a botched smuggling job.

Putin and his ex-KGB buddies would have arranged things so as to leave few fingerprints. The two important questions are where was the polonium, given its short half-life, produced, and where the phrack is it now?

Posted by: jd watson at December 8, 2006 10:02 PM

jd - Not a dirty bomb -- Polonium, as an alpha particle emitter, is almost useless as a dirty bomb ingredient - a single layer of toilet paper, much less clothing, will stop an alpha particle.

Its only use is as a detonator for plutonium nuclear bombs.

Posted by: pj at December 9, 2006 10:51 AM

pj - As Litvinenko demonstrated, polonium is extremely toxic if inhaled or ingested. It is reputed to be 10^9 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. The lethal dose by ingestion is about 50 nanograms, for inhalation about 10 nanograms, (see here), making it ideal for a dirty bomb.

It has other uses besides a detonator, which use I am skeptical of. While technically feasible, its short half-life would require almost continuous maintenance of any bombs employing it.

Posted by: jd watson at December 9, 2006 2:36 PM

How did the Russians suddenly become competent enough to assassinate Chechen terrorists abroad?
Maybe they hired some Bulgarians.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 9, 2006 2:48 PM
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