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“Conversion of Russia” Update:

America’s Nuclear High Alert — Part II

Part II of “US Fears Russian Nukes in Hands of bin Laden”

by Christopher A. Ferrara

The article by Barton Gellman in The Washington Post of March 3, 2002 contains so much information that a second column is needed to cover it.

In the previous column I noted that President Bush has placed America on high alert for nuclear terrorism, deploying nuclear detectors throughout the country and calling up the Delta Force for rapid action.

Aside from Russia, another likely source of atomic weaponry that may have fallen into the hands of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network is Pakistan. Bush has been advised that, according to Gellman, “Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was more deeply compromised than either government has acknowledged publicly. Pakistan arrested two former nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid, on Oct. 23, and interrogated them about contacts with bin Laden and his lieutenants. Pakistani officials maintain that the scientists did not pass important secrets to al Qaeda, but they have not disclosed that Mahmood failed multiple polygraph examinations about his activities.

So, a nuclear scientist with access to atomic secrets that can be used to build terror-bombs flunked multiple polygraphs on his connection with Al-Qaeda. Just great.

Gellman reports that “Most disturbing to U.S. intelligence was another leak from Pakistan’s program that has not been mentioned in public. According to American sources, a third Pakistani nuclear scientist tried to negotiate the sale of an atomic weapon design to Libya. The Post was unable to learn which Pakistani blueprint was involved, whether the transaction was completed, or what became of the scientist after discovery.”

Even more alarming is this news: During the October briefing of George Bush which I discussed in the previous column, Bush was told of a remark by “a senior member of al Qaeda’s operational command. The operative had been an accurate, though imprecise, harbinger of al Qaeda plans in the past.”

And what was the remark? Don’t let your children read this: “After U.S. bombing began in Afghanistan, an American official said, the same man was reliably reported to have said ‘there will be another attack and it’s going to be much bigger’ than the one that toppled the World Trade Center and destroyed a wing of the Pentagon on Sept. 11.”

And Russia figures into the picture yet again: “The National Intelligence Council, an umbrella organization for the U.S. analytical community, reported to Congress last month that there are at least four occasions between 1992 and 1999 when ‘weapons-grade and weapons-usable nuclear materials have been stolen from some Russian institutes’.”

On this score, Gellman quotes an unnamed American official, who warned that “given the known and suspected capabilities of the Russian mafia, it’s perfectly plausible that al Qaeda would have access to such materials.”

While Russia general Igor Valynkin, says that “any claim Russia has lost an intact warhead is ‘barking mad’,” Gellman reports that “The U.S. government is not accepting that assurance at face value. ‘We don’t know with any confidence what has gone missing, and neither do they,’ said one American official.” And who in his right mind would trust the word of a Russian general?

Well, what will the government do if, God forbid, Islamic terrorists are found to have smuggled a Russian or Pakistani tactical nuclear weapon into the U.S? Gellman notes that even if the nuclear detectors now deployed around the country detect the weapon in the vicinity, “Roadblocks and car-by-car searches, for example, would create chaos, require hours, and give ample warning to those hiding the device. But without roadblocks the searchers might fail to isolate the weapon within a radius defined by the limits of sensor technology.”

Well, then, what about evacuating the whole area? Nope. “Evacuation is one of those issues you throw your hands up and say, ‘It’s too hard,’ said one participant in a tabletop exercise. ‘Nobody wants to make that decision, certainly not in advance’.”

In other words, they really don’t know what they will do. Basically, we would be cooked.

But not to worry, folks. Cardinal Sodano, Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Bertone assure us that Fatima, including the Third Secret, “belongs to the past”, that it contains “nothing apocalyptic” and “no surprises”. Yes, it all had to do with the failed papal assassination attempt 21 years ago.

Of course, that is not what Cardinal Ratzinger said in 1984 — three years after the assassination attempt — when he told Jesus magazine that the Third Secret is a “religious prophecy” and that the Vatican was suppressing the Secret because it wanted to avoid "sensationalism". But now we are assured that, ho-hum, the Third Secret contains nothing sensational and in fact relates entirely to past events.

I would place about as much trust in that assurance as I do in the assurance of the Russian general that no Russian nuclear tactical weapon has fallen into the wrong hands.