- Could the next terrifying attack on the nation fit into
- The prospect that Osama bin Laden's terrorists may have
gotten their hands on small, easily transportable "suitcase
has some people in Washington now truly concerned.
- There's no evidence such a device has been smuggled into
the country. And even if it had, experts say it would be extremely
for terrorists to detonate. And a congressman who has been studying the
subject for years on the subject say there's no doubt that such nuclear
suitcases do exist.
- "I can tell you unequivocally we built these devices
similar to this and so did the Soviets during the Cold War," said
Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. "The defense minister of Russia told me to
my face, 'Yes, congressman, we built these devices. Just as your country
built them during the Cold War.'"
- In fact, the Department of Defense made a training video
in the l960s, demonstrating how "small atomic demolition
can be stuffed into parachutes and attached to Navy commandos, who then
show how the weapons can be affixed to bridges and ships underwater.
- "These devices were designed to be used to take
out major infrastructure facilities," said Weldon. "We destroyed
ours. Now the question is, do we know whether or not Russia has them all
accounted for and do we know that they destroyed them all?"
- Russia Defends Nuclear
- This week in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin
told 20/20's Barbara Walters none of the nuclear suitcases is
- "I don't really believe this is true," Putin
said. "These are just legends. One can probably assume that somebody
tried to sell some nuclear secrets. But there is no documentary
of those developments."
- But Weldon says he got a much different answer four years
ago when he went to talk to with one of Russia's top generals.
- The general, formerly Russia's leading defense adviser,
said 86 of 132 suitcase bombs were unaccounted for.
- Where were the missing nukes?
- "I have no idea," Weldon recalled the general
- White House Sees Chilling
- That's one of several nuclear scenarios now causing great
concern at the White House, where President Bush this week sounded the
alarm about bin Laden's suspected efforts to go nuclear.
- "They're seeking chemical, biological and nuclear
weapons," Bush told leaders of formerly communist states Tuesday in
Warsaw, Poland. "Given the means, our enemies would be a threat to
every nation and eventually to civilization itself."
- This week, the White House called in the man who tracked
missing nuclear weapons for the last administration, Graham Allison, now
director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at
Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
- Allison says the threat is very real, particularly given
evidence that bin Laden and his associates have tried to obtain nuclear
- As for the nuclear suitcases, Allison's advice is to
assume several dozen nuclear suitcases in Russia are missing.
- "I think the difficult thing for us all to come
to grips with, that, my God, would people really want to kill thousands
or tens of thousands of Americans," Allison said.
- The Nuclear Bazaar
- But Allison and most other experts say the real concern
is not the suitcase but a thriving nuclear black market, in places such
as Istanbul, Turkey.
- "There is a black market in weapons-grade uranium.
There is a black market for weapons-grade plutonium. And there certainly
is a market for radioactive material in general," said Freidrich
of the University of Salzburg in Austria. Steinhausler is one of the
pre-eminent experts on the illegal market in stolen nuclear
- "[Osama bin Laden's terrorist network] Al Qaeda
is trying actively to obtain radioactive and or nuclear weapons grade
said Steinhausler. "In terms of probability of threat, I would put
the nuclear bomb rather low. I would put the radioactive dirty bomb, much,
- A so-called dirty bomb, a conventional weapon laced with
radioactive material, would make a scene like the attack on the World Trade
Center even worse, Steinhausler says.
- "Picture the bucket brigades that we saw in Ground
Zero in a radioactive-contaminated area. They couldn't operate there,"
he said. "Picture the dust-caked office worker who survived the World
Trade Center attack. He would not only be covered in dust from the
he would have inhaled radioactive stuff. His body would be
- "The technology required is really high school
You don't have even to be an engineer to fabricate that. If you can make
your conventional explosive, to lace it with radioactivity is really
- Over-flights by special surveillance aircraft of the
bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan have not picked up the presence
of any radioactive materials. But bin Laden, when asked by ABCNEWS on
Eve of 1998 whether he had acquired nuclear weapons, gave a troubling
- "I would state that to acquire weapons in defense
of Muslims is a religious duty," he said.
- And given that kind of talk, American authorities say
the many nuclear scenarios, including the nuclear suitcase, simply cannot
be ruled out.
- "Up until now we had a built-in safety barrier,
where we said well if the radioactive material, it would kill or threaten
the carrier, that's a method that's not going to be used,"
said. "But ever since Sept. 11 we know that's no longer valid. We
now know the carrier, the agent, the terrorist himself is ready to die.
And if he dies crashing an aircraft into a building or if he's ready to
die carrying highly radioactive material, there's not much
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