Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Identifying Nuclear Terrorism

There's an interesting article in yesterday's USA Today about nuclear forensics. The author asks,
If a terrorist nuclear bomb destroyed the heart of a great city, how would we know who did it, with what? Mideast fanatics with a device improvised from stolen uranium? A weapon smuggled in by a rogue regime? A hijacked U.S. bomb?
Who would we retaliate against? The answer is that we probably won't be sure.
international databases cataloging characteristics of nuclear materials worldwide, essential for tracing clues in such an event, are currently "not nearly extensive or usable enough."

One scientist says that there is maybe a " 65 to 70 percent likelihood" of identifying the source of a nuclear blast. If a country openly launches a nuclear strike against the U.S. or its allies we can retaliate. But what happens if, for example, New York City is suddenly devastated by a nuclear device smuggled in by sea? The U.S. investigates and determines that there is a 2/3 chance that it came from Iran, and a 1/3 chance that it was produced elsewhere. If Iran strenuously denies any involvement, what do we do? Are we going to obliterate Iran when there is a 1/3 chance that we might be wrong?

This article illustrates, yet again, one of the many reasons why playing defense against terrorism is a bad idea. Terror plots have to be stopped before they can launch a successful strike. This requires strong, active, flexible intelligence efforts to disrupt terror networks and break-up plots before they reach the execution stage. Left-wing and other efforts to cripple the CIA, weaken our intelligence capabilities in general, and provide unwarranted rights to hostile aliens, strike at the heart of our ability to prevent a terror attack, including the worst-case nuclear scenario.

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