From India’s NDTV:
Al-Qaida nuclear attack in planning stages
Al-Qaida’s nuclear attack against the US is in planning stages, top American intelligence officials have said.
Deposing before a Congressional Committee on Homeland Security early this week, these US intelligence officials told US lawmakers that the threat of nuclear attack by the Taliban was growing and there is need to enhance its security measures.
Charles Allen, Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Chief Intelligence Officer at the Department of Homeland Security; and Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the director of Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence for the Department of Energy testified before this key Congressional committee on nuclear terrorism on April 2.
”There’s been a long-term effort by Al-Qaida, to develop an improvised nuclear device,” Allen said. ”I have no doubt that Al-Qaida would like to obtain nuclear capability. I think the evidence in their statements that they’ve made over many years publicly indicate this,” he argued in his testimony.
The article goes on to describe how intelligence thinks the planning for this is being conducted (compartmentalized, with one overall director, like 9/11). The witnesses also speculated that this has been in the planning stages for a long time: al Qaeda likes to have several “planning tracks” in operation at once, years before a particular operation may take place. It’s quite possible they’ve already acquired the personnel with requisite knowledge, and their skills are increasing:
‘As an initial indicator of this trend, a recent analysis of online jihadist documents that deal explicitly with nuclear weapons has revealed that while their knowledge is still below par, there have been significant advances in the understanding of nuclear issues within the general jihadi community in only a few short years,” Ackerman said.
The government witnesses went on to describe the societal chaos that could follow a successful attack: beyond the carnage itself, the group launching the strike (or a third party trying to exploit the situation) would immediately issue blackmail threats — “We’ve planted five more bombs in cities around the world. Give us what we want or else.” The ensuing panic and uncontrolled evacuations of major cities would be a major coup for al Qaeda or like-minded groups, even if governments refused their demands.
Unfortunately, Jack Bauer is only a TV character.
Of course, jihadist groups don’t need fissile material to create mass panic: the consequences of setting off a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a major metropolitan area would be devastating in its own right.
Testimony like this shows the Bush administration has the right idea when it pursues a “forward strategy” against groups like al Qaeda and its state sponsors: the potential consequences making staying on the defensive –the other guy only has to get lucky once– far too risky.
Read the whole thing, and sleep well.
(hat tip: Jihad Watch)