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Osama and the dirty bomb * House takes up Price-Anderson * Narco News

25 November 2001

The first item is about the tremendous dangers created by the arms race and terrorism. Stopping the US from developing space-based weapons could cap the arms race and lead toward disarmament of all weapons and technologies capable of the mass destruction to life. Carol Rosin and colleagues at the Institute for Cooperation in Space have set up an online fax system for lobbying US and world leaders. The Kucinich "Preservation of Space Act of 2001" proposes a win/win solution, which would keep the money flowing in the direction in which it is going now, (like water following the route of least resistance), but the Act would require the banning of space-based weapons, and help initiate new directions with more environmentally benign technology development.

Item 2 needs your almost immediate response to stop the reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act, which is the nuclear industry's unique scheme to avoid liability for its actions.

Item 3 is from, from the Consortium for Independent Journalism, Inc., a non-profit organization. This site is worthy to explore and to consider supporting. And item 4 is from another alternative news perspective, from Narco News.

1) Osama and the dirty bomb
2) URGENT! House takes up Price-Anderson Tuesday!
3) Consortium News: Mexico's War on Terror
4) Narco News: "Bolivia Suspends Coca Eradication"


1) Osama and the dirty bomb

Bin Laden is looking for a nuclear weapon. How close has he come?

Suitcase bombs and old Soviet material pose danger to US

Julian Borger in Washington and Ewen MacAskill
Wednesday November 7, 2001
The Guardian

The seller was an ambulance driver, who had turned up to the meeting in Istanbul with a friend and over a kilogram of uranium wrapped in newspaper. The merchandise was from one of the old Soviet republics, the man said, and he wanted $750,000 for it. Instead, he ended up in jail. The buyers were undercover policemen.

The uranium seizure, confirmed yesterday by the Turkish interior ministry, was a police sting operation, but it is hardly reassuring. It raises the question of how many similar deals are being made by more competent salesmen of what is potentially the world's most deadly commodity.

The chilling uncertainty loomed over President Bush's blunt statements yesterday. His remarks have added the White House's authority to a conclusion reached years ago by most proliferation experts. The threat of a terrorist nuclear weapon is real. The only significant uncertainty is the timing of the first attempt at a nuclear attack, and what kind of bomb would be used.

As the president pointed out, in raising the spectre of an al-Qaida nuclear attack he was simply quoting Osama bin Laden himself, who has told journalists that it would be a "sin" not to develop an Islamic bomb. "He announced that this was his intention and I believe we need to take him seriously," Mr Bush said at a joint appearance with President Jacques Chirac of France at the White House.

There is also no doubt that Bin Laden is in the nuclear market. In February this year, one of the Saudi fugitive's aides, Jamal al-Fadl, told a US court of his role in an attempt to buy $1.5m (£1.03m) worth of uranium in Sudan. Mr al-Fadl, who was giving evidence in the embassy bombings trial, testified that in 1993 he was sent to meet a man near Khartoum who was selling uranium apparently from South Africa. He did not know if the deal went through, but he said that al-Qaida was "very serious" about making the purchase.

Awash with uranium
Once Bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan, getting hold of uranium and other nuclear material did not present a serious problem. The black market in Afghanistan is awash with it. Robert Puffer, an American antiquities dealer in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, said he was frequently offered enriched uranium.

"It was in lead containers with cyrillic writing on it," Mr Puffer told the Guardian. "They would carry yellow cake [Uranium] in matchboxes in their breast pockets. They would have rashes and they would ask me why. And I said: "You're stupid - that stuff is dangerous."

Mr Puffer said he was once taken to a warehouse in Peshawar where canisters of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union, wrapped in sacking, were stored under the floor. The radioactivity sent a geiger counter buzzing from outside the building.

Having access to such radioactive material, however, is a long way from making a real nuclear bomb. That would require plutonium and highly enriched uranium and a lot of technical knowhow. However, the mishmash of nuclear fuel and radioactive junk being touted in Istanbul over the weekend and which Mr Puffer saw in Peshawar would suffice to make a "dirty bomb".

Such a weapon would consist of a rough assembly of radioactive material clumped around conventional explosives. When detonated, the blast would send up a plume of radioactive particles into the atmosphere killing and contaminating hundreds of thousands of people for miles around.

The International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) was initially sceptical about the "dirty bomb" threat but has changed its mind since September 11.

"We think this is entirely a live possibility," said David Kyd, a spokesman for the IAEA, which is based in Vienna.

Mr Kyd said it could be delivered in the same way that the IRA took explosives into the City of London: inside a medium-sized van or lorry. Immediate fatalities would be confined to those caught up in an explosion but over the longer term there could be deaths from contamination. The main problem would be the sense of panic it would create.

Before September 11, the IAEA had assumed that terrorists were unlikely to take their own lives in detonating the bomb: "Our attitude has changed because 20 terrorists were prepared to sacrifice their own lives and because of the level of sophistication on September 11."

A real nuclear bomb is far more difficult to make. It is conceivable that a terrorist organisation might be able to put together a crude atom bomb, of the sort that was dropped on Hiroshima. It would require eight kilos of plutonium or 25 kilos of highly enriched uranium. There is clearly a lot of bogus material on sale in Afghanistan, but it is also possible that some of
it really is enriched uranium, or even plutonium.

The Pakistan nuclear programme produces about 100 kilos of enriched uranium a year, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nuclear watchdog publication. Furthermore, the pioneer of the Pakistani programme, Bahiruddin Mahmood, is a fervent Islamist with close ties with the Taliban. He has been detained by the Islamabad government and is reported to have suffered a heart attack in detention. It remains unclear if he shared any of his knowledge or smuggled any nuclear materials in his frequent trips to Afghanistan in recent years to meet Taliban leaders.

Russian stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium are also a cause for concern. Security is reported to be lax and a US programme to provide alternative employment for unemployed Russian nuclear scientists and employees at defunct nuclear plants had ironically been scaled back by the Bush administration a few months before the terrorists struck. It is expected that the aid programme will be on the agenda at next week's summit between Mr Bush and President Putin.

No evidence
There is no evidence as yet that Bin Laden is close to building his own atomic device and his chances of constructing one have lessened considerably since the bombs began to fall on his bases.

Another way to acquire a nuclear weapon is to steal or buy one. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports of ex-Soviet warheads going missing and ending up in the volatile central Asian republics. There have also been rumours of KGB suitcase bombs (whose existence has never been definitively confirmed) being put on the market by Chechen warlords.

However, most experts look sceptically on these stories. Israeli intelligence, which monitors such proliferation closely, has rejected speculation that nuclear weapons have gone missing from the Soviet Union. Brigadier General Yossi Cooperwasser, chief of research for Israel's military intelligence, said:"We've checked out the reports and don't have any evidence to support concerns over lost, stolen or misappropriated nuclear devices."

However, the threat of a "dirty bomb" is serious enough. There is no doubt that this eminently feasible weapon is the most serious terrorist threat facing the US and the rest of the world.


2) URGENT! House takes up Price-Anderson Tuesday!

Dear Friends:

This Tuesday evening, November 27, the U.S. House is scheduled to vote on reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act (HR 2983), the nuclear industry's unique scheme to avoid liability for its actions (HR 2983). The vote is slated to take place under suspension of the rules, a procedure normally used for noncontroversial legislation. No amendments are allowed, and there is only a limited debate. However, the bill must pass by a 2/3 margin--which means we only need 1/3 of the House to vote against it to defeat it! Your calls and faxes can make the difference!

Please contact your House members Monday and Tuesday. Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121 or 225-3121. Urge them to OPPOSE Price-Anderson reauthorization--if for no other reason than that such controversial legislation should receive full and broad debate.

REASONS TO OPPOSE PRICE ANDERSON (PA) 1) PA provides a 3.4 billion dollar annual insurance subsidy to the nuclear power industry, a develop, mature industry which should be able to hold its own in a supposed free-market economy. 2) Current reactors are covered by PA whether or not it is reauthorized. The only incentive for voting to extend PA coverage is for a NEW generation of INHERENTLY UNSAFE reactors such as the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) which are designed and can only function without a containment building. Because of public opposition to nuclear power, "new" reactors will most likely be built on existing reactor sites. Even Vice-President Cheney admits that without Price-Anderson there would likely be no new nuclear reactors in the US because of liability concerns. 4) Terrorist attacks on nuclear power facilities are a glaring concern in light of September 11, 2001 and a reactor without containment is an unnecessarily tempting target-no matter how well-guarded. 5) Price-Anderson would cap nuclear liability at 9.5 Billion while the US Government estimates a reactor accident can cost from 24 Billion to 590 Billion dollars.


*Please call/e-mail/fax your Representatives and demand THAT THEY VOTE NO ON 2983; the reauthorization of Price-Anderson.

Capitol Switchboard, 202-224-3121 or 225-3121.
House and Senate fax and e-mail information can be found at

It is the height of arrogance--and folly--for the nuclear industry and its backers to push a major nuclear bill at this time without even debate, when National Guard troops are being sent to new reactor sites daily and when every atomic reactor is a potential and horrifying target.

Please fax/email or call your representative's DC office Please also fax/email your local offices as well.

Do not bother mailing letters at this point, since the mail delivery situation to Congress is still unclear.

*Contact your local media and let them know this is going on. A sample letter to the editor (and sample letter to congress members for fax/e-mail) is posted on Nuclear Information and Resource Service website

House and Senate fax and e-mail information plus a comment
section can be found at


3) Consortium News: Mexico's War on Terror

The murder of a human rights lawyer in Mexico has put the government of Vicente Fox on the spot. Following the slaying, Fox freed two of the lawyer's former clients, environmental activists who were jailed amid allegations that they were tortured into confessions.

But President Fox now finds himself in a real-life drama that reads like a scene from the movie, Traffic. It's a crisis that also raises questions about the consistency of the ongoing U.S. war against terrorism.

For the story, go to

Mexico's War on Terror

By Sam Parry
November 25, 2001

On Oct. 19, the body of human rights attorney Digna Ochoa was found in her Mexico City office. She had been shot to death at point blank range in the back of her head. Next to her body was an obscenity-filled letter threatening other human rights activists.
For complete story see:


4) Narco News: "Bolivia Suspends Coca Eradication"
November 25, 2001
A Narco News Global Alert

Dear Colleagues,

The headlines shout from our América...
-- Bolivia Suspends Coca Eradication

-- Historic Talks Begin but US Embassy is Enraged
...and yet the US media, which claims to have "rediscovered foreign news" after September 11th, has failed to report any of the hard news of the immediate history underway in the hemisphere:

-- National Coca Summit Begins Today, Mediated by the Catholic Church

-- Popular protests and blockades forced the government to suspend eradication and withdraw 4,000 troops from the Chapare region

-- US Embassy opposes the suspension; Bush calls Bolivian president to Washington woodshed; presidents will meet on December 6th

-- Unrest in the Military: Colonel accuses US Embassy of forming paramilitary mercenaries with "the most racist commanders" to bypass Bolivian Army because it is "90 percent indigenous"

-- Congressman Evo Morales: Bolivian Law 1008 specifically allows a "cato of coca" (a 40 by 40 meter garden) per family in the Chapare Government hardliners insist on resuming eradication on Wednesday, regardless of the results of the talks

-- Indigenous leader El Mallku threatens "Christmas Blockades," to surround the capital of La Paz

-- Toll of 53 deaths, 500 wounded, due to US-imposed anti-coca policy

Read a summary of these stories plus "today's press briefing" of translations from the Bolivian media:

from somewhere in a country called América,

Al Giordano
The Narco News Bulletin

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