Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Countdown to the next big strike in America--Part 5 Mass Destruction by other Means

By William Webb

Mass Destruction By Other Means

While the evidence that Muslim extremists plan to use WMDs against the West is overwhelming, there are other operations planned that could result in similarly massive destruction and hundreds of thousands of casualties. These operations have been planned, attempted or thwarted before and should come as no surprise when one or more is actually carried out. As bin Laden said in an interview on Al Jazeera, “They never understand until they are hit on the head.”
To understand the likely type of operation planned, you need to listen to bin Laden: “America is a great power possessed of tremendous military might and a wide-ranging economy, but all this is built upon an unstable foundation that can be targeted, with special attention to its obvious weak spots. If it is hit in one hundredth of those spots, God willing, it will stumble, wither away and relinquish world leadership.”

Bin Laden is using asymmetrical warfare to conduct strategic acts of terror. The pundits and critics who think the aim was just to terrorize or destroy have completely missed the point. While the attacks themselves were horrible and caused mass destruction, it was the damage to the economy that Al-Qaida sought.

While many believe we will see suicide bombings, shootings, and other low-level forms of terror from “friends of Al-Qaida,” the big multinational terrorist groups will focus on events designed to strike at our economy and government.

Their goal is the destruction of your way of life.
Bin Laden chose the 9/11 targets personally. He understood the criticality of the airline industry and the ripple effect it would have on other parts of the economy. He understood the economic impact of taking down the twin towers.

With the pressure the war on terror has put on Al-Qaida and other terror groups, you can expect the next attack on the United States to be both large-scale and deadly. It will be designed to have serious economic consequences as well as kill many more people than on 9/11. Of the non-WMD scenarios, the two most likely are an attack against a nuclear generating facility or a chemical complex.

As stated earlier, crashing an airliner into a nuclear power plant was one the initial plans for 9/11. As KSM told Yosri Fouda, “We first thought of striking a couple of nuclear facilities but decided against it for fear it would go out of control—It was eventually decided to leave out nuclear targets—for now

There is growing evidence that later may be upon us.
President Bush said in a speech in his January 2002 State of the Union that “diagrams of American nuclear power plants” have been found among the items left by terrorists in Afghanistan.

On January 31, 2002 Bill Gertz broke a story in the Washington Times and reported: “U.S. intelligence agencies have issued an internal alert that Islamic terrorists are planning another spectacular attack to rival those carried out on September 11.

“The detailed warning was issued within the past two weeks in a classified report that said one target was a U.S. nuclear power plant or one of the Energy Department’s nuclear facilities.”

Unfortunately it appears that the actual security from either a ground or air assault against United States nuclear power plants is lacking. Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and John Dingell (D-MI) issued a GAO report in September 2003 that found serious weaknesses in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) oversight of security at civilian nuclear reactors.

“It is stunning that the NRC still isn’t assuring the safety of the millions of Americans who live near the 104 licensed nuclear reactors two years after the attacks of September 11,” Markey said. “The “GAO has documented a disturbing pattern of lax NRC oversight and attention to security at these sensitive facilities that are at the very top of Al-Qaida’s list for future attacks.”

Among the findings of this report, two years after 9/11, and after a growing body of evidence suggests the high priority and likelihood of an attack against a civilian reactor, were that NRC routinely minimized the significance of security problems by classifying them as “non-cited violations.”

And what is a non-cited violation? The report told of guards sleeping on duty, failing to escort visitors in sensitive areas, failing to properly search people who had set off detection equipment, and falsifying official logs of security checks.

Even more disturbing were the findings concerning the force-on-force exercises of how well a nuclear plant might defend against a real-life threat. Apparently 52 of 55 sites that ran the exercises used up to 80 percent more guards than are typically present at the sites. The sites used mock terrorist who are not trained in terrorist techniques, such as other security guards and staff members. They also used unrealistic weapons such as rubber guns during the simulations.

These shortcomings could come as no surprise. There have been countless warnings in the media, before congressional committees, and in hundreds of articles since 9/11.

David Orrik, director of the NRC’s Operational Safeguards Response Evaluation program, told the Los Angeles Times “from 1991 to 2000, anti-terrorist exercises showed ‘a potential vulnerability’ at nearly 50 percent of the 68 plants tested. In simulated sabotage exercises, government employees or contractors attempt to breach plant security and get close to the reactor core. Severe damage to a core could allow the release of enough radiation to endanger the public.”

After much argument within the media, the NRC also had to admit that most of the reactors in the United States were not built to withstand the crash of a Boeing 757 or 767 into the reactor dome or supporting infrastructure.
And what could you expect if terrorists succeed in attacking a nuclear reactor?

According to Daniel Hirsch writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, “A typical nuclear power plant contains within its core about 1,000 times the long-lived radioactivity released by the Hiroshima bomb. The spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants typically contain some multiple of that—several Chernobyls’ worth.”

This amount of radioactivity essentially makes every nuclear reactor a colossal dirty bomb that has the potential to contaminate an enormous area with a radioactive cloud. Hirsch quoted an earlier study in which the “NRC estimated years ago that a meltdown at one of the San Onofre reactors in Southern California could produce 130,000 ‘prompt’ fatalities, 300,000 latent cancers, and 600,000 genetic defects. Analyses for other reactors performed by Sandia National Laboratories for the NRC estimated damages up to $314 billion in 1980 dollars (the equivalent of about $700 billion today).”

How much danger do you face? An Al Akhbar editorial states: “America thinks it is distant from this danger, but it would seem that it has forgotten—or pretends it has forgotten—September 11, 2001, which exposed its weakness! It is not out of reach of anyone!” This certainly appears true when comes to the vulnerability of our nuclear facilities.

Unfortunately, it may be true should terrorists strike a chemical plant within the United States. Following 9/11, there were hundreds of stories about the vulnerabilities of various chemical plants within the United States. Many of them gave specific vulnerabilities and could be used by terrorists in planning and conducting attacks against the facilities mentioned. I tend to agree with Senator Tom Daschle who said, “I worry about our chemical facilities and what could happen were an attack to be launched against one of our toxic chemical storage facilities. There are so many points of vulnerability—that would be number one.”

The Charlotte Observer asks “Who’s really prepared for a chemical terrorist attack on U.S. soil? Just about nobody, apparently.”

Numerous studies have estimated that up to 2 million people could be killed, depending on the location of the plant.

As former Senator Gary Hart said, “the 15,000 facilities around the country that produce, use, or store significant quantities of toxic chemicals present attractive targets for terrorists. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 100 of these plants, especially those near urban areas could endanger a million or more Americans if attacked. In 2001, the Armys surgeon general reportedly ranked this health risk second only to a widespread biological attack. Earlier this year, the National Infrastructure Protection Center warned that Al-Qaida might target chemical facilities in the United States as part of its terror campaign. And Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said that the administration is concerned that terrorists could turn a chemical facility “into a weapon.”

Despite that recognition, President Bush supports legislation that urges only voluntary security measures on the part of chemical companies, without any government oversight whatsoever

The idea of turning something like a nuclear power plant or chemical facility into a weapon is already being considered by terrorists. How safe do you want to be?
How much danger do you really face?

From the immediate terrorist threat, hopefully and regrettably, you have come to realize that you and your loved ones will remain a target for years to come. While it is true that if you live in the mountains of North Carolina or a farm in Ohio, or anywhere in small-town or rural America, the chances of being killed or injured are remote, the coming attacks will affect your way of life. The attacks will be aimed to cause maximum economic and political damage.

Al-Qaida and other religiously inspired terrorist groups have declared war on you and everything you represent.

An Al Jazeera guest said, “the relations between America and us differ from the relations between us and all the other peoples or nations. These are relations between two [very] different nations: One is a nation that was chosen by Allah, who tested it and purified it with disasters so that it will atone for its sins. Allah is using that nation in order to wave the banner of truth and justice on the face of the earth. This is our nation. There is also a tyrannous and evil nation that Allah is manipulating, unbeknownst to it, until it reaches the end to which it is sentenced—the same end that was the lot of all the nations of heresy, tyranny, and aggression.”

It is this belief of Muslim terrorists that they are somehow acting out the will of the Divine, that guarantees the war will continue and that more horror is to come for the West.

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