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Newest scare meme: Nukes and the al Qaeda
September 28, 2001 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Newest scare meme: Nukes and the al Qaeda Wired news chimes in bin Ladin's attempts to aquire fissionable materials. If true, why is al Qaeda's history full of low tech attacks?
posted by skallas (7 comments total)

 
Also, what even happened to the sleeper theory of nuclear weapons? Agent infiltrates country, buys property in a strategic location and buries a radio controlled nuke to set off when time is right.
posted by skallas at 6:59 AM on September 28, 2001


here's more conjecture supporting conjecture from slate :)

The previous "Idea of the Day" suggested that al-Qaida may be planning to capture Pakistan's nuclear arsenal—and perhaps use these weapons not to destroy American cities but to seize Saudi Arabia and its oil fields. If Osama Bin Laden has a greater enemy than the United States, it is the Saudi royal family. And one sure way to cripple the West, without requiring an army, would be to cut off its oil supply...
posted by kliuless at 7:41 AM on September 28, 2001


There are only certain types of terrorists that would use weapons of mass destruction and Islamic Jihad, etc., do not fit the profile. It should also be noted that most people have the false conception that nuclear arsenals are like regular bombs, where you just push the big red button and they detonate. Even in countries like Pakistan, nuclear systems require a series of protocals or "permissive action links" to be activated and the actual warheads are functionally useless without access and knowledge of the command and control systems.
posted by lizs at 7:58 AM on September 28, 2001


Lizs, doesn't that assume that the terrorists will act rationally, and in their own self interest? It may just be US propoganda, but it seems as if the terrorists do not have a specific political goal to work toward. One of their goals seems to be to kill Americans, and another is to start a war between Islam and the west. Couldn't those two goals be most easily achieved by weapons of mass destruction? I mean, the reason the article says they wont use these weapons is that the world will retaliate harshly. Some people think that is exactly what they want.
I don't think they will use these weapons because I don't think they have them. I hope our intelligence agencies keep it that way.
posted by Doug at 8:35 AM on September 28, 2001


I studied these groups pretty extensively a couple of years ago for a senior paper i wrote on normative considerations in terrorist behavior and most of the groups associated with bin Laden (and most terrorists in general) act rationally within their respective normative frameworks. Most of the groups associated with bin Laden do have very real political goals.

There are, however, smaller factions (usually individuals or small cells) that really do have apocalyptic leanings, and these are the most dangerous, but the numbers are nowhere close to the 25K+ followers we're "targeting." The more extreme factions are usually not the ones with the capabilities to use WMD weapons. I'm not denying the possibility that this could happen, only the notion that it's an inevitability. WMD has been way overhyped in the last couple of weeks and people are buying gas masks, which is *absurd*.
posted by lizs at 10:05 AM on September 28, 2001


I studied these groups pretty extensively a couple of years ago for a paper i wrote on normative considerations in terrorist behavior and most of the groups associated with bin Laden (and most terrorists in general) act rationally within their respective normative frameworks. Most of the groups associated with bin Laden do have very real political goals.

There are, however, smaller factions (usually individuals or small cells) that really do have apocalyptic leanings, and these are the most dangerous, but the numbers are nowhere close to the 25K+ followers we're "targeting." The more extreme factions are usually not the ones with the capabilities to use WMD weapons. I'm not denying the possibility that this could happen, only the notion that it's an inevitability. WMD has been way overhyped in the last couple of weeks and people are buying gas masks, which is *absurd*.
posted by lizs at 10:06 AM on September 28, 2001


I followed with great interest a recent thread on the USENET newsgroup sci.space.policy that dealt with the issue of remotely detecting nuclear weapons. (Look for the thread "Detecting nuclear weapons at a distance?" on Google.com's Deja archive.) The upshot is that the nuclear-decay byproducts are detectable if not properly shielded, so if you've got a homemade nuke (or a poorly manufactured military one) with insufficient shielding, it can be detected -- especially when you're already alert to the potential threat and are specifically watching for it.

Compared to smallpox, anthrax or just a tanker truck full of propane blowing up in, say, Holland Tunnel, I'm not all that worried about a terrorist attack of the nuclear variety.
posted by alumshubby at 12:09 PM on September 28, 2001


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