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White House may have published how-to nuke guide
November 3, 2006 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Last March, the White House put numerous Iraqi government documents online, hoping to "leverage the internet" to find evidence of Saddam's nuclear potential. After questioning from the New York Times this week, the site has now been shut down, as it has been revealed that the Bush administration, by publishing the information, may have publicly published detailed information on how to build atomic weapons. Right-wing bloggers, many of whom have been discussing the documents all year, have seen the sunny side of the news, claiming the real issue of the potential distribution of nuclear plans (which were dated pre-1991) is the "proof Saddam had a nuclear program."
posted by XQUZYPHYR (55 comments total)

 
Isn't it kind of easy to build a nuclear bomb? In fact, isn't the challenge to get it not to explode until it's far far away from you? The only stumbling block being obtaining the enriched nuclear material?
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:53 AM on November 3, 2006


CynicalKnight, the IAEA's technical folks said they were "shocked" by the stuff that was posted online in recent weeks, and other folks quoted suggest the recent additions went beyond what was available elsewhere.

On a lighter note, it's a fun exercise to imagine the right-wing blogger response to news that President Clinton's staff had revealed the very same info. I'm sure it would have been just as measured and forgiving.
posted by mediareport at 7:01 AM on November 3, 2006


Given caching, hasn't the damage already been done?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:08 AM on November 3, 2006


CynicalKnight:

Depends. Given enough quality fissionable material, making a working nuclear bomb is theoretically trivial. But it's very difficult to make a working nuclear bomb using the material that can be practically refined. With small amounts or lower grade uranium/plutonium, in order to produce a nuclear blast you need to compact it evenly and all at once with a carefully controlled conventional explosive blast-- this requires some very sophisticated know-how, which is what I gather was partially covered in the published documents.
posted by justkevin at 7:13 AM on November 3, 2006


It's relatively easy to build nuclear anything. A kid built a nuclear reactor in his back yard in the 90s.

Radioactive Boy Scout

posted by empath at 7:14 AM on November 3, 2006


The challenge, of course, is building it without killing yourself, or anyone knowing that you're doing it.
posted by empath at 7:15 AM on November 3, 2006


This Administration feels it is more important to prove that they were right than it is to actually protect the public from a nuclear attack.
posted by caddis at 7:16 AM on November 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


So I guess they successfully leveraged the internet?
Blessed are the spinmeisters...
posted by speug at 7:20 AM on November 3, 2006


How ever on earth can we ever invade Iran if we don't set them up the bomb?
Just like Iraq v2.
Mission Accomplished.
posted by nofundy at 7:23 AM on November 3, 2006


Didn't we already know he had a nuclear program in the 1980's? Isn't that what Israel bombed?

You should all go over to freerepublic.com and read how they interpret this story. Most of them don't even realize that the story refers to the 1991 timeframe. They think it means saddam was a year away from a nuclear weapon in 2002.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:23 AM on November 3, 2006


You know things have gone far around the bend when John Negroponte is the voice of common sense restraint in the administration. These folks just don't seem to be living in the same universe as the rest of us. What kind of morons post thousands of documents on the web without actually checking out what they are?
posted by octothorpe at 7:23 AM on November 3, 2006


I like to think of sharing nuclear information, particularly if published with Rounded Corners, AJAX and a well documented API, as a way to provide a platform for nuclear war that will allow users to control the nature of their own demise.

Nuclr 2.0 (gamma). It's the Bush Administration's new lightweight Secrecy model enabled by microformats, RSS syndication and deeplinking.

People don't wanted a pre-packaged Armageddon. They want a remixable perpetually in gamma nuclear service with an architecture of participation that scales cost-effectively and harnesses collective intelligence with folksonomies while allowing emergent behaviour and a rich user experience. Just think of yourself as small pieces loosely joined which the shock wave will remix into creative new forms.

Not to worry though. It will get bought by Yahoo and never be heard from again.
posted by srboisvert at 7:33 AM on November 3, 2006 [2 favorites]


You should all go over to freerepublic.com . . .

I value my sanity.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 7:54 AM on November 3, 2006


Who knew rounded corners and AJAX would bring about the apocalypse? I blame O'Reilly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:59 AM on November 3, 2006


Didn't we already know he had a nuclear program in the 1980's? Isn't that what Israel bombed?

Yes. In '81, Israel bombed a 70-megawatt French-built uranium-powered nuclear reactor in Baghdad. It had not yet been stocked with nuclear fuel.
posted by zarq at 8:15 AM on November 3, 2006


octothorpe writes "What kind of morons post thousands of documents on the web without actually checking out what they are?"

Browse around the dusty corners of the web, this happens all the time. (Well not the nuclear bomb instructions but private information posted and unprotected on the internet.)
posted by Mitheral at 8:20 AM on November 3, 2006


Didn't we already know he had a nuclear program in the 1980's?

Yes, which is why these wankers are idiots for claiming it as proof of WMDs in Iraq. Yeah, dumbasses, we knew he had a program, with an emphasis on had. You see, the Israelis bombed it in the 80s, and then there were these weapons inspectors there in the 90s that took care of all the rest ... .
posted by moonbiter at 8:29 AM on November 3, 2006


Plutonium bombs are actually rather difficult to build, from what I understand, although plutonium is easier to enrich.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 AM on November 3, 2006


You see, Bush was just applying Web 2.0 to the WMD problem by crowd-sourcing the search. He's cutting edge.
posted by drezdn at 9:01 AM on November 3, 2006


When does all this stop being funny?
posted by JWright at 9:28 AM on November 3, 2006


Once again the administration is proven not merely fucking clueless when it comes to protecting America, but it looks like it made America and the world a more dangerous place.

How does this not count as "giving aid and comfort to the enemy"?
posted by clevershark at 9:45 AM on November 3, 2006


Mitheral writes "Browse around the dusty corners of the web, this happens all the time."

Yes, but it's pretty shocking when it's done deliberately AND with no small amount of publicity.
posted by clevershark at 9:46 AM on November 3, 2006


Pastabagel writes "You should all go over to freerepublic.com and read how they interpret this story. Most of them don't even realize that the story refers to the 1991 timeframe. They think it means saddam was a year away from a nuclear weapon in 2002."

I wouldn't trust the average freeper to sit on a toilet the right way, so I'm hardly surprised at this.
posted by clevershark at 9:48 AM on November 3, 2006


A kid built a nuclear reactor in his back yard in the 90s.

It never achieved criticality, and he had no radiation controls. If a country had been doing it that way, they would have killed all their nuclear scientists.

Radioactivity is natural. Making it into an engine for a steam turbine, or a bomb, is not. It is quite fortunate that to date, the only nations who have had the wherewithal to create nuclear weapons have had the responsibility to not use them.

Other than in the sense that deterrence is a use.
posted by dhartung at 9:50 AM on November 3, 2006


Bono to the rescue?
posted by kurumi at 9:54 AM on November 3, 2006


I like to tell people when the final history is written on this administration, it will look like just an ellipsis because there is - my point is, there's just not the words.
posted by mazola at 10:06 AM on November 3, 2006


An interesting way to think about the Bush administration publishing nuclear secrets is to remember that picture of Dubya holding hands with the visiting Saudi prince.

With that image in mind, one can easily imagine a power-driven cabal of privileged scions who might see some sick, clueless, power gain in spreading around atomic weapons’ building information. Is that’s a bit overboard? Probably.

Can’t we all agree Republicans are just a nomad gang of moneyed elite who have no allegiance this country, our constitution or the safety of American people?
posted by BillyElmore at 10:10 AM on November 3, 2006


this is clearly John Kerry's fault
posted by matteo at 10:14 AM on November 3, 2006


Seems like the White House has made an official talking point of these papers as "proof" that Saddam was building nukes and had to be stopped.

Condi Rice and Dan Bartlett have both told this lie today so far.

Never mind that the papers are pre-Gulf War 1. Just a bothersome detail that need not be mentioned.

Your daily BushCo lie/talking point brought to you by pajamas media and the fox news network, proudly serving America's propaganda needs.
posted by nofundy at 10:15 AM on November 3, 2006


the only nations who have had the wherewithal to create nuclear weapons have had the responsibility to not use them.

Factual note: We used nuclear weapons. Twice.
posted by odinsdream at 10:31 AM on November 3, 2006


Factual note: We used nuclear weapons. Twice.

Oh, you rogue you!
posted by srboisvert at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2006


Who's surprised that the latest "proof" is just a collection of lies?

Why the staunch Republicans, of course!
posted by rougy at 12:34 PM on November 3, 2006


...This wasn't some honey pot set up to embarass Dan Rather, but state secrets. They were released for one reason, to salvage the reputation of the Bush Administration.

The idea that some idiots online could do what the CIA and DIA couldn't is ridiculous and now has been proven a danger to national security.

This isn't a game. People died to get those document and the US government spends millions to do this every year. This is serious business and political expedience allowed the least serious people possible to play at it.

What did they think? Someone completely unfamiliar with the Iraqi military and who doesn't speak arabic, is going to find the treasure map of WMD? Is Hoekstra mentally ill? What the fuck did he think was going to happen.

Iranians and other countries were going to hoover these documents up and analyze them. It was a gift. But that didn't matter. They were more eager to prove they were right, based on the fragile hope that the assclown media crew could do what the vastly more educated experts of the US military couldn't. ...

posted by amberglow at 3:21 PM on November 3, 2006


Let me get this straight.

The press even DISCUSSING the ethical use of torture techniques, like water boarding, is treason as somehow this information will allow the Terrahists to prepare for torture by growing gills.

But the administration can put up a public website with a "build-a-nuke-for-dummies" on it and that is Keeping America Safe?


HEAD ASPLODES!
posted by tkchrist at 3:21 PM on November 3, 2006


...Bush told Hadley to expedite the release of the Iraq documents. “This stuff ought to be out. Put this stuff out.” ...
posted by amberglow at 3:25 PM on November 3, 2006


ok, so. Who's got it mirrored?
posted by atrazine at 3:48 PM on November 3, 2006


you can read arabic, atrazine?
posted by amberglow at 3:52 PM on November 3, 2006


not fluently, but many of my friends can.
posted by atrazine at 4:14 PM on November 3, 2006


cool--maybe there's still a google cache or something somewhere? "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal"
posted by amberglow at 4:20 PM on November 3, 2006


Actually, from the NYT article it looks like the offending documents are in English. They're copies of documents submitted to the weapons inspectors, those documents were then extensively edited before being presented to the Security Council “consistent with the principle that proliferation-sensitive information should not be released.”
posted by atrazine at 4:37 PM on November 3, 2006


Of course Andy Card was on the news this morning attacking the NYT for telling Americans that THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT had published that info on the web. And if the NYT hadn't broken the story that web site would still be up today (it was literally pulled yesterday).
posted by clevershark at 5:09 PM on November 3, 2006


What a setup.
posted by Netzapper at 9:20 AM on November 4, 2006


Unless the documents also included a complete manufacturing systems overview for the isolation of the lighter (more useful) isotopes, including detailed blueprints of generic, extremely large-scale, build-it-yourself gas centrifuges, I don't think we have anything to worry about.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:34 AM on November 4, 2006


I heard on tv that it was exactly the engineering docs for components like that that were online, Civil.
posted by amberglow at 12:58 PM on November 4, 2006


Amberglow: Are you serious!? That's extraordinarily bad.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2006


If this doesn’t scare the Hell out of you
posted by homunculus at 5:06 PM on November 4, 2006


Civil---yup--it was some nuclear expert on CNN, and he said the big thing to realize is that it's not the nuclear part that's especially hard to do, but the engineering parts of actually building things that can do and contain and whatever the nuclear parts--he said it's really 99% engineering (which i had never even thought about, but totally seems true)
posted by amberglow at 6:56 PM on November 4, 2006


this at NPR says: Specifically, the information involved specific questions triggering mechanisms and firing circuits, along with ways of overcoming specific technical and engineering hurdles.
posted by amberglow at 6:58 PM on November 4, 2006


Dems demand answers on nuke documents site
posted by homunculus at 7:37 PM on November 4, 2006


But I won't hold my breath.
posted by homunculus at 9:12 PM on November 4, 2006


for all the right's talk of treason, this (yet again) truly is treasonous, i think. If it was a Democrat who had done this, they'd be using Bush's power to get them declared enemy combatants and shipped away, i bet. The information was available online for months and months.
posted by amberglow at 11:22 PM on November 4, 2006


Well, it's more dangerous stupidity than treason, but the point stands. We shouldn't allow dangerously stupid people to set policy anymore than we should allow traitors to.
posted by moonbiter at 10:21 AM on November 5, 2006


Hoekstra: Can't Negroponte Do Anything Right?
posted by homunculus at 1:57 PM on November 6, 2006


The White House and the right-wing blogosphere -- mirror images
posted by homunculus at 9:12 PM on November 6, 2006


Roll Call: Dem Intel Aide's Access Restored
posted by homunculus at 6:44 PM on November 20, 2006


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