Armament, Sovereignty & Laws
Contributions on War & Peace, Weapons of Mass Destruction, etc.

courtesy by: Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers, box 2580, 1211 Geneva 2
research contributed by: EDA & Bundesarchiv, Bern; ETH Zurich; Irina Gerassimova, UN Library Geneva
 url: - related e-books:.../scr255.htm ¦ .../nptswiss.htm ¦ .../nuclearsources.htm
.../britishgas.htm ¦ .../iran.htm ¦ .../jaffa.htm ¦ .../a2.htm ¦ .../ciaprisons.htm ¦ .../diamantball.htm
tks 4 notifying errors, comments or suggestions to: ¦ +4122-7400362

“It’s naïve for us to think,” he said, “that we can grow our nuclear stockpiles,
the Russians continue to grow their nuclear stockpiles, and our allies grow their nuclear stockpiles,
and that in that environment we’re going to be able to pressure countries like Iran and North Korea
not to pursue nuclear weapons themselves.”
U.S. President Barack Obama
more recent contributions

Atoms for Peace Conference, Geneva, 8/1955, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Press Release
U.S./Swiss Agreement for co-operation concerning civil uses of atomic energy, 18 July 1955, UN Treaty Series 1956, no.3388, p.311-322
Accord Suisse/Etats-Unis d'Amérique pour l'utilisation pacifique de l'énergie atomique, 21 juin 1956, Message du Conseil fédéral no.7212, 31 juillet 1956, FF 1956 II 125-163
Message du Conseil fédéral 12083 sur le traité de non-prolifération des armes nucléaires, 30 octobre 1974, FF 1974 II 1009-1066; Rapport supplémentaire ad12083, 28 janvier 1976, FF 1976 I 714-725

REPORT FROM IRON MOUNTAIN - On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace
LEONARD C. LEWIN (edit.), Dial Press, New York 1967  (190 KB)

On the Economic Implications of the Proposed Nonproliferation Treaty
H. Anton Keller, Heinz Bolliger, Peter B. Kalff, Revue de Droit International, de Sciences Diplomatiques et Politiques (The International Law Review - Sottile)  No.1, 1968, p.26-73  (226 KB); Deutsche Teilübersetzung: Rechtsfolgen des Atomsperrvertrages für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, B. Boerner, Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für Energierecht, Universität Köln, Bd.22, Köln 1968

DECLARATION by the Representative of Switzerland, Prof.Dr.Rudolf Bindschedler, to the Non-Nuclear Weapons States Conference, Geneva, 10 Sep 1968
    AIDE-MEMOIRE, EPD, Bern, 17 Nov 1987;  AIDE-MEMOIRE, EPD, Bern, 9 May 1988;
    On Security Guarantees for Non-Nuclear Weapons States, EPD, Bern, 23 Aug 1968

The Nonproliferation Treaty in Light of Nuclear Energy Developments
H. Anton Keller, Paul Bähr, Peter B. Kalff, Revue de Droit International, de Sciences Diplomatiques et Politiques (The International Law Review - Sottile)  No.3, 1975, p.201-240 (175 KB) ¦ .../NPT75.doc  (1.32 MB)
London Club (Nuclear Suppliers Group) - NPT complement or substitute?, 11/1975 ¦ INFCIRC/254
Will Tomorrow's Terrorist Have an Atomic Bomb?, NYT, Nuclear Control Institute, 21 June 1981

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Question Relating to Measures to Safeguard Non-Nuclear-Weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,UN Security Council Resolution 255 (S/RES/255 (1968))
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
U.N.T.S. No. 10485, vol. 729, pp. 169-175. Text of the Treaty ¦ Status of the Treaty
1995 NPT Review & Extension Conference; 2000 NTP Review Conference; INFCIRC/140 & INFCIRC/254
IAEA-supplied background information and official text of the Treaty  (INFCIRC/140 - 22 April 1970)
reacting to the Agency's persistent hide & seek, see also:
current backgrounder, from the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency:
"The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objectives are to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving general and complete disarmament. The Treaty establishes a safeguards system under the responsibility of the IAEA, which also plays a central role under the Treaty in areas of technology transfer for peaceful purposes."

The Structure and Content of Agreements Between
the Agency and States Required in Connection with
the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
INFCIRC 153 (corr.) June 1972 ¦
reacting to the Agency's persistent hide & seek, see also:

2002 extract from the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs site:

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. On 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely.  A total of 188 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty's significance.
To further the goal of non-proliferation and as a confidence-building measure between States parties, the Treaty establishes a safeguards system under the responsibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the IAEA. The Treaty promotes cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology and equal access to this technology for all States parties, while safeguards prevent the diversion of fissile material for weapons use.
The provisions of the Treaty, particularly article VIII, paragraph 3, envisage a review of the operation of the Treaty every five years, a provision which was reaffirmed by the States parties at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.
The 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) met at the United Nations in New York from 24 April to 19 May 2000. The Conference was the first to be convened following the Treaty's indefinite extension at the 1995 Conference*. States parties examined the implementation of the Treaty's provisions since 1995, taking into account the decisions adopted at the 1995 Conference on the principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and on the strengthening of the review process for the Treaty.  States Parties also examined the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East adopted at the 1995 Conference.
On 11 May 1995, in accordance with article X, paragraph 2, the Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons decided that the Treaty should continue in force indefinitely (see Decision 3). On the occasion of the Swiss parliamentary debate over whether or not to adhere to the NPT, the Swiss Federal Council overcame the generally prevailing profound sceptisism over this departure from Switzerland's long-standing position of permanent and unlimitedly armed neutrality by formally promising a referendum in the event of the NPT being turned into a infinitely binding international security undertaking.
    Maybe the time has come for the Swiss citizens to cast their sovereign vote - in the event their third - on whether or not enhanced stability and security is to be continued to be sought on the path of fear, "better red than dead" policies, and two-class sovereignty, all of which had given rise to such dangerously failed structures as the NPT. And maybe the Swiss Government may find it indicated under the circumstances to draw inspiration from its own initiative by calling for a corresponding follow-up to the 1968 Non-Nuclear Weapon States Conference (

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related more recent contributions

Swiss yellow card on threats against non-nuclear weapon states (Motion 08.3402)
Staatsvertrags-Referendum zum Atomsperrvertrag (Motion 06.3103 - francais ¦ English)
Swiss Good Offices on Current Nuclear Energy Matters (Motion 06.3103)
US tables a new draft Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty FMCT at Disarmament Conference
The Proliferation Security Initiative, Bureau of Nonproliferation, July 28, 2004 (update 26.5.05)
Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism,, 15 July 2006; Iran ante portas
Bomb-Grade Bazaar Increases Nuclear Terrorism Risk
UNSC resolution 255 on nuclear threats ¦ Dangers of a US-Israeli Nuclear Attack on Iran

25 Mar 12   NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV: What Iran Can Learn From Kazakhstan, NYT
9 mar 12   Bruno Pellaud: Mühleberg ou la saga des juges apprentis sorciers,
10 Jul 11   How Seawater Can Power the World, NYT, STEWART C. PRAGER
9 avr 11    wikileaks:La prolifération, un business suisse sous l’œil de l’Amérique. Le Temps, Sylvain Besson
8 Apr 11   Japan Cargo Is Screened at U.S. Ports, NYT, VERNE G. KOPYTOFF
28.Mär 11  MAJAK: der erste Gau in der Atomgeschichte, ARTE, video
23 Nov 09   Shortage Slows a Program to Detect Nuclear Bombs, NYT, MATTHEW L. WALD
5 Jul 09   Vice-President Biden: U.S. Won't Stand in Way of Israel on Iran Nukes, Fox News, AP
5 Jul 09   Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran, Sunday Times, Uzi Mahnaimi et al.
5 Jul 09   Obama’s Youth Shaped His Nuclear-Free Vision, NYT, WILLIAM J. BROAD et al.
29 May 09   The Hoped-For Laser Miracles, NYT, editorial
25 May 09   North Korea’s 2 "Nukes": Fakes?, Wired, Noah Shachtman
Mar 2009   Preventing a Cascade of Instability: Checking Iranian Nuclear Progress, Presidential Task Force, WINEP
15 Mar 09   Laser Fusion: The Next Really Cool Thing, NYT, THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
25 Aug 08   Khan's Nuclear Network Undone by Shadowy Deals?, NYT, William J. Broad & David E. Sanger
15 Jun 08   UNSCR 255 & NPT incompatible with threats against non-nuclear weapon states, Anton Keller
13 Jun 08   Clarification regarding the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Motion 08.3402
13 Jun 08   Klarstellung zum Vertrag über die Nichtverbreitung von Atomwaffen, Motion Freysinger 08.3402
10 Jun 08   Threatening Iran, NYT, editorial
25 Apr 08   Government Releases Images of Syrian Reactor, NYT, David E. Sanger, video
8 Dec 07   Search for Iran's Nuclear Arms Program Turned Up Unexpected Conclusion, WP, Peter Baker et al.
29 Nov 07   Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal Vexed Nixon, NYT, David Stout
20 Nov 07   Radiation Detectors for Border Delayed Again, Washington Post, Robert O'Harrow, comments
14 Oct 07   Analysts Find Israel Struck a Nuclear Project Inside Syria, NYT, David E. Sanger et al.
13 Aug 07   Upkeep Of Security Devices A Burden, Washington Post, Mary Beth Sheridan
1 Aug 07   Radiological terrorism: Seize the Cesium, NYT, Peter D. Zimmerman et al., Op-Ed Contributors
20 Jul 07   Radiation Detector Program Delayed, WP, Robert O'Harrow Jr., comment
14 Jul 07   Government Accountability Office tries to build a dirty bomb, WP, editorial
20.Jun 07   Junge Zürcher Forscher auf der Spur von Atom-Terroristen, NZZ, ami
10 Jun 07   MI6 probes UK link to nuclear trade with Iran, Observer, Mark Townsend
1 Jun 07   Radioactivity Sensors for Russia, NYT, C. J. CHIVERS
8 May 07   U.S. Debates Deterrence for Nuclear Terrorism, NYT, DAVID E. SANGER & THOM SHANKER
8 May 07   Answering Al Qaeda, NYT, CLARK KENT ERVIN
7 May 07   Effort to Repair Nuclear Treaty Gets Snagged Over Agenda, NYT,, Reuters
11 Apr 07   Obituary on Paul Leventhal, Anton Keller
15 Feb 07   Not Supporting Our Troops: Armor vs Top Gun Priorities, NYT, Editorial
4 Feb 07   The Peace Paradox, NYT MAGAZINE, David A. Bell, Reconsideration
4 Feb 07   Whose War Powers?, NYT MAGAZINE, Noah Feldman, The Way We Live Now
27 Jan 07   Sanktionen: Zwischen Diplomatie und Militärgewalt,, Kommentar
25 Jan 07   Smuggler’s Plot Highlights Fear Over Uranium, NYT, Lawrence Scott Sheets et al.
8 Jan 07   Pakistan, India to finalize agreement of avoidance nuclear accidents, IRNA
8 Jan 07   If Israel had nukes, would it use them against Iran?, Jerusalem Post, Yaakov Katz, reader comments
8 Jan 07   You'd better hold us Israelis back, 'before we do something crazy ...', Irish Independent, Eric Silver
8 Jan 07   Out-of-the-box thinking is called for!, Iconoclast
8 Jan 07   Israel denies nuclear strike plan, The Times, David Sharrock
8 Jan 07   Military strike is only way to stop Iran, says top Israeli strategist, The Independent, Eric Silver
8.Jan 07   Ein brisanter Trainingsbericht, Berliner Zeitung, Roland Heine, Kommentar
8.Jan 07   Israel will Iran atomar angreifen, Berliner Zeitung, AFP
8 Jan 07   Israel planning nuclear strike, second UK paper claims, Turkish Daily News
8 Jan 07   Pakistan, India to finalize agreement of avoidance nuclear accidents, Irna
7 Jan 07   Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran - Focus: Mission Iran, Sunday Times, Uzi Mahnaimi
10 Mar 83   Breaking the War Mentality, Sundial, Barack Obama
1973    A case for pioneering actions on nuclear micro-explosion systems, Doublekay, H.Anton Keller et al.
1969    Der Atomsperrvertrag und die Schweiz: Memorandum, Heinz Bolliger, Peter B. Kalff, H.Anton Keller, Rolf Soiron
1968     On the economic implications of the proposed nonproliferation treaty, International Law Review (Sottile). H Anton Keller; Heinz Bolliger; Peter B Kalff
1968     Moderne Technik fur Entwicklungslander, Doublekay, H Anton Keller
1967    Memorandum on the technical and economic feasibility of applying nuclear explosives for civil engineering works,
with special reference to water resources development and management, Eighteen Nation Disarmament Conference, H.Anton Keller
1967    Plowshare, a new key to water resources development, Doublekay, Mathematica, AEC, H.Anton Keller

Hassan M. Fattah, Arab Nations Plan to Start Joint Nuclear Energy Program, NYT, December 11, 2006
Blood, Toil, Tears and Nukes, NYT, Editorial, December 8, 2006
Eric Lipton, U.S. to Expand Cargo Scans to Detect Nuclear Material, NYT, December 8, 2006
Walter Pincus, New Nuclear Weapons Program To Continue, WP, December 2, 2006
William J. Broad, U.S. Analysts Had Flagged Atomic Data on Web Site, NYT, November 4, 2006
David E. Sanger, N. Korea Reports 1st Nuclear Arms Test, NYT, October 9, 2006
Nuclear weapons are a very bad idea in a region cursed by instability, The Daily Star, Editorial, 24 Aug 06
David E. Sanger, "U.S. and Russia Will Police Nuclear Terrorists", NYT, July 15, 2006
Victor Khudoleev, "Nuclear Forces Of New Quality", Defense and Security/Krasnaya Zvezda, July 12, 2006
Yevegeny Tkachenko, Fissile Materials Storage Unit In Ural to Guarantee N-Security, Itar-Tass, July 11, 2006
Paul Leventhal, "On the 25th Anniversary Of the Nuclear Control Institute", NCI, June 21, 2006
André Gsponer, "Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons: Military effectiveness & collateral effects", ISRI, May 23, 2006
Philip Wainwright, Harvard & other impulses for unlocking the U.S./Iran nuclear gridlock, ICESC, May 16, 2006
Anton Keller, "Keine Guten Dienste zum Atomsperrvertrags-Fiasco? Zur Rechtsgrundlage für ein obligatorisches Referendum", 5.Mai 2006
"Aggravating a bad situation", The Jordan Times, April 27, 2006
David E. Sanger et al., "Iran Is Described as Defiant on 2nd Nuclear Program", NYT, April 25, 2006
Max M. Kampelman, "Bombs Away", NYT, April 24, 2006
Selig S. Harrison, "How to Regulate Nuclear Weapons", Washington Post, April 23, 2006
James Gordon Prather, "Nuking bunkers",, April 22, 2006
Joseph Farah, "Osama alive, well, armed with nukes", WorldNetDaily, April 21, 2006
Chris Floyd, "Mad Love", Moscow Times, Global Eye, April 21, 2006
Seymour M. Hersh, "THE IRAN PLANS", The New Yorker, April 17, 2006 (4/8/06)
William M. Arkin, "The Pentagon Preps for Iran", WP, April 16, 2006
Paul Leventhal, "Has Iran Crossed the Line?", PBS' News Hour, April 11, 2006
Peter Baker et al., "U.S. Is Studying Military Strike Options on Iran", WP, April 9, 2006
Abbas Maleki et al., "Harvard Researchers Propose Plan to Resolve Iranian Nuclear Crisis", STPP, March 2006
Stephen M. Osborn, Nuclear Bunker Buster Bombs againt Iran, Global Research, March 14, 2006
Robert Kagan, "the nonproliferation 'regime' may now be collapsing", WP, March 12, 2006
Anton Keller, NPT-conform peaceful nuclear activities under Russian sovereignty - in Iran, Mar 2, 2006
Barry R. Posen, "We Can Live With a Nuclear Iran", NYT, Feb 27, 2006
George Perkovich, "U.S.-India Draft Nuclear Agreement Ill-Considered", CFR (B. Gwertzman),  Feb 24, 2006
Iran: Which Way Out of the Nuclear Impasse? (summary), International Crisis Group, Feb 23, 2006
Elisabeth Bumiller, U.S. Urges India to Split Civilian-Military Nuclear Plants, NYT, Feb 23, 2006
Lionel Beehner, "Israel’s Nuclear Program and Middle East Peace", CFR, Feb 10, 2006
Anton Keller, "Iranian NPT rights & obligations in perspective",memo to UN, Jan 31, 2006
David E. Sanger et al., "Bush and China Endorse Russia's Nuclear Plan for Iran", NYT, Jan 27, 2006
Paul Kerry, "Iran and the NPT - Fairness and Reality",, Jan 26, 2006
Joachim Gruber, "European Judas - Germany's Proliferation of WMD Technology", Acamedia, 2006
Mathew L. Wald, "Widespread Radioactivity Monitoring Is Confirmed", NYT, Dec 24, 2005
Spencer Hsu et al., "U.S. Monitored Muslim Sites Across Nation for Radiation", WP, Dec 24, 2005
Alok Jha, "Scientists call for plans to change asteroid's path - Developing technology could take decades", Guardian, Dec 7, 2005
LawrenceScheinman, "New U.S.-India Agreement Undercuts U.S. Allegiance to Nonproliferation", CFR (B. Gwertzman),  Nov 3, 2005
Joseph Cirincione, "Lessons Lost", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nov/Dec 2005.
ICONOCLAST, "More Light & Less Flat-Earth Missionaries!", Sep 25, 2005
Mark Landler, IAEA to Report Iran to UN Security Council for Treaty Violations, NYT, Sep 25, 2005
Walter Pincus, "Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan - Strategy Includes Preemptive Use Against Banned Weapons", WP, Sep 11, 2005
William C. Potter, "India and the New Look of U.S. Nonproliferation Policy", Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 25 Aug 2005
Gary Milhollin, "Don't Underestimate the Mullahs", NYT, 23 Aug 2005, .../nytnuciran.htm
Rose Gottemoeller, "The Process in Place", NYT, 23 Aug 2005, .../nytnuckorea.htm
Joby Warrick, "Soviet Germ Factories Pose New Threat... Labs Lack Security", WP, Aug 20, 2005
George Perkovich et al., "Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security",, March 2005
Joseph Cirincione, "Iran and Israel's Nuclear Weapons", the Globalist, March 11, 2005
RetoWollenmann, Zwischen Atomwaffe und Atomsperrvertrag - Die Schweiz auf dem Weg von der nuklearen Option zum NPT,
    Zürcher Beiträge zur Sicherheitspolitik und Konfliktforschung Nr. 75, ETH Forschungsstelle für Sicherheitspolitik, Novr 2004 (html Version)
Cameron Brown, "Israel AND the WMD Threat: Lessons for Europe", MERIA, Sep 2004
David E. Sanger et al., "South Koreans Say Secret Work Refined Uranium", NYT, 3 Sep 2004
Dafna Linzer et al., "S. Korea Acknowledges Secret Nuclear Experiments - IAEA Announces Probe of Activities", WP, 3 Sep 2004
Bhaskar Dasgupta, "The Chasm between the Haves and Have-Not's",piquancy, 28 April 2005
Thomas Graham Jr., "Avoiding the Tipping Point",, July 2004
Kurt M. Campbell, "The Nuclear Tipping Point - Why States Reconsider Their Nuclear Choices", Brookings, 2004
Nicholas D.Kristof, "A Nuclear 9/11", NYT, 10 March 2004, .../nyt911.htm
Joby Warrick et al., "Probe of Libya Finds Nuclear Black Market", WP, 24Jan 2004
"Plugging Nuclear Leaks", editorial, NYT, 4 Jan 2004, .../nytplugging.htm
David E. Sanger et al., "From Rogue Nuclear Programs, Web of Trails Leads to Pakistan", NYT, 4 Jan 2004
Robert Einhorn et al., "Heading Off an Iranian Nuclear Weapons Capability", Center for Strategic & International Studies
Joe Vialls, Baghdad Nuke Marks Bali Anniversary, 18 Oct 2003
Ibrahim al-Marashi, "How Iraq conceals and obtains its Weapons of Mass Destruction", MERIA , March 2003
JulianBorger, "US plan for new nuclear arsenal - Secret talks may lead to breaking treaties", Guardian, 12 Feb 2003
Walter Pincus, "CIA Head Predicts Nuclear Race", WP, 12 Feb 2003, .../wpnpt.htm
Daniil Kobyakov et al.,"'Dirty Bomb' Threat Awakens Dormant Disarmament Conference", Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 2002
J. Schefer, "Forty Years of Neutron Diffraction in Switzerland", SNN, Dec 2002
Emily B. Landau, "Egypt's Nuclear Dilemma", Strategic Assessment, vol.5, no.3, Nov.2002, JCSS  Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies
Franz A. Blankart, "EUROPA HELVETICA", .../BLANKART.htm, 22 Oct 2002
Anton Keller, "Against some Holy Grail Mantras", .../holygrail.htm, 21 Sep 2002
Paul M. Cole, "Nuclear Weapon Decisionmaking in Sweden 1945–1972", April 1996
Jürg Stüssi-Lauterburg, "Historischer Abriss zur Frage einer Schweizer Nuklearbewaffnung" (664 KB)
    "Aperçu historique d'un armement nucléaire pour la Suisse" (642 KB)
    "La questione dell'armamento nucleare della Svizzera, compendio storico" (846 KB)
    "Historical Outline on the Question of Swiss Nuclear Armament" (42 KB), 31 Dec 1995
Dominique Brunner, "Bleibende Wirkung der nuklearen Abschreckung", NZZ, 12.Mai 1995
Anton Keller, "ON THE IDEAL NATION",.../nations.htm, 11 Jun 1991
10 Mar 83   Breaking the War Mentality, Sundial, Barack Obama
U.S. to Build Atomic Reactor for World Conference at Geneva, AEC, 23 March 1955

Press release by United States Atomic Energy Commission (empahsis added)
"United States to Build Atomic Reactor for World Conference at Geneva,"
March 23, 1955
(reproduced in: Atoms for Peace Manual, a compilation of official materials on international cooperation for peaceful uses of atomic energy, U.S. Senate, Document 55, June 21 1955, Washington)
    Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, announced today that the United States will build an operating research reactor at Geneva, Switzerland, for demonstration at the United Nations International Conference on August 8-20, 1955.
    The project, expected to be a major exhibit feature of the Conference, has been made possible through the cooperation of the Government of Switzerland and the Secretary General of the United Nations. "We are confident that the operation of a large research reactor at Geneva during the Conference will add immeasurably to the interest and usefulness of this important meeting," Mr. Strauss said. "This instrument will use the type of fuel that other nations can draw from the 100 kilograms of Uranium-235 the United States has made available for research reactors in other countries as a major step in President Eisenhower's atoms-for-peace program."

    The exhibit woud enable visiting scientists and technicians to observe a reactor which provides excellent facilities for a variety of cross-section measurements, experiments with neutrons and gamma rays, including shielding studies and production of radioisotopes. Qualified scientists and technicians will be allowed to operate the machine, using the controls to start, maintain and stop a nuclear chain reaction within the reactor. During these experiments, known as criticality tests, the familiar blue glow of the irradiated fuel elements will be visible in the water.
    The reactor will be of the "swimming pool" type successfully operated at the AEC's Oak Ridge National Laboratory for several years. Research reactors of this type are now being constructed at the Pennsylvania State and Michigan Universities. The name comes from the fact that the reactor is immensed in a pool of water which affords an effective safety shield against radiation.

    The project, for the Geneva Conference will be carried out by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is operated for the AEC by the Carbide & Carbon Chemicals Company, and will be under the general supervision of Dr.George L. Weil, Technical Director of the U.S. participation in the Geneva Conference.
    The fuel will be fuel grade uranium enriched in isotope 335 to about 20 percent. About 5 kilograms of U-235 will be required. The reactor will be tested at Oak Ridge and then dismantled and shipped to Geneva. The reactor and its fuel would be at all times under the control and custody of the AEC. It will be housed in a temporary prefabricated metal building dedigned especially to enable the delegates and visitors at Geneva to see the reactor in operation.
    The "swmming pool" feature will be a tank 10 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep, in which the entire reactor is immersed. Specially purified water is used for the shielding. Health and safety control will be built into the reactor. A small platform will be built on top of the reactor, from which a lecturer can direct demonstrations and explain the operation of the machine. The housing structure will be designed to accommodate a constant flow of visitors observing the operation of the reactor.
    The swimming pool reactor, which is estimated to cost about $350,000, will be part of the technical exhibit being planned by the U.S. at Geneva.

    Note to desks: Four pictures of the present Swimming Pool Reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are available at 30 East 42nd Street (Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation).

version française
UN Security Council Resolution 255 (1968)
S/RES/255 (1968)    (Adopted by the Security Council on 19 June 1968)

Question Relating to Measures to Safeguard Non-Nuclear-Weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Security Council,

Noting with appreciation the desire of a large number of States to subscribe to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and thereby to undertake not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly, not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,

Taking into consideration the concern of certain of these States that, in conjunction with their adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, appropriate measures be undertaken to safeguard their security,

Bearing in mind that any aggression accompanied by the use of nuclear weapons would endanger the peace and security of all States,

1.    Recognizes that aggression with nuclear weapons or the threat of such aggression against a non-nuclear-weapon State would create a situation in which the Security Council, and above all its nuclear-weapon State permanent members, would have to act immediately in accordance with their obligations under the United Nations Charter;

2.    Welcomes the intention expressed by certain States that they will provide or support immediate assistance, in accordance with the Charter, to any non-nuclear- weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that is a victim of an act or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used;

3.    Reaffirms in particular the inherent right, recognized under Article 51 of the Charter, of individual and collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.

(adopted at the 1433rd session by 10 against zero votes, with 5 abstentions (Algeria, Brasil, France, India and Pakistan)

extract from the NPT Message 12083 of the Swiss Federal Council of 30 October 1974 (FF 1974 II 1009-1066) concerning SCR 255

312     La résolution no 255 du Conseil de sécurité
    Le 19 juin 1968, le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies a adopté une résolution (S/Res/255) (cf. annexe 2) qui contient une déclaration de garantie contre les meances ou les agressions atomiques de la part des puissances dotées d'armes nucléaires à rencontre d'Etats qui n'en sont pas dotés. Des déclarations semblables des Etats-Unis, de l'URSS et de la Grande-Bretagne avaient précédé cette résolution (17 juin 1968).
    Juridiquement, les Etats mentionnés n'assument pas d'autres obligations que celles que la Charte de l'ONU leur imposait déjà en leur qualité de membres du Conseil de sécurité; en effet, les déclarations de garantie et la résolution se réfèrent chaque fois à ces obligations préexistantes. Ainsi, tout le caractère problématique des sanctions de l'ONU - blocage du Conseil de sécurité par un veto - subsiste.
    Cette interprétation a également été soulignée à plusieurs reprises au cours des délibérations du Sénat américain. La résolution porte néanmoins un effet juridique dans la mesure où elle restreint la latitude politique des trois puissances dotées d'armes nucléaires. En effet, celles-ci sont tenues, le cas échéant, d'agir immédiatement en se conformant aux obligations que leur impose la Charte de l'ONU, alors qu'elles peuvent, en d'autres circonstances, le faire selon leur libre appréciation. Cela ne change toutefois rien au résultat final.
    En ce qui concerne la sécurité des Etats non dotés d'armes nucléaires, on se référa encore au point 12 du préambule, relatif aux dispositions correspondantes de la Charte des Nations Unies. Il ressort de ces dispositions que l'usage de la force entre les parties au traité peut être considérée comme rupture du traité. Cette disposition ne contient cependant pas de garantie contre de tels actes.

extracts from DECLARATION by the Representative of Switzerland,
Prof.Dr.Rudolf Bindschedler, to the Non-Nuclear Weapons States Conference, Geneva, 10 Sep 1968
23 août 1968 Garanties de sécurité      (English translation)

    "On sait que la question a fait l’objet de longues discussions tant à la Conférence du Désarmement qu’à l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies et que les craintes émises n’ont pas été dissipées par la résolution adoptée le 19 juin dernier par le Conseil de Sécurité.
    L’arme atomique est d’une nature telle que les garanties juridiques sont de peu de poids lorsque son emploi est en jeu. C’est plutôt de la difficile théorie de l’équilibre de la terreur que les petits pays doivent attendre en période d’armement nucléaire leur précaire sécurité. La garantie de soutien donnée à une future victime du chantage nucléaire ne vaut guère plus que ce que l’intérêt et le souci de maintenir le status quo peuvent dicter en cas de besoin aux puissances atomiques. ...
    Un engagement de renoncer à l’emploi de l’arme atomique contre les Etats non dotés d’armes nucléaires serait un geste positif de la part des grandes puissances, que nous devons chercher à obtenir. Il est peu probable, cependant, qu’il ne soit pas assorti d’une réserve pour le cas de légitime défense, réserve déjà exprimé dans la résolution du Conseil de Sécurité; il serait par conséquent de peu de valeur, puisque dans le système de la Charte, c’est à chaque Etat qu’il appartient de décider des conditions de la légitime défense, aussi longtemps que le Conseil de Sécurité n’a pas pris position. Un engagement de ne pas riposter au moyen d’armes nucléaires à une attaque conventionnelle lancée par un Etat non doté d’armes nucléaires ne correspondrait d’ailleurs pas à l’état présent du droit international. Il n’est pas sûr qu’il soit dans l’intérêt de la paix. ..."

unauthorized adapted automatic translation (
23 Aug 1968      Guarantees of safety

    "It is known that the question was the objet of long discussions so much with the general Conference of Disarmament as at the Assembly of the United Nations and that fears emitted then have not been dissipated by the adopted resolution of last 19 June by the Security Council.
    Atomic weapons are of such a nature that legal guarantees are of little weight when their employment is concerned.  In a period of nuclear armement, it is rather the difficult theory of the balance of terror that small countries may rely on for their precarious safety. The guarantee of support given to a future victim of the nuclear blackmail is hardly worth more than whatever may be dictated by the interest and concern atomic powers may have for maintaining the status. ...
    A commitment to give up the use of nuclear weapons against States not equipped with nuclear weapons would be a positive gesture on behalf of the great powers, which we must seek to obtain. It is not very probable, however, that such a commitment will not be matched by a reserve in the case of self-defence, which reserve is already expressed in the Council Resolution on Safety; it would be consequently of little value for a long time, since in the system of the Charter, it is up to each State to decide conditions of the self-defence, as long as the Security Council will not have taken a position. A commitment not to counteract with nuclear weapons when a conventional attack is launched by a State not equipped with nuclear weapons would not at present correspond to the international law. Also, it is not sure that such a commitment would be in the interest of peace."

In honor of Dr. Peter Fischer’s 65th birthday
Forty Years of Neutron Diffraction in Switzerland
J. Schefer, Laboratory for Neutron Scattering ETHZ & PSI, CH-5232 Villigen-PSI
(extract from: Swiss Neutron News, Number 22, December 2002, p.4-10 ¦ pdf format)
    Neutron scattering has a long tradition within Switzerland, which has the world strongest “per capita” national user community [1]. What is the reason? For this we have to go back to the early days of neutron sources in our country. In 1953, a project to build the Swiss research reactor DIORIT, started in 1952 by a private consortium of 171 Swiss companies headed by Brown Bovery (BBC), Sulzer and Escher Wyss, was presented to the Swiss government. Construction was completed three years later by the Reaktor AG. The DIORIT reactor went critical on August 26, 1960. The delay in starting operation was due to a second research reactor (SAPHIR), which was acquired in parallel: This was on the initiative of Max Petitpierre, the Swiss Federal Council of Foreign Affairs, who was also President of Switzerland at the time. The reactor SAPHIR (Figure 1) was sold by the US government for only 770’000 Swiss francs, at the occasion of the exhibition Atoms for Peace held in 1955 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. It was named SAPHIR because of the blue Cerenkov radiation in the reactor pool.
    Three goals were pursued with these new research instruments: Reactor development, training of reactor personnel and condensed matter research. The Institute for Reactor Research of the ETH Zurich, headed by Professor Walter Hälg, was therefore divided into two parts: Reactor technology located in Zurich and the division Education & Research (Ausbildung & Forschung, Delegation AF) located in Würenlingen. In 1960, the Reaktor AG was transformed into the government owned Eidgenössische Institut für Reaktorforschung (EIR).
Peter Fischer started his career at the ETH Zurich, where he made his Masters thesis on the properties of tin telluride, under the supervision of Professor Georg Busch. In summer 1961, he joined the Delegation AF in Würenlingen as a thesis student (Figure 2), together with Georg Maier. This PhD thesis on spinels MgAl2O4 was on an initiative of Professor Fritz Laves, who was looking for a method to distinguish Al and Mg, as this was problematic with X-rays [2].
    With his collaborators, he installed a spectrometer equipped with a mechanical 1:2 drive for simultaneous change of ? and 2? which was based on an optical spectrometer built by the company Toepfer; the instrument was on loan from the university of Basel. It was tested at the reactor SAPHIR. Peter Fischer started to investigate the magnetic properties of MnBi in collaboration with his Norwegian teacher and friend, A.F. Andresen [3], who unfortunately died in 1991 in a car accident. The instrumentation used at the DIORIT is shown in Figure 3. He was supervisor of many future neutron scatterers such as Willi Bührer (†1997), Professor Albert Furrer, Karel Tichy, Heinz Heer and Werner von Wartburg and myself.
    One thing crystallized out of all this work very quickly: Condensed matter physics will be his interest, therefore powder diffraction his method of choice to investigate new materials. This is obvious as neutrons are very valuable for investigations of bulk properties as well as of magnetism. Instrumentation and computing programs were not so well developed in those days. Peter Fischer therefore got very interested in developing new instrumentation. He was always one step ahead and particularly made sure he had the latest software installed on the newest computers. This way, he became one of the first using consequently the (new) Rietveld profile refinement method, and thereby contributed significantly to its development. Therefore it is not surprising that the single detector powder diffractometer punching data onto paper tape was just to slow for him!
    He pushed for the introduction of linear position sensitive detectors. As a result, the DMC spectrometer at the reactor SAPHIR was put into operation in mid 1984, financed by grants from the Swiss Science Foundation, EIR, ETH Zurich and the universities of Berne and Geneva (Figure 4, [4]). Instead of a single counter, 400 wires were now covering an 80° range in 2?. Also single crystal instruments had his interest, as for example his second instrument at SAPHIR, the P2AX (Figure 5). The younger generation may just remember this instrument from the data format containing its name in the file extension (*.2ax), which still exists.
    Peter Fischer was also always in the front line of new science: Hydrogen storage in metals [5], today used in many rechargeable batteries, as well as high temperature superconductors. As an example of the hydrogen storage materials, I just want to mention the magnesium based Cs3MgD5 containing MgD42– anions as well as D– (bonded to Cs only), investigated on the HRPT at SINQ (Figure 6, [6]). In high temperature superconductors, Peter Fischer associated structural changes with superconductivity, soon after Bednorz and Müller found the effect. Together with Professor Klaus Yvon, he discovered a structural phase transition in the first high-Tc material, (La,Sr)CuO4, soon after superconductivity was reported in this material (Figure 7, [7]), and he was among the first to determine the correct structure of the YBa2Cu3O7 (Y123). But probably the most important work he did was with Emanuel Kaldis and Alan W. Hewat on the characterization of the YBa2Cu4O8 (Y124) and Y2Ba4Cu7O15 (Y247, [8]) compound, and the study of the effect of pressure on the Tc in Y124 and Y123. This work confirmed the idea of Bob Cava and collaborators, that Tc was controlled by a charge transfer from socalled “charge reservoir” layers, and that the effect of pressure was due to the different compressibility of the superconducting and of the charge reservoir layers. We also should not forget his important work with his Russian colleagues on the effect of Ca substitution for Y, which changes the charge balance and therefore Tc of these materials [9] and related work with Professor Vitali Trounov. Finally, Peter worked on the magnetic structure of high-temperature superconducting materials in which Y was replaced by magnetic rare earths.
    It is therefore not surprising, that Peter Fischer immediately saw the new possibilities for the Swiss neutron community when the idea of building a spallation neutron source at the proton accelerator at SIN in Villigen appeared. Of course, the “banana” detector from SAPHIR had to grow! 1600 wires are now covering 160° [10] at the new powder diffractometer HRPT at SINQ (Figure 8). This development from the French company CERCA with major inputs from PSI scientists and engineers (EIR and SIN merged 1988 to form PSI) was strongly pushed by Peter Fischer and went into final operation before his retirement despite facing many problems (as most pioneering work does).
    Another field of interest for Peter Fischer was magnetism. He always pushed (mostly successfully) to be equipped with the latest cryostats such as for example the 7 mK dilution refrigerator (Figure 9), used to study the magnetic structure of DyBa2Cu4O8 [11] and many other materials. He probably holds the world record concerning the ratio of successful to failed experiments in a dilution cryostat. Of course, also the “old” DMC was moving over the river, now to be installed at a super-mirror guide for cold neutrons.
    The work of Peter Fischer is contained in almost 400 publications. He advised many young scientists in their Masters as well as PhD thesis work, three of them alone to be finished within this year. We thank him here on the occasion of his retirement for all his input given to science, to our group and to his colleagues worldwide. However, despite being retired, Peter Fischer will definitely not be absent from physics. We are grateful to have such an experienced “consultant” behind us.
    Peter Fischer was always a member of ETH Zurich, whereas his research facilities changed it’s ownerships and names quite frequently. He officially left our institute at the end of October for his retirement. Our best wishes to him and his wife Hedi for their future. You always can reach him at or at his private address, Waldweg 14, CH-5242 Lupfig.
    Peter, I would like to thank you on behalf of our laboratory, but also personally, for all you have done!

Peter Fischer LNS ETHZ&PSI
Figure 1: Loading the parts of SAPHIR for it’s journey to the Geneva exhibition “Atoms for peace” (1955).
Figure 2: Delegation AF (1962) in the chemistry building (today OFLC) at Würenlingen (from the left: Prof. Walter Hälg, Hans Ripfel, Peter Fischer, Georg Maier, Frans Brandt, Ferrrucio Ferroni [Natrium loop]).
Figure 3: Instrumentation installed at the reactor Diorit in Würenlingen.
Figure 4: Double Axis Multicounter Diffractometer (DMC) at the reactor SAPHIR. [4]. The instrument is now installed on a cold guide at SINQ.
Figure 5: The experimental hall at the reactor SAPHIR. In the foreground the MARC spectrometer, in the center the P2AX, and in the back the single crystal and the single counter powder diffractometers.
Figure 6: Hydrogen localisation in Cs3MgD5. Multi phase powder diffraction investigation at HRPT/SINQ, ?=1.886Å. The additional phases are traces of CsD & MgO.
Figure 7: Structural phase transition in La1.85Sr.15CuO4 at 150K [7].
Figure 8: High-resolution powder diffractometer HRPT at the spallation neutron source SINQ in Villigen.
Figure 9: The Oxford dilution refrigerator at the reactor Saphir mounted on DMC.

[1]     Neutron Beams and Synchrotron Radiation Sources, OECD Megascience Forum (OECD, Paris, 1994) p. 89
[2]     P. Fischer, Neutronenbeugungsuntersuchungen der Strukturen von MgAl2O4- und ZnAl2O4-Spinellen, in Abhängigkeit der Vorgeschichte. Z. Kristallographie 124, 275-302 (1967)
[3]     A.F. Andresen, P. Fischer, W. Hälg and E. Stoll, A neutron diffraction study of the magnetic properties of MnBi, ZAMP 15, 655 (1964)
[4]     W. Hälg, H. Heer, J. Schefer, P. Fischer, B. Bron, A. Isacson and M. Koch, DMC, ein neues Neutronen-Pulverdiffraktometer mit Multidetektor am Reaktor Saphir, Helvetica Physica Acta, 57, 741 (1984)
[5]     K. Yvon and P. Fischer, Crystal and Magnetic Structures of Ternary Metal Hydrides: a Comprehensive Review. Topics in Appl. Phys. 63; Hydrogen in Intermetallic Compounds I Electronic, Thermodynamic, and Crystallographic Properties, Preparation; ed. L. Schlapbach, Springer, pp 87-138 (1988).
[6]     B. Bertheville, P. Fischer and K. Yvon, Synthesis and Cyrstal Structures of Cs2MgD4 and Cs3MgD5, J. Alloys and Comp. 302, L12-L16 (2000)
[7]     M. Francois, E. Walker, Y.L, Jorda, K. Yvon and P. Fischer, Structural phase transition at 150 K in the high-temperature superconductor La1.85 Sr0.15 CuO4 Solid State Commun. 63, 35-40 (1987)
[8]    A.W. Hewat, P. Fischer, E. Kaldis, J. Karpinski, S. Rusiecki and E. Jilek, High resolution neutron powder diffraction investigation of temperature and pressure effects on the structure of the high-Tc superconductor Y2Ba4Cu7O15 Physica C: Superconductivity 167, 579-590 (1990)
[9]     G. Böttger, I. Mangelschots, E. Kaldis, P. Fischer, Ch. Krüger and F. Fauth, The influence of Ca doping on the crystal structure and superconductivity of orthorhombic YBa2Cu3O7-? J. Physics: Condensed Matter 8, 8889-8905 (1989)
[10]     P. Fischer, G. Frey, M. Koch, M. Könnecke, V. Pomjakushin, J. Schefer, R. Thut, N. Schlumpf, R. Bürge, U. Greuter, S. Bondt and E. Berruyer, High-resolution powder diffractometer HRPT for thermal neutrons at SINQ, Physica B 276-278, 146-147 (2000)
[11]     B. Roessli, P. Fischer, M. Zolliker, P. Allenspach, J. Mesot, U. Staub, A. Furrer, E. Kaldis, B. Bucher, J. Karpinski, E. Jilek and H. Mutka Crystal-field splitting and temperature dependence of two-dimensional antiferromagetism in the high-Tc compound DyBa2Cu4O8, Z. Phys. B 91, 149-153 (1993)

18 October 2003

Baghdad Nuke Marks Bali Anniversary
Same flash, same heat, but more radioactive fallout

Copyright Joe Vialls

"I was responsible for the bombing at the US Consulate [which killed or injured no one] and I'm proud of it, but most of the people were killed by an Israeli micronuke that was targeted at the Sari Club at the same moment. You know, to make Islam look bad." Amrozi , Convicted Indonesian ‘Mass Murderer’
           At exactly 1300 hours on 12 October 2003, all was quiet around the Baghdad Hotel in Iraq. American troops and a few Iraqi taxis prowled the streets, while inside the hotel itself CIA agents sprawled in air-conditioned luxury, casually discussing who to murder next. Two thousand miles away to the south east, in Bali, Indonesia, it was exactly 1800 hours, and dusk was rapidly falling across the tropical island. Hundreds of mourners started to light thousands of Australian taxpayer-funded candles to commemorate the first anniversary of the Bali Bombing, and Australian Prime Minister John Howard stood ready to address the assembled throng.
            Little Johnny Howard started telling mourners about the evil “Muslim Terrorists” who had devastated Kuta Beach exactly one year before with a home-made potassium chloride detergent bomb, killing an [official] total of 202 civilians, though the real figure was far higher, and included those who died days or weeks after the event from ultraviolet flash burns and plutonium poisoning. Forget about “Muslim Terrorists”, because the only countries on earth with stealth plutonium critical weapons were, and remain, America and Israel.
            Less than one minute after Little Johnny opened his mouth to speak, in fact at precisely 1300:56 hours Iraqi time, there was an awesome screech as another fission monster from hell went critical, this time in an underground sewer located less than 250 feet away from the Baghdad Hotel, home to America’s premier spooks, and to several of New York’s “Iraq Provisional Council” toadies. Blissfully unaware of this perfectly synchronized event, Little Johnny’s voice droned on and on in Bali.
            Back in Baghdad the fireball from the latest fission monster from hell expanded and then burst out into the street above, burning at a staggering 300,000 degrees centigrade and vaporizing all material within 30 feet of its lethal blast vector. The fireball spontaneously ignited six nearby buildings and sprayed the Baghdad Hotel with more than a ton of lethal radioactive particles. Someone somewhere was telling the CIA “right back at you”, on the first anniversary of its own bombing of Kuta Beach in Bali on 12 October 2002.
            Naturally you were not told about this landmark event by members of the corporate media, who suppressed any chance of panic among American troops in Iraq by telling everyone who would listen that a “car bomber charged the hotel gates”, or some such equally predictable and pathetic rubbish. Spontaneously igniting buildings and vaporized cars were left out of the story completely. In fact, some western reporters may not have actually known what happened, because all have been fed the same ridiculous lie that surface car bombs dig craters. Rest assured that surface car bombs can’t and never will be able to dig craters.
            Unwilling to believe that either the Mossad or CIA would be willing to blow up their own assets to celebrate the first anniversary of the Bali bombing, I waited impatiently for the results of a discreet Geiger counter sweep of the immediate area. Unlike Bali, the Geiger counter in Baghdad recorded a reasonably high level of gamma radiation, meaning that the micro nuke used for the attack was of an older type which incorporated a uranium 238 neutron reflector. Several countries including Britain, France, Russia and China have substantial stocks of these weapons, which are normally kept under very tight control by the respective national authorities.
            Apart from a handful of British weapons stolen from their classified buried locations in East Germany decades ago, the only known “suitcase” micros on the loose are Russian. Back in September 1997, former Spetsnaz [Russian Special Forces] commander General Alexander Lebed admitted to “losing” between 84 and 100 of these weapons, and frightened the west by stating casually on television ``Can you imagine what would happen morally, psychologically, if this weapon is detonated in a big city? ... About 50-70,000 people, up to 100,000 people would be killed.''
            As usual, the colorful Alexander Lebed was playing with his audience, because he knew very well at the time that most of the “lost” Russian suitcase nuclear weapons were rated at 0.01 kilotons [10 tons equivalent TNT], with only 12 of the total packing the 1.0 kiloton [1,000 tons equivalent TNT] blast he was describing.  It would be nice to confirm this personally with General Alexander Lebed, but sadly he is no longer with us.
            On 28 April 2002 General Lebed was flying to the opening of a new ski line in the Yermakov district of Siberia when his helicopter crashed. Though he survived the crash, the hospital in Abakan pronounced Lebed dead at 1300 hours.

General Alexander Lebed
           Quite apart from deliberately marking the first anniversary of the Bali bombing, it seems entirely possible that those in control of this series of micro nuclear weapons are intent on using them for “area denial”, in other words to prevent the Americans from using certain specific sections or areas of Iraq. Translated to the prestigious Baghdad Hotel in the heart of the city, this makes perfect sense. Though ninety-nine percent of American troops would be unable to distinguish between a conventional 10 ton explosive blast and a critical nuclear 10 ton blast, the Central Intelligence Agency would know the difference in a flash.
            It is a fact of life that CIA personnel are so far up themselves they feel entitled to five-star accommodation wherever they travel, including Iraq. Army tents without air conditioning or showers would be out of the question for these self-appointed “super spooks”, as would any accommodation contaminated by even a tiny trace of gamma radiation. Perhaps this is the main point of the exercise. First get rid of the American spooks, and the American troops will eventually follow them home.

    December 24, 2005

Widespread Radioactivity Monitoring Is Confirmed

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The F.B.I. and the Energy Department have conducted thousands of searches for radioactive materials at private sites around the country in the last three years, government officials confirmed on Friday.
    The existence of the search program was disclosed on Thursday by U.S. News & World Report, on its Web site. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, government agencies have disclosed that they have installed radiation-detection equipment at ports, subway stations and other public locations, but extensive surreptitious monitoring of private property has not been publicly known.
    The federal government has given thousands of radiation alarms, worn like cellphones on the belt, to police and fire departments in major cities.  A spokesman for the Justice Department, Brian Roehrkasse, confirmed that law enforcement personnel were conducting "passive operations in publicly accessible areas to detect the presence of radiological materials, in a manner that protects U.S. constitutional rights."
    U.S. News, citing people it did not name, said many of the sites that federal agents had monitored were mosques or the homes or businesses of Muslims, and the report set off a dispute between a Muslim group here and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
    The group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement: "This disturbing revelation, coupled with recent reports of domestic surveillance without warrant, could lead to the perception that we are no longer a nation ruled by law, but instead one in which fear trumps constitutional rights. All Americans should be concerned about the apparent trend toward a two-tiered system of justice, with full rights for most citizens, and another diminished set of rights for Muslims."
    But John Miller, an assistant director of the F.B.I., said in a statement that his agency "does not target any group based on ethnicity, political or religious belief." "When intelligence information suggests a threat to public safety, particularly involving weapons of mass destruction," the statement said, "investigators will go where the intelligence information takes them."  Mr. Miller said the bureau was "disappointed at the conclusions" reached by the Muslim group. He added that F.B.I. agents would work through the holiday weekend to catch whoever set off a bomb on Tuesday that damaged the door of a mosque near Cincinnati.
    According to a federal official who would not allow his name to be used, the investigators have visited hundreds of sites in Washington, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas and Seattle on multiple occasions, as well other locations for high-profile events like the Super Bowl. The surveillance was conducted outdoors, and no warrants were needed or sought, the official said, speaking on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss classified programs. "If you can go drive a car into the parking lot near the shopping mall, we can go there," he said. "It's nothing intrusive. We're not searching into a particular building, just sniffing the air in the area."
    Federal officials have expressed anxiety about two radiological threats. One is a "dirty bomb," a conventional explosive that would spread a radioactive material. Such an attack would be unlikely to kill anyone with radiation, but it could contaminate streets, buildings or other public places. The materials that would be used are highly radioactive and might be detected from some distance, experts say.
    The other threat is that someone would try to detonate a nuclear bomb. Bomb fuel, either enriched uranium or plutonium, is much harder to detect, because its radiation signature is weak, physicists say. But it is also much harder to obtain.  At least some of the surveillance was by the Nuclear Emergency Support Team, part of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, which leads the American effort to secure nuclear materials around the world.

Washington Post    December 24, 2005

U.S. Monitored Muslim Sites Across Nation for Radiation

By Spencer S. Hsu and Michael Alison Chandler

    Clandestine FBI and Energy Department teams have monitored private property in the United States for signs of radiation without warrants, U.S. officials said yesterday. Officials said the monitoring, which intensified after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, did not require warrants or court orders because it took place from publicly accessible areas or from parking lots or driveways leading to private facilities, which the FBI believes do not carry privacy protections.
    According to a report yesterday by U.S. News & World Report, government teams were sent to more than 100 Muslim sites in the Washington area, including mosques, homes, businesses and warehouses, plus similar sites in Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York and Seattle.
    The magazine, citing unnamed sources who knew about the secret program, said investigators sometimes went onto property under surveillance without a warrant, and some participants were threatened with firing after questioning the legality of the activity. At its peak, three vehicles monitored 120 sites a day in and around Washington, nearly all of them Muslim targets identified by the FBI, the report said. The magazine said checks were made daily for about 10 months starting in 2002 and resumed during high threat periods.
    Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the FBI does not target any group based on ethnicity, political or religious belief. "When intelligence information suggests that there may be a threat to public safety, particularly involving weapons of mass destruction, FBI investigators will go wherever the intelligence information takes them, acting within the framework of the law," he said.
    Department spokesman John Nowacki said the government "is concerned with the growing body of reporting that al Qaeda has an intention to obtain and use chemical or radiological materials in an attack against Americans, and with this in mind, the FBI, as part of an interagency team, conducts passive operation in publicly accessible areas to determine the presence of nuclear materials in the area, in a manner that protects U.S. constitutional rights."
    The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in 2001 that warrants are required for police to use devices that search through walls for criminal activity, striking down the use of a heat sensor that led to marijuana charges against an Oregon man. "The message they are sending through these kinds of actions is that being Muslim is sufficient evidence to warrant scrutiny," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
    Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, director of outreach for Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, called the surveillance another example of unwarranted activity -- "both unwarranted from the standpoint of spying on Muslims who are only trying to observe their rituals and unwarranted in terms of not having proper judicial review." "I don't understand what good this sort of surveillance is doing," said Mukit Hossain, trustee of the All Dulles Area Muslims Society in Sterling. "What we are doing is harassing the immigrants and citizens and we haven't found one that is a terrorist." He said this kind of surveillance fuels "anti-Muslim feelings in America and a public relations problem for America in Muslim countries."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
April 28, 2005
The Chasm between the Haves and Have-Not's
Bhaskar Dasgupta

    The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is going to get another airing in May of this year. People have started making noises about it already, but it’s going to be quite predictable. A whole load of documents will be produced prior to the Review Conference; the pacifists and left leaning folks will demonstrate vociferously; North Korea and Iran will be hauled over the coals for daring to want nuclear weapons; Israel will maintain a discreet silence; India will bellow about unfair treatment; Pakistan will squirm about the AQ Khan proliferation network; USA will tie themselves in knots trying to navigate some extremely contradictory policy shoals; France will be petulant; UK will be diplomatically active; Russia will be lost as usual; the conference will end with some high sounding declaration and that will be it. Frankly, if you ask me, it’s a complete crock and the treaty should be torn up. Useless piece of paper. Why? Read on, McDuff.
    I have spoken before in this space about the NPT with reference to Iran. It would be conducive to repeat what I concluded for Iran back in 2003. “Iran will have its nuclear weapons, if not today then tomorrow. As I mentioned, there is no downside to Iran and only an upside, which makes it very difficult to convince Iran to give up its nuclear weapons programme. It cannot be threatened, cannot be bribed, and certainly cannot be forced. The neighbourhood is tough and to expect Iran to resign its nuclear aspirations is rather too naïve. All that the world should do now is to try to address the structure around nuclear power states. As we have seen with the press reports about Saudi Arabia wanting Pakistani Nuclear weapons, it’s a mutual deterrence issue. The nuclear genie is out of the bottle and no amount of swearing and shouting will cause it to go back in again. "Welcome (premature, mind you) to the nuclear club, Iran."
    Let me cut to the chase; I recommend that the NPT be hung, drawn, quartered and dropped neatly into the rubbish bin. While it was useful for many years during the cold war, it has proven to be spectacularly ineffective indeed in the last decade. So what’s the big deal about the NPT? To summarise the NPT, five defined nuclear powers, namely USA, UK, France, China and Russia, promise not to transfer nuclear weapons; not to help others acquire them; and to pursue nuclear disarmament. The non-nuclear weapon states promise not to get nuclear weapons; accept safeguards from the International Atomic Energy Agency and in return for that, they get civilian nuclear energy help. It entered into force in 1970 and a huge number of countries ratified it. So far so good! Right now, we have Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and India who possess both the nuclear weapons and the delivery vehicles. While Pakistan and India have tested weapons, thereby removing all doubt, North Korea has publicly claimed to have nukes, while Israel is strongly suspected to have nuclear weapons although this has not been officially confirmed. To top it all, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. What is the end-result? If the objective was to stop nuclear proliferation, then it failed miserably. We have the examples of the above countries to prove it. If the objective was to reduce and stop nuclear disarmament – then that has failed miserably as well.
    The nuclear weapon states absolutely do not desire to do anything, which will reduce or remove their nuclear weapons capability. For example, it is the nuclear weapons capability, which gives France and Russia its extra influence in the world. The USA and USSR are busy upgrading their arsenals – the USA is thinking about upgrading its major warhead designs (heavy discussions have been heard lately about spending more than $2 billion on a routine 10-year overhaul to extend the life of the aging warheads, such as the W-76) while the USSR is working on better delivery systems; USA has refused to ratify the CTBT and so on and so forth. On the other hand, for a country to achieve nuclear weapons, they only have to start spraying money around in corrupt or crazy countries such as Pakistan and North Korea respectively, and they will get all what they need. We have seen and heard how Libya, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have attempted to gain this knowledge. So frankly, the NPT has been proven to be well and truly stuffed.

    If so, what is the alternative? This requires going back to the drawing board. The main reason why nuclear weapons were dreaded, as opposed to say battle tanks or cruise missiles, is their sheer destructive power. In other words, the sheer potential to virtually wipe out the entire earth many times over is what got people terrified. The anti-nuclear campaign was in full flow starting from the late 50’s and gained quite a head of steam, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the foot on the accelerator was taken off. In addition, with the passage of time, nuclear weapons have lost their terror, as none had actually been used since WWII. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction kept usage of nuclear weapons down to zero. It is a mutual suicide weapon indeed, but recently, given impact of terror attacks, fear has become generic. Gone are the days that massive rallies would take place about removal of nuclear weapons, but now, people are more driven by what a few pathologically disturbed idiot terrorists could do, rather than what a whole structure which owns and manages nuclear weapons can. In other words, what I feel is that the worry is more about individuals rather than states. Given that most of the states are heading towards democracy and responsible government, the worry is about these individuals, terrorists and the few failed or terrorist harbouring states.
    Given this background, what can one do? What one can do is to give up this NPT business and concentrate on homing into addressing the “root causes”. Namely, protection of civilians from warfare, going after the terrorists and sorting out failed or threatening states. The ICC needs to be bedded down, a real anti-terrorist treaty should be embedded, and finally the recently proposed UN reforms should be taken a step further to allow international intervention. The Geneva Conventions should be given more teeth and should be further incorporated into national law. Put it in another way, just like the UN and European Human Rights Conventions are now incorporated into British Law, similarly the Geneva Conventions with some improvements should be incorporated into various national laws. At the very least, no country, which does not have these conventions and treaties as part of their own legal system, should be allowed to be part of the UN Security Council. This will provide the necessary teeth for the prevention of wholesale massacres and genocide of civilians. If anybody wishes to pop off a nuke, they should know the penalties for this.
    Secondly, the ICC is a very good measure, but needs to be improved. This column is not the place to go into those, but the big guys should again be part of ICC otherwise it does not make sense. Some improvements need to be made to get countries like USA, India, and China etc. to sign up and some of their objections are pretty valid. It is vital to address genocide, massacres, and other crimes against humanity globally. I can understand and appreciate the objections which the USA has made and those need to be addressed as well, in case that any tin pot dictator or rocket scientist gets hold of nuclear weapons or goes about selling them, he will be hauled over hot coals.
    Thirdly, within the ICC or some other framework, a real anti-terrorist treaty has to be bedded down. No faffing around! Anybody who is going after civilians for political, social or religious purposes outside the national and international laws is a terrorist. Interpol needs to be strengthened, extradition treaties implanted into the treaty – this rats nest of bilateral treaties has to go – perhaps the Interpol can get a structure like that of the WTO. Intelligence sharing, targeted eradication, information sharing, good databases, better passports and security, good border controls etc. etc. will stop or at least make it very difficult for terrorists to go about getting hold of nuclear technology. The IAEA is a good idea and need to be given further teeth and bigger scope to handle chemical and biological weapons as well.
    The final part is to look at the UN reforms more critically and aggressively. In particular, some sort of international consensus mechanisms should be drawn up, so that failed or failing states can be looked at much earlier and if required with much more force than currently. In addition, we also should not be forced to be in a position that situations like Rwanda happen again, while some UNSC members are not sure. Again, this column isn't the place to go deeper into the UN reform proposals, but it definitely has to be made more concrete and more rigorous. Failed states and freely available nuclear weapons technology are not a good combination. At end of the day, the objective is to be realistic about all this. Nuclear technology is out there. We might as well as bring the states into the structure rather than persist in a structure, which fails in its basic objectives. Ralph Waldo Emerson warned of this saying: ‘Man is a shrewd inventor, and is ever taking the hint of a new machine from his own structure, adapting some secret of his own anatomy in iron, wood, and leather, to some required function in the work of the world. But it is found that the machine unmans the user. What he gains in making cloth, he loses in general power.”
    All this to be taken with a grain of salt!

CFR     November 3, 2005

New U.S.-India Agreement Undercuts U.S. Allegiance
to Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Interviewee: Lawrence Scheinman, Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, Council on Foreign Relations

    Lawrence Scheinman, a prominent expert in arms control policy, says the Bush administration's sudden agreement in principle to provide nuclear technology to India even though India has never joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has nuclear arms, "rubs up against the longstanding policy that we have had on nuclear proliferation." In short, that policy holds that the United States should not aid the nuclear efforts, civilian or otherwise, of nations not in conformity with the non-proliferation regime.
    Although the agreement was announced in principle on July 18, there is not yet a formal accord awaiting congressional action. Scheinman says President Bush will "have a tough time" getting it through Congress unless there is considerable consultation and flexibility. The agreement to help out India's civil nuclear program comes at a time when the United States is trying to pressure Iran, which is a signatory to the NPT, not to go further in their ostensible civilian nuclear program.
    Using the term used by the administration to describe the Iraqi coalition, Scheinman says the "United States administration does not have great confidence in multilateral institutions as a way to get things done and prefers to act on the basis of a consensus of 'the willing.'"
    Scheinman, the distinguished professor at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, was formerly assistant director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Clinton administration. He was interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor for, on November 3, 2005.
Right now, there seem to be several issues concerning the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. One is the administration's concern about Iran developing a nuclear capability that it believes could lead eventually to its getting nuclear weapons. There are also the ongoing six-nation negotiations with North Korea to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program. Now, the newest issue is the agreementin principle—announced in the middle of July between India and the United States about a very broad strategic agreement which, in part, would give India nuclear help in its nuclear civilian industry, even though India is not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. How does the administration justify its approach to Iran on one side and India on the other?
    I think the first point that we need to recognize is that India never accepted the constraints of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It's one of the three states that remain outside the treaty.

The others are Pakistan and Israel?
    Yes, Pakistan and Israel are the other two. In comparing India and Iran, however, while India had never undertaken any obligations with respect to nonproliferation, Iran is a party to the NPT and made a commitment to nonproliferation, to safeguards, and to provide all the appropriate information to the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]. Iran was found to be delinquent in providing information to the IAEA for a period of somewhere between fifteen and eighteen years about what it was doing, what it was proposing, what it was producing, and the like.

So, Iran has to be looked upon as a state that had a set of legally binding obligations with which it failed to comply.
    India is a state that never made the commitment in the first place to the NPT. And it is now regarded by the US administration as an important potential strategic partner as it looks to the years ahead with respect to East Asia and to the broader international system. It's also important to remember that before the agreement that was reached on July 18th between India and the United States, there had been ongoing discussion on strategic relations between the two countries. I think about a month before this agreement was reached between India and the United States, an agreement on Next Steps in the Strategic Partnership was concluded that called for improved relations in economic, technological, and military cooperation fields. It was the July statement that brought in the civil nuclear cooperation factor that rubs up against the longstanding policy that we have had on nuclear proliferation.

Can you tell us what that policy is?
    The policy is that we will not cooperate with any state that does not accept full scope safeguards on all of its civil nuclear activities. This is inscribed in our 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act that amended the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. We do not say that a state has to be an NPT party, to qualify for cooperation—it could for example be a party to a nuclear-weapon free zone treaty—but it must accept that it will have only civil nuclear activity and that nuclear activity will be under comprehensive international safeguards.

And those safeguards mean what? The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)?
    IAEA safeguards to verify that the state is in compliance with its undertaking not to produce anything nuclear but for civil purposes. In addition, we had taken the lead in creating the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in the aftermath of the 1974 India “peaceful” nuclear test and for years we had been trying to get all of the nuclear suppliers to agree that they would not cooperate with any country that did not accept comprehensive IAEA safeguards on all of their nuclear activities.
    It was not until 1992 that the NSG agreed as an entity that that's the way that they would proceed in the future. And now the United States comes along and says, "Well, we think our legislation with respect to nonproliferation and safeguards needs to be adjusted because there are new geo-strategic considerations that we are trying to deal with and that we'll also have to get our NSG partners to agree to alter a policy commitment that we took in 1992 after twenty years of U.S. efforts."

So, did this come as sort of a bolt from nowhere to the Congress?
    I think it did. I don't think anybody anticipated that the administration was going to suddenly turn around and say, "Well, our national legislation, our national policy, and our international undertakings need to be changed because we have a new situation that we are confronting, a modernizing China, in terms of its nuclear weapons, a growing assertiveness of China in the East Asia region and India, a democratic country that has not joined the NPT, but that could serve as an important partner in trying to maintain stability in that region of the world."

Now, explain to me one thing: We know India has had a series of nuclear tests, including most recently in 1998. There are now five nuclear-weapon states that are acknowledged—the United States, Britain, Russia, France, and China.
    Yes, the NPT acknowledged five nuclear-weapon states.

Why can't India be a nuclear-weapon state since it obviously has nuclear weapons?
    Because, under the terms of the NPT the only states that can be recognized as nuclear weapon states for the purposes of the treaty are those that tested before January 1, 1967—that was the definition agreed to by the states that negotiated the NPT. India did not conduct a test until 1974, so in order for them to become a nuclear weapon state the treaty would have to be fundamentally amended. Amendment is extremely difficult, and if you opened up that treaty to amend it to accommodate India then you would effectively be opening the treaty up to amendment for other reasons. Everybody would want to assert their view on what they felt was deficient in the NPT and should be corrected. One of those things would be Article Six of the NPT. Most of the countries in the world would like to see Article Six, the commitment of the nuclear-weapon states to disarm being fulfilled on a more rapid and comprehensive basis than they think we're doing. So they would say that if you want to amend the treaty to allow India to become a party to the treaty as a nuclear-weapon state, then we want you to accept a time-bound framework for getting rid of all of your nuclear weapons. And that is something we don't want to open ourselves up to.

Now, the Bush administration's policy on nonproliferation until now has been what?
    The administration asserts that it is strongly in favor of promoting nuclear nonproliferation. But it's been less convinced that the best way to do this is through arms control arrangements or through multilateral institutions and agreements and prefers what has been called by [Council President] Richard Haass  “multilateralism a la carte,” which is what you see in the so-called Proliferations Security Initiative and initiatives that the United States has pushed with its G-8 [Group of Eight] partners with respect to dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons material becoming available to non-state actors and terrorist groups.  In other words, the United States administration does not have great confidence in multilateral institutions as a way to get things done and prefers to act on the basis of a consensus of “the willing.”

So you're taking that expression from Iraq?

So how did the policy on India evolve?
    Our former Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill was pushing very hard, and others in the administration were pressing to reassess our relationship with India. They were saying that it's unfortunate that here you have the largest democracy in the world, with whom we share many common values, which is being dealt with differently than almost everybody else and we need in the present international political/security environment is a closer and better and stronger relationship with India. Most people would agree, I among them, that it's important for the United States to forge a stronger and deeper set of relations with India. We do have a lot in common.
    The question is whether, in doing so, we should sacrifice another value that we have, which is the value of sustaining a credible nuclear nonproliferation regime. So I think what you're seeing here is basically a problem of how do you strengthen relationships with India, but not at the expense of another important relationship, which is the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

How would this agreement in July violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty?
    What is involved here, essentially, is that under the existing law that we mentioned a few minutes ago under our national legislation and under our international undertakings in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and with the NSG, there is not supposed to be any cooperation in the nuclear field with countries that don't accept comprehensive safeguards on all their nuclear activities. That means that they are to have civil programs, that they forego the pursuit or acquisition of nuclear weapons or explosive devices, and that that civil program can be verified.
    By entering into this agreement, we're saying that, well, even though you are a self-declared nuclear weapon state, even though you are running a nuclear weapons program, we are prepared to enter into some kind of a relationship with you where we can have cooperation in the civil nuclear sector. Then the question becomes, what does the United States get for what it's apparently prepared to give, and what is it that India is giving to the United States and the international community in exchange for what it receives in the way of nuclear cooperation?
    There has been a whole list of things that has been indicated in the record. India has agreed that it would maintain a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, and that it would work for the conclusion of a fissile material cutoff convention, and that it would strengthen its nuclear export control system. These are things that are very much part of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. The problem for many of us is that yes, these are good things but they're already in place, that is to say these are policies and practices currently being pursued by the Indian government, so the question is, what else is India going to do?
    One of the other things that they are committing themselves to do is not to transfer any sensitive nuclear technology to states that don't already have them. That's very consistent with U.S. thinking as well. You may recall the president's statement in February of 2004 that called for no further transfer of enrichment or reprocessing technologies to states that don't already have fully operational capability in that field; in other words, to create a new barrier to any other countries entering into the business of enrichment and reprocessing, which of course is focused very much on the Iranian situation. India is saying, “Yes, yes, we'll go along with that as well.” In fact, if you look back at the history, India has never, to our knowledge, transferred these sensitive nuclear technologies. But then you get to something else. India has several reactors that are under international safeguards because they were provided to India by suppliers on that condition, for example the Tarapur reactors.

That's provided by the United States.
    Yes. The others are the Rajasthan reactors that were provided by Canada. The rest of the reactors that are in India are not under any kind of surveillance, monitoring, or controls. They have said in this agreement with the United States that they would separate their military and civilian nuclear facilities and place their civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards and that they would also adhere to the additional protocols and safeguards (PDF) that the board of governors had approved in 1997 and to which we have already signed up but have not yet implemented.
    The problem here is that  it's the sovereign right of India to make the decision as to what is civil, what is military, and they could say they have about eight reactors that are not under safeguards that they could declare to be civil facilities but they won't do that for all of them because they have taken the position, as far as I understand it, that they, unlike the United States or the former Soviet Union, have not stockpiled large quantities of fissile nuclear material that could be used weapons purposes and require flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. They have a minimum deterrence policy and posture and they only produce as much nuclear material for those weapons as they need and that's a changing, shifting requirement. So the question would be, are they prepared to declare all of their nuclear facilities other than the specifically dedicated facilities weapons program to be civil, to place it under international safeguards in perpetuity so that they could never withdraw a facility from safeguards and apply its capability for a weapons program, or are they not?
    This is going to be a very, very big problem in terms of how things go forward and why many of us have been urging the Congress, which has to get into this whole business of approving an agreement for cooperation and approving the conditions for export policies to be carried out, to insist on a  very rigorous set of conditions to be applied, including a very broad declaration of facilities to be strictly for civil purposes. Congress has to get into this in terms of changing our law; and we as a country have to get into this in terms of getting an agreement in terms of all our partners in the NSG. There are now forty-five countries involved in the suppliers group. It operates on the basis of consensus, which means that everybody has got to agree that yes, we will change the rules of the game and we'll do it en masse and we'll not have one country walk away and say, “I'm going to do what I please,” after having worked so hard to get an agreement that we would all work according to the same set of rules.

Is there any likelihood that Congress will say no?
    I don't think that Congress will say no. I think what Congress will do is to determine the conditions under which they would be prepared to approve an agreement for cooperation with India . What is necessary is that the administration places before the Congress a draft agreement for cooperation. This applies to any cooperative agreement that we have and it sits before Congress, I think, for a total of ninety days and the Congress has to act on it. If the Congress doesn't like what they see in terms of the particulars in that agreement for cooperation, they can say, “Well, we're prepared to accept this if you do A and B.” One of the ideas is that the Indian government should agree to a voluntary moratorium on any further production of fissile material for weapons purpose, while a fissile material cutoff treaty (that they agree to pursue with the US and others) is being negotiated.
    The Indians have already been approached on this, as far as I understand it, and they said absolutely not. The reason they said “no” was the reason I gave earlier, that they say they don't stockpile fissile material for weapons, but produce it as needed. If there were a sudden change in terms of need and they were locked into a no-production fissile material for weapons, they would not be able to address their changing security environment.

Are the Iranians saying the United States is being very hypocritical? Are other countries saying that?
    Yes. I think that from the Iranian point of view, they sit there and say, "Wait a minute, here is a country that doesn't subscribe to the NPT and is free to go out as a consequence—legally free to go out—and develop nuclear weapons, which it's been doing, and you're about to do business with them, which is fine. On the other hand here we are a party to the NPT, we have accepted full scope safeguards, we have adopted the additional protocol and applied it even before our legislature has ratified it, and you're telling us we don't have the right to complete the nuclear fuel cycle? Wait a minute, how is it that the Indians can be rewarded for their staying outside the treaty and still get all the cooperation that a party inside the treaty would normally get and you're telling us that we shouldn't be enriching nuclear material, we should not be reprocessing nuclear material and that we're bad guys and we should be treated accordingly."
    So it does make it very difficult and the Iranians are very clever. From their point of view, the United States is promoting a policy of differentiation in the treatment of India that has always stayed outside of the NPT. How do other countries like South Africa, the Ukraine, Brazil that gave up nuclear weapons programs and stayed within the treaty, how do they react to this? These countries have to be thinking, "Wait a second, we gave up these rights and we committed ourselves to a legally binding commitment, and in order to get cooperation, now you're going to go ahead and offer cooperation to a country that said it's not going to subscribe to any of these things?"

I assume Pakistan will be knocking on our door, too.
    They already are. There are reports that the Pakistanis would like to build a number of power reactors and you bring up a good point. If the United States is successful in getting an agreement to go forward with this arrangement with India, the Chinese, who have already said that they have what we would call “grandfathered agreements” with Pakistan will be in there in full force to transfer more technology and to cooperate more. Other countries will be looking at Pakistan and say, “Maybe we can do some business there as well.”
    Now, that business would be under safeguards and under conditions that a country cannot produce material for weapons purposes. One thing that I forgot to add, is that if we get into the business of nuclear cooperation and the transfer of nuclear material for civil reactors to India, to the extent that we're making those transfers, we are relieving them of the need to produce their own material for their civil programs domestically and the workload that would have gone into producing that civil nuclear material could, in theory, be dedicated to producing nuclear material for weapons purposes. So, in a sense, we would be assisting them in their proliferation.

Why did the United States feel it necessary to do all of this? Why couldn't it just have a strategic agreement against terrorism and stuff like that?
    Good question. Why couldn't we have a wholesome strategic agreement between ourselves and India that didn't get into the issue of civil nuclear cooperation? I think that the answer to that is that the Indians wanted to have an agreement that gave them legitimacy, the recognition by the world's leading power that they are a legitimate state in conducting their nuclear activities and that opens the door for them to be considered one of the inside crowd, as opposed to being on the outside. I think the answer to this is very much a question of India's self-image and its image in the world and its concern that it be acknowledged for what it is, which is a nuclear-weapon state, even though it's not one that is a weapon-state by the definition of the NPT.

Does President Bush have enough political clout to push this through, you think?
    I think he'll have a tough time. I am aware of the fact that Congress on both sides of the aisle, Senate and House sides have indicated to the Administration that they expect not to be presented with a fait accompli, take it or leave it kind of agreement for cooperation, but rather to keep a close consultation with the Congress on this. I think that if the administration chose to just try to barrel it through, it wouldn't make it. But, if they chose to do it on the basis on temperate negotiation and consultation and working and ironing out the wrinkles and the differences with the Congress that they might be able to get something.

CFR    February 24, 2006

U.S.-India Draft Nuclear Agreement Ill-Considered,
but Goal of Accommodation with India a Good One
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewee: George Perkovich, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

    George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a leading expert on India’s nuclear program, applauds the U.S. goal of trying to reach an accommodation with India over its nuclear program. But he says the details in the draft accord, now being worked on in advance of President Bush’s arrival in India next week, were “very under-cooked and not well-considered.”
    “The idea of changing the rules to make some accommodation with India was correct,” says Perkovich. “But this particular approach was ill-considered, in essence giving India, or attempting to give India, everything, and to throw out in essence all the rules in return for too little from India. And the reason that you want more from India is to be able to send a signal to the rest of the world that ‘Yes, nonproliferation matters also, and we’re not throwing out the distinctions that have been made between countries that have nuclear weapons and countries that don’t.’”
President Bush heads to India and Pakistan next week. In India, which will be the centerpiece of the trip, he’s hoping to sign an agreement on nuclear sharing, which will require congressional approval. Do you think this agreement will actually come into being this soon?
    Certainly the administration and the Indian government in July when they announced the basic outlines hoped and anticipated that by now, yes, they would have been able to clear away the legal issues and actually have something formalized. The proposal ran into a lot more difficulty than either government anticipated, in both countries, interestingly. It ran into considerable opposition in India and a lot of scrutiny in the United States.

What were the problems?
    The original proposal was unusually vague, and it left open some really fundamental questions. For example, the administration in July 2005 said that this deal would augment our nuclear nonproliferation objectives. It said the main way this would happen is that for the first time India would designate certain nuclear facilities as civilian, and put those under safeguards by the [UN nuclear watchdog, the] International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]. Many of those facilities aren’t under such safeguards now.
    What the administration didn’t nail down was how long would the safeguards be accepted or agreed to by India. In other words, all of the world, except for the five recognized nuclear weapon states, have safeguards forever on a facility. You build a facility, you put it under safeguard, safeguards are there eternally, and safeguards on the fuel and the nuclear material are for eternity.
    People asked, “Is this what India’s going to do, when it designates a facility as civilian and puts it under safeguards, is it for eternity?” [Bush] administration leaders kind of shrugged their shoulders. They hadn’t thought of it. The Indians, when first asked, said, “No way, because what we’ve agreed to, and what President Bush has said, was that India now will be treated like all the other advanced nuclear countries, meaning the five recognized with nuclear weapons.” And the dirty little secret is that we five—the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, and France—do not accept safeguards forever. We have voluntary safeguards which say, “Yes, you can come look and inspect it today, but if tomorrow I change my mind, I kick the inspectors out, I take the fuel, and do what I want with it.” And so Congress and others asked the administration, “Well which is it, is it safeguards forever, in which case, OK; if it’s not safeguards forever, you didn’t get anything.” And the administration scratched its collective head and said, “We’re going to have go talk to the Indians about it.”

So what’s happened when we talked to the Indians?
    The Indians came up with a formula that was very clever. They said, “Well, we don’t like it, but we’re prepared to accept safeguards on facilities and on fuel as long as you’re prepared to continue providing the fuel. So if you say safeguards forever, that means you have to promise fuel forever.” The United States will never agree to that.

Why is that?
    I’ve had this discussion with administration officials. They say, “We will never give up our sovereign right to deny exports to anyone.” This comes up in regard to Iran. In many ways, the key to solving the Iran nuclear problem will be to guarantee Iran sources of fuel from outside of Iranto persuade Iran not to make the fuel themselves. And the Iranians say, “We can’t do that if we’re not going to be guaranteed that fuel supply forever.” And the United States says it will never make that guarantee forever because it may want to impose sanctions if Iran takes hostages again, or what have you. The United States will never give up its right to deny export licenses. And so that same principle would have to hold for India. This is one of those issues that’s still, I think, being hammered out as we speak.

And of course, in India, I gather, there’s a strong nuclear lobby?
    In India, you have a strong nuclear establishment, which is a little different from a lobby. In other words, it’s the Department of Atomic Energy, the Atomic Energy Commission, the people who actually wear the white coats and design and build things and get budgets to do that. It’s always been a state within a state. It’s been highly unaccountable. It’s never been subjected to international scrutiny or competition. They were seen as the avatars of modernity and brilliance, the real symbols of great technological prowess, and so they have been powerful over the years, and also, immune from economic accountability and pressure. It’s a paradox. On one hand, the nuclear experts realize that, finally, all of the promises they’ve made about providing nuclear energy for decades always come up woefully short; that they’re never going to meet the country’s energy needs without significant international cooperation.

You mean they don’t have enough sources of uranium?
    They don’t have enough sources of uranium to fuel the kind of first-generation nuclear reactors they would need to meet energy requirements for the short term or even the next two decades. So there’s a physical limit because of the fuel. There’s a technological limit because their programs always kind of run behind in terms of the size of its reactors and its general capability.
    Now, they’re improving that a lot, but they can’t build enough reactors soon enough to meet the country’s energy targets. So where that leads is that, for a combination of both fuel needs and reactor needs, they’re going to have to turn to international cooperation. Now they have a grand plan that they’ve had since the 1940s, which is to be the only country which relies on a totally different kind of fuel, which is a thorium-based fuel, because India has an abundance of thorium in its sand, in its soil. The problem is that the thorium fuel cycle is always fifty years away.

So did the Indians come to the United States first?
    They have been coming to us for many, many years, saying, “You want better relations, the No. 1 issue has been to open up for nuclear cooperation, end the different kinds of sanctions.” So they’ve been hammering on this for decades. Yes, they came to us saying we want fully open nuclear cooperation. Modestly, they would have settled for fuel right now, but they wanted everything. And then this administration, unlike others, for a variety of reasons said, “Let’s give them everything.”

If we reached an agreement, this would allow American companies like GE [General Electric] or Westinghouse to build reactors for them?
    Yes, that’s right. [It would be an agreement] to build reactors, to supply nuclear fuel, to engage in full-scale civilian cooperation in facilities under IAEA safeguards. And this is what requires a change Also, if the United States were to be faithful to the international rules that it helped establish, we would have to persuade the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is a cartel of nuclear technology suppliers, to change their rules, which also bar this kind of full cooperation with countries that don’t have all of their facilities under IAEA safeguards. And so the president promised that in addition to changing our laws, he would try to change the Nuclear Supplier Group guidelines, to make what we want to do consistent with the rules. That would open up the Indian sector to cooperation from France, Japan, and anybody else with which India would want to do business.

The question to me is why did India ever set off those bombs in 1998 that led to its problems?
    From their point of view, it was: “We’re going to set off these bombs because, like the United States and China and other great powers we need nuclear weapons, and we face a rising China that’s been noted by the United States as a potential major power with which we have a border dispute. They have nuclear weapons targeted at us; we’re going to need demonstrable nuclear weapon capability. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is engaged in violence with us.” But at least as important as that was the view: “Look, the countries with nuclear weapons get treated like great powers in this world and the countries that talk about morality and disarmament, as India has for forty years, get dismissed, they get laughed at. And so we are going to speak the language that the United States and China and others respect, which is the language of assertiveness, of military strength and defiance, and so we’re going to defy these rules, and we’re going to blast the tests and you’ll want to sanction us, you’ll do it for a while, but eventually, you’re going to have to accept us as a great power.” That’s why they did it.

And they’re turning out more or less right, aren’t they?
    That’s why this is controversial for a lot of people. The administration’s view is, in essence, “Yes, we should admit they were right, and the world has changed, and we all are in a contest with China, and India sits in an interesting place on the map. So let’s change these rules and recognize thatIndiais a great power and treat it as such.”

You’ve written a book about India’s nuclear program. What do you think about this pending U.S.-Indian agreement? Is it a good one, or is it not?
    I think this particular agreement was very under-cooked and not well-considered; very important details were omitted, but the idea of changing the rules to make some accommodation with India was correct. But this particular approach was ill-considered, in essence giving India, or attempting to giveIndia, everything, and to throw out in essence all the rules in return for too little fromIndia.

What do we need from India?
    The safeguards that India puts on facilities it designates as civilian should be permanent. That’s key. The number of facilities that India designates civilian as opposed to military should be very high. In other words, they could turn around and say, “You know, half the program is civilian, you can put safeguards on it, but the other half we’re calling military and no one’s ever going to go near it.” And that would be kind of a travesty in terms of diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in the world. So there’s that issue.
    But the biggest issue, and where the administration neglected things, was the world already has much too much raw material, highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. And the United States, France, Great Britain, and Russia have stopped producing plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. We believe that China has also stopped producing but they’ve never announced it or formalized it. And it is a high priority of much of the world to have everybody in the world stop making additional materials for nuclear bombs.

Now the Indians claim they need to be able to produce fissile material because they only have a minimum stockpile, right?
    Well, they say several things. They started late, comparatively, and they have a small stockpile, but all they ever want is a minimum credible deterrent, they say, but they never define it. And I think the administration, and much of the criticism the administration faces, is that in essence, this deal not only blesses that India has nuclear weapons—and that’s something I think is natural and unavoidable and we should just go ahead and accept—but they’ve blessed the idea that India has nuclear weapons and is going to continue to make more of them, and that’s the part that I think is objectionable, and I think at this time our position should be nobody should be making any more nuclear weapons, period.

Now if Bush gets to Indiaand there is no agreement to sign, is that a terrible disaster in the relations?
    No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it should be a medium or long-term disaster if it isn’t signed, but secondly, if it were, then it proves all the claims about the relationship are a lie anyway. In other words, champions of the deal, in many ways say we should make this deal to demonstrate that the U.S.-India relationship is so strategically important, that we have so much in common, we share such values, we’re such natural allies, that we want to reflect that in this deal. Now, if you turn around and then say, “But if you don’t do this deal somehow we’re going to be adversaries or there’s going to be no relationship,” then you were lying about the relationship that you say the deal was reflecting. So how could a nuclear cooperation deal carry that much freight?

Is Pakistan going to try to get the same thing, or is that just out of the question?
    They’re going to try to get the same thing and it should be out of the question.

    February 27, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
We Can Live With a Nuclear Iran

    THE intense concern about Iran's nuclear energy program reflects the judgment that, should it turn to the production of weapons, an Iran with nuclear arms would gravely endanger the United States and the world. An Iranian nuclear arsenal, policymakers fear, could touch off a regional arms race while emboldening Tehran to undertake aggressive, even reckless, actions.
    But these outcomes are not inevitable, nor are they beyond the capacity of the United States and its allies to defuse. Indeed, while it's seldom a positive thing when a new nuclear power emerges, there is reason to believe that we could readily manage a nuclear Iran.
    A Middle Eastern arms race is a frightening thought, but it is improbable. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, among its neighbors, only Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey could conceivably muster the resources to follow suit.
    Israel is already a nuclear power. Iranian weapons might coax the Israelis to go public with their arsenal and to draw up plans for the use of such weapons in the event of an Iranian military threat. And if Israel disclosed its nuclear status, Egypt might find it diplomatically difficult to forswear acquiring nuclear weapons, too. But Cairo depends on foreign assistance, which would make Egypt vulnerable to the enormous international pressure it would most likely face to refrain from joining an arms race.
    Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has the money to acquire nuclear weapons and technology on the black market, but possible suppliers are few and very closely watched. To develop the domestic scientific, engineering and industrial base necessary to build a self-sustaining nuclear program would take Saudi Arabia years. In the interim, the Saudis would need nuclear security guarantees from the United States or Europe, which would in turn apply intense pressure on Riyadh not to develop its own arms.
    Finally, Turkey may have the resources to build a nuclear weapon, but as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, it relied on American nuclear guarantees against the mighty Soviet Union throughout the cold war. There's no obvious reason to presume that American guarantees would seem insufficient relative to Iran.
    So it seems that while Iranian nuclear weapons might cause considerable disquiet among Iran's neighbors, the United States and other interested parties have many cards to play to limit regional proliferation. But what about the notion that such weapons will facilitate Iranian aggression?
    Iranian nuclear weapons could be put to three dangerous purposes: Iran could give them to terrorists; it could use them to blackmail other states; or it could engage in other kinds of aggressive behavior on the assumption that no one, not even the United States, would accept the risk of trying to invade a nuclear state or to destroy it from the air. The first two threats are improbable and the third is manageable.
    Would Iran give nuclear weapons to terrorists? We know that Tehran has given other kinds of weapons to terrorists and aligned itself with terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah in Lebanon. But to threaten, much less carry out, a nuclear attack on a nuclear power is to become a nuclear target.
    Anyone who attacks the United States with nuclear weapons will be attacked with many, many more nuclear weapons. Israel almost certainly has the same policy. If a terrorist group used one of Iran's nuclear weapons, Iran would have to worry that the victim would discover the weapon's origin and visit a terrible revenge on Iran. No country is likely to turn the means to its own annihilation over to an uncontrolled entity.
    Because many of Iran's neighbors lack nuclear weapons, it's possible that Iran could use a nuclear capacity to blackmail such states into meeting demands — for example, to raise oil prices, cut oil production or withhold cooperation with the United States. But many of Iran's neighbors are allies of the United States, which holds a strategic stake in their autonomy and is unlikely to sit by idly as Iran blackmails, say, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. It is unlikely that these states would capitulate to a nuclear Iran rather than rely on an American deterrent threat. To give in to Iran once would leave them open to repeated extortion.
    Some worry that Iran would be unconvinced by an American deterrent, choosing instead to gamble that the United States would not make good on its commitments to weak Middle Eastern states — but the consequences of losing a gamble against a vastly superior nuclear power like the United States are grave, and they do not require much imagination to grasp.
    The final concern is that a nuclear Iran would simply feel less constrained from other kinds of adventurism, including subversion or outright conventional aggression. But the Gulf states can counter Iranian subversion, regardless of Iran's nuclear status, with domestic reforms and by improving their police and intelligence operations — measures these states are, or should be, undertaking in any case.
    As for aggression, the fear is that Iran could rely on a diffuse threat of nuclear escalation to deter others from attacking it, even in response to Iranian belligerence. But while it's possible that Iranian leaders would think this way, it's equally possible that they would be more cautious. Tehran could not rule out the possibility that others with more and better nuclear weapons would strike Iran first, should it provoke a crisis or war. Judging from cold war history, if the Iranians so much as appeared to be readying their nuclear forces for use, the United States might consider a pre-emptive nuclear strike. Israel might adopt a similar doctrine in the face of an Iranian nuclear arsenal.
    These are not developments to be wished for, but they are risks that a nuclear Iran must take into account. Nor are such calculations all that should counsel caution. Iran's military is large, but its conventional weapons are obsolete. Today the Iranian military could impose considerable costs on an American invasion or occupation force within Iran, but only with vast and extraordinarily expensive improvements could it defeat the American military if it were sent to defend the Gulf states from Iranian aggression.
    Each time a new nuclear weapons state emerges, we rightly suspect that the world has grown more dangerous. The weapons are enormously destructive; humans are fallible, organizations can be incompetent and technology often fails us. But as we contemplate the actions, including war, that the United States and its allies might take to forestall a nuclear Iran, we need to coolly assess whether and how such a specter might be deterred and contained.

Barry R. Posen is a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

2 March 2006

NPT-conform peaceful nuclear activities under Russian sovereignty - in Iran!

dear Ivory Tower co-tenant,

First outlined in a letter to UN (, Iranian nuclear installations declared to be for peaceful purposes, including enrichment facilities situated in Iran, might be placed and operated under Russian sovereignty in full compliance with the NPT (and the Iran/IAEA Safeguards Agreement INFCIRC/214) in analoguous application of the U.S./Swiss Agreement for co-operation concerning civil uses of atomic energy, of 18 July 1955, UN Treaty Series 1956, no.3388 (.../NPT.htm#3388 ¦ .../Saphir.tif) ¦ .../3103.htm ¦ .../3103memo.htm ¦ .../iranmail2.htm). And though this appears to go against the grain of the politically correct public discussions among kite flyers and flat earth policymakers, CFR, CNS, CEIP, SIPRI and other students of the genesis and operation of the NPT may easily recognise this pathway not to be far off, and in fact to come close to what, realistically and in light of the Indian situation, they consider to be achievable and indicated under the circumstances, like the International Crisis Group's “delayed limited enrichment” plan.

If that's what it takes to decisively strengthen Iran's pro-pre-Islam leaders (.../slm.htm) - and thus also to bring them into a facilitator role regarding the Palestinians under Hamas (.../holygrail.htm ¦ .../babylon2.htm ¦ .../deadlock.htm) -, who'd be against motherhood?

With best regards

Anton Keller, Secretary
Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers

PS  Your comment would be appreciated, including suggestions, in the event, to add or delete related material of yours from our main subsite: .../NPT.htm

Global Research    March 14, 2006

Nuclear Bunker Buster Bombs againt Iran:
This Way Lies Madness
by Stephen M. Osborn

            The latest information I have had from the followers of Bush is that he has demanded and received permission to use nuclear “bunker busters” in Iran in a preemptive strike. As a nuclear veteran (Operation Redwing, Bikini, 1956) I can affirm that this is absolute madness. The “bunker buster” is a cute sounding name for a nuclear horror. Air bursts are horrible enough, doing incredible destruction through heat, shock and high initial radiation. The fallout from an air burst is registered around the world. A surface or subsurface burst is even deadlier and more long lasting.

            The Castle-Bravo blast at Bikini in 1954 was a fifteen megaton surface blast. It blew a hole over a mile wide and four hundred feet deep in the atoll, completely obliterating the island and vaporizing over thirteen billion cubic feet of coral, rock and water, sending it in a radioactive cloud extending into the stratosphere. The fallout over the atolls downwind was devastating to the people and ecology there. All of that material is rendered extremely radioactive and as it cools it condenses to fall as rain or radioactive “snow” which contaminates everything it touches. The effects are felt worldwide.

            Firing der Bush’s bunker busters in Iran, or anywhere else for that matter, will vaporize hundreds of thousands of tons of earth, water and rock and send this radioactive soup downwind to kill and sicken whole populations. Those immediately downwind will die quickly, in hours or days. Those further downwind will take longer. The global incidences of cancers and disease will again rise markedly. The land downwind will remain contaminated and unusable for generations. If there were deep shelters, it has been postulated by the designers that the bunker busters would not penetrate deeply enough to affect them. I imagine that would initiate the attack theory of sending one nuke after another into the same hole. Picture the intensity of the radioactive disaster that would perpetrate on the area.

            There are not too many of us left that witnessed the tests, but there are a number of groups that monitor the effects through cancers, birth defects, both physical and mental and monitoring of contamination in the environment. We are still feeling the results of those tests. I have exchanged e-mails with downwinders and with the children of downwinders who have had children with birth defects that had no previous history of such things in their families; who suffer from cancers that are peculiar to nuclear radiation.

            Now we are facing the specter of Depleted Uranium, which is turning up in atmospheric filters around the world. Depleted Uranium is a nuclear byproduct of the nuclear industry. It is a low level radioactive material of extreme density. The half life of DU is 4.5 billion years. Workers in DU have to wear full protective equipment and respirators. DU ammunition is extremely hard and dense. It penetrates armor like tissue paper, vaporizing and burning, leaving dust and particles as shrapnel to be ingested or breathed. DU is not what the public thinks of as a radioactive material. It only emits alpha and beta radiation. A piece of paper will stop it. However, when it is in the lungs or elsewhere in the body, it is in contact with living tissue, bombarding that tissue with low level radiation for the rest of your life and beyond. That radiation can lead to cancers, genetic damage and eventual death.

            Independent laboratories like Johns Hopkins have studied this and made predictions of the harm it can do. The government says, as it did with Agent Orange, “There is nothing to it, it is all in your head.” Meanwhile, people continue to sicken and die and will for generations.

            Chernobyl was not a nuclear explosion. It was just a very hot, stubborn fire in nuclear fuel. Chernobyl and a huge surrounding area is uninhabitable for an estimated three to six hundred years. The fallout from Chernobyl contaminated food and livestock around Europe and Scandinavia for a long time, and the radiation is still traceable in the earth and some living things.

            I, and many thousands like me, worked for many years to end the nuclear threat. Treaties were drawn up and ratified. The Peaceful Uses of Space treaty which guaranteed that no nation would use space as a platform for making war. That treaty is now derided by the American Military Establishment as naive. We are ready to take full control of the space around earth to provide a high ground for attack on any “threat” to the United States hegemony. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was to keep nuclear weapon technology from spreading around the world. Der Bush has narrowed that down to anyone who could conceivably at some time in the future be a threat to American domination. Our “friends” can build what they want. We’ll even help them. The Arms Reduction Treaty between us and the CCCP. That was a treaty to destroy nuclear weapons and delivery systems on a mutual basis, with observers from each country verifying the destruction. Der Bush and Putin decided to change that to putting the weapons in storage instead of destroying them. Storage means access by black marketeers who can bribe poorly paid security guards and remove weapons and weapon grade material for resale to the highest bidder.

            Treaties mean nothing to this government, of course, if they interfere with profits or power. The Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners is ignored, the international conventions against torture are ignored, the tenets of our own Bill of Rights and Constitution guaranteeing privacy and freedom of _expression to its citizens are being canceled our by der Bush and his minions, the United Nations Charter is ignored or derided. The Kyoto Protocols on global warming and other studies are ignored by this administration as they interfere with short term profits.

            All of these breaches of humanity are overshadowed, however, by the possibility of our using nuclear weapons. The effects of that will be as earth shattering as global warming and pollution. This can be avoided very simply by not using them, the one thing we cannot count on der Bush doing unless we stop him by absolutely forbidding the use of nuclear weapons. Even better would be to forbid him from conducting so called “preemptive wars” with anybody who disagrees with him.

            Here are some links for those who wish to read a bit further into the subject.

            This is my page on the Atomic Veterans site. It contains writings on my nuclear experiences. Then explore the rest of the site.

            Downwinders are those who have been exposed to radiation through our testing both here and in the Pacific.

            There are a number of Chernobyl sites of interest, but these two really bring it home. Goes over the circumstances and effects of Chernobyl on the world. The Kiddofspeed site is the site of a courageous lady named Elena who has ridden her motorcycle through Chernobyl and its surroundings, photographing what she found there.

            Depleted Uranium is discussed at many sites including the following, Googling Depleted Uranium will give you about five million hits, many of them government apologia saying that DU is harmless, or nearly harmless. is the site of the Committee Against Depleted Uranium and well worth reading. Is a site on DU and Gulf War Syndrome, which also explores some of the problems with the manufacture of DU armaments to the ecology in the vicinity of the plants.

            Please, do your own reading on the subject, then insist that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable for any reason. As one who has faced the nuclear dragon and survived, I can only say that “Ban the Bomb” is not just a slogan, it is a necessity.

 Articles by Stephen M. Osborn

The Jordan Times    April 27, 2006

Aggravating a bad situation

Tehran is threatening to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, if the UN Security Council votes to impose sanctions on Iran. Should Iran do so, it would constitute a massive failure of international diplomacy and an extremely dangerous heightening of tensions in the region.

There has to be a way to avoid this situation. But it won't be by refusing to rule out military strikes on Iran, as the US is doing.

It is astonishing that, especially after the Iraq debacle, Washington is still rattling sabres. Indeed, the key to what happens next is really not down to Iran, it is down to the US. Because, at the end of the day, whatever Iran's intentions and however undesirable the spread of nuclear weapons are, a nuclear armed Iran really makes little difference to the stability and balance of power in the region.

This region has lived for decades with a nuclear Israel. To the east lie Pakistan and India, two nuclear powers actually in conflict with each other. None of these have signed on to the NPT and none are open to international inspections of their nuclear sites.

Another nuclear power is neither here nor there. Nuclear weapons have never been used aggressively and Iran will not be the first country to break this nuclear doctrine. To do so would be to invite its own destruction. A nuclear Iran will not be a threat to peace in the region. Any strike on Iran, however, will be.

It would cause irreparable conflagration in Iraq and split that country beyond hope, with all that that entails for other countries in the region, including Jordan, Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia. It would also cause conflagration in some countries in the Gulf.

In addition, of course, for all its military might, can the US really open up another war front? It is already struggling in Iraq, how could starting another war possibly help?

Better surely to talk to, even help, Iran develop nuclear power for peaceful means. After all, nuclear power is one of the cleanest sources of energy we know, and we are all too heavily dependant on oil anyway.

Taking a supporting, rather than confrontational role, would also leave Iran at least with a stated commitment not to develop nuclear weapons.

If Iran is really intent on developing nuclear weapons, there is little that can stand in its way. Both Pakistan and India proved as much when they shook the world not so long ago.

The question that needs to be addressed is: Is it worth risking regional chaos to prevent Iran from possessing weapons that it will never use?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

    July 15, 2006

U.S. and Russia Will Police Nuclear Terrorists


    WASHINGTON, July 14 — President Bush and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Saturday will announce a new global program to track potential nuclear terrorists, detect and lock up bomb-making materials and coordinate their responses if terrorists obtain a weapon, according to administration officials who have negotiated the deal.
    Within months, the officials said, they expect China, Japan, the major European powers, Kazakhstan and Australia to form the initial group of nations under what the two leaders are calling “The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.” The informal organization of countries is based on the American-led “Proliferation Security Initiative,” a group of more than 70 countries that have pledged to help seize illicit weapons as they move across oceans or are transported by air. Some countries in that group now hold regular drills to share intelligence and practice seizures.
    But the nuclear terrorism initiative, the final details of which were worked out in a meeting between American and Russian officials in Vienna last weekend, goes beyond interdiction. It would operate inside the borders of countries with nuclear weapons and materials, setting standards for protection and detection, and develop common strategies aimed at terror groups.
    A statement that the two leaders are expected to release Saturday morning underscores that the countries have come to regard terrorists, rather than each other, as the largest nuclear threat. The statement will describe how they plan to coordinate their nuclear response teams to “mitigate the consequences of acts of nuclear terrorism” and to “ensure cooperation in the development of technical means to combat nuclear terrorism.”
    Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, and the architect of the new initiative, said in an interview that the threat was considered so urgent that both nations set aside their differences on issues from energy to Mr. Putin’s move toward authoritarianism to establish the new program. “We have differences with Russia as well as common interests,” Mr. Joseph said. “One obvious common interest is combating nuclear terrorism, which is a threat to both of our countries.” He said he expected that an organizational meeting of the new group in the fall would involve about 11 countries, adding that other nations “will be free to join if they share our concerns.”
    Even some critics of Mr. Bush’s nuclear policies and the pace at which Russia has moved to secure its own nuclear facilities said they welcomed the new plan. “This has been much needed for years,” said Matthew Bunn, a Harvard nuclear expert who is one of the authors of an annual survey of potential nuclear perils called “Securing the Bomb.” “It’s very impressive, especially if the administration is successful at expanding it.”
    The latest edition of the Harvard survey, published Friday, includes reports of the arrest in April of several people who obtained 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) of low-enriched uranium stolen from Elektrostal, a Russian fuel plant. While the low-enriched uranium was not weapons-grade, the same plant processes uranium that could fuel a weapon.
    Like the Proliferation Security Initiative, which started with a small core of countries and has now expanded around the world, the new group is not based on a treaty and has no central bureaucracy or headquarters. Instead, it is the kind of loose-knit international organization that Mr. Bush favors, a coalition built for a specific purpose, made up of countries that volunteer.
    “If there is one conclusion this president has come to, it’s that treaties take too long to write, and they are too hard to change,” one senior White House official said recently. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about internal administration policy, described Mr. Bush’s frustrations at the difficulties in tightening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty so that countries like Iran could not exploit loopholes that allow nations to build a nuclear weapons capacity while declaring its program is for peaceful civilian purposes. The president, the official said, “wants speed and flexibility.”
    The new agreement is to be announced at the same time that both countries declare the opening of negotiations on a long-discussed pact on civilian nuclear uses that could pave the way for Russia to become one of the world’s largest repositories of spent nuclear fuel.
    Russia’s enthusiasm for the new arrangement on nuclear terrorism is notable because it was not an original member of the Proliferation Security Initiative. It has since joined. The initiative’s best-known success was the interception four years ago of the BBC China, a German ship bound for Libya that was halted, brought to port and emptied of centrifuge parts for Libya’s nuclear weapons program. Administration officials argue that interception convinced Libya to give up the program and to turn over all of its parts, most of which it had obtained from the nuclear network built by the former head of Pakistan’s nuclear laboratory, Abdul Qadeer Khan.
    Pakistan and India are not on the list of nations expected to be early members of the program, and they are not members of the Proliferation Security Initiative. Both are enormously sensitive about allowing any outside supervision or influence on their nuclear weapons programs. Both countries, along with Israel, have refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
    While experts argue about how successful the Proliferation Security Initiative has been, far more countries have joined than many experts expected several years ago. Mr. Joseph said that more than 30 illicit transfers had been halted, in some stage or another, by member countries. But the administration will not describe most of those cases, saying the countries often do not want to be identified.
    One of the more notable successes came last year, when China, under pressure, denied Iran the right to fly over its territory with a military aircraft that had apparently flown to North Korea to pick up missile parts. The Chinese have never confirmed the incident.
    But if the proliferation initiative covers borders, oceans and airspace, the nuclear terrorism program is intended to operate within countries. “It’s a very different objective,” Mr. Bunn said. “The proliferation program doesn’t deal with securing stockpiles or detection, or hunting down the materials or the terrorists if something goes wrong.”
    For more than a decade, the United States has financed a program to secure or remove nuclear material in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. The history of that program has been bumpy, though experts said that an agreement reached between Washington and Moscow several months ago helped to speed the program.
    The new initiative is a next step and, if successful, would set standards for securing such material around the world. It would also develop new technology to secure nuclear material and detect it inside cities and at crucial crossing points. Already the United States is putting detection equipment at some ports overseas, but Mr. Joseph said that this effort “would be much broader.”

15 July 2006

Fact Sheet: The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism    15 July 2006, 07.15.06, 7:04 AM ET

Joint Statement by U.S. President George Bush and Russian Federation President V.V. Putin
Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

WASHINGTON, July 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a joint statement by President George Bush and Russian Federation President V.V. Putin:

The United States of America and Russia are committed to combating the threat of nuclear terrorism, which is one of the most dangerous international security challenges we face.

Today we announce our decision to launch the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Building on our earlier work, the Global Initiative reflects our intention to pursue the necessary steps with all those who share our views to prevent the acquisition, transport, or use by terrorists of nuclear materials and radioactive substances or improvised explosive devices using such materials, as well as hostile actions against nuclear facilities. These objectives are reflected in the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities as amended in 2005, the Protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, and other international legal frameworks relevant to combating nuclear terrorism.

The United States and Russia call upon like-minded nations to expand and accelerate efforts that develop partnership capacity to combat nuclear terrorism on a determined and systematic basis. Together with other participating countries and interacting closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), we will take steps to improve participants' capabilities to: ensure accounting, control, and physical protection of nuclear material and radioactive substances, as well as security of nuclear facilities; detect and suppress illicit trafficking or other illicit activities involving such materials, especially measures to prevent their acquisition and use by terrorists; respond to and mitigate the consequences of acts of nuclear terrorism; ensure cooperation in the development of technical means to combat nuclear terrorism; ensure that law enforcement takes all possible measures to deny safe haven to terrorists seeking to acquire or use nuclear materials; and strengthen our respective national legal frameworks to ensure the effective prosecution of, and the certainty of punishment for, terrorists and those who facilitate such acts.

We stress that consolidated efforts and cooperation to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism will be carried out in accordance with international law and national legislation. This Global Initiative builds on the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which Russia and the United States were the first to sign on September 14, 2005. This unique international treaty provides for broad areas of cooperation between states for the purpose of detecting, preventing, suppressing, and investigating acts of nuclear terrorism.

One of our priority objectives remains full implementation by all countries of the provisions of UNSCR 1540, which was adopted in 2004 as a result of joint efforts by the United States and Russia. This resolution is an important non-proliferation instrument aimed at preventing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from entering "black market" networks and, above all, keeping WMD and related material from falling into the hands of terrorists. The full implementation by all countries of UNSCR 1373, including the sharing of information pertaining to the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and their facilitation, also remains a priority.

We note the importance of IAEA activities in implementing the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Facilities, as amended and its Plan entitled "Physical Nuclear Security - Measures to Protect Against Nuclear Terrorism," and we reaffirm our willingness to continue supporting and working with the IAEA in this area to enhance the effectiveness of national systems for accounting, control, physical protection of nuclear materials and radioactive substances, and the security of civilian nuclear facilities, and, where necessary, to establish such systems.

We trust that, through their participation in this new Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, all countries that share our common goals of suppressing and mitigating the consequences of acts of nuclear terrorism will -- on a voluntary basis and on the basis of independent responsibility of each country for the steps taken within its jurisdiction -- reinforce the joint efforts to increase international cooperation in combating this threat.

The United States and the Russian Federation reaffirm that issues related to safeguarding nuclear weapons and other nuclear facilities, installations and materials used for military purposes remain strictly the national prerogative of the nuclear weapons state parties to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT), for which they bear special responsibility. The Joint Statement on Nuclear Security, which we adopted in Bratislava, noted that while the security of nuclear facilities in the United States and Russian Federation meets current requirements, these requirements must be constantly enhanced to counter evolving terrorist threats. We trust that the other nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT will also ensure a proper level of protection for their nuclear facilities, while taking into account the constantly changing nature of the terrorist threat.

As part of this initiative, we intend to work with countries possessing sensitive nuclear technologies to reaffirm their commitment to take all necessary measures to ensure proper protection and safeguarding of nuclear facilities and relevant materials in their territory.

We will be prepared to work with all those who share our views to strengthen mechanisms for multilateral and bilateral cooperation to suppress acts of nuclear terrorism, with a view to practical implementation of the measures provided for in the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism as well as in other relevant international legal frameworks.

SOURCE White House Press Office -0- 07/15/2006 /CONTACT: White House Press Office, +1-202-456-2580/ /Web site: / CO: White House Press Office ST: District of Columbia, Russia IN: ARO HMS SU: EXE FOR POL DH -- NYSA003 -- 3793 07/15/2006 07:03 EDT

The Daily Star    August 24, 2006

Nuclear weapons are a very bad idea
in a region cursed by instability

The new Middle East that is emerging looks very little like the one described by the zealously idealistic US President George W. Bush. Instead of witnessing the birth and growth of peaceful democracies during Bush's term in office, we have seen conflicts, wars, burgeoning popular tensions, brinkmanship and widespread instability.

But the most disturbing trend of all is what has become a nuclear race among regional states. In recent days, much attention has been paid to Iran's nuclear energy program, which many believe is merely a guise to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran has sent mixed messages to the international community about its nuclear program, and this ambiguity is certainly a cause for concern. Egypt and Turkey have indicated similar plans. The region's appetite for nuclear weaponry can be attributed at least in part to the behavior of Israel, which already has an estimated 200 warheads - and reportedly signed a deal on Wednesday to purchase submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Given the notorious instability of the region and the multiple sources - indigenous, foreign, and various combinations of the two - of that instability - this is the last place on the planet where the deadliest armaments yet created should be present. If this is not the time to be pushing for the creation of a nuclear-free zone - from the Atlantic to South Asia - then when might that time possibly come? What will it take to encourage civilized states to take the steps that would protect not only human lives, but also, potentially, our planet's very existence?

Iran's current standoff with the international community may be nothing more than a ruse designed to obtain concessions. But it is viewed by many governments as an attempt to buy time for the development of nuclear weapon. Between those two perspectives lies a vast gulf with the capacity to produce dozens of different miscalculations by one or more parties. The war between Israel and Lebanon offers a convenient reminder of how easy it for such misunderstandings to spin out of control. Time is running out for this part of the world to recognize that unless it changes course, a nuclear war at some point in the future is not just an alarming possibility: It is a virtual certainty.

October 9, 2006

N. Korea Reports 1st Nuclear Arms Test

WASHINGTON, Monday, Oct. 9 — North Korea said Sunday night that it had set off its first nuclear test, becoming the eighth country in history, and arguably the most unstable and most dangerous, to proclaim that it has joined the club of nuclear weapons states.

The test came just two days after the country was warned by the United Nations Security Council that the action could lead to severe consequences.

American officials cautioned that they had not yet received any confirmation that the test had occurred. The United States Geological Survey said it had detected a tremor of 4.2 magnitude on the Korean Peninsula.

China called the test a “flagrant and brazen” violation of international opinion and said it “firmly opposes” North Korea’s conduct.

Senior Bush administration officials said that they had little reason to doubt the announcement, and warned that the test would usher in a new era of confrontation with the isolated and unpredictable country run by President Kim Jong-il.

Early Monday morning, even before the test was confirmed, Bush administration officials were holding conference calls to discuss ways to further cut off a country that is already subject to sanctions, and hard-liners said the moment had arrived for neighboring countries, especially China and Russia, to cut off the trade and oil supplies that have been Mr. Kim’s lifeline.

In South Korea, the country that fought a bloody war with the North for three years and has lived with an uneasy truce and failed efforts at reconciliation for more than half a century, officials said they believed that an explosion occurred around 10:36 p.m. New York time — 11:36 a.m. Monday in Korea.

They identified the source of the explosion as North Hamgyong Province, roughly the area where American spy satellites have been focused for several years on a variety of suspected underground test sites.

That was less than an hour after North Korean officials had called their counterparts in China and warned them that a test was just minutes away. The Chinese, who have been North Korea’s main ally for 60 years but have grown increasingly frustrated by the its defiance of Beijing, sent an emergency alert to Washington through the United States Embassy in Beijing. Within minutes, President Bush was notified, shortly after 10 p.m., by his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, that a test was imminent.

North Korea’s decision to conduct the test demonstrated what the world has suspected for years: the country has joined India, Pakistan and Israel as one of the world’s “undeclared” nuclear powers. India and Pakistan conducted tests in 1998; Israel has never acknowledged conducting a test or possessing a weapon. But by actually setting off a weapon, if that is proven, the North has chosen to end years of carefully crafted and diplomatically useful ambiguity about its abilities.

The North’s decision to set off a nuclear device could profoundly change the politics of Asia.

The test occurred only a week after Japan installed a new, more nationalistic prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and just as the country was renewing a debate about whether its ban on possessing nuclear weapons — deeply felt in a country that saw two of its cities incinerated in 1945 — still makes strategic sense.

And it shook the peninsula just as Mr. Abe was arriving in South Korea for the first time as prime minister, in an effort to repair a badly strained relationship, having just visited with Chinese leaders in Beijing. It places his untested administration in the midst of one of the region’s biggest security crises in years, and one whose outcome will be watched closely in Iran and other states suspected of attempting to follow the path that North Korea has taken.

Now, Tokyo and Washington are expected to put even more pressure on the South Korean government to terminate its “sunshine policy” of trade, tourism and openings to the North — a policy that has been the source of enormous tension between Seoul and Washington since Mr. Bush took office.

The explosion was the product of nearly four decades of work by North Korea, one of the world’s poorest and most isolated countries. The nation of 23 million people appears constantly fearful that its far richer, more powerful neighbors — and particularly the United States — will try to unseat its leadership. The country’s founder, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, emerged from the Korean War determined to equal the power of the United States, and acutely aware that Gen. Douglas MacArthur had requested nuclear weapons to use against his country.

But it took decades to put together the technology, and only in the past few years has the North appeared to have made a political decision to speed forward. “I think they just had their military plan to demonstrate that no one could mess with them, and they weren’t going to be deterred, not even by the Chinese,” a senior American official who deals with the North said late Sunday evening. “In the end, there was just no stopping them.”

But the explosion was also the product of more than two decades of diplomatic failure, spread over at least three presidencies. American spy satellites saw the North building a good-size nuclear reactor in the early 1980’s, and by the early 1990’s the C.I.A. estimated that the country could have one or two nuclear weapons. But a series of diplomatic efforts to “freeze” the nuclear program — including a 1994 accord signed with the Clinton administration — ultimately broke down, amid distrust and recriminations on both sides.

Three years ago, just as President Bush was sending American troops toward Iraq, the North threw out the few remaining weapons inspectors living at their nuclear complex in Yongbyon, and moved 8,000 nuclear fuel rods they had kept under lock and key. Those rods contained enough plutonium, experts said, to produce five or six nuclear weapons, though it is unclear how many the North now stockpiles.

For years, some diplomats assumed that the North was using that ambiguity to trade away its nuclear capability, for recognition, security guarantees, aid and trade with the West. But in the end, the country’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, who inherited the mantle of leadership from his father, still called the “Great Leader,” appears to have concluded that the surest way of getting what he seeks is to demonstrate that he has the capability to strike back if attacked.

Assessing the nature of that ability is difficult. If the test occurred as the North claimed, it is unclear whether it was an actual bomb or a more primitive device. Some experts cautioned that it could try to fake an explosion, setting off conventional explosives; the only way to know for sure will be if American “sniffer” planes, patrolling the North Korean coast, pick up evidence of nuclear byproducts in the air.

Even then, it is not clear that the North could fabricate that bomb into a weapon that could fit atop its missiles, one of the country’s few significant exports.

But the big fear about North Korea, American officials have long said, has less to do with its ability to lash out than it does with its proclivity to proliferate. The country has sold its missiles and other weapons to Iran, Syria and Pakistan; at various moments in the six-party talks that have gone on for the past few years, North Korean representatives have threatened to sell nuclear weapons. But in a statement issued last week, announcing that it intends to set off a test, the country said it would not sell its nuclear products.

The fear of proliferation prompted President Bush to declare in 2003 that the United States would never “tolerate” a nuclear-armed North Korea. He has never defined what he means by “tolerate,” and on Sunday night Tony Snow, Mr. Bush’s press secretary, said that, assuming the report of the test is accurate, the United States would now go to the United Nations to determine “what our next steps should be in response to this very serious step.”

Nuclear testing is often considered a necessary step to proving a weapon’s reliability as well as the most forceful way for a nation to declare its status as a nuclear power.

“Once they do that, it’s serious," said Harold M. Agnew, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory, which designed most of the nation’s nuclear arms. "Otherwise, the North Koreans are just jerking us around.”

Networks of seismometers that detect faint trembles in the earth and track distant rumbles are the best way to spot an underground nuclear test.

The big challenge is to distinguish the signatures of earthquakes from those of nuclear blasts. Typically, the shock waves from nuclear explosions begin with a sharp spike as earth and rock are compressed violently. The signal then tends to become fuzzier as surface rumblings and shudders and after shocks create seismologic mayhem.

With earthquakes, it is usually the opposite. A gentle jostling suddenly becomes much bigger and more violent.

Most of the world’s seismic networks that look for nuclear blasts are designed to detect explosions as small as one kiloton, or equal to 1,000 tons of high explosives. On instruments for detecting earthquakes, such a blast would measure a magnitude of about 4, like a small tremor.

Philip E. Coyle III, a former head of weapons testing at the Pentagon and former director of nuclear testing for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a weapons-design center in California, said the North Koreans could learn much from a nuclear test even if it was small by world standards or less than an unqualified success.

“It would not be totally surprising if it was a fizzle and they said it was a success because they learned something,” he said. “We did that sometimes. We had a missile defense test not so long ago that failed, but the Pentagon said it was a success because they learned something, which I agree with. Failures can teach you a lot.”

William J. Broad contributed reporting from New York, and Thom Shanker from Washington.

November 4, 2006

U.S. Analysts Had Flagged Atomic Data on Web Site

Two weeks before the government shut down a Web site holding an archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war, scientists at an American weapons laboratory complained that papers on the site contained sensitive nuclear information, federal officials said yesterday. Two documents were quickly removed.

The Bush administration set up the Web site last March at the urging of Congressional Republicans, who said giving public access to materials from the 48,000 boxes of documents found in Iraq could increase the understanding of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein.

But among the documents posted were roughly a dozen that nuclear weapons experts said constituted a basic guide to building an atom bomb. They were accounts of Mr. Hussein’s nuclear program, which United Nations inspectors dismantled after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

The site was shut down on Thursday night after The New York Times asked questions about the disclosure of nuclear information and complaints that experts had raised. Yesterday, federal officials said they were conducting a review to understand better how and when the warnings had originated and how the bureaucracy had responded.

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, called the posting of the weapons information “a serious security breach,” and other Democrats called for an investigation. The Republican congressman who had led the campaign for the creation of the Web site, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, questioned whether the government had received any serious warnings about the site, and said he had always stressed the need to “take whatever steps necessary to withhold sensitive documents.”

The complaints two weeks ago by the American weapons scientists, as outlined by federal officials yesterday, indicated for the first time that warnings about the site had come from the government’s arms experts, as well as from international weapons inspectors.

A senior federal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California last month had protested some of the weapons papers on the site to the National Nuclear Security Administration, an arm of the Department of Energy that runs the nation’s nuclear arms laboratories. The objections “never perked up to senior management,” the official said. “They stayed at the midlevels.”

Managers at the security administration passed the warning to their counterparts at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversaw the Web site, the official said. As a result, a nuclear weapons expert said, the government pulled two nuclear papers from the Web site last month. He said the dangers of the documents had been recognized at Livermore and in the wider community of government arms experts. “Those two documents were on everybody’s list,” he said.

The first known protest about the site came last April, when United Nations weapons inspectors lodged an objection with the United States mission to the United Nations over a chemical weapons document, diplomats said. It was removed. After the site started posting nuclear documents in September, concern arose among United Nations weapons inspectors in Vienna and New York.

Earlier this week, two European diplomats said that weapons experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that they should warn the United States government of the dangers of posting the documents. They said that Olli J. Heinonen, head of safeguards at the agency, conveyed those concerns last week to the American ambassador to the agency, Gregory L. Schulte.

But Matthew Boland, Mr. Schulte’s spokesman, said yesterday that the ambassador had received no warnings. Asked about that, one of the two European diplomats raised questions about whether Mr. Heinonen had followed through. Even so, intelligence officials in Washington said they were exploring whether the government had received warnings from United Nations inspectors.

An official of National Nuclear Security Administration said his agency would review the documents. To the best of his knowledge, he added, none of them had been reviewed by his agency, which is the government’s expert on nuclear secrets.

Washington Post December 2, 2006

New Nuclear Weapons Program To Continue

By Walter Pincus

The Nuclear Weapons Council, made up of senior Defense Department and National Nuclear Security Administration officials, said yesterday that they plan to continue developing a new nuclear weapons program even though recent studies suggested that existing stockpiles are in better condition than had been thought.

The announcement comes just two days after the release of studies by the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories showing that plutonium triggers in currently stockpiled weapons will remain reliable for 90 to 100 years.

A major reason for starting the new weapons program -- known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) -- was the belief that highly radioactive plutonium would degrade so much within 45 years that it could affect the reliability of the weapons in the current stockpile, many of which were built in the late 1960s.

The Nuclear Weapons Council determined that competing designs submitted by both national labs could result in reliable warheads "without underground testing," a key requirement of the program. The council members are expected to choose one of the two designs in the next few weeks and to develop cost estimates. Moving to the next phase of warhead development will require the approval of Congress, which will be controlled by Democrats next year.

Some members of Congress have said the plutonium studies raised questions about the need for the RRW program. Rep. David L. Hobson (R-Ohio), considered the father of the RRW program, said yesterday that, based on the plutonium studies, "they should take a breath because there are lots of demand for money." He added: "Congress is not going to be as robust about this though there is a need to have some scientific work done."

Yesterday, Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.), the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, said it may be time to review not only the RRW program but also the Bush administration's 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which established the underlying need for nuclear weapons over the next 20 years.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) yesterday hailed the council decision to proceed with RRW, saying it could lead to "a weapon that is safer to store and defend, more reliable, and less costly to manufacture and maintain." Domenici, whose state is home to the Los Alamos laboratory, is currently chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles funds for the NNSA.

Robert W. Nelson, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that based on the recently released plutonium studies, the submarine-launched warhead up for replacement under the RRW program, the W-76, has a minimum age for reliability of about 85 years. Production of the W-76, the warhead for the Trident I and Trident II sub-launched missiles, began in 1978 and ended in 1987, during which time about 3,000 were turned out. The Trident I can carry up to eight warheads, the Trident II up to 14.

The Bush NPR contemplated reducing deployed warheads, then totaling about 3,800, to a level of 1,700 to 2,200 by 2012. At the same time there would be a non-deployed stockpile of 2,000 to 3,000 more weapons and a capability to resume underground testing and production of new warheads within a reasonable time. The RRW program envisions the initial production of new warheads almost 20 years from now.

Meanwhile, an ongoing program to refurbish the nonnuclear components in currently stockpiled warheads and bombs will continue, giving them an estimated 20 to 30 years of additional reliability.

Administrator Linton F. Brooks of the National Nuclear Security Administration described the RRW program yesterday as providing "the tools we need to build on the president's vision of maintaining the smallest nuclear stockpile that is consistent with national security requirements."

December 8, 2006

U.S. to Expand Cargo Scans to Detect Nuclear Material

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 — All cargo sent by container ships to the United States from three ports — in Pakistan, Honduras and Southampton, England — will be scanned for hidden nuclear weapons or components starting next year under a federal antiterrorist program that some in Congress want to see mandated worldwide. The program, called the Secure Freight Initiative, will require United States-bound containers before departure to pass through both a radiation detection machine and an X-ray device, a combination intended to find bomb-making materials that have intentionally been shielded. It will cost a total of $60 million to set up the system in Pakistan, Honduras and Southampton, as well to begin scanning at least some United States-bound traffic from Korea, Singapore and Oman, officials said. The cost will be split by the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy, they said.

“There’s no weapon of mass destruction that is more formidable than a nuclear or a dirty bomb,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday in announcing the plan. Yet even as officials introduced the new effort, some antiterrorism experts were openly asking if it made sense. Some noted that the screening would take place only on container ships, not on ships that carry millions of tons of other cargo, including cars, fuel or goods placed on pallets. The equipment to be used — while better than no screening at all — is prone to triggering false alarms and is unable to see through many items that might be inside a container, including frozen food. And if the equipment is installed in only a small number of ports, terrorists could simply choose to send a bomb by container from somewhere else, they said. “The good news is we will only waste $60 million,” said James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Mr. Chertoff and other department officials acknowledged that they did not know how well the system would work, or whether it would cause unacceptable bottlenecks. The radiation scan and X-ray image of each container will be transmitted electronically to the United States or to customs officials elsewhere, who will then be able to ask foreign officials at the ports to do more comprehensive searches. “When in doubt, we pull it out and then we open it up and look at it,” Mr. Chertoff said. But officials said that not all of the X-ray images would be checked — meaning that a shielded bomb could still get through.

Already at about 50 ports worldwide, at the request of the United States, governments are doing limited checks of suspicious containers before they are loaded onto ships bound for the United States. Also, as containers arrive in the United States, about 80 percent of them are screened for radioactive substances once they are off-loaded. But this will be the first time, at the request of the United States government, that all cargo headed to the United State is sent through both an X-ray machine and a radiation detection monitor.

Democrats in Congress want to mandate that all cargo be screened for radioactive material overseas before departing. Ultimately, Congress ordered that the program be tested at a small number of ports.

Homeland Security Department officials said they wanted to expand the program beyond the six ports, eventually covering about 30 percent of United States-bound cargo, compared with the approximately 7 percent that will now be screened. But Mr. Chertoff said he did not think it was realistic to mandate it globally. “If somebody says you have to make it 100 percent, and the foreign county does not agree, that is not a mandate that can be carried out,” he said.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, one of the leaders of the effort to impose the multipart screening, said that Democrats would probably give the Homeland Security Department some time to see how this test worked. “The jury is out if this is a real turnaround,” he said.


December 8, 2006

Blood, Toil, Tears and Nukes

When Tony Blair asked Parliament this week to approve a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines, he was asking the lawmakers to reaffirm Britain as a nuclear power far into the 21st century.

The prime minister argued that Britain needs its nuclear weapons to deter new threats from terrorists and rogue states. But we suspect that what is really driving Mr. Blair and his military planners is concern about old threats: the thousands of nuclear weapons still in Russia’s arsenal and the hundreds in China’s. The fact that France is holding on to its nukes — and its seat at the table of “world powers” — is likely encouraging him as well.

Frankly, we would like to see more from Mr. Blair, who has shown a flair for defining new-think issues, as he did with his government’s global-warming report and its call to reduce poverty.

Mr. Blair could burnish that legacy if he challenged all the world’s nuclear powers to reduce their arsenals. To soothe critics in his party, Mr. Blair also said this week that Britain would reduce its small arsenal from fewer than 200 operational warheads to fewer than 160. He should challenge others to follow.

Deep cuts — leading to zero — is what all the original nuclear powers pledged when they signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But that effort has stalled. Russia and the United States — with the world’s two largest arsenals — agreed in 2002 to cut down to some 2,000 deployed warheads. But there have been no negotiations since.

The major powers would have a far stronger case for their calls to restrain the nuclear ambitions of countries like Iran and North Korea if they showed they were willing to reduce their own arsenals. That is the stuff that legacies are made of.

December 11, 2006

Arab Nations Plan to Start Joint Nuclear Energy Program

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 10 — Arab leaders, meeting in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sunday, said they intended to start a joint nuclear energy development program, a move certain to heighten concerns over a possible race for nuclear power in the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council concluded a two-day summit meeting in Riyadh on Sunday, agreeing to study how to proceed with development of such capacity. At the same time, they called for a peaceful settlement of the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States and some other Western nations say is for nuclear arms. “The states of the region have a right to possess nuclear energy technology for peaceful purposes,” the summit meeting’s closing communiqué said, echoing Iran’s insistence that it, too, had the right to peaceful nuclear technology.

Publicly, officials of the gulf council said the development of a nuclear energy program would help meet their rising demand for electricity, despite the huge oil reserves. “Nuclear technology is an important technology to have for generating power, and the gulf states will need it equally,” said Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, speaking to reporters. “It is not a threat,” he said. “It is an announcement so that there will be no misinterpretation for what we are doing.”

But analysts and officials said the announcement had a different purpose — to warn the United States not to acquiesce to Iran’s nuclear ambitions as pressure grows on the Bush administration to reach out to Iran for help in stabilizing Iraq. A report released by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group last week recommended that the United States open negotiations with Iran.

The predominantly Sunni Arab states fear that the United States may abandon Arab concerns to gain assistance from Iran, which could confirm Iran as the regional hegemon. “The message is that the gulf countries will develop their own nuclear program if Iran is rewarded with the terms of the Baker-Hamilton report,” said Abdelaziz O. Sager, chairman of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, who is familiar with the nuclear initiative. “They are trying to say that if the Iranian program continues, you will force us to become nuclear capable too.”

At a Persian Gulf security conference in Bahrain on Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, insisted that Iran was seeking only peaceful nuclear capacity. “The time of nuclear weapons is over,” Mr. Mottaki said. He added that if nuclear weapons served as an effective deterrent, they should have stopped the fall of the Soviet Union and Israel would not have had to go to war in Lebanon against Hezbollah this past summer.

Saudi officials have warned that a nuclear Iran could cause a regional arms race, suggesting that Saudi Arabia would be forced to acquire nuclear technology, too. King Abdullah said Saturday that the region was increasingly becoming “a powder keg ready to explode,” citing conflict in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, as well as the continuing Iranian nuclear crisis. At least six Arab countries have reportedly sought to develop nuclear power programs, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria.

IRNA    January 8, 2007

Pakistan, India to finalize agreement
of avoidance nuclear accidents

Pakistan and India are working to finalize three agreements including avoidance of nuclear accidents and visa liberalization which will be hopefully signed during the forthcoming visit of the Indian Foreign Minister to Islamabad.

Indian Minister for External Affairs Purnab Mukerje is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on January 13 to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.

He will also invite Pakistan for the South Asian summit to be held in New Delhi this year.

The contents of these agreements have been negotiated and agreed between the two countries and if necessary procedural requirements are completed they will be signed during the visit the Foreign Office spokesperson Ms. Tasneem Aslam told her weekly briefing.

To a question she said both the Foreign Ministers would review the progress of the third round of peace talks and way forward besides reviewing the bilateral relations.

She hoped that the dates of next round of talks will be fixed during this meeting.

She said Pakistan welcomes interest of international community for encouraging Pakistan and India to resolve the Kashmir issue which is vital for durable peace in the region.

Regarding a proposed agreement on peace and security between Pakistan and India, Ms. Tasneem Aslam said we are working to normalize relations with India with an intention to resolve all outstanding issues including Kashmir and after resolution of issues perhaps both he countries can move forward towards such a scenario.

She said Pakistan has also welcomed the statement Indian Prime Minister regarding resolution of Kashmir issue but acceptance of all stakeholders is vital.

January 25, 2007

Smuggler’s Plot Highlights Fear Over Uranium

TBILISI, Georgia, Jan. 24 — Last January, a Russian man with sunken cheeks and a wispy mustache crossed into Georgia and traveled to Tbilisi by car along a high mountain road. In two plastic bags in his leather jacket, Georgian authorities say, he carried 100 grams of uranium so refined that it could help fuel an atom bomb.

The Russian, Oleg Khinsagov, had come to meet a buyer who he believed would pay him $1 million and deliver the material to a Muslim man from “a serious organization,” the authorities say.

The uranium was a sample, just under four ounces, and the deal a test: If all went smoothly, he boasted, he would sell a far larger cache stored in his apartment back in Vladikavkaz, two to three kilograms of the rare material, four and a half to six and a half pounds, which in expert hands is enough to make a small bomb.

The buyer, it turned out, was a Georgian agent. Alerted to Mr. Khinsagov’s ambitions by spies in South Ossetia, Georgian officials arrested him and confiscated his merchandise. After a secret trial, the smuggler was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

The case has alarmed officials because they had thought that new security precautions had tamped down the nuclear black market that developed in the 1990s, after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Until now, all but the vague outlines of the case have remained secret. But an examination of the episode, and a similar one in 2003, suggests that the region’s political instability and culture of rampant corruption continue to provide a fertile breeding ground for illicit commerce in atomic materials.

Interviews with Georgian and American officials, along with a review of confidential government documents, provide a glimpse into a world of smugglers who slip across poorly policed borders and the agents who try to stop them.

The illicit trade — not just in atomic goods but also in everything from stolen cars to furs to counterfeit $100 bills — thrives especially in Georgia, where tiny separatist regions have broken away to become lawless criminal havens.

This latest uranium seizure, said the American ambassador here, John F. Tefft, “highlights how smuggling and loose border control, associated with Georgia’s separatist conflicts,” pose a threat “not just to Georgia but to all the international community.”

What is most worrisome about the two most recent case, nuclear experts say, is the material itself: in large enough quantities, it could provide a terrorist with an instant solution to the biggest challenge in making a nuclear weapon, obtaining the fuel.

The uranium seized in both 2003 and 2006 had been enriched to nearly 90 percent U-235, according to Russian and American government analyses obtained by The New York Times. Though the quantities were too small to make a bomb, that level of purity is ideal for doing so.

Both cases appear to fit a broader profile: virtually all of the nuclear materials seized since the Soviet breakup are believed to be Russian in origin, according to American government reports.

In these two episodes, the individuals arrested testified that they had obtained the uranium through a web of Russian contacts and middlemen of various nationalities.

An American government laboratory’s analysis of the 2006 material — which, among other things, disclosed traces of two rare forms of uranium, U-234 and U-236 — provides “a strong case” that it indeed came from Russia, said Thomas B. Cochran, director of the nuclear program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private group that monitors atomic arsenals.

However, a confidential memorandum from the Russian intelligence service, the F.S.B., to the Georgian government said a detailed analysis had been unable to pinpoint the material’s origins, though it did not rule out Russian provenance. It also estimated that the uranium had been processed more than a decade ago.

Officials in Georgia, locked in a cold war with Moscow, say the cases underscore their concerns over borders, security and the fate of the breakaway regions.

Georgia’s chief nuclear investigator, Archil Pavlenishvili, said that while Russia cooperated in the early stages of the 2003 investigation, in 2006 it had hardly helped at all, beyond taking a sample of the seized material for analysis. He said the Georgians had informed the Russian Embassy here in Tbilisi of Mr. Khinsagov’s detention, and had offered to let diplomats speak to him. But the Russians, he said, never responded.

The Georgian interior minister, Ivane Merabishvili, said the cases illustrated the grave risk posed by nuclear trafficking, especially in an age of terrorism. The biggest danger, he said, were the people “in Russia and Georgia and everywhere else, even in America, who will sell this radioactive material” for millions of dollars.

The Russian Interior Ministry and the intelligence service did not respond to requests for comment.

Murat Dzhoyev, the foreign minister of South Ossetia, one of the separatist regions in Georgia, denied that any nuclear smuggling had taken place in his region.

“As concerns their claims that contraband, or moreover, the laughable claim that nuclear materials are going through South Ossetia, that’s just funny,” he said in an interview. “I hope not a single serious person in the world takes this seriously.”

On Friday the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna is expected to make the first official announcement with details about the 2006 case.

The old Soviet empire had a vast network of nuclear facilities. After its breakup, as managers abandoned plants and security fell apart, the West grew alarmed as many cases of atomic smuggling came to light.

In 1994 alone, two seizures involved more than five kilos — 11 pounds — of highly enriched uranium. The I.A.E.A. listed more than a dozen cases of illicit trade in highly enriched uranium, along with dozens of seizures of highly radioactive material.

Since 2000, however, the amounts and purity of the seized material has declined as former Soviet republics set up new security precautions, often financed by the United States.

For instance, Washington provided thousands of hand-held devices meant to detect radiation, and planned to spend a total of $570 million to install small and large radiation detectors, according to recent government reports. In short, the threat seemed to recede.

“People said, ‘Hey, the situation’s improved,’ ” said William C. Potter, a leading authority on nuclear smuggling at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. The seizures in Georgia, he said, suggest something else: that the trade may simply “have gone under the radar.”

The smuggler in the first case, an Armenian named Garik Dadayan, was arrested on June 26, 2003, at Sadakhlo, a muddy village where Georgia meets Armenia and Azerbaijan. With Armenia and Azerbaijan at war over territory, the village had become neutral ground for the trading of tea and cognac, illicit caviar, cheap light bulbs and smuggled gasoline.

When apprehended, Mr. Dadayan, who described himself simply as a businessman, was carrying a tea box that held 170 grams, about seven ounces, of highly enriched uranium. According to the Georgian officials, he said the uranium had come from Novosibirsk, in Siberia, the site of a major Russian nuclear complex that processes vast quantities of highly enriched uranium.

Mr. Pavlenishvili, the Georgian investigator, said the Russian intelligence agency confirmed that before his trip into Georgia, Mr. Dadayan had twice traveled by railroad from Moscow to Novosibirsk.

The smuggler told the authorities that he intended to sell the material to a Turkish middleman named Teimur Sadik; its ultimate destination, he said Mr. Sadik had told him, was “a Muslim man.”

Mr. Dadayan was handed over to the Armenian government, tried and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Mr. Sadik, Georgian authorities say, is now in custody of the Turkish secret services.

Since that episode, the United States has spent millions of dollars to help the Georgians strengthen nuclear security, especially along the borders.

Two years later, Georgian authorities learned that highly enriched uranium was again being offered for sale, this time in South Ossetia, a rugged and beautiful land no bigger than Long Island, with few border controls on either the Russian or Georgian side. People and contraband move freely through its fields and along its mountain roads. The United States says it has discovered counterfeit $100 bills traceable to South Ossetia circulating in at least four American cities.

The man trying to sell the uranium, Georgian officials say, was Oleg Khinsagov, a shabbily dressed 50-year-old trader who specialized in fish and sausages.

Eventually he came into contact with four Georgians who were already under government surveillance. The four men went to North Ossetia, a neighboring region within Russia, and arranged to smuggle the uranium into Georgia. It was at that point that the Georgian authorities set their trap.

They arranged for a Georgian operative who speaks fluent Turkish to meet with the middlemen and tell them he represented a Muslim man from “a serious organization.” Mr. Khinsagov and several of his cohort entered Georgia in late January 2006, and on Feb. 1 they were arrested in a two-room apartment on the eighth floor of a crumbling Soviet-style building in a lower-class district of Tbilisi. “We got that 100 grams and put it into a box and were very afraid,” said Mr. Merabishvili, the interior minister. Where the smuggler got the uranium and whether he actually had more remains unclear.

The Georgians called for help from American diplomats, who sent in experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Energy, American officials say. Mr. Merabishvili said the Americans shocked them by taking the uranium and simply putting it “in their pocket.” Uranium in that form emits little radiation and presents little or no danger to its handlers.

When it was analyzed at the Energy Department’s laboratory in the Pacific Northwest, it was found to have a U-235 purity of 89.451 percent, “suitable for certain types of research reactors, as a source material for medical isotope production, and for military purposes including nuclear weapons.”

Lawrence Scott Sheets reported from Tbilisi, and William J. Broad from New York.


MAGAZINE    February 4, 2007

The Peace Paradox

Historical analogies have always been popular in foreign-policy debates, and the present day is no exception. For liberals, the best description of our current situation is “Vietnam II” (as Maureen Dowd dubbed it in a Times column): another ghastly quagmire from which we can do little but walk away. Nonsense, reply conservatives. It’s really “World War IV” (the words of Norman Podhoretz, who counts the cold war as III): another deadly struggle against totalitarianism for which we must mobilize every possible resource. As for the Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, writing in Vanity Fair, the best analogy is what could be called Rome II. We are another colossal empire, perched on the brink of decline and fall.

Yet since history never repeats itself so neatly, the most useful historical analogies are not those that promise to predict the future but those that may reveal unexpected things about the present. Consider, for instance, a parallel rarely cited in current debates: the one between the post-cold-war period and the age of the French Revolution. Both began (by coincidence, in years numbered ’89 and ’90) with moments of extraordinary elation and hope. A powerful and much-loathed regime (the U.S.S.R., the French absolute monarchy) not only collapsed unexpectedly but did so with surprisingly little violence. So transformative did the change appear that many advanced thinkers predicted nothing less than an age of democracy in which warfare would have no place. In our own day, Francis Fukuyama famously spoke of “the end of history,” by which he meant an end to conflicts over the proper form of society. Two hundred years before, the fall of the French Old Regime led to surprisingly similar visions. In 1790, the new French Revolutionary state even renounced aggressive war, in what became known as its “declaration of peace to the world.” A French legislator promised giddily that from now on the human race would form “a single society, whose object is the peace and happiness of each and all of its members.”

Yet in both cases, disillusion followed with cruel speed. In our own time, of course, there were the wars in the Balkans and the gulf, followed by the global upheaval triggered by 9/11. In the 18th century, less than two years after the declaration of peace, there began a series of wars that would drag in all of Europe’s major powers, take millions of lives and continue, with only small breaks, for more than 23 years, until France’s final defeat in 1815. They would make possible the career of a man whose name is synonymous with military hubris: Napoleon Bonaparte. In short, the Enlightenment vision of perpetual peace gave way rapidly to a conflict in which states directed every possible political, social and economic resource toward the utter defeat of the enemy — mankind’s first total war.

Is this a coincidence? During the late 18th century, the Western world largely took war for granted. The major powers fought one another at regular intervals and devoted the lion’s share of their budgets to the purpose. For this very reason, however, they took care to practice a degree of restraint and to treat their adversaries with honor. The French reformer Jean-Paul Rabaut Saint-Étienne was exaggerating when he said that “armies [now] slaughter each other politely ... what was once a wild rage is now just a moment’s madness.” Still, particularly in Western Europe, war took less of a human toll in the century before the French Revolution than at almost any time in history.

In fact, advanced thinkers who believed in the new, Enlightenment creed of secular human progress came to hope that war might fade away entirely. European philosophers like Baron d’Holbach called it nothing but a “remnant of savage customs,” and no less a figure than George Washington agreed, in 1788, that it was time for agriculture and commerce “to supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest.” It was precisely such sentiments that inspired France’s declaration of peace two years later.

Yet the idea that warfare might actually end had a paradoxical effect, for it destroyed any rationale for waging war with restraint. Within months of the declaration, one of its liberal proponents was warning that if revolutionary France did nonetheless come to blows with other European powers, it would be “a war to the death which we will fight ... so as to destroy and annihilate all who attack us, or to be destroyed ourselves.” In 1792, claiming to be acting out of reasons of preventive self-defense, France declared war on the Austrian Empire, and its leading general declared, “This war will be the last war” (the phrase uncannily foreshadows “the war to end all wars” of 1914). To achieve such an exalted end, any means were justified, and so there followed total war and the birth of new hatreds that made the idea of perpetual peace look more utopian than ever. France and its enemies both declared that the “barbarism” of the enemy made it impossible to respect the ordinary laws of war and proceeded to ravage civilian populations across the continent.

In our own day, the lurch from dreams of peace to nightmares of war has not (yet) translated into destruction on this terrible scale (except, alas, in Iraq). Of course, the enemy has failed to inflict significant damage on us, and even conservatives have not urged the sort of mobilization and sacrifice that we experienced during World War II. What has happened is a growing willingness to abandon traditional restraints on proved and suspected enemies, foreign and American alike. “Among ourselves, we keep the law, but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle,” wrote the British diplomat Robert Cooper in an influential 2002 essay. With ideas like this in the air, abuses like those at Abu Ghraib and Haditha become far more difficult to prevent.

Could it be, then, that dreams of an end to war may be as unexpectedly dangerous as they are noble, because they seem to justify almost anything done in their name? What the history of the late 18th century shows is that talk of fighting “so as to destroy and annihilate all who attack us, or to be destroyed ourselves” justifies a slide into “the laws of the jungle” that usually contributes more to polarization than to real security. It magnifies the importance of our enemies and swells their ranks. In short, it actually increases the danger of bloodshed on a massive scale. As the French Revolutionaries learned to their terrible cost, talk of the apocalypse can easily be self-fulfilling.

David A. Bell is the author of “The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It.”

The Way We Live Now

MAGAZINE    February 4, 2007

Whose War Powers?

For weeks, Congress has immersed itself in drafting a nonbinding Congressional resolution condemning the president’s plan to secure Baghdad by sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq. Although Democrats and some Republicans have chosen the expedient route of impugning the surge without actually blocking it, some heavy hitters have hinted that Congress could use the power of the purse to force the president to follow its will. Senator Ted Kennedy has introduced legislation that would block the president from adding more troops without specific Congressional authorization.

The president, as usual, is having none of it. In an interview with “60 Minutes,” he asserted that Congress had no authority to interfere with his troop deployments. If President Bush sticks to his guns, the question of how far Congress can go to control his war plans is not going to go away. A constitutional conflict is brewing.

Who’s right? Lots of ink has been spilled over the relative powers of the president and Congress to begin wars. The War Powers Act of 1973 — whose authority presidents of both parties have been loath to acknowledge — demands that a president terminate use of force after 90 days unless Congress has authorized him to continue. On the question of winding down hostilities, though, almost nothing has been said. The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war; but does that include the power to undeclare it? If the Iraq conflict were to end with a peace treaty, it would need to be submitted by the president and ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. Our war in Iraq, though, is not likely to end with a treaty of surrender. So far we don’t even have an enemy we can talk to.

Constitutional tradition does not clearly resolve this question. Once Congress has authorized a war, as it did the war in Iraq, the president’s power as commander in chief surely allows him to conduct the war without being micromanaged from Capitol Hill. No one believes Congress could legitimately pass a law ordering the Army to take one hill instead of another. During the Civil War, Congress created the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, which exercised oversight with a vengeance, debriefing generals after battles and questioning specific tactical choices. But Lincoln struggled fiercely to preserve his decision-making independence, and since then, Congress has mostly avoided this sort of thing in wartime.

From the president’s perspective, requiring him not to send more troops to Baghdad is just the kind of armchair quarterbacking that the Constitution prohibits. When it comes to deciding how many troops should be sent where, there is reason to think he’s right. Yet Congress commonly attaches riders to appropriation bills saying that funds may not be used for one purpose or another. In theory, Congress could command that no funds appropriated by a certain bill may be used to increase the total number of troops in Iraq. Even if the president moved troops from another front, or used other, unrestricted funds to pay for the troops, such a provision might eventually block the increase of troop numbers or even require a drawdown.

Congress has used the appropriation power to limit combat before — but only to end wars. In 1970, Congress barred use of any funds for troops in Cambodia. And in 1973, after President Nixon agreed to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam, Congress set a date after which no funds at all could be used to support combat in Southeast Asia.

Given this historical precedent, there is strong reason to think that the president is within his powers as commander in chief — and beyond the reach of Congress — when he allocates troops. Congress would be on much firmer ground if it exerted its power to pull financing for all troops in Iraq than it would be if it tried to dictate precise troop numbers.

This may sound strange: after all, if Congress can bring all our soldiers home, why can’t it stop the president from sending more over? Yet the paradox is more apparent than real. The constitutional structure of divided powers is designed to discourage Congressional intervention in particular tactical decisions. Congress is the ideal body for expressing the people’s will that a war as a whole should be over, but its 535 members are very poorly suited to laying out the order of battle. For that task, a single supreme commander is necessary. Even the War Powers Act treats Congress’s decision about going to war as an on-off toggle, not a dimmer switch.

Congress, though, is not yet prepared to demand an immediate and total pullout from Iraq. Neither are the American people, who seem to understand that precipitate withdrawal could turn the present civil war into a conflict of international scope. The Democratic unwillingness to push the president all the way to the wall reflects the broader political will — at least for the moment.

Declining to go for broke leaves Congress in the awkward position of objecting to how the president is fighting the war, not to the fact that he is still fighting it. There is nothing wrong with that stance, of course; there are still some of us who believe that the greatest problem for the United States in Iraq has always been incompetent management. In any case, so long as Congress does not want to end the war outright, it should stick to oversight and not try to dictate tactics.

Noah Feldman, a contributing writer, is a law professor at New York University and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.


February 15, 2007

Not Supporting Our Troops

How do you explain to the thousands of American troops now being poured into Baghdad that they will have to wait until the summer for the protective armor that could easily mean the difference between life and death?

It’s bad enough that these soldiers are being asked to risk their lives without President Bush demanding that Iraq’s leaders take any political risks that might give the military mission at least an outside chance of success. But according to an article in The Washington Post this week, at least some of the troops will be sent out in Humvees not yet equipped with FRAG Kit 5 armor. That’s an advanced version designed to reduce deaths from roadside bombs, which now account for about 70 percent of United States casualties in Iraq.

The more flexible materials used in the FRAG Kit 5 make it particularly helpful in containing the damage done by the especially deadly weapon the Bush administration is now most concerned about: those explosively formed penetrators that Washington accuses Iran of supplying to Shiite militias for use against American troops.

Older versions of Humvee armor are shattered by these penetrators, showering additional shrapnel in the direction of a Humvee’s occupants. The FRAG Kit 5 helps slow the incoming projectile and contains some of the shrapnel, giving the soldiers a better chance of survival.

Armor upgrades like this have become a feature of the Iraq war, as the Pentagon struggles to keep up with the constantly more powerful weapons and sophisticated tactics of the various militia and insurgent forces attacking American troops. But the Army, the National Guard and the Marine Corps have been caught constantly behind the curve.

Unglamorous and relatively inexpensive staples of ground combat, like armor, have never really captured the imagination and attention of military contractors and Pentagon budget-makers the way that “Top Gun” fighter jets, stealthy warships and “Star Wars” missile interceptors generally do.

The Army says it is now accelerating its production of FRAG Kit 5 armor and handing it out to Baghdad-bound units on a priority basis. But it acknowledges that the armor upgrading project will not be completed until summer. Right now, it’s February, and the new American drive in Baghdad has already begun.

That’s a shame, if not an outright scandal, because up-to-date armor is essential for saving American lives.

Paul Leventhal    1938 - 10.4.07
Nuclear Control Institute, Washington


Paul has been a formidable comrade-in-arms on the nuclear nonproliferation front ever since, in 1968, our paths - and from time to time our intellectual swords - crossed. We have shared a common vision and objective, i.e. effective, balanced and reliable nuclear disarament. But we never could agree on whether, on balance, the Nonproliferation Treaty, as it stands, is not going to do more harm than good on the path to our joint objective, as I've discussed in the ground-breaking critique "On the Economic Implications of the Proposed Nonproliferation Treaty", International Law Review - Sottile, March 1968 (
Almost 40 years after its publication, when we had an enchanting lunch in Washington last year, Paul, in his own peculiar way, finally admitted that it was perhaps an unavoidable mistake to structure the NPT in such a fundamentally unbalanced, sand-in-the-eyes and thus dangerously unstable way with all the increadible and glaring loopholes written into it as a bait for the world's nuclear have-nots - both its blue-eyed and its hidden rogues - to swallow the pill.
With the NPT already visible cracking at the reams and, as predicted, eventually falling apart, we then set out to review some of the old and new ideas for what to do next. And we agreed that both of us should apply our in many ways unique insights and energies and intensify our efforts to make a dent on the currently most pressing issues, i.e.
1. the containment of the dangers associated with the Iranian nuclear activities, and
2. the dangers of non-state controlled nuclear activities.
We agreed to do it in a coordinated manner, each in his sphere of influence, on the most promising pathways imaginable and with the most effective means we can muster. And one of the main avenues to be pursued has been a follow-up meeting to the Conference of Non-Nuclear Weapon States held in Geneva in 1968.
When I came to Washington again this February, to my deep regret, Paul wasn't any more able to make it. In the Swiss Parliament, a motion has been introduced for the government to initiate consultations for such a conference (.../3103.htm), and though this may not yet have registered on some radar screens, I am happy to report with a fair degree of confidence that both the Iranian foreign and the security ministers have already repeatedly shown interest and met particularly with the Swiss authorities on this matter.
As you can see, Paul, your never-tiring public and private efforts have not been in vain. There are positive results - even though, or perhaps because many of your efforts were carried out in defiance of the anti-initiative Logan Act of 1799 (.../pelosi.htm) by the private but Sovereign Citizen you've been. And as I suspect you to have done your homework on your side as well, there is a good chance that, in the same enterprising and responsible spirit working for the common good, those who feel called upon to take up your baton will also succeed not only to sound the toxin but make a real dent in the matter of concern to all of us.
Fare well, Paul! May the spirit which has guided us on this demanding path continue to give us energy and direction, particulary as our magnetic compas no longer works in the absence of a magnetic field.
Fare well, my friend and comrade-in-arms!

Anton Keller
11 April 2007

Transnational Perspectives    19 April 2007


by Rene Wadlow

 Mohamed ElBaradei, Director of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called on Iran and Israel to enter into serious negotiations to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East — a zone in which both Israel and Iran would be members.  He was speaking on April 15, 2007 following talks in Jordan with King Abdullah II.  Jordan, caught between Iraq and growing tensions between Israel and Palestine, has been trying to play a more active role of regional peacemaker.

 ElBaradei said "This is the last chance to build security in the Middle East based on trust and cooperation and not the possession of nuclear weapons."  He stressed that a peace agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors "must be reached in parallel with a security agreement in the region based on ridding the area of all weapons of mass destruction."

 It is hard to know if there is a concerted purpose behind an increasing number of news reports and analysis of a potential US or Israeli strike against the nuclear installations of Iran.  It is very likely that both US and Israeli strategic planners have envisaged the possibility of such strikes.  This is, after all, the job of strategic planners.  To what extent such a dangerous and basically unrealistic strategy is taken as an option "on the table" is impossible to know.  What is sure is that the degree of tension in the Middle East over Iran, Iraq and Israel-Palestine has been growing.  Thus, responsible leaders are trying to reduce tensions with proposals for new negotiations — regional talks on the Israel-Palestine conflict, regional talks on the future of Iraq, negotiations on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East or a broader Organization for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East.

 The hazards of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East has existed since Israel developed its "bomb in the basement" and was widely discussed in the early 1980s after Israeli forces destroyed the French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad in June 1981. (1)  Among the community of international relations scholars and strategic theorists, nuclear proliferation has always had its ardent supporters who believe that security is increased by enlarging the number of states with credible deterrence.  This view of nuclear proliferation is often referred to as the "porcupine theory" because it suggests that a nuclear weapon state can walk like a porcupine through the forests of international affairs: no threat to its neighbors, too prickly for predators to swallow.

 It was the French Air Force General Pierre Gallois who was the most eloquent champion of the porcupine approach writing "If every nuclear power held weapons truly invulnerable to the blows of the other, the resort to force by one to the detriment of the other would be impossible."  However, the Middle East is filled not with porcupines but with men who may not be immune to irrationality.  Irrationality at national leadership levels are known in world politics, and risk-taking even by rational leaders can get out of control.  Thus, with the current impossibility of having a nuclear-weapon-free world, the concept of regional nuclear-weapon-free zones has spread.

 The concept of nuclear-weapon-free zones has been an important concept in disarmament and regional conflict reduction efforts.  A nuclear-weapon-free zone was first suggested by the Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki at the United Nations General Assembly in October 1957 — just a year after the crushing of the uprising in Hungary.  The crushing of the Hungarian revolt by Soviet troops and the unrest among Polish workers at the same time showed that the East-West equilibrium in Central Europe was unstable with both the Soviet Union and the USA in possession of nuclear weapons, and perhaps a willingness to use them if the political situation became radically unstable.  The Rapacki Plan, as it became known, called for the denuclearization of East and West Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

 The Plan went through several variants which included its extension to cover the reduction of armed forces and armaments, and as a preliminary step, a freeze on nuclear weapons in the area.  The Rapacki Plan was opposed by the NATO powers, in part because it recognized the legitimacy of the East German state.  It was not until 1970 and the start of what became the 1975 Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe that serious negotiations on troop levels and weapons in Europe began.  While the Rapacki Plan never led to negotiations on nuclear-weapon policies in Europe, it had the merit of re-starting East-West discussions which were then at a dead point.

 The first nuclear-weapon-free zone to be negotiated — the Treaty of Tlatelolco — was a direct aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962.  It is hard to know how close to a nuclear exchange between the USA and the USSR was the Cuban missile crisis.  It was close enough so that Latin American leaders were moved to action.  While Latin America was not an area in which military confrontation was as stark as in Europe, the Cuban missile crisis was a warning that you did not need to have standing armies facing each other for there to be danger.

 Mexico under the leadership of Ambassador Alfonso Garcia-Robles at the UN began immediately to call for a denuclearization of Latin America.  There were a series of conferences, and in February 1967 the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America was signed at Tlatelolco, Mexico.  For a major arms control treaty, the Tlateloco was negotiated in a short time, due partly to the fear inspired by the Cuban missile crisis but especially to the energy and persistence of Garcia-Robles and the expert advice of William Epstein, then the U.N.’s Director of Disarmament Affairs.  The Treaty established a permanent and effective system of control which contains a number of novel and pioneering elements as well as a body to supervise the Treaty.

 On 8 September 2006, the five states of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan signed the treaty establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  The treaty aims at reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation and nuclear-armed terrorism.  The treaty bans the production, acquisition, deployment of nuclear weapons and their components as well as nuclear explosives.  Importantly, the treaty bans the hosting or transport of nuclear weapons as both Russia and the USA have established military airbases in Central Asia where nuclear weapons could have been placed in times of crisis in Asia.

 The treaty was signed at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan which was the main testing site for Soviet nuclear tests.  Between 1949 and 1989, some 500 nuclear tests took place at Semipalatinsk leaving a heritage of radioactivity and health problems.  A non-governmental organization "Nevada-Semipalatinsk" was formed in the 1980s of persons in the USA and the USSR who had lived in the nuclear-weapon test areas. Its aim was to work to abolish nuclear weapons and to push compensation for the persons suffering from the medical consequences of the tests. Thus, Rusten Tursunbaev, the vice President of "Nevada-Semipalatinsk" could say "The signing of the agreement on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia is a remarkable, unbelievable moment and event — not just for Central Asia, but for the whole world."

 It is an unfortunate aspect of world politics that constructive, institution-building action is usually undertaken only because of a
 crisis.  The growing pressure building in the Middle East could lead to concerted leadership for a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone.  The IAEA has the technical knowledge for putting such a zone in place. (2). Now there needs to be leadership from within the Middle East states as well as broader international encouragement.  ElBaradei’s appeal may be the sign of a serious start.


 (1)  See Shai Feldman.Israeli Nuclear Deterrence: A Strategy for the 1980s (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982)
 Louis Rene Beres(ed.). Security or Armageddon (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1985)
 Roger Pajak. Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East (Washington, DC: The National Defense University, 1982)

 (2)  See Michael Hamel-Green.Regional Initiatives on Nuclear-and WMD-Free Zones (Geneva: United Nations Institute for
 Disarmament  Research, 2005)

 Rene Wadlow is the editor of and an NGO representative to the United Nations, Geneva.
7 May 2007

Effort to Repair Nuclear Treaty Gets Snagged Over Agenda

VIENNA. (Reuters) - A 130-nation meeting on how to fix the fraying Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty faces collapse on Monday unless Iran accepts a last-minute South African proposal to overcome its objections to the agenda.

The gathering, scheduled to run to May 11, was meant to set priorities to be fleshed out at follow-up annual meetings leading to the next decision-making conference on the treaty in 2010.

But the session quickly snagged on procedural disputes reflecting the standoff between Western powers and Iran over its suspected failure to comply with the treaty`s safeguards, pre-empting debate on proposals to reinforce the treaty.

"I think a decision will come on Monday whether we will have to go home with nothing to show for this meeting,` said a senior European diplomat, "because it was taken hostage by Iran."

The nonproliferation treaty binds members without nuclear bombs not to acquire them, guarantees the right of all members to nuclear energy for peaceful ends and obligates the original five nuclear powers from the post-World War II era to dismantle their arsenals in stages.

Iran blamed the United States for the impasse, accusing it of wording in the agenda intended to single out Iran as the main offender and to muzzle criticism of big powers over their slowness to phase out their own nuclear arsenals.

The United States has not answered those accusations and has stayed out of the debate.

A senior Western official said that many developing nations were not happy with Iran`s position and noted that South Africa had intervened to try to resolve the issue.

South Africa proposed that the agenda phrase in dispute - "reaffirming the need for full compliance" with the treaty - be clarified with an attached declaration saying this meant compliance "with all provisions" of the treaty. The change was intended to assure Iran that debate would also push states with nuclear weapons to do more to heed pledges to do away with them.

Japan, which is leading the meeting, will seek consensus for the idea when proceedings resume on Monday. Iran promised to consider it.

May 8, 2007

U.S. Debates Deterrence for Nuclear Terrorism

WASHINGTON, May 7 — Every week, a group of experts from agencies around the government — including the C.I.A., the Pentagon, the F.B.I. and the Energy Department — meet to assess Washington’s progress toward solving a grim problem: if a terrorist set off a nuclear bomb in an American city, could the United States determine who detonated it and who provided the nuclear material?

So far, the answer is maybe.

That uncertainty lies at the center of a vigorous, but carefully cloaked, debate within the Bush administration. It focuses on how to refashion the American approach to nuclear deterrence in an attempt to counter the threat posed by terrorists who could obtain bomb-grade uranium or plutonium to make and deliver a weapon.

A previously undisclosed meeting last year of President Bush’s most senior national security advisers was the highest level discussion about how to rewrite the cold war rules. The existing approach to deterrence dates from the time when the nuclear attacks Washington worried about would be launched by missiles and bombers, which can be tracked back to a source by radar, and not carried in backpacks or hidden in cargo containers.

Among the subjects of the meeting last year was whether to issue a warning to all countries around the world that if a nuclear weapon was detonated on American soil and was traced back to any nation’s stockpiles, through nuclear forensics, the United States would hold that country “fully responsible” for the consequences of the explosion. The term “fully responsible” was left deliberately vague so that it would be unclear whether the United States would respond with a retaliatory nuclear attack, or, far more likely, a nonnuclear retaliation, whether military or diplomatic.

But that meeting of Mr. Bush’s principal national security and military advisers in May 2006 broke up with the question unresolved, according to participants. The discussion remained hung up on such complexities as whether it would be wise to threaten Iran even as diplomacy still offered at least some hope of halting Tehran’s nuclear program, and whether it was credible to issue a warning that would be heard to include countries that America considers partners and allies, like Russia or Pakistan, which are nuclear powers with far from perfect nuclear safeguards.

Then, on Oct. 9, North Korea detonated a nuclear test.

Mr. Bush responded that morning with an explicit warning to President Kim Jong-il that “transfer of nuclear weapons or material” to other countries or terrorist groups “would be considered a grave threat to the United States,” and that the North would be held “fully accountable.”

A senior American official involved in the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing private national security deliberations, said, “Given the fact that they were trying to cross red lines, that they were launching missiles and that they conducted the nuclear test, we finally decided it was time.”

Mr. Bush was able to issue a credible warning, other senior officials said, in part because the International Atomic Energy Agency has a library of nuclear samples from North Korea, obtained before the agency’s inspectors were thrown out of the country, that would likely make it possible to trace an explosion back to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. The North Koreans are fully aware, government experts believe, that the United States has access to that database of nuclear DNA.

But when it comes to other countries, many of that library’s shelves are empty. And in interviews over the past several weeks, senior American nuclear experts have said that the huge gap is one reason that the Bush administration is so far unable to make a convincing threat to terrorists or their suppliers that they will be found out.

“I believe the most likely source of the material would be from the Russian nuclear arsenal, but you shouldn’t confuse ‘likely’ with ‘certainty’ by any means,” said Scott D. Sagan, co-director of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, who has studied the problem known in Washington and the national nuclear laboratories as “nuclear attribution.”

Mr. Sagan noted that nuclear material in a terrorist attack might also come from Pakistan, home of the network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

The Bush administration is also finding a skeptical audience when it warns of emerging nuclear threats, since its assessments of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capacity in advance of the 2003 invasion proved wildly off the mark. On Sunday, defending his new book during an interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press,” George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, made the case that any past errors should not blind the public to the threat of nuclear attack posed by Al Qaeda today.

“What I believe is that Al Qaeda is seeking this capability,” Mr. Tenet said.

Pakistani officials have been visiting Washington recently offering assurances that their nuclear supplies and weapons are locked down with sophisticated new technology. During a presentation at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonprofit organization here that studies nuclear proliferation, Lt. Col. Zafar Ali, who works in the arms control section of the Pakistani Strategic Plans Division, said that while Al Qaeda and other groups may want a nuclear weapon, “there are doubts that these organizations have the capability to fabricate a nuclear device.”

He bristled at the continuing questions about Pakistan’s nuclear security, arguing that “there is no reported case of security failure subsequent to A. Q. Khan’s case” in 2004, and suggested that American concerns would be better directed at Russia.

But few experts in the Bush administration are reassured, saying that their fear is not only leakage from Pakistan, but a takeover of the government of the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. It is a subject they will never discuss on the record, but one that is the constant topic of study and assessment.

The issue of shaping a new policy even presents difficulties when dealing with a country like Iran, which, like North Korea, was once described by President Bush as a member of an “axis of evil.” Tehran does not yet possess nuclear weapons, and inspectors believe that it has produced only small amounts of nuclear fuel, not enough to make a bomb, and none of it bomb grade.

In the cabinet-level discussion last May, Mr. Bush’s top advisers concluded that issuing a warning to Iran might signal that the United States was preparing for the day when Iran becomes a nuclear-armed state, an impression that one former senior administration official said “is not the message we want to send.” As a result, Iran did not receive a warning similar to the one issued to North Korea, whose test made clear that it is edging into the nuclear club.

Mr. Sagan said he supported that approach, saying that if Mr. Bush issues a declaration specifically aimed at Iran, it may be heard among the most radical leaders in Tehran as a tacit acknowledgment that the United States has accepted the possibility that Iran is going to go nuclear.

“We need to distinguish between the leakage problem, where it would be inadvertent, and the provider problem, where it would be an intentional act,” said Robert S. Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the author of “Regime Change: U.S. Strategy Through the Prism of 9/11.”

“To the provider we should say, ‘Don’t even think about it,’ and this more explicit declaratory policy can get us traction because these regimes value their own survival above all else,” Mr. Litwak said. “For the leakage problem, we don’t want to be trapped into a question of how we retaliate against Russia or Pakistan. But through calculated ambiguity, we can create incentives for the Russians and the Pakistanis to do even more in the area of safeguarding their weapons and capabilities.”

The weekly meeting of the interagency group dealing with nuclear attribution is just one part of a governmentwide effort to prepare for what might happen after a small nuclear device was detonated in an American city, just as Washington once gamed out a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.

But it is a subject Mr. Bush and his aides have rarely referred to in public. In private, officials say, the Department of Homeland Security is trying to plan for more than a dozen scenarios — including one in which a bomb goes off, and terrorist groups then claim to have planted others in cities around the country.

While most of that planning takes place behind locked doors, officials responsible for it appeared at a workshop last month sponsored by the Preventive Defense Project, a research collaboration sponsored by Harvard and Stanford Universities.

The daylong discussion revealed major gaps in the planning. But it also demonstrated that while the first instinct of government officials after an explosion would be to figure out retaliation, “that would probably give way to an effort to seek the cooperation of a Pakistan or Russia to figure out where the stuff came from, what else was lost, and to hunt down the remaining bombs rather than punish the government that lost them,” said one of the conference’s organizers, Ashton B. Carter of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

May 8, 2007

Answering Al Qaeda

MORE than five years have passed since terrorism struck our country. Some say this is no surprise. After all, since then we have reorganized the government and created an agency dedicated to protecting us from another attack — the Department of Homeland Security. We have spent billions of dollars to better secure potential targets. We have dislodged Al Qaeda from its sanctuary in Afghanistan, and killed or captured scores of its followers around the globe.

Perhaps another strike on the country is unlikely, but I very much doubt it. From everything we know, Al Qaeda is as determined as ever to attack us at home, and it remains as capable as ever of doing so. While many of its operatives have been killed or captured since 9/11, the supply of young people who are willing and even eager to attack Americans seems limitless.

Our disastrous misadventure in Iraq has only increased that desire. Al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in Pakistan and is trying to reclaim Afghanistan. It is only marginally harder for terrorists to enter the United States now than it was before 9/11, and once they’re inside our borders the potential targets are infinite. Many of those targets are more secure today, but not to the degree they should be.

As if we needed a reminder that another 9/11 remains a real threat, let’s look at what happened just last week: Another chilling videotape from Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, appeared. The State Department acknowledged that attacks worldwide are on the rise. Five Britons with links to Al Qaeda were sentenced for plotting spectacular attacks in their country, highlighting the danger of “homegrown” terrorism here as well. And the former C.I.A. director George Tenet maintained that “Al Qaeda is here and waiting.”

We can never make ourselves invulnerable to terrorism. But certain steps would reduce our vulnerability to as close to zero as possible. Among those steps should be these:

•    Install “backscatter” machines (being tested) at every airport checkpoint in the country. These X-ray-like devices reveal guns and knives on passengers’ bodies or in their clothes that screeners often miss.
•    Deploy at every airport checkpoint multiview X-ray machines that automatically rotate passengers’ carry-on bags so screeners can see them from every angle, improving their ability to spot concealed weapons.
•    Install explosive-detection technologies at every airport checkpoint to spot trace explosives on passengers’ bodies and bags.
•    Redouble efforts to develop technologies to detect liquid explosives.
•    Inspect 100 percent of the cargo in passenger planes.
•    Ensure that only Americans work at airports and that all workers are screened each time they approach a checkpoint, hangar, tarmac or similar area.

•    Inspect (ideally before they reach our shores) 100 percent of the cargo ships bound for United States ports for radiation to detect any concealed weapon of mass destruction.

•    Triple the number of Border Patrol Agents, and supplement their efforts with sensors, cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles that are actually deployed and work.
•    End the visa-waiver program, which enables terrorists to reduce their chances of being caught at legal ports of entry by using passports from visa-waiver countries like Britain and France to bypass the scrutiny that visa applicants have to undergo.
•    Rededicate the Department of Homeland Security to the goal of adding an exit feature to the automated border entry system, so we know whether terrorists who slipped into the country have left.

Mass Transit
•    Provide money for mass transit authorities to deploy armed police patrols, bomb-sniffing dogs and technology, surveillance cameras, public awareness campaigns and random bag searches permanently, not simply during heightened states of alert.

•    Ensure that the intelligence community provides the Department of Homeland Security with any information concerning threats against the country and that the department disseminates that information quickly to relevant state and local government officials, first responders and private businesses.

•    Ensure that, in the event of an attack, there is a clear chain of command among the federal, state and local governments; interoperable communications among first responders; supplies of food, water and medicine; and clear, workable evacuation plans.
It is only a matter of time before another catastrophic attack is attempted. The sooner we take the steps outlined above the less likely such an attempt is to succeed.

Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, is the director of the Homeland Security Initiative at the Aspen Institute and the author of “Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack.”

June 1, 2007

Radioactivity Sensors for Russia

MOSCOW, May 31 — The United States and Russia have agreed to accelerate a program that detects radioactive materials along Russia’s borders and plan to have automated detection systems installed at all Russian border crossing points by 2011, American energy officials said Thursday.

As part of the agreement, the program, administered jointly by Russia’s federal custom service and the National Nuclear Security Administration in the United States, will be completed six years ahead of schedule.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been increasingly strained in recent months. Some of the disputes are related to American criticism of Russia’s human rights record and its treatment of former Soviet republics and the seemingly intractable disagreements about the future status of Kosovo and an American-led plan to install a missile-defense system in Europe.

But the United States has insisted that the two countries have managed to maintain productive relations on certain themes, including nuclear nonproliferation.

“We share with Russia many common global nonproliferation goals,” Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said in testimony before the Helsinki Commission in Washington on May 24.

William H. Tobey, deputy administrator for nonproliferation at the administration, said that within four years the detection equipment would be installed at all 350 of Russia’s border crossing points, including seaports, international airports and road and rail crossings.

The program to install the equipment began in 1998; about 200 of the crossings are expected to be covered by the end of this year. The United States has spent about $40 million on the program through the end of 2006 and expects to spend $100 million more before the end of 2011.

Roughly half of the remaining installations will be paid for by Russia, American officials said.

The Observer    June 10, 2007

MI6 probes UK link to nuclear trade with Iran

Mark Townsend, crime correspondent

A British company has been closed down after being caught in an apparent attempt to sell black-market weapons-grade uranium to Iran and Sudan, The Observer can reveal. Anti-terrorist officers and MI6 are now investigating a wider British-based plot allegedly to supply Iran with material for use in a nuclear weapons programme. One person has already been charged with attempting to proliferate 'weapons of mass destruction'.

During the 20-month investigation, which also involved MI5 and Customs and Excise, a group of Britons was tracked as they obtained weapons-grade uranium from the black market in Russia. Investigators believe it was intended for export to Sudan and on to Iran.

A number of Britons, who are understood to have links with Islamic terrorists abroad, remain under surveillance. Investigators believe they have uncovered the first proof that al-Qaeda supporters have been actively engaged in developing an atomic capability. The British company, whose identity is known to The Observer but cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, has been wound up. A Customs and Excise spokesman said: 'We continue to investigate allegations related to the supply of components for nuclear programmes including related activities of British nationals.' It is not clear whether all of those involved in the alleged nuclear conspiracy were aware of the uranium's ultimate destination or of any intended use.

British agents believe Russian black-market uranium was destined for Sudan, described as a 'trans-shipment' point. The alleged plot, however, was disrupted in early 2006, before the nuclear material reached its final destination.

Roger Berry, chairman of Parliament's Quadripartite Committee, which monitors arms exports, said: 'With the collapse of the Soviet Union there was always the question over not just uranium but where other WMD components were going and how this could be controlled. Real credit must go to the enforcement authorities that they have disrupted this. The really worrying aspect is that if one company is involved, are there others out there?'

Politically, the allegations hold potentially huge ramifications for diplomatic relations between the West and Tehran. Already, tensions are running high between Iran, the US and the European Union over the true extent of Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran refuses to suspend its nuclear programme in the face of mounting pressure, arguing its intent is entirely peaceful and solely aimed at producing power for civilian use.

Investigators are understood to have evidence that Iran was to receive the uranium to help develop a nuclear weapons capability. 'They may argue that the material is for civilian use but it does seem an extremely odd way to procure uranium,' said Berry.

Alleged evidence of Sudan's role will concern British security services. The East African state has long been suspected of offering a haven for Islamist terrorists and has been accused of harbouring figures including Osama bin Laden who, during the mid-Nineties, set up a number of al-Qaeda training camps in the country.

Details of the plot arrive against a backdrop of increasing co-operation between Sudan and Iran on defence issues, although the level of involvement, if any, of the governments in Khartoum and Tehran in the alleged nuclear plot is unclear.

However, circumstantial evidence suggesting that elements within both countries might be colluding on military matters has been mounting in recent months. A Sudanese delegation visited Iran's uranium conversion facility in February, while the East African country reportedly recently signed a mutual defence co-operation pact with Iran, allowing Tehran to deploy ballistic missiles in Sudan.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung    20.Juni 2007

Junge Zürcher Forscher auf der Spur von Terroristen
ETH-Spin-off erhält ZKB-Juionierpreisfür radiologischen Detektor

Die diesjährigen Gewinner des ZKB-Pionierpreises heissen Arktis Radiation Detectors. Der Spin-off aus zwei jungen ETH-Physikern und einem Betriebswirtschafter hat ein Produkt entwickelt, das im internationalen Containerhandel vielleicht bald nicht mehr wegzudenken ist.

Gruppenbild ohne Dame: Mario Vögeli (links) und Rico Chandra vom preisgekrönten ETH-Spin-off.

    ami. Von der Gefahr, dass Terroristen in Schiffscontainern un-bemerkt radioaktives Material für schmutzige Bomben in ein Land einführen, hörte Rico Chandra vor zwei Jahren an einem Kongress für Atomphysiker in den USA. Chandra hatte bis dahin in der Grundlagenforschung gearbeitet. Am europäischen Teilchenphysik-Zentrum in Genf entwickelte er für die ETH einen Detektor, der im Weltall dunkle Materie aufspürt. Konfrontiert mit dieser für ihn neuen und weltpolitisch höchst brisanten Problematik, kam Chandra auf die Idee, einen Detektor zu bauen, der nicht mehr nach dunkler Materie im Weltall sucht, sondern - auf der gleichen technologischen Grundlage - Container nach gefährlichem radioaktivem Material durchleuchtet.
Zusammen mit seiner Studienkollegin Giovanna Davatz begann Chandra Tag und Nacht an der Umsetzung dieser Idee zu arbeiten. Getrieben wurden sie von der wissenschaftlichen Herausforderung, wie der 30-Jährige in seinem Büro an der ETH Hönggerberg erzählt. Gleichzeitig hätten sich beide schon immer selbständig machen wollen. «Wenn man etwas Eigenes aufbaut, fällt es leichter, 15 Stunden am Tag zu arbeiten», sagt Chandra lächelnd, und aus seinem Mund glänzt schelmisch ein Piercing.

Katzenstreu oder gefährliches Material?
    Zwar gibt es schon heute Detektoren auf dem Markt. Doch diese haben ein Problem: Sie können die für den Menschen ungefährliche radioaktive Strahlung von Katzenstreu oder Granit nicht unterscheiden von der Strahlung eines kernwaffenfähigen Materials wie Uran. Die eingesetzten Detektoren lösen deshalb oft Fehlalarme aus und behindern so das rasche Verschiffen der Container, was Zeit und Geld kostet. Genau dieses Manko soll Chandras und Davatz' Gerät nicht haben.
    Die durchgearbeiteten Nächte haben sich gelohnt. In Chandras Labor steht schon heute ein Detektor, der diese Aufgabe - zumindest unter Laborbedingungen - meistert. Nun sind die beiden jungen Physiker daran, einen markttauglichen Prototypen zu entwickeln, der auch unter normalen Verhältnissen funktioniert, also beispielsweise in einem Hafen oder am Zoll. In etwa zwei Jahren, so schätzt Chandra, werden sie so weit sein.

Markt in den USA
    Die Wissenschafter ergänzen sich optimal. Chandra kümmert sich um die Hardware, die gleichaltrige Physikerin Davatz ist für die Software zuständig. Nächstes Jahr wollen sie einen weiteren Techniker ins Boot holen. Bereits ins Team aufgenommen wurde der Betriebsökonom Mario Vögeli, den Chandra schon viele Jahre kennt. Vögeli ist zurzeit daran, aus dem Projekt eine eigentliche Firma zu machen. Die Gründung soll in den nächsten Wochen erfolgen. Die drei haben sich auf den klingenden Namen Arktis Radiation Detectors geeinigt. Vögelis Aufgabe dürfte künftig immer wichtiger werden. So gilt es Investoren zu finden, denn allein die Entwicklungskosten für die nächsten zwei Jahre belaufen sich auf rund 3 Millionen Franken. Bisher wurde das junge Team von der ETH unterstützt und der Förderagentur für Innovation KTI. In die neue Firma wollen die drei auch ihr eigenes Geld investieren.
    Das Interesse an solchen Detektoren ist gross. Denn der internationale Handel basiert schwergewichtig auf dem Umstand, dass Güter in Schiffscontainern rasch und problemlos von einem beliebigen Ort der Erde an einen anderen verschifft werden können. Da für Schmuggelkontrollen staatliche Behörden zuständig sind, gehören derzeit vor allem Regierungsorganisationen zum potenziellen Kundenkreis. Der grösste Markt für solche Produkte ist in den USA, aber auch in Europa erwacht das Interesse. Chandra ist überzeugt, dass solche Strahlungsmessgeräte in Zukunft weltweit Standard sein werden in der Hafeninfrastruktur. Sollte sich der Arktis-Detektor bewähren, stünde dem jungen Team ein riesiger Markt offen.
    In der Schweiz hat sich das Team schon im ver-gangenen Jahr einen Namen gemacht. Arktis Radiation Detectors gewannen den mit 60000 Franken dotierten «Venture»-Preis der ETH und des Beratungsunternehmens McKinsey. In jenem Wettbewerb ging es darum, eine gute Geschäftsidee und den Businessplan zu erarbeiten. Gestern wurde ihnen nun auch der mit rund 31 500 Franken dotierte «ZKB Pionierpreis Technopark» verliehen, der ein technisches Projekt an der Schwelle zum Markteintritt auszeichnet. Geprüft wurde diesmal auch das Technische auf Herz und Nieren. «Da war mir schon ein wenig mulmig zumute», sagt Chandra, dessen Grossvater als Mathematikprofessor von Indien an die ETH berufen worden war. Die Freude und Anerkennung sei jetzt allerdings umso grösser.

Washington Post    July 14, 2007

A Stinging Report
Government Accountability Office tries to build a dirty bomb.

EVER SINCE Americans began stocking up on plastic dropcloths and duct tape, terms such as "americium-241" and "cesium-137" have been deservedly ominous. These are two dangerously radioactive substances, useful in certain industrial devices and potentially harmful if dispersed by the explosion of a "dirty bomb." Yet these are the very materials that investigators at the Government Accountability Office were able to order with ease -- and in alarming quantities -- in a recent sting.

This year, an enterprising team at the GAO set up two phony companies, which the auditors used to apply for licenses from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and from state regulators in Maryland, to buy special moisture density gauges containing the radioactive substances. Even though each company's assets consisted of little more than a post-office box and cash to buy the equipment, the federal authorities quickly granted a license to one of the fake companies -- without any effort to visit the company's supposed facilities or to conduct a face-to-face interview with those who filled out the application. The investigators also easily tampered with the federal permit to allow for unlimited purchases of the material. They used the permit to order dozens of moisture gauges. Maryland regulators, on the other hand, asked to visit the worksite of the fake company that had sent them an application, whereupon the auditors withdrew their license application.

In response to the release of the sting's findings, an NRC commissioner pointed out that the substances involved were not nearly as dangerous as others and said that safeguards on more-harmful materials are much tighter. Further, extracting the radioactive substances and building a bomb that could disperse them would still have been difficult. And even in a worst-case scenario, only about a city block would require decontamination, given the amounts in question, he said. For some reason, we don't feel reassured.

Why make it easy to manipulate the system, especially when federal regulators can make a few relatively inexpensive changes to tighten safeguards? The NRC has revamped its guidelines in response to this embarrassment. NRC officials can, however, still learn something from their counterparts in Maryland, where, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of the Environment, the authorities conduct on-site visits, not just interviews, before granting licenses. The NRC should also consider ways to better track sales. In addition, during Senate testimony on the matter yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) suggested reviewing other states' procedures for granting licenses to ensure that federal and state authorities are meeting a high standard.

Washington Post    July 20, 2007

DHS May Have Misled Congress, GAO Audit Finds
Radiation Detector Program Delayed

By Robert O'Harrow Jr.

A $1.2 billion program to deploy new radiation monitors to screen trucks, cars and cargo containers for signs of nuclear devices has been delayed by questions over whether Department of Homeland Security officials misled Congress about the effectiveness of the detectors.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the contracts for monitors with cutting-edge technology a year ago. He said they would improve radiation scans at borders and ports, while sharply reducing the number of false alarms. Congress had allowed the five-year project to move ahead after Homeland Security assured appropriators that the $377,000 machines would detect highly enriched uranium 95 percent of the time.

"What this next generation of detection equipment is going to let us do is make those determinations much more precisely, much more easily and much more quickly," Chertoff said.

But the department's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office did not know whether the detectors would work effectively, according to documents and interviews.

Auditors from the Government Accountability Office later found that the detection rates of machines tested by the department were as low as 17 percent and no higher than about 50 percent. The auditors said the department's optimistic report to Congress on the cost and benefits of the machines was based on assumptions instead of facts -- a finding that prompted lawmakers to put the project on hold last year.

Last week, the GAO told Congress that Homeland Security officials did not follow their own guidelines for ensuring that the cost-benefit report was accurate and complete. The GAO also said the director of the nuclear detection office was incorrect when he testified in March that the office was not aware of any specifics about whether officials followed the guidelines. A GAO official said auditors would release a report about the monitors next month.

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Congress will continue pressing officials for more verifiable details about the monitors before they allow the project to proceed.

"As DHS develops costly new technology critical to the nation's security, Congress must be able to rely on DNDO's claims about the technology," Lieberman said in an e-mailed statement. "DNDO's estimates of costs and benefits must be based on facts, not assumptions. And, while taking into account the effects this technology will have on commerce, it must be based first and foremost on how best to prevent nuclear smuggling."

Vayl Oxford, director of the nuclear detection office, defended the high detection rate cited in the report to Congress last year as a "high-water goal" the agency hoped to achieve, not an assessment of the monitors' capabilities. Oxford said recent tests of the monitors in New York show a "dramatic decrease" in false alarms. Oxford said eight monitors will be deployed at four border crossings and ports for further performance tests this week.

The government has had difficulty getting independent, reliable technical assessments about the plausibility, cost and benefits of advanced technology before Congress and agencies commit to spending. It has always struggled when buying new technology, which is why Congress created the Office of Technology Assessment in 1972. For two decades, scientists and engineers in that office helped sort out technical truths from wishful thinking in project proposals. But the office was killed in 1995 in an effort to streamline federal programs.

Since then, as government spending on new technology rose to record levels, the primary technical advisers to federal officials often have been the contractors themselves. Billions of dollars have been wasted on failed, flawed or speculative projects.

A new computer system for tracking imports and exports was delayed by years because of technical problems, and the cost rose by $1 billion, to $3.1 billion. A computer system for the FBI to track criminal cases was abandoned after more than $100 million was spent. A system designed to track the entry and exit of foreign visitors featured a "prototype" network for recording visitor exits that cost $146 million but does not work.

The radiation portal monitors were envisioned as the nation's key bulwark against attacks with radioactive material. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the government spent more than $200 million on detection equipment that could not distinguish nuclear devices from more benign sources of radiation, such as ceramic tiles and cat litter.

President Bush directed the establishment of the nuclear detection office in spring 2005 to be the main resource for assessing and buying monitors. Its mission includes providing technical advice to other agencies.

The office immediately began testing machines that, according to GAO estimates, cost about six times as much as current monitors. The Advanced Spectroscopic Portal radiation monitors rely on sensitive detection technology that had not previously been used in the field in the way officials envisioned.

Homeland Security officials tested monitors made by 10 companies. But before the results of those tests were made available to Congress, auditors from the GAO, in March 2006, raised questions about the procurement process.

The auditors predicted cost overruns of as much as $596 million and said the "prototypes of this equipment have not yet been shown to be more effective than the portal monitors now in use." The auditors concluded that it "is not clear that the dramatically higher cost of this equipment would be worth the investment."

In response, Congress told Chertoff and officials at the nuclear detection office to produce a "cost-benefit" analysis, comparing the existing machines with the proposed replacements.

In June 2006, the department delivered a report that said that the new machines "can correctly detect and identify highly enriched uranium (HEU) 95 percent of the time," according to the GAO. Congressional appropriators then approved the spending.

On July 14, 2006, Chertoff and Oxford announced that they had ordered the first 80 of 1,400 new monitors. The monitors, manufactured by three companies, were to be deployed last fall under a deal that officials said involved up to a year of research and development and up to four years of full-scale deployment.

In the meantime, the GAO auditors examined the detection office's cost-benefit report. In a private meeting last August, the auditors told lawmakers that the report used optimistic assumptions and overstated the acquisition costs of the existing detection machines, distorting any cost comparison.

The auditors concluded that "DNDO's cost-benefit analysis does not justify its recent decision to purchase and deploy" the new machines and that the nuclear detection office should not spend more money buying the machines "until it conducts realistic testing," according to documents included with a GAO report last fall.

That finding prompted Congress to tell Chertoff that deployment of the new monitors should not occur until he vouched for a new round of tests his department conducted in January and February, the results of which have yet to be released.

In March, Oxford testified before a House homeland security subcommittee that the GAO misunderstood the cost-benefit report. He said "we stand behind the basic conclusions" of the report, which he said was done to justify research and development, not full-scale production. Oxford said his office followed department guidelines in drafting the report.

That assertion was contradicted last week by the GAO letter, which said that Oxford's nuclear detection office did not meet seven of eight department guidelines. The letter also said that DHS officials were briefed on the requirements just days before the cost-benefit report was delivered to Congress.

During that March hearing, the GAO's Eugene E. Aloise warned lawmakers that "the data used in the [cost-benefit] analysis was incomplete and unreliable, and as a result, we do not have any confidence in it."

Lawmakers in both parties were also openly skeptical of Oxford's testimony.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) told Oxford that Aloise's testimony suggested that "you screwed up big time. You did what you weren't supposed to do."

In an interview this week, Oxford said the contracts for the project were written in a way to give his office flexibility to continue studying the performance of the monitors before they were deployed. He defended last year's cost-benefit report as a "preliminary" document that did not mean his office was prepared to authorize full production.

Oxford stood by his assertion that his office was not told by the GAO precisely what to include in the cost-benefit report. "We were never given the specific details of what they thought was flawed in our methodology," he said.

KarenLS wrote:
Come on guys. You have known for years now that for whatever reason, government employees in the aggregate no longer know how to oversee research and development, let alone procurement of functioning systems to any reasonable degree. We see problem after problem after problem like this across all organizations, so it is not unique to just DHS. A heavy component in the problem is the contractors themselves who now write the requirements documents and then bid to said documents. No one is scrutinizing and demanding of them. There is no penalty since regardless of success, or more often failure, these contractors continue to get government business, and they never have to reimburse the government for the shoddy work. Shoot, the best case example of a horrible, negligent performance was with the Navy A12 program back in the 1980's and last article I saw we still had not received reimbursement of monies owed. Not much hope with todays even more dysfunctional system. And we wonder why we do not have the money to pay for healthcare for everyone. What is really sad though is I used to know loads of incredibly talented and capable people in the acquisition field. Where have they all gone?
7/20/2007 8:17:21 AM

Op-Ed Contributors

August 1, 2007

Seize the Cesium

THE death of Alexander Litvinenko, the former K.G.B. officer who drank polonium-210 in a cup of tea, underscored the damage that radiological terrorists could do. The most familiar possible situations involve the detonation of a dirty bomb, a modest amount of high explosive mated to a container of radioactive material. But radioactive material inside the human body is far more dangerous than a dirty bomb.

Most analysts believe that about 10 people would die from radiation poisoning after a dirty bomb attack. Others believe that the only people likely to receive a lethal dose of radiation from a dirty bomb would already be dead from the blast. A perfectly feasible terrorist attack using the ingestion, inhalation or immersion of radioactive material, on the other hand, would be almost certain to kill hundreds. We call attacks of these kinds I-cubed attacks (for ingestion, inhalation and immersion). Such attacks can be sneaky, unaccompanied by a flash and bang.

Nothing we write in any way supplies terrorists with information that they don’t already have. We have consulted with American government experts to be certain. Americans need to understand the risks posed by I-cubed attacks, and how to react when one occurs. The unfamiliarity of such attacks compared with dirty bombs may lead to an even greater panic when one is discovered — probably only after large numbers of people get very sick.

The analysts’ favored isotope for a radiological terrorist attack has been cesium-137, which emits very energetic gamma radiation capable of traveling many yards in the air or penetrating lead shielding. Cesium is a nasty chemical. Even its non-radioactive form is highly poisonous.

Fortunately, it’s hard to kill a lot of people with an ingestion attack. Contaminating a reservoir, or even a water main, is ineffective because the radioactivity is quickly diluted, and most water is not used for drinking or cooking. Contaminating agricultural products is similarly difficult. But there are ways, if the terrorist group has enough material and access to the right kinds of facilities, to contaminate food directly.

An inhalation attack, sometimes called a smoky bomb, would use radioisotopes that can be burned, vaporized or aerosolized, and in a confined space could contaminate the air and be inhaled. Isotopes like polonium-210 that emit alpha particles are particularly effective because they can kill either quickly by radiation poisoning or slowly by causing lung cancer. Terrorists could also use something like an insecticide sprayer mounted on a truck to disperse, for example, a polonium compound dissolved in water.

An immersion attack, which would drench victims with a radioactive solution, could kill with only a small fraction of a teaspoon. Just a few drops of contaminated water on the mouth are enough to cause radiation poisoning. The first instinct of somebody soaked with water is to wipe his face, which transfers the isotope from hand to mouth. Even if the victims avoided getting any water inside their bodies, the solution would cause severe radiation burns.

I-cubed attacks are enabled by the easy availability of comparatively large alpha-emitting sources (sources 10 percent the size of a lethal dose can be bought with a specific license) and by the fact that cesium-137 is normally supplied for use in cancer therapy machines, hospital blood sterilizers and elsewhere in industry as a water-soluble powder, the most dangerous possible form.

Water-soluble cesium chloride should be taken off the market immediately. Cesium-137 can instead be supplied embedded in glass. In addition, very large cesium sources are used in places like hospitals. They should be replaced by powerful X-ray machines, which can deliver the same energy radiation in substantially the same quantities.

Cesium-137 is not the only isotope that radiological terrorists might use. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes that alpha-emitting isotopes like polonium-210 and americium are adequately regulated, but we believe that the quantities supplied without a specific license should be reduced by about a factor of 10. In all cases they should be supplied in hard-to-weaponize forms. The regulatory commission has not been diligent in checking the bona fides of applicants for licenses for large sources of any kind, but thankfully this is being changed.

In the United States, commercial users lose about one radioactive source a day — many large enough for I-cubed attacks — through theft, accidents or poor paperwork. One of these is recovered perhaps every two days, either because the radioactive materials are voluntarily returned or because of good detective work. Many of the losses occur because license holders are negligent. Criminal penalties should be enacted, as they are for some other hazardous materials, to allow prosecution of license holders in the most serious cases.

The government and people need to have a conversation about radiation terrorism before the next attack. The easiest way for such a conversation to take place is through solid reporting and discussion by the news media — discussion focused on the science instead of hype and scary language.

Britons were well served by the reporting on Mr. Litvinenko’s death, and there was little panic. Americans in London on a brief visit at the time were not well informed, as they demonstrated by sending us frantic e-mail messages asking, “Am I going to die?” Our friends weren’t going to die from the attack on Mr. Litvinenko, but one day Americans could be the victims of a larger scale radiation attack, and many could die.

Peter D. Zimmerman is a professor of science and security, James M. Acton is a lecturer and M. Brooke Rogers is a researcher at King’s College London.

Washington Post    August 13, 2007

Upkeep Of Security Devices A Burden

By Mary Beth Sheridan

In 2003, the FBI used a $25 million grant to give bomb squads across the nation state-of-the-art computer kits, enabling them to instantly share information about suspected explosives, including weapons of mass destruction.

Four years later, half of the Washington area's squads can't communicate via the $12,000 kits, meant to be taken to the scene of potential catastrophes, because they didn't pick up the monthly wireless bills and maintenance costs initially paid by the FBI. Other squads across the country also have given up using them.

"They worked, and it was a good idea -- until the subscription ran out," said Mike Love, who oversees the bomb squad in Montgomery County's fire department. At the local level, he said, "there is not budget money for it."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the area has received more than $1 billion in federal money to strengthen first responders and secure the region. That money has bought satellite phones, radios, protective suits, water-security monitors and a host of other items.

But local officials are grappling with how to maintain the huge infusion of equipment. Like a driver whose 5-year-old luxury sedan has worn-out brakes, cracked tires and engine problems, local governments are facing hefty bills to keep their gear working.

The region has a long list of terrorism-fighting items that need parts and service. Officials recently set aside nearly one-fifth of the area's latest federal homeland security grant -- about $12 million -- to cover maintenance over the next two years.

The shopping list includes $120,000 in new batteries for emergency radios; $400,000 to maintain chemical and radiation monitors for rivers; and $250,000 in replacement equipment for top officials' videoconferencing system.

Wanting to avoid a maintenance time bomb, governments are starting to plan for the end of the decade, when state and local jurisdictions will probably be forced to shoulder most of the costs.

"There's an agreement we're going to start weaning ourselves, such that more and more, we'll pick up" the maintenance costs, said Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin, who heads a committee of local government administrators working on the grants.

In some cases, officials are slowing homeland security projects while the question of upkeep is worked out.

This year, for example, the region asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for more than $13 million to build a broadband wireless network for emergency workers. In the end, officials decided to spend just $1 million -- on plans that will determine the maintenance costs.

Behind such caution is concern that the anti-terrorism dollars that have rained down on the D.C. area in recent years might begin to dry up. Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, warned cities recently that the grants were not like Social Security checks that would arrive year after year.

"In fact, as communities begin to build their capabilities, we should see them getting less money," Chertoff said at a news conference.

The FBI bomb-kit program shows how even the best-intentioned plans to equip first responders can go awry over the simple question of maintenance.

The program was requested in 1999 by Congress, which had been alarmed by a nerve-gas attack on a Tokyo subway that killed 12 people and sickened thousands. Legislators set aside $25 million for the FBI to prepare state and local bomb squads to deal with weapons of mass destruction.

The FBI developed a special suitcase of tools that bomb squads could take to scenes. The core of the kit was a rugged wireless laptop loaded with files describing explosives and chemical and biological agents.

The kit also included a digital camera so technicians could snap a picture of any strange device and e-mail it to FBI bomb experts for quick advice.

"It was a unique communication tool," said FBI Special Agent Barbara Martinez, a top official in the agency's Critical Incident Response Group.

The "Cobra kits" were handed out to nearly 400 state and local bomb squads across the country in 2003. Each came with a prepaid three-year service agreement and a one-year wireless card.

But apparently, no one realized that the squads might not have the cash to maintain the wireless subscription.

Local officials said it could run $60 a month per kit, totaling a few hundred dollars for a squad with several kits. Also, the kits needed periodic updates, which could run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, they said.

"It was quite expensive for the local jurisdictions to absorb the cost," said Jerry Swain, bomb-squad commander for Loudoun County.

Montgomery's Love said his department had to stop paying for the system in 2005, just two years after getting it.

"Basically, we're still dealing with the same budget we had 10 years ago, except for personnel costs," he said.

The D.C. and Arlington County police bomb squads also dropped the wireless subscription. The Prince George's County bomb squad chose to replace that system with other technology purchased through federal grants, a spokesman said.

Some local squads said they had more pressing needs than maintaining the system, which they described as occasionally helpful but not essential.

"To say it's something that's going to make or break us on the scene, I would say not," Swain said.

Others said they found the kit valuable because of its wireless connection to other bomb experts and its copious reference material.

"We could carry around 10 textbooks, but it's all there" in the computer, said Sgt. Thomas Sharkey, Metro's bomb-squad commander. Metro has continued to maintain its kits, as have bomb squads run by the Fairfax County police and Virginia State Police.

Jeff Fuller, a spokesman for the National Bomb Squad Commanders Advisory Board, said that many squads had found the kits too expensive to maintain but that he didn't know how many stopped using it. Martinez, the FBI official, also said she did not know.

Martinez said the kits were initially successful in teaching bomb technicians about weapons of mass destruction. Now, though, some of the kits are sitting unused, she acknowledged.

"It is sad -- now you've got that paperweight doorstop out there," she said.

But the FBI made it clear from the start that local and state squads would eventually have to pick up the maintenance costs, she said. "Maybe people didn't read the fine print," she added.

FBI bomb technicians across the country have continued to maintain their kits and can take them to scenes to assist, she said.

Was the project a bad use of $25 million? No, Martinez said, but she added, "I wish it came with the maintenance thing."

Because of advances in technology, the 2003 kits would need significant upgrades to be effective now, she said.

In this year's application for its homeland security grant, the region's bomb squads included a request to upgrade their Cobra kits and pay for wireless cards. But local officials say it is not clear whether they would use their funding award on the project because they have higher priorities for their squads, including protective suits and robots.

"The last thing we want to do is put money into something the grant is not going to keep up over time," said Loudoun County Fire Marshal Keith Brower, who heads a regional committee overseeing bomb squads. "We're flagging those issues right now."

October 14, 2007

Analysts Find Israel Struck a Nuclear Project Inside Syria

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 — Israel’s air attack on Syria last month was directed against a site that Israeli and American intelligence analysts judged was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, apparently modeled on one North Korea has used to create its stockpile of nuclear weapons fuel, according to American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports.

The description of the target addresses one of the central mysteries surrounding the Sept. 6 attack, and suggests that Israel carried out the raid to demonstrate its determination to snuff out even a nascent nuclear project in a neighboring state. The Bush administration was divided at the time about the wisdom of Israel’s strike, American officials said, and some senior policy makers still regard the attack as premature.

The attack on the reactor project has echoes of an Israeli raid more than a quarter century ago, in 1981, when Israel destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq shortly before it was to have begun operating. That attack was officially condemned by the Reagan administration, though Israelis consider it among their military’s finest moments. In the weeks before the Iraq war, Bush administration officials said they believed that the attack set back Iraq’s nuclear ambitions by many years.

By contrast, the facility that the Israelis struck in Syria appears to have been much further from completion, the American and foreign officials said. They said it would have been years before the Syrians could have used the reactor to produce the spent nuclear fuel that could, through a series of additional steps, be reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium.

Many details remain unclear, most notably how much progress the Syrians had made in construction before the Israelis struck, the role of any assistance provided by North Korea, and whether the Syrians could make a plausible case that the reactor was intended to produce electricity. In Washington and Israel, information about the raid has been wrapped in extraordinary secrecy and restricted to just a handful of officials, while the Israeli press has been prohibited from publishing information about the attack.

The New York Times reported this week that a debate had begun within the Bush administration about whether the information secretly cited by Israel to justify its attack should be interpreted by the United States as reason to toughen its approach to Syria and North Korea. In later interviews, officials made clear that the disagreements within the administration began this summer, as a debate about whether an Israeli attack on the incomplete reactor was warranted then.

The officials did not say that the administration had ultimately opposed the Israeli strike, but that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were particularly concerned about the ramifications of a pre-emptive strike in the absence of an urgent threat.

“There wasn’t a lot of debate about the evidence,” said one American official familiar with the intense discussions over the summer between Washington and the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. “There was a lot of debate about how to respond to it.”

Even though it has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Syria would not have been obligated to declare the existence of a reactor during the early phases of construction. It would have also had the legal right to complete construction of the reactor, as long as its purpose was to generate electricity.

In his only public comment on the raid, Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, acknowledged this month that Israeli jets dropped bombs on a building that he said was “related to the military” but which he insisted was “not used.”

A senior Israeli official, while declining to speak about the specific nature of the target, said the strike was intended to “re-establish the credibility of our deterrent power,” signaling that Israel meant to send a message to the Syrians that even the potential for a nuclear weapons program would not be permitted. But several American officials said the strike may also have been intended by Israel as a signal to Iran and its nuclear aspirations. Neither Iran nor any Arab government except for Syria has criticized the Israeli raid, suggesting that Israel is not the only country that would be disturbed by a nuclear Syria. North Korea did issue a protest.

The target of the Israeli raid and the American debate about the Syrian project were described by government officials and nongovernment experts interviewed in recent weeks in the United States and the Middle East. All insisted on anonymity because of rules that prohibit discussing classified information. The officials who described the target of the attack included some on each side of the debate about whether a partly constructed Syrian nuclear reactor should be seen as an urgent concern, as well as some who described themselves as neutral on the question.

The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said Saturday that the administration would have no comment on the intelligence issues surrounding the Israeli strike. Israel has also refused to comment.

Nuclear reactors can be used for both peaceful and non-peaceful purposes. A reactor’s spent fuel can be reprocessed to extract plutonium, one of two paths to building a nuclear weapon. The other path — enriching uranium in centrifuges — is the method that Iran is accused of pursuing with an intent to build a weapon of its own.

Syria is known to have only one nuclear reactor, a small one built for research purposes. But in the past decade, Syria has several times sought unsuccessfully to buy one, first from Argentina, then from Russia. On those occasions, Israel reacted strongly but did not threaten military action. Earlier this year, Mr. Assad spoke publicly in general terms about Syria’s desire to develop nuclear power, but his government did not announce a plan to build a new reactor.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of Persian Gulf states, has also called for an expansion of nuclear power in the Middle East for energy purposes, but many experts have interpreted that statement as a response to Iran’s nuclear program. They have warned that the region may be poised for a wave of proliferation. Israel is believed to be the only nuclear-armed nation in the region.

The partly constructed Syrian reactor was detected earlier this year by satellite photographs, according to American officials. They suggested that the facility had been brought to American attention by the Israelis, but would not discuss why American spy agencies seemed to have missed the early phases of construction.

North Korea has long provided assistance to Syria on a ballistic missile program, but any assistance toward the construction of the reactor would have been the first clear evidence of ties between the two countries on a nuclear program. North Korea has successfully used its five-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex to reprocess nuclear fuel into bomb-grade material, a model that some American and Israeli officials believe Syria may have been trying to replicate.

The North conducted a partly successful test of a nuclear device a year ago, prompting renewed fears that the desperately poor country might seek to sell its nuclear technology. President Bush issued a specific warning to the North on Oct. 9, 2006, just hours after the test, noting that it was “leading proliferator of missile technology, including transfers to Iran and Syria.” He went on to warn that “the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable.”

While Bush administration officials have made clear in recent weeks that the target of the Israeli raid was linked to North Korea in some way, Mr. Bush has not repeated his warning since the attack. In fact, the administration has said very little about the country’s suspected role in the Syria case, apparently for fear of upending negotiations now under way in which North Korea has pledged to begin disabling its nuclear facilities.

While the partly constructed Syrian reactor appears to be based on North Korea’s design, the American and foreign officials would not say whether they believed the North Koreans sold or gave the plans to the Syrians, or whether the North’s own experts were there at the time of the attack. It is possible, some officials said, that the transfer of the technology occurred several years ago.

According to two senior administration officials, the subject was raised when the United States, North Korea and four other nations met in Beijing earlier this month.

Behind closed doors, however, Vice President Dick Cheney and other hawkish members of the administration have made the case that the same intelligence that prompted Israel to attack should lead the United States to reconsider delicate negotiations with North Korea over ending its nuclear program, as well as America’s diplomatic strategy toward Syria, which has been invited to join Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, Md., next month.

Mr. Cheney in particular, officials say, has also cited the indications that North Korea aided Syria to question the Bush administration’s agreement to supply the North with large amounts of fuel oil. During Mr. Bush’s first term, Mr. Cheney was among the advocates of a strategy to squeeze the North Korean government in hopes that it would collapse, and the administration cut off oil shipments set up under an agreement between North Korea and the Clinton administration, saying the North had cheated on that accord.

The new shipments, agreed to last February, are linked to North Korea’s carrying through on its pledge to disable its nuclear facilities by the end of the year. Nonetheless, Mr. Bush has approved going ahead with that agreement, even after he was aware of the Syrian program.

Nuclear experts say that North Korea’s main reactor, while small by international standards, is big enough to produce roughly one bomb’s worth of plutonium a year.

In an interview, Dr. Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said building a reactor based on North Korea’s design might take from three to six years.

Reporting was contributed by William J. Broad in New York, Helene Cooper in Washington and Steven Erlanger in Jerusalem.

November 29, 2007

Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal Vexed Nixon

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 — In July 1969, as the world was spellbound by the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, President Richard M. Nixon and his close advisers were quietly fretting about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Their main worry was not a potential enemy of the United States, but one of America’s closest friends.

“The Israelis, who are one of the few peoples whose survival is genuinely threatened, are probably more likely than almost any other country to actually use their nuclear weapons,” Henry A. Kissinger, the national security adviser, warned Mr. Nixon in a memorandum dated July 19, 1969 — part of a newly released trove of documents.

Israel’s nuclear arms program, which Israel has never officially conceded exists, was believed to have begun at least several years before, but it was causing special problems for the young Nixon administration. For one thing, the president was preparing for a visit by its prime minister, Golda Meir, who was also in her first year in office and whose toughness was already legendary.

Should Washington insist that Israel rein in its development of nuclear weapons? What would the United States do if Israel refused? Perhaps the solution lay in deliberate ambiguity, or simply pretending that America did not know what Israel was up to. These were some of the options that Mr. Kissinger laid out for Mr. Nixon on that day before men first walked on the moon.

The Nixon White House’s concerns over Israel’s weapons were detailed in documents from the Nixon Presidential Library that were released on Wednesday by the National Archives under an executive order that requires that classified documents be reviewed and possibly declassified after 25 years.

The documents provide insights into America’s close, but by no means problem-free, relationship with Israel. They also serve as a reminder that concerns over nuclear arms proliferation in the Middle East, now focused on Iran, are decades old.

The papers also allude to a 1972 campaign by friends of W. Mark Felt, then the second-ranking F.B.I. official, to have him named director of the bureau after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in May of that year. Mr. Nixon, of course, did not take the advice, instead naming L. Patrick Gray. Mr. Felt later became the famous anonymous source “Deep Throat,” whose revelations during Watergate helped topple the president.

There are also snippets about Washington’s desire to manipulate relations with Saudi Arabia, so that the Saudis might help to broker a Middle East peace deal; discussion of possibly supporting a Kurdish uprising in Iraq; and a 1970 clash in which four Israeli fighters shot down four Russian MIG-21s over eastern Egypt, even though the Israelis were outnumbered by two-to-one.

But perhaps the most interesting material, and the most pertinent given the just-completed peace conference in Annapolis, Md., concerns Israel and its relations with its neighbors, as well as with the United States.

“There is circumstantial evidence that some fissionable material available for Israel’s weapons development was illegally obtained from the United States about 1965,” Mr. Kissinger noted in his long memorandum.

He also said that one problem with trying to persuade Israel to freeze its nuclear program was that inspections would be useless, conceding that “we could never cover all conceivable Israeli hiding places.”

“This is one program on which the Israelis have persistently deceived us,” Mr. Kissinger said, “and may even have stolen from us.”

Although Israel has never publicly acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons, scientists and arms experts have no doubt that it has them, and the United States’ reluctance to pressure Israel to disarm has made America vulnerable to accusations that it has a double standard when it comes to stopping the spread of weapons in the Middle East.

Mr. Kissinger’s memo, written barely two years after the 1967 Middle East war and while memories of the Holocaust were still vivid among the first Israelis, implicitly acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself, as subsequent American administrations have done.

But Mr. Kissinger reflected at length on the quandary faced by the United States. “Israel will not take us seriously on the nuclear issue unless they believe we are prepared to withhold something they very much need,” he wrote, referring to a pending sale of Phantom fighter jets to Israel.

“On the other hand, if we withhold the Phantoms and they make this fact public in the United States, enormous political pressure will be mounted on us,” Mr. Kissinger went on. “We will be in an indefensible position if we cannot state why we are withholding the planes. Yet if we explain our position publicly, we will be the ones to make Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons public with all the international consequences this entails.”

One of those consequences might be to “spark a Soviet nuclear guarantee for the Arabs, tighten the Soviet hold on the Arabs and increase the danger of our involvement,” Mr. Kissinger wrote at another point.

After he met with Mrs. Meir at the White House in late September 1969, Mr. Nixon said: “The problems in the Mideast go back centuries. They are not susceptible to easy solution. We do not expect them to be susceptible to instant diplomacy.”

But Avner Cohen, the author of “Israel and the Bomb,” (Columbia University Press, 1998) who is a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, said on Wednesday that there was enough historical evidence to indicate that the president and the prime minister had reached a secret understanding on at least one issue: Israel would keep its nuclear devices out of sight and not test them, and the United States would tolerate the situation and not press Israel to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that has been embraced by scores of countries around the world. “That understanding remains to this day,” Mr. Cohen said.

Washington Post    December 8, 2007

Diving Deep, Unearthing a Surprise
How a Search for Iran's Nuclear Arms Program Turned Up an Unexpected Conclusion

By Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer

They call them "deep dives," special briefings for President Bush to meet with not just his advisers but also the analysts who study Iran in the bowels of the intelligence world. Starting last year, aides arranged a series of sessions for Bush to "get his hands dirty," in the White House vernacular for digging into intelligence to understand what is known and not known.

Preparing for what might be the defining foreign policy challenge of his final years in office, Bush was struck by the limited intelligence on Tehran's nuclear program and pressed for more, said officials familiar with the sessions. But if Bush hoped for solid evidence that Iran was trying to build nuclear bombs, what came back proved more surprising -- Iran did have a nuclear weapons program but shut it down four years ago.

The new report on Iran released this week underscored the fluid nature of U.S. intelligence and its uncomfortable marriage with the nation's foreign policy. Five years after the botched assessment of Iraq's weapons programs, the new information posed profound challenges to the Bush administration: How could officials be sure it was right this time? What would it mean for Bush's policy of international confrontation with Tehran? And should it be revealed to Congress, U.S. allies and the public at large?

While deeply sensitive to any suggestion of improperly influencing intelligence, White House officials were initially skeptical of the new data. "You want to make sure it's not disinformation," Bush said at a news conference. The intelligence agencies created a special "red team" of analysts who set out to determine whether the information could be fake. They concluded it was not.

As they digested the new findings, Bush and his aides chose to focus on the part that confirmed their suspicions -- that Iran previously had a secret weapons program and might still restart it. In their discussions at the White House, officials said, no one suggested Bush tone down his public rhetoric or change his policy.

Still, they understood the sensitivity of the new conclusions. At first, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, decided to keep the new findings secret, but reluctantly reversed course in a flurry of discussions last weekend out of fear of leaks and charges of a coverup, officials said. At that point, only the Israelis had gotten a heads-up. Congress, European allies and the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency were not given full briefings about the report until hours before it was released.

That irritated European allies. "The administration is going to pay a price for not allowing allies in on it at an earlier date," said Robert J. Einhorn, a former State Department nonproliferation official. "The French had carried the administration's water on this issue and really went out on a limb to get the European Union to adopt tough sanctions. And now the rug has been pulled out from under them."

The origin of the latest intelligence can be traced to the summer of 2004, when an Iranian man turned up in Turkey with a laptop computer and the phone number of a German intelligence officer. He called the number, and within 24 hours, analysts at CIA headquarters in Langley were poring over thousands of pages of drawings and information stored on the computer indicating that Iran had been trying to retrofit its longest-range missile, the Shahab III, to carry a nuclear payload. It was designated Project 1-11 and seemed to confirm a nuclear weapons program.

The information retrieved from the laptop formed the backbone of a National Intelligence Estimate issued in 2005 that declared "with high confidence" that Iran was working to build a bomb. Armed with that, the Bush administration spent the past two years pressing European allies, Russia and China to sanction Iran if it did not give up its uranium enrichment program, despite Tehran's insistence that it was only for civilian energy.

With tension rising, Congress asked last year for a new NIE. Bush was pushing for more information as well during his deep-dive sessions. "We've got to get more information on Iran so we know what they're up to," one official paraphrased Bush saying.

As analysts scrambled to finish by April, they were reaching the conclusion that Iran was still a decade away from nuclear weapons, senior intelligence and administration officials said. For three years, the intelligence community had not obtained new information on Project 1-11, vexing administration officials who worried that a cold trail would lead to doubts about the reliability of the laptop's information. "They just wouldn't budge," complained one such official, who declined to be identified to speak candidly.

By June, analysts had an almost complete draft of a new NIE, and it provoked a sharp debate. "The less data you have, the more you argue," said a source familiar with the discussions. Some officials pressed the CIA's Iran desk to follow up on Project 1-11. CIA Director Michael V. Hayden and National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander responded by directing vast manpower and technology toward spying on Iranians who may have been involved in the warhead effort.

With Bush pressing for more information, the intelligence community finally came up with something new -- a series of communications intercepts, including snippets of conversations between key Iranian officials, one of them a military officer whose name appeared on the laptop. Two sources said the Iranians complained that the nuclear weapons program had been shuttered four years earlier and argued about whether it would ever be restarted.

There had been clues for those willing to see them. For one thing, the laptop contained no new drawings on its hard drive after February 2003, said officials familiar with it. And during a dinner in Tehran with visiting American experts in 2005, Iranian leaders Hashemi Rafsanjani and Hassan Rowhani flatly declared that the country's nuclear weapons research had been halted because Iran felt it did not need the actual bombs, only the ability to show the world it could.

"Look, as long as we can enrich uranium and master the [nuclear] fuel cycle, we don't need anything else," Rafsanjani said at the dinner, according to George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Our neighbors will be able to draw the proper conclusions."

The evolving NIE bore the imprint of McConnell and his deputies, Thomas Fingar and Donald M. Kerr, friends with decades of national security experience. Fingar in 2005 began changing how information was gathered, filtered and analyzed, and McConnell formalized the new rules after becoming director of national intelligence in February. "He quickly got the mantra down: 'We must make a clear distinction between what we know and don't know and what we judge to be the case,' " said an official present at the time.

As a result, the internal debate over the meaning of the new Iran intelligence was intense and often contentious, with different agencies and individuals clashing over everything from the fine points to the broad conclusions, participants said.

McConnell told Bush about the new information in August during a daily intelligence briefing, but did not provide much detail or anything on paper, White House officials said. Bush periodically asked McConnell for updates. "The president and his advisers were regularly and continuously appraised on new information as we acquired it," an intelligence official said.

Officials also informed House intelligence committee members and key Senate intelligence committee staff members in September, although they were circumspect. "They said, 'We've got new information. We want to make sure we get this thing as close to right as possible,' " said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the House panel's senior Republican.

One intelligence official said Bush's team expressed concern that the intercepts might be disinformation, so analysts tested that thesis. "They tried to figure out what exactly it would take to perpetrate that kind of deception, how many people would be involved, how they would go about doing it, when it would have been set up and so forth," the official said. Analysts "scrubbed and rescrubbed" more than 1,000 pieces of evidence but concluded Iran's program really had been shut down.

A new draft NIE was prepared in September that was radically different from the June version. As part of the testing process, Hayden and his deputy, Stephen Kappes, convened a murder board of sorts, grilling analysts about their data and conclusions. They "had them in a room and it was kind of 'show me,' " one official said. "And they were a skeptical audience." A similar session was conducted in front of Fingar in late October or early November.

By mid-November, the agencies were ready to deliver their conclusions to the White House. Intelligence officials gave a preliminary briefing Nov. 15 in the Situation Room to Vice President Cheney, national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and other senior officials.

The process was climaxing just as Bush was convening a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, a meeting designed at least in part to rally the region against Iran. No one told participants about the new information, but on the same day they were gathering in Annapolis on Nov. 27, the National Intelligence Board met to finalize the new NIE. McConnell and others briefed Bush and Cheney the next day. Even though intelligence officials planned to keep it from the public, Bush later that day passed it on to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Cheney told Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

By last weekend, an intense discussion broke out about whether to keep it secret. "We knew it would leak, so honesty required that we get this out ahead, to prevent it from appearing to be cherry picking," said a top intelligence official. So McConnell reversed himself, and analysts scrambled over the weekend to draft a declassified version.

On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called counterparts in Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, which have been negotiating a new set of sanctions against Iran. Foreign officials groused about how it was handled. Had they known before the summit, a senior Israeli official said, "I'm not sure we would have shown up."

Among those Kerr called that morning was Hoekstra. He was exasperated at the turnaround and not at all persuaded. To him, it was another example of the tenuous nature of intelligence. "This is not about I don't like the conclusion," he said. "We didn't know enough in 2005, and we don't know enough today."

Staff writers Walter Pincus, Joby Warrick and Robin Wright contributed to this report.


10 June 2008

Threatening Iran

Israeli leaders spent last week talking tough about Iran and threatening possible military action. The United States and the other major powers need to address Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but with more assertive diplomacy — including greater financial pressures — not more threats or war planning.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who is bedeviled by a corruption scandal that could drive him from office, led the charge. “The Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means,” he said in Washington, a day before meeting President Bush at the White House.

Then Israel’s transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, who is jockeying to replace Mr. Olmert as head of the ruling Kadima Party if the prime minister is forced to resign, declared that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looks “unavoidable.”

We don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors in Washington — or what Mr. Olmert heard from Mr. Bush. But saber-rattling is not a strategy. And an attack on Iran by either country would be disastrous.

Unlike in 1981, when Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, there is no single target. A sustained bombing campaign would end up killing many civilians and still might not cripple Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran also has many frightening ways to retaliate. And even Arab states who fear Iran shudder at the thought of America, or its ally Israel, bombing another Muslim country and the backlash that that could provoke.

Mr. Olmert may be trying to divert attention from his political troubles. Still, there is no denying a growing and understandable sense of urgency in Israel, which Iran’s president has threatened with elimination. A recent report by United Nations inspectors on Iran’s nuclear progress, and worrisome links to military programs, has only fanned those fears.

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is scheduled to visit Tehran later this month to discuss, in more detail, an incentives package first offered in 2006 by the United States and other major powers. It is likely to fall far short — both in incentives and punishments — of what is needed to get Tehran’s attention.

There is no indication it will contain tougher sanctions — including a broader ban on doing business with Iranian banks and bans on arms sales and new investments. It also needs a stronger commitment from Washington to lift sanctions and to fully engage Iran if it abandons its nuclear efforts. The United States is the only major power not sending a diplomat with Mr. Solana.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain disagree on holding direct talks with Iran (Mr. Obama would; Mr. McCain would not). But last week, both endorsed enhanced sanctions, including limiting gasoline exports to Iran. That is an idea well worth exploring. Iran relies on a half-dozen companies for 40 percent of its gasoline imports. The United Nations Security Council is unlikely to authorize a squeeze, but quiet American and European appeals might persuade some companies to slow deliveries, and it would grab Tehran’s attention.

On his trip to Europe this week, President Bush is expected to press the Europeans to further reduce Iran-related export credits and cut ties with Iran’s financial institutions. He also must make clear that America will do its part on incentives. We wish he had the will and the skill to propose a grand bargain — and to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver it. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of that. At a minimum, he should send a senior official with Mr. Solana to Tehran.

If sanctions and incentives cannot be made to work, the voices arguing for military action will only get louder. No matter what aides may be telling Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert — or what they may be telling each other — an attack on Iran would be a disaster.

Iconoclast comments (10.6.08    05.19 pm):

What about SCR 255, "protecting" have-nots also against nuclear threats?

Going a bit further - and deeper into the archives - in the direction of Richard Young's blog 168, those also concerned with the fate of the system of law and the principle of pacta sunt servanda may want to know the legal implications notably for the United States of a nuclear attack or a "threat of such aggression against a non-nuclear-weapon State". For in order to achieve a politically sufficient appearance of balanced rights and obligations, the Nuclear Weapon States UK, US and USSR participating in the elaboration of the Non-Proliferation Treaty at the UN Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee offered to the have-nots a paper "guarantee" against nuclear attacks and related threats in the form of a Security Council Resolution (S/Res/255 of 19 June 1968), stating that the Security Council (with Algeria, Brasil, France, India and Pakistan abstaining in the 10 to 0 vote):

    1. Recognizes that aggression with nuclear weapons or the threat of such aggression against a non-nuclear-weapon State would create a situation in which the Security Council, and above all its nuclear-weapon State permanent members, would have to act immediately in accordance with their obligations under the United Nations Charter;
    2. Welcomes the intention expressed by certain States that they will provide or support immediate assistance, in accordance with the Charter, to any non-nuclear- weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that is a victim of an act or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used;
PS: those wishing to see the - curiously twice-suppressed - blog outlining some Swiss lawmakers' efforts to help resolve both some apparent and some hidden problems in US-Israeli/Iranian relations may consult it at:

Swiss lawmakers' good offices

   Meister Eckhart drew papal condemnation on his writings because he “wanted to know more than what was permitted to know" ("plura sapere voluit quam oportuit ", Pope John XXII, Bull In Agro dominico, 27 March 1329: At that time it was considered to be politically correct, and it was to be enforced strictly urbi et orbi, i.e. in Rome’s entire sphere of influence: “In the field of the Lord over which we, though unworthy, are guardians and laborers by heavenly dispensation, we ought to exercise spiritual care so watchfully and prudently that if an enemy should ever sow tares over the seeds of truth (Mt. 13:28), they may be choked at the start before they grow up as weeds of an evil growth. Thus, with the destruction of the evil seed and the uprooting of the thorns of error, the good crop of Catholic truth may take firm root."
    Today, 373 years after the condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition, it is as if the Age of Enlightenment had passed its apogee and given way to the twilight and forces of darkness, with disciples of the flat earth theory gaining the upper hand. Essential discoveries, principles and achievements are called into question or slighted. This includes deeply-rooted international rights and obligations which are the hallmark of sovereign states. And it pertains to fundamental rights and corresponding trade-offs which honourable members of the family of nations have mutually and conventionally agreed to, notably in the field of peaceful nuclear energy research, development and application (.../NPT.htm).
    Concern thus arises from the growing imbalance between related  rights and obligations. It is indicated actively to reduce corresponding tensions and to prevent related conflicts. And it is in line with Switzerland's tradition to avail itself accordingly, and to point out useful facts, ideas and opportunities. Reference may thus be made to the model of volontarily and conventionally submitting a politically sensitive national facility to sovereign control by a friendly foreign country. This model draws inspiration from the U.S./Swiss agreement providing for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to exercise exclusive control over the operation of the Saphir demonstration reactor exhibited during the Atoms for Peace Conference held at Geneva in 1955 (.../Saphir.tif). Another example of imaginative diplomacy may be brought to bear by way of an unprejudicial partial or complete suspension of contested nuclear activities until after a promptly-held follow-up to the 1968 Geneva Conference of Non-Nuclear-Weapon States.

    For the reasons detailed below, I not only share the Times' concern about the high probability - my current estimate stands at 95% - of an attack against Iranian nuclear installations. But I have not given up hope either for principled, visionary and competent statesmen and diplomats to unlock the apparently engaged automatic pilot into disaster and to enlighten in time the apprenti-sourcerers and flat earth fellows which seem to be in command here and there.
    The Iranians and their Russian allies have long ago accepted the idea of applying US President Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace 1955 treaty with Switzerland to the contested Iranian enrichment facilities by placing them under Russian souvereignty (first proposed in a letter to the UN Secretary General of 31.1.06, .../iranmail.htm, then taken up in a parliamentary motion supported by 24 Swiss lawmakers "Good Offices on Current Nuclear Energy Matters", .../3103.htm). Israel's and US' apparent rejection so far suggests other, hidden agendas which have little if anything to do with nuclear matters. President Putin was quoted of  responding to a Western query on a possible attack on Iran by saying darkly: "Don't even think of it!"
    Switzerland has a long-standing obligeing tradition of armed neutrality and good offices. Since the traumatic take-over of the US embassy in Teheran in 1979 by "uncontrolled" Iranian students (.../edouardbrunner.htm), the Swiss flag hangs over that embassy. Since then, Swiss good offices represent US interests in Iran and Swiss diplomats serve as go-betweens (and more, if desired). Not accustumed to limit themselves to post-disaster white flag operations, some Swiss lawmakers have become experts in parallel diplomacy - though occasionally provoking the ire, envy and contempt by the official gardians of the holy grail, i.e. the pretended-to-be holders of the monopoly for good ideas.
    Neither discouraged nor derailed by such unhelpful, short-sighted and self-damaging official reactions to their mostly unorthodox ways, means and initiatives, Swiss lawmakers, in the case of the Iranian/US-Israeli dispute, have thus continued to search for practical avenues towards resolving legitimate concerns, and for setting up confidence-building long-term cooperation projects. One such idea has been introduced at Israel's recent presidential birthday party: A pipeline for transporting Kasakhstan oil via Iran, Northern Iraq, Jordan and Israel to Asia (.../app.htm). And in light of the war drums swelling again, Swiss lawmakers are currently pondering the politically uncorrect against-the-grain out-of-the-box idea of a joint Israeli/Iranian r&d program on NPT-compatible contained nuclear micro-explosions (laser fusion, involving a Swiss patent initiated in 1973: .../NPT.htm). And though this may sound like another non-starter, this might build on and evolve from the reportedly on-going (sic!) Israeli/Iranian contacts/cooperations in nuclear science under the direct sponsorship of the Jordanian King (

Swiss yellow card: Motion 08.3402
UNSCR 255 & NPT incompatible with threats against non-nuclear weapon states

Dear colleague,
    Iran's uranium enrichment activities have been placed at the center of an international dispute with potentially grave regional and global security implications ( | .../iranx.htm).
    Iran, a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (.../NPT.htm), claims these activities to be fully in line with its rights and obligations under the NPT; it has declared them to be for peaceful purposes, and it has invoked sovereign rights to carry them further. Yet, and even though the IAEA is not seen to have produced any evidence to the contrary, Israel has expressed concern over these activities, officially declaring their continuation to constitute an existential threat to the State of Israel.
    Coupled with related official declarations by the Iranian President on the one hand, and the Israeli Prime Minister and a member of his cabinet on the other (.../NPT.htm#threat | .../iranx.htm#threatens), the questions thus arise:
1.    Which, if any, of the activities and/or official declarations at issue constitute now, or at what point in the future, a threat or aggression in the sense of UNSCR 255 (1968)? (for an authoritative comment on the legal effects & limits of this special UN Security Council Resolution, see: .../NPT.htm#Bindschedler).
2.    As a lawmaker in your country not willing to let the rule of law be undermined and the instruments of security - such as the NPT and S/Res/255 - to be stacked, turned upside-down, or pushed aside: are you prepared to seek to stem the tide by consulting with colleagues at home and abroad on the most effective measures to be taken by the parties concerned and their allies. This in order to facilitate a prompt diplomatic solution of the nuclear crisis thus building up in the Middle East, e.g. by way of a follow-up meeting to the 1968 Geneva Conference of Non-Nuclear Weapon States (until the conclusion of which Iran could be expected to volontarily suspend its uranium enrichment activities), and/or other initiatives suggested by Swiss lawmakers (Motion 06.3103: "Good Offices on Current Nuclear Energy Matters", Motion 08.3402 "Clarification regarding the Treaty Nuclear on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons"), or the Sesame program, sponsored by the Jordanian King, regarding confidence-building Iranian-Israeli contacts/cooperations in nuclear science (
    Thanking you in advance for your benevolant consideration of this matter, I shall be glad to assist you in all related matters, and look foreward to your feedback. Sincerely yours,

Anton Keller, Director, International Committee for European Security and Co-operation
+4122-7400362    +4179-6047707
15.6.08 (url:

version française
UN Security Council Resolution 255 (1968)
S/RES/255 (1968)    (Adopted by the Security Council on 19 June 1968)

Question Relating to Measures to Safeguard Non-Nuclear-Weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Security Council,
    Noting with appreciation the desire of a large number of States to subscribe to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and thereby to undertake not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly, not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,
    Taking into consideration the concern of certain of these States that, in conjunction with their adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, appropriate measures be undertaken to safeguard their security,
    Bearing in mind that any aggression accompanied by the use of nuclear weapons would endanger the peace and security of all States,
1. Recognizes that aggression with nuclear weapons or the threat of such aggression against a non-nuclear-weapon State would create a situation in which the Security Council, and above all its nuclear-weapon State permanent members, would have to act immediately in accordance with their obligations under the United Nations Charter;
2. Welcomes the intention expressed by certain States that they will provide or support immediate assistance, in accordance with the Charter, to any non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that is a victim of an act or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used;
3. Reaffirms in particular the inherent right, recognized under Article 51 of the Charter, of individual and collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.
(adopted at the 1433rd session by 10 to 0 votes, with 5 abstentions (Algeria, Brasil, France, India and Pakistan)

English version | Turkish

Motion 08.3402 (13.Juni 2008)

Klarstellung zum Vertrag über die Nichtverbreitung von Atomwaffen

Der Bundesrat wird beauftragt, gegenüber den Nuklearwaffenstaaten und den Konfliktparteien im Nahen Osten unverzüglich, unmissverständlich und mit Nachdruck in Erinnerung zu rufen, unter welchen Bedingungen die Schweiz dem Vertrag über die Nichtweiterverbreitung der Atomwaffen NPT beigetreten ist, und sich allenfalls genötigt sehen könnte sich daraus zurückzuziehen ( Es gilt an die Rechte und Pflichten zu erinnern, welche den Vertragspartnern weiterhin obliegen, wobei besonders auf die Sicherheitsrats-Resolution 255 vom 19.Juni 1968 hinzuweisen ist (.../255.htm), welche gemäss bundesrätlicher NPT-Botschaft ans Parlament vom 30.Oktober 1974 "eine Garantieerklärung gegen atomare Drohungen oder Angriffe der Kernwaffenmächte gegen Nichtkernwaffenstaaten enthält. Dieser Entschliessung waren entsprechende Garantieerklärungen der USA, der UdSSR und Grossbritanniens vorausgegangen (17. Juni 1968)."(.../12083.pdf, BBl 1974 II 1038). Und es gilt an das Interesse der Weltgemeinschaft an auch in Zukunft verlässlich verfügbaren Guten Diensten der Schweiz zu erinnern, welche von der Schweizer Diplomatie und Wirtschaft eine strikt neutrale Haltung und auch in wirtschaftlichen Belangen die unabdingbare Aufrechterhaltung des courant normal erfordern (z.B. zur wirksamen Vertretung der amerikanischen Interessen in Iran seit der Besetzung der US Botschaft in Teheran, zur allfälligen Organisation einer Nachfolgekonferenz der 1968er Genfer Konferenz der Nicht-Nuklearwaffen-Staaten, sowie zur Verwirklichung vertrauensfördernder Massnahmen auch und besonders auf dem Nuklearsektor: .../iran.htm#sesame).

eingereicht von:  Freysinger Oskar   - Mitunterzeichner:Baettig Dominique, Baumann J. Alexander, Bignasca Attilio, Dunant Jean Henri, Estermann Yvette, Kaufmann Hans, Nidegger Yves, Reimann Lukas, Reymond André, Stamm Luzi


(authorized translation; original) | Turkish


Motion 08.3402 (13.Juni 2008)

Clarification regarding the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Government is requested to remind nuclear weapon states and the parties to the Near Eastern conflict without delay, unmistakably and persistently of both the conditions under which Switzerland acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons NPT, and under which, in the event, it may find itself compelled to withdraw from the NPT ( It is urgent to point out the rights and obligations which remain binding on NPT member states, stressing the importance of Security Council Resolution 255 of 19 June 1968 (.../255.htm) which, according to the Government's NPT Message to Parliament of 30 October 1974, "contains a guarantee declaration, in favor of non-nuclear weapon states, against nuclear threats or aggressions by nuclear weapon states. This Resolution was preceded by corresponding guarantee declarations by the United States of America, USSR and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (17 June 1968)." (.../12083.pdf, BBl 1974 II 1038). And it is indicated to take note of the world community's interest for Switzerland's Good Offices to remain reliable and available, which requires Switzerland's diplomacy and economy to remain strictly neutral and, in commercial matters, too, to maintain the indispensable courant normal (e.g. for the effective representation of US interests in Iran ever since the takeover of the US embassy in Teheran, for the eventual organization of a follow-up to the 1968 Geneva Conference of Non-Nuclear Weapon States, and for the realization of confidence-building measures also and particularly in nuclear matters: .../iran.htm#sesame).
tabled by:  Freysinger Oskar   - co-signatories:Baettig Dominique, Baumann J. Alexander, Bignasca Attilio, Dunant Jean Henri, Estermann Yvette, Kaufmann Hans, Nidegger Yves, Reimann Lukas, Reymond André, Stamm Luzi


August 25, 2008

In Nuclear Net’s Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals

The president of Switzerland stepped to a podium in Bern last May and read a statement confirming rumors that had swirled through the capital for months. The government, he acknowledged, had indeed destroyed a huge trove of computer files and other material documenting the business dealings of a family of Swiss engineers suspected of helping smuggle nuclear technology to Libya and Iran.

The files were of particular interest not only to Swiss prosecutors but to international atomic inspectors working to unwind the activities of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani bomb pioneer-turned-nuclear black marketeer. The Swiss engineers, Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, were accused of having deep associations with Dr. Khan, acting as middlemen in his dealings with rogue nations seeking nuclear equipment and expertise.

The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, took no questions. But he asserted that the files — which included an array of plans for nuclear arms and technologies, among them a highly sophisticated Pakistani bomb design — had been destroyed so that they would never fall into terrorist hands.

Behind that official explanation, though, is a far more intriguing tale of spies, moles and the compromises that governments make in the name of national security.

The United States had urged that the files be destroyed, according to interviews with five current and former Bush administration officials. The purpose, the officials said, was less to thwart terrorists than to hide evidence of a clandestine relationship between the Tinners and the C.I.A.

Over four years, several of these officials said, operatives of the C.I.A. paid the Tinners as much as $10 million, some of it delivered in a suitcase stuffed with cash. In return, the Tinners delivered a flow of secret information that helped end Libya’s bomb program, reveal Iran’s atomic labors and, ultimately, undo Dr. Khan’s nuclear black market.

In addition, American and European officials said, the Tinners played an important role in a clandestine American operation to funnel sabotaged nuclear equipment to Libya and Iran, a major but little-known element of the efforts to slow their nuclear progress.

The relationship with the Tinners “was very significant,” said Gary S. Samore, who ran the National Security Council’s nonproliferation office when the operation began. “That’s where we got the first indications that Iran had acquired centrifuges,” which enrich uranium for nuclear fuel.

Yet even as American officials describe the relationship as a major intelligence coup, compromises were made. Officials say the C.I.A. feared that a trial would not just reveal the Tinners’ relationship with the United States — and perhaps raise questions about American dealings with atomic smugglers — but would also imperil efforts to recruit new spies at a time of grave concern over Iran’s nuclear program. Destruction of the files, C.I.A. officials suspected, would undermine the case and could set their informants free.

“We were very happy they were destroyed,” a senior intelligence official in Washington said of the files. But in Europe, there is much consternation. Analysts studying Dr. Khan’s network worry that by destroying the files to prevent their spread, the Swiss government may have obscured the investigative trail. It is unclear who among Dr. Khan’s customers — a list that is known to include Iran, Libya and North Korea but that may extend further — got the illicit material, much of it contained in easily transmitted electronic designs.

The West’s most important questions about the Khan network have been consistently deflected by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, who resigned last Monday. He refused to account for the bomb designs that got away or to let American investigators question Dr. Khan, perhaps the only man to know who else received the atomic blueprints. President Bush, eager for Pakistan’s aid against terrorism, never pressed Mr. Musharraf for answers. “Maybe that labyrinth held clues to another client or another rogue state,” said a European official angered at the destruction.

The Swiss judge in charge of the Tinner case, Andreas Müller, is not terribly happy either. He said he had no warning of the planned destruction and is now trying to determine what, if anything, remains of the case against Friedrich Tinner and his sons, Urs and Marco.

Some details of the links between the Tinners and American intelligence have been revealed in news reports and in recent books, most notably “The Nuclear Jihadist,” a biography of Dr. Khan by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins. But recent interviews in the United States and Europe by The New York Times have provided a fuller portrait of the relationship — especially the involvement of all three Tinners, the large amounts of money they received and the C.I.A.’s extensive efforts on their behalf. Virtually all the officials interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss matters that remain classified.

The destroyed evidence, decades of records of the Tinners’ activities, included not only bomb and centrifuge plans but also documents linking the family to the C.I.A., officials said. One contract, a European intelligence official said, described a C.I.A. front company’s agreement to pay the smugglers $1 million for black-market secrets. The front company listed an address three blocks from the White House.

The C.I.A. declined to comment on the Tinner case, but a spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, called the disruption of Dr. Khan’s network “a genuine intelligence success.”

With the evidence files destroyed and a trial in question, it is unlikely that the full story of the Tinners will be told any time soon. If it is, it is unlikely to come from the elder Mr. Tinner. Approached at his home in Haag, Switzerland, near the Liechtenstein border, Mr. Tinner, 71, was polite but firm in his silence. “I have an agreement not to talk,” he told a reporter.

Beginning a Double Life

An inventor and mechanical engineer, Friedrich Tinner got his start in Swiss companies that make vacuum technology, mazes of pipes, pumps and valves used in many industries. Mr. Tinner received United States patents for his innovative vacuum valves.

By definition, his devices were so-called dual-use products with peacetime or wartime applications. Governments often feel torn between promoting such goods as commercial boons and blocking them as security risks.

As recounted in books and articles and reports by nuclear experts, Mr. Tinner worked with Dr. Khan for three decades, beginning in the mid-1970s. His expertise in vacuum technology aided Dr. Khan’s development of atomic centrifuges, which produced fuel for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, now variously estimated at 50 to 100 warheads.

Yet while Mr. Tinner repeatedly drew the attention of European authorities, who questioned the export of potentially dangerous technology, he never faced charges. Mr. Tinner’s involvement with Dr. Khan deepened beginning in the late 1990s, when, joined by his sons, he helped supply centrifuges for Libya’s secret bomb program.

In 2000, American officials said, Urs Tinner was recruited by the C.I.A., and American officials were elated. Spy satellites can be fooled. Documents can lie. Electronic taps can mislead. But a well-placed mole can work quietly behind the scenes to get at the truth.

For instance, the United States had gathered circumstantial evidence that Iran wanted an atom bomb. Suddenly it had a direct view into clandestine Iranian procurement of centrifuges and other important nuclear items.

“It was a confirmation,” recalled Dr. Samore, the former national security official who is now director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “That was much more significant than Libya,” because that country’s atomic program was in its infancy whereas Iran’s was rushing toward maturity.

Despite considerable income from their illicit trade, the Tinners had money problems, a European intelligence official said. Eventually, Urs Tinner persuaded his father and younger brother to join him as moles, and they began double lives, supplying Dr. Khan with precision manufacturing gear and helping run a centrifuge plant in Malaysia even as their cooperation with the United States deepened.

At the time, Washington was stepping up efforts to penetrate Libya’s bomb program. In early 2003, the European official said, the Tinners and C.I.A. agents met at a hotel in Innsbruck, Austria, to discuss cooperative terms. Several months later, in Jenins, a Swiss mountain village, Marco Tinner signed a contract dated June 21, 2003, with two C.I.A. agents, the official said.

The contract outlined the sale of rights that the Tinners held for manufacturing vacuum gear, and of proprietary information about the devices. In exchange, $1 million would be paid to Traco Group International, a front company Marco Tinner had established in Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, on the island of Tortola.

In the contract, according to the European intelligence official, the two C.I.A. agents used cover names — W. James Kinsman and Sean D. Mahaffey — and identified their employer as Big Black River Technologies Inc. In military and intelligence work, “black” means clandestine. In the contract, Black River gave an address on I Street in Washington, the intelligence official said. But no business directory lists the company, and employees in the mailroom at the address said they had no records for a company of that name.

Four months after the signing of the contract, American and European authorities seized cargoes of centrifuge parts bound for Libya. “The Tinners were a source,” a former Bush administration official said.

Two other officials credited the Tinners with helping end the Libyan bomb program. In Libya, investigators found the rudiments of a centrifuge plant and a blueprint for a basic atom bomb, courtesy of Dr. Khan’s network. The Bush administration celebrated Libya’s abandonment as a breakthrough in arms control.

But the secret lives of the Tinners began to unravel. The Malaysian police issued a report naming them as central members of Dr. Khan’s network. An official of VP Bank Ltd., Traco’s business agent in the Virgin Islands, said it ended that relationship in early 2004, when Marco Tinner was exposed.

Under growing pressure, Dr. Khan confessed. His clients turned out to include not only Libya but Iran and North Korea, and his collaborators turned out to be legion. “We will find you,” Mr. Bush said in February 2004 of Dr. Khan’s associates, “and we’re not going to rest until you are stopped.”

Acts of Sabotage

After the Tinners were arrested, Swiss and other European authorities began to scrutinize their confiscated files and to conduct wide inquiries. European investigators discovered not only that the Tinners had spied for Washington, but that the men and their insider information had helped the C.I.A. sabotage atomic gear bound for Libya and Iran. A former American official confirmed the disruptions, saying the technical architect of the operation was “a mad-scientist type” who took pleasure in devising dirty tricks.

An American intelligence official, while refusing to discuss specifics of the sabotage operation or the Tinners’ relationship with the C.I.A., said efforts to cripple equipment headed to rogue nuclear states “buy us some time and space.” With Iran presumably racing for the capability to build a bomb, he added, “that may be the best we can hope for.”

The sabotage first came to light, diplomats and officials said, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency traveled to Iran and Libya in 2003 and 2004 and discovered identical vacuum pumps that had been damaged cleverly so that they looked perfectly fine but failed to operate properly. They traced the route of the defective parts from Pfeiffer Vacuum in Germany to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the birthplace of the bomb. There, according to a European official who studied the case, nuclear experts had made sure the pumps “wouldn’t work.”

A more serious disruption involved a power supply shipped to Iran from Turkey, where Dr. Khan’s network did business with two makers of industrial control equipment.

The Iranians installed the power supply at their uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. But in early 2006, it failed, causing 50 centrifuges to explode — a serious, if temporary, setback to Iran’s efforts to master the manufacture of nuclear fuel, the hardest part of building a bomb. (Iran says its nuclear efforts are for electricity, not weapons.)

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, told a reporter last year that Iranian investigators found that the power supply had been manipulated. After the episode, he added, “we checked all the imported instruments.”

Discussions With Washington

In 2005, Swiss authorities began asking the United States for help in the Tinner case. Among other things, they wanted information about the Libyan centrifuge program to press charges of criminal export violations. For more than a year, the Swiss made repeated requests. Washington ignored them.

“Its lack of assistance needlessly complicates this important investigation,” David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington, told Congress in May 2006. Mr. Albright said he had helped Swiss prosecutors write to the State Department.

The Swiss turned to the I.A.E.A. for help in assessing the Tinner cache. European officials said the agency was surprised to find multiple warhead plans and judged that most had originated in Pakistan. The country denied that Dr. Khan had access to nuclear weapon designs and questioned the agency’s conclusions.

In late July 2007, according to Swiss federal statements, the justice minister, Christoph Blocher, flew to Washington for talks with Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence; Alberto R. Gonzales, then the attorney general; and Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director.

Officially, the statements said, the main topic was “cooperation in the criminal prosecution of terrorist activities.” But the real agenda was what to do about the Tinners.

A former Bush administration official said different government agencies had differing views of the case. The State Department wanted the bomb plans destroyed as a way to stem nuclear proliferation, while the C.I.A. wanted to protect its methods for combating illicit nuclear trade.

The C.I.A. also wanted to help the Tinners. “If a key source is prosecuted,” a former senior official involved in the case said, “what message does that send when you try to recruit other informants?”

American officials discussed a range of possible outcomes with the Swiss and expressed their clear preferences. The best result, they said, would be turning over the family’s materials to the United States. Acceptable would be destroying them. Worst, according to the former administration official, would have been making them public in a criminal trial, where defense lawyers would have probably exposed as much American involvement as possible in hopes of getting their clients off the hook.

A Furor Over Destroyed Files

Last March, Mr. Müller became the examining magistrate in the Tinner case, charged with assessing if a trial was warranted. Soon after, he was quoted as saying the evidence files contained “obvious holes.” Sketchy reports of deleted computer files and shredded documents had been circulating, but he was the first identified official to hint at a widespread destruction. Then, on May 23, the Swiss president, Mr. Couchepin, revealed that Switzerland had begun a series of extraordinary actions just days after Mr. Blocher, the justice minister, returned from Washington.

Swiss citizens are prohibited from aiding foreign spies. But in his statement, the president said that in late August 2007, the government canceled a criminal case against the Tinners for suspicions of aiding a foreign government. Though unmentioned, the C.I.A. seemed to peer out from his statement.

On Nov. 14, his statement continued, the government decided to destroy “the comprehensive holding of the electronic files and documents” seized from the Tinners. The most dangerous items, the president said, included “detailed construction plans for nuclear weapons, for gas ultracentrifuges for the enrichment of weapons-grade uranium, as well as for guided missile delivery systems.” International atomic inspectors, he added, supervised the destruction.

Mr. Couchepin said keeping the documents “was incompatible with Switzerland’s obligations” under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and added, “Under all circumstances, this information was not to reach the hands of a terrorist organization or an unauthorized state.”

The statement provoked a political furor. Some politicians and columnists accused Switzerland of surrendering to Washington’s agenda and violating Swiss neutrality. Among the strongest critics was Dick Marty, a prominent Swiss senator. “We could have respected the treaty by avoiding their publication and putting them under lock and key,” he was quoted as saying on Swissinfo, the Web site of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. Destroying them, he added, “ could lead to the collapse of the legal case.”

Many European officials dismissed the government’s arguments about terrorists and rogue states as empty.

“If they had kept the material in federal possession for years, why not keep holding it?” asked Victor Mauer, a senior official at the Center for Security Studies of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. “Their explanation is not convincing.”

An Action’s Repercussions

In an interview, a senior European diplomat familiar with the I.A.E.A. said the destruction could have repercussions far beyond the criminal case.

For one thing, he said, the international atomic agency had been allowed to examine only parts of the archive. He called it “a good sample” and judged that the agency had missed no significant clues. Even so, he said, the agency might “come to regret” its inability to examine the materials further for insights into hidden remnants of Dr. Khan’s network.

And while the Swiss president made much of the proliferation danger, the diplomat insisted that the warhead designs were in many respects sketchy and incomplete. “These are almost like studies — bits and pieces,” he said, adding that they “wouldn’t be enough to let you build a replica.”

So while they might have little or no value for a terrorist with no atomic experience, the plans might prove quite helpful for an ambitious state intent on building a nuclear arsenal. He said the agency had no evidence that Iran had acquired the bomb plans.

The diplomat added that the Swiss had “lots of possibilities” other than destruction. He said they had no legal obligation to destroy the files under the nonproliferation treaty, and could have put them under I.A.E.A. seal in Vienna or Switzerland.

Several European officials speculated that Washington might actually have kept secret copies of the archive. A senior American official said the United States had reviewed the material but declined to say if there were copies.

As for the Tinners, the father was released in 2006, pending legal action. In a brief interview at his home, Mr. Tinner pleaded ignorance about basic aspects of the criminal case, such as where the authorities kept the materials that had belonged to him and his sons. “The newspapers know more about these things than I do,” he insisted.

Should the case fall apart, the Tinners would join a growing list of freed associates of Dr. Khan. In June, Malaysia released the network’s chief operating officer, B. S. A. Tahir, saying he was no longer a national security threat. The authorities have kept the Tinner brothers in jail for fear that they might flee the country. In late May, a Swiss court rejected their bail application, and early this month, the ruling was upheld. But the judges also told the authorities that they could not hold the brothers indefinitely without charging them.

With much of the evidence gone, the magistrate, Mr. Müller, expressed frustration at finding “no answers to the really interesting questions in this case.” He declined to predict how it might turn out. “At the moment,” he said, “it is impossible to make any schedule, since the case is in many aspects extraordinary.”

Souad Mekhennet contributed reporting from Frankfurt, and Uta Harnischfeger from Zurich.

Wired    May 25, 2009  |  4:47 pm,  Updated

North Korea’s Possibly Itty-Bitty Nuke
By Noah Shachtman

North Korea has test-fired another nuke. So now the question is: How big was the Bomb?

Pyongyang’s last nuclear weapons trial, you’ll recall, was a dud. Early indications are that this one was more powerful — maybe four kilotons, instead of the half-kiloton or so in the first try.

Still, that’s nothing near the 10 to 20 kilotons estimate put forth by the Russians; that would make Kim Jong-Il’s weapon about as strong as the ones dropped on Japan at the end of World War II.

“We’ll have to wait for more analysis of the seismic data,” notes Hans Kristensen at the Federation of American Scientists, “but so far the early news media reports about a ‘Hiroshima-size‘ nuclear explosion seem to be overblown.”

UPDATE: Fellow WIRED contributing editor Patrick DiJusto reminds us that “the explosive equivalent of a four kilotons nuke can and has been replicated using conventional explosives before, such as in operation Minor Scale. That generated 4.8 kilotons from ANFO (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil). “Are the North Koreans crazy enough to gather 4000 tons of ANFO in one place and set it off?  We are led to think they are.”

Meanwhile, MIT’s Geoffrey Forden wonders whether the Nork nuke was a 20 kiloton designed that failed — or a successful, itty-bitty nuke that worked as planned.

March 15, 2009

The Next Really Cool Thing
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, San Francisco

If you hang around the renewable-energy business for long, you’ll hear a lot of tall tales. You’ll hear about someone who’s invented a process to convert coal into vegetable oil in his garage and someone else who has a duck in his basement that paddles a wheel, blows up a balloon, turns a turbine and creates enough electricity to power his doghouse.

Hang around long enough and you’ll even hear that in another 10 or 20 years hydrogen-powered cars or fusion energy will be a commercial reality. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard one of those stories, I could buy my own space shuttle. No wonder cynics often say that viable fusion energy or hydrogen-powered cars are “20 years away and always will be.”

But what if this time is different? What if a laser-powered fusion energy power plant that would have all the reliability of coal, without the carbon dioxide, all the cleanliness of wind and solar, without having to worry about the sun not shining or the wind not blowing, and all the scale of nuclear, without all the waste, was indeed just 10 years away or less? That would be a holy cow game-changer.

Are we there?

That is the tantalizing question I was left with after visiting the recently completed National Ignition Facility, or N.I.F., at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 50 miles east of San Francisco. The government-funded N.I.F. consists of 192 giant lasers — which can deliver 50 times more energy than any previous fusion laser system. They’re all housed in a 10-story building the size of three football fields — the rather dull cover to a vast internal steel forest of laser beams that must be what the engine room of Star Trek’s U.S.S. Enterprise space ship looked like.

I began my tour there with the N.I.F. director, Edward Moses. He was holding up a tiny gold can the size of a Tylenol tablet, and inside it was plastic pellet, the size of a single peppercorn, that would be filled with frozen hydrogen.

The way the N.I.F. works is that all 192 lasers pour their energy into a target chamber, which looks like a giant, spherical, steel bathysphere that you would normally use for deep-sea exploration. At the center of this target chamber is that gold can with its frozen hydrogen pellet. Once one of those pellets is heated and compressed by the lasers, it reaches temperatures over 800 million degrees Fahrenheit, “far greater than exists at the center of our sun,” said Moses.

More importantly, each crushed pellet gives off a burst of energy that can then be harnessed to heat up liquid salt and produce massive amounts of steam to drive a turbine and create electricity for your home — just like coal does today. Only this energy would be carbon-free, globally available, safe and secure and could be integrated seamlessly into our current electric grid.

Last Monday at 3 a.m., for the first time, all 192 lasers were fired at high energy precisely at once — no small feat — at the target chamber’s empty core. That was a major step toward “ignition” — turning that hydrogen pellet into a miniature sun on earth. The next step — which the N.I.F. expects to achieve some time in the next two to three years — is to prove that it can, under lab conditions, repeatedly fire its 192 lasers at multiple hydrogen pellets and produce more energy from the pellets than the laser energy that is injected. That’s called “energy gain.”

“That,” explained Moses, “is what Einstein meant when he declared that E=mc2. By using lasers, we can unleash tremendous amounts of energy from tiny amounts of mass.”

Once the lab proves that it can get energy gain from this laser-driven process, the next step (if it can secure government and private funding) would be to set up a pilot fusion energy power plant that would prove that any local power utility could have its own miniature sun — on a commercial basis. A pilot would cost about $10 billion — the same as a new nuclear power plant.

I don’t know if they can pull this off; some scientists are skeptical. Laboratory-scale nuclear fusion and energy gain is really hard. But here’s what I do know: President Obama’s stimulus package has given a terrific boost to renewable energy. It will pay lasting benefits. And we need to keep working on all forms of solar, geothermal and wind power. They work. And the more they get deployed, the more their costs will go down.

But, in addition, we need to make a few big bets on potential game-changers. I am talking about systems that could give us abundant, clean, reliable electrons and drive massive innovation in big lasers, materials science, nuclear physics and chemistry that would benefit, energize and renew many U.S. industries.

At the pace we’re going with the technologies we have, without some game-changers, climate change is going to have its way with us. Yes, we’ll still need coal for some time. But let’s make sure that we aren’t just chasing the fantasy that we can “clean up” coal, when our real future depends on birthing new technologies that can replace it.


May 29, 2009

The Hoped-For Laser Miracles

The world’s most powerful installation of lasers will be dedicated in California on Friday before a throng of well-wishers. The new National Ignition Facility, or NIF, is touted as an important step toward maintaining the nation’s nuclear deterrent, developing fusion energy and conducting basic research. We hope its next few years will go a lot better than its problem-plagued development phase. There is a high risk of failure.

NIF, in a building the size of a football stadium, is built on an awesome scale, as described by William J. Broad in Science Times on Tuesday. It will use 192 lasers to fire light beams through a complicated array of mirrors and amplifiers to pulverize a tiny target filled with hydrogen fuel. The resulting heat and compression are supposed to fuse the hydrogen atoms into helium, releasing transient bursts of thermonuclear energy.

When first proposed in 1994, the facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was expected to cost $1.2 billion and be completed by 2002. But technical, practical and managerial problems caused repeated delays and drove up costs to $3.5 billion or more. Now NIF will be coming into operation barely ahead of a competing laser facility under construction in France.

The project’s primary purpose has always been to help weapons scientists ensure the reliability of the American nuclear arsenal without underground testing. The notion is that experiments under the extreme conditions of fusion would allow bomb makers to study the physics of nuclear weapons without exploding them and check the accuracy of computer codes that calculate how well weapons will perform. It is a worthy goal, but some experts believe there are better ways to ensure reliability and question NIF’s importance.

The latest focus, at least in promoting the project, has been the potential to achieve fusion energy, a carbon-free, widely available source of power should it ever prove attainable. The principal goal over the next year or two is to reach self-sustaining “ignition,” the point at which more energy is produced from fused atoms than is applied to make it happen. Scientists at NIF seem confident that they will succeed, but so many things have to go right simultaneously that many experts deem ignition unlikely any time soon. And even ignition is a long way from achieving practical, economical fusion power.

A more immediate payoff could come from basic research on processes that occur under pressures and temperatures typically found at the cores of stars or giant planets. Some critics view NIF as an expensive toy for weapons scientists. But the energy potential is alluring enough that all of us should root for NIF to succeed.

July 5, 2009
“It’s naïve for us to think,” he said, “that we can grow our nuclear stockpiles,
the Russians continue to grow their nuclear stockpiles, and our allies grow their nuclear stockpiles,
and that in that environment we’re going to be able to pressure countries like Iran and North Korea
not to pursue nuclear weapons themselves.”
U.S. President Barack Obama
Obama’s Youth Shaped His Nuclear-Free Vision

In the depths of the cold war, in 1983, a senior at Columbia University wrote in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about the vision of “a nuclear free world.” He railed against discussions of “first- versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.

The student was Barack Obama, and he was clearly trying to sort out his thoughts. In the conclusion, he denounced “the twisted logic of which we are a part today” and praised student efforts to realize “the possibility of a decent world.” But his article, “Breaking the War Mentality,” which only recently has been rediscovered, said little about how to achieve the utopian dream.

Twenty-six years later, the author, in his new job as president of the United States, has begun pushing for new global rules, treaties and alliances that he insists can establish a nuclear-free world.

“I’m not naïve,” President Obama told a cheering throng in Prague this spring. “This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence.”

Yet no previous American president has set out a step-by-step agenda for the eventual elimination of nuclear arms. Mr. Obama is starting relatively small, using a visit to Russia that starts Monday to advance an intense negotiation, with a treaty deadline of the year’s end, to reduce the arsenals of the nuclear superpowers to roughly 1,500 warheads each, from about 2,200. In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Obama, conscious of his critics, stressed that “I’ve made clear that we will retain our deterrent capacity as long as there is a country with nuclear weapons.”

But reducing arsenals, he insisted, would be the first step toward giving the United States and a growing body of allies the power to remake the nuclear world. Among the goals: halting weapons programs in North Korea and Iran, discouraging states from abandoning the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and ending global production of fuel for nuclear arms, a step sure to upset Pakistan, India and Israel.

Even before those battles are joined, opposition is rising. “This is dangerous, wishful thinking,” Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Richard Perle, an architect of the Reagan-era nuclear buildup that appalled Mr. Obama as an undergraduate, wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. They contend that Mr. Obama is, indeed, a naïf for assuming that “the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces.”

In the interview, the president described his agenda as the best way to move forward in a turbulent world.

“It’s naïve for us to think,” he said, “that we can grow our nuclear stockpiles, the Russians continue to grow their nuclear stockpiles, and our allies grow their nuclear stockpiles, and that in that environment we’re going to be able to pressure countries like Iran and North Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons themselves.”

Realist or dreamer, Mr. Obama has an interest in global denuclearization that arises from what can best be described as a lost chapter of his life. Though he has written two memoirs, he has volunteered few details about his two years at Columbia.

“People assume he’s a novice,” said Michael L. Baron, who taught Mr. Obama in a Columbia seminar on international politics and American policy around the time he wrote the Sundial article. “He’s been thinking about these issues for a long time. It’s not like one of his advisers said, ‘Why don’t you throw this out?’ ”

In a paper for Dr. Baron, Mr. Obama analyzed how a president might go about negotiating nuclear arms reductions with the Russians — exactly what he is seeking to do this week.

At critical junctures of Mr. Obama’s career, the subject of nuclear disarmament has kept reappearing. Now both he and his agenda face the ultimate test: limiting nuclear arms at the very moment many experts fear the beginning of a second nuclear age and a rush of new weapons states — especially if Iran proves capable of making atomic warheads.

The Seminar
“I personally came of age,” Mr. Obama wrote in “The Audacity of Hope,” his second memoir, “during the Reagan presidency.”

It was a time when President Ronald Reagan began a trillion-dollar arms buildup, called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” and ordered scores of atomic detonations under the Nevada desert. Some Reagan aides talked of fighting and winning a nuclear war.

The popular response was the nuclear freeze movement. Dozens of books warned that Mr. Reagan’s policies threatened to end civilization and most life on Earth. In June 1982, a million protesters gathered in Central Park, their placards reading “Bread Not Bombs” and “Freeze or Burn.” The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter denouncing nuclear war.

Many Columbia students campaigned for the freeze movement, which sought a halt to additional nuclear arms deployments. Mr. Obama explored going further.

In the interview, Mr. Obama noted that he was too young to “remember having to do drills under the desk.” But as a student “interested broadly in foreign policy,” he recalled, he focused on “a central question: how would the United States and the Soviet Union effectively manage these nuclear arsenals, and were there ways to dial down the dangers that humanity faced?”

In his senior year, he began Dr. Baron’s seminar on presidential decision-making in American foreign policy. The first semester, starting in fall 1982, covered such cold-war flashpoints as the Cuban missile crisis — a dramatic study in the decision-making style of President John F. Kennedy. In the second semester, students focused on particular topics, and Mr. Obama wrote a lengthy paper about how to negotiate with the Soviets to cut nuclear arsenals.

“His focus was the nature of the strategic talks and what kind of negotiating positions might be put forward,” Dr. Baron said. “It was not a polemical paper — not arguing that the U.S. should have this or that position. It was how to get from here to there and avoid misperception and conflict.

“He got an A,” recalled Dr. Baron, who now runs a digital media business. Later, he wrote Mr. Obama a recommendation for Harvard Law School.

It was during that seminar that Mr. Obama wrote his Sundial article, profiling two campus groups, Arms Race Alternatives and Students Against Militarism. Photographs with the March 1983 article showed students at an antiwar rally in front of Butler Library.

The Article
Mr. Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called “the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country” amid “the growing threat of war.” The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”

Despite Mr. Obama’s sympathetic portrayal of the two groups, the article seemed to question the popular goal of freezing nuclear arsenals rather than reducing them, the topic of his seminar paper. Mr. Obama wondered if the freeze movement “stems from young people’s penchant for the latest ‘happenings.’ ”

What clearly excited him was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which would have ended the testing and development of new weapons, and thus, in the minds of arms controllers, the nuclear arms race.

The Reagan administration vehemently opposed the treaty. One Columbia activist, Mr. Obama wrote, argued that the United States should initiate the ban “as a powerful first step towards a nuclear free world.”

That phrase — a “nuclear free world,” which was Mr. Obama’s paraphrase — would re-emerge decades later as the signature item of his nuclear agenda.

The article was lost for years — some of Mr. Obama’s campaign advisers said they had heard of its existence and went looking for it, presumably to see if it contained anything that might prove embarrassing. It came to light on the Internet just before the inauguration, and some conservative bloggers called it naïve, anti-American and blind to the Soviet threat.

Precisely how the article found its way onto the Internet is unclear. But late last year, a Columbia alumni publication said it had learned of it from an alumnus, Stephen M. Brockmann, who also had an article in the same Sundial issue. Dr. Brockmann, now a professor of German at Carnegie Mellon University, said he found the issue “while rummaging through some old stuff.” When he saw the Obama article, he recalled, “I could hardly believe my eyes.”

The Senator
After the Sundial article, Mr. Obama went silent on nuclear issues for the next two decades. In Chicago, where he worked as a community organizer, topics like remaking the schools, the welfare system and health care seemed a lot more urgent. The cold war ended. So did the protests.

But in 2003 Mr. Obama began his unlikely campaign for the United States Senate and answered a detailed questionnaire from the Council for a Livable World, an advocacy organization in Washington that evaluates candidates on arms control issues.

“He opposes building a new generation of nuclear weapons,” the organization said in a fund-raising letter supporting Mr. Obama’s candidacy. At the time, the Bush administration had proposed developing nuclear arms that could shatter deeply buried enemy bunkers.

“The United States has far more nuclear weapons than it needs,” the organization quoted Mr. Obama as saying, “and any attempt by the U.S. government to develop or produce new nuclear weapons only undermines U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world.”

The organization said Mr. Obama also supported an American-financed effort to secure Russian nuclear arms, as well as ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, still in limbo two decades after Mr. Obama wrote about it.

When he became a senator in January 2005, Mr. Obama zeroed in on arms control, an issue with little traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Mark Lippert, now chief of staff of the National Security Council, recalled the senator’s seeking his nuclear views when he applied for a Senate staff job.

Mr. Obama found a mentor in Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a longtime star of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Later that year, Mr. Obama asked to accompany his Republican colleague on a trip to monitor Russian efforts to scrap nuclear arms and secure atomic materials from theft or diversion.

“When we got there, he was clearly all business — a very careful listener and note taker and a serious student,” Mr. Lugar recalled.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama seized a new opportunity, and political cover, by aligning himself with four of the biggest names in national security. They had decided to campaign for the elimination of the nuclear arsenals they had built up and managed as cold warriors.

There were two Republicans, Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz, secretary of state under Mr. Reagan, and two Democrats, William J. Perry, secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and former Senator Sam Nunn, who has made fighting proliferation his life’s work.

In a 2007 opinion article in The Wall Street Journal, the four men argued that the time was right to seek “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” as the headline put it. President George W. Bush never invited them to the White House to make their case.

But Mr. Obama embraced the four wholeheartedly, echoing their message in campaign speeches in places like Chicago and Denver and in Berlin, where he spoke in July 2008 as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“This is the moment,” he told cheering Berliners, to seek “the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The President
The nuclear world Mr. Obama studied and wrote about at Columbia bears little resemblance to the one he faces today.

Russia in many ways is the least of his challenges. Both Washington and Moscow want to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires late this year, and both say they want to shrink their arsenals.

More complex are problems posed by the rise of new nuclear states, chiefly North Korea, which has now conducted two nuclear tests, and Iran, which experts say will be able to build a warhead soon, if it cannot already. Pakistan has the fastest-growing arsenal, India’s is improving, and Israel’s nuclear capacity has never been publicly discussed, much less dealt with, by the United States.

The threat, Mr. Obama added in the interview, has “only been heightened with the emergence of extremist organizations such as Al Qaeda.”

Mr. Obama and his aides say they want to address all these issues — though they have only recently begun to discuss strategy.

“We tried the unilateral way, in the Bush years, and it didn’t work,” a senior administration official said recently. “What we are trying is a fundamental change, a different view that says our security can be enhanced by arms control. There was a view for the past few years that treaties only constrained the good actors and not the bad actors.”

Beyond the first step — deep cuts in American and Russian arsenals — is an agenda that has already provoked stirrings of discontent at home and abroad.

In January, in the journal Foreign Affairs, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the lone holdover from the Bush cabinet, called for financing a new generation of longer-lasting and more dependable nuclear arms.

He was immediately overruled. Mr. Obama’s first budget declared that “development work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead will cease.”

Another focus of activity early this year was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Its ratification faces a tough Senate fight. But his aides are already building a case that advanced technologies obviate the need to detonate weapons as tests of the American arsenal and can verify that other countries also refrain.

Critics argue that the North Koreas of the world will simply defy the ban — and that the international community will fail to punish offenders.

“If the implications were not so serious, the discrepancy between Mr. Obama’s plans and real-world conditions would be hilarious,” said Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a Reagan-era Pentagon official who directs the Center for Security Policy, a private group in Washington. “There is only one country on earth that Team Obama can absolutely, positively denuclearize: Ours.”

Even more ambitious, Mr. Obama wants a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would bar all nations that sign it from making fuel for their atom bombs. But when asked how Mr. Obama would sell the idea to America’s allies — primarily Pakistan, India and Israel — administration officials grow silent.

All this is supposed to culminate, next year, in an American effort to rewrite crucial provisions of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Mr. Obama wants to strengthen inspection provisions and close the loophole that makes it easy for countries to drop out, as North Korea did in 2003.

Each of those steps would require building a global consensus. It would also mean persuading countries to give up the coveted freedom to make fuel for reactors — and instead, probably, buy it from an international fuel bank.

Most of all, Mr. Obama and like-minded leaders will have to establish a new global order that will truly restrain rogue states and terrorist groups from moving ahead with nuclear projects.

“I don’t think I was that unique at that time,” the president said of his Columbia days, “and I don’t think I’m that unique today in thinking that if we could put the genie back in the bottle, in some sense, that there would be less danger — not just to the United States but to people around the world.”

November 23, 2009

Shortage Slows a Program to Detect Nuclear Bombs

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security has spent $230 million to develop better technology for detecting smuggled nuclear bombs but has had to stop deploying the new machines because the United States has run out of a crucial raw material, experts say.

The ingredient is helium 3, an unusual form of the element that is formed when tritium, an ingredient of hydrogen bombs, decays. But the government mostly stopped making tritium in 1989.

“I have not heard any explanation of why this was not entirely foreseeable,” said Representative Brad Miller, Democrat of North Carolina, who is the chairman of a House subcommittee that is investigating the problem.

An official from the Homeland Security Department testified last week before Mr. Miller’s panel, the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science Committee, that demand for helium 3 appeared to be 10 times the supply.

Some government agencies, Mr. Miller said, did anticipate a crisis, but the Homeland Security Department appears not to have gotten the message.

The department had planned a worldwide network using the new detectors, which were supposed to detect plutonium or uranium in shipping containers. The government wanted 1,300 to 1,400 machines, which cost $800,000 each, for use in ports around the world to thwart terrorists who might try to deliver a nuclear bomb to a big city by stashing it in one of the millions of containers that enter the United States every year.

At the White House, Steve Fetter, an assistant director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the helium 3 problem was short-term because other technologies would be developed. But, he said, while the government had a large surplus of helium 3 at the end of the cold war, “people should have been aware that this was a one-time windfall and was not sustainable.”

Helium 3 is not hazardous or even chemically reactive, and it is not the only material that can be used for neutron detection. The Homeland Security Department has older equipment that can look for radioactivity, but it does not differentiate well between bomb fuel and innocuous materials that naturally emit radiation — like cat litter, ceramic tiles and bananas — and sounds false alarms more often.

Earlier this year, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, part of the Energy Department, said in a report, “No other currently available detection technology offers the stability, sensitivity and gamma/neutron discrimination” of detectors using helium 3.

Helium 3 is used to detect neutrons, the subatomic particles that sustain the chain reaction in a bomb or a reactor. Plutonium, the favorite bomb-making material of most governments with nuclear weapons, intermittently gives off neutrons, which are harder for a smuggler to hide than other forms of radiation. (Detecting the alternative bomb fuel, enriched uranium, is a separate, difficult problem, experts say.)

Helium 3 is rare in nature, but the Energy Department accumulated a substantial stockpile as a byproduct of maintaining nuclear weapons. Those weapons use tritium, which is the form of hydrogen used in the H-bomb, but the hydrogen decays into helium 3 at the rate of 5.5 percent a year. For that reason the tritium in each bomb has to be removed, purified and replenished every few years. It is purified by removing the helium 3.

The declining supply is also needed for physics research and medical diagnostics.

The Energy Department used to make tritium in reactors at its Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C., but those were shut after many operational problems. It enlisted the Tennessee Valley Authority to make some tritium in a power reactor, using the same method it had used at Savannah River, breaking up another material, a form of lithium, with neutrons. One of the fragments is tritium. But that project has run into technical problems as well.

Mr. Miller estimated that demand for helium 3 was about 65,000 liters per year through 2013 and that total production by the only two countries that produce it in usable form, the United States and Russia, was only about 20,000 liters. In a letter to President Obama, he called the shortage “a national crisis” and said the price had jumped to $2,000 a liter from $100 in the last few years, which threatens scientific research.

ARTE    28.März 2011

MAJAK: der erste Gau in der Atomgeschichte

Russland: Der streng geheime erste GAU20 Jahre nach dem Ende der UDSSR leben noch immer zwei Millionen Russen im Geheimen, in 42 streng abgeschirmten Städten aus Sowjetzeiten, sie alle sind verbunden mit dem Militärisch-Industriellen Komplex und manche produzieren bis heute Atomenergie. In einer von ihnen, in Osjorsk, kam es am 29. September 1957 zum ersten Unfall in der Geschichte der Kerntechnologie – 30 Jahre hielten sie diesen GAU geheim. Stalin beschloss Ende 1945 auf dem Gebiet des heutigen Osjorsk eine Plutoniumfabrik errichten zu lassen, er wollte die Atombombe für die Sowjetunion, nachdem die USA mit ihren Bomben auf Hiroshima und Nagasaki ihre militärische Überlegenheit demonstriert hatten. Der erste Unfall in der Geschichte der Kerntechnologie war eine Explosion in dieser Plutoniumfabrik, genannt Majak, in einem Behälter für radioaktive Abfälle, nach einer Panne im Kühlkreislauf. Die radioaktive Wolke verstrahlte 300 000 Menschen auf 23 000 km² - 22 Städte und Dörfer wurden evakuiert. 50 Jahre danach warten die Opfer von damals und die „Liquidatoren“, die zur Reinigung abkommandierten Helfer, noch immer auf eine Entschädigung. Auch die Arbeiter in der Plutoniumfabrik, Tag für Tag den Strahlen in der laufenden Produktion ausgesetzt, haben bis heute keine Anerkennung des Staates für ihre Gesundheitsschäden erhalten. In der Region wurde das gesamte Plutonium im Kalten Krieg produziert – heute ist diese Zone ein gewaltiges radioaktives Endlager, noch immer geschützt durch den Sonderstatus der Geheimen Militärstädte. Den Menschen ins Osjorsk bleibt bis heute, als Erbe der Sowjetunion, eine Art privilegierter Status, ein Leben hinter Gittern, jede Bewegung außerhalb der Stadt erfordert Anmeldung und Genehmigung. Nadjescha hat die Organisation „Planet Hoffnung“ gegründet. Sie und ihre Mitstreiter kämpfen gegen die Geheimhaltung der Folgen der Radioaktivität für die Menschen und die Natur.

April 8, 2011

Japan Cargo Is Screened at U.S. Ports

Customs and Border Protection officers check containers for radiation at the Port of Oakland. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

OAKLAND, Calif. — Radiation detectors originally intended to thwart terrorists smuggling nuclear bombs into the country have been put to another use at this sprawling port across the bay from San Francisco.

Three Customs and Border Protection officers used the equipment to screen Japanese cargo plucked by cranes as high as 24-story buildings from the NYK Aquarius, a massive cargo ship. Semi trucks hauling the containers passed slowly between two government trucks mounted with radiation detectors that resembled white cabinets.

If the lights flashed, it would mean the equipment detected unusual levels of radioactivity in the cargo. A white light means gamma radiation was detected; a red light indicates neutron radiation.

But on this day, like every day thus far, no dangerous cargo was found.

Although the government agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, checks every cargo container coming from Japan since radiation began escaping from a damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima, its officers have found no radioactively contaminated seafood, auto parts or electronics. The officers waved the Aquarius’s cargo through.

“To date, we have not held one container for contamination,” said Richard F. Vigna, a director of field operations for Customs and Border Protection. “There hasn’t been anything.”

The federal government operates a vast web of radiation screening at the nation’s seaports, airports and border crossings. Originally installed after the Sept. 11 attacks, the system is now also being used to make sure no contaminated Japanese imports reach store shelves.

The agency expects to keep working at the nation’s ports despite a government shutdown, if one occurs.

The heightened scrutiny increased for Japanese products immediately after the Fukushima nuclear plant’s troubles started. Typically, ship cargo goes through at least one round of radiation screening before being cleared to leave the port. But as a precaution, containers from Japan now get multiple checks.

The radiation screening program, which cost billions of dollars to put into effect, is operated by Customs and Border Protection. Radiation is just one concern for the agency, which also seizes drugs, detains illegal immigrants and eradicates invasive insects that stow away on incoming ships and airplanes.

But these days, attention is focused on the lights of the radiation detector. Should any contaminated products slip through, they could pose a health hazard, and would more than likely set off a panic among consumers, some of whom are already skittish about eating Japanese sushi. Only dairy products and produce from near the Fukushima plant have been banned outright by the Food and Drug Administration.

Scanning imports is a huge undertaking because of the volume of goods involved. Japan alone ships $120 billion in cars, electronics and other products to the United States annually.

Customs and Border Protection also has to balance the potential impact on commerce. Delays could mean lost money for shippers and the businesses that depend on supplies from Japan.

Michael Zampa, spokesman for APL, a container shipping company, said there were some initial backlogs in Los Angeles because of the expanded inspections, but they seemed to have eased.

“There was some delay, but it’s what you would expect with any new process,” he said.

A driver with cargo from Japan is directed through the scanners. Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The biggest excitement at the Port of Oakland came one day last week when a trucker ran over a traffic cone that then became stuck between his vehicle’s tires. The officers had to stop him to pull it out. Another driver balked at driving through the detectors because she feared that she would be subjected to radioactivity, as if she were going through an X-ray machine. The machines, in fact, do not emit radiation; they only measure it. Another driver took her place.

The offloaded containers get a second inspection when they leave the port. All trucks, no matter the origin of their cargo, must drive through radiation detectors resembling yellow gates at each terminal’s exit.

Earlier that day, in a nearby booth where officers monitor the port’s gate, an automated voice barked “gamma alert, gamma alert.” The equipment detected abnormal radiation on a passing truck. Although ominous sounding, such alerts are actually routine.

An officer carrying two hand-held detectors, one resembling a pager and other the size of an old tape recorder, circled the suspicious truck, which carried an empty container that originated in Thailand. The measurements showed the presence of cesium and another unknown isotope, but the level was only slightly above normal.

The officer radioed the reading to a colleague in the booth, where officers can send the information by computer to an agency lab for analysis. The process usually takes about 15 minutes.

In this case, they determined that an analysis was unnecessary. Their records showed that the container had previously set off a similar alarm at the dock, and that the lab had cleared it after determining there was no safety risk. They let the truck leave.

Nationwide, Customs and Border Protection responds to hundreds of thousands of alerts at the ports annually, Mr. Vigna said. Bananas, cat litter, dinnerware, ceramics, smoke alarms and some electronics normally have elevated levels of radiation. Although usually safe, these can set off the detectors.

Even so, officers are not supposed to open containers to inspect what is inside because of the potential danger. “If we get an alert, the last thing we want to do is open a container,” Mr. Vigna said. The message did not appear to have reached everyone because one officer did, in fact, climb into a container.

Oakland largely avoids one step of radiation screening — checking onboard ships — because few ships make Oakland their first port of call in the United States. They usually stop beforehand in Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles or Seattle, where officers board with hand-held devices to test the public areas, the catwalks and crew.

Air cargo facilities have their own radiation detection equipment, although some are operating with only hand-held or mobile detectors. An upgrade is supposed to bring all air cargo facilities permanent detectors by 2014.

Longshoremen, who would come in closest contact with any contaminated cargo, initially raised concerns with Mr. Vigna about the safety of handling cargo. After noticing the expanded screening, they asked “ ‘Whoa, why are you doing this? What’s going on?’ ” he recalled.

But after he explained that there was no “apparent threat,” he said the outcry died down.

“It’s calmed down a lot,” Mr. Vigna said.

July 10, 2011

How Seawater Can Power the World

DEBATE about America’s energy supply is heating up: gas prices are rising, ethanol is under attack and nuclear power continues to struggle in the shadow of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

But an abundant, safe and clean energy source once thought to be the stuff of science fiction is closer than many realize: nuclear fusion. Making it a reality, however, will take significant investment from the government at a time when spending on scientific research is under threat.

Harnessing nuclear fusion, the energy that powers the sun and the stars, has been a goal of physicists worldwide since the 1950s. It is essentially inexhaustible and it can be created using hydrogen isotopes — chemical cousins of hydrogen, like deuterium — that can readily be extracted from seawater.

Fusion energy is created by fusing two atomic nuclei, in the process converting mass to energy, which appears as heat. The heat, as in conventional nuclear fission reactors, turns water into steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity, or is used to produce fuels for transportation or other uses.

Fusion energy generates zero greenhouse gases. It offers no chance of a catastrophic accident. It can be available to all nations, relying only on the Earth’s oceans. When commercialized, it will transform the world’s energy supply.

There’s a catch. The development of fusion energy is one of the most difficult science and engineering challenges ever undertaken. Among other challenges, it requires production and confinement of a hot gas — a plasma — with a temperature around 100 million degrees Celsius.

But potential solutions to these daunting technical challenges are emerging. In one approach, known as magnetic fusion, hot plasma is confined by powerful magnets. A second approach uses large, intense lasers to bombard a frozen pellet of fusion fuel (deuterium and tritium nuclei) to heat the pellet and cause fusion to occur in a billionth of a second. Whereas magnetic fusion holds a hot plasma indefinitely, like a sun, the second approach resembles an internal combustion engine, with multiple mini-explosions (about five per second).

Once a poorly understood area of research, plasma physics has become highly developed. Scientists not only produce 100 million-degree plasmas routinely, but they control and manipulate such “small suns” with remarkable finesse. Since 1970 the power produced by magnetic fusion in the lab has grown from one-tenth of a watt, produced for a fraction of a second, to 16 million watts produced for one second — a billionfold increase in fusion energy.

Seven partners — the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States — have teamed up on an experiment to produce 500 million watts of fusion power for 500 seconds and longer by 2020, demonstrating key scientific and engineering aspects of fusion at the scale of a reactor.

However, even though the United States is a contributor to this experiment, known as ITER, it has yet to commit to the full program needed to develop a domestic fusion reactor to produce electricity for the American power grid. Meanwhile other nations are moving forward to implement fusion as a key ingredient of their energy security.

Indeed, fusion research facilities more modern than anything in the United States are either under construction or operating in China, Germany, Japan and South Korea. The will and enthusiasm of governments in Asia to fill their energy needs with fusion, as soon as possible, is nearly palpable.

What has been lacking in the United States is the political and economic will. We need serious public investment to develop materials that can withstand the harsh fusion environment, sustain hot plasma indefinitely and integrate all these features in an experimental facility to produce continuous fusion power.

This won’t be cheap. A rough estimate is that it would take $30 billion and 20 years to go from the current state of research to the first working fusion reactor. But put in perspective, that sum is equal to about a week of domestic energy consumption, or about 2 percent of the annual energy expenditure of $1.5 trillion.

Fusion used to be an energy source for my generation’s grandchildren; now, plans across the world call for a demonstration power plant in about 20 years. Fusion has the potential to help with all the emerging challenges of this still-new century: energy independence, national economic competitiveness, environmental responsibility and reduction of conflict over natural resources. It is a litmus test for the willingness of our nation to tackle the tough challenges that will shape our future. Scientists and engineers stand ready to help.

Stewart C. Prager is the director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a Department of Energy national laboratory, and a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton.

March 25, 2012

What Iran Can Learn From Kazakhstan

The threat from nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest our world faces. If terrorist groups manage to get their hands on material to make nuclear or radioactive weapons, they will not hesitate to use them. The resulting death toll and damage would be unimaginable.

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The security of nuclear materials was high on the agenda of the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010. This week, along with President Obama and the leaders of 50 other countries, I will be traveling to Seoul for the second summit to report on progress. We will see how we can further improve measures to keep safe nuclear material and to stop its illegal trade.

The nuclear threat strikes a deep chord within Kazakhstan. For four decades, our country was used as the backdrop for nuclear tests. By the time the Semipalatinsk site was closed, there had been nearly 460 explosions, including 116 nuclear bombs exploded above ground. Although it has been well over 20 years since the last test, their devastating impact is still being felt.

Many thousands of our people have died early because of their exposure to radioactive fallout. Cancer rates and birth abnormalities remain far higher in the affected region than in the rest of the country. Children continue to be born with mental and physical defects. This tragic legacy helps explain the passionate commitment of our people to help lift the shadow of nuclear weapons from our world.

Such was the feeling among our people that we closed the Semipalatinsk site even before we became an independent country on the breakup of the Soviet Union 20 years ago. With independence, we became the world’s fourth-largest nuclear power. One of our first acts as a sovereign nation was voluntarily to give up these weapons.

Since then, we have worked tirelessly to encourage other countries to follow our lead and build a world in which the threat of nuclear weapons belongs to history.

We consider nuclear safety as consisting of three integral components. It is not only about the protection of humanity from nuclear weapons, but also about counteracting potential nuclear terrorism and ensuring the safety of nuclear energy. This is why we actively support disarmament measures, including efforts to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and to persuade countries to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Over the years Kazakhstan has ensured the security of all nuclear materials on its territory and fully complied with the voluntary commitments made in Washington.

We must understand that it is not easy for countries to give up their nuclear arsenal or to renounce the intention of developing their own weapons. The truth is that if just one nation has nuclear weapons, others may feel it necessary to do the same to protect themselves. This is why nuclear proliferation is such a threat to the security of us all and leads to greater risk of an illegal, dangerous trade in weapons and material.

The real intent of Iran’s nuclear program is causing concern across the world. Recognizing the right of all responsible members of the international community to develop peaceful atomic energy under the safeguards promoted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kazakhstan has used its close diplomatic relations with our neighbor across the Caspian Sea to urge Tehran to learn from our example.

I am convinced that openness and the development of peaceful relations with neighbors will increase rather than diminish Iran’s status and influence, help lower tensions in the Middle East, and make it easier to find fair, lasting solutions to the problems in that region.

With our neighbors, we implemented the idea of establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in Central Asia. We propose to use this experience to raise the number of such zones worldwide, including in the Middle East. We also need to demand legal guarantees from nuclear states that they will not use these weapons against those without them.

As the world’s largest producer of uranium ore, Kazakhstan is ideally placed to host the first international nuclear fuel bank. The bank, which would be run under the auspices of the I.A.E.A., could provide uranium fuel to enable states to power civilian nuclear reactors without having to bear the risk of not being able to procure uranium at open markets. All countries which meet I.A.E.A. conditions would be able to access the bank.

I would like to say this to all countries: Kazakhstan’s experience shows that nations can reap huge benefits from turning their backs on nuclear weapons. I have no doubt that we are a more prosperous, stable country, with more influence and friends in the world because of our decision.

We need to find the same imagination and will to help countries without nuclear weapons feel secure. This is the only way to prevent nuclear proliferation and reduce the chances that deadly material will fall into the hands of terrorists. I can promise that the citizens of Kazakhstan will do all we can to help create a world in which the threat of nuclear weapons is eradicated.

We chose building peaceful alliances and prosperity over fear and suspicion. Iran faces the same decision now. We must all work hard to create the right conditions in which other countries, too, can make the right choice.

Nursultan Nazarbayev is president of Kazakhstan.