dirty bomb and domestic terror

S3E21:2020 Elec: dirty bomb and domestic terror

In the news for the past two or more weeks are stories of acts of gun violence the country is finally ready to call domestic terror. Domestic terror with guns is the focus of our podcast, and terror using a dirty bomb is the focus of this blog.

Candidates on the debate stage have focused primary on issues like immigration and heath care, the news is forcing the focus on domestic terror.

Usually coupled with racism, as discussed in our last episode, on this episode we are looking at gun violence cause by a variety of other factors.

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#theworldasilike is a liberal podcast, but the issues we address should not be. Liberal or conservative everything we discuss in this podcast and blog should concern all Americans.

Take a listen:

A Houston shooting

Literally two days after the shooting in El Paso, TX, in Houston, on a busy freeway, men in two separate vehicles began shooting at one another.

This was in broad daylight during rush hour traffic. CNN reports:

“The gunman, described by a witness as a Hispanic male, fired multiple shots at the car that had been rammed, pursuing it as it rolled down a hill, he said. Witnesses said the shooter is possibly in his early 20s, thin build, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and was wearing a red shirt, according to a Friday statement from the police.

Police found narcotics in the car of the two victims, Dobbins said. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences has not yet verified the identity of the men, who are ages 25 and 33, police said.”

At the last reporting on the incident police speculated it was possibly a drug related crime.

White Supremacist’s dirty secret

If gun violence wasn’t enough for you the Foreign Policy magazine has a blog post about how white supremacists have been trying to acquire a dirty bomb as far back as 2008.

The report goes on to detail how millionaire James Cummings based in Belfast Maine, purchased the necessary items to build a device that would disperse toxic radiation (aka radiological dispersal device (or RDD) , aka dirty bomb).

When police raided his home in December 9th of 08 (due to a domestic incident) they found radiological material along with an application for US National Socialist Movement (aka Neo Nazi). Friends said Cummings revered Hitler and collected Nazi memorabilia.

American Nazi as bad as Al Qaeda?

The desire for American Nazi’s to use radiological weapons in the states mirrors Al Qaeda’s.  From foreign policy:

The budding nationalist white supremacist terrorist movement in the United States is no different. Consider the case of the “All-American Nazis.” Four neo-Nazi roommates lived together until one of them converted to Islam and shot two others for disrespecting his religion. The double homicide shed light on an organization called Atomwaffen (German for “nuclear weapons”). Devon Arthurs, the convert to Islam, described Atomwaffen as a terrorist group that had 60-70 members nationwide and planned bombing attacks on synagogues and nuclear plants. Brandon Russell, the roommate who wasn’t home at the time of the argument, had been collecting thorium since the 10th grade. These are not isolated incidents; in 2004 and 2013, the FBI arrested two white supremacists interested in acquiring and detonating a dirty bomb.

Moreover, these are not “lone wolves.” They are part of an extremist network bound by white supremacist ideology, far-right hate, and online indoctrination. And there is no shortage of evidence that they want to acquire their own radioactive weapons.

An RDD does not have to be a bomb; it could be a radiological material in a crop duster or any other tool that can disperse the material. Positioned correctly, even wind itself could disperse a radiological material like cesium-137, which is a powder in its most common form.

…the United States has “thousands and thousands” of radiological sources that could be used in one. The delivery system of an RDD is essentially arbitrary: “Getting the material is the most difficult step in the process,” he said.

“We’re concerned about cesium because it is located in open environments and not behind guns, gates, and guards like nuclear material,” said Ioanna M. Iliopulos, a senior consultant at NTI. “Most medical and research centers have 2 to 4 kilograms of cesium chloride, which could create a lot of havoc if stolen and dispersed in a major metropolitan area.”

How Bad Could A Dirty Bomb Get?

The chilling report in Foreign policy.com notes the use of a dirty bomb as opposed to a nuclear bomb is clear.  White nationalist don’t want to destroy America, they want to weaken society enough to inspire citizens to take up arms against the government.

To that end Foreign Policy writes one study found setting off a dirty bomb in New York near the stock exchange could cause as much as 30 billion in damages, perhaps enough to cripple the economy, a socioeconomic 9/11.

From the article:

“We call it a weapon of mass disruption because it disrupts and leads to economic impact, not mass casualties,” Bieniawski said. “This material is dispersed. So if it is metal or powder, it gets in the air, the buildings, the metro, the air ducts, and then you basically have people breathing in this material and have to tear down these city blocks.”

To put this into perspective, the Sandia study poses a single question: “Would the U.S. maintain its world financial standing after an RDD attack in lower Manhattan?”

The Republican Response

The Trump administration replaced a nuclear physicist, Ernest Moniz, with Rick Perry, a man who, on the debate stage in 2016, forgot one of the three government agencies he was going to eliminate once he became president.

In his wisdom Donald Trump named Perry to run that department – the Department of Energy.  For Perry’s party he had no idea what the department did when he accepted the job (reports are he initially thought by heading the agency,  he would help deregulate oil and gas industry).

The sole purpose of the Department of Energy is to take care of our nuclear stock pile. It sets policy on, among other things, how to hand disposal and storage of radioactive waste and material.

His time as head of the energy department has been less than stellar.  Nevada congressman went after Perry and his agencies for improper handling of radioactive materials from Tennessee to Nevada. 

Prior to that weapons grade plutonium was secretly shipped from South Carolina to Nevada.  The US Rep of Nevada said “The level of incompetence at the Department of Energy is only matched by its dishonesty.”

At the same time under Perry, the Energy Department is trying to reclassify some of the most toxic and radioactive waste material in the world to a lower tier.  They claim the reclassification would make for faster, easier clean up, but scientists say:

“It misses the point about how dangerous these materials are. It is not just because of radioactivity that these materials are dangerous but also because they are chemically toxic themselves. … There has been a strong interest in watering down some of the regulations [at the department], which is a serious concern.”

The call is coming from inside

As discussed in our last podcast, the Trump administration’s state department confirmed it had a man linked to white supremist groups as part of the bureau of energy resources.  According to foreignpolicy.com, that man reportedly said on a podcast:

“[Whites] need a country of our own with nukes, and we will retake this thing lickety split.”


In the article they warn:

“It is very difficult for any security system to protect against knowledgeable insiders,” said Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and co-author of the paper “Promoting Alternatives to High-Risk Radiological Sources.”

“Think about the pilots who intentionally choose to crash their planes with passengers aboard. Given that radiological sources are employed in places such as universities and hospitals, whose top priorities aren’t security but accessibility, this is a particular risk for these materials.”

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