Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dangerous Radioactive Materials Found in Maine, With Plans To Use Them

The Bangor (Me.) Daily News, via Global Security Newswire, brings this deeply disturbing story, under the headline, "'Dirty Bomb' Materials Uncovered in Maine Residence." Here's the topline:

Authorities in Maine found radiological "dirty bomb" ingredients and related items in the home of a man shot to death in December, the Bangor Daily News reported yesterday ... A Dec. 9 search of James Cummings' home in Belfast turned up "radiological dispersal device components and literature, and radioactive materials," according to a FBI field Intelligence report obtained by Wikileaks.

Among the finds were four single-gallon containers filled with depleted uranium, 35 percent hydrogen peroxide, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron, oxide and magnesium ribbon.

Investigators also recovered "literature on constructing 'dirty bombs,' [and] information referring to cesium 137, strontium 90 and cobalt 60," the report says.

My colleague at R-TAC, Alex Heyl, makes the grim point, "This is Belfast, Maine, not Belfast, Northern Ireland." In other words, we needn't travel to some trouble spot to find people with the motivation and the means to put together deadly devices. As Alex further observes, "RDD's are a clear and present danger which must not only be acknowledged by the Feds but also acted upon."

In the meantime, Washington is atwitter over the stimulus plan, the Geithner plan, and now, most recently, by the withdrawal of Sen. Judd Gregg to be President Obama's Secretary of Commerce. Without making light of political disputes, and the need to resolve them, this report from Maine reminds us that huge dangers face our homeland--and by no means all of them originate from overseas.

UPDATE: The BDN has a story up now, under the headline, "Officials verify dirty bomb probe results." The article features an interview with Belfast police chief Jeffrey Trafton, pictured above.

And while the subhead of the BDN story reads, "State: Public never at risk in Belfast," I am not entirely persuaded. Yes, thanks to alert and effective police work, the threat from James Cummings has been alleviated, but it seems to me that is incorrect to assert, "the public was never at risk." On the contrary, the public was at risk. That risk is gone now, but we have all been reminded of a terrible truth: For a sick but knowledgeable mind, building an RDD, or dirty bomb, is easy.

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