November 30, 2007

Dirty bomb scare stuff, once again

I know I'm wasting my time saying this once again, but for the record, highly enriched uranium in any quantity is not useful for a radiological weapon... HEU is not a significant gamma emitter, and would likely not kill anyone by being dispersed through an explosion. (Plutonium's a different story.) HEU is dangerous because if uncontrolled it's a substance that could be used (if in quantities at least 30 times what was seized this week) by a trained nuclear bomb maker to make a much more dangerous kind of weapon. Also, radiation is scary to the uninformed, and panic can kill. But what was seized in the current situation, by itself, was still almost wholely benign.

Interesting note: if the current going price for criminally possessed HEU is really $3,500/g, that makes the entry cost for the smallest conceivable U-235-driven nuclear weapon somewhere above $50 million (some assembly required). In case you were ever curious what it would cost Dr. Evil to construct one.

Posted by BruceR at 10:54 AM

November 16, 2007

Terror plots article: rather thin gruel

This article, approvingly linked by Instapundit, claims to list the 19 "thwarted attacks" by terrorists on the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001. It's pretty thin gruel:

Of the 19, 8 are still awaiting a criminal disposition, and should at the least have been qualified as alleged plots. These include such frankly implausible schemes as the U.K. "liquid explosives plot" and JFK jet fuel "plot." Undoubtedly some of those accused will be convicted of something, someday, but there's no evidence they were ever serious threats to actual people.

The ninth that has not been tried in a court is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It seems undeniable that the U.S. is better off with him in custody, however, so give that a pass, even if you don't accept some or all of his torture-induced confessions.

That leaves 10:

1) Richard Reid: a real threat, true, but not one "thwarted by U.S. law enforcement," as the article claims.
2) Jose Padilla: convicted this year of conspiring to kill people overseas. All charges relating to allegations of an attack against the U.S. were dropped.
3) Lackawanna Six: convicted of attending an Al-Qaeda camp prior to Sept. 11. There was never credible evidence that they were planning any new attack.
4) Iyman Faris: The Brooklyn Bridge blowtorch guy. Convicted for gathering intelligence within the U.S for Al Qaeda, but never considered as a participant in a credible attack plot.
5) Virginia Jihad network: A group of American Muslims who supported terror attacks against India and shot some paintball. They never plotted against the U.S.
6) Dhiren Barot: As Dick Destiny once put it, "as dumb as dirt." Arguably never a threat to anyone, including himself. At most he did some pre-Sept. 11 casing of potential U.S. targets for Al Qaeda, during a nine-month stay in New York.
7) Elshafay and Siraj: A New York subway bomb plot. Okay, give them this one, even if Elshafay was a diagnosed schizophrenic and no materials were ever purchased.
8) Aref and Hossein: Convicted of offering to launder money for another person who claimed to be selling an RPG to a fourth person, the real killer, who would use it to assassinate the Pakistani ambassador. Of course, the go-between was an undercover agent, the whole thing was a sting, and the fourth person (and the plot) never actually existed.
9) The Hayats: Convicted of attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. No credible evidence of plotting in or against the U.S. Still convicted, though.
10) Michael Reynolds: Another sting operation catch, and another possible mental illness issue. No credible evidence of any connection to any other terrorist or terror group: just another guy who told an undercover operative he wanted to bomb stuff.

Anyway, that's what six years of airline security measures and warrantless searches have netted Americans, in case you were keeping score.

Posted by BruceR at 02:04 PM

November 01, 2007

Christmas shopping help for soldiers

In my continuing series on books I'd like to read and stuff I'd like to have next year, two links:

Phil Carter's counterinsurgency reading list

A good list of useful civilian-issue gear from the Sandbox

UPDATE: Other things still on my to-get list:

DVD sets: Band of Brothers, Rome
Accessories: Garmin maps for Afghanistan!

Posted by BruceR at 05:31 PM