Iranian Nuclear Insiders Providing More Information
U.S. and other Western intelligence services have seen an increase in the amount of insider information being made available about Iran’s nuclear activities as the Middle Eastern nation’s political climate has worsened, the Washington Post reported yesterday (see GSN, April 23).
The leaks come from scientists and additional personnel who are frustrated by the Iranian government’s response to dissent that arose in the wake of the controversial presidential election of June 2009. They have provided details about Tehran’s nuclear work that the U.S. intelligence community has had to assess for inclusion in a new National Intelligence Estimate, originally expected last fall (see GSN, Oct. 16, 2009). The slowdown in the report’s preparation “has to do with the information coming in and the pace of developments,” National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said last week.
The forthcoming report was considered a “memo to holders” of a 2007 intelligence assessment asserting that Iran halted formal nuclear weapons development in 2003, said officials with knowledge of the pending document. The new estimate is expected to assert that Iran has gradually come closer to the ability to build nuclear weapons, but the report would not state that the nation intends to actually do so, said one government source. Tehran has insisted its atomic work has always been strictly peaceful.
“There is a wealth of information-sharing going on, and it reflects enormous discontent among Iranian technocrats,” said one former U.S. official familiar with recent undisclosed reports on intelligence collection in Iran. “Morale is very low” among high-level officials in Iran’s nuclear program and elsewhere, the official added.
Marines Join Chemical Attack Drill in NYC
Monday, April 26, 2010
The New York Fire Department and the U.S. Marine Corps last week conducted response exercises for a chemical attack and other simulated acts of terrorism in the city (see GSN, April 6).
Firefighters and members of the Marines’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force unit on Thursday dealt with the mock release of a dangerous chemical in the subway system, a bus explosion, a collapsing building and detonations of two improvised explosive devices, according to a Marine Corps press release.
The Marines aided the firefighters by venturing into a fake subway tunnel that was filled with smoke to identify the chemical deployed in the attack. Marines also decontaminated “victims” by spraying and scrubbing them down before sending them to fire department medical crews.
Marine Sgt. Cody Mcgrew said his reconaissance team could identify in excess of 1 million chemicals and make recommendations to first responders on what type of protective gear they should use. Emergency personnel wearing inadequate protections could be could be overcome during an incident, while their efforts could also be impeded by oversly bulky gear, he said.
Marine CBIRF commanding officer Col. John Pollock said the unit could support federal, state and local authorities in the event of an attack. The Marines attend major public events like sporting competitions and presidential visits so that they are on hand in the event of an emergency (U.S. Marine Corps release, April 23).
Antiterror Security Ring Encircles New York
Monday, April 26, 2010
New York City’s neighboring municipalities have received equipment intended to help safeguard the area against radiological “dirty bomb” attacks, Newsday reported today (see GSN, Jan. 25).
Since 2007, the federal Securing the Cities program has provided 5,000 radiation sensors and other gear to counties around New York City. Other protective measures in the area include Coast Guard countermeasures, port security equipment and monitoring of local transit routes.
“We depend on partners,” said New York City Police Department Capt. Michael Reggio, who heads the chemical, biological and nuclear services unit within the department’s counterterrorism division.
A “dirty bomb” attack would use conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material over a wide area.
“It can range from anywhere to a nuisance bomb spreading weakly radioactive stuff like uranium … at the upper end you can imagine a scenario where you are dispersing things like cesium 137,” said Federation of American Scientists expert Charles Ferguson.
“If we didn’t have radiation detectors, you could drive a dirty bomb right into New York City and you wouldn’t even see it,” said Inspector Stuart Cameron, who heads the office in charge of the Suffolk County Police Department’s radiation detection program. County officers are equipped with 400 sensor devices.
Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) expressed concern that the Obama administration has not sought federal money in fiscal 2011 for Securing the Cities. “It would have a devastating impact on the program,” he said, calling instead for annual funding for training events and purchases of detectors.
The effectiveness of such radiation detection programs remains uncertain, Ferguson and others have said, given that money for such initiatives could instead aid efforts to safeguard poorly protected nuclear materials.
Council on Foreign Relations nuclear terrorism specialist Michael Levi offered a different argument: “Some people are too quick to dismiss these efforts because they won’t stop everything. … We learn a lot by trying things, that is the value here” (Anthony Destefano, Newsday, April 26).