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United States Security News

Bogus Company Obtains Nuclear License 247

Posted by samzenpus
from the make-sure-to-check-id dept.
i_like_spam writes "As reported in the NY Times, undercover investigators from the Government Accountability Office set up a bogus company and received a license to purchase dirty-bomb nuclear materials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The GAO's investigation shows that the security measures put in place after 911 are not sufficient for protecting the American people." From the article: "Given that terrorists have expressed an interest in obtaining nuclear material, the Congress and the American people expect licensing programs for these materials to be secure, said Gregory D. Kutz, an investigator at the accountability office, in testimony prepared for the hearing."
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Bogus Company Obtains Nuclear License

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 12, 2007 @07:59AM (#19836301)
    Section One: Information
    Name: Fakey McNukesTheWhales
    Organization: The Organization Against Liberal Rags (TOALR)
    Use (check all that apply):
    • X Academic
    • X Business
    • _ Terrorism
    Intended goals (from above use):
    • X Making Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    • _ Energy
    • _ College Prank
    • _ Covertly refining yellow cake uranium with a heated gas filled centrifuge spinning at the speed of sound so that the isotope U235 separates from the heavier U238 therefore making the core of the dirty bomb powerful enough to strike down the heathen George W. Bush and all American citizens--PRAISE ALLAH!

    Section Two: Behavioral
    Question One: You are walking down the street and you see a box of puppies. Do you
    1. _ Take the puppies home and sell them for profit.
    2. X Hug the puppies and love them until you can find their owner.
    3. _ Curb stomp the puppies
    Question Two: You are approached by a man claiming to be from Nigeria offering you nuclear warheads with green, white & red striped flags on them. Do you
    1. X Ask the man for his name and inform the NRC of his proposition.
    2. _ Buy his warheads and forget he ever said anything about his nationality.
    3. _ Curb stomp the man
    Question Three: You enter a voting booth on election day but don't know any of the candidates. Do you
    1. _ Vote Democrat.
    2. X Vote Republican.
    3. _ You're too busy to vote.
    --
    For Internal Office Use Only:
    X Approved _ Rejected

    See, they only answered one question wrong (the correct answer for Question Two in Section Two was the third option), the system works!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:25AM (#19836467)

      Intended goals (from above use):
      * _ College Prank
      The funniest college pranks are the ones that end with "Dude! You've got cancer!"
    • by niceone (992278) *
      Hmm, I think you got the puppies answer wrong too - surely the "take them home and sell them" is what they were looking for.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:30AM (#19836505)
      See, they only answered one question wrong (the correct answer for Question Two in Section Two was the third option),



      Not quite. The correct answer for question one, section two is, of course, #1. Only liberal socialist commie hippies would pass up a chance for profit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by CaptainZapp (182233) *
      Actually those immigration forms foreigners have to fill out upon entering the US are not that far off from your questionaire.
      • by itsdapead (734413) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @09:40AM (#19837097)

        Actually those immigration forms foreigners have to fill out upon entering the US are not that far off from your questionaire.

        Actually, I used to find those "Are you an evil kitten-huffing war-criminal terrorist? yes/no (If yes, please bribe your local embassy official before travelling)" stupid until I got the point:

        Kitten huffing [uncyclopedia.org] and other unamerican practices may or may not be against federal or state law - and attempting to arrest or deport someone for it could run into trouble from pinko liberal hippy lawyers muttering obscenities like "probable cause", "jurisdiction" or "it was all done in Photoshop". However, supplying false information on an immigration form is - praise the lord - very illegal and they can arrest you like mad for that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        "Actually those immigration forms foreigners have to fill out upon entering the US are not that far off from your questionaire."

        That's only if you are foolish enough to try to come in by air or sea.

        If you just come run across our southern border....there are no questionaire or questions asked. You won't be fingerprinted, or cataloged or have a background check.

        And you won't get sent home either if you get caught.

        Frankly, I don't know why anyone bothers with coming directly into the US by land or sea if

    • by donscarletti (569232) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @11:08AM (#19838081)

      Covertly refining yellow cake uranium with a heated gas filled centrifuge spinning at the speed of sound so that the isotope U235 separates from the heavier U238 therefore making the core of the dirty bomb

      Actually, if you refined the uranium it wouldn't likely be a "dirty bomb" but would be actually the better known A-Bomb (well, after rearranging the insides a bit). The reason for the dirty bomb panic is that they use raw, unrefined fissile material, making them easier for terrorists to theoretically obtain. The problem with dirty bombs however is that the aformentioned raw, unrefined fissile material isn't overly dangerous unless in huge quantities. This is since it's too old and stable for many of the freaky-dangerous isotopes to exist since they have tiny half lives. Only the fallout from a REAL nuclear blast or some very fresh waste from a poorly designed reactor is potent enough to be dangerous in the thin spread you get from explosive dispersal. I guess enrichment, with its higher u235 count would be more effective, though U235 does not have the same zing as some of the crazy stuff you could get if you just made it reach critical mass.
      • by FunkyELF (609131) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @11:38AM (#19838541)
        Wow, did you mean to post that as an anonymous coward?
        I wouldn't be showing off my knowledge of dirty bombs (if I had such knowledge) (which I don't) (...nor will I ever) (I love America).
      • by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 12, 2007 @12:34PM (#19839293) Homepage Journal
        Sigh. Dirty bombs aren't unrefined uranium; they're refined and seperated as heavily as any other bomb. Dirty bombs are salted bombs, not bombs that were made poorly. Using the wrong uranium isotope would have a tremendous impact on the bomb's ability to blow up in the first place (or were we confused about why the uranium deposits in the ground don't blow up on their own?)

        Citing Wikipedia, the world's primary repository of half-knowledge, the apparent traditional list of salts for a bomb is this: americium-241, californium-252, caesium-137, cobalt-60, iridium-192, plutonium-238, polonium-210, radium-226 and strontium-90. I can tell you from personal knowledge that p238 is an extremely poor choice for a salt due to its half life (hundreds of thousands of years - we do want to colonize Russia after we're done nuking it back into the stone age.) It's also interesting that they misspelled cesium.

        Cobalt 60 is the canonical bomb salt (hence "cobalt bomb.")

        Next time you want to converse about nuclear physics, think real hard; if you learned it from Anne Coulter or Action Comics, chances are you'll look smarter staying quiet.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Intron (870560)
          "caesium is the spelling used by the IUPAC, although since 1993 it has recognized cesium as a variant as well" -- Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

          You have fulfilled the rule that every arrogant correction contains a glaring misteeke.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by wiredlogic (135348)
      Question One: You are walking down the street and you see a box of puppies. Do you
      1. _ Take the puppies home and sell them for profit.
      2. X Hug the puppies and love them until you can find their owner.
      3. _ Curb stomp the puppies

      Definitely a Nexus 6.
  • Law not sufficient (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schabot (941087) <s@chabot.gmail@com> on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:01AM (#19836315) Homepage

    The GAO's investigation shows that the security measures put in place after 911 are not sufficient for protecting the American people.

    When are people going to get this. The laws existing before (insert grand public hysteria event here) were sufficient. There is a difference between needing to increase the strength of the laws, thereby weakening civil liberties, and properly and thoroughly enforcing the laws which are already in place.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:21AM (#19836441)
      After reading the article I can tell you that the GAO guys are blowing this way out of proportion. The amount of Americium and Cesium that would be obtained in one of the moisture density devices is so small that you would need THOUSANDS, maybe hundreds of thousands of them to make any kind of 'dirty bomb'. The amount of Americium in one analyzer is about the size of a pin head, barely visible to the human eye. This is the same Americium that is in normal smoke detectors all around the country, in every home in every state. Millions of people have them, maybe we should all panic that terrorists will invade our homes and make dirty bombs out of our smoke detectors??

      The reality of it is that I can take Americium and hold it in my hands. It's an alpha emission radioactive isotope, meaning the first layer of dead skin on my hands would be enough to block the radioactivity.

      This is a scare article, designed to make the Bush administration look incompetent.

      They forgot to mention that actually making the bomb EXPLODE would involve an entire process that would probably have sent off flags from other governmental agencies. They don't mention it because they were never going to build a bomb, and besides it looks 'scary' that the Nuclear Regulatory Committee allowed the license to potential terrorists rather than the Department of Agriculture allowing the purchase of a ton of fertilizer.

      Why don't they publish an article on how you are being RADIATED every time you fly in an airplane? Or how about every time you go to the airport, you get NUKED by the metal detector!! Oh my we should ban all RADIATION it's going to be made into DIRTY BOMBS by terrorists and the Bush/Republicans/White Male Americans who are complicit since they caused 9/11!!!!!!eleven1!12!

      Please...
      • by networkBoy (774728) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @09:34AM (#19837025) Homepage Journal
        metal detectors don't nuke you.

        as to the americium, did you hear of the boy scout that made a working breeder reactor largly from old smoke detectors and coleman lantern mantles?
        http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/radscout.html [dangerousl...tories.org]
        -nB
      • by fbjon (692006)

        This is a scare article... Why don't they publish an article on how you are being RADIATED every time you fly in an airplane? Or how about every time you go to the airport, you get NUKED by the metal detector!! Oh my we should ban all RADIATION it's going to be made into DIRTY BOMBS by terrorists and the Bush/Republicans/White Male Americans who are complicit since they caused 9/11!!!!!!eleven1!12!

        Indeed. I hereby propose renaming 9/11 to 9/!!. It makes much more sense like that.

      • by db32 (862117)
        Just to play devils advocate.... I present to you...
        The Radioactive Boyscout [dangerousl...tories.org] I have never been sure if I should be impressed by this kids intelligence and ingenuity or a little nervous about the possibilities.
      • by Politburo (640618)
        This is a scare article, designed to make the Bush administration look incompetent.

        No, the article demonstrates an example of administration incompetence. There is a law on the books. It may not be a good law, but it's there. The administration's duty is to execute the laws, and the article outlines a failure of that duty. Does it rise to the level of their other failures? Not really.

        I would agree that anyone playing this up as a real security hole is using scare tactics.
      • by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypherNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 12, 2007 @12:56PM (#19839527) Homepage Journal

        The amount of Americium and Cesium that would be obtained in one of the moisture density devices is so small that you would need THOUSANDS, maybe hundreds of thousands of them to make any kind of 'dirty bomb'.

        This would only be true under the relatively unlikely situation that the terrorists were trying to make the bomb entirely out of the salting material, which they aren't. The salt doesn't need to be in much presence; nuclear explosions do a pretty good job of vaporizing and dispersing elements.

        The amount of Americium in one analyzer is about the size of a pin head, barely visible to the human eye.

        And way, way more than enough to salt a bomb. By the way, maybe you should try reading the article: "But he said the danger associated with the amount of radioactive material the auditors were trying to buy should not be overstated." In fact, the people demonstrating the flaw in control are just as aware that the test they made isn't a nuclear threat as you, some random SlashDot goon, are. That's not actually the point. That said, if you'd bother to check your math, the amount of Americum required is about three quarters of the volume of alpha emitter that was released in the Goiania accident, and the Goiania accident was just two guys carrying around one tiny container of dust. Turns out that a nuclear weapon does a better job of dispersing material than do two excited dudes who don't know why it's bad that their stuff glows in the dark.

        By the by, that accident contaminated 250 people, and that's in a weird little rural village with a population of less than nothing. If you just move that to two dudes walking around New York City with an object like that, you're looking at probably several thousand deaths. If you took that capsule and put it on top of a relatively high roof (say, an apartment building or a hotel,) then set up a simple oscillating desktop fan, you're looking at more deaths than any terrorist attack in US history (maybe in global history, not really sure.)

        That amount of alpha emitters nice and charged/distributed by a thermonuclear explosion? Yeah, you're just wrong about thinking that's not terrifying.

        The point is that the NRC is supposed to investigate everyone. Nobody should have been able to get anything, no matter how innocuous. The purpose of the exercise wasn't to attempt to acquire a dangerous level of material, but simply to show that virtually no effort was required to circumvent these regulations. Amusingly, the reason this worked is almost certainly because there was someone like you at the helm, making nasty comments about how harmless the materials are, and deciding to save themselves some time and just pass the damn thing.

        The reality of it is that I can take Americium and hold it in my hands.

        Yep. Cobalt too. That really doesn't have much to do with the danger involved. Many extremely dangerous things can be held in your hands, including C4 and U238. I'd ask what your point was, but I think you were just trying to pretend that fissile alpha emitters aren't dangerous because one of the situations that doesn't poison you to death is being in contact with the material.

        Or did you think the bomb salts were about something other than chemical toxicity?

        But he said the danger associated with the amount of radioactive material the auditors were trying to buy should not be overstated.

        Well, if they took the time to powder the Americum first, they could just use a traditional chemical explosive to distribute it. Timothy McVeigh managed. Turns out that normal bombs aren't that hard to make. Sure, that wouldn't matter much with Americum, but Americum has the exact same okay process as the other materials the NRC stores, including thorium and polonium. Get those as powders in a traditional bomb, and you've got a several mile cloud of you're-dead-in-three-days.

        It turns out that the peo

    • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:22AM (#19836449)
      Somewhat true. I actually think that existing laws may have been TOO cumbersome for effective law enforcement, ie the lack of ability for communication between the CIA and domestic law enforcement. The problem with DHS is that it tries to do the job that COULD be done with effective communication between the FBI, CIA, NSA, and military.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr2cents (323101)
      And the dirty bomb scenario is a complete 100% propaganda fabrication. There is no way to disperse enough nuclear material to make it effective. It could happen, but it won't kill anyone from the radiation. It's pure neocon FUD.
      • you don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by circletimessquare (444983) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [erauqssemitelcric]> on Thursday July 12, 2007 @09:09AM (#19836797) Homepage Journal
        fear isn't a neocon invention. setting off a dirty bomb doesn't have to kill a lot of people. in fact, if a dirty bomb killed one person, it would be more terrifying than a regular bomb that killed 1,000 people. a regular bomb: the dead people are gone. it's over. history. you can grive and put it behind you. but a dirty bomb causes a permanent nagging psychological degradation for decades, a permanent worry about nonquantifiable health effects. in other words, it terrorizes more effectively. set one off in midtown manhattan, and you would have reporters walking around with geiger counters talking about the half life of strontium 90 (30 years)

        6 years after 9/11 we still have front page news stories about the air quality degradation of downtown manhattan in the weeks after 9/11. then epa chief whitman testifying last month [app.com], michale moore taking 9/11 rescue workers to cuba [app.com]. a son of one of the workers who died from that went to the state of the union address [wikipedia.org] ...in january 2007. this is 5.5 years later

        catch my drift yet?

        the people killed on 9/11 are dead and buried. almost 3,000 of them. even the dust from the event is all washed away. and yet the air quality issue lives on, and continues to involve us 6 years later. how many died from the dust? definitely or not? a dozen? a dirty bomb wouldn't have to kill a single person. at the moment of the explosion or ever from the radioactivity

        it's all psychological, which is the whole point of terrorism in the first place

        now imagine the ongoing media and societal handwringing that would go on with radioactive contamination. no matter how minimal. even if no one died. this is called terrorism. this is called fear. to paraphrase stalin ("a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic"): the endless fretting over a nebulous, low grade continuous degradation to your health, for years, is a more effective terrorist tool than outright killing thousands of people in one sudden event that is then permanently over. radioactive contaimination is not uddenly over. even if the contamination is tiny and insignificant scientifically, you are not thinking about human psychology and how fear works

        furthermore, i would like to add that if you are a liberal, and you downplay the effects of terrorism and hype the effects of government abuses, you fail. and if you are a conservative, and you downplay the effects of government abuses, and hype the effects of terrorism, you fail

        the only intellectual and morally honest position is to worry about BOTH terrorism and government abuses. to downplay one or the other is intellectually dishonest, and means you are just another lousy biased partisan. terrorism is real and dangerous. government abuses are real and dangerous. anyone who sits there and tries to argue against simple human fear of either government abuses or terrorism has instantly achieved a state of losing the argument and missing the point

      • by darkwhite (139802)
        Do you mean this smoke detector scenario, or the "classic" nuclear/RTG waste dirty bomb scenario in general? I'm very sure that a real dirty bomb made with real spent fuel can be very effective, not in immediate deaths of course, but from making a big chunk of a city uninhabitable due to continued exposure. And the Soviet Union made, spent, stored, and exported so much nuclear fuel in so many places that it will never be possible to track and secure all of it.
    • The laws existing before (insert grand public hysteria event here) were sufficient.

      Were they?

      If it's harder now to obtain a bogus nuclear license, then the pre-existing laws were insufficient, but the new laws are also insufficient.

      If it's the same difficulty, then the pre-existing laws were still insufficient.

      If it's easier now, there's something seriously wrong.

    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      When are people going to get this. The laws existing before (insert grand public hysteria event here) were sufficient. There is a difference between needing to increase the strength of the laws, thereby weakening civil liberties, and properly and thoroughly enforcing the laws which are already in place.

      The ultimate solution: government agencies should bomb people threatened to be bombed by terrorists in advance, to not allow terrorists blow them up first. Hahah! Take that, terrorists!

      I just couldn't underst
  • by Bootle (816136)
    I'm curious where these GAO guys have been for the past SEVEN YEARS
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by toleraen (831634)
      Check the news much? They've been there, all over the place [google.com] actually. They're there as advisers and auditors, not to police everything the USG does. Even the Comptroller General was on the Colbert Report not too long ago.
  • Obvious solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Werrismys (764601) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:04AM (#19836333)
    Just bomb and invade the nucler regulatory commission and proclaim problem solved, once and for all. Once and for all!
  • by eneville (745111) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:07AM (#19836369) Homepage
    "Oh no, someone has set us up the bomb!"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tttonyyy (726776)

      "Oh no, someone has set us up the bomb!"
      That's too obvious - you should've tried the lolcat [wikipedia.org] approach:

      "Im in ur Nuclear Regulatory Commission discrediting ur security measures"

      Now that's one hell of a cat.
  • Dirty Bomb? (Score:4, Informative)

    by fatphil (181876) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:10AM (#19836383) Homepage
    Does anyone actually still believe that myth?

    It's just another piece of government propaganda to keep the population scared.

    One of the reading rooms of the university library (previously a chemistry lab) was way more dangerous - both mercury and asbestos. I bet near any highway in the average metropolis there's way more carcinogenic shit in the air than from any mythical 'dirty bomb'.
    • by otacon (445694) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:14AM (#19836405)
      Apparently someone doesn't watch 24, there are atleast 2 to 10 terrorist attack attempts every hour, and we are always only seconds away from stopping them. Yes, some of them are dirty bombs. Maybe someone should educate themselves before posting...
      • by mikael (484)
        I am guessing you mean 24 as in the Los Angeles CTU fictional series, rather than BBC News 24?

        • by faloi (738831)
          Given the content of a lot of news broadcasts, I'm not sure the conclusions one would draw from either are all that different.
        • >I am guessing you mean 24 as in the Los Angeles CTU fictional series, rather than BBC News 24?
          One is made by Fox, one isn't. That ought to be a bit of a pointer.
    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      I bet near any highway in the average metropolis there's way more carcinogenic shit in the air than from any mythical 'dirty bomb'.

      ... and just think about all the above-ground nuclear tests in the last 60-odd years.

    • by niceone (992278) *
      It's just another piece of government propaganda to keep the population scared.

      I don't think so. AFAIR most likely dirty bombs would be pretty harmless, but that's not the point - People are scared of radiation (they don't need government help with that), which is what makes even a 'harmless' dirty bomb effective in terms of the panic it would cause. Not to mention the economic cost of evacuating the area and the clearing up every little scrap of radiation.
      • You understand the dirty bomb principle. Just those Gieger counters reading radiation at the scene would cause immense panic - one of the main aims of many terrorist actions is just to cause disruption through fear and panic.
        • by DavidShor (928926)
          I don't buy that, how exactly does exploding a dirty bomb further Al-Qaeda's goals? An radiological attack on a major urban area would kill many Muslims, alienate their "base", and drive the nations of the world fearful of a repeat to desperate measures.

          Remember, there goal is not to cause fear and panic in the American people, it's to further their rather narrow political aims(Get America to cease control of the Suez Canal, impose Sharia-ish law in most of the middle east, create a independent Palestinia

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
            Wired ran an article about that just today...Briefly, Terrorism is ineffective at accomplishing most goals (though it works well at getting people the hell out of your country) because, as people, we associate terrorist attacks with attacks on ourselves, not with big abstract policy goals.

            Al-Qaeda blowing up a building doesn't change the US policy toward the Jewish state; all it does is provoke a counter attack, and the sense that someone out there wants to kill us for no reason.
    • The funny thing with radiative material is that your skin is a rather good protection agaisnt radiation, but ingesting or breating only micrograms of some radioactive material can kill you in a few weeks. Therefore, a dirty bomb, which is way to spray radioactive material in the largest possible volume of air can be quite dangerous, even hours after the detonation. And all you need is some radioactive (not even fissile) material and a tool to disperse it (regular explosive works fine, but it could also be a
    • You aren't just whistling "Dixie" on this one. Here's a link [portlandtribune.org] about this exact concern here in Portland, supposedly one of the "greener" cities out there.
  • by niceone (992278) * on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:10AM (#19836385) Journal
    received a license to purchase dirty-bomb nuclear materials

    I'd kind of expect that just filling in the "Dirty-bomb materials licence form" would lead to instant arrest.
  • by crayz (1056) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:10AM (#19836387) Homepage
    We need more blanket wiretaps, data mining, and american citizens and legal residents 'disappeared' into military prisons. We've clearly exhausted every imaginable constitutional & non-invasive security measure
  • Terrorism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:13AM (#19836403)

    I don't think this administration is worried about terrorism at all. Terrorism is just a useful justification for what they do, and keeping the people scared.

    The thing that really convinced me of this was how they handled the Iraq war. Leaving aside for a moment that bombing the crap out of people is probably a pretty good way to make new terrorists, they did the following:

    1) Failed to secure nuclear facilities in Iraq. (They did however make a big effort to secure the oil wells).
    2) Distributed in Iraq, without care or record, twelve billions dollars of Iraqs money in cash.

    Are those the actions of an administration that is worried about terrorism? To me, they are the actions of an administration that wants to create them...
    • 1) Failed to secure nuclear facilities in Iraq.

      The what?
    • by faloi (738831)
      We haven't had an administration that wasn't bent on keeping the population afraid of something in decades. When I was growing up, we were still afraid of the Soviets and a nuclear war. In my teenage years, we were afraid of terrorists (first WTC), right wing militia-types, and we can never forget the constant undercurrent of fear of drug related gang violence and the like. Oh, and SARS, bird flu, swine flu, drug resistant TB... Throw in the occasional blowing up of aspirin factories just to make sure o
    • 1) Failed to secure nuclear facilities in Iraq. (They did however make a big effort to secure the oil wells).

      The whole problem with the justification for invading Iraq was that there WERE NO NUCLEAR FACILITIES IN IRAQ!

      2) Distributed in Iraq, without care or record, twelve billions dollars of Iraqs money in cash.

      How else would you distribute the money? Iraq doesn't exactly have a banking system or an ATM network.

      I dislike the Bush administration as much as the next guy. But that's no reason to manufacture
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:14AM (#19836409)
    Investigations into the dirty bomb theory have concluded that there was likely to be little damage or loss of life from a dirty bomb other than that caused by the explosion itself and that the effects of the radioactive material would be highly localised and negligible if the area is cleaned quickly. Of course as soon as the T word gets used in conjunction with dirty bombs they are one step away from Armageddon.
  • Have you RTFAed? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mi (197448) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:16AM (#19836421) Homepage

    Slashdot editor has not:

    The bomb the investigators could have built would not have caused widespread damage or even high-level contamination. But it still could have had serious consequences, particularly economic ones, in any city where it was set off.

    We always complain about government making lives (and business) harder for no reason. Well, getting "interviewed" by the commission, or having to submit pictures of the office and the list of employees to obtain such insignificant quantity of radioactive material could well be argued to be unduly burdensome.

    Note, that the "serious consequences" are acknowledged by the article to be largely "economic" ones. Well, having to verify every such application would, likely, have much more of an economic impact. The article laments, that the bogus receiver of the license "had no offices, Internet site or employees. Its only asset was a postal box." So? Do we really want "having an office" to become a requirement for anything?..

    • by AndersOSU (873247)
      No we don't want having an office to be a requirement for everything, but having a location licenced to use nuclear materials isn't unduly burdensome for ordering nuclear materials.

      I'm not one to freak out at the mention of the N-word (no not that one, the one they rhymes with heckler) but there is a pretty good reason for the NIOSH (I think that's the regulatory agency anyway) standards for handling nuclear material. I think it stands to reason that if you don't have a facility licensed to use, store,
  • by Jaaay (1124197)
    that most terrorists of the blow ourselves up kind are too stupid to ever do this in the first place. When you look at a lot of the recent bombings or attempted bombings in London the terrorists had all the advantages and were still too retarded to kill a lot of people as you'd expect they could if they had brains since they have the advantage of surprise and crowded civilians.
    • terrorists had all the advantages and were still too retarded to kill a lot of people as you'd expect they could if they had brains

      Their experience as doctors is that people are forever hurting themselves in bizarre ways. Blowing themselves up in Barbecue accidents with propane bottles, etc. It should be so easy to help the process along a little bit and kill hundreds of people.

      Of course, it really isn't that easy to kill people. Not their fault they didn't know that. Lets be thankful they weren't engineers like the Malaysian terrorists who did the Bali bombings.

    • The good news is indeed that suicide bombers can't share their experience, the bad news is that the people who recruit weak or desperate persons and train them to become suicide bomber do. And having their boys miserably fail but still make the main news on every western country TV or newspaper for over a week is still a victory for them.
    • by CmdrGravy (645153)
      If recent events in Glasgow are anything to go by the civilians might be the terrorists biggest problem.

      John Smeaton ( national hero ) has this message for any terrorists he or his countrymen come across

      "This is Glasgow we'll just set about you"

      Personally John himself has, famously, tackled one of the terrorists himself, this is what he says about it

      "Me and other folk were just tryin ta get the boot in and some other guy banjoed him !"

      • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @09:37AM (#19837063) Homepage
        Additionally, the following highlights the difference between American and Glasweigan responses to terrorism.

        America:"Oh my God! there was a man on fire, he was running about, i just
        ran for my life..i thought i was gonna die,he got so close to me"
        Glasgow: "C*nt wis running aboot on fire,so a ran up 'n gave him a good
        boot,then decked him"

        America:"I just wanna get home,away from here..i just wanna get home,i
        thought i was gonna die"
        Glasgow:"here shug, am no leaving here till am oan a f*ckin' plane!"

        America:"there was pandemonium,people were running in all directions, we
        didn't know what was happening, I thought i was gonna die"
        Glasgow:"F*ck this fir a kerry oan,moan we ll get a pint in"

        America:"We thought he was gonna blow us all up he had a gas canister,and
        was trying to get into his trunk,i thought we were gonna die,i just ran for
        my life" Glasgow:"a swaggered by the motor that wis on fire,and the dafty
        couldnae even open his boot,he wis in fire annaw so a ran up n gave him a
        good boot to the baws"

        America:there was this huge explosion,it sounded like war,i thought i was
        gonna die"
        Glasgow:"There wis a bang,yi know when yi throw B.O basher intae a fire it
        wis like that"

        America:"i'm too traumatised even to speak,i thought i was gonna die"
        Glasgow "here mate,gies 2 minutes till a phone ma auld dear,if am gonna be
        oan the telly a want her tae tape it"
  • Is that all? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:18AM (#19836433) Homepage Journal

    TFA:

    The machines include americium-241 and cesium-137

    I had access to cesium-137 at college. There wasn't any real security about it. You could probably rip it off it you wanted to. I personally have a cache of americium-241 on a shelf in my garage. Thats where I put old, non-functional smoke detectors. I don't actually know where I can go to get rid of them and I am not stupid enough to put them in the bin so they stay in the garage.

    You can't make a nuclear bomb out of these materials. You can certainly make a dirty bomb which will spread the stuff around, but I don't know how bad that is really going to be. It might release radioactivity embarrassingly close to background with any decent coverage.

    • by scsirob (246572)
      I'm sure you will be told what to do with them as soon as the authorities find out that your stash of old smoke detectors in your garage weighs 20 metric tonnes by now..
    • by Deadstick (535032)
      Thats where I put old, non-functional smoke detectors. I don't actually know where I can go to get rid of them and I am not stupid enough to put them in the bin so they stay in the garage.

      Manufacturers are required by law to accept them for disposal...likewise antistatic dust brushes that have a polonium-210 strip. Check the instructions.

      rj

  • by Eudial (590661)
    From my understanding, these so called dirty bombs are really more psychological warfare than anything else. They're not actually all that effective. This can be seen by studying the effects Chernobyl's fallout had on those who came in it's path (very little).
  • This is dumb in so many ways. They could have bought 5000 smoke detectors too! What retards. GAO is a joke.
  • doesn't matter if they plug this particular loophole. there a few others: radioactive waste and medical equipment. doesn't have to be from this country, ship it in in a lead lined cargo container. oh, we inspect all of those, right?

    take a white van, pack it with TNT and strontium-90 [epa.gov] from radiotherapy equipment [cancerhelp.org.uk] or nuclear waste/ nuclear plant parts [epa.gov] and set it off in times square. doesn't have to cause a lot of damage. the real "bomb" is the psychological and economic bomb: no one will want to go to midtown manhattan anymore

    after the explosion which would kill a half dozen people and shatter some windows (nothing, right?), you'd have reporters walking around with geiger counters, and talking about the half-life of strontium-90 [wikipedia.org] (28 years). 5.5 years after 9/11, we are still talking about the air quality issue [google.com] of the particles of concrete and steel and diesel fuel and aluminum and asbestos. that's all washed away by now. but radioactive contamination doesn't work that way. it sticks around for decades

    in other words, you can kill a bunch of people. ok, they are gone, done for. case closed. people grieve, people move on. psychologically, it's cut and dry. but you can do another kind of bomb, something more sinister and insidious: you can damage a society more by introducing a permanent nagging environmental degradation in the form of low level radiation. this is far more damaging economically and psychologically. it's scandalous, it's a permanent nag in your head, not something you get over. and that's the whole point of terrorism: the instilling of terror. terrorists can't kill us all, but they can influence our thinking. to paraphrase stalin ("a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic"): the endless fretting over a nonquantifiable and continuous degradation to your health for years is perhaps more terrorizing than outright killing someone

    that's why a dirty bomb is so nasty a concept, and why we should worry about it
    • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:48AM (#19836631)
      *snip* the real "bomb" is the psychological and economic bomb *snip*

      QFT. The insane long lines, the stupid restrictions, etc. involved with air travel these days simply indicate that the terrorists have won. They no longer need to actually attack to distrup the lives of hundreds of thousands, the mere mention of the possibility of an attack or even a new attack vector is enough...
      • what can you do about it?

        until the world is satisfied that the threat from militant islamic fundamentalists is history, this is all you will see in contemporary life. for decades. because militant islamic fundamentalism isn't going away any time soon, no matter what the usa, or israel, or the eu, or any government anywhere does

        and can it be any other way? i'm not asking you if it SHOULD be any other way, but i'm asking you if it WILL be any other way considering simple human psychology

        yes, your chance of be
      • They no longer need to actually attack to distrup the lives of hundreds of thousands, the mere mention of the possibility of an attack or even a new attack vector is enough...

        True enough. That doesn't mean we should wash our hands of the issue however. Sure, these terrorists have won battles in the past, and no doubt to continue to do so in the future. But this doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to be on the overall winning side of his war and struggle against dark and sadistic ideologies.

        Some would simply li
  • by palemantle (1007299) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:39AM (#19836557)
    The undercover operation involved an application from a fake construction company
    the investigators, using commercially available equipment, were able to modify it easily
    With that forged document, the auditors approached two industrial equipment companies to arrange to buy dozens of portable moisture density gauges

    If some terrorists were really keen on getting their hands on some americium-241 and cesium-137, I reckon they might just choose to try and ... steal the stuff instead. Possibly easier and "safer" too.
    • by Runefox (905204)
      But if that's the case, then America would be on guard. If the attack came from nowhere and had those materials included in whatever manner (Dirty Bomb(TM)), there would first off be the element of surprise, followed by hysteria, followed by an inquiry into where the materials came from, followed by more hysteria, followed by sweeping reforms and loss of liberties.

      At least, that's how it all happened with 9/11. Surprise strike, hysteria, inquiry, hysteria, "reforms", decay of civil liberties.
  • Nooooo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by toQDuj (806112) on Thursday July 12, 2007 @08:40AM (#19836563) Homepage Journal
    >not sufficient for protecting the American people.

    Nooooo! Poor widdle Americans! Awwww. *Hugs Americans*

    B.
  • The amount of radioactive material in a moisture density sensor is negligible, and the price is quite high. You'd get more radioactive material per dollar by going around and stockpiling smoke detectors or camping lantern mantles. And, assuming the "terrorists" are arabs, we've HANDED them the material for making a dirty bomb - the easiest way to get material would be to mine a battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq for depleted uranium shells. Or, they could steal a counterweight from an oil drill or a jet. Th
  • bribes what is to stop people who have the cash to pay some one off.
  • I may have posted about this before. Years ago I took over the "chemistry section" in an industrial R&D Department. It turned out the person in charge wasn't actually a chemist - but he was a tinkerer. In a locked cupboard I found, inter alia, about a kilogram of thorium oxide and some other even more interesting stuff that I won't specify. Before the mid 80s you could just buy it from chemical suppliers with almost no control. He went off to pursue an alternative career, and the substances went off in
    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      There must have been lots of other idiots like him, and there must be lots of other unrecorded samples lying around in warehouses and sheds.

      Why was he an "idiot"? He was obviously still alive when you took over, so he didn't end up blowing himself up or poisoning himself.

      BTW- Thorium oxide is actually quite boring, and you can buy it commercially since it's used for the flame mantles of gas lanterns.

      Personally, I resent Nannie State telling me what good little boys can buy and what they can't...

      -b.

  • So where is the GAO going to set off their dirty bomb?

    (It's a joke.)

    (...or is it?!?!)
  • Really, you can buy more deadly stuff than this in your local gun shop.
  • NRC has a big job keeping track of radiation sources and do a good job overall IMHO, but their feet still need to be held to the fire. See http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/even t-status/event/2007/20070302en.html [nrc.gov] for the nuclear errors reported in the US for one day this year. There are LOTS of licensed radiation sources out there, and many of them get lost/damaged/misused. Every day.
  • Or is the GAO the only part of the government that seems to be on the ball and manages to stay non-partisan? Is there some way we can replicate them to other branches?

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