This is an unscientific method because each indicator is rated as one-point, which are totalled at the end, and some indicators hold more weight than others. However, this is an on-going process and as more OSINT is collected, more indicators will be added to the equation. We would appreciate your input as well. If you have comments or additional indicators to add, please contact us on the secure Bpath Mail Form.
Regardless, it provides a narrative of observations that intelligence professionals may want to peruse, especially as more indicators accumulate.
Indicators of al-Qaeda detonating a nuclear weapon inside the U.S.
There are no trends, indicators, or concrete evidence that a nuclear attack is imminent. (+) Still, al Qaeda is considered a nuclear power threat to the U.S.. How so? Their ambitions are
known. Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith has stated al-Qaeda’s objective: “to kill 4 million Americans—2 million of them children—and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands.” This mission in life could only be achieved with a nuclear weapon (-)
Al Qaeda has talked with Pakistani scientists to learn about the technology (-) and have tried to acquire nuclear material.(-) The U.S. discovered documents in Afghanistan training camps of their intentions (-). Most intelligence still places capability far behind their ambitions and intentions. (+)
After 9/11, the U.S. military and intelligence services forced al Qaeda’s leadership to go on the run. (+) Training camps were dispersed and key operational planners were killed. (+) Al Qaeda lieutenants were afraid to sleep in their homes at night for fear of drone attack. Their operational ability declined (+). However, their communications program grew more sophisticated. (-) The Jihad media program has grown by leaps and bounds; their volume and sophistication is top notch (-). Al Qaeda has grown from a half dozen Internet sites to a current 4-5,000 (-). Now, at the speed of light, they spread their jihadis message and talk much about WMD (-). Their followers all over the world have grown energized.(-) They have alluded to religious texts that give them the right to kill millions of Americans at one time…that is al Qaeda’s nuclear policy(-). Millions of Muslim (mostly) online followers have become their chorus.
Our current terror worries have raised the ante on betting against a terrorist nuclear strike. The U.S. is now in three (3) active wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, and global terrorism. Because of these involvements, according to Brian Jenkins, we have lost our focus…namely, Pakistan.(-) This country is considered the most dangerous spot on earth. They have a nuclear arsenal(-), an unstable government and divided society as a whole. Their intelligence service, the ISI, has pro-Taliban elements ensconced inside it.(-) And, because of Pakistan, it will take a minimum of 25 years to fundamentally change the governments in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, including building up the Afghan army. (-)
The Nunn-Lugar program and other initiatives have made the chances of theft of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in Russia more remote (+). However, terrorists can buy or steal nuclear material from a rogue state easier because of Iran and North Korea producing weapons-usable material.(+)
Two Armenians sold 18 grams of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to an undercover Georgian security agent. (-) They thought he was a radical Islamist jihadist. (-)
Russia has an estimated 700 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in hundreds of facilities with varying levels of security. (-)
Highly-enriched uranium (HEU) which could be used to make a nuclear bomb is on sale in the black market along the Russian border.(-) Arrests have been made three times in 7 years.
We do not know how much of Russia’s stockpile has been stolen. (-)
We do not know how much, if any, HEU has been sold to extremist groups. (-)
President Obama persuaded 50 world leaders to pledge to secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years. (+)
U.S. nuclear laboratories analyzed the uranium sold to undercover agents on the black market and it was 89.4% enriched, usable in a nuclear bomb. (-)
Arrested HEU smugglers told undercover agents that there was plenty more that could be easily obtained and sold. (-)
The HEU is easy to obtain (steal) and smuggle past expensive U.S.-funded radiation sensors along the borders of the former Soviet Union. (-)
We don’t know how much HEU is currently flowing freely through the black market. (-)
Common logic suggests that HEU, indeed, has been sold to radical Islamic groups and is probably in al Qaeda’s possession. (-)
Billions of dollars has been spent upgrading security at nuclear sites around the globe. (+)
There has been 21 seizures or attempts to steal HEU or plutonium in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. (-)
There has never been a good inventory of the Soviet stockpiles because the accounting never was devised to account for internal threats. (-) However, most of the HEU thefts have been by insiders. (-)
In the 1990’s, a large amount of HEU disappeared within Russia’s stockpiles. It is hidden and someone is trying to find buyers. (-)
To make a nuclear weapon small enough to transport anywhere, you need HEU that’s 90% enriched. The confiscated HEU on the black market was 89.4% …close enough! (-)
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds of tons of HEU sat with absurdly little security. A Russian naval officer walked through a hole in the fence at a military base, cut the padlock on a shed, and carried out several kilograms of HEU in his backpack. (-)
Smugglers usually settle for below $10,000 a gram for bomb grade HEU. Al Qaeda has enough funds for many purchases. (-)
The mere existence of a black-market price for HEU is a worrisome sign that there is a supply and a demand for it. (-)
Radiation detectors along the Georgia-Armenia border failed to detect any of the HEU smuggled through. (-)
In the first three months of Operation Enduring Freedom — the Gulf War — our troops found in a cave outside of Khandahar in Afghanistan a canister filled with Uranium 238 [the basic ingredient for a nuclear bomb] and in Turnak Farms [where at one time 1,800 members of al-Qaida lived and worked] they found jars and jars and jars of yellow cake [pure uranium, dried]. (-)
Sheik Kabbani, the president of the Supreme Islamic Council of North America, appeared before the Senate and the House and said that over 48 nukes were in the U.S. (-)
A Waziristan summit meeting in Pakistan in April 2004 was attended by planners of the next 9/11. Included was one Sharif al Masry, and Adnan el-Shukrijumah, the next Mohammad Atta, and a terrorist from Brooklyn. They all confirmed that nuclear weapons had been developed by al-Qaida with the help of scientists and technicians from the A.Q. Khan Research laboratories. (-) They said was that all of the weapons had been forward deployed to Mexico and transported over the border into the U.S. (-) (Reported in a tiny paragraph in Time magazine).
Indicator totals: (+) = 9 (-) = 37 Out of 46 indicators, 19.1% indicate that al Qaeda will not set off a nuclear weapon within the U.S., while 70.9% of the indicators suggest that al Qaeda will.
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes about the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). A portion of Ad revenues generated on this site is donated to the AFIO. His ideas are his own and do not represent those of any organization he's a member of. We will publish your ideas and comments at no charge...for the good of the order! Contact us on the secure Bpath Mail Form.