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New York Nuclear Bomb Scare Kept Secret For Months
One month after the September 11 terrorist onslaught on the United States, senior US officials were informed that terrorists had obtained a 10 kiloton nuclear bomb and were planning to smuggle it into New York, Time Magazine reported.
In its latest edition due out Monday, Time said the highly classified intelligence alert was circulated to only a few top US officials and was deliberately kept secret so as not to panic New Yorkers.
The intelligence report was based on information from a US agent codenamed "dragonfire," described as of "undetermined" reliability by intelligence officials, Time added.
However, the alert dovetailed with reports that nuclear devices had gone missing from the Russian arsenal during the 1990s, specifically a report from one Russian general who maintained that his forces were missing a 10-kiloton bomb, Time said.
A 10-kiloton bomb detonated in Lower Manhattan could kill some 100,000 civilians, contaminate 700,000 more with radiation and flatten everything within half-a-mile of the blast, the news weekly reported.
The intelligence alert was so secret that New York's mayor at the time Rudolph Giuliani said he was kept in the dark and top FBI officials were also out of the loop, according to Time.
An intensive investigation was launched, and when counterterrorism investigators turned up nothing, according to Time, they concluded that the information from "dragonfire" was false.
However, the alert drove home continued US vulnerability to terrorism despite increased security following September 11.
"We are as vulnerable today as we were on 9/10 or 9/12," Karen Hughes, White House adviser to President George W. Bush, was quoted as saying. "We just know more."
US Shores Up Protections Against Nuke Terror
The new radiation sensors are imbedded around some fixed points and temporarily at designated "national security special events" such as last month's Olympic Games in Utah, the Post reported.
The federal government also has placed the Delta Force, the nation's elite commando unit, on a new standby alert to seize control of nuclear materials that the sensors may detect.
The Delta Force has been assigned the mission of killing or disabling anyone with a suspected nuclear device and turning it over to the scientists to be disarmed, according to the Post.
"Clearly ... the sense of urgency has gone up," a senior government policymaker on nuclear, biological and chemical terror told the newspaper.
Said another high-ranking official: "The more you gather information, the more our concerns increased about al-Qaeda's focus on weapons of mass destruction of all kinds."
The Post reported that the White House also has ordered a crash program to build next-generation devices at the three national nuclear laboratories to address the technological limitations of current sensors.
The intelligence community believes al-Qaeda may already control a stolen Soviet-era tactical nuclear warhead or enough weapons-grade material to fashion a functioning, if less efficient, atomic bomb.
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Nuclear Terror Attack On New York Would Kill More Than 250,000: Study
Paris (AFP) - Feb 8, 2002
A terror attack on New York using a Hiroshima-sized nuclear bomb would kill more than a quarter of a million people and leave hundreds of thousands sick, according to a computer estimate published in Saturday's British Medical Journal (BMJ).
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