Conspiracy Theories

U.S. Nuke Secrets for Sale? And What Was the Deal With that B-52 Stratofortress Again?

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Interesting (and quite alarming, if true) piece from the London Sunday Times that has gotten very little U.S. play, about accusations by a former FBI translator. The basic deal:

[Sibel Edmonds] approached The Sunday Times last month after reading about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.

Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.

Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.

……………
She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents.

"If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials," she said.

Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.

Dave Lindorff at CounterPunch does a spinoff of the Sunday Times piece and ties it into one of those "oh yeah, what was that all about?" moment that provide so much fun fodder for conspiracy theorizing:

If Edmonds' story is correct, and Al-Qaeda, with the aid of Turkish government agents and Pakistani intelligence, with the help of US government officials, has been attempting to obtain nuclear materials and nuclear information from the U.S., it casts an even darker shadow over the mysterious and still unexplained incident last August 30, when a B-52 Stratofortress, based at the Minot strategic air base in Minot, ND, against all rules and regulations of 40 years' standing, loaded and flew off with six unrecorded and unaccounted for nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.

That incident only came to public attention because three as yet unidentified Air Force whistleblowers contacted a reporter at the Military Times newspaper, which ran a series of stories about it, some of which were picked up by other US news organizations.

An Air Force investigation into that incident, ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, claimed improbably that the whole thing had been an "accident," but many veterans of the US Air Force and Navy with experience in handling nuclear weapons say that such an explanation is impossible, and argue that there had to have been a chain or orders from above the level of the base commander for such a flight to have occurred.

Incredibly, almost five months after that bizarre incident (which included several as yet unexplained deaths of B-52 pilots and base personnel occurring in the weeks shortly before and after the flight), in which six 150-kiloton warheads went missing for 36 hours, there has been no Congressional investigation and no FBI investigation into what happened.

Accidents can happen.

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  1. I was waiting for this one to break out here. Very interesting story with links to all sorts of bad and scary people. This is the kind of investigative journalism that we need more of. Will it make it to Katie Couric, et al?

  2. What is the connection to the B52 story? Is the allegation that they were trying to order a B52 and nukes to go to Pakistan? I don’t get it.

  3. From the Sunday Times:The senior official in the State Department no longer works there. Last week he denied all of Edmonds’s allegations: “If you are calling me to say somebody said that I took money, that’s outrageous . . . I do not have anything to say about such stupid ridiculous things as this.”

    Sooooooo, yes, you did?

  4. That the US has helped Pakistan’s nuclear program is something of an open secret. That it is ongoing would be news.

    Remember that back in the bad-old-days, Pakistan was our buddy against India which appeared to be aligning itself with the Soviets. Of course, in hindsight it seems that India was only interested in heavily discounted military equipment, but the cold warriors were worried that they’d catch teh commie, so we had to side with their regional rival. This silly game seems to have included both sides covertly sharing nuclear secrets with their proteges.

  5. Color me VERY skeptical. One should never assume conspiracy when plain old stupidity will suffice to explain an event. Prove I’m wrong, I’m listening. I smell 9/11 truther credibility.

  6. Did anyone think to knock on the recovered missiles and see if they were now hollow?

  7. Mr. Doherty, are you trying to use this thread as a roach motel for the tin-foil hat wearers that seem to have swarmed the website in the last day and a half?

    Snark aside, I find it very difficult to believe that multiple Pentagon officials were on the take, delivering nuclear secrets to foreign powers. Moreover, I’m not sure what the “network of moles” has to do with the cruise missile Bent Spear incident. Unless they’re insinuating that theft or malfeasance was involved?

    Personally, I am baffled that a half dozen warheads were loaded into the missiles in the first place, never mind the missiles leaving the magazine and getting attached to a bomber. Is it normal to load a half-dozen warheads at once?

    Lastly, I can make an argument for divulging nuclear secrets to Pakistan. If Pakistan’s acquiring nuclear weapons is inevitable, then perhaps conveying to them some of our secrets in device design is a good idea. Particularly if the secrets help improve the safety and handling of the device and help prohibit unauthorized arming of the weapon. I can see not telling everyone in the world how a nuclear weapon is made, but if you figure they already have one, why not help them make it so an outsider can’t set it off, or that it won’t go off accidentally? I recall reading that the US shared PAL technology with the Soviets in the 70s for those same reasons.

  8. I’ve got me a cruise missle/it’s as big as a whale
    And we’re going to set sail…

    The truth is out there, Sculley.

  9. J sub D

    Amen.

    Wear your tin foil hat.

  10. It is also something of an open secret in DC that the FBI has become a miserably hidebound organization. They don’t have the organizational flexibility to conduct an investigation of this sort and they are far too politically-sensitive to investigate senior DoD officials.

  11. But, but, the Ron Paul newsletters. That’s what’s really important.

  12. What J sub D said.

    The chain of events that led to the B-52 incident is similar to those that led to a 4 year old being left a Chuck-E-Cheese over the weekend.

  13. Speaking of libertarians pandering to conspiracy theorists…

  14. “…but the cold warriors were worried that they’d catch teh commie…”

    Maybe not a thread winner, but I sure shot coca cola out of my nose on that one.

  15. Nuuuuke if you want to,
    Nuke around the world,
    Nuuuke if you want to-oo,
    With B-52s and cruise missiles,

  16. We were at the base
    Everybody had cruise missiles
    Somebody went under a wing
    And there they saw a nuke
    It wasn’t a nuke
    It was a nuke lobster

  17. …I sure shot coca cola out of my nose….

    SCORE! Thanks.

  18. Also, what Gray Ghost said.

    It is trivially obvious that foreign governments and other organizations (both adversary and allied) continue make aggressive efforts to penetrate various elements of the US military and diplomatic arms. This is indoctrinated in everyone that has a security clearance. Furthermore, this has been going on since Benedict Arnold.

    However, the extent of the penetration is both unknown and unknowable, but I’m pretty sure that based on all the big cases (e.g. Ames, Hanson) that it always ferreted out over the long run.

    Furthermore, accusations of widespread systematic treason has generally been used as a political cudgel, rather than a call for serious reform.

  19. It is all fun and games now, but if a nuke does go off in an American city or seaport, how much time will pass before you decide who you are going to blame? You already know who you are going to blame, don’t you? Yes you do. Admit that nuke hasn’t even gone off yet and you know who you will blame. ‘es ‘ou do. ‘essss ‘ouuuu do!

    Maybe there will even be some tasty vid popping up on the networks the day after of fearless Iranians speedboating around the very harbor that was blown up.

    And, last, but most importantly, the nuclear tragedy will bring home the great necessity of voting for John McCain for US President in the election the next month. Certainly not that Muslim fellow running against him!

  20. This reads like a Dead Kennedies song, which probably means it’s nonsense, but fun to scare yourself with.

  21. Sending them to foreign countries? Hey you wouldn’t want the proof to be a mushroom cloud?

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  22. if a nuke does go off in an American city or seaport

    ..you can kiss your habeus corpus goodbye.

  23. “””The chain of events that led to the B-52 incident is similar to those that led to a 4 year old being left a Chuck-E-Cheese over the weekend.””””

    And what were those events that lead to the B-52 incident?

  24. I had never thought about it, and it sounds like a paradox, but it isn’t on reflection: To counter the “loose nuclear materials” risk, it actually makes sense to give any and all help available to any even semi-responsible maker of nuclear arms. Back in the 60’s or 70’s they did a project where they demonstrated that given a reasonable amount of material to work with, a few reasonably talented grad students actually have no problem designing a viable warhead. Given that, if you give a nuke state the technology to make a very advanced weapon, you reduce the amount of fissile material necessary to make each weapon function. An optimized implosion design uses a bunch of sophisticated engineering to reduce the mass required well below a critical mass. Therefore, if someone gets ahold of just one, they’ll never get it to work, and the more advanced it is, the less likely that they’ll be able to make a new bomb with the materials they recover.
    It really only makes sense to fight proliferation at the “materials” level like they do now.

  25. “””One should never assume conspiracy when plain old stupidity will suffice to explain an event.”””

    The protocols to get a nuke out of it’s mag is pretty stupid proof. Plain old stupidity would not suffice, it would take a special brand, by multiple people, some of which hold high rank.

  26. “””if a nuke does go off in an American city or seaport

    ..you can kiss your habeus corpus goodbye.”””

    The conspiracy people would call that motive.

  27. The conspiracy people would call that motive.

    “At a stop on Senator John McCain’s “Straight Talk” tour, the 2008 presidential candidate decided to respond to a question with some bars of a song, but it is unlikely that Arizona’s Republican senator will be reaching the final rounds of Fox’s “American Idol.”

    Speaking at Murrells Inlet VFW Hall in South Carolina, McCain was asked when he thought the US Military might “send an air mail message to Tehran.”

    “McCain began his answer by changing the words to a popular Beach Boys song,” the Georgetown Times reports.

    “‘Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,’ he sang to the tune of Barbara Ann,” the paper notes.

    McCain then added, “Iran is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. That alone should concern us but now they are trying for nuclear capabilities. I totally support the President when he says we will not allow Iran to destroy Israel.”

    The paper notes that McCain stopped short of answering the actual question and did not say if he supports an invasion of Iran.”

    Later, McCain campaign spokesman Kevin McLaughlin told ABC News that the senator “was just trying to add a little humor to the event.””

  28. Color me VERY skeptical.

    Me too, J sub D, about both stories, but particularly the B-52 story. One thing in particular that set off my skeptical alarm bells was how Lindorff tries to add to the sinister tone of the story with a throw-away parenthetical:

    (which included several as yet unexplained deaths of B-52 pilots and base personnel occurring in the weeks shortly before and after the flight)

    That sounds so much like standard conspiracy theory boilerplate that I’d have a hard time reading it as anything but. Every conspiracy theory has vague references to mysterious deaths and disappearances. If you want to be taken seriously you can’t just throw that kind of claim into your story as an aside, rather you should take the time to include the names and connections of those who died (or at least provide a link to another story with all the relevant details) so that, one, it becomes easier to judge to what extent these deaths do seem out of the ordinary (if at all) and two, so that people who want to follow up can research the actual details of the deaths in question. It almost always turns out that the vagueness serves a purpose in that when the supposed mysterious deaths get looked into properly we find out that they aren’t all that mysterious (nor even all that connected) after all. Of course I can’t say with certainty that will happen with this story, but given the way the information was presented, if I were going to bet, that’s the side I’d pick: nothing to see here.

  29. Last I heard, it was investigated and several big heads roled and more little heads were expected to roll. The missiles in that pod were being moved and were fully armed. at least 5 seperate people are supposed to ask specifically about the devices they are carrying all the way through the tower before clearance is given for takeoff. The plane was carrying a pod of nukes under the other wing as well but those missiles were not armed for detonation. I suppose it is possible that a buncha dumbasses just assumed that the other pod was unarmed as well.

  30. The tinfoil is strong with this one.

  31. “Did anyone think to knock on the recovered missiles and see if they were now hollow?”

    Those missiles are probably filled with miniature Moties and a rat ranch.

  32. you should take the time to include the names and connections of those who died (or at least provide a link to another story with all the relevant details) so that, one, it becomes easier to judge to what extent these deaths do seem out of the ordinary (if at all) and two, so that people who want to follow up can research the actual details of the deaths in question.

    “Response by the U.S. government
    The USAF and DoD at first decided to conceal the incident, in part because of the USAF policy not to comment on the storage or movement of nuclear weapons and an apparent belief that the incident wouldn’t generate much public concern. In fact, the DoD Broken Spear incident report reportedly contained the passage, “No press interest anticipated.” Details of the incident, however, were leaked by unknown DoD officials to the Military Times newspaper, which published a small article on the incident on September 5, 2007.”

  33. No posts on the Iranian motorboats playing chicken with US battleships in the Straits of Hormuz yesterday?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Iranian sailors were drunk or high on something. They played the audio of the “provocative” message the Iranians sent to the US ships, and it sounded like me playing with toy ships in the bathtub when I was six.

  34. Last I heard, it was investigated and several big heads roled and more little heads were expected to roll.

    If you want to be taken seriously you can’t just throw that kind of claim into your story as an aside, rather you should take the time to include the names and connections of those who died were punished (or at least provide a link to another story with all the relevant details) so that, one, it becomes easier to judge to what extent these deaths punishments do seem out of the ordinary (if at all) and two, so that people who want to follow up can research the actual details of the deaths punishments in question. It almost always turns out that the vagueness serves a purpose in that when the supposed mysterious deaths just punishments get looked into properly we find out that they aren’t all that mysterious just (nor even all that connected) after all.

  35. The hard part of building a nuke is obtaining fissile manerial in sufficient quantities. Once you have that, it’s not very difficult.

    The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes comes highly recommended by me, and others, if you’re interested in the subject.

  36. I can’t believe John Woo directed this crap.

    But then again, he also gave us Paycheck, Windtalkers, Mission: Impossible II, Face/Off and Hard Target.

    Dude, please move back to Hong Kong!

  37. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47320

    this is the first mention I find on the DoD website of the incident, dated sept 6 2007. incident occured on aug 29 2007.

    Replace All,
    the link I posted above at 5:41 may give you the answers you seek

  38. It didn’t take much for me to find an article by the same author discussing that odd series of deaths, including with names and details.

    Another field seems to be full of accident-prone people.

  39. de stijl, christian slater has ruined many a mediocre movie.

  40. No posts on the Iranian motorboats playing chicken with US battleships in the Straits of Hormuz yesterday?

    Pedant Alert!
    The term is “warships”. The US Navy no longer has any battleships in commision. Cruisers, destroyers, frigates are the platforms that make up the surface navy today.

    The US Navy sunk the Iranian navy one day in 1988. Then we broke for lunch. This is a game the Mad Mullahs do not want to play.

  41. This thread reminds me of the story of the missing Russian suitcase nukes. Periodically there is a reference to the surprise matter-of-fact statement by that Russian general that all the suitcase nukes were not accounted for but there has never been an in-depth explanation.

    Presumably the Israelis have the missing nukes since they haven’t been used yet, but perhaps they are buried by a patient thief as assets to be retrieved much later.

  42. I remember that.

    With helicopters. We sunk their navy with helicopters.

  43. Skeptics: I have proof! A picture of the miscreant heir.

  44. Re: TLB’s first link. WTF is a “special forces weather commando”?!?

  45. de stijl | January 9, 2008, 6:02pm | #

    Re: TLB’s first link. WTF is a “special forces weather commando”?!?

    a storm trooper?

  46. With helicopters. We sunk their navy with helicopters.

    We used fixed wing aircraft and surface launced anti-ship missiles as well. My favorite quote was “Send it to the bottom”, referring to the Sahand. We did.

  47. Damn, brotherben gets a win under his belt.

    Tip o’ the cap.

  48. The US Navy sunk the Iranian navy one day in 1988. Then we broke for lunch.

    I’ll never understand this pants-pissing over Iran. The mullahs may be evil, but they are not stupid.

  49. It might be a job for Flash the Dolphin.

  50. Thanks, brotherben!

    I actually figured out what a “special forces weather commando” is:

    Link hier.

  51. …I sure shot coca cola out of my nose….

    SCORE!

    No doubt. Especially considering he was drinking milk at the time…

  52. It might be a job for Flash the Dolphin.

    You see? That’s why the terrorists hate us. It’s not our wealth or our freedoms, it’s our twisted sense of humor.

  53. It didn’t take much for me to find an article by the same author

    Great, then I’ll bet it would have taken the author even less time to find it and link to it. As to it’s substance, it seems pretty much as I would have thought – not much there to build a conspiracy case on. A couple of points from the article:

    Another Minot B-52 pilot, 20-year-old Adam Barrs

    I’m pretty sure there are no 20-year-old B-52 pilots in the U.S. Air Force. I thught perhaps the age was simply a typo, but no, it turns out that Barrs was in fact 20, but not a pilot, “merely” an airman at the base. That’s a rather important detail to get wrong as it drastically reduces the “value” of the death for conspiracy purposes.

    Further, the circumstances of the death are the he was a passenger in a car that went of the road and hit a tree. The driver was taken to the hospital in critical condition and has been charged with negligent homicide. I’ll bet there’s a reason for that charge (alcohol) which would make this anything but mysterious. Besides, was the driver supposed to hit the tree in just the right way to kill this airman, with no connection to the flight of missiles nor even to B-52’s, while leaving himself unharmed?

    Of course this is precisely the kind of thing I was referring to when I said that closer examination tends to reveal the “mysterious” deaths were not so mysterious nor even all that connected to the incident. I’m two for two on that one which just makes it seem even more clear that this is a non-story. Another point to make is that when someone “stretches” details like that to try to make the incident in question a better fit a broader theory, that alone is further evidence that we should not take them seriously and can probably bypass the rest of the details they appeal to in support of their claims. Nonetheless I looked over the others and there’s more.

    Two more Air Force personnel, Senior Airman Clint Huff, 29, of Barksdale AFB, and his wife Linda died on Sept. 15 in nearby Shreveport, Louisiana, when Huff reportedly attempted to pass a van in a no-passing zone on his motorcycle, and the van made a left-hand turn, striking them.

    What?? The “connection” is simply that they were Air Force personnel in nearby Shreveport!?! This doesn’t even pass the laugh test, come on. That method of death is in not at all suspicious and the connection is virtually non-existent! Hmmmm do we see a pattern here?

    Please note that since it is the same author making the case, I can safely assume that any more damning a connection than he offers would certainly have been included, so if that’s the best he can do to support this theory, there simply isn’t much there. But yet there’s more.

    Then there are two reported suicides, which both occurred within days of the flight. One involved Todd Blue, a 20-year-old airman who was in a unit that guarded weapons at Minot. He reportedly shot himself in the head on Sept. 11 while on a visit to his family in Wytheville, Virginia. Local police investigators termed his death a suicide.

    Oh, conspiracy theorists love suicides because it’s so easy to imply (thanks to Hollywood?) that is just a cover for a more nefarious demise. However, suicides among people his age are unfortnuately not uncommon, and among the leading causes of death. Without much more evidence (something that would make the claim of a suicide seem implausible, or something that made it a statistical abberation, for example) this just doesn’t hold up as anything. Coupled with the non-stories above, these “mysterious” deaths are starting to look like a pretty weak foundation to build a major conspiracy on.

    The second suicide, on Aug. 30, was John Frueh, a special forces weather commando at the Air Force’s Special Operations command headquartered at Hurlburt AFB in Florida.

    Huh??? Again, where’s the connection??? He isn’t even in “nearby Shreveport” but I guess Florida is close enough for conspiracy theorists.

    The rest of the details are equally unconvincing. He supposed to go to Portland for a wedding, fails to show up, ends up dead in the woods of Washington State. Not getting any closer, that’s for sure. But hey, he did have a bag with a GPS and a video camera which, according to the author, seems strange for a suicide. Perhaps it is, but, one, don’t all suicides have people pointing out how the decedant did things up until the last minute that are inconsistent with someone killing himself? And, much more importantly, even if it is strange, so what? The author has made no connection whatsoever with the flight of missiles! In fact the lack of connection is so obvious and glaring I cannot imagine how anyone wishing to be taken seriously could include it in the list. That he is grasping this desperately, as I said, is further evidence that there really is nothing there.

    So I’d say I was pretty much spot-on in my guess that these “mysterious deaths” connected to the flight (as they always seem to do) would turn out to be neither mysterious nor connected. A few minutes reading and the whole thing falls apart. This is also highlights both why I said someone shouldn’t be throwing in sinister sounding vague parentheticals about such an important part of the (non)story, and why one might feel the need to remain vague in later stories as the bark of the vague implication is much worse than the bite of the details.

  54. Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.

    Well, what’s the problem with that? Don’t libertarians believe in free trade?

    Legalize trade in military secrets! Prohibition only creates black markets!

  55. Conspiracy theory……on my REASON?

    Well I suppose I’m next then.

  56. This is another great example of what a liberal bias the media has. After all it there was a republican in the whitehouse they would be asking all kinds of questions about this.

  57. Brian Courts –

    You are far more diligent than I in debunking the tinfoil beanie wearers. Thanks for your work. Definately good for a laugh or three.

    Lone Wacko –

    Do you have some sort of mental illness that prevents you from feeling embarrassed?
    Yes, that is a serious question.

  58. My God! They’ve gotten to Brian Courts, too!

  59. I don’t know, Brian. What you say makes sense, but I’ve read that they’ve gotten to you, too.

  60. Geotpf
    The tinfoil is strong with this one.

    joe
    My God! They’ve gotten to Brian Courts, too!

    We may have to go into OT to declare a thread winner here.

  61. I’m going to go against J sub D on this one.

    It’s not for me or anyone else to prove you wrong, read the evidence and decide for yourself is my advice.

    The force of the tinfoil is strong with me on this one though, so I’m not gonna bother to read the evidence now myself, it’s too late where I am.

  62. I was a Security Policeman in USAFE for 3 1/2 years and served in a MUNSS (Munitions Support Squadron) in Germany. My whole job was to guard nukes during that time and I participated in my fair share of moving nukes around so I have to say that although I don’t believe in this conspiracy story, a cascade of errors is an understatement. Unless things have changed (I was in from ’91-95), loading a nuke onto a plane and changing custody of said nuke involved hours of following checklists (on hand at the time) with two person controls and numerous redundant protocols and checkpoints to prevent just such a thing from happening. Not to mention about three months (or more) of planning and exercises beforehand. Now, admittedly, I was part of the security and not the weapons handling aspect of these operations, but more than once I was within arms reach of these guys when they went through these checklists. We also had people from some nuclear safety inspection team on hand as well, if I recall correctly. At least, I remember having to check these guys before they entered my area. Maybe things have loosened up since I was in, or there is a difference in nuclear protocols between USAFE and CONUS commands, or between these cruise missiles and the shiny, silver dumb nukes I guarded. I don’t know. I can just say that in my personal experience, a mistake like this would be damn near impossible to make.

  63. Aw, c’mon Taiko. We’ve all seen in the movies and on TV how easy it is to steal a nuke.

    You’ve probably got a couple stashed in the basement.

    ;^)

  64. Damn fine reporting and debunking, Mr Courts. Even if you are a Da Bears-Rothchilds-Rockefeller) plant, my tin-foil hat is off for you sir.

  65. Da Bears-Rothchilds-Rockefeller

    Darn that Rex Grossman!

  66. Here’s a serious question:

    If a nuke goes off, is there any way to tell whose nuke it was after the fact.

  67. Dave-

    My understanding is that if we have samples of radioactive materials from different countries’ nuclear programs then we can compare isotopic signatures, i.e. the relative ratios of different isotopes, the percentage of trace elements, etc. I’m no expert, but I’ve heard it from distinct sources and it’s plausible. So, you know, take it with a grain of salt.

    You can ask lots of questions about “Whom do we trust to do the analysis?”, “How do we know that the ratios of trace elements in [insert country here]’s nukes is what the CIA claims it is?”, “How do we know if we can believe them when they tell us the ratios of trace elements at the blast site when they have it cordoned off?” and other things of that ilk. The only answer I can give is that those issues will be inherent to just about ANY claim made by the government regarding nuclear weapons and intelligence. But as far as the science goes, it appears that there’s a plausible technique, if the lab technicians doing it are reliable. (Big if.)

    I’m also pretty sure that based on the magnitude of the blast they could rule out certain countries, and also determine whether it was a fusion bomb or fission bomb.

    And if the damn thing fizzles, we’ll just assume it’s North Korea, for obvious reasons. Kim Jong Il is so ronery, being the onry dictator to buird a nucrear bomb that doesn’t work.

  68. If a nuke goes off, is there any way to tell whose nuke it was after the fact.

    I don’t see why not. Analytical chemistry and radiochemistry is awfully good these days. Of course, you’d need to know the chemical/nuclear composition of the fissile materials of each potential source reactor. But I’ve no doubt that data (or very good guesses in the case of rogue states’ reactors) is already stashed away.

    I do not know if the marks of subsequent processing of fissile material would be evident in bomb residue; I also suspect that it would be, enabling a sophisticated set of observers to tell that, while the primary fissile material came from country X, component assembly was done by someone else. Surprised that tarran hasn’t stopped by to comment further. Wasn’t he a former Navy nuc engineer? Or am I confusing him with another poster here?

    Richard Rhodes’s book “Dark Sun” has some material towards the beginning, detailing the first US efforts towards aerial sampling for bomb residue. Even back then, it was quite sensitive, and according to him, gave enough data to the US that the Soviet’s first fusion device used a far less effective mechanism than the Teller/Ulam “super”.

  69. Thanks for the good answers on the nuke question. It seems like it would be a good idea if an international database were made mandatory with any signature data that nukes have (assuming this wouldn’t help people who were trying to acquire nukes).

    I can’t think of any good reasons to keep this info US-only-confidential, but I can think of lots of nefarious reasons to keep it secret.

    It would be best to mandate such a database before a nuclear blast, rather than after. It seems like something that should be done now.

  70. Personally, I thought the aside about the B-52s was a distraction, not really because of the conspiratorial matters but because our knowledge of what really went on is limited. It could be a trespass team checking the
    bases defenses for all we know.

    It really boils down to this: how credible is Sybel Edmunds as a witness

    and if she is credible, we are in a world of hurt.

  71. OTOH, Dave, revealing what we know about a particular aspect of a foreign country’s reactor might just get somebody killed.

    I don’t have any good answers here.

  72. OTOH, Dave, revealing what we know about a particular aspect of a foreign country’s reactor might just get somebody killed.

    what I meant is that each nation would have to reveal the signatures of their own weapons per a treaty. the purpose of the treaty would be so that any “terrorist” nuclear blast could be traced back to the source of a breach. I wasn’t suggesting that the US should give up its spy info on other nations nukes.

    i suppose such signature data might help track “legitimate” proliferation, but: (i) maybe that is not a bad thing (even though US hawks wouldn’t like it); and (ii) sorting out nuclear terrorism accurately after it occurs is extremely, extremely important. We would really, really not want a war against a nation suspected of sourcing a nuke if they didn’t do it. that would be, like, really unfair.

  73. I’m not sure if knowing the isotope signature of the reactor would be enough.

    It depends a lot on the configuration of the bomb, whether the bomb is deliberately made “dirty” (encasing it in a block of salt would be VERY nasty), whether the bomb was assembled from stolen fissile material or even a stolen bomb core (AFAIK, nobody knows how to make a pure fusion bomb), how carefully the weapon has been stored since manufacture, etc.

    Even if you could positively identify the source of the bomb or the fissile material, how could you be sure it wasn’t stolen?

    OTOH, Dave’s point about identifying the culprit correctly is a good one. It would take a President with a very cool head and a lot of guts to appear on TV the next night and say to the American public, “We don’t know who did this for sure. We think they got the weapon from X country, but we are not going to nuke X’s capital because that would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

  74. Admit that nuke hasn’t even gone off yet and you know who you will blame. ‘es ‘ou do. ‘essss ‘ouuuu do!

    Lew Rockwell?

  75. Even if you could positively identify the source of the bomb or the fissile material, how could you be sure it wasn’t stolen?

    I don’t have a full answer to this concern, but it is something that would be partially addressed in my proposed proliferation treaty.

    For example, you might tell a country that they could plead a nuke was stolen without official government help or recklessness if it matched one of the signatures in the database. However, if information was presented to the effect that the nuke was country X’s nuke, but they had not submitted the signature to the database, then it would be presumed (perhaps even conclusively) that the government of country x sold the nuke, or was at least reckless in its nuke management protocols. the obvious remedy would be that country X would then have to give up all its nukes and allow international inspectors to continuously monitor country X to make sure they didn’t start up again. You can begin to see why US hawks wouldn’t like this plan!

    More aggressively, the proliferation treaty might specify that better signature technologies be added to new nukes. So far we have only been discussing nukes not purposely crafted to be identifiable. As one poster points out, it may be able to defeat such fortuity based id techniques. I bet if we wanted to design a nuke that was identifiable then we could figure out how to do that. If we can, then that should be required by treaty for: (i) any new nukes; and (ii) old nukes to the extent technologically feasible to so retrofit.

    What is really needed here are some good young physicists who have been well-mentored these past few years in the fine art of paranoia.

  76. Further to previous:

    Then again, I shudder to think what would happen one country could forge another country’s nuke signature: say India got ahold of Pakistan’s code. maybe the answer is that Pakistan had put the signature in the database, then they could plead that it was the signature that was stolen and not the nuke (as opposed to ripping off an unregistered signature which would be presumed to nuclear recklessness on the part of Pakistan). Still, that doesn’t seem that too satisfying.

    This is a hard problem. What would John Forbes Nash do?

  77. Somebody could just pour some ‘tussin on the thing before it went off and it would screw up all your precious forensic chemistry straight to hell! Think, people!

  78. It was only 6 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles? Don’t bother me with this crap until we lose at least 8 nuclear missiles.

  79. If Sibel Edmonds wouldn’t be credible why would they put a gag order on her then?

  80. A large, bureaucratic organization made a major screw up? No, not possible, it must be a conspiracy.

  81. “””Two more Air Force personnel, Senior Airman Clint Huff, 29, of Barksdale AFB, and his wife Linda died on Sept. 15 in nearby Shreveport, Louisiana, when Huff reportedly attempted to pass a van in a no-passing zone on his motorcycle, and the van made a left-hand turn, striking them.

    What?? The “connection” is simply that they were Air Force personnel in nearby Shreveport!?! This doesn’t even pass the laugh test, come on. That method of death is in not at all suspicious and the connection is virtually non-existent! Hmmmm do we see a pattern here? “””

    The connection is Barksdale Air Base. That was the destination of the B-52. I guess you missed that.

  82. looking for info regard to turkish air crash; surprising nuke experts on plane in regard to search gave info not on crash but on these stories

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