Aug 01 2007

Why I Stay On The Litvinenko Story

I do not buy the idea the Litvinenko incident was an assassination. I have felt all along it was a smuggling operation which basically went awry, and Litvinenko, Lugovoi and Kovtun all suffered the consequences of a leak. If people wonder why I stay on this story it is not to be proved right. It is to make sure I am proved wrong. Because if I am right then something very dangerous was happening in London last October. The NY Times ran an Op-Ed explaining the ramifications of last fall if I am right:

Most analysts believe that about 10 people would die from radiation poisoning after a dirty bomb attack. Others believe that the only people likely to receive a lethal dose of radiation from a dirty bomb would already be dead from the blast. A perfectly feasible terrorist attack using the ingestion, inhalation or immersion of radioactive material, on the other hand, would be almost certain to kill hundreds. We call attacks of these kinds I-cubed attacks (for ingestion, inhalation and immersion). Such attacks can be sneaky, unaccompanied by a flash and bang.

Nothing we write in any way supplies terrorists with information that they don’t already have. We have consulted with American government experts to be certain. Americans need to understand the risks posed by I-cubed attacks, and how to react when one occurs.

Fortunately, it’s hard to kill a lot of people with an ingestion attack. Contaminating a reservoir, or even a water main, is ineffective because the radioactivity is quickly diluted, and most water is not used for drinking or cooking. Contaminating agricultural products is similarly difficult. But there are ways, if the terrorist group has enough material and access to the right kinds of facilities, to contaminate food directly.

An inhalation attack, sometimes called a smoky bomb, would use radioisotopes that can be burned, vaporized or aerosolized, and in a confined space could contaminate the air and be inhaled. Isotopes like polonium-210 that emit alpha particles are particularly effective because they can kill either quickly by radiation poisoning or slowly by causing lung cancer. Terrorists could also use something like an insecticide sprayer mounted on a truck to disperse, for example, a polonium compound dissolved in water.

An immersion attack, which would drench victims with a radioactive solution, could kill with only a small fraction of a teaspoon. Just a few drops of contaminated water on the mouth are enough to cause radiation poisoning.

It should be noted that Po-210 is always an optimal substance for these kinds of stealth nuclear attacks.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes that alpha-emitting isotopes like polonium-210 and americium are adequately regulated, but we believe that the quantities supplied without a specific license should be reduced by about a factor of 10. In all cases they should be supplied in hard-to-weaponize forms. The regulatory commission has not been diligent in checking the bona fides of applicants for licenses for large sources of any kind, but thankfully this is being changed.

In the United States, commercial users lose about one radioactive source a day — many large enough for I-cubed attacks — through theft, accidents or poor paperwork.

I have always had my suspicions that the Po-210 in London may have been manufactured in Russia, but obtained from America or Canada, which both have abysmal track records with industrial nuclear material monitoring. But what worries me to this day is there were three apparent rounds of Po-210 smuggling through London, each round indicated by a contaminated hotel with multiple rooms showing contamination. Litvinenko died from a microscopic amount (10 millionths of a gram), which is smaller than a fleck of sweatener. So it did not take three trips to move this miniscule amount of Po-210. In fact, the trail of Po-210 across London shows much larger quantities than entered Litvinenko (in my humble opinion). So what was all that Po-210 for?

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Why I Stay On The Litvinenko Story”

  1. spinster says:

    I agree with you AJ. The smuggling theory holds more water. Here is a link to a blogger who also manages this theory.

    There is a photo where Boris Berezovsky is holding his 60th black-tie birthday party at Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace. Lugovoi and Litvenenko were in attendance. All roads lead back to Rome or I should say England. Berezovsky has made himself quite at home there. Outsiders don’t gain such influence so quickly unless the insiders see him as one of theirs. But why would they, he’s Russian not British?

    Now assuming that there was a smuggling operation one has to ask the first question. Why smuggle this element? Was it for sale? Was it to be used for political purposes. Both Berezovsky and Litvenenko are ultra political but I also read that Litvenko was desperate for cash and sympathetic to separatists in Chechyna. Was it easier to bring the Polonium to England to go somewhere else or was it already in England on its way to Russia. What is Erinys’s role in this?
    So many questions are now to be asked. If I would take a guess I would say it was part of a plot to overthrow the present Russian regime.

  2. spinster says:

    There is one other theory to the Litvinenko affair that may have been overlooked because it isn’t as colorful as the other theories. This theory takes into consideration Hanlon’s Razor which presents the addage “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity”. With all the sensationalism from this event it would be easy to overlook the more simple explanation that maybe Alexander Litvinenko was a borderline lunatic. I think most would agree that Po-210 is not stable enough to be used as a poison. It has a short half life. It’s messy and volatile to handle and there has never been a precedent for it being used as a poison. Based on this, wise sense indicates that it would be better served as a substance for another purpose. That purpose may not have yet been figured out since there could have been no real interest in Po-210 from anyone except Alexander Litvenenko.

    I call it the “Lone Gunman with only the bullets theory”. Lee Oswald Harvey bought his mail order rifle a few months before he used it on Kennedy. He had no prior knowledge of Kennedy’s trip to Dallas. He was an opportunist without a cause. He acquired a gun to fulfill a greater purpose, great being the operative word. When the Great Mr. President came to his home town he found his purpose. Now if we apply this same profile to Litveneko it may make sense because there is a few examples of characters like this through history. It is possible that Litveneko had acquired Po-210 in hopes of using it for a greater purpose however since he was not experienced in handling it, he may have accidently poisoned himself. The question that many would then ask is why acquire Po-210 for a purpose that is unknown. My answer is that he may have seen it as the closest thing to having a nuclear bomb. It’s easier to acquire than any of the other elements necessary for this but ultimately it gives him credibility that he has the means albeit a partial means with a hope for finding that purpose when it came his way. The more I dig into who Litvenko is and who he has become, the more I am convinced that he is both a fantasist and an opportunist who has become out of touch with reality.