Potential Terrorist situation

Imagine if you will: A terrorist enters a largely populated area and makes it known that the large hiking backpack he is wearing contains a low-yield nuclear device. Said device is wired to two detonators: 1) A momentary tact switch that is normally closed–once pressed (which he has already done) it will detonate if released. 2) A heart monitor, if his heart stops, the bomb will detonate.
His demands are a meeting with the President, VP, Speaker of the House, on down, plus congress–hell throw in the supreme court for good measure.
Upon this meeting, he says, he will detonate the bomb. You are to choose either the lives of all the people of this city (whatever city it may be) or the entire governmental system of the United States. How do you resolve the situation?
(please can the “kill the politicians” rhetoric for now, we all hate Bush, I know.)

Sounds a bit like the excellent thriller, The Fifth Horseman by Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre. In this riveting novel, Libyan leader Qaddafi holds New York City hostage with the threat of setting off a hidden nuclear bomb. It’s an old book. The plot seems less remote since 9/11.

Hmm… never read that book. Is it any good, or is it the usual Tom Clancy-esque, good-guys-save-the-day-in-the-nick-of-time fair?
Damn, i’m playing into a hijack (december’s a terrorist! :))

Guy, I think that all of the people that you mentioned ( the President, VP, Speaker of the House, on down, plus congress–hell throw in the supreme court for good measure) could all be killed without actually destroying our government system.

It is very good, although it is the usual “good-guys-save-the-day-in-the-nick-of-time” plot structure.

Perhaps not destroy it, but certainly throw it into disarray for quite some time. And I think that a stunt like this, regardless of the outcome would create some terror. Can anyone think of a solution that would foil the Terrorist’s plans (preventing him from detonating the nuke)?

Yep… you’d set up a “Terrorist Response Team”.

You’d workout precisely his hand movements, and which fingers are currently holding the “release button” activated.

You’d get your top guys to approach the guy maybe dressed as “goverment officals”, and you’d distract him with audio sensory input, and one of your guys would go for the hand - ensuring the activation release is never triggered.

Upon securing the “terrorist” and immobilising him, you would then induce him into a coma so that his heart doesn’t stop.

You would then have a window of opportunity. First up, you’d have the opportunity to recreate his heart beat input sensors. And then you could get to work on diffusing the nuclear device.

All in all, I rather think that such a scenario is at the low end of the intracacy scenario actually.

Some really ingenious terrorists, assuming they were sufficiently wealthy and organised to actually “make a backpack nuke” would also consider a plethora of “Plan B” detonation devices - such as a mobile phone SMS delivery trigger etc.

Still, even this could be negated with a massive series of “localised” Electro Magnetic Pulses - the thinking being that it could deactivate all the local radio traffic - which is ultimately what a mobile phone is.

Turning off the local mobile phone towers is the first thing I’d be doing as the leader of the “tactical response team” - certainly.

You goal, as such a leader, is to provide clear communications for your own troops, and to make the “terrorists” blind and isolated.

Then I’d start pumping those EMP’s big time.

Also, assuming you had a clear line of site, even a nuke is vulnerable to a massive catastrophic impact. Prior to detonation, they are, after all, merely a machine - and machines can be broken. I’m thinking a 25mm cannon mounted to a 36x1 telescopic sight would probably rip through the nuke and pretty well fuck it up before it could activate. Alternatively, a 50mm rapid fire gun mounted to a similar degree of accuracy would do much the same job.

Indeed, if you were a cop, and you were pretty certain about things, even a Desert Eagle could probably take the nuke out.

It’s a actually a pretty far fetched scenario if truth be known - that is, leaving it to chance with a backpacker delivery method.

Far better to demonstrate to the powers that be that you’ve got one in the desert somewhere - let THAT go off - and then inform the powers that be that you’ve placed another one in a position unnamed. That would be the hard one to combat I rather think.

Question for the chemists: isn’t exploding a nuclear device (as opposed to detonating it) still majorly sucky in terms of hazardous material released?

There is marked difference between a dirty bomb and nuclear explosion.

There are a considerable number of cites easily available.

I can think of two ways of dealing with it: One would be an EMP device, which would fry the firing circuitry (And if the pulse -did- trigger the explosives, it would be a fizzle instead, since the explosives would not detonate in their properly timed fashion). The other would be a classic ordinance-disposal by an anti-material rifle. Probably a couple, actually. Possition a few Delta snipers with M82A1 .50cal rifles around the area, and have them all fire into the backpack when the order is given. At least one would likely breach the core of the nuke and disrupt the explosive charges. You get a conventional explosion that throws a fair ammount of radioactive material through the area, but it’s far better than loosing downtown DC.

Or if you weren’t worried about collateral damage, a ground-based soldier with a designator, guiding in a GBU-10 2000lb bomb. Wouldn’t be anything left of the nuke to detonate. Or pull up an Abrams and drive a DU Sabot through it :wink:

“Majorly” in the sense that being within a block or so of it is a Bad Idea, not “majorly” in terms of rendering a good chunk of the city blown up or uninhabitable. You’ve only got a limited amount of explosives making an explosion at ground level, so you’ll get some scattered radioactives but nothing which can’t be cleaned up relatively easy. A dirty bomb is a whole different ball of wax; one type would be made to scatter radioactive material over a wide area, so you’d have some kind of radioactive dust, not a solid chunk, and the explosives would be set up very differently, and the other type is a nuke with cobalt wrapped around the core, which gives you an a-bomb explosion and a lot more radiation.

I don’t have a cite, but there’s probably something about it at http://www.fas.org/

Shoot him with a dart that contains some sort of glycine(?)-like drug, and as his muscles involuntarily contract, have the EOD boys take care of the bomb. Then beat him, perhaps? May I recommend a lead-filled sap?

Apart from the beating, the above has been discussed by a large police department near me. (Non-nuclear, but the cpncept is the same.) Whether or not it would work, who knows, but the hundreds of thousands of LEO’s in this country come up with some pretty odd situations to train in…

Ehhhh, I think that’d be pretty risky. You’d have to get it dosed just right so that the drug contracts all the muscles in his hand beyond his ability to open it, and doesn’t contract his heart to the point of not beating. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere nearby when you’re trying that :slight_smile: