US intelligence and the dirty bomb

We have recently captured a U.S. born Al Qaeda suspect with the presumed intentions of putting together and using a dirty bomb in America.


The news has it that we discovered this attempt from debriefing captured Abu Zubaydah.

It seems likely that this is a rouse, and this statement is meant to cover our real sources AND make remaining Al Qaeda worry what else this Abu Zubaydah might be revealing. It seems like a good ploy to get Al Qaeda to cancel/rework any operation that Abu could know of.

Plausible or not?

Who could say?

I have no doubt our government will gleefully engage in disinformation especially when it is directed at stated enemies of the United States.

That said, without furhter information, where the actual evidence to arrest Jose Padilla came from is anybody’s guess.

True, Wack-a-mole.

We certainly won’t know for sure (if ever) til well into the future.

It seemed like a good ploy to me even though there have been “promises” not to tell any falsehoods to the media by the current administration. If I was in their position, I would certainly not pass up the oportunity to spread some confusion with this one.

Which is a hell of a long way from making a nuke from scratch.

Well, the official allegation isn’t that he was plotting to make an actual nuclear bomb, but rather a radiological or “dirty” bomb–a conventional bomb laced with something radioactive–not necessarily plutonium or uranium, but any old “hot” material, including “low level” waste from power plants or material from radiation therapy devices for cancer treatment or a bunch of old radium-dial watches. (OK, I made that last one up.) When the conventional explosives go off, the radioactive stuff is scattered all over the place. Probably more of a Weapon of Mass Confusion than a Weapon of Mass Destruction, but potentially still quite a mess.

If the reported claim that the information about Padilla came from Abu Zubaydah is a ruse how are we supposed to know? And if we did know what difference would it make? Also why does it seem likely that this is a ruse? All we have is what they told us and speculation.

I’d also like to add that the first paragraph of the Fox link is some of the best objective jounalism I’ve ever seen.

Uh oh. Dig this paragraph from the article:

Al Muhajir (alias Jose Padilla) is a United States citizen, who has only been accused of planning to build a dirty bomb. No materials that could have been used to build such a bomb were claimed to have been recovered.

By getting away with calling him an “enemy combatant,” the attorney general has effectively thrown away his Constitutional rights and put him before a military tribunal which can act as judge, jury, and executioner. And this guy is a U.S. citizen, and Congress has not voted to declare a state of War (this hasn’t been done since WW2).

Good Lord! Are any of us safe from our own government any more?!

Fox is reporting that he admits to planning a radioactive attack.

There certainly seem to be a lot of unanswered questions. What possible motive would Zubaydah have for revealing this information? And assuming he was “persuaded” to share this information, what reason is there to believe it to be accurate?

I would like to think that our govt. has good reason to believe Mujahir is guilty, and wouldn’t railroad an innocent person, even if they aren’t completely forthcoming with the details.

I’m with you, tracer. That “enemy combatant” classification is disturbing. Fortunately, he is an American citizen, and he is on American soil, so I am confident the courts will be able to slap the crap out of Bush and Al Gonzales, the White House Counsel who gave him the recommendation that the Constitution is inapplicable.


In re: the OP, that would certainly be a sneaky way of getting al Qaeda to back off anything it has in the works, but they’ve known Zubaydah was in custody and feeling chatty for some time now and may have already acted accordingly. The long-term intelligence value of the guy is not what operations they have in the planning stages–al Qaeda really seems to flit from plan to plan all the time anyway–but who their operatives are. This is the guy who interviewed, approved, and trained nearly every one of the men who made their way through their Afghan training camps. My guess is that Padilla got caught because Zubaydah knew who he was, not necessarily what he was doing.

It’s also worth noting that Abu Zubaydah was greviously injured by a gunshot wound to the groin. His recovery is in the hands of the Americans. Abu may very well be experiencing minor complications whenever he is less than cooperative. I’m also willing to bet that by now he has more than a passing fancy for morphine.

Nobody will ever accuse me of being an Islamic scholar. However, I wonder if there is a, “smashed balls, can’t play with God” clause in Islamic teachings, along the lines of Leviticus 21. If that is the case, Abu’s recovery may be tied to a matter of faith, and he may feel compelled to cooperate until his package meets Allah’s standards.

Whatever he’s saying or not saying, it is quite definitely important to make it appear as if the prize canary is singing. If you can convince the other prisoners that the big guy is ratting them out, they may find their own motivations to cooperate. Part of the way we are going to destroy al-Qaeda is by eroding their credibility, both with the outside world and among themselves. Making it appear as if anyone we collar eventually spills makes al-Q appear weak both externally and internally.

It would also be quite easy to pin “cooperation” on Zubaydah, even if he isn’t cooperating. If he tells his interviewers, “our operatives will enter your country and sow death and destruction among you,” and we happen to pick up a guy coming along to do just that, well, Abu corroborated that information, didn’t he?

Okay, this paragraph on the Fox News page makes me breathe a little bit easier:

However, as an “enemy combatant,” Mujahir can still be, quote, “held indefinitely as an enemy soldier,” unquote without trial and without even needing to have criminal charges pressed against him.

I don’t see much difference between being “held indefinitely” and being sent to prison – except in the former case, apparently, Habeas Corpus and due process don’t apply.

Besides from some conspiracy theorist “the bad ol’ gubmint’s out to get us all” mindset, exactly how does it seem “likely that this is a rouse [sic]?”

In other words: what’s your proof?

Better yet: Put up or shut up.

I don’t suppose there is the slightest chance that this guy is actually a peice of shit terrorist who was planning to blow up a “dirty bomb”?

Cause if that’s the case, a gunshot wound to the balls is the least he deserves.