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January 10, 2006

Stuff and Nonsense


by Gordon Prather

If the publisher and editors of the New York Times thought the soon-to-be released book – entitled State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration – by their reporter James Risen will undo the damage done to the reputation of the "newspaper of record" by disgraced neo-crazy media sycophant Judith Miller, they may be in for a surprise.

True, President Bush was so desperate to prevent their publishing a story based on a "revelation" in Risen's book that he summoned publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to suppress it.

And, in another section, Risen reports that the CIA recruited and sent to Iraq – as spies – more than 30 relatives of Iraqi scientists alleged by the neo-crazies to be involved in nuke and chem-bio weapon programs. According to Risen, all of them – including American anesthesiologist Sawsan Alhaddad of Cleveland – returned to tell the CIA that all of those programs had been killed years before and never resuscitated.

But, of course, the CIA already knew that. In 1995, Saddam's son-in-law, Gen. Kamel, the man in charge of all Saddam's nuke and chem-bio programs, had defected to Jordan, and told the CIA and the UN Special Commission that every trace of those programs had been destroyed, either during the Gulf War, or – at Kamel's direction – in the immediate aftermath.

Quoth Kamel, "Nothing is left."

Hans Blix – then director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and later chairman of the entire UN arms inspectorate in Iraq – was able to verify by 1997 that Kamel told the truth.

But the CIA disregarded the reports of the IAEA experts about Iraq.

Now, it turns out the CIA disregarded the reports of IAEA experts about Iran.

According to Risen, back in February 2000, the CIA recruited a Russian "defector" and sent him to IAEA headquarters in Vienna "with blueprints for a nuclear bomb" with instructions to give them to the Iranian delegate to the IAEA.

Nuclear bomb?

Well, according to Risen, the Russian "scientist" was actually "carrying technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block, otherwise known as a 'firing set,' for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon."

It's obvious that what Risen is referring to is a fire-set, not a nuclear bomb. A fire-set is an electrical device that holds back the enormous charge built up relatively slowly on a capacitor until the precise millisecond that charge-pulse is needed – the fire-set is triggered – to vaporize the bridge wires in one or more high-explosive detonators.

Leaving aside the extremely interesting assertion that the CIA has the blueprints for a Russian nuke fire-set, let Risen continue.

"He [the Russian] held in his hands the knowledge needed to create a perfect implosion that could trigger a nuclear chain reaction inside a small spherical core. It was one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia from rogue countries such as Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short.

"Iran has spent nearly 20 years trying to develop nuclear weapons, and in the process has created a strong base of sophisticated scientists knowledgeable enough to spot flaws in nuclear blueprints. Tehran also obtained nuclear blueprints from the network of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, and so already had workable blueprints against which to compare the designs obtained from the CIA. Nuclear experts say that they would thus be able to extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws."

Now that is all either nonsense or neo-crazy, misleading statements. Or both.

In particular, after almost three years of exhaustive, go-anywhere, see-anything, interview-anyone inspections, IAEA inspectors have yet to find any indication that Iran has – or ever had – a nuclear weapons program.

Furthermore, there is no evidence whatsoever that Iran obtained workable blueprints for a fire-set, much less for a nuclear weapon, from the Pakistanis.

And there is no sense in which a fire-set is "one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world."

According to the IAEA's final report [.pdf] to the UN Security Council, Iraqi engineers had developed – but had not tested – in about a two-year effort a complete 32-point implosion system, including an electronic firing system, detonators, and associated high-explosive lenses.

So Risen joins Judith Miller in "reporting" neo-crazy misinformation – in complete disregard of the reports of IAEA experts – on the front pages of the New York Times. Gray Lady, indeed.

 


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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