Sunday, September 12, 2004

The stories not told: Al Qaeda's chemical bombs in Jordan and Pakistan
In early April, authorities in Jordan disrupted what would have been an even bigger chemical attack. Officials said that terrorists linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi managed to smuggle three cars — packed with explosives, a chemical bomb and poisonous gas — into the capital city, Amman.

Authorities in Jordan estimate that 80,000 people would have been killed if the chemical bomb had gone off at its intended targets — the Jordanian intelligence headquarters, the U.S. Embassy in Amman, and the Jordanian prime minister's office.

'It looks quite thought-through,' said David Siegrist, director of Studies for Countering Biological Terrorism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. 'They have about 800 kilos of explosive and tons of chemicals for oxidation. They also have about a ton of cyanide, which added a little extra pinch to whatever they were about to do.'

The captured leader of the plot, Jordanian Azmi al-Jayussi, told authorities that a Russian scientist had provided the chemical recipe.

And as seen on a tape obtained by ABC News, when Jordanian authorities conducted a test explosion using the same combination of chemicals, with smaller portions, it produced a toxic plume that killed rabbits placed 200 yards away.

'The kind of weapon that al Qaeda procured in Jordan anyone can buy in the United States commercially,' said Clark. 'Anyone in the United States, if they knew the right formula, could make this kind of chemical bomb that would kill thousands.'

The story unfolds as predicted. Technologic expertise is increasingly distributed. The cost of mass murder falls faster than the cost of defense.

The 9/11 attack succeeded because the attackers got lucky -- very lucky. Yes, the US had weak defenses. Yes, we have serious problems with the quality of top and mid-level management at the FBI and CIA. Yes, we have an imcompetent government. Despite all that, the 9/11 attackers ought to have failed -- but they got lucky.

The good guys have had some luck too. These two attacks were disrupted in party by good fortune.

Luck is not a strategy. We need a better government here and better approaches abroad.

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