In his book “At The Center of the Storm – My years at the CIA”, by George Tenet, a former Director of CIA (from 1997-2004), who served under two presidents (Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) talks about al-Qaeda’s attempt to purchase nuclear weapons on the black market.
In one incident he mentions the fact that in May 2003, the Saudi’s had captured several top level al-Qaeda operatives and sympathizers, including a man by the name of Shaykh Nasir bin Hamin al-Fahd. Al-Fahd was a man who published a white paper which sought to justify the use of nuclear weapons.
His paper was called “A Treatise on the Legal Status of Using Weapons of Mass Destruction Against Infidels”.
While in custody, he confirmed that al-Qaeda had been negotiating for the purchase of Russian devices (meaning nuclear weapons), he claimed ignorance regarding the nature of these devices (pg 274).
Tenent said that “Our inability to determine the fate of the Russian devices presented great concern, not only for me but for the White House” (pg 275).
He apparently shared that information during a presidential briefing at the White House attended by former president Bush.
After the meeting “She (Condi Rice) recommended that I call Defense Minister Ivanov, explain the president’s concerns and obtain Ivanov’s assurances that our respective intelligence agencies would intensify their work to resolve the WMD threats” (pg 275).
“Defense Minister Ivanov was receptive to our concerns and agreed immediately to receive CIA representatives in Moscow and coordinate meetings with Russian Intelligence” (pg 275).
“As expected the Russian took copious notes and asked penetrating questions regarding the information we had come to share. But the conversation became awkward as we began asking questions. The Russian could not shed light on reports we had received of missing material from the former Soviet Union. They did not recognize the names of former Soviet scientists who reportedly collaborated with al-Qaeda. They refused to delve into any matters relating to the security of their nuclear facilities and nuclear weapons, including reports sourced to Russian officials concerning possible theft of Russian suitcase nukes” (pg 276).
A suitcase nuke is a tactical nuclear weapon which uses, or is portable enough that it could use a suitcase as its delivery method.
The highest-ranking GRU defector Stanislav Lunev claimed that such Russian-made devices do exist and described them in more detail.
These devices, “identified as RA-115s (or RA-115-01s for submersible weapons)” weigh from fifty to sixty pounds. They can last for many years if wired to an electric source. In case there is a loss of power, there is a battery backup. If the battery runs low, the weapon has a transmitter that sends a coded message—either by satellite or directly to a GRU post at a Russian embassy or consulate” (source: Stanislav Lunev. Through the Eyes of the Enemy: The Autobiography of Stanislav Lunev. Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89526-390-4.).
“A “suitcase” bomb is a very compact and portable nuclear weapon and could have the dimensions of 60 x 40 x 20 centimeters or 24 x 16 x 8 inches. The smallest possible bomb-like object would be a single critical mass of plutonium (or U-233) at maximum density under normal conditions. The Pu-239 weighs 10.5 kg and is 10.1 cm across. It doesn’t take much more than a single critical mass to cause significant explosions ranging from 10-20 tons” (source: Suitcase nukes http://www.tonyrogers.com/news/suitcase_nukes.htm).
The CIA never found or accounted for these missing Russian weapons.
Tenent later commented on this unresolved threat:
“Of all al-Qaeda’s efforts to obtain other forms of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), the main threat is the nuclear one. I am convinced that this is where UBL (Osama bin Laden) and his operatives desperately wanted to go. They understand that bombings by cars, trucks, trains and planes will get them some headlines, to be sure. But if they manage to set off a mushroom cloud, they will make history – such an event would place al-Qaeda on par with the superpowers and make good Bin Laden’s threat to destroy our economy and bring death into every American household” (pg 279).
“We have learned that it is not beyond the realm of possibility for a terrorist group to obtain a nuclear weapon. I have often wondered why this is such a hard reality for so many people to accept”, said the former CIA Director Tenet (pg 279).
“One mushroom cloud would change history. My deepest fear is that this is exactly what they (al-Qaeda) intend” (pg 280).
For more information on George Tenet’s book see website: http://democrats.senate.gov/2007/05/01/book-report-at-the-center-of-the-storm-by-george-tenet/
See video: 60 Minutes CBS George Tenet http://www.cbsnews.com/news/george-tenet-at-the-center-of-the-storm/
To date the missing Russian nuclear devices have never been accounted for.
As recently as 2010 President Barack Obama has reiterated the concern for this concern of al-Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons. See article : Al-Qaeda trying to secure nuclear weapons, says President Barack Obama http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/7583173/Al-Qaeda-trying-to-secure-nuclear-weapons-says-Barack-Obama.html