War on Terrorism

Sunday, August 01, 2010

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, July 30, 2010

Pandemic, bioterror[ism] funds kept intact; H5N1 death; vectorborne disease funding
"The US House of Representatives on Jul 27 passed the Senate's version of a supplemental appropriations bill that did not cut $2 billion in already budgeted but unspent pandemic and Project Bioshield funding, according to sources at Trust for America's Health, a Washington, DC–based nonprofit health advocacy group. Most of the $59 billion emergency appropriations bill is targeted to the US war in Afghanistan, with funds also going toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Haitian relief programs, and Gulf oil spill response, CNN reported yesterday. In May the Senate passed a war supplemental bill that did not touch on pandemic and Bioshield funding, but in July the House passed a version that included domestic funding provisions and a $2 billion recision that would have stripped already appropriated funds for pandemic planning and Project Bioshield strategic reserve funds, which the federal government uses to purchase countermeasures. On Jul 22 the Senate rejected the House version of the bill and sent its original version back to the House for a vote. The Senate bill passed yesterday does not address or affect pandemic or Project Bioshield funding, according to experts at TFAH who have been closely following the developments. The supplemental appropriations bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature." (Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy; 28Jul10) http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/bioprep/news/jul2810newsscan.html

National lab ready to start its mission in earnest [Galveston, TX]
"Since its dedication nearly 20 months ago, about 3,000 people have toured the Galveston National Laboratory where researchers will work to develop vaccines, drugs and diagnostic methods to combat infectious diseases -- both those occurring naturally and types spread by terrorists. Inside the 186,267-square-foot, $174 million laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch, officials led school groups, island residents, dignitaries and the curious on carefully guided tours. Visitors got an idea about what would go on when researchers donned 'space suits' to study such deadly pathogens as Anthrax, bubonic plague, typhus, West Nile and hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola. [...] Despite Hurricane Ike, which struck just months before the dedication, the laboratory's opening is on schedule, Nichols said. The facility, which did not sustain damage during the 2008 storm, is engineered to withstand high hurricane-force winds and is anchored by a foundation of about 800 pylons set 120 feet deep. The labs where scientists work on the most dangerous pathogens are 30 feet above sea level. Officials have spent time since the dedication testing complex systems and implementing intensive training to all who will work in the laboratory to ensure they understand the equipment and safety controls in the high-tech facilities where security also is a concern, Nichols said. [...] The Galveston National Lab is one of two approved by the National Institutes of Health after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Stiff resistance from opponents who feared deadly pathogens would escape into the community has delayed opening the second lab at Boston University Medical Center." (Galveston County Daily News; 26Jul10; Laura Elder)

Leaked documents suggest Taliban chemical strike on U.S. soldiers
"Information gleaned from this week's giant unauthorized release of tens of thousands of U.S. military documents suggest soldiers in Afghanistan might have been exposed to a chemical weapon, Wired magazine reported. One document addresses a special operations forces effort to clear an area of multiple improvised explosive devices and battle insurgents on Feb. 14, 2009. After one bomb was detonated 'a yellow cloud was emitted and personnel began feeling nauseous,' according to the combined Joint Special Operations Task Force field log. Dust samples were gathered and the team went back to its base. 'A total of 7x US MIL, 1x Interpreter and 1x K-9 dog reporting symptoms,'according to the document. 'Will inform if chemical attack is confirmed.' A subsequent document, issued six hours afterward, stated the team was undergoing medical care and examination. 'Initial medical assessment is that none of the personnel are currently experiencing symptoms .... CJSOTF surgeon assessed no need to MEDEVAC (medical evacuate) any personnel,' the report said. 'The individuals have been placed on 24 hour stand down. SSE Team from KAF (Kandahar Air Field) will fly to FB Cobra on 15FEB09 to conduct testing for any residual chemicals or materials on personnel and equipment. The results of this testing will confirm or deny this event as a CBRN [chemical biological radiological nuclear] attack.' No reports from the WikiLeaks data dump indicate the military concluded the soldiers had been subjected to a chemical strike. [...] Another military field report stated that in June 2007 U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan reported being tipped off to an extremist plot to contaminate the food supply of allied troops in the country by stealing coalition food trucks. 'The plan is to inject the bottles or the packages of food with unidentified chemicals, or recreate the same type of packages with contaminated versions of the same product,' the report said, adding 'the source 'supplied no further information.' [...] Another unverified WikiLeaks military report stated that al-Qaeda was plotting to produce chemical warfare agents to be disseminated by rocket-propelled grenades, the London Guardian reported. A source told U.S. forces that Mohammad Hamzah Ahmadzai was looking into acquiring uranium for undetailed explosive uses. While the nuclear material could be purchased from an undisclosed facility in Lahore, Pakistan, the scientist found the asking price -- $538 for 10 grams -- too expensive, the source said." (Global Security Newswire; 27Jul10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100727_9487.php

Experts to destroy old gas shells [Columboola]
"A specifically designed chamber will be used to destroy 144 mustard gas shells found on the site of a World War II US Military base at Columboola, near Chinchilla. Department of Defence awarded the contract for the destruction of the shells to Australian company Milsearch earlier this week. Milsearch will be working with an international team of US-based personnel who have extensive experience in the destruction of old artillery munitions containing chemicals. A Department of Defence spokesman said specialist equipment would be brought to Australia and set up on the site in the next few months. 'The actual process of destruction, in a chamber specifically designed to destroy chemical munitions and capture and neutralise any emissions generated in the process, is expected to take seven to 14 days,' the spokesman said." (Toowoomba Chronicle; 30Jul10) http://www.thechronicle.com.au/story/2010/07/30/munitions-experts-to-destroy-old-gas-shells/

Chem weapons destruction compromise in the works [Pueblo, CO]
Local officials and the head of the program charged with destroying the chemical weapons stockpile here have come up with an agreement for a plan to get rid of some of the weapons other than through the water neutralization process that will handle most. Irene Kornelly, chairman of the Colorado Chemical Demilitarization Citizens Advisory Commission, said Wednesday that an agreement 'that would be satisfactory to everyone' had been worked out with Kevin Flamm, manager of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives program. She said, however, she could not reveal the details because the decision is still up to Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.' She said she did not know when Carter would make a decision, but hoped it would be before the next commission meeting, Sept. 29, in Boone. The Pentagon has been looking at the possibility of blowing up 125,000 of the 780,000 mortar rounds and artillery shells here in contained chambers. The argument was that it would allow the United States to continue weapons destruction work uninterrupted after the last incineration plant finishes work in 2012 and before destruction gets under way here in 2015. That would give the United States a better position to encourage other nations that have promised to destroy chemical weapons to not delay their programs." (Pueblo Chieftain; 29Jul10; John Norton) http://www.chieftain.com/news/local/article_623d3d34-9ad2-11df-9aa1-001cc4c002e0.html

Oregon chemical weapons disposal company fined [Umatilla, OR]
"The state of Oregon has fined the operator of the Umatilla Chemical Depot weapons disposal facility $41,600 for permit violations. The Washington Demilitarization Co. operates the incineration facility at the depot to destroy aging stockpiles of chemical weapons dating from the Cold War era. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Thursday the company agreed to pay the fines and take steps to ensure compliance with its hazardous waste treatment facility permit after two violations. The agency said the disposal company failed to strictly follow proper air monitoring procedures when incinerating one container and operated under procedures or documents not properly incorporated into the permit. State officials said the violations did not result in any reported public health hazards or direct environmental harm." (Oregon Live; 29Jul10) http://www.oregonlive.com/newsflash/index.ssf?/base/national-136/1280448487211930.xml&storylist=orlocal

2 U.S. embassy workers in Paris tested after suspicious letter; police say it had tear gas in it
"Two men who work for the U.S. Embassy in Paris underwent medical tests after handling a suspicious letter Friday, the embassy said, and Paris police said it appeared they had been exposed to tear gas fumes. Mailroom employees identified a suspicious letter and the embassy alerted French authorities, Embassy spokesman Paul Patin told The Associated Press. The letter was examined by chemical experts and the two people who handled it were examined at the Paris hospital Hotel-Dieu, he said. The central laboratory of the Paris police identified the irritant as tear gas, according to a police official who was not authorized to speak to the media. [...] An embassy employee received a manila envelope sent as registered mail that had no mail inside, but it began emitting fumes after the employee opened it, the official said. The official said the throats and eyes of the employee and two others were irritated. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in the number of exployees reported affected. Two months ago, Paris police were asked to investigate a similar case involving a letter to the U.S. ambassador, the Paris police official said. The embassy did not provide further information about where the letter came from or the nationalities of the employees. The mailroom is in the main building of the U.S. embassy, located just off the Champs-Elysees not far from the French presidential palace." (Los Angeles Times; 30Jul10; Daphne Rousseau) http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-eu-france-us-embassy,0,6661020.story

Change at the top [OPCW Director-General position changes hands]
"In December 2009 the 14th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention appointed H.E Mr Ahmet Uzumcu of Turkey as the next OPCW Director-General. In advance of his taking office on 25 July 2010, outgoing Director-General Rogelio Pfirter and Ambassador Uzumcu responded to questions on the state of the OPCW and the challenges that lie ahead." (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; 20Jul10) http://www.opcw.org/about-opcw/technical-secretariat/director-general/change-at-the-top/

No threat in ammo in sea [HI]
"The University of Hawaii has completed a three-year investigation of conventional and chemical military weapons dumped during and after World War II at a deep-water site five miles south of Pearl Harbor. The School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology, which did the study for the Pentagon, reported that although even the best-preserved munitions casings are deteriorating, the observations and data collected 'do not indicate any adverse impacts on ecological health' in the study area, known as HI-05, the university said yesterday. However, Waianae Coast activist William Aila Jr. said the study falls short because no conclusive determination was made whether the testing was being done near conventional or chemical weapons. 'They should have brought one up and had it tested,' Aila said. A 2007 report to Congress said 2,558 tons of chemical agents, including lewisite, mustard, cyanogen chloride and cyanide, were dumped at three deep-water sites off Oahu. 'We know from archived records thousands of military munitions were sea-disposed at HI-05,' said Margo Edwards, UH's principal investigator. 'There were also some indications that as many as 16,000 M47 100-pound bombs containing approximately 73 pounds each of the chemical agent mustard were disposed in the area.' More than 2,000 munitions were identified on the sea floor. Edwards said it would have been too dangerous to bring up some of the weapons for testing, but there is the possibility of follow-up study." (Star Advertiser: Honolulu, HI; 28Jul10; William Cole) http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/hawaiinews/20100728_No_threat_in_ammo_in_sea.html

Undersea robot for Dounreay [Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd]
"Efforts to clean up radioactive particles discharged to sea from Dounreay will be bolstered this month by the addition of a large crawler robot. The device is about the the same size as a small bulldozer, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) said, and includes a two metre-wide detector capable of pinpointing particles buried up to 60 centimetres in sediment. It will be operated via a 500 metre cable from a control room on a barge moored 500 metres offshore. The robot is supplied by Land & Marine, and the detector by Nuvia. A staff of about 20 Land & Marine workers will operate in shifts around the clock to control and cover its assigned area of 12.5 hectares of seabed. The particles the team are looking for came from handling of used nuclear fuel from research reactors before reprocessing and recycling. Aluminium cladding on fuel from the Dounreay Materials Test Reactor and similar exported units had to be removed manually and this resulted in a build up of debris at the bottom of storage ponds." (World Nuclear News; 23Jul10) http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Undersea_robot_for_Dounreay_2307101.html

Nuclear forensics skill is declining in U.S., report says
"The nation's ability to identify the source of a nuclear weapon used in a terrorist attack is fragile and eroding, according to a report released Thursday by the National Research Council. Such highly specialized detective work, known as nuclear attribution, seeks to study clues from fallout and radioactive debris as a way to throw light on the identity of the attacker and the maker of the weapon. In recent years, federal officials have sought to improve such analytic skills, arguing that nuclear terrorism is a grave, long-term threat to the nation. The major goals of the federal efforts are to clarify options for retaliation and to deter terrorists by letting them know that nuclear devices have fingerprints that atomic specialists can find and trace. The report, 'Nuclear Forensics: A Capability at Risk,' was made public by the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences. It summarizes a secret version completed in January. Three federal agencies -- the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is part of the Energy Department -- requested the study. The public report says that a series of factors threaten to undermine the nation's ability to conduct nuclear investigations intended to learn the provenance of an explosive device, whether it is a true atomic weapon or a so-called dirty bomb that uses ordinary explosives to spew radioactivity." (New York Times; 29Jul10; William J. Broad)

Agencies drill for nuclear terrorist attack [CA]
"Firefighters, police, sheriff's deputies, paramedics, the county coroner and other emergency services personnel will participate in a training exercise today that simulates a response to the detonation of 10-kiloton improvised nuclear device. The drill is 'not based on any actual intelligence information or threat to Los Angeles or the United States,' said Ken Kondo, a spokesman for the county's Office of Emergency Management. It is geared toward advance planning for such an event and to share information and technology between first responders and public safety personnel at local, state and federal levels. [...] Personnel from 88 cities, 137 unincorporated areas and more than 200 special districts will participate in the exercise, dubbed 'Operation Golden Phoenix 2010.' Emergency operations centers throughout the Southland will be activated as part of the drill and communicate with the Los Angeles County Emergency Operations Center, said Kondo. In Burbank, public safety personnel will host a live demonstration of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Integrated Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (ICBRNE) real-time sensor technology system. The sensors monitor conditions and alert officials about the detection of radiation in the area. [...] The training is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate and facilitated by the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Asymmetric Warfare." (Press-Telegram: Long Beach, CA; 28Jul10)

Cargo from rollover requires extra caution [OR]
"As Charles Sherwin lay upside-down in a 2008 Ford Ranger pickup truck about 6:05 a.m. Monday on Highway 126, waiting for emergency personnel to extricate him from the truck, he had a warning for them: 'Look for it -- but don't touch it,' said Scott Aker, vice president of Umpqua Testing Service, the Myrtle Creek company that employs Sherwin. The 54-year-old Roseburg man was westbound on Highway 126 near Fisher Road, en route to a state Department of Transportation bridge construction site east of Mapleton, when the company vehicle he was driving drifted onto the shoulder of the road before rolling several times after Sherwin overcorrected his steering, according to police. The impact of the crash caused the piece of encased equipment chained and locked in the back of the pickup to eject, Aker said. That would be the nuclear densometer, a common field instrument used to test soil density and moisture at major road construction sites. Why the concern about the strange contraption that looks something like a short, futuristic vacuum cleaner? Because the instrument contains radioactive material, albeit in 'very, very minute' amounts, Aker said. 'One of the firefighters found it,' said Oregon State Police trooper Cale Day, who responded to the crash. The instrument was discovered in a ditch near the crash site. '(Sherwin) told them to call the radiation officer for our company,' Aker said. As a precaution, the highway was closed for about 90 minutes until an Oregon State Fire Marshal hazardous materials team checked the area, and a representative from Umpqua Testing Service arrived to retrieve the instrument." (Register-Guard: Oregon; 27Jul10; Mark Baker) http://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/news/cityregion/25069662-41/aker-sherwin-crash-highway-126.csp

VA National Guard hones disaster response skills [Sandston, VA]
"It could happen at any moment- a security threat of regional or national scope. Members of the Virginia National Guard have to be prepared for all scenarios. In Sandston Tuesday, hundreds of members of the Virginia National Guard, as well as dozens of representatives from local, state and federal agencies gathered at the Joint Operations Center to conduct a simulation of a homeland defense exercise. The task facing the National Guard and other agencies was to prepare for the detonation of a 'dirty bomb' in Northern Virginia's mixing bowl region and test how units would help respond to and reinforce the emergency teams on the ground. Captain Sean Talmadge takes CBS 6 reporter Sam Brock on a tour of the mobile response unit, and demonstrates how bomb victims are decontaminated. Then Col. Rob McMillin, director of joint operations for the Virginia National Guard, gives an inside tour of the central command center and explains how communication takes place in the event of a major disaster." (Columbia Broadcasting Service; 27Jul10; Sam Brock) http://www.wtvr.com/news/wtvr-national-guard-simulation100727,0,2233061.story

Finland expands support for NNSA[National Nuclear Security Administration] nuclear nonproliferation programs
"The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that NNSA and the Republic of Finland have agreed to expand cooperative efforts to prevent the smuggling of nuclear materials around the world. Under an agreement signed with NNSA's Second Line of Defense (SLD) program and facilitated by the U.S. Department of State's Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative, Finland agreed to provide $308,000 for nuclear nonproliferation work in Kyrgyzstan. While this is Finland's first contribution to NNSA's SLD program, it is the second time Finland has provided financial support to NNSA's nuclear nonproliferation programs. In Fiscal Year 2005, Finland contributed $628,000 to support NNSA's efforts to shut down the last remaining weapons-grade plutonium production reactors in Russia. 'We welcome Finland's ongoing and generous support to NNSA's nuclear nonproliferation programs,' said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. 'This contribution underscores the cooperation between our two countries to strengthen global efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world, prevent nuclear smuggling and keep dangerous nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists and proliferators. Partnerships like this allow NNSA to make even more progress toward strengthening nuclear security and countering the threat of nuclear proliferation.'" (National Nuclear Security Administration; 29Jul10) http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/finland072910

I-Team: nuclear emergency response teams train in Las Vegas [NV]
"Fears of nuclear terrorism prompted representatives from at least 26 countries, including Russia and China, to make a quiet visit to Las Vegas recently. They were in town to check out a highly sophisticated, but little known, operation that would be critical in the event of a nuclear disaster. The program is called FRMAC and it just might be the most important program you've never heard of. FRMAC stands for Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center. In the event of a nuclear accident [or] terror[ist] attack, FRMAC would be the first line of defense, in a sense. Team members would spring into action, grab their gear, and be airborne in an instant, ready to monitor the radiation and assess what should be done next. No one else in the world has this kind of expertise, which is why the foreign countries were invited to town to learn from the best. In Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears, fascists smuggle a nuclear device into Baltimore and detonate it. A more likely scenario, experts say, is that Islamic terrorists acquire a small nuke, or a so called dirty bomb, and attack an American city or nuclear power plant. No matter what the scenario or where, ground zero for the responders will be Las Vegas. 'This is where the emergency response starts,' said Dr. Harvey Clark with FRMAC. At first glance, it may not look like much. The thousands of people who drive past the north end of Nellis every day have no idea what's just beyond the fence in a non-descript beige building. The only outside hint is the sign. If the unthinkable happens, this will be the nerve center, the eyes, ears, and brain for emergency responders and policymakers who would have to know as soon as possible how bad things are on the ground." (Columbia Broadcasting System: Las Vegas, NV; 28Jul10)

U.S. unclear if Russia complying with chemical, biological weapons pacts
"A State Department report says the United States is uncertain whether Russia has fully complied with international treaties banning chemical and biological weapons. The department Wednesday released its Compliance Report - an unclassified condensed version of a much more detailed report it sent to Congress. It says a lack of information from Russia has made it unclear if Moscow has fully complied with its obligations to get rid of all biological weapons. The State Department also says it is still not sure if Russia has declared its stockpile of chemical weapons. Russia has not yet replied to the report, which could have some bearing on the U.S. Senate's decision whether to ratify the new nuclear arms treaty signed earlier this year between Russia and the United States." (Voice of America; 29Jul10) http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/usa/US-Unclear-if-Russia-Complying-with-Chemical-Biological-Weapons-Pacts-99538719.html

Hazardous duty; HazMat crews train at Los Alamos lab [NM]
"'It looks like some kid was upset, a domestic terrorist, looking to make a biotoxin, something to kill some people, hurt some people.' Santa Fe Fire Department training captain Shaun Northness was being debriefed. He and three other members of the Fire Department's part-time hazmat team had searched a trailer on Los Alamos National Laboratory property filled with evidence of a terrifying plot: bloody gloves and syringes; written instructions under the heading 'Influenza;' unidentifiable powders and liquids; a sealed glove box encasing a metal container bubbled over with purple foam; pinned-up photos of decaying animals; and a side room with blood palettes showing obvious fungal growth, near plastic bins holding two live ducks and two live chickens. There was a dead duck on the floor. 'They're doing testing on animals for some kind of bioterrorist ...' Northness didn't finish his sentence, but LANL's Brad Lounsbury was pleased as they concluded the debriefing. The SFFD team did miss some evidence (including the dead duck on the floor - it's hard to look down in the puffy neon Level-A hazmat suits), but it had entered the trailer safely, thoroughly documented important evidence, tested chemicals for identification and reasoned quickly from scattered papers that some Colorado State grad-school student was planning to unleash havoc somewhere critical. Wednesday was the first day of competition in the lab's 14th annual Hazmat Challenge, in which 14 hazmat teams (mostly from New Mexico) converge deep in the woods on LANL property to run through eight elaborate simulations of varying hazardous-chemical scenarios. They are judged on all sorts of criteria, including time and safety." (Fire Engineering; 29Jul10; Phil Parker) http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/Wire_News_Display.1231637390.html

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

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