H. Thomas Hayden was formerly the President and CEO of First Communications Company (FCC), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a joint venture between Raytheon and a Saudi Company involved in Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) Systems for the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, Saudi Arabian National Guard and Ministry of Interior. Before retiring from the US Marine Corps, assignments included Commanding Officer (CO), Headquarters and Service Bn, 1st Force Service Support Group, which deployed to the Gulf War, CO Brigade Service Support Group – 9, which deployed to Somalia and CO MAU Service Support Group – 33, which deployed to The Philippines and Korea. He was Branch Head, Headquarters Marine Corps, Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC), and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for SO/LIC with assignments to Central America. He has participated in combat operations or contingency operations in the Republic of Vietnam, Central America, Gulf War, Somalia, and Columbia. Tom has a MBA, MA in International Relations, and a PhD candidate in Business Management. He is the author of two books and is currently writing a third: SHADOW WAR: Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict; WARFIGHTING: Maneuver Warfare in the US Marine Corps. He has published over 40 articles and has been awarded the Navy League’s Alfred Thayer Mahan award for literary achievement.
Since the Associated Press reported back in March 2004 quoting an Australian television station interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, I have been looking for more reports on "suitcase nukes."
Suitcase nukes, or atomic demolition devices (ADMs), are actually small nuclear bombs. Both the Soviets and the US had such devices during the "Cold War." They were to be carried by Special Operations Forces who would be parachuted ahead/behind main force units using the ADMs to destroy large bridges, collapse mountain passes, or destroy entire major headquarters.
These ADMs can be no larger than a king size suitcase. Some were designed for a large backpack. They were considered tactical nukes, and authority for usage could have been released to the Soviet "Front" commander or the US Theater Commander-in-Chief.
The US has claimed to have long dismantled their ADMs but the Soviets and now the Russian government have not provided complete information their ADMs.
Former Soviet General Ledbed, once a candidate for the Russian presidency and an opponent of Boris Yeltsin, reported just before his untimely death that over 50 ADMs were missing from the Soviet arsenal. Ledbed died of mysterious circumstances while he was running for the Russian presidency. No one ever proved or disproved the Ledbed allegations.
In an interview broadcast on Australian Broadcasting Corporation television, Hamid Amir, a Pakistani journalist, said he had met with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri, the Number Two Al Qaeda leader behind Osama bin Laden. Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri claimed that "smart briefcase bombs" were available on the "black market."
There was no mention of when or where the interview was conducted.
When asked how difficult it was to buy and operate ADMs, Dr. Al-Zawahri is reported to have laughed and said: "Mr. Mir, if you have $30 million, go to the black market in central Asia, contact any disgruntled Soviet scientists, and a lot of smart briefcase bombs are available."
Al-Zawahri added, "They have contacted us, we sent our people to Moscow, to Tashkent, to other central Asian states, and they negotiated, and we purchased some suitcase bombs."
It has been well know that Al Qaeda has sought to acquire nuclear weapons. Osama bin Laden, in November 2001, according to the AP report, in an interview with another Pakistani journalist, boasted about his acquiring "components."
Russian and Pakistani top nuclear scientists have been investigated for selling sensitive equipment and nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Why would there be any doubt that if Al Qaeda had the money, someone had the materials for nuclear weapons.
Whether Saddam Hussein actually had a nuclear bomb program in existence when the Coalition invaded Iraq seems to be open to question. However, no one doubts that Saddam had an on going "research" program for nuclear bombs. Additionally, it should be clear to all that Saddam had a close working relationship with many Soviet general officers and could have easily bought a suitcase nuke for a price.
In his new book, Osama's Revenge: The Next 9/11, Paul L. Williams, who claims to be a consultant to the FBI, says that Al Qaeda has been planning a spectacular nuclear attack using six or seven suitcase bombs that would be detonated simultaneously against US cities.
In discussing Dr. al-Zawahri, Mir described him as the "real brains behind Osama Bin Laden." According to Mir, Dr. Al-Zawahri is the real strategist and Osama bin Laden is the front man because of his money. Mir added that he thinks Al-Zawahri is more dangerous than Bin Laden because Al-Zawahri planned the 9/11 attacks on the US while Bin Laden funded the operations.
Before going into deep cover, both Osama bin Laden and Dr. al-Zawahri, threaten after the loss of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the expulsion of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, that the next attack on the US would be more spectacular than the 9/11 attack.
Dr. Al-Zawahri is an Egyptian born surgeon. He was thought to be hiding with Osama bin Laden in the rugged mountain area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Other reports put bin Laden and Al Zawahri in Iran.
My bet is that both are living with their families where no one would expect to find them.
Osama bin Laden is in Saudi Arabia and Al-Zawahri must be with him. Bin Laden's mother and some of his brothers have long been known to provide support to bin Laden. Osama bin Laden comes from one of the wealthiest families in the world.
It would not be too difficult to live behind the many 10-foot high walled villas in Saudi Arabia. No one outside immediate family would ever see the most wanted men on earth, if they chose to temporary halt all contact with the outside world except through their most trusted family members.
While much has been in the news about a "dirty bomb" - radiological materials wrapped in large amounts of TNT or C-4 like materials - the facts are that a dirty bomb would do more psychological harm than any kind of physical damage.
Small dirty bombs can be made by anyone with access to radiological materials, like spent nuclear fuel rods, hospital radiological materials, research isotopes, etc.
However, a dirty bomb would be a little difficult to build without contamination to the amateur that might be so foolish to do so. A suitcase bomb would be shielded and more easily transportable.
My next column will be on how to prepare for a nuclear or radiological explosion.