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Nuclear Terrorism: How Big a Threat? Is al-Qaeda Trying to Get a Bomb? Documents Trace U.S. Nuclear Counter-Terror Efforts National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 388 Posted - July 19, 2012 Edited by Jeffrey T. Richelson For more information contact: Jeffrey T. Richelson - 202/994-7000 http://www.nsarchive.org Washington, D.C., September 7, 2012 -- Eleven years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, how concerned Americans should be over threats of nuclear terrorism remains a subject of vigorous debate. Declassified documents have confirmed that the U.S. (and other) governments have anticipated the possibility of a terrorist nuclear incident at such high-profile events as the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Ever since 9/11, U.S. experts have been particularly interested in whether al-Qaeda is trying to acquire a nuclear device. To provide context and important background material on this issue, the National Security Archive today is posting 40 documents produced by a range of U.S. and other government agencies that concern assorted aspects of the current U.S. nuclear counterterrorism effort, and provide details of earlier investigations into the threat of clandestine nuclear attack. The Archive obtained the documents through Freedom of Information Act requests - particularly to the Departments of Energy and Defense, the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency - as well as from a variety of government and other websites. The nuclear counterterrorist effort, in the past and today, involves assessing the interest of terrorist groups in acquiring and employing nuclear weapons; addressing vulnerabilities with respect to the storage of these materials; developing and improving means of detecting nuclear weapons or material in the possession of terrorists; and identifying the source of such items through nuclear forensics and attribution. Some items of particular interest in today's posting are: * A Defense Science Board report which discusses Project SCREWDRIVER (1950-52) and the resulting Project DOORSTOP (1953-70), whose objective was to detect any attempts by Soviet Bloc diplomats to smuggle nuclear material into the United States. * An after-action report of the 1998 ERRANT FOE exercise, which identifies issues concerning the effort to disable a terrorist device as well the mission, capability, "deploymenttrigger," team size, and composition of NEST components. * The existence of a yearly Defense Intelligence Agency report - Postulated Threat to U.S. Nuclear Weapons Facilities and Other Selected Strategic Facilities. Creation of the 'SIGMA 20' nuclear weapons data category - to protect information about data on improvised nuclear devices. * The report of a radiological survey of Washington, D.C. in preparation for the nuclear detection efforts conducted before and during the 2009 presidential inauguration. A description of the potential terrorist tactic of employing a radiation exposure (or emission) device. * The pre-9/11 conclusion of the Defense Science Board that "current nuclear forensics capability is inadequate to support timely response." The efforts by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to create a Global Nuclear Detection Architecture. Check out today's posting at the National Security Archive Nuclear Vault - http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb388/ ________________________________________________________ THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.