Paul L. Williams is a former consultant to the FBI on organized crime and terrorism. Since then, he has become an award-winning investigative journalist and written several books. In his new book, “The Al Qaeda Connection,” he claims Osama bin Laden has obtained nuclear weapons and smuggled them into the U.S. through Mexico for use in a plot known as “American Hiroshima.”
Ryan Mauro: Much has been written about the “American Hiroshima” report. How did you first learn about the plot?
Paul Williams: I have a unique background. I hold a Ph.D. in philosophy from Drew University and I am a seasoned and award-winning journalist. I came upon the story of bin Laden’s acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons while working as the editor/publisher of The Metro and a consultant on organized crime for the FBI. Several members of the Chechen Mafia, who had emigrated to Little Odessa, muscled into the operations of the Bufalino Crime Family in Northeast Pennsylvania by selling choice No. Four heroin, guns of every description, and stolen high-end cars from New York and New Jersey .
I learned that they came to the U.S. after Makhmud and his associates sold tactical nukes and nuclear materials to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. I began to search for evidence of this sale and came upon stories in The Jerusalem Report and The London Times and Arab stories in Muslim magazines, Al-Watan al-Arabi and al-Majallah This led me to other sources and reports of further sales of nukes from the former Soviet Union to al-Qaida not only by the Chechens but also the Russian Mafia and black-marker arms-dealers, including Semion Mogilevic from the Ukraine . Such information can be obtained by any journalist with a telephone, a computer, and a library card.
I further learned that the sales to al-Qaida have been verified by a host of intelligence officials and weapons inspectors, including Hans Blix, former director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. The sales were even verified by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri in their pronouncements that they have obtained a small arsenal of nuclear weapons from black-market sources. My research took me farther into dealings between bin Laden and Dr. A. Q. Khan and the fact that over 20 nuclear scientists and technicians from Khan’s research laboratories in Pakistan worked with al-Qaida on a regular basis to maintain and modify the weapons that had been purchased and to develop other weapons from the highly enriched uranium and plutonium that bin Laden hade purchased from Uzbekistan and other countries.
Dr. Mahmood and Dr. Majeed, two of the leading officials at the Khan facility, confessed to CIA and ISI interrogators that they participated in al-Qaida’s nuclear projects. The fact that the Chechens possessed the nukes should be no surprise to any reporter or investigator. In 1995, the Chechens under Com. Shamail Basayev planted a radiological bomb in Izmailovsky Park near Moscow . The bomb was made of cesium-137, and, if detonated, would have killed thousands of Russians. This incident represented the first case of a nuke to be deployed as a weapon of terror. Later that same year, Dzokhar Dudayev, the leader of the Chechen Mafia, offered to sell his collection of nuclear weapons to the United States in exchange for U. S. recognition of Chechnya ‘s independence. The Clinton Administration declined and so the weapons were sold to al-Qaida.
More importantly, there is empirical proof that al-Qaida possesses nukes. In 2000, British agents posed as recruits from a London mosque to infiltrate al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan . In Herat , they saw nuclear weapons being manufactured. Similarly, an al-Qaeda operative was arrested at the checkpoint at Ramallah with a weapon strapped to his back. At first, Israeli intelligence thought that the weapon was a radiological bomb but later confirmed, as reported by Richard Sales of UPI and other reputable journalists, that it was a tactical nuke. There are more examples, including the canister of uranium 238 that U.S. military officials discovered in a lead canister in Kandahar at the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom.
RM: How come other terrorism experts, Steven Emerson for example, haven’t warned us about the plot? In other words, why does it seem so out of the mainstream?
PW: Few military and intelligence officials question bin Laden’s ability to launch his plan for the American Hiroshima. Gen. Eugene Habiger, former Executive Chief of Strategic Weapons at the Pentagon, said that an event of nuclear mega-terrorism on U. S. soil is “not a matter of if, but when.” During the 2004 presidential debates, President Bush and Sen. Kerry said that nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists represent the greatest danger facing the American people, while Vice President Cheney, on the campaign trail, warned that a nuclear attack by al-Qaida appears imminent. Before leaving office, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge both voiced that belief that al-Qaida’s plan to nuke cities throughout the country soon might come to fruition.
From the private sector, Warren Buffet, who establishes odds against cataclysmic events for major insurance companies, concluded that an imminent nuclear nightmare within the United States is “virtually a certainty.” From the academic community, Dr. Graham Allison, director of Harvard University ‘s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said: “Is nuclear mega-terrorism inevitable? Harvard professors are known for being subtle or ambiguous, but I’ll try to the clear. ‘Is the worst yet to come?’ My answer: Bet on it. Yes.” Finally, from the mainstream media, Bill Keller, editor of The New York Times, concluded that the only reason for thinking a nuclear attack won’t happen is because “it hasn’t happened yet,” adding that such reasoning represents “terrible logic.” And so, Ryan, the message has been delivered but few are listening.
Emerson’s importance as an analyst pales in comparison to that of Michael Scheuer, of the CIA and author of “Imperial Hubris,” who was in charge on “the Alec file,” the CIA’s file on bin Laden. On Nov. 14, 2004 , Scheuer appeared on “60 Minutes” to alert the American people that a nuclear attack by al-Qaida “is pretty close to being inevitable.”
RM: In your upcoming book, “The Al-Qaeda Connection,” you write that former Russian KGB and Spetsnaz operatives maintain bin Laden’s nuclear arsenal. When were they hired and how do we know they are capable of such a monumental task?
PW: Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri began recruiting former Spetsnaz technicians circa 1997. By 1999, a host of such technicians (along with nuclear scientists from China ) were working at al-Qaida laboratories in Afghanistan and Pakistan . By 2000, al-Qaida also secured the help of scientists and technicians from the A. Q. Khan Research Facility in Pakistan , including the assistance of Khan himself.
On Sept. 11, 2001 , when the attack was taking place in America , bin Laden and company were meeting with Dr. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, former Chairman of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission, and Dr. Chaudry Abdul Majid, chief technician for the A. Q. Khan Facility, to discuss the maintenance and deployment of al-Qaida’s nuclear arsenal. When the CIA confiscated records from Ummah Tameer E-Nau (“Islamic Reconstruction”), Dr. Mahmood’s bogus charity in Kabul , they discovered evidence from Mahmood’s computer that at least one al-Qaida nuke had been forward deployed to the U.S. from Karachi in a cargo container. After interrogating Mahood and Majid, CIA officials discovered that more than a score of scientists and technicians from the A. Q. Khan Facility worked on a daily basis to develop, upgrade, and maintain the al-Qaida nuclear arsenal. Almost all of these scientists have escaped from Pakistan to avoid arrest.
U.S. officials have been denied permission to interrogate Dr. Khan, even though we know that he provided nuclear technology and designs for atomic bombs not only to Libya , Iran and North Korea, but also Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sudan, Nigeria, Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria, Abu Dhabi and Myanmar. In Myanmar , for example, Dr. Sulieman Asad and Dr. Mohammad Ali Mukhtar are building a 10-megawatt nuclear reactor while still providing help and expertise to the al-Qaida network. It’s a hellava situation and the press is not reporting it.
RM: Do you have any information on what the U.S. and its friends are doing to try to stop the plot?
PW: On Oct. 11, 2001 , George Tenet, former CIA director, met with President Bush to inform him that at least two tactical nukes have reached al-Qaida operatives in the U.S. This news was substantiated by Pakistan ‘s ISI, the CIA and the FBI.
In accordance with this discovery, the Bush administration deployed hundreds of new and sophisticated Gamma Ray Neutron Flux Detector sensors to U.S. borders, overseas facilities and “choke points” around Washington, D.C. The administration further assigned Delta Force, the elite special operations detachment unit of the U.S. Army, the task of killing or disabling any or all suspects. Such measures have proved to be ineffective. Richard L. Wagner, senior staff member at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, testified before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on the Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack that the currently installed radiation detection systems are highly limited in their capabilities and, in general, insufficient to the task. To add to the problem of insecurity, the borders remain almost completely porous and less than 10 percent of the freight that arrives at major ports (including New York/New Jersey) is inspected.
RM: Where is the WMD arsenal now that Afghanistan is occupied?
PW: The nuclear weapons were not contained solely in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida laboratories were established in the Balkans, Sudan, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even places like Myanmar. A number of these weapons have been forward deployed to Mexico and the U.S.
My educated guess would be that arsenals have been established in several of the following countries: Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Abu Dubai, Iran, Syria and Lebanon . The last three in light of the al-Qaida truce and bonding with Hezbollah. Myanmar looms large since very sinister events are taking place there. These events, including the construction of large reactors, have been made possible by fugitive scientists and technicians from the Khan Research Facility .But don’t lose sight of the fact that nukes have been forward deployed to al-Qaida cells in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
RM: Why haven’t the weapons been used already? One can’t help but think that the best time to use the weapons would have been during the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq .
PW: The worst time for al-Qaida to use its nuclear weapons would have been during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq when the U.S. remained on high alert. A defining characteristic of bin Laden is patience. His favorite Islamic verse is as follows: “I will be patient until Patience is outworn by patience.” He started plotting the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania when he was in the Sudan in 1993; the attack of the USS Cole was more than two years in the making and eight years passed between the first attack on the World Trade Center and the second. The planned American Hiroshima is enormous in scope. It requires not only development and (in some cases) rebuilding of the weapons along with codification for detonation but also forward deployment, site preparation and precise strategic coordination with scattered cells.
Bin Laden will not allow the attack to take place unless there is certainty of success. His entire resources (including the gains from the poppy fields) have been spent on this operation. After scrutinizing the situation and analyzing the data, Bill Keller, editor of The New York Times , said that the “best reason” for thinking that the nuclear attack by al-Qaida will NOT happen is because “it hasn’t happened yet,” adding this conclusion represents “terrible logic.” I agree with him.
RM: Is there any indication of when Bin Laden intends to use the arsenal?
PW: Bin Laden can’t sit on these weapons for years. They require constant maintenance. At any given time, a tactical nuke exudes a temperature in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that they are prone to oxidation and rust. Moreover, the triggers that emit large quantities of neutrons at high speeds decay rapidly and have short half-lives – most would become useless without maintenance in less than four months. The nuclear cores also are subject to decay and over the course of several years would fall below the critical mass threshold. Though the shells that encase the cores are the most durable parts of the weapons, they, too, are subject to contamination. The tritium used to compensate for the required amount of conventional explosives to compress the fissile core within the compact devices is less of an issue since it has a half-life of 12.3 years. Taking all things into consideration, the attack should occur within the very near future. The bombs which bin Laden began building in 1992 are for the American Hiroshima.
RM: Given the heat and radiation given off by the nuke, couldn’t it be detected?
PW: Richard L. Wagner, senior staff member at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of the founders of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team, recently told Congress that major breakthroughs in the ability of the U.S. government to locate rogue nukes may be five years away. Wagner, a Ph.D. whose specialty is radiation detection, testified that better technology and more radiation detention devices are needed to stop the nuclear terrorist threat. “Currently installed radiation detection systems, or systems which could be procured in quantity in the next year or two, are quite limited in their capabilities and, in general, are insufficient for the task,” he testified. “Substantial research and development is needed to improve detection capabilities.”
A nuclear gun bomb that could be fired from a 155 millimeter recoilless rifle could be packed in the small container, stuffed into the truck of a car or van and transported into any major metropolitan city within the U.S. without detection.
That’s the fact of the matter. Other weapons could be transported by private plane to any major airport. Less than 25 percent of the freight on private planes is inspected let alone subjected to radiation detection. To complicate matters, the ports of entry (such as the airports) are now controlled by the Albanian Mafia. The Albanians have taken over the operations of the Italian-American crime families and have become, according to the FBI, the leading criminal organization in the U.S. The Albanians, as you know, are Muslims with ties to radical Islam and, through the KLO, al-Qaida.
RM: I have trouble believing that teams required to maintain a nuclear weapon wouldn’t be detected here in the U.S.
PW: There isn’t just one team but, at least, seven. They are working within mosques and Islamic centers. In the U.S., a federal judge will not provide any FBI or law enforcement agent with a warrant to search a mosque of an Islam center for any reason since such places are listed as “houses of worship.”
RM: Seven teams?
PW: At least seven teams, according to information obtained from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al-Qaida operatives, in at least seven metropolitan areas. These areas have been identified as New York, Miami, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The attack will occur simultaneously at the seven sites.
RM: How do you know you can trust what Khalid Sheikh Mohammad said? In the past, he’s given us bogus information, some of which led to orange alerts. Some say he and other al-Qaida operatives are waging a disinformation campaign meant to dull our senses.
PW: No, you can’t trust Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, but you can trust the information that was obtained from his laptop when he was arrested on March 1, 2003 .
RM: Will Bin Laden use them on the American homeland or also forces overseas and countries that have joined the war on terrorism?
PW: They are not for use in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Iraq or Afghanistan . The declaration of war was issued against the United States and al-Qaida insists that over 4 million Americans must die for the sake of parity. They are intent upon realizing this objective and the doomsday clock by all reckoning is very near midnight .
Ryan Mauro is the author of the upcoming book “Death to America: The Unreported Battle of Iraq” and owner of WorldThreats.com.