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Lack of strategic insight: The “dirty bomb” effort

Tom Goffman, MD, FACP


Multiple countries including the United States and France are investing heavily in countermeasures to the threat of a “dirty bomb.” All of the machinery simply involves a variation on a Geiger counter that picks up excess photon irradiation. Classically, a “dirty bomb” is defined as a dangerous radioactive material mixed in a variety of ways with high explosive, so when detonated, radioactive material is dispersed. Solid radioactive material such as Cesium or Cobalt sends off very penetrating (‘hard’) photons from which one cannot simply be protected by sheet lead or a heavy door. For official occasions with dignitaries of State, such a bomb could prove a modest distraction, but simple radiation physics suggests such a bomb would be limited in the damage it could cause, would largely be a mess to be cleaned up by an appropriately trained crew, would involve a very confined area, and thoroughly fails to comprehend the mentality of al-Queda ‘central’ that wishes to follow 9/11 with an equal or greater show of terrorist force. The author would argue this sort of mind-think occurs when you have too few people in the hard sciences in your intelligence sections.


dirty bomb, bio-terrorism, fission bomb, strategic insight, terrorism, tactical nuclear bombs

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Bourestom J, Mahafey C: Al Aaeda and mass casualty terrorism: Assessing the threat. Strategic Insights. 2003; II(10): 1-4.

Bergen P: How worried should we be? Will Al Qaeda strike again? International Herald Tribune, Op ed. December 15, 2008.



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