A leaked FBI report states that a man named James G. Cummings was trying to build a dirty bomb when he was shot and and killed by his wife last December 9th in Belfast, Maine. He had plans, parts, explosive ingredients, and small quantities of radioactive material, though nothing that could not be purchased legally within the US. Cummings was a white supremacist who was reportedly very upset about Obama’s election.
The leaked document has been posted on Wikileaks since January 16th. While the material concerning Cummins was first noticed by the rumor site Unattributable.com on January 19th, only yesterday was there any sort of story about it in the mainstream media, in this case the local Bangor Daily News.
Although this dastardly plot was probably not much more dangerous to the public than a garden-variety bomb, this man would certainly qualify as a bona fide “terrorist” under Bush-regime logic. Or at least he would if he was Arab. In point of fact, he actually is a threat to the public, or was. So why haven’t we heard about it? Are crazy white supremacists somehow less of a threat than crazy fundamentalist muslims?
The FBI report notes:
State authorities detected radiation emissions in four small jars in the residence labeled ‘uranium metal’, as well as one jar labeled ‘thorium.’ The four jars of uranium carried the label of an identified US company. Further preliminary analysis on 30 December 2008 indicated an unlabeled jar to be a second jar of thorium. Each bottle of uranium contained depleted uranium 238. Analysis also indicated the two jars of thorium held thorium 232.
Depleted uranium (DU), the by-product of uranium enrichment for use in nuclear power plants or weapons, is not terribly radioactive and is reportedly not very suitable for use in a dirty bomb. Thorium is similarly weakly radioactive, and can be purchased legally through chemical supply companies (such as Fisher Scientific). Dispersal of these isotopes wouldn’t exactly be healthy — they’re both considered carcinogens, and DU has been well documented to cause birth defects, which is why the US and Israeli armies really shouldn’t be spraying foreign countries with DU bullets. However, a depleted uranium/thorium bomb couldn’t really be considered a weapon of mass destruction.
Still, the man was on his way to building some sort of upsetting bomb. Aside from the nastyness of bombings of any sort, I am quite sure the headlines screaming “radioactivity” wouldn’t bother with the scientific subtleties I just covered. I for one am glad that the FBI finally clued in — though only because these materials were found after Cummins was shot and killed by his wife, who claimed she was defending herself after years of physical and sexual abuse.
This is all very strange, and I am left with questions.
- Given this foiled plot, the sadly succesful Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, and other deranged loners such as the Unabomber, what is the actual risk to the public from foreign jihadists versus homegrown wackjobs, of which there are apparently plenty? [UPDATE: See also the Texas militia with a sodium cyanide bomb in 2003]
- Do the DHS and the FBI know the true answer to this question? Are they allocating their resources appropriately? How come we only found out about this plot accidentally?
- Again, the mainstream media still haven’t touched the story. Would this have been an instant headline if the guy was muslim?
- If domestic terrorists don’t count, why not? Is it because they’re useless in justifying foreign wars? Or is mostly ignoring them the right response, implying that we are far too jumpy about terrorism in general?
- This is completely ridiculous in so many ways. When do we, as a culture, decide to think rationally about terrorism?
And what would a rational approach be to terrorism be? I suggest public health as a model, which would doubtless show that if saving lives and property is the aim, we are wasting our time and money with “terrorism” as compared to, oh, I don’t know, obesity, car accidents, and global climate change.