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May 07, 2005

Daily Debacles
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

I have often wished I had the time to document the daily missteps and hypocrisies of conservative foreign policy, each linked to a larger thematic critique (partly because I know that if progressives ever get back in power, we can be sure conservatives will make the time to chronicle ours in minute detail).   Since my baby is taking a blissful early morning nap, I'll put down a few from today's headlines.  Here's what you get combing through just the NYT front section on a slow news day (virtually the entire front page is devoted to domestic stuff:

Gratuitous and unprompted insults toward Russia - While visiting Latvia the President has chosen to provoke Putin by reopening disputes of interpretation over the post-World War II occupation of the Baltics.    In doing so he egged on the Latvian President to accuse the Russians of lying "through their teeth." Our relationship with Russia is sensitive enough.  Although I don't minimize the importance of setting historical records straight, the current furor between China and Japan suggests how pointless and needlessly antagonizing it can be for politicians to take the lead in doing so.  The U.S. is already extremely popular in Eastern Europe and the Baltics.   File under:  flatfooted diplomacy.

- Nowhere on nuclear plant security - Almost four years after 9/11 and President Bush having made the fight against terror and for homeland security his highest priority, it appears that little progress has been made on securing our nuclear facilities.  File under:  failure to deliver on professed priorities.

- Credible evidence of Bolton's interfering with the provision of unbiased intelligence - Former CIA #2 John McLaughlin has testified to the SFRC that John Bolton attempted to oust an analysis who objected to Bolton's making statements at odds with the best intelligence available on Cuban military capabilities.  McLaughlin described this as the the only time in his 32 years in intelligence that such a request was made from a policymaker.  Despite claiming to be committed to reforming intelligence and ridding it of biased political meddling, the White House sees nothing in Bolton's conduct that raises concern about his nomination.  File under:  hypocrisy; intolerance of criticism/dissent.

- Administration fails to come to grips with mis-treatment of detainees - The U.S. has submitted a report to the UN's Committee against torture in which it affirms its unequivocal opposition to torture under all circumstances.  But the report overlooks the situation of so-called "ghost detainees" kept incommunicado and unregulated.  Nor does it address any of the cultural issues that led to abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, nor the fact that the senior officers responsible have - well - not been held responsible.  It also leaves out the practice of sending terrorist suspects to countries where torture is practiced.  File under:  Erosion of the U.S.'s status as human rights standard-bearer

- Administration retaliates against FBI translator for revealing flaws in intelligence gathering - An appeals court has upheld the firing of an FBI translator who blew the whistle on slipshod translations and the blocking of translations of materials relating to terrorism on personal and political ground.   The Administration is invoking a "state secret" privilege (don't think we studied that one in law school . . .") to block her suit to recover her job.  The translator plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.  File under:  intolerance of criticism/dissent.

The reviled head of Los Alamos is appointed to a Pentagon post - The head of Los Alamos has prompted open rebellion among the staff of the nuclear weapons lab because of his high-handed style.   The lab finally got rid of him, but he's getting a position at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.  File under:  failing upward.

Now there are some items that could be pointed to as wins on the other side:  despite British outrage over the lies en route to Iraq, Blair holds onto power, thus avoiding becoming another Aznar paying the price for fealty to Bush;  the Iraqis are a little closer to forming a Cabinet (though another 26 have died due to the insurgency). 

Luckily the front section is short today -- baby's up and keeping track of this stuff is exhausting. 


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Re: Nowhere on nuclear plant security

Wald isn't even that great of a reporter on the Nuke beat, as he always has to kiss up to the government before he throws any punches or reveals some damaging information.

I'm glad you're hitting on this. I work in the nuclear terrorism area. The nuclear safeguards in this country, especially power plant security, is pitiful.

According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 10 C.F.R. part73.1A-E, nuclear power plants aren't required to have security systems to stop an incoming commercial jet, or be prepared to stop an attack via boat (think 3 mile island).

RPGs, more than one inside saboteur, or a vehicle stronger than 1 4x4 off-road vehicle, or more than 1 vehicle. . .

These are all things the NRC DOES NOT require plant operators to defend against.

And since nuclear security is de-regulated, the private operators have no incentive to beef up security beyond what is required by NRC regulations.

If you google the following, you will get a link to a German study showing that a commercial jet crashing into a nuclear power plant--at speeds half that of what commercial jetliners usually travel at--would cause dramatic and catastrophic damage to a plant. We're talking planes as small as a DC-10 or 727, so imagine what a 747 or a big-ass airbus would do.

google: German study, nuclear power plants

And don't forget that according to the 9/11 commission report (p154), the original plot called for crashing planes into Nuke power plants.

It is estimated that 25,000 immediate deaths would occur and over 200,000 related casualties would ensue a successful nuclear plant attack.

1,000 times the radiation released at Hiroshima would be released.

25,000 immediate deaths from a power plant losing containment?

Are you serious? What are you basing these claims on?

Crashing a jetliner would result in a Chernobyl-style disaster, not a 20 kiloton detonation. To date, roughly 40 deaths- that's four-zero- have been attributed to the Chernobyl meltdown.

Why do you think 25,000 would die?

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