The "dirty bomb" that disappeared
The "dirty bomb" that disappeared
Jump to: navigation, search
March 8, 2009
The curious tale of an Obama hating, cashed up, nuclear Timothy McVeigh from Maine.
By Julian Assange (investigations editor)
It has all the makings of a great story. But outside of the US state of Maine and select counter-terrorism circles, you won't have heard about it. For this is a story with all the right ingredients but one wrong ingredient.
On the right side is a leaked FBI intelligence report, Obama's inauguration, a multi-million dollar trust fund, a woman, uranium, thorium, the first attempt to build a "dirty bomb" on US soil, and, of course, murder.
On the wrong is the body of James G. Cummings, white supremacist millionaire, found in his Belfast home on December 9, 2008, shot to death.
After local police attended the scene, the FBI moved in and sealed off the building. Men in protective suits descended on the home but police refused to comment about what they found. Mrs. Cummings was taken into custody.
Then on January 12, 2009, Wikileaks revealed a confidential FBI field intelligence report on the incident as part of a Presidential inauguration threat analysis.
According to the FBI report, Cummings had four lots of one gallon containers of bomb-grade hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium (also radioactive), lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium (radiation booster), boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon.
While the radiation levels from Cummings initial device would have not have been physically significant compared to its explosive and toxic effects, had Cummings set off the device in Washington DC, during Obama's Presidential inauguration, its psychogenic effect may have hospitalized thousands.
The FBI states it also seized literature on how to build "dirty bombs" and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60 and other radioactive materials.
There was also evidence linking Cummings to white supremacist groups, including Cummings' membership application to the US National Socialist (Nazi) party.
Local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home told Maine reporters that Cummings was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with a swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler's personal silverware and place settings.
Though the Associated Press independently confirmed the Wikileaks FBI report, no-one outside of the Maine press (and Wikileaks) wanted to tell their readers about the first credible "dirty bomb" plot on US soil.
Why hasn't the story been picked up by the national press?
Perhaps the media has simply tired of "dirty bombs"? Not at all!
There have been at least 1,264 media references to "dirty bomb" in the past month. A mere 23, or 1.8%, relate to the Cummings case--despite it being the only real plot among them.
Of the 23 Cummings references 21 are local Maine media and two are from security industry magazines.
The same time period saw 409 blog references, Some 76, or 19%, relate to the Cummings case--ten times the ratio of organized media.
However, 78 out of 79 bloggers simply copied text from Maine's paper of record, the Bangor Daily News (BDN) which followed up the Wikileaks document with a strong traditional press investigation. The 79th also wondered about the media silence outside of Maine.
Conservatives apparently didn't want to draw attention to a radioactive, wealthy version of Timothy McVeigh coming from their own sphere, although nearly every day during Bush's reign saw "dirty bombs" hyped as the ultimate threat.
The left didn't want to repeat another "dirty bomb" story, the likes of which Republicans had used to drive hundreds of billions of dollars into Republican dominated military and security contractors.
Those same contractors normally would have comprised a lobby to get the story out--and counter-terrorism dollars in--but their message lines were finely honed to hype threats posed by militant Islam and radical anti-capitalist greens.
Libertarians all over had conditioned themselves to oppose reportage that might lead to reactionary state controls.
The FBI wasn't talking and the Maine government tried to play incident down, under the rubric that they had protected Maine citizens at all times, despite apparently having had no conception of the Cummings plot.
Journalists of various hues at influential east coast outlets could have pushed the story had there been enough prestige incentive to overcome other allegiances, but because Wikileaks and BDN were "first" there was no such incentive. If there were journalism awards to be had, they'd be going to Maine journalists and Wikileaks.
And there you have it. The first "dirty bomb" plot on US soil, cut short only by a Shakespearean murder. But until now, you probably never heard about it, because only a few had incentives to tell you.
But the Belfast dirty bomber is just one drop from an ocean of truth that is unreported, not repeated, and does not enter into civil discourse, because it is not perceived to be profitable to talk about, regardless of how profitable it may be to hear.
Yet it is from these shared perceptions that we form the structure of civilization itself. Every government, every law, every regulation and every constitution is its product. Hence the quality of civilization is predicated on the degree to which civil discourse is a fair representation of the world we live in.
That is why the revelation of primary source knowledge, from which everything else follows, is so important. Its limits are the limits of civilization itself.
contribute to this article
add comment to discussion