Nuclear Terrorism: How Big a Threat?

Is al-Qaeda Trying to Get a Bomb?

Documents Trace U.S. Nuclear Counter-Terror Efforts

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 388

Posted - September 7, 2012

For more information contact:
Jeffrey T. Richelson -
202/994-7000 or

NEST helicopter with radiation detection equipment. Courtesy of Robert Windrem.

Washington, D.C., September 7, 2012 – Eleven years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, how concerned Americans should be over threats of nuclear terrorism remains a subject of vigorous debate. Declassified documents have confirmed that the U.S. (and other) governments have anticipated the possibility of a terrorist nuclear incident at such high-profile events as the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Ever since 9/11, U.S. experts have been particularly interested in whether al-Qaeda is trying to acquire a nuclear device.

To provide context and important background material on this issue, the National Security Archive today is posting 40 documents produced by a range of U.S. and other government agencies that concern assorted aspects of the current U.S. nuclear counterterrorism effort, and provide details of earlier investigations into the threat of clandestine nuclear attack.

The Archive obtained the documents through Freedom of Information Act requests - particularly to the Departments of Energy and Defense, the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency - as well as from a variety of government and other websites.

The nuclear counterterrorist effort, in the past and today, involves assessing the interest of terrorist groups in acquiring and employing nuclear weapons; addressing vulnerabilities with respect to the storage of these materials; developing and improving means of detecting nuclear weapons or material in the possession of terrorists; and identifying the source of such items through nuclear forensics and attribution.

Some items of particular interest in today's posting are:

  • A Defense Science Board report (Document 8) which discusses Project SCREWDRIVER (1950-52) and the resulting Project DOORSTOP (1953-70), whose objective was to detect any attempts by Soviet Bloc diplomats to smuggle nuclear material into the United States.
  • An after-action report (Document 4) of the 1998 ERRANT FOE exercise, which identifies issues concerning the effort to disable a terrorist device as well the mission, capability, "deployment trigger," team size, and composition of NEST components.
  • The existence of a yearly Defense Intelligence Agency report - Postulated Threat to U.S. Nuclear Weapons Facilities and Other Selected Strategic Facilities.
  • Creation of the 'SIGMA 20' nuclear weapons data category - to protect information about data on improvised nuclear devices (Document 12).
  • The report (Document 17) of a radiological survey of Washington, D.C. in preparation for the nuclear detection efforts conducted before and during the 2009 presidential inauguration.
  • A description of the potential terrorist tactic (Document 15) of employing a radiation exposure (or emission) device.
  • The pre-9/11 conclusion of the Defense Science Board (Document 8) that "current nuclear forensics capability is inadequate to support timely response."
  • The efforts by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to create a Global Nuclear Detection Architecture (Document 13, Document 37).

* * * *

Nuclear Terrorism: Threat and Response

By Jeffrey T. Richelson

The issue of how concerned American citizens and the United States government should be with the threat of nuclear terrorism has been the subject of vigorous debate in the almost eleven years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 1 But U.S. apprehension over the possibility of clandestine nuclear attack dates back to the early days of the Cold War, when it was feared that the Soviet Union might seek to smuggle nuclear devices into the United States to attack selective targets. From at least 1972, the U.S. has also been concerned with the possibility that a terrorist group might acquire or construct a nuclear device or radiological dispersal device (popularly known as a 'dirty bomb') for use in the United States.

The nuclear counterterrorist effort, in the past and today, has involved a number of elements. One is the assessment of the interest of terrorist groups in acquiring and employing nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. At least two national intelligence estimates, from 1975 and 1986, which have been released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, addressed the issue of terrorist group acquisition and use of nuclear material or weapons. 2 More recently, estimates, intelligence reports, and studies have focused on possible acquisition and use by al-Qaeda.

A second element of the program to defuse nuclear terrorist threats comprises the efforts to assess and address vulnerabilities with respect to the storage, control, and transport of nuclear weapons or materials. The U.S. has devoted significant attention to the security of fissile materials abroad, particularly in Russia, and has also focused considerable attention on the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In addition, the Department of Defense has, through a variety of directives and instructions, addressed the issues of security and control of U.S. nuclear weapons, as well as policy and procedures for the transportation of those weapons.

There has also been a considerable effort to develop means of detecting nuclear weapons or material that terrorists might attempt to smuggle into the U.S. or across other nations' borders. Developing mobile detection systems that can be employed to search and locate a hidden terrorist device has been an ongoing activity for almost 40 years. Complementary to the detection and localization effort are the development of capabilities to secure and disable any device - which may involve 'special mission units' (such as Delta Force or the Naval Special Warfare Development Group), military explosive ordnance disposal units, and various Department of Energy components.

An additional capability - nuclear forensics - that has drawn substantial attention and resources in recent years is relevant both to the deterrence of any nuclear terrorist act and to an assessment of the source of nuclear material used in a seized or detonated device. That capability is intended to allow comparison of the fissile material in a device with the composition associated with specific foreign nuclear programs and is part of the larger attribution effort. Attribution combines forensics work with intelligence and other data to reach a conclusion as to the source of the nuclear material. One objective of establishing a nuclear forensics and attribution capability is to deter foreign nations from providing nuclear weapons or material to terrorist groups, since their complicity would be detectable - subjecting that nation to retaliation.

The documents posted today by the National Security Archive concern all aspects of the U.S. current nuclear counterterrorism effort, and also provides details of much earlier investigations into the threat of clandestine nuclear attack. (One concerns Canadian efforts related to the 2010 Olympics). They were acquired as the result of Freedom of Information Act requests - particularly to the Departments of Energy and Defense, the CIA, and Defense Intelligence Agency - as well as from a variety of websites - including those of the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). They also complement three earlier Archive electronic briefing books concerned with nuclear terrorism.(see sidebar).

Thus, the posting includes three documents (Document 2, Document 3, Document 6) that address al-Qaeda's interest in acquiring nuclear weapons or nuclear material - including a 200-page thesis (Document 6) for the Joint Military Intelligence College (JMIC) asking, of Bin Laden and nuclear weapons, "What's Holding Him Back?". The subject of terrorist interest in nuclear weapons is also addressed in both pre- and post-9/11 reports by the Defense Science Board (Document 8, Document 9).

A number of documents address various elements of the effort to secure fissile material and nuclear weapons. Included are GAO reports on fissile material security in Russia (Document 26, Document 34), documents related to nuclear security in Pakistan (Document 14, Document 35), and a number of Defense Department records concerning various aspects of nuclear weapons safekeeping - including personnel reliability (Document 36), transportation (Document 30), security policy (Document 10), and control (Document 27).

The efforts of two organizations involved in the detection and/or disablement effort - the Nuclear Emergency Search/Support Team and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office - are the subject of documents from the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, and the Government Accountability Office. Among the NEST-related documents (Document 4, Document 5) are previously Secret after-action reports of NEST exercises held in 1998 and 1999 as well as an earlier handbook (Document 1) concerning NEST detection systems and a report (Document 17) on a radiological survey of Washington, D.C. DNDO is the subject of a variety of documents - including the 2005 presidential directive (Document 11a) ordering its creation, as well as assessments (including Document 13, Document 23, Document 25) of its development of detection equipment and work in establishing a global nuclear detection architecture.

Some historical perspective on the attempt to develop such an architecture is given by a July 2001 Defense Science Board report (Document 8), which discusses earlier investigations and projects that focused on preventing the clandestine transport of nuclear weapons into the United States by Soviet bloc diplomats.

Details concerning the current nuclear forensics and attribution effort are provided by both a previously classified Defense Department directive (Document 18), as well as a Defense Science Board study (Document 8) and a Government Accountability Office report (Document 19) on human capital issues associated with the effort.


Document 1: Energy Research & Development Administration, NEST Detection Systems, September 1975. Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information.

Source: Department of Energy Freedom of Information Act Release.

This handbook focuses on the variety of systems employed by the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (now the Nuclear Emergency Support Team) to detect the radiation signatures associated with lost, stolen, or diverted nuclear weapons or nuclear material. In its redacted form, it consists largely of photographs, providing both internal and external views, of these systems - including aerial (both aircraft and helicopters) and ground systems.


Document 2: DCI Counterterrorist Center, Terrorism: Usama Bin Ladin Trying to Develop WMD Capability?, January 6, 1997. Top Secret Codeword.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This commentary, written before the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa, explores whether Al-Qaeda was trying to develop a WMD capability. It examines efforts by Bin Laden's agents in 1994 to purchase uranium, and asks what the objective of such an acquisition would be.


Document 3: Central Intelligence Agency, Subj: Usama Bin Ladin's Attempts to Acquire Uranium, March 18, 1997. Secret.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This report provides somewhat more detail than Document 2 on Bin Laden's attempt to acquire uranium.


Document 4: Department of Energy, Errant Foe (Ellipse Bravo-98) After-Action Report, December 3, 1998. Secret.

Source: Department of Energy Freedom of Information Act Release

This after-action report evaluates an interagency exercise designed "to test and validate agencies' ability to respond effectively to international terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction." In addition to describing the progress of the exercise and discussing a variety of other issues, including responsibility for disablement, it provides an overview of NEST and NEST-related components such as the Nuclear Radiological Advisory Team, LINCOLN Gold Augmentation Team, and Joint Technical Operations Team.


Document 5: Department of Energy, Exercise 3-99 DOE Command Post Exercise After Action Report, March 23, 1999. Secret.

Source: Department of Energy Freedom of Information Act Release

This report on a command post exercise conducted in March 1999, provides the background and progress of the exercise, a discussion of issues identified in the exercise, an evaluation, and a description of the assorted teams subordinate or related to NEST.


Document 6: [Author Name Deleted], Joint Military Intelligence College, Usama Bin laden and Weapons of Mass Destruction: What's Holding Him Back?, September 2000. Unclassified.

Source: Defense Intelligence Agency Freedom of Information Act Release.

This 200-page document is a thesis produced for the Defense Intelligence Agency's Joint Military Intelligence College (now the National Intelligence University). Based on unclassified sources, the unidentified author examines past research on terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, profiles Bin Laden, examines his message and worldview, explores Al-Qaeda's group dynamics, and addresses restraints on Bin Laden's use of WMD. It poses the question - if Bin Laden does have a nuclear weapon or other weapon of mass destruction, "what's holding him back?"


Document 7: U.S. Joint Forces Command, Instruction 3100.6, Subj: Charter for the Joint Technical Augmentation Cell, January 22, 2001. Secret.

Source: Joint Forces Command Freedom of Information Act Release.

As its title indicates, this instruction provides the charter for Joint Forces Command's Joint Technical Augmentation Cell (JTAC), a unit created to be deployed in support of geographic combatant commanders assigned responsibility for conducting WMD consequence management operations in foreign nations. (The Joint Forces Command was disestablished on August 31, 2011.)


Document 8: Defense Science Board, Protecting the Homeland: Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Unconventional Nuclear Warfare Defense, 2000 Summer Study, Volume III , July 2001. Unclassified.

Source: Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Release.

The Defense Science Board was tasked with determining the Defense Department's ability to support the detection, identification, response and prevention of unconventional nuclear attacks as well as determining the appropriate DoD roles and capabilities in support of homeland defense against unconventional nuclear attacks. The report provides new details on past investigations into the detection of nuclear attack, such as Project SCREWDRIVER and Project DOORSTOP, as well as into other NEST activities, and provides a number of recommendations with regard to deployment of detection systems, intelligence, forensics, and research and development.


Document 9: Defense Science Board, Preventing and Defending Against Clandestine Nuclear Attack, June 2004. Unclassified.

Source: Federation of American Scientists (

This report provides a discussion of the threat of clandestine attack against U.S. interests, makes a number of recommendations (including immediate operational changes, improving nuclear intelligence, and establishing joint war-fighting requirements and capabilities), assesses the value of potential improvements in radiation detection performance, and examines the link between clandestine attack scenarios and protection architectures.


Document 10: Department of Defense, Department of Defense Directive Number 5210.41, Subject: Security Policy for Protecting Nuclear Weapons, November 1, 2004. Unclassified/For Official Use Only

Source: Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Release.

The core of this directive is the specification responsibilities within the Defense Department for the security of U.S. nuclear weapons - including the Defense Intelligence Agency's responsibility for producing an annual estimate titled Postulated Threat to U.S. Nuclear Weapon Facilities and Other Selected Strategic Facilities. It also provides a summary of Defense Department policy with regard to nuclear weapons security.


Document 11a: George W. Bush, National Security Presidential Directive-43/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-14, Subject: Domestic Nuclear Detection, April 15, 2005. Unclassified.

Source: Federation of American Scientists.

Document 11b: The White House, Fact Sheet "National Security Presidential Directive-43/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-14: Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, April 15, 2005.

Source: Federation of American Scientists.

These two documents - a presidential directive and related fact sheet - concern the establishment of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). In contrast to NEST, the DNDO focuses on developing, acquiring, and supporting deployment of detection systems to be employed at ports, borders, or other points of entry into the United States or foreign nations. The systems are "to detect and report on attempts to import, possess, store, transport, develop, or use an unauthorized nuclear explosive, fissile material, or radiological material in the United States." The directive also requires the DNDO to develop "an enhanced global nuclear detection architecture."


Document 12: Department of Energy, DOE M 457.1-1, Control of Improvised Nuclear Device Information, August 10, 2006. Unclassified.

Source: Department of Energy Freedom of Information Act Release.

This manual consists of two chapters. The first describes the responsibilities of organizations within the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration for the administration and management of data (designated "Sigma 20") concerning improvised nuclear devices. The second chapter focuses on procedures for protecting Sigma 20 data.


Document 13: Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, OIG-08-19, DHS' Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Progress in Integrating Detection Capabilities and Response Protocols, December 2007.


This inspector general study examines the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office's coordination with federal agencies and state governments in assisting them to deploy improved detection capabilities in relevant security operations. It also reviewed the DNDO's work in developing a global nuclear detection architecture.


Document 14: Defense Intelligence Agency, Military Leadership Profile, "Lieutenant General (Retired) Khalid Ahmed KIDWAI, January 31, 2008. Secret/NOFORN.

Source: Defense Intelligence Agency Freedom of Information Act Release.

The subject of this heavily-redacted profile, Lt. Gen. (Retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, has been director of the Pakistani Joint Staff's Strategic Plans Division - responsible for the security of the nation's nuclear weapons - since 1999. Among other information, it reports Kidwai's assertion concerning the number of soldiers deployed to secure strategic facilities.


Document 15: Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Potential Terrorist Attack Methods, April 23, 2008. Unclassified/For Official Use Only.

Source: Public Intelligence (

This joint DHS-FBI assessment devotes six pages to the threat from nuclear or radiological attack. Beyond examining the types of weapons, configurations, or effects of a detonation, it notes how terrorists might seek to acquire a nuclear or radiological capability and alternative delivery scenarios. It also discusses employment of a 'radiological exposure device' as an alternative to a radiological dispersion device.


Document 16: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CJSCI.01C, "Joint Nuclear Accident Support and Incident Response Team," November 15, 2008. Unclassified.

Source: Defense Technical Information Center (

This instruction describes the Defense Department's Joint Nuclear Accident and Incident Response Team (JNAIRT) - a 24-hour-a-day capability for managing the response to an incident or accident involving nuclear weapons in DoD or Department of Energy custody in the United States, its possessions, or on foreign territory.


Document 17: Remote Sensing Laboratory, DOE/NV/25946-684, Radiological Survey of Downtown Washington DC for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, March 2009. Unclassified.

Source: Federation of American Scientists.

Because any urban area emits background radiation, for years the Department of Energy and NEST have conducted surveys of background radiation to allow search teams to more quickly identify anomalous levels of radiation - possibly associated with a stolen nuclear weapon, improvised nuclear device, or radiation dispersal device. This report provides the theoretical background as well as the results associated with a survey conducted in preparation for Barrack Obama's inauguration.


Document 18: Department of Defense, Department of Defense Directive Number S-2060.64, Subject: DoD Support to the National Technical Nuclear Forensics (NTNF) Program, April 1, 2009 . Secret/NOFORN.

Source: Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Release.

This directive specifies the responsibilities of Defense Department organizations in the area of nuclear forensics - the analysis of pre- and post-detonation nuclear and radiological samples along with post-detonation signals and debris - and attribution - the identification of the nature, source, perpetrator, and pathway involved in an actual or attempted nuclear attack.


Document 19: Government Accountability Office, Nuclear Forensics: Comprehensive Interagency Plan Needed to Address Human Capital Issues, April 30, 2009. Unclassified.


This 15-page letter reports on the results of a classified study, conducted by GAO at the request of members of Congress, that assessed the challenges faced by the U.S. government "in developing and maintaining a comprehensive nuclear forensics capability" and future costs associated with the government's nuclear forensics efforts.


Document 20a: Government Accountability Office, GAO-09-655, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Improved Testing of Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors, but Preliminary Results Show Limits of New Technology , May 2009. Unclassified.

Document 20b: Government Accountability Office, GAO-09-804T, Statement of General Aloise, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Lessons Learned from DHS Testing of Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors, June 25, 2009. Unclassified.

Document 20c: Government Accountability Office, GAO-10-252T, Statement of Gene Aloise, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Recent Testing Raises Issues About the Potential Effectiveness of Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors, November 17, 2009. Unclassified .


All three of these documents, either reports or testimony from GAO officials, focus on a controversial DNDO initiative - the Advanced Radiation Detection Portal Monitors, designed to provide an improved capability to detect weapons-usable nuclear material. In its May 2009 report, the GAO noted testing limitations and the limited increase in detection capability of the new monitors. After reporting, in May, on the lessons learned from testing the monitors, GAO official Gene Aloise addressed, in November, the implications of more recent testing of the monitors.


Document 21: Canadian Border Services Agency, Olympic Security (Nuclear Vulnerability), n.d. (but late 2009 or early 2010 ), Unclassified.


This report, for Canada's Minister for Public Safety, concerns CBSA's detection technology program that was in place "to prevent the smuggling of illicit radiological and nuclear materials into the Canada" prior to or during the February 2010 Vancouver Olympics.


Document 22: Department of Defense, Department of Defense Directive Number 3150.08, Subject: DoD Response to Nuclear and Radiological Incidents, January 20, 2010. Unclassified.


This directive provides a statement of policy and assigns responsibilities for Defense Department consequence management responses to nuclear and radiological incidents - which include accidents involving reactors in nuclear-powered warships and associated radioactivity, accidents involving stationary nuclear reactors and special nuclear materials, and "hazards resulting from attacks against, or attempted or actual theft, or seizure of U.S. nuclear weapons."


Document 23: Government Accountability Office, GAO-10-883T, Statement of Gene Aloise, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Has Made Some Progress but Not Yet Completed a Strategic Plan for Its Global Nuclear Detection Efforts or Closed Identified Gaps , June 30, 2010. Unclassified.


This testimony, from the GAO's director for natural resources and the environment, notes significant progress in deploying radiation detection equipment and developing procedures for scanning, for nuclear and radiological materials, cargo and vehicles entering the United states through fixed land and sea ports of entry. Aloise also notes less progress with regard to scanning by other means of entry, including commercial aviation and air cargo, and in developing a global nuclear detection architecture.


Document 24: Department of Defense, Department of Defense Instruction Number 3150.10,

Subject: DoD Response to Nuclear Weapons Incidents, July 2, 2010. Unclassified.


This instruction, which follows the guidance in Document 22, specifies DoD policy with regard to nuclear weapons incidents - which include accidents or intentional hostile events involving a nuclear weapon, nuclear facility, or nuclear component. It states that "all U.S. nuclear weapon incidents shall be considered to be the result of hostile acts until proven otherwise." The instruction also specifies the responsibilities of assorted assistant secretaries, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the military departments, and combatant commanders.


Document 25: Government Accountability Office, GAO-10-1041T, Statement of Gene Aloise and Stephen L. Caldwell, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Inadequate Communication and Oversight Hampered DHS Efforts to Develop an Advanced Radiography System to Detect Nuclear Materials , September 15, 2010. Unclassified.


This testimony provides a post-mortem on the DNDO's attempt to develop and deploy an advanced radiation portal system to detect any nuclear and radiological material that nuclear smugglers might attempt to introduce into the United States through U.S. ports of entry. In 2007 DNDO cancelled the acquisition component of the project and converted it into a research-and-development effort.


Document 26: Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-227, Nuclear Nonproliferation: Comprehensive U.S. Planning and Better Foreign Cooperation Needed to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear Materials Worldwide, December 2010. Unclassified.


Part of the effort to prevent nuclear terrorism has been U.S. support to efforts to secure nuclear material held by foreign nations, particularly by Russia. This study reviews U.S. interagency strategy as well as three National Nuclear Security Administration nonproliferation programs and their impact on securing Russian nuclear warheads and materials.


Document 27: Department of Defense, Department of Defense Instruction Number S-3150.07, Subject: Controlling the Use of Nuclear Weapons, December 21, 2010. Secret/FRD.

Source: Department of Defense Freedom of Information Act Release.

This classified DoD instruction delineates the responsibilities of Department of Defense components in the control of nuclear weapons, and identifies general procedures and objectives for their control (most of which are redacted) as well as safeguards. It states: "In the event unauthorized personnel do gain access, or if a weapon or warhead is lost or stolen, lawful measures must be in place to recover or control and to prevent detonation of nuclear weapons."


Document 28: Department of Energy, DOE/CF-0057, Department of Energy FY2012 Congressional Budget Request: National Nuclear Security Administration - Office of the Administrator, Weapons Activities, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, Naval Reactors, Volume 1 , February 2011 (Extract). Unclassified.


This extract from the Department of Energy's FY 2012 budget request focuses on planned spending in support of the department's Nuclear Counterterrorism Incident Response effort. Subjects include FY 2010 accomplishments, the Nuclear Emergency Support Team, render safe stabilization efforts, nuclear forensics, and research and development.


Document 29a: Department of Homeland Security, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office: Management and Administration, Fiscal Year 2013 Congressional Justification, 2012. Unclassified.

Document 29b: Department of Homeland Security, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office: Research, Development, and Operations, Fiscal Year 2013 Congressional Justification, 2012. Unclassified.


These two extracts from the Department of Homeland Security's Congressional Justification Budget Book, discuss the structure of the DNDO and the responsibilities of its components, as well as the research-and-development effort with regard to nuclear forensics and detection systems.


Document 30: Department of Defense, Department of Defense Instruction Number 4540.05,

Subject: DoD Transportation of U.S. Nuclear Weapons, June 23, 2011. Unclassified.


This directive specifies policies, responsibilities, and procedures with regard to the transport of U.S. nuclear weapons. The procedures section covers transportation activities, safety and security, as well as "use control during transportation of nuclear weapons."


Document 31: Jonathan Medalia, Congressional Research Service, R41891, "Dirty Bombs": Background in Brief, June 24, 2011. Unclassified.


This CRS report on radiation dispersal devices, popularly known as "dirty bombs," reviews domestic and global efforts to prevent an attack; attack response, recovery, and attribution; and issues for Congress - including the priority for countering radiological terrorism, radiation detection networks, materials protection, and radiological forensics.


Document 32: Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-869T, Statement of David C. Maurer and Gene Aloise, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Has Developed a Strategic Plan for its Global Nuclear Detection Architecture, but Gaps Remain, July 26, 2011. Unclassified.


This testimony updates GAO observations from 2010 on the DNDO's progress in developing a global architecture for the detection of nuclear or radiological materials passing through ports or across borders. As the title indicates, the office is judged by GAO to have had made progress, but gaps remained - gaps identified by DNDO itself.


Document 33: Government Accountability Office, Neutron Detectors: Alternatives to Helium -3 , September 2011. Unclassified.


The genesis of this study was the U.S. government's discovery, in 2008, of a shortage of helium-3 gas, which is employed in neutron detectors - including radiation portal monitors to screen vehicles and cargo at U.S. ports and border crossings. The study provides background on neutron detectors, examines currently available alternative neutron detector technologies, reviews alternative technologies in development, and offers conclusions.


Document 34: Government Accountability Office, Nuclear Nonproliferation: Further Actions Needed by U.S. Agencies to Secure Vulnerable and Radiological Materials, March 14, 2012. Unclassified.


This report updates the December 2010 GAO assessment of U.S. efforts to secure nuclear material worldwide - and was prepared in anticipation of the March 2012 Nuclear Security Summit.


Document 35: Paul K. Kerr and Mary Beth Nitkin, Congressional Research Service, Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues, May 10, 2012. Unclassified.

Source: Federation of American Scientists.

The possibility that Pakistani nuclear weapons might be obtained by Al-Qaeda, either due to a collapse of Pakistani government authority or provision by sympathetic insiders has been a concern for government officials and policy analysts. This study examines, inter alia, Pakistan's delivery vehicles, doctrine, command and control procedures, and security concerns - including U.S. assistance to Pakistani nuclear security efforts.


Document 36: Department of Defense, Department of Defense Instruction Number 5210.42, Subject: Nuclear Weapons Personnel Reliability Program (PRP), July 16, 2012. Unclassified.


This directive specifies policy and responsibilities with respect to the Defense Department's nuclear weapons Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) - which focuses on both mental traits (including integrity, emotional stability, and unquestioned loyalty) and freedom from physical attributes which would "impede, distract, or diminish" a person's ability to perform responsibilities with regard to nuclear weapons, nuclear command and control, or special nuclear material.


Document 37: Government Accountability Office, GAO-12-941T, Statement of David C. Maurer and Gene Aloise, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Has Developed Plans for its Global Nuclear Detection Architecture, but Challenges Remain in Deploying Equipment , July 26, 2012. Unclassified.


This joint testimony from GAO officials notes DNDO progress in developing global nuclear detection architecture plans, including deploying detection at U.S. borders crossings and seaports, but notes the remaining challenges - including scanning international air cargo and commercial aviation.


[1] See Graham Allison, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe (New York: Times Books, 2004); Brian Michael Jenkins, Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2008); Todd M. Masse,Nuclear Jihad: A Clear and Present Danger? (Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2011); John Mueller, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda (New York: Oxford, 2009).

[2] Director of Central Intelligence, IIM 76-002, The Likelihood of the Acquisition of Nuclear Weapons by Foreign Terrorist Groups for Use Against the United States , January 8, 1976; Director of Central Intelligence, NIE 6-86, The Likelihood of Nuclear Acts by Terrorist Groups, April 1986. Both are available at