European security officials and members of American law enforcement successfully thwarted at least four attempts at selling radioactive material to Islamic extremists in the Middle East. Organized crime gangs with suspected ties to Russian organized crime — many of whom are former KGB agents — in the latest case of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) smuggling had intercepted a huge cache of deadly cesium — enough to contaminate several city blocks — and specifically sought a buyer from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to Fox News on Wednesday.
This latest report appears to be evidence of a fearful situation that has members of organized crime gangs linking up with terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida. It also provides a reminder of Red Team covert operations that revealed just how vulnerable Americans to “dirty bombs” — conventional explosives encased with radioactive material.
According to this reporter’s story for Family Security Matters, the Government Accountability Office’s Forensic Audits and Special Investigations team (FSI), which was created in 2005 as an interdisciplinary team consisting of investigators, auditors, and analysts, conducts covert tests at the request of the Congress to identify vulnerabilities and internal control weaknesses at executive branch agencies. These vulnerabilities and internal control weaknesses include those that could compromise homeland security, affect public safety, or have a financial impact on taxpayer’s dollars.
Using counterfeit documents and posing as employees of a company with a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license, FSI investigators successfully crossed the U.S. northern and southern borders with the type of radioactive materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb.
All counterfeit documents that FSI uses are manufactured using hardware, software, and materials that are available to the general public — this allows FSI to demonstrate that any security vulnerabilities it finds could be exploited by a criminal or terrorist with moderate means and resources and would not require sophisticated insider knowledge.
FSI’s investigators are the only GAO staff allowed to participate in the execution phase of testing, although audit and analyst staff are often involved in planning and operational support. Importantly, if investigators discover vulnerabilities that pose a significant and immediate threat to public safety, FSI immediately will discontinue its investigation and alert the appropriate government law enforcement agency.