• Japan and U.S. agree on nuclear counterterrorism road map

    Japan and the United States are preparing a “road map” for cooperative efforts to prevent atomic site workers from stealing potential ingredients for an act of nuclear terrorism; the plan would also address the development of “security-by-design concepts” for facilities such as nuclear energy stations and atomic fuel processing sites

  • DHS border security searches of electronics questioned

    Debate continues over DHS’s search and confiscation of materials at international U.S. borders; the latest case to make the headlines is that of David House, 23, an MIT researcher whose laptop, flash drives, and cameras were confiscated at the U.S.-Mexico border by DHS on his way back into the United States after a vacation in Mexico; House writes in a blog post that he is one of few individuals who are able to visit Manning in his detention facility in Quantico, Virginia

  • Stuxnet may turn Bushehr into a new Chernobyl

    The destructive Stuxnet virus infected some 45,000 industrial control computers and servers in Iran; it destroyed more than 20 percent of Iran’s centrifuges, and, on 16 November, forced Iran to shut down uranium enrichment operations; it also infected the control system of the Bushehr reactor; Stuxnet is a sophisticated virus: while doing its destructive work, it makes sure that control computers continue to display “normal” operational information; one Russian expert described how engineers at Bushehr “saw on their screens that the systems were functioning normally, when in fact they were running out of control”; a new intelligence report says that with control systems disabled by the virus, an accident in the reactor is likely — an accident which would have the force of a “small nuclear bomb”

  • In Illinois, you could go to prison for using your Blackberry

    Illinois is one of twelve states with “two-party consent” eavesdropping laws on the books; audio recording a civilian in Illinois is a felony with up to three years in prison the first time you do it and up to five years if you do it again; the penalties are much stiffer, though, if you record certain people: audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general, or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison

  • Weekend nuke talks with Iran run aground

    A weekend meeting in Istanbul between Iran and six world powers about the future of Iran’s nuclear weapons program ended in an impasse; Iran insisted that any talks should be preceded by the lifting of the UN sanctions on Iran — but the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany were in lock step in their opposition to Iran’s proposed conditions; the group’s unanimity could enhance prospects for a broad international agreement on future sanctions or other punitive measures to force concessions from Iran in the future; the six powers offered Iran a revamped version of last year’s Tehran Research Reactor proposal, in which France and Russia agreed to provide Iran with much-needed fuel rods for a medical research reactor if Iran would part with a large chunk of its stockpile of enriched uranium; such a deal would have left Iran with less than the minimum amount of nuclear fuel needed to make a single atomic bomb

  • Israel, with U.S. help, tested Stuxnet at Dimona before attacking Iran

    The New York Times quoted intelligence and military experts to say that U.S. and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop a destructive computer worm to sabotage Iran’s efforts to make a nuclear bomb; the Stuxnet computer worm shut down a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in November and helped delay its ability to make its first nuclear weapons; before using Stuxnet to attack Iran’s nuclear program, Israel has tested the effectiveness of the malware at the heavily guarded Dimona complex in the Negev desert which houses Israel’s undeclared — and the Middle East’s sole — nuclear weapons program

  • Iran: Mossad targeting scientists

    Iran says it has arrested members of a an Israeli spy network responsible for targeting Iranian nuclear scientists; Israel has a history of killing nuclear scientists of neighboring states embarking on nuclear weapons programs — this was the case with Egyptian scientists and their European helpers in the early 1960s, and with Iraqi scientists in the 1980s; the assassination of a dozen or so leading Iranian nuclear scientists has also been linked to the Mossad

  • Geologists develop way to monitor covert nuclear tests in the Middle East

    Not only is it difficult to identify exactly where an explosion takes place, but it is especially challenging to differentiate the seismic waves generated by nuclear explosions from those generated by earthquakes, volcanic activity, and mine collapses; geologists develop improved seismic model for monitoring nuclear explosions in Middle East

  • Experts: Iran's threat to kill U.S. generals is serious

    Iran’s anger at the massive blow the Stuxnet malware has inflicted on its nuclear weapons program boils over; the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, threatened that American generals will be targeted and killed in revenge for last week’s attacks on two of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists; Iran and Middle East experts say that Iran often makes outlandish threats, but that this one has to be taken as a serious and credible threat because it came directly from Naghdi; the most likely place for an attack to occur would be Iraq, and any attack would most likely be carried out by surrogates working for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard; Bahrain, Qatar, and other Gulf states would also allow the Iranian general to carry out the threat

  • Stuxnet virus set back Iran's nuclear weapons program by two years: Langner

    Ralph Langner, top German computer security expert and the leading authority on Stuxnet, says Stuxnet was as effective in disrupting Iran’s nuclear weapons program as a direct military strike — but without any fatalities; the malware has set back the Iranian program by two years; expert says the Israeli military was the likely creator of the virus

  • Aussie intelligence chiefs fear nuclear war between Israel and Iran

    WikiLeaks documents show that Australian intelligence agencies fear that Israel might launch military strikes against Iran and that Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities could draw the United States and Australia into a potential nuclear war in the Middle East; Australia’s top intelligence agency also says that Iran’s nuclear program is intended to deter attack and that it is a mistake to regard Iran as a “‘rogue state”

  • Experts: Stuxnet worm wreaks havoc at Iran's nuclear sites

    Iran’s nuclear program is still in chaos as a result of the Stuxnet attack; the American and European experts say their security Web sites, which deal with the computer worm known as Stuxnet, continue to be swamped with traffic from Tehran and other places in the Islamic Republic, an indication that the worm continues to infect the computers at Iran’s two nuclear sites; Stuxnet was designed to take over the control systems and evade detection, and it apparently was very successful; last week President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after months of denials, admitted that the worm had penetrated Iran’s nuclear sites, but he said it was detected and controlled; the second part of that claim, experts say, does not ring true

  • Wikileaks: North Korea "helps Burma with nuclear sites"

    U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that Burma may be building missile and nuclear sites in remote locations with support from North Korea; the documents cite witnesses who say North Korean workers are helping Burma construct an underground bunker in a remote jungle; one cable reads: ‘The North Koreans, aided by Burmese workers, are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility that is ‘500 ft from the top of the cave to the top of the hill above’”

  • Medical isotopes no longer require weapons-grade uranium

    Highly enriched uranium (HEU) is used in nuclear weapons, but it is also used to make the radioisotopes that are injected in tiny quantities into people to diagnose and treat disease; indeed, making medical isotopes is a time-honored excuse for enriching uranium, if you want to build nuclear weapons but do not want to admit you are doing so (this is the cover Iran is using for its bomb-oriented enrichment program); South Africa’s Pelindaba reactor is now producing medical treatment-oriented molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) made from low-enriched uranium

  • FedEx loses -- then finds -- radioactive rods

    The shipment of radioactive rods sent from Fargo, North Dakota, to Knoxville, Tennessee, posed little threat, but its misplacement underscores the need to track low-hazard materials that could be used in small-scale terrorist attacks, experts say; as al Qaeda has shifted its tactics from 9/11-scale attacks to smaller attacks which aim to create fear and do economic damage, there is growing concern about low-radiation materials which are widely used in research, medical facilities, and industry; such materials may not be suitable for a nuclear bomb, but could be used to create “dirty bombs,” which cause fewer casualties but can release hazardous materials when they explode