Count on it: The radiological hunt for polonium-210 will extend to the United States & Canada

By Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

8 December 2006: The mysterious death of Alexander Litvinenko is not all that it seems and based on my extensive research, is more sinister than most would dare to contemplate. So sinister, in fact, that it is not a simple good-will gesture that the FBI is up to their collective necks in the investigation of events surrounding his death. It is so ominously foreboding that the situation could not get much worse if it was proven that Putin himself laced Alexander Litvinenko with his cocktail of death. But Putin, in this instance, appears to have little to do with Litvinenko’s demise by radiological poisoning in London on November 23, 2006, about 3 weeks after his microscopic amount of polonium-210. In fact, in this case alone and as difficult for me to suggest, Putin could be considered more of a victim than the now deceased Victor Litvinenko.

Alexander Litvinenko was the former KGB agent who was a vociferous critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and, like his predecessors with a penchant for exposing Kremlin corruption, wound up dead. All but a few investigators and journalists immediately concluded that Alexander Litvinenko was killed at the behest of Putin through his personal “star chamber.” If it was only that simple, North Americans could sleep better at night.

The murder of Litvinenko kept poking at my investigative intuition and my experience with homicides, from the most basic components to the more complex forensics of the case. The more research that I conducted, the less things added up; the more questions I posed to a broad spectrum of law enforcement authorities more credentialed than me, the more disturbing the picture became. The most disturbing of all resulted from a telephone call I received last evening from a very well-sourced person with a vast array of intelligence throughout the world: “Expect [polonium-210] contamination to be found in the United States.”

There are those who will quickly dismiss any theory beyond the most obvious as conspiratorial and point an accusing finger at me for falling victim to the sophisticated Soviet KGB disinformation machine. We must remember, however, that deception is part of the game and proof is always obscured by lies. I will stipulate Vladimir Putin is not our friend and that most information that emanates from the Kremlin is automatically suspect, but that does not automatically make it all wrong, all of the time. But those who point to the history of Soviet disinformation and the inventory of political assassinations have a number of difficulties in this case, not the least of which is reconciling the manner in which Litvinenko met his demise. Regardless, those who remain stuck on cold war mentality in its purest form do not seem to have the capacity to understand the complexities of the asymmetrical aspects of the current war we are fighting.

Russia, Chechnya, & the short life span of Russian Critics

Russia and the predominately Muslim Chechnya have been at war for several centuries, and historical examples of Islamic attacks against Russia by Chechen rebels followed by Russian assassinations of key Chechen leaders are plentiful. Even among their own, Russia has a way of dealing with those in disagreement with its policies. This was never more evident than in the case of Anna Politkovskaya, the veteran Russian journalist and outspoken critic of Putin and his policies in Chechnya. Politkovskaya was found dead on October 7, 2006 in her apartment building, shot once in the head with a pistol. The manner in which she was killed has the signature of a true KGB style hit and sends a message to others contemplating a similar career path. This case should serve to satisfy those who correctly believe that the long reach of the old KGB machinery remains operational.

From an investigative perspective, one can extrapolate a common modus operandi or “M.O.” of Putin’s posse, and extend that same process to the Chechen rebels. That M.O. can be graphed from the 1994 Russian invasion of Chechnya through Chechnya’s de facto independence from the Commonwealth of Independent States in January 1997, and then from the upsurge of the increased inhumanities by the warlords of Chechnya beginning a year later to its present state. In practically all cases, significant assassinations, especially at the hands of the Russians, contained fairly recognizable and plentiful “signatures.” From that same investigative logic, however, the case of Alexander Litvinenko is quite different and more disturbing than a cold-blooded tap to the head by a 9mm.

Alexander Litvinenko: Muslim ex-Russian spy working with Islamic Chechen terrorists?

Research is now confirming that Alexander Litvinenko, once a Soviet spy and more recently a Muslim convert, was purportedly involved with Chechen based Islamic terrorists. Analysts and researchers at the Northeast Intelligence Network have documented thousands of postings, publications, and photographs on Islamic terrorist web sites connecting, a least anecdotally, Chechen warlords with nuclear ambitions. Most “evidence” that the Islamic terrorist organization al Qaeda had obtained nuclear material from the old Soviet arsenals smuggled from Chechnya - most still missing. Devices commonly referred to as “suitcase nukes,” the topic of research by author Dr. Paul Williams and specifically referenced by United Nations watchdog Hans Blix, were reportedly purchased by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 1996 from the Chechen rebels. As reported by The Moscow Times on 22 November 2004, Osama bin Laden has been actively involved in the Islamic terrorist “insurgency” in Chechnya since 1995. In an article dated November 13, 1998, The Al-Watan Al-Arabi cited one particular meeting in which an agreement was negotiated by some of Bin Laden’s followers and Chechen organized crime figures in Grozny, Chechnya. Referred to as “the nuclear warheads deal,” bin Laden reportedly gave the contacts in Chechnya $30 million in cash and two tons of opium in exchange for approximately 20 nuclear warheads. Sources stated that Bin Laden planned to have the warheads dismantled by his own team of scientists, who would then transform the weapons into “instant nukes” or “suitcase nukes.” Hence, the need for and use of polonium-210. Could it have been, as rumors are now beginning to circulate, that Alexander Litvinenko might have been part to such dealings? At this point, there is enough information to suggest that this information extends well beyond folklore, which makes the situation involving Alexander Litvinenko much more worrisome.

Based on my research, along with the extensive research about nuclear materials and their uses, the use of polonium-210 for the assassination of Litvinenko is not only uncharacteristic of the KGB, but it is sloppy, unprofessional, and downright messy. Although the KGB used nuclear poisoning in the past, including the assassination of two Swiss intelligence officials, they used more cesium-137, a much more readily available radiological in salt form. In the case of Ms. Politkovskaya and the countless others before her, she was silenced before she had any additional time to make specific utterances against Putin and his posse. The KGB is not stronger in using nuclear materials to poison their prey in the past

In the case of Litvinenko, he had enough time - and quite the motivation- to make additional revelations as he lay suffering purportedly at the hands of Putin. Meanwhile, we are led to believe that his “KGB assassins” were haphazardly spreading polonium-210 on airplanes, in hotels, and other locations.

Suitcase nuclear devices & “the problem with maintenance”

But now let’s get back to the “suitcase nukes” and the mysterious polonium-210. According to author Dr. Paul Williams, “suitcase nukes” need triggers. These triggers are composed of beryllium-9 and polonium-210, which were a feature of early nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Soviet stockpiles. Also according to Dr. Williams, the triggers using Polonium-210 and beryllium-9 are packaged in foil packs about the size of a package of sugar on a restaurant table. When the twin foil packages are crushed, the elements mix and the neutrons are emitted.

Dr. Williams adds: “A courier transporting nuclear triggers could have had a mishap causing the packages to rupture and a trail of contamination to occur. Polonium-210 is a fine powder, easily aerosolized. Litvinenko could have inhaled the powder, or had a grain or two on his fingers when he ate the sushi.”

Connecting the dots

As Victor Litvinenko is laid to rest in a traditional Muslim funeral, a lot of dots are beginning to connect. Frankly, there are a lot more dots to connect through extensive investigation- something one should never expect from a media lacking tenacity that is catering to a public suffering from general malaise.

While we busily connect the dots, we should first consider the possibility that Russia facilitated the transfer of nuclear weapons to al Qaeda through Kremlin-controlled Chechen terrorists. Secondly, we should keep in mind that the issue of missing nuclear material and devices, once thought to be urban legend, has yet to be satisfactorily explained and the locations of such materials and devices have yet to be verified. The gross contamination (by relative standards) of polonium-210 in the UK is the reason being presented by our media for the FBI assistance of Great Britain in their gross polonium-210 contamination scenario.

For this very same reason, this is why you won’t be hearing about the FBI involvement in their search for polonium-210 here on U.S. soil.