Robert Hutton / Bloomberg & Nicole Gaouette / CNN & – 2016-04-05 01:02:08
Nuclear Drones From ‘Dark Web’ Cited by Obama in Terror Scenario
Robert Hutton / Bloomberg
NEW YORK (April 1, 2016) — Terrorists flying drones to spread highly radioactive material over a civilian area: That’s part of the nightmare scenario President Barack Obama urged world leaders to consider as they debated better ways of controlling nuclear material.
With the aid of apocalyptic fake newscasts, Obama told the group of 50 heads of state and foreign ministers in Washington on Friday to imagine that a terrorist group had bought isotopes through brokers on the so-called dark Web. One shipment was picked up in transit by radiation monitors, but others were thought to be still on the move. The terrorists were believed to be planning to use a drone to distribute the material. Would authorities react in time?
This hypothetical war-game was described by a UK official speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed. Obama’s aim was to push the men and women around the table to think about how their governments would respond. Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters the threat was serious.
“So many summits are about dealing with things that have already gone wrong and we are trying to put right,” he said ahead of the meeting. “This is a summit about something we are trying to prevent. The concept of terrorists and nuclear materials coming together is obviously a very chilling prospect. In the light of the Belgian attacks, we know is a threat that is only too real.”
Discussions on the sidelines of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in Washington covered issues from the latest sanctions against North Korea to the Iranian nuclear accord. While originally a forum for Russia, the US and other major powers to discuss nuclear weapons safety, counterterrorism issues dominated the official discussions in the wake of terror attacks in Brussels, Paris, West Africa, the Middle East and the US over the last year.
Before reporters were asked to leave the summit meeting hall Friday, Obama said, “We will then be showing a video which focuses attention on the possible scenarios that might emerge with respect to terrorist networks, which will give us a good opportunity to test those areas where we still have work to do.”
The use of drones for everything from adventure films to covert warfare has soared worldwide. In a boom fueled largely by hobbyists, the Federal Aviation Administration predicts 2.5 million drones will be sold this year and annual sales will climb to 7 million by 2020.
The UK official said there’s evidence Islamic State has tried to get its hands on commercial drones. Evidence has also emerged out of Belgium that terrorists there had video footage of a senior official at the country’s Nuclear Research Center ahead of attacks in Brussels that killed 32 people.
“We must actively respond to the threat of drones being used to spread radioactive materials or infiltrate nuclear facilities,” South Korean President Park Geun Hye said at a working dinner on Thursday, according to her office. “As the threat of nuclear terrorism evolves, our responses, too, should be preemptive and creative.”
While building a traditional nuclear weapon requires a great deal of technical expertise, a “dirty bomb,” in which conventional explosives are used to scatter radioactive material over a wide area, would need little skill and could be highly effective at spreading fear.
At least 130 countries have radiological material, stored at places such as universities, hospitals, companies and research centers, which could be used in a dirty bomb, said former US Senator Sam Nunn, who heads the Nuclear Threat Initiative group in Washington.
That raises the possibility of radioactive material being sold in marketplaces on the dark Web, which doesn’t show up on Internet search engines and where users can buy and sell illegal products and services, from child pornography to stolen credit-card information.
At the end of the summit, Obama highlighted progress made to coordinate efforts to halt the illegal trade in nuclear material, saying the US And its allies have “worked to install radiation detection equipment at more than 300 international border crossings, airports and ports, and we are developing new mobile detection systems as well.”
Nevertheless, Islamic State leaders have the intent to use any weapon they can to murder or create fear, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. The group, also known by the acronym ISIS, doesn’t currently have the capability to deploy nuclear or radiological weapons, the official added.
“ISIS’s savagery, which may have included the use of chemicals as weapons, is limitless and there is little doubt that they would weaponize radiological materials if they could,” said Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. The US and other countries must “ensure we have appropriate measures in place to detect the movement of radioactive material across borders.”
Obama: ‘No Doubt’ US Drones Have Killed Civilians
Washington (April 1, 2016) — President Barack Obama defended his drone strike policy Friday, even as he admitted that the US had at times killed innocent civilians.
Obama acknowledged the “legitimate criticism” in the past that the legal framework governing drones has had shortcomings.
“It wasn’t as precise as it should have been, and there’s no doubt civilians were killed that shouldn’t have been,” he said at a news conference at the conclusion of a nuclear security summit in Washington. “We have to take responsibility where we’re not acting appropriately, or just made mistakes.”
Obama said that the new guidelines for strikes on ISIS — which have expanded in recent weeks as the US looks at a broader array of targets — means they are not taking place where there are women, children or a normal civilian population.
“We’ve worked very hard to avoid and prevent” those strikes, he said. “Our operating procedures are as vigorous as they’ve ever been.”
ISIS and the Iran nuclear deal were centerpieces of the summit, with Obama claiming the latter as a major foreign policy achievement.
The President on Friday said that Tehran is sticking to the “the letter” of its nuclear agreement and that as a result, the US and other nations will work to help Iran integrate into the world economy.
The US will soon move to ease the ban on Iran’s use of US dollars within the next few days, according to a report Friday by The Wall Street Journal. That move would make it much easier for Iranian companies to integrate back into the international financial and trade system.
“So long as Iran is carrying out its end of the bargain, we think it’s important for the world community to carry out our end of the bargain,” Obama said at the end of the summit, which drew more than 50 world leaders to Washington.
“We want to make sure that over time they’re in a position to realize those benefits,” as long as they adhere to their commitments, Obama said.
The move, however, has been met with criticism by opponents of the nuclear deal, who fear it will only embolden Iran and make it more likely to break its commitments.
The summit, the last of four Obama has held during his presidency, focused on the threat of nuclear terrorism. Obama held up the nuclear agreement with Iran as an example of progress that can be made when countries unite behind strong diplomacy.
Obama hosted a side meeting during the summit with members of the so-called P5+1, the group of countries — France, the UK, Germany, Russia, China and the US — that negotiated the deal with Iran. They were told by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is implementing steps required under the deal, Obama said.
“As a consequence, sanctions related to their nuclear program have been brought down,” Obama said, but he noted Iran’s unhappiness that easing sanctions haven’t resulted in a rush of international investment.
“Part of the challenge they face is that companies haven’t been doing business there for a long time and they need to get comfortable with the prospect,” Obama said.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will be working to offer “clarity” to companies about whether they can or can’t get involved in various business agreements in Iran, Obama said.
But even if Iran is complying with the letter of the law, Obama said, businesses will still be leery if Tehran doesn’t also reflect the spirit of the agreement.
“What’s also important is Iran’s own behavior,” Obama said.
Businesses want to go where they feel safe, where they don’t see massive controversy, and “where they can be confident transactions will operate normally,” the President said.
Iran has to “signal it is not going to be engaging in provocative actions that might scare business off,” Obama said. “When they launch ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous,” Obama said. “When Iran continues o ship missiles to Hezbollah, that makes business nervous.”
Obama said he suspected there were multiple power centers inside Iran’s political elite and pointed the finger at the country’s hardliners for those provocations, implying that they may be trying to undermine the deal.
He compared them to “hardliners in the United States,” who even after certification that the Iran deal is working “are still opposed to the deal in princip
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