Tags: Stupid | Victims | Dire | Threat?

Stupid Victims or a Dire Threat?

Wednesday, 27 February 2002 12:00 AM

Can you forget Enron for a while? Something else needs our investigative energies a lot more urgently.

On Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2002, the New York Times front-paged a story that made this American laugh louder and cheer harder than at any point since 9-11.

There was no evidence, the Times said, that bin Laden had succeeded in getting his hands on any nuclear weapons at all. There WAS evidence, however, that al-Qaeda had been swindled out of a lot of money by crooks who sold them worthless garbage gussied up to LOOK like weapons-grade nuclear material.

The crooks outwitting the terrorists! As columnist Pete Hammill used to write: "Beautiful!"

The news story, attributed to "administration officials," told us that more than 110 government buildings, military compounds, terrorist camps, safe houses and caves in Afghanistan have been combed through, with the discovery of "zero" material useful in manufacturing a nuclear bomb.

Instead were found crude containers hand-painted with skulls and crossbones and smeared with a little radioactive topping, probably medical waste, to set off a Geiger counter sufficient to convince unsavvy terrorists they were the real thing.

The swindle, according to our government officials, was so primitive that any student of Physics 101 should have known that if they were getting the radioactive power they were paying for in packaging that flimsy and unprofessional, the couriers would have been exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation.

Let's call that Possibility A and enjoy it for a few more hurrahs before we move on to face Possibility B. Possibility B was given to us by a former Green Beret sergeant named Keith Idema.

Sgt. Idema was sent to Lithuania as that Soviet conquest of 1940 was about to break free and become independent again upon the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Through the Lithuanian KGB, now free to be anti-Russian as well as anti-Soviet, Idema learned that virtual Niagaras of Soviet weapons-grade nuclear material were being sold out of Russia into the hands of the international terrorist underground.

Idema returned to America and was the star of a Pentagon briefing in 1992. Afterward, two gentlemen came up to him, congratulated him on his intelligence coup, introduced themselves as representatives of the FBI and CIA, and said they were ready to take a list of his sources from him to continue his excellent work.

"Nothing doing," said Sgt. Idema. "I had to promise my Lithuanian sources I would reveal nothing to the FBI or the CIA. They say you're full of moles and full of holes and I should disclose my information only to the Defense Department or a representative of the president of the United States."

The two agents were displeased. They had Idema indicted and convicted on charges of something called wire fraud, giving false business references, or something like that.

Idema still says he's innocent, but the interesting thing is that, even if guilty, the sentence should have been six months. They kept shuffling Keith from one federal prison to another for over six years, giving the impression he was going to stay in until he played ball with the FBI and the CIA.

(I had Keith on my radio show several times from prison. Twice, the warden heard him on the air in his car, did a U-turn, sped back to the prison, and ordered Keith thrown into solitary confinement. Keith, however, refused to quit trying to alert America to the danger of terrorists getting nuclear weapons.)

Keith always emphasized the disappearance of so-called SADMs from the Soviet nuclear arsenal. SADMs, Special Atomic Demolition Munition, are "backpack" nuclear bombs that can destroy an area of 40 city blocks, considerably more destruction than the World Trade Center.

If a SADM is detonated from the top of a building, its destructive power escalates and it could kill up into the hundreds of thousands, depending on the target.

The scene that would play best in a movie was the night in prison when Idema learned that the FBI official who had him sent to prison had been identified as a Russian spy and arrested. Keith wanted to stay in the prison TV room and watch that news story. It was after hours, time for the lockup, and the guard ordered Idema back to his cell.

"You're not enough by yourself to get me into my cell before the 11 o'clock news," Idema told the guard. "You'd better call for backup."

The guard did call for backup, and when backup came, so did a call from a higher authority in the prison who knew the whole story and ordered the guard force to stand down and let Keith watch the news.

Keith was thus able to watch the FBI agent, Earl Edwin Pitts, who had him sent to prison for refusing to reveal sources, led away in handcuffs for what would be a conviction and a sentence of life imprisonment.

Since that time, the arrests and convictions of Robert Phillip Hanssen of the FBI and Aldrich Ames of the CIA have reinforced the impression that Lithuanian KGB operatives in 1990 knew the FBI and CIA better than most Americans or, for that matter, better than the heads of both of those agencies!

Keith Idema went to Afghanistan in October of 2001 and remains as a civilian consultant to the Northern Alliance. He sticks to his story that huge shipments of weapons-grade nuclear material found their way from post-Soviet Russia into the international terrorist underground.

CBS's "Sixty Minutes" ran the Keith Idema story without mentioning Keith Idema. They were probably turned off by his "prison record" and used his information without using his name. He's since been interviewed by Dan Rather in his own right.

So, which is it?

Are we entitled to laugh at bin Laden and al-Qaeda as stupid victims of a nuclear sting? Or,are we sentenced to ponder what happened to all that Soviet nuclear material missing since the collapse of the Soviet Union?

This is not an easy exercise for conservatives, but may we now join in prayer that our Green Beret hero Keith Idema is wrong and the New York Times is right.

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Can you forget Enron for a while?Something else needs our investigative energies a lot more urgently. On Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2002, the New York Times front-paged a story that made this American laugh louder and cheer harder than at any point since 9-11. There was no...
Wednesday, 27 February 2002 12:00 AM
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