Jul 20 2007

The Polonium Wars

Well now that the Russians have booted out British diplomats in retaliation for the UK deporting Russian diplomats there seems to be nowhere for this idiotic dance to go. But there are some interesting, if nuanced, changes in the air. First off Russia has finally used the word ‘suspect’ when referring to Andre Lugovoi. There is a strong case to be made that Lugovoi was working with Litvinenko on whatever was being done with the Polonium-210 being smuggled through London last October. I have never bought into his innocence, though I could see him being used as an unwitting courrier. These are just optional theories in the face of a serious lack of information this case. Which brings me to join a call for more details in this case by someone who disagrees with me on the underlying story here:

Britain’s actions signal official displeasure with Russia. But the expulsions and visa suspensions constitute a tepid response to the murder of a British citizen, and they don’t shed any light on the crime itself. The British government should make known the evidence supporting its charge against Lugovoy. Equally important, it should make known whatever evidence exists regarding the authorization and organization of Litvinenko’s murder.

Even before Lugovoy was charged, news accounts suggested there was considerable evidence implicating him and perhaps others in the crime. Litvinenko was poisoned Nov. 1 with polonium-210. Investigators retracing Litvinenko’s itinerary that day reportedly found traces of polonium radiation in the bar of a London hotel where he met with Lugovoy and his business partner Dmitry Kovtun, as well as on a teapot and teacup there.

Traces were also reportedly found at another London hotel where Lugovoy and Kovtun stayed during a visit two weeks earlier; a restaurant where Lugovoy had lunch with Litvinenko during that visit; a third hotel, where Lugovoy stayed and met with Litvinenko on a separate visit a week before the November meeting; two British Airways planes used on the London-Moscow route, which Lugovoy traveled several times in October; and at other locations, including Hamburg, where Kovtun stopped for several days before traveling to London for the Nov. 1 meeting.

It has been a long time since the news media accurately reviewed the entire Polonium-21o trail. While this person thinks this points to an FSB operation, I maintain this points to a smuggling ring which lost containment (more than once) on the material they were moving. Those hotel sites have multiple rooms with Po-210 contamination – more than needed for Mr. Lugovoi alone. And there are other assumptions in the article that are being jumped to without any rational basis. For example:

More than 95 percent of the world’s polonium comes from the Avangard plant, part of the large Russian nuclear complex outside the city of Sarov. It is inconceivable that anyone could have obtained the amount of polonium used to poison Litvinenko except through official channels.

And Russia exports nearly all the Po-210 it produces. There is clearly opportunity to highjack material after it has been exported. America and Canada are notoriously bad in tracking these small amounts of radioactive material used in industrial processes. So let’s not jump to the conclusion that because it was Russian made it had to be stolen from Russia. A stolen Jaguar in the US is not assumed stolen in the UK just because they build Jaguars.

More importantly, there are too many easy pointers to Russia in this made for media drama to not notice the possible staged nature of the pointers. Especially, as I posted yesterday, it would be trivial to mask the Po-210 with some Thallium if you wanted to HIDE the Po-210 as the assassins weapon. Since the trivial masking was NOT done in this case, it seems clear this was an accident or an deliberate planting of circumstantial evidence to throw off the investigation. But again, this is theory based on scant reporting of the facts. So we come to a common conclusion:

Nevertheless, if there is evidence demonstrating Lugovoy’s involvement in Litvinenko’s murder and, more important, that of the Russian government, now is the time to make it known.

Yes, it is time to show the cards so we all can support the pursuit of the truth and be confident that all the Po-210 has been accounted for. While intelligence agencies are important to national security, nothing replaces a vigilant and educated populace. The trafficking of this material is a very, very dangerous act with tens of thousands of lives in the balance. We cannot fathom tens of thousands of deaths like Litvinenko’s. But we need to be aware of how all too possible this scenario is, and how to stop it. A little more information would go a long way in this bizarre and troubling case.

One response so far

One Response to “The Polonium Wars”

  1. MerlinOS2 says:

    AJ said

      While intelligence agencies are important to national security, nothing replaces a vigilant and educated populace

    This is almost ironic in view of the recent pulling of the John Doe protections from the Homeland Security bill that would have protected people from reporting the Flying Imman case. 

    Congressional Democrats today failed to include a provision in homeland security legislation that would protect the public from being sued for reporting suspicious behavior that may lead to a terrorist attack, according to House Republican leaders.