Including at the offices of Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian billionaire for whom Litvinenko apparently worked and who shared his hatred of Putin. A.J. Strata is in Jack Bauer mode, speculating that Berezovsky might have whacked Litvinenko to frame Putin and drive a wedge between Russia and the west (as if there wasn’t enough of one already) to serve his Chechen jihadist masters — and, furthermore, that the polonium might be part of some sort of nuclear terror plot. I … remain skeptical.

Strata asks an excellent question, though, which I’ve given some thought to myself:

What we need know is the order of visits to ascertain the sequence. If the contamination begins in the Sushi Bar, then did Italian consultant Scaramella give Litvinenko something contaminated? Or did the contamination begin ith the ex-KGB agents Litvinenko met at the Mayfair hotel bar? Or did it start at Berezovsky’s office.

Most of the early news reports placed Litvinenko’s meeting with the two Russian businessman in the morning sometime followed by an afternoon lunch with Mario Scaramella, the Italian “environmentalist” with a background in nuclear materials. Check out the Times of London’s graphic, though; they’ve got him meeting with Scaramella first, then the businessmen. That’s hugely significant since logically Litvinenko would have had to have been poisoned at his earliest meeting in order to drag the particles around town with him all day.

Note too that they’re not sure when he went to Berezovsky’s offices. Could have been early, could have been late. But if Berezovsky was going to assassinate him with something as lethal (and detectable) as polonium, would he really have done it in his own office?

Or did he do it in his own office precisely because he knew how unlikely that would seem and wanted to throw us off the trail? High intrigue!

Ace also asks a good question — namely, would the assassin have expected the doctors to discover that it was polonium that killed him? Because it’s so rare and hard to produce, its use points directly at the government of a nuclear state. Thus, if the assassin expected that it would be sniffed out as the cause of death, then it’s likely he/she used it to frame Putin. If he/she didn’t expect it, then it was probably used for reasons of potency. Given Litvinenko’s status and the potential for an international incident, the assassin must have known that the coroner would scrutinize the body minutely. So maybe the question is whether polonium had ever been used as a poison before, i.e., if there was an established medical protocol for detecting it. And we find…

“This is wild,” said Dr. F. Lee Cantrell, a toxicologist and director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System. “To my knowledge, it’s never been employed as a poison before. And it’s such an obscure thing. It’s not easy to get. That’s going to be something like the K.G.B. would have in some secret facility or something.”

In a quick search of medical journals, he could find only one article describing the deliberate use of a radioactive poison to kill. It was from 1994, he said, published in Russian.

So maybe no one was trying to frame Putin. Maybe he did it and sincerely thought he could get away with it.

Exit question: if this is enough to cause a public health scare in London, what would a dirty-bomb attack be like?

Tags: California