Polonium found Radiation detected on two British Airways planes

posted at 4:58 pm on November 29, 2006 by Allahpundit

Two mini-bombshells here. First, it wasn’t discovered as part of some mass testing of BA planes in hopes that it would yield a lead. They’ve already got a lead and they followed it right to the doorways of three specific aircraft.

A BA spokesman said the three planes were being examined because “individuals involved in the Litvinenko case” had travelled on them.

Second, the three planes have made 221 flights in the past month. The list of destinations: Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Athens, Larnaca, Stockholm, Vienna, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Madrid, and … Moscow. In fact, a third BA plane has been grounded in Moscow right now while it’s tested.

In particular, the cops have keyed in on four flights:

* BA875 Moscow-Heathrow on October 25 – aircraft number GBNWX
* BA872 Heathrow-Moscow on October 28 – aircraft number GBNWX
* BA873 Moscow-Heathrow on October 31 – aircraft number GBNWB
* BA874 Heathrow-Moscow on November 3 – aircraft number GBZHA

The theory is that Litvinenko was poisoned on November 1, so the assassin would have flown in on the 25th or 31st and then out on the 3rd. Unless the guy who brought the stuff in wasn’t the actual assassin, just a mule who delivered it. In that case he could have been gone by the 28th.

33,000 passengers are at risk. It’s the world’s tiniest dirty bomb.

Update: My bad. I saw a report earlier that said they’d identified the source of the radiation as polonium. They haven’t yet, although it’s a safe bet.

Update: Mario Scaramella, Litivenko’s lunch companion on November 1, came to London from Rome. That leaves Lugovoy, the Russian businessman, still to be cleared.

Update: Here we go.

It is known Litvinenko met two Russian contacts, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, at the Millennium Hotel in London’s West End on November 1, the day he fell ill. Mr Lugovoi, a former KGB bodyguard who now runs a security company in Moscow, has said that he flew in the day before with his family and friends to attend a Champions League football match between Arsenal and CSKA Moscow and for a series of business meetings. As Litvinenko lay dying, Mr Lugovoi insisted he had been framed by someone who wished him to appear to be the poisoner. “I have the feeling that someone is trying to set me up as the fall guy,” he said.

Update: I notice that the Litvinenko posts are topping out at about ten comments. Should I just stop posting on this topic? No interested at all?

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I called it that days ago,not to get a back pat or anything. Does anyone know the long-term effects of a less than lethal dose? Are all of these people at risk for cancer,etal?

bbz123 on November 29, 2006 at 5:02 PM

I think it will somehow lead back to Bush – everyone knows he did it.

Rick on November 29, 2006 at 5:19 PM

AP – I think the whole topic is so involved and hard to understand, that its hard to comment on. Lots of unknowns. I find it totally fascinating (even though I don’t comment much). The reporters being assassinated, this guy being killed, the billionaire in a coma in Brazil. Very interesting.

lorien1973 on November 29, 2006 at 5:24 PM

I think the story is interesting, it’s just not something I’ll have much of an opinion on until we know a little more.

mesablue on November 29, 2006 at 5:27 PM

Are few comments really such a bad thing?

Alex K on November 29, 2006 at 5:29 PM

Did anyone ever see that Simpsons’ episode where the collapse of the Soviet Union was all a hoax?

Rick on November 29, 2006 at 5:36 PM

As Mesablue said, I’m interested in this, but I don’t feel the desire to comment too much.

Umm, poisoning people with polonium is bad!

Err, well…I can come up with some racial slurs and conspiracy theories, if you like.

see-dubya on November 29, 2006 at 5:36 PM

In my case it’s not lack of interest so much as there are too many question marks to draw any conclusions at this point.

Benaiah on November 29, 2006 at 5:38 PM

The risk to the wider population of 33,000 people is rather small. Polonium, though highly toxic once ingested, is much less of a danger just sitting around.

Anyone who may have eaten it or come into close contact with Litvinenko’s bodily fluids (think slobbery kiss more than urine) is, however, in grave danger. Still I think we’re talking, at most, 20-30 possible cases.

12thman on November 29, 2006 at 5:46 PM

Ted Kennedy did it in an attempt to cover up his Russian conspiracy against Reagan.

I heard Reagan is actually still alive.

Someone call Jack Bauer.

Gregor on November 29, 2006 at 5:48 PM

Please don’t stop posting on this. It’s a fascinating, and very pertinent, story. The lack of comments may be simply due to the fact that few of us feel informed enough to offer our own thoughts.

SWLiP on November 29, 2006 at 5:49 PM

Polonium-210 available through mail order:

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/29/169254

Knutsi writes
“InformationWeek is reporting that Polonium 210, the radioactive material used to poison former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko is not as hard to get your hands on as some have previously stated. American family business United Nuclear is actually selling the stuff, and other equally exotic materials, on their company website.

BemusedMalkinite on November 29, 2006 at 6:00 PM

The thing that keeps crossing my mind is that, if you’re Putin or anybody else with power in the Russian government, isn’t there a less conspicuous way you could assassinate an enemy via poisoning? I believe there are a great many substances that would be highly lethal when ingested that men in that position could acquire (as I recall, the KGB was not without considerable knowledge of such things). Why would they opt to use, of all things, a radioactive one? Doing so not only makes the target himself stand out like a sore thumb, it also leaves an all-but glowing trail right back to the poisoner’s doorstep.

One might chalk it up to typical human incompetence, except that the poison in question seems peculiarly exotic, and perhaps a little too convenient in its traceability. Maybe there’s something somebody can tell me about polonium that explains why it would be a weapon of choice in this sort of situation (certainly I’m no expert). But in the meantime, and regardless of my mixed-at-best opinion of Putin, I can’t help but suspect this may be some sort of frame job.

Blacklake on November 29, 2006 at 6:01 PM

I notice that the Litvinenko posts are topping out at about ten comments. Should I just stop posting on this topic? No interested at all?

Does this dress make me look fat?

Max Power on November 29, 2006 at 6:09 PM

OK, I’ll bite. The amount of Po-210 required to poison someone is minuscule. Presumably, it would have been transported in a small glass vial, tightly sealed. How did it get scattered over several airplanes? How much was actually transported and how? And for what purpose?

RedWinged Blackbird on November 29, 2006 at 6:34 PM

How did it get scattered over several airplanes?

That’s the part of question for me. Until it was used on Litvenko one would assume that it was properly contained. After Litvenko ingested it he would contaminate several people and places sending the trail away from the real assassin — unless they used a dupe. If the Russians did this, they were sloppy, not their style.

mesablue on November 29, 2006 at 6:45 PM

I don’t know that there’s no interest; I just get the feeling there’s a general hopelessness that anything will be done if we do get to the bottom of the story.

Putin, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, al-Sadr, Chavez. They’re all on the offensive. We’re everywhere on the defensive. And don’t count on Bush or “the international community” to do anyting about it.

Mark V. on November 29, 2006 at 6:47 PM

There is an interest in this story, just not a wide variety of opinions. This is a very intriguing and complicated story. Please keep posting. Post like this are the easiest way for me and others to keep pace with what’s going on.

vcferlita on November 29, 2006 at 7:22 PM

Keep posting on it Allah, it’s an interesting story. Like the others have said, it’s complicated and hard to comment on.

Scot on November 29, 2006 at 7:40 PM

Allah. To make it easier to understand, like for lorien and me, could you like, give these guys some normal names like Joe and Frank? Just cross out the “yevs” and call the main guy Steve or Dan….it’d be easier to follow.

I’m kinda blonde.

seejanemom on November 29, 2006 at 7:42 PM

Keep up the good work, buddy. I don’t know about everyone else, but I find this whole thing incredibly interesting and if it turns out the way that it looks like it’s heading, it’s going to be huge.

Greg Tinti on November 29, 2006 at 8:44 PM

I find this topic interesting, but I’m gearing up for two weeks of HELL, a.k.a. finals, and don’t have much time to spend commenting on the corrupt gov’t running Russia. Sorry Allah.

Troy Rasmussen on November 29, 2006 at 8:48 PM

Some background info. Po-210 is 250,000,000,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Hydrogen cyanide is the gas used in the gas chamber. The maximum allowable body burden for ingested Po-210 is equivalent to a particle weighing only .0000000000068 grams. This would not be visible to the naked eye.

When alloyed with beryllium, Po-210 emits an alpha particle which causes the beryllium to emit a neutron. This alloy is used as a neutron trigger in nuclear weapons.

RedWinged Blackbird on November 29, 2006 at 9:00 PM

I’m definitely, deeply interested in the topic: So keep posting any new news on the subject, Allah

I’m one of the ones that have said that getting usable amounts of polonium is almost impossible for even the average assasin….

And I stick by it. The link supplied above is to such a miniscule amount as to be laughable: 0.1 micro curie worth. according to their own site, it would require 15,000 of their samples to reach a dangerous level of toxcicity at a cost of ONE MILLION DOLLARS. And they don’t even stock it, it is made to order for eachorder at Oak Ridge and then shipped .

Another commercial source sells something that contain more polonium… and you would need more than thousand of their product plus the knowledge and skill to extract it before it would be a useful assasination tool.

Ya reckon someone ‘official’ might notice if someone placed an order for the required thousands of them???…. Even if they spread the orders out over a year?

Even in Russia where things are a little looser, someone ‘official’ would notice that sort of thing.

As I saidcbefore: This death is the equivalent of stoning someone to death with fist sized diamonds. This was a loud, definite message sent to the ‘cognoscenti’, (and in my tinfoil lined room, I believe by Putin himself).

Another Russian critic of Putin’s has fallen suddenly, mysteriously and seriously ill:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061129/wl_nm/russia_gaidar_illness_dc

Maybe coincidence, could be natural causes, but to close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and go la-la-la-la-la and say absolutely that there isn’t a potentially world shaking sinister plot going on involving Russia’s leadership smacks of the same type of ignorant thinking of five years and three months ago believing that Islamic terrorists wouldn’t and couldn’t cause serious harm in the continental United States.

If I’m PROVEN wrong on this subject, go ahead and serve up the crow; I’ll eat it…. But I doubt I’ll need to.

LegendHasIt on November 29, 2006 at 9:07 PM

AP,

I find it very interesting and hope you keep posting about it.

~V5

V5 on November 29, 2006 at 9:22 PM

It does not have to have wide appeal to make it pertinent or interesting. What is important is the historical value of this type of story, it may be a piece of a puzzle that becomes clearer months from now.
Obviously Karl Rove is a lot more evil that was ever thought.

right2bright on November 29, 2006 at 11:06 PM

Yeah AP. Don’t stop. I don’t read fiction or novels or anything like that. I’m on the web all my life. Haven’t been to a movie in years. So this is like a internet Bond story for me.

auspatriotman on November 30, 2006 at 1:12 AM

I’m interested in this topic as far as to track the MSM hysteria surrounding a stronger, more confident Russia. They love jumping to conclusions and throwing mud at Putin. Probably still angry that Putin didn’t allow Russia to be sold out to money-hungry oligarchs. Putin is the greatest modern leader that Russia ever had. He actually cares for the Russian nation, whereas his predecessor mostly cared for his fatcats like Berezovsky, at the expense of the ordinary people.

The funny thing is that the British (and American) MSM can cry and whine as much as they want and throw as many unproven allegations about Putin as they want, but it wouldn’t hurt Russia one bit. Europe is predicted to rely on Russia for 70% of its energy by 2025.

MoonbatMedia on November 30, 2006 at 1:15 AM

I read this comment on Guardian which is funny in that it’s rather spot-on:

Dear Mr Putin. We don’t like you. But we want your gas. You must let us buy as much as we want at a price set by ourselves. You must also sell gas to any other countries named by ourselves as and when we see fit, at a price we set. Otherwise we will print lots more nasty articles about you, and do all sorts of other nasty things.

And this about sums it up:

History suggests that Russia can be a powerful ally or an equally powerful enemy. Better to encourage the former not the latter.

MoonbatMedia on November 30, 2006 at 1:45 AM

Friendship requires two willing participants.

A few years ago I had GREAT hopes that that Russia and the US would become great friends and powerful allies. The possibility was there.

Now however, I have very little hope that Russia will ever be anything but an enemy.

Hate to disagree with a learned person like MoonbatMedia, but I think that the Putin that he (she?) admires so much is an incredibly dangerous and evil man who is marching Russia away from any friendship with America as rapidly as he can.

This is one of the times I would be very happy to be very wrong.

LegendHasIt on November 30, 2006 at 2:52 AM

just because we aren’t commenting doesn’t mean we aren’t reading or interested. This is a huge story. If solid unshakeable evidence pops up that Russia had him assasinated … this could be huge.

One Angry Christian on November 30, 2006 at 11:00 AM

LegendHaslt:

Hate to disagree with a learned person like MoonbatMedia, but I think that the Putin that he (she?) admires so much is an incredibly dangerous and evil man who is marching Russia away from any friendship with America as rapidly as he can.

Thank you for the compliment. Well, if we all agreed on everything it would be quite boring, wouldn’t it? :)

MoonbatMedia on November 30, 2006 at 5:08 PM

LegendHaslt:

I think that the Putin that he (she?) admires so much is an incredibly dangerous and evil man who is marching Russia away from any friendship with America as rapidly as he can.

Could it be that Putin is merely looking after the interests of Russia, which is his job? He would be a traitor if he, in his position, defected and pleased other countries.

NATO has been creeping ever closer to Russia — they’re on the border now. If the Cold War was over, why this aggressive NATO expansion?

I don’t want to see another Cold War. I strongly believe that Russia is naturally aligned with Europe and America. This allegiance would be absolutely vital in the new world order where a very strong China and possibly India will emerge to challenge the old European hegemony.

MoonbatMedia on November 30, 2006 at 5:13 PM

I don’t want to see another Cold War.

Me neither. That’s why Putin’s overt actions in the last couple of years worry me, much less the possible covert actions he has taken.

I strongly believe that Russia is naturally aligned with Europe and America.

I agree (If the world leaders were mostly rational, it would be a sure bet), but Putin seems to be moving away from any western alliances as rapidly as possible (short of just telling the west to take a flying leap).

This allegiance would be absolutely vital in the new world order where a very strong China and possibly India will emerge to challenge the old European hegemony.

I hate heating those three words put in that sequence, although I think you mean it in a generic sense rather than the ‘one world government’ sense. If so, then I agree that Russia would be wise to be very friendly with America (and vice-versa) before China decides to expand its empire in a vigorous way.

(Until recently, I thought that the basic premise of Clancy’s “The Bear & the Dragon” was a very real possibility.)

That’s why I’m so concerned with the things Putin has said and done on the world stage in the last couple of years. He MAY be doing wonderful things domestically in Russia, but not being a citizen of that nation, I am more concerned with his apparent anti-American moves.

LegendHasIt on December 1, 2006 at 9:43 PM