|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Two teams of government investigators using fake documents were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources to make two dirty bombs, according to a federal report made available Monday.
The investigators purchased a "small quantity" of radioactive materials from a commercial source, according to a Government Accountability Office report prepared for Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican.
The investigators posed as employees of a fictitious company and brought the materials into the United States through checkpoints on the northern and southern borders, the report stated.
"It's just an indictment of the system that it's easier to get radiological material than it is to get cold medicine," said a senior subcommittee staffer about the findings.
The report, along with two others by the GAO on the subject of smuggling and detection of nuclear materials, were provided to reporters by congressional sources in advance of the first of two hearings by the subcommittee scheduled to begin Tuesday.
The focus will be on what the federal government has done to protect the country against nuclear terrorism. This week's hearings come after almost three years of bipartisan and bicameral investigations into the subject.
A second GAO report notes that while the departments of State, Energy and Defense have provided radiation-detection equipment to 36 countries since 1994 to combat nuclear smuggling, operating the equipment has proven challenging.
Those challenges include technical limitations of some of the equipment, a lack of supporting infrastructure at some border sites and corruption of some foreign border security officials.
The report also notes that the State Department, the lead interagency coordinator in this effort, has not maintained a master list of U.S.-funded radiation-detection equipment in foreign countries.
Without such a list, program managers at the agencies involved "cannot accurately assess if equipment is operational and being used as intended; determine the equipment needs of countries where they plan to provide assistance; or detect if an agency has unknowingly supplied duplicative equipment," the report says.
It further criticizes the State Department, saying that "without taking steps to ensure that all previously provided radiation-detection equipment, specifically hand-held equipment, is adequately maintained and remains operational, State cannot ensure the continued effectiveness or long-term sustainability of this equipment."