Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2001/ 6 Kislev 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Consumer Reports

Osama plot revealed: How he got the bomb -- OSAMA BIN LADEN is not a Georgetown hostess's dream of the extra man for a dinner party, but he may be the man to invite to your next snipe hunt.

Rifling through discarded papers in abandoned Taliban safe houses in Kabul is all the rage among American and British reporters who followed the Northern Alliance into town, and a reporter for the London Times appeared to have struck the mother lode.

In a dispatch from Kabul, he described documents which he said appeared to be instructions on how to build "a Nagasaki-type atomic bomb." This discovery quickly fueled speculation that al Qaeda had assembled a nuclear-weapons factory in the heart of downtown Kabul.

"The vernacular quickly spun out of my comprehension," cabled the correspondent, describing his find and his difficulty deciphering it. "But there were phrases through the mass of chemical symbols and physics jargon that anyone could understand, including notes on how the detonation of TNT compresses plutonium into a critical mass producing a nuclear chain reaction and eventually a thermo-nuclear reaction."

This was certainly enough to curl the beard (or burqa) of almost anyone, and, after the BBC followed up with footage of someone reading the notes, analysts in Washington and London felt compelled to say they were skeptical that Osama had actually assembled such a device.

But someone always has to ruin a good story, or, in this case, to make a good story better. What Osama and his rocket scientists and particle-beam physicists apparently were working from, visible in the television footage, was a publication of the University Physical Society at the University of Wisconsin, in turn taken from the Journal of Irreproducible Results - Volume 25/Number 4, 1979 - titled "How to Make an Atomic Bomb, a Construction Project." The full text fell into our hands late yesterday. (Actually, the full text fell from the printer attached to a computer plugged into, but we like the way phrases like "fell into our hands late yesterday" sound.) What Osama and his men fell into was a snipe hunt, a snipe hunt of 21 years ago, or what the Wall Street Journal calls "monkeyfishing."

These are the relevant excerpts of the instructions from the Journal of Irreproducible Results on how to make a Nagasaki-type bomb:

"First, obtain about 50 pounds (110 kg) of weapons grade Plutonium at your local supplier perhaps the Junior Achievement in your neighborhood. 2. Please remember that Plutonium is somewhat dangerous. Wash your hands with soap and water after handling the material, and don't allow your children or pets to play in it. Any leftover Plutonium dust is excellent as an insect repellant. You may wish to keep the substance in a lead box if you can find one in your local junk yard, but an old coffee can will do nicely.

"3. Fashion together a metal enclosure to house the device. Most common varieties of sheet metal can be bent to disguise this enclosure as, for example, a briefcase, a lunch pail, or a Buick. Do not use tinfoil. 4. Arrange the Plutonium into two hemispherical shapes, separated by about 4 cm. Use rubber cement to hold the Plutonium dust together. 5. Now get about 100 pounds (220 kg) of trinitrotoleune (TNT). Gelignite is much better, but messier to work with 6. Pack the TNT around the hemisphere arrangement constructed in step 4. If you can find gelignite, feel free to use TNT packed in with Playdo or any modeling clay. 7. Enclose the structure from step 6 into the enclosure made in step 3. Use a strong glue such as 'Crazy Glue' 8. To detonate the device, obtain a radio controlled (RC) servo mechanism, as found in RC model airplanes and cars detonator caps can be found in the electrical supply section of your local supermarket. We recommend the 'Blast-O-Matic' brand because they are no deposit-no return. 9. Now hide the completed device from neighbors and children The hall closet or under the kitchen sink will be perfectly suitable. 10. Now you are the proud owner of a working thermonuclear device. It is a great ice-breaker at parties, and in a pinch can be used for national defense."

Some discovery. The good guys are closing in on Osama and his cave and it is not clear that Osama and his team of highly paid mullahs actually assembled a mighty Muslim bomb. He is reported to have fled with several of his wives, though it is not clear, either, why a man who thinks he's about to receive 72 virgins, untouched by human hands, would take wives with him. But if some of the virgins turn out to be reconditioned Beirut hookers, he could consult Volume 26 of the Journal of Irreproducible Results, "in which we learn how to clone your neighbor's wife Common kitchen utensils will be all you need.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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