Monday, November 21, 2005

How Do You Know?

Theft number 1

According to KLTV 7 in Tyler, Texas, the F.B.I. is investigating a missing shipment of a radioactive material used in the oil and gas industry, antimony-124. Two vials of the material disappeared before the truck transporting it got to Kilgore, Texas from New Mexico.

F.B.I. investigators believe that the radioactive antimony-124 was stolen before the truck arrived at Kilgore. The vials were being transported in a “military style ammo box”, it was not marked, but should have been, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. All vehicles transporting radioactive material must be marked, as well as all containers holding the material. KLTV 7 reported that the material is also sometimes used for chemo-therapy in humans. Apparently the antimony-124 is not considered a terrorist threat because the quantity involved is small, though it is toxic, can cause skin ulcers and can be lethal if ingested.

Theft number 2

In the Denver area last year, several small tanks of propane gas were stolen from different businesses. You can buy propane in small tanks for use in gas barbecue grills and stoves, from some gas stations, and grocery stores. You bring in an empty tank, and pay for a full one. The thefts made the news in Denver, but it was treated as more of a curiosity or oddity than a potentially dangerous situation. The news media quickly dismissed terrorism as a reason for the thefts.

However, as in the antimony-124 theft, the authorities don’t really know what happened to the propane tanks or who stole them and why.

It strikes me as a little strange when the authorities are so quick to say “We don’t know who is responsible, but it isn’t terrorism.” Is their attitude one of complacency? Or is it a misdirection play? And if it is, why?


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