Two European Nuclear Scientists Arrested as Al-Qaeda Suspects

Last week I was in Las Vegas attending a banquet honoring retired intelligence officers, many of whom once worked for the CIA. Some of the guests were still active. Others currently work for the Department of Defense. There were four of us from the press.

I got to chatting in a three-way conversation with a former U-2 pilot and a current defense contractor who frequents the Pentagon (and therefore asked to remain anonymous).

“What’s going to happen if al-Qaeda gets their hands on WMD?” the pilot asked.

“They already have,” the defense contractor said. Then he told the story of how, just last January, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had bungled a WMD experiment using bubonic plague.

“None of you press wrote about that,” the man said, eyeballing me.

I had to correct him because I did write about that story — for Pajamas Media. My article cited two papers, the Sun and the Washington Times; I couldn’t locate any firsthand sources with access to the information. “How do you know that the information was correct?” I asked my fellow banquet guest.

“I was at the military briefing,” he said. Then he added that the briefing was not classified and included several members of the press.

“Why do you think that story wasn’t more widely reported?” I asked.

He said something to the effect of: there are some things the public finds easier to ignore.

I had the same reaction when I returned home from my trip on Friday night to read a single-line item on the Counterterrorism Blog: “Switzerland: Terror cops arrest Collider scientist linked with al-Qaeda,” it said. The Collider is the largest nuclear research facility in the world. For at least the next forty-eight hours the story did not appear anywhere in the U.S. press, despite the fact that the arrested nuclear scientist, a 32-year-old Algerian-born French man named Dr. Adlene Hicheur, was being described by France’s Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence as a “very high-level” operative with AQIM. That’s the same group who’d been experimenting with bubonic plague earlier in the year. Adlene Hicheur had attended Stanford University, in California, in 1999 and 2002.