Common Sense Travel: Smuggling Uranium is Not a Good Idea
We first saw this story bubbling up through social media outlets and airport security forums, and we just assumed it was fake. To believe it happened you'd have to believe that people who smuggle nuclear materials across continents and oceans are idiots, and that doesn't seem like a reasonable assumption, now does it? And yet here we are, with documents on The Smoking Gun pretty much proving exactly that.
A year and a half ago, give or take, undercover Homeland Security officials posted ads on a Chinese e-commerce site where they pretended to be Iranian and asked someone to deliver them raw uranium. The West has been trying to stop Iran from acquiring such materialsknown as yellowcakesince it can be enriched and used in bomb-making.
So this was kind of a clever, clever trapone that would work 99% of the time if reality was a Looney Tunes cartoon, but is less likely to succeed in our universe. To make things even better, they would ask sellers to deliver samples to the United States, because that's the only thing that could throw up more red flags.
What do you think happened next?
Patrick Campbell, 33, from Sierra Leone promised to deliver 1,000 tons of the yellowcake. When the undercover agents moved to close the deal, he demonstrated his good intentions by flying into JFK with some uranium hidden in the soles of shoes packed in luggage.
Somehow that clever plan failed, and he was arrested.
Campbell had previously explained to agents exactly how he would move the promised 1,000 tons of uranium, because in addition to being very stupid he's very trusting. Apparently there were dozens of emails, telephone calls, and Skype chats conducted over several months.
He's now going to spend a lot of time in prison where he can think about all that.
For the rest of us, here's the real question: would TSA have caught him if they didn't know he was coming?
[Photo: Marshall Astor / Flickr]