Nuclear Testing

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Nuclear testing

A senior Bush administration official tells us there are concerns that Russia will break out of its ban on testing nuclear weapons in the next two years.

If that happens, pressure will mount on the United States to conduct its own underground nuclear tests, the official said.

The United States last tested a nuclear weapon in 1992. Since that time, it has relied on a program of nonnuclear testing known as the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

Linton Brooks, head of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, which is in charge of overseeing U.S. nuclear weapons, said in a speech on Feb. 19 that the United States would conduct future tests at the Nevada Test Site, the desert location where more than 1,000 underground tests have been conducted.

Mr. Brooks said in a speech dedicating the opening of the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas that the Nevada Test Site is being used for "new missions relating to the war on terrorism," presumably research on dealing with a radiological bomb.

As for future testing, Mr. Brooks said, "If nuclear testing is ever required to deal with unexpected problems in important elements of the stockpile, Nevada once again will be ready."

Pantano update

In the press reporting on case of Marine 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, one oft-repeated version has been that the car he and his men stopped on April 15 did not carry weapons. That's not totally true.

The Marines have charged Lt. Pantano with two counts of premeditated murder. He says he fatally shot two Iraqi insurgents after he thought they may have armed themselves while conducting a forced search of the vehicle.

Turns out, according to a source close to the investigation, that the car's two seats, front and back, were not bolted down. This is an insurgent tactic for hiding, and quickly retrieving, weapons. In the trunk were cans filled with nails and bolts - the skin-piercing projectiles insurgents build into improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Also, while the Naval Investigative Service was investigating the case last summer, commanders wrote a glowing fitness report on the 33-year-old Lt. Pantano, who led a platoon in some of the most dangerous territory in Iraq.

"Lt. Pantano's performance during the reporting period has been noteworthy and established his reputation as an accomplished infantry leader," his battalion commander wrote in August. "His actions during the fighting in Fallujah and al Zaidon highlighted a solid understanding of tactics and an ability to anticipate the enemy. Leads from the front always and balances his aggressive style with true concern for the welfare of his Marines. Exceptional communication skills for a 2nd Lt. Organized, aggressive, focused and driven. Ready for increased responsibility. Retain, promote and assign to challenging assignments."

Mission done

The Army's 1st Cavalry Division is leaving Baghdad after more than a year patrolling some of the world's meanest streets. Here are some of the Texas-based division's accomplishments: 800 civil engineering projects costing $104 million; 14 Iraqi police academies; 600 schools; 70 electrical projects; the 40th Iraqi brigade taking control of its own city sector; and $8.3 million in grants to local businesses.

1st Cavalry soldiers will return to Fort Hood, where the division will undergo transformation into smaller, faster brigades.

Military spies

The bureaucratic battle over military spying operations abroad is heating up within the Bush administration.

The CIA and State Department are at times fighting the Pentagon's use of special operations commandos to conduct espionage and intelligence gathering aimed at capturing or killing terrorists or preparing for military action.

The agency and department have complained in the press that military spies are not following the rules of keeping the U. …