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Book Chapter

Intelligence Estimates of Nuclear Terrorism

| September 2006

Nuclear terrorism is not a post-9/11 or even post-cold war phenomenon. In fact, this review of declassified intelligence estimates spanning the past five decades reveals that the prospect of a clandestine nuclear attack on the United States—be it from the Soviet Union, China, or al Qaeda—has been a regular concern for U.S. officials since the advent of nuclear weapons. Although the estimates themselves have been a mixed bag of quiet successes and failures, this article’s key findings suggest that the threat of nuclear terrorism is very real and that the U.S. government remains ill prepared to counter that threat.