My source--I'll call him "Ethan"--is dead, and now, having kept our agreement, I'm finally free to write about this horror story.
Ethan had read about a recent decontamination drill that was conducted in Denver. They had multi-hundred-thousand-dollar geodesic tent which fit over a transit train and was filled with mock victims and decontamination personnel. The article went on at length about the abomination of "dirty bombs"--the impetus for this drill--and what sort of filthy terrorist would use such a horrible weapon.
It reminded Ethan of the time he was in the Marine Corps, when he was stationed on a big aircraft carrier. "Jarheads" were placed on these ships for the exclusive purpose of guarding the nukes. That, and administration.
His job was to interview Marines in order to gather information about their status, with mundane questions such as, "Do you want to continue your dental and medical coverage for your dependents this year?" and "Do you want to take your accumulated leave or cash it in?"
In spite of the innocuous nature of his work, it often took him below decks to the weapons holds where the security personnel were. That required a Top Secret clearance.
"While that sounds super-secure," he told me, "it's really not. You have ENTNAC clearance at the very bottom, for anyone who will deal with any weapons bigger than an M-16. Then you have Secret, which covers most artillery, and for me covered my having access to everyone's SSN's, home addresses, medical records, disciplinary records, etc. Then you have Top Secret, which you need to be around anything nuclear.
"Then you have about ten dozen higher levels of security clearance. So, Top Secret is relatively bottom of the barrel stuff. Nonetheless, the NIS (Naval Investigative Service) does go to your home town and spend some time asking folks about you. And when the investigation is done, prior to issuing the clearance, you are sworn not to disclose any of the information that the clearance exposes you to...ever in life."
Since he was in Administration, his work took place above decks. His office was right down the hall from the Admiral's office. He also had the benefit of having quarters right next to the officers' staterooms. Although his was called a "duty barracks" and was not in fact a stateroom, it was the same thing minus the mahogany. Meaning he didn't have to sleep in steerage with the rest of the Jarheads.
He was also right down the hall from the Officers Club, for field grade and down. He had met an officer there who was "a cool guy" who regularly invited him to the Officers Club to play cards, smoke cigars and engage in conversation. This officer would be on duty for three days and off duty for three days, completely disappearing. It turned out that he was the Officer in Charge of the nuke weapons' holds.
One day, Ethan had to get some information from the officer about a TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) request that he'd put in for. Ethan was leaving the ship to go ashore and would not see him again, so he wanted to make sure to get his request right because he knew that his friend really wanted to stay. While the officer was in the hold, he was not, under any circumstances, allowed to leave. Ethan couldn't reach him on the phone, so he went below.
"I'd been in most of the holds to talk to other Marines," he told me, "but I'd never been to the one where this officer worked. I went through several guarded vault type doors and finally arrived at a duty station where, for the fifth or sixth time, I was required to show my Top Secret clearance credentials and enter the day's pass code onto a small computer console. When I was cleared, I stated my business and was given a radiation suit--this space-suit lookin' thing."
He asked the Duty NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer), "What the hell's this?" He'd been around nukes before, but was never required to wear a suit. The Duty NCO replied only that the officer "is in with the jackets.""The what?"
"Need to know." This meant that his station orders forbade him to discuss any details of his post.
Ethan suited up and walked into a triple door sally-port, where he progressed through each airlock via ten-inch thick lead-lined doors. Past the last door, he stepped into a massive warehouse, about 60 feet wide by 100 feet length, with a 20-foot ceiling--huge for battleship storage room standards. From the floor to the ceiling, thousands upon thousands of what looked like missiles were stored. It was weird, because he'd never seen missiles stored in such a way where they were on top of one another.The officer came around a row of missiles and Ethan asked him the question he had for him about his TAD request, and then asked him, "What the hell kind of missiles are these?"
"Those aren't missiles, they're cobalt jackets."
"What are they for?"
"Well, this is 'need to know,' so keep your mouth shut, but they are designed to slide on over most of our conventional ordinance. They're made out of radioactive cobalt, and when the bomb they're wrapped around detonates, they contaminate everything in the blast zone and quite a bit beyond."
"So they turn regular ordinance into nukes?"
"No, not exactly. The cobalt doesn't detonate itself. It just scatters everywhere."
"Well, what? Does the radiation kill people?"
"Not immediately. Cobalt jackets will not likely ever be used. They're for a situation where the U.S. Government is crumbling during a time of war, and foreign takeover is imminent. We won't capitulate. We basically have a scorched earth policy. If we are going to lose, we arm everything with cobalt--and I mean everything, we have jackets at nearly every missile magazine in the world, on land or at sea--and contaminate the world. If we can't have it, nobody can."
"Just another example," Ethan told me, "of what treacherous creatures our leadership is made of."
I e-mailed the above--labeling the Subject line, "Yikes!"--to no-nukes activist Harvey Wasserman, author of The Last Energy War and co-author of The Superpower of Peace, available from freepress.org. I asked him to comment in a couple of hundred words.
"Yikes is right," he responded. "This nightmare has now essentially come true with the use of depleted uranium on anti-tank and other shells in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. The military rationale is that the super-hard depleted uranium helps shells penetrate tanks and other hard structures. But the long-term effect is that the uranium vaporizes upon explosion and contaminates everything for hundreds of yards, if not miles." Thus there are now whole regions that are heavily radioactive. Reports are pouring in from all three countries about soaring cancer rates, infant death rates and more. The mysterious Gulf War Syndrome may have been caused by radiation exposure suffered by U.S. troops. So, though off the books, the last three major U.S. attacks have in fact been nuclear in nature.
Paul Krassner is the author of Murder At the Conspiracy Convention and Other American Absurdities. (see paulkrassner.com for George Carlin's introduction.)