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In 1965 a covert US mountaineering team lost five kilos of plutonium in the Himalayas

Five kilos is enough to make bomb, by the way. River Deep Mountain High
On 1 September 1965, two junior officers from India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) came to Lata to recruit porters for a joint Indian-American espionage mission on the mountain. "Luckily," Rana said, "in the early summer of 1965, I was hired by Japanese mountaineers to climb another peak, Trisul, so I missed out when Indian saabs came calling." The mission was to scale Nanda Devi and install a terrestrial communication interpreter, powered by a nuclear electrical generator, at the summit. In 1964, China had conducted its first nuclear tests in the western province of Xinjiang, stunning American intelligence agencies, who thought the Chinese were still years away from nuclear capability. The remote sensing device atop Nanda Devi was intended to gather information about any future Chinese atomic tests. The first major joint operation conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the IB was facilitated by the tense geopolitical developments of the period: only three years earlier, India had faced a humiliating defeat in its war with China, which erased Jawaharlal Nehru’s unadulterated faith in the communist bloc—until then, slogans like ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’ had sounded a promising post-colonial world order. The Americans, for their part, were anxiously waging military and ideological wars against communism. Over the course of 1965, 200,000 US soldiers were sent to fight a futile and costly war in Vietnam. China’s sudden emergence as an atomic power represented a serious new threat to the Americans, who hatched a plan to install a spying device in the Himalayas to monitor Chinese nuclear tests. But the Americans were convinced that the mission could not succeed without the help of Indian climbers and the country’s defence and intelligence agencies. Beginning in early 1965, American officials devoted all their energy to enlisting the co-operation of their Indian counterparts. By the time the IB men arrived in Lata, the most difficult work was already done. All that remained was to hire and train a team of porters to carry the payload. Thirty-three Bhotia men from Lata and Reini were hired for the expedition; nine Sherpas, members of a tribe of elite mountaineers, were brought from Sikkim for their expertise in climbing glaciers. The mission would be led by some of India’s most legendary mountaineers—drawn from a team of climbers who had scaled Everest earlier that year. . . . The joint Indo-US covert mountaineering mission was the largest and the longest the world has seen, involving an army of porters and Sherpas, twin teams of mountaineers, nuclear experts, intelligence officers, and signal experts. But it would end in disaster: in October 1965, the onset of winter weather forced the mountaineers to abandon their climb. The material intended for the summit of Nanda Devi was deposited at a camp along the ascent, where the climbers expected to find it at the start of the next season. But that winter the equipment—including a 17-kilogram nuclear assembly—was swept away by an avalanche. When Kohli and his team returned in 1966, they discovered that the five kilograms of plutonium 238 and 239 that powered the nuclear device—only one kilogram less than the quantity of plutonium used in ‘Fat Man,’ the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki—were nowhere to be found. . . .

February 26, 2012

Judge orders four friends to not speak to each other for ten years after they are caught trespassing

They were taking photos of abandoned Tube stations. How is a sentence like this fair? Underground ghost station explorers spook the security services | UK news | The Guardian
From Holborn they noticed the rails turn rusty and saw piles of flyers collecting at the tunnel's edges. And then, like hikers who'd reached the best view from the mountain, they saw the forest-green tiles of the platform edge. For the next four hours they photographed the ticket halls, deserted walkways and antique lift system. Like their other trips – to the roof of St Paul's cathedral, the London Olympic Stadium, Battersea power station – they were careful to leave things as they found them; graffiti is taboo for urban explorers. When the battery on their camera went flat, they got ready to leave. They were interrupted by a shout: "Get on the ground!" . . . Last month TfL applied to issue anti-social behaviour orders which would not only stop them undertaking further expeditions and blogging about urban exploration but also prohibit them from carrying equipment that could be used for exploring after dark. Extraordinarily, it also stipulates they should not be allowed to speak to each other for the duration of the order – 10 years. "To me, telling people they can't associate with their closest friends is an incredible invasion of human rights," says Garrett. "It's a complete overreaction and an amazing tack to take after the group already agreed to a caution." He thinks TfL's legal action is fuelled by a wider misunderstanding of what urban exploration is about. "What we do is very benign," he says. "The motivation for it comes from a love for the city – we want to interact with its hidden histories and forgotten stories and places." A TfL spokesman said: "Trespassing on the tube network is illegal and extremely dangerous not just for the safety of the trespasser but also for the security of the railway. As several elements of the legal proceedings regarding the individuals who trespassed at Aldwych are ongoing we will not able to comment further until those have concluded." . . .