Why would anyone use radioactive poisoning to kill a spy?

Caveman

Platinum Member
Nov 18, 1999
2,525
33
91
You'd think that the purpose of killing a spy is to keep whatever he/she knows safe...

So why use radiation?

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Follow up on headline regarding radioactive traces in London

As mentioned at 10:08, DJ reported that radioactive traces were found in 2 London locations. A Reuters.com story reports that traces of radiation have been found at several more sites in London during investigations into the death of a former KGB spy last week, British Home Secretary John Reid said on Monday. The Reuters.com story says Reid told parliament the traces had been found at "several other premises" in addition to Alexander Litvinenko's home and a hotel and restaurant he visited on November 1, the day he fell ill. Significant amounts of Polonium 210 were found in his body. Reid did not name the contaminated locations. Media reports cited a central London office block and an address in the capital's exclusive Mayfair district. Police declined comment.
 

BaliBabyDoc

Lifer
Jan 20, 2001
10,737
0
0
It would take a relatively astute pathologist to determine manner of death . . . and that's assuming the circumstances draw enough attention to require an autopsy.

The flipside is that IF authorities are inclined to do an autopsy, you would then have the difficulty of finding a pathologist that would do it knowing they might be exposed to significant radiation.

Then there's the purely sadistic aspect . . . you want the person to suffer so it's hard to beat a slow, painful death.
 

Arkaign

Lifer
Oct 27, 2006
20,736
1,377
126
It is bizarre, but there is a long history of such assassinations.

I just started into a huge volume on the KGB last night, written at the end of the cold war. It includes info on a wild previous assassination .. lo and behold, the BBC is reporting on it again :

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2636459.stm

"a ricin-laced pellet was either fired or injected from an umbrella tip as Markov waited at the bus stop, on his way to the headquarters of the BBC's World Service."

"It is believed that the assassination was supported by the technical staff of the KGB and may have involved some senior members of the Bulgarian secret police.

In 1992, General Vladimir Todorov, the former Bulgarian intelligence chief, was sentenced to 16 months in jail for destroying 10 volumes of material relating to Markov's death. "

So, it appears that you can safely say the KGB has assassinated targets using bizarre methods already.
 

imported_Aelius

Golden Member
Apr 25, 2004
1,988
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They are sending a message. He isn't the only one on their list of possible targets. I suspect its a long list. Many of whom will be far less likely to talk.

Of course there is always the odd person that this has the opposite effect on. Time will tell.
 

CaptnKirk

Lifer
Jul 25, 2002
10,053
0
71
Originally posted by: BaliBabyDoc
It would take a relatively astute pathologist to determine manner of death . . . and that's assuming the circumstances draw enough attention to require an autopsy.

The flipside is that IF authorities are inclined to do an autopsy, you would then have the difficulty of finding a pathologist that would do it knowing they might be exposed to significant radiation.

Then there's the purely sadistic aspect . . . you want the person to suffer so it's hard to beat a slow, painful death


Which in itself becomes a warning to others engaged in the clandestine trade.

Bong, James Bong . . .

 

imported_Aelius

Golden Member
Apr 25, 2004
1,988
0
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Originally posted by: CaptnKirk
Originally posted by: BaliBabyDoc
It would take a relatively astute pathologist to determine manner of death . . . and that's assuming the circumstances draw enough attention to require an autopsy.

The flipside is that IF authorities are inclined to do an autopsy, you would then have the difficulty of finding a pathologist that would do it knowing they might be exposed to significant radiation.

Then there's the purely sadistic aspect . . . you want the person to suffer so it's hard to beat a slow, painful death


Which in itself becomes a warning to others engaged in the clandestine trade.

Bong, James Bong . . .

I didn't think I would be the only one to pick up on this.
 

gevorg

Diamond Member
Nov 3, 2004
5,075
1
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The only reason to use radioactive poisoning is to bring mass media attention. There are much "better" chemicals which can kill without any trait, usually timed to cause a heart attack.

Its funny how most news reporters call that guy "ex-spy". LOL, there is no such thing as an "ex" spy.
 

CaptnKirk

Lifer
Jul 25, 2002
10,053
0
71
Originally posted by: gevorg
The only reason to use radioactive poisoning is to bring mass media attention. There are much "better" chemicals which can kill without any trait, usually timed to cause a heart attack.

Its funny how most news reporters call that guy "ex-spy". LOL, there is no such thing as an "ex" spy.


Yes there is, a dead spy is an Ex-Spy

 

gevorg

Diamond Member
Nov 3, 2004
5,075
1
0
Originally posted by: CaptnKirk
Originally posted by: gevorg
The only reason to use radioactive poisoning is to bring mass media attention. There are much "better" chemicals which can kill without any trait, usually timed to cause a heart attack.

Its funny how most news reporters call that guy "ex-spy". LOL, there is no such thing as an "ex" spy.


Yes there is, a dead spy is an Ex-Spy


Nope, a dead spy is a ...dead spy. Nevertheless, the way he was called an "ex-spy" while still alive is just silly uninformed journalism.
 

Craig234

Lifer
May 1, 2006
38,548
348
126
He was an ex spy in the sense that he had once been a spy for the Russian government under Putin; when told to kill a billionare, he refused, resigned, and got asylum in London.

So, he was 'former' in that role, no longer spying.

I would like to see Putin brought to justice and think he's likely behind this.
 

gevorg

Diamond Member
Nov 3, 2004
5,075
1
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Originally posted by: Craig234
He was an ex spy in the sense that he had once been a spy for the Russian government under Putin; when told to kill a billionare, he refused, resigned, and got asylum in London.

So, he was 'former' in that role, no longer spying.

I guess you don't know much about FSB (former KGB). When someone becomes a spy for it, they agree to serve their agency for the rest of their life regardless of any circuistances. You can even say that the agency "owns" them. The spy makes that choice after he/she passes all the reqs/testing. There is no such as an ex spy, not even some ex high level military position. I don't know about CIA, but I'm sure that there are some positions there with no way back to civilian life.

Litvienko was involved/connected with Berezovsky, who stole/manipulated billions in the chaos of USSR collapse. You cannot defeat these thieves by democratic means, just like Bush couldn't defeat Hussein (democratically).
 

Craig234

Lifer
May 1, 2006
38,548
348
126
Originally posted by: gevorg
Originally posted by: Craig234
He was an ex spy in the sense that he had once been a spy for the Russian government under Putin; when told to kill a billionare, he refused, resigned, and got asylum in London.

So, he was 'former' in that role, no longer spying.

I guess you don't know much about FSB (former KGB). When someone becomes a spy for it, they agree to serve their agency for the rest of their life regardless of any circuistances. You can even say that the agency "owns" them. The spy makes that choice after he/she passes all the reqs/testing. There is no such as an ex spy, not even some ex high level military position.

Litvienko was involved/connected with Berezovsky, who stole/manipulated billions in the chaos of USSR collapse. You cannot defeat these thieves by democratic means, just like Bush couldn't defeat Hussein (democratically).

I guess you don't know much about the word 'former'; priests take a similar vow, but some are 'former' priests when they leave the priesthood, perhaps excommunicated; people take similar vows when joining the mafia, but if they later turn against the mob, help the police, go into witness protection and follow the law, they can be called 'former mafia'. Of course there is such a thing as an 'ex spy'. It may not be in the designed system, but people go outside the designed system - getting asylum made him one.

It's a pointless semantic discussion, but since the point is so obvious, the incorrect statement seems to demand a correction.
 

gevorg

Diamond Member
Nov 3, 2004
5,075
1
0
I guess you don't know much about the word 'former'; priests take a similar vow, but some are 'former' priests when they leave the priesthood, perhaps excommunicated; people take similar vows when joining the mafia, but if they later turn against the mob, help the police, go into witness protection and follow the law, they can be called 'former mafia'. Of course there is such a thing as an 'ex spy'. It may not be in the designed system, but people go outside the designed system - getting asylum made him one.

It's a pointless semantic discussion, but since the point is so obvious, the incorrect statement seems to demand a correction.

I guess I didn't mean to offend you. :)

You're right about priests/mafia, but as an example its irrelevant. When someone becomes a spy for FSB, its permanent. Even if they go against the agency, take bribes from Berezovsky, support terrorists, etc etc. Once they do go against the system, they're terminated at the "right" time for the FSB; and during all that time considered to be a spy. It doesn't matter if the spy (or a journalist) calls himself an "ex", because the agency still considers him as a spy.
 

Tangerines

Senior member
Oct 20, 2005
304
0
0
Originally posted by: gevorg
Originally posted by: Craig234
He was an ex spy in the sense that he had once been a spy for the Russian government under Putin; when told to kill a billionare, he refused, resigned, and got asylum in London.

So, he was 'former' in that role, no longer spying.

I guess you don't know much about FSB (former KGB). When someone becomes a spy for it, they agree to serve their agency for the rest of their life regardless of any circuistances. You can even say that the agency "owns" them. The spy makes that choice after he/she passes all the reqs/testing. There is no such as an ex spy, not even some ex high level military position. I don't know about CIA, but I'm sure that there are some positions there with no way back to civilian life.

Litvienko was involved/connected with Berezovsky, who stole/manipulated billions in the chaos of USSR collapse. You cannot defeat these thieves by democratic means, just like Bush couldn't defeat Hussein (democratically).

I find these claims very hard to believe, and do not think that they justify the poisoning of Litvinenko.
 

imported_Aelius

Golden Member
Apr 25, 2004
1,988
0
0
Originally posted by: Tangerines
Originally posted by: gevorg
Originally posted by: Craig234
He was an ex spy in the sense that he had once been a spy for the Russian government under Putin; when told to kill a billionare, he refused, resigned, and got asylum in London.

So, he was 'former' in that role, no longer spying.

I guess you don't know much about FSB (former KGB). When someone becomes a spy for it, they agree to serve their agency for the rest of their life regardless of any circuistances. You can even say that the agency "owns" them. The spy makes that choice after he/she passes all the reqs/testing. There is no such as an ex spy, not even some ex high level military position. I don't know about CIA, but I'm sure that there are some positions there with no way back to civilian life.

Litvienko was involved/connected with Berezovsky, who stole/manipulated billions in the chaos of USSR collapse. You cannot defeat these thieves by democratic means, just like Bush couldn't defeat Hussein (democratically).

I find these claims very hard to believe, and do not think that they justify the poisoning of Litvinenko.

There is a spy term for it that escapes me atm. Essentially they make a bunch of claims that cannot be confirmed to further cast doubt into people's minds. The very last thing they want is for people to have a crystalized idea of the surrounding circumstances. When they do this it's usually with a bit of truth. That truth is usually one piece of a larger puzzle that means one thing in this context but add the unknown and it means something else. Usually the truth.

For example he could have been the officer charged with collecting dirt on Berezovsky or spying on him. That makes him involved/connected and it's not impossible that there might be photos of the two drinking, laughing and shaking hands etc. The rest they can make up with fake documents.

Honestly it takes a lot of effort but people don't realize how much a government can do if they really wanted to bring you down.

Anyway the guy is dead and what we have is likely all we will ever known of the matter.
 

marvdmartian

Diamond Member
Apr 12, 2002
5,548
19
81
Don't forget that most poisons that might be used have some sort of antidote, or way of lessening the effects, if they're discovered in time.

On the flip side, if I dose your food with a dusting of radioactive particles that, say, emit heavy alpha particles, and you eat it.......you're as good as dead, once it makes it to your intestines. It will kill all the bacteria that allow you to digest food, it will be absorbed in your kidneys & liver, and basically screw up your gut so much that if the radiation wasn't going to kill you, the heavy metal poisoning almost assuredly would!

That's why, after a nuke bomb blast, you make certain that the only food you eat is canned (preserved) food you've stocked up, and the only water you drink is bottled or purified. I'd bet more people died or suffered cancer in Hiroshima & Nagasaki from ingesting/inhaling radioactive particles, than those that received a direct dose of radiation from the bomb blasts. If you can keep alpha & beta emitters outside of your body, they're harmless........but breathe them in, or ingest them, and you're toast!
 

Gibsons

Lifer
Aug 14, 2001
12,530
35
91
Why use polonium? It's toxic in very very small amounts and isn't easily diagnosed (how many cases of polonium poisoning has your average doc seen?). Po210 (an alpha emitter) was apparently used in this case and alpha emitters are more difficult to detect than gamma or beta emitters, ie your standard geiger counter is useless for detecting alpha particles.
 

TerryMathews

Lifer
Oct 9, 1999
11,473
2
0
Also there was a product found in London in stores that contained roughly the correct amount of the right kind of Po. Some kind of wand to remove static electricity from photos.

Someone asked why they used Po210 when there are faster ways to kill a person. I would put to you that in this business, they know exactly how and when they want a person to die and choose the right tool for the job. Po210 was chosen, probably because he needed to wander around for a few hours to a day before he really got sick. Don't want him collapsing to close to the area he was poisoned at, would make it easier to track his assailants.

Ideally, if you were trying to off someone and you weren't under some sort of time constraint, you'd want that person to walk around and carry out their life normally for a day or three and then just fall over dead. This is probably as close as you can get to that effect.
 

sandorski

No Lifer
Oct 10, 1999
70,096
5,639
126
It kills, but it does it in such a way that by the time anyone figures out what's happening the Killer is long gone and nearly impossible to identify.
 

Craig234

Lifer
May 1, 2006
38,548
348
126
Originally posted by: gevorg
I guess I didn't mean to offend you. :)
Thanks.

You're right about priests/mafia, but as an example its irrelevant. When someone becomes a spy for FSB, its permanent. Even if they go against the agency, take bribes from Berezovsky, support terrorists, etc etc. Once they do go against the system, they're terminated at the "right" time for the FSB; and during all that time considered to be a spy. It doesn't matter if the spy (or a journalist) calls himself an "ex", because the agency still considers him as a spy.

I don't consider their view the relevant one. I think he was ex, he thought he was ex, just because the bad guys say he's still one doesn't make it true.

I think from our point of view, the fact that he had left their service alone justifies the 'ex', and the fact he'd turned on them moreso.

If nothing else, to respect him, since he would not want to be considered one of them.

It's not every person who has the morals to refuse an assignment like that and fight the bad guys. Very few, sadly.
 

rudder

Lifer
Nov 9, 2000
19,441
85
91
Originally posted by: Aelius
They are sending a message. He isn't the only one on their list of possible targets. I suspect its a long list. Many of whom will be far less likely to talk.

Of course there is always the odd person that this has the opposite effect on. Time will tell.

My thoughts exactly. The guy has several days to let the world know who killed him. If he had simply been run over or shot there would always be doubt.