“The nightmare has been made real”

I’m scheduled to get on a plane in the next couple of weeks… I’ll try not to think too much about this:

Libya missiles U.S. officials had once thought there was little chance that terrorists could get their hands on many of the portable surface-to-air missiles that can bring down a commercial jet liner.

But now that calculation is out the window, with officials at a recent secret White House meeting reporting that thousands of them have gone missing in Libya.

“Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that’s our worst nightmare,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, a member of the Senate’s Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee.

The nightmare has been made real with the discovery in Libya that an estimated 20,000 portable, heat-seeking missiles have gone missing from unguarded Army weapons warehouses.

The missiles, four to six-feet long and Russian-made, can weigh just 55 pounds with launcher. They lock on to the heat generated by the engines of aircraft, can be fired from a vehicle or from a combatant’s shoulder, and are accurate and deadly at a range of more than two miles.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch first warned about the problem after a trip to Libya six months ago. He took pictures of pickup truckloads of the missiles being carted off during another trip just a few weeks ago.

“I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18 wheelers and take away whatever they want,” said Bouckaert, HRW’s emergencies director. “Every time I arrive at one of these weapons facilities, the first thing we notice going missing is the surface-to-air missiles.”

The ease with which rebels and other unknown parties have snatched thousands of the missiles has raised alarms that the weapons could end up in the hands of al Qaeda, which is active in Libya.

Are you worried? You shouldn’t be. The Obama Administration is all over this:

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, which advises President Obama, says that a State Department expert “is on the ground in Libya working with the [Transitional National Council],” the rebels’ interim government, to develop a “control and destruction program” for the missiles. Vietor also said the administration has sent five specialists to help the TNC “secure, recover and destroy” weapons, including surface-to-air missiles. Said Vietor, “Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya’s efforts to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles, including recover, control, and disposal of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.”

So rest easy frequent and occasional flyers.  Obama’s on the job.

No worries.

H/T Steve Schippert in email.

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