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Parts for 'dirty bomb' found in slain US man's home
February 10, 2009
Agency says radioactive materials recovered in home of man allegedly slain by his wife.
By Walter Griffin (Bangor Daily News)
BELFAST, Maine — James G. Cummings, who police say was shot to death by his wife two months ago, allegedly had a cache of radioactive materials in his home suitable for building a “dirty bomb.”
According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings’ home after his shooting death on Dec. 9.
The report posted on the WikiLeaks Web site states that “On 9 December 2008, radiological dispersal device components and literature, and radioactive materials, were discovered at the Maine residence of an identified deceased [person] James Cummings.”
It says that four 1-gallon containers of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon were found in the home.
Also found was literature on how to build “dirty bombs” and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials. The FBI report also stated there was evidence linking James Cummings to white supremacist groups. This would seem to confirm observations by local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home that he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler’s personal silverware and place settings, painter Mike Robbins said a few days after the shooting.
An application for membership in the National Socialist Movement filled out by Cummings also was found in the residence, according to the report. Cummings’ wife, Amber B. Cummings, 31, told investigators that her husband spoke of “dirty bombs,” according to the report, and mixed chemicals in her kitchen sink. She allegedly told police that Cummings subjected her to years of mental, physical and sexual abuse. She also said that Cummings was “very upset” when Barack Obama was elected president.
A “dirty bomb” is a type of “radiological dispersal device” that combines a conventional explosive such as dynamite with radioactive material, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Web site. “Most RDDs would not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe illness,” the NRC says, adding that “a dirty bomb is in no way similar to a nuclear weapon” because its effects occur in a very limited area compared to a nuclear explosion.
The report noted that “uranium, thorium, cesium-137, stontium-90 and cobalt-60 are radioactive isotopes and 35 percent hydrogen peroxide is a necessary precursor for the manufacture of peroxide-based explosives. Lithium metal, thermite and aluminum are materials used to sensitize and amplify the effects of explosives.”
The report stated that the uranium component was bought online from a U.S. company that was identified in the investigation, but not in the report.
John Donnelley, an agent at the FBI’s Boston office, declined Tuesday to comment on the report. Donnelley said some FBI reports are provided to law enforcement agencies and sometimes get released to media outlets.
“I wouldn’t be prepared to speak on that,” Donnelley said. “I have no comment.”
The Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center is an intelligence gathering office affiliated with Washington, D.C., law enforcement. Telephone and e-mail messages left with the center Tuesday were not returned.
State police have identified Amber Cummings as the person who shot James Cummings. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter was present the morning of the shooting in what police have described as a domestic violence homicide.
Amber Cummings, who is staying in the Belfast area, has not been charged in the case, although the Waldo County grand jury currently meeting in Belfast could take up the matter during its session this week. While state police have acknowledged that the 29-year-old Cummings was killed by a gunshot, the results of the autopsy have been impounded, as have the search warrants executed at Cummings’ High Street home following the shooting. Authorities spent days searching the home, according to neighbors.
Lt. Gary Wright, who heads up the Maine State Police Criminal Investigation Division team working the case, declined to comment on any aspects of the case when contacted Tuesday.
“We’re not going to comment on anything,” Wright said Tuesday evening. “It’s an open homicide investigation and we’re not going to comment. That’s our standard policy.”
Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, also had no comment on the report. “This is an active, open homicide investigation,” he said Tuesday evening, “and as a result, it’s inappropriate to get into confirming or denying aspects of that.”
Maine Deputy Attorney General William Stokes also declined to comment on the report Tuesday.
David Farmer, spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci, said Tuesday that it was inappropriate for the governor to comment on an open investigation. When asked about the copy of the field report sent to him by the Bangor Daily News, he said, “At this point, I have been unable to confirm the authenticity of the documents you sent to us.”
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ staff said there was no one able to comment on the report Tuesday night.
Telephone messages left with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were not returned Tuesday evening. Robbins, who worked on the house for a month last summer, described Cummings as an angry person who was verbally abusive to his wife. He said Cummings apparently was independently wealthy and did not work. Robbins said Cummings talked incessantly about his love of guns and his fascination for Hitler. He said Cummings repeatedly berated his wife about home-schooling their daughter. He said Cummings had a controlling personality and wanted to know his wife and child’s every move.
Cummings grew up in California and lived in Texas before moving to Maine in August 2007. Although Robbins said Cummings told him he made his money in Texas real estate, it appears that the actual source of his wealth was a trust fund established by his father, a prominent landowner in the Northern California city of Fort Bragg. An Internet search of the James B. Cummings Trust indicated that it has an annual income of $10 million.
The FBI field intelligence report was apparently first reported on by unattributable.com, an online magazine which covers and blogs on current events.
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon in Bangor contributed to this report.
Thanks to BDN and the authors for covering this document. Copyright remains with the aforementioned.