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Profile: Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST)
Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) was a participant or observer in the following events:
Logo of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team. [Source: Nuclear Emergency Search Team]Members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST) are away from America when it comes under terrorist attack, taking part in a training exercise in Europe called Jackal Cave. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009] Jackal Cave, which is run by the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command, involves participants tracking down a hypothetical force made up of terrorists and organized criminals who are trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, or “loose nukes” (see (8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-x] Over 500 personnel, 62 aircraft, and 420 tons of cargo are involved in the exercise. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 404] Three components of NEST are taking part: the Lincoln Gold Augmentation Team, the Nuclear/Radiological Advisory Team, and the Joint Technical Operations Team. The NEST personnel are in Europe by September 10, if not before then, for the exercise. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178] It is unclear where exactly in Europe they go, but some Special Operations personnel are in Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia for the exercise, so the NEST personnel may be in one or more of these countries too. [Naylor, 2015, pp. x]
Exercise Participants Are Flown Back to the US - Jackal Cave is promptly canceled in response to the attacks in the United States on September 11. [BBC News, 9/13/2001; Naylor, 2015, pp. xiii] NEST and Department of Energy personnel who are in Europe for the exercise are then taken home by military airlift. They are all back in America by September 15. [Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, 2001 ; Richelson, 2009, pp. 178]
Nuclear Search Team Is Put on Standby - Shortly after the attacks occur on September 11, NEST members (presumably those who are not involved in the exercise) are informed that they could potentially be called out for duty and told to be on standby. One NEST member will later say he received the instruction to be on standby sometime between around 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on September 11. This alert is ordered as a precaution and is not in response to any specific nuclear threat, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On September 12, NEST flies its specially equipped plane to New York to search for industrial radioactive sources and hot spots under the rubble of the World Trade Center. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 10/11/2005; Richelson, 2009, pp. 179-180]
Exercise Is the Team's First Overseas Deployment Since 1998 - NEST, which is based in Las Vegas, Nevada, is “an elite band of scientists, engineers, computer experts, and technicians that would respond to terrorists armed with stolen or homemade nuclear weapons or radioactive materials,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The team has about 1,000 members who would, if necessary, be responsible for finding and disabling nuclear devices. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 12/18/2001; Dumas, 2010, pp. 46] Its involvement in Jackal Cave is its first participation in an overseas exercise since 1998. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009]
Dell Dailey. [Source: US Department of State]Members of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—the nation’s “top counterterrorism unit”—are away from America when it comes under terrorist attack, participating in a training exercise in Hungary. [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-x; Newsweek, 9/11/2015] The highly classified exercise, called Jackal Cave, is one of several joint readiness exercises that JSOC conducts each year. It is part of a larger exercise, called Ellipse Bravo, run by the US military’s European Command (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Arkin, 2005, pp. 358-359; Naylor, 2015, pp. ix] Jackal Cave involves participants tracking down a hypothetical hybrid force made up of terrorists and elements of international organized crime who are trafficking in weapons of mass destruction. “We were tracking ‘terrorists,’” a JSOC staff officer will later comment. “[A]nd then [we’d] bring an assault element in to take the target down.” Details of the mock terrorists in the exercise are unclear, but they are not Islamists, according to journalist and author Sean Naylor. [Naylor, 2015, pp. x, 441]
JSOC and Delta Force Are Participating in the Exercise - Jackal Cave involves over 500 personnel, 62 aircraft, and 420 tons of cargo. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 404] Hundreds of JSOC personnel are taking part. [Naylor, 2015, pp. 85] JSOC, based at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, is responsible for conducting the US military’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions. [New York Times, 9/3/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 6/24/2013] Its headquarters for the exercise is divided between Taszár Air Base, about 120 miles southwest of Budapest, Hungary, and Tuzla, Bosnia. A squadron from the US Army’s Delta Force is also participating in the exercise. [Fury, 2008, pp. 56; Saratogian, 9/10/2011; Naylor, 2015, pp. x] Delta Force is designed to be an overseas counterterrorist unit and specializes in hostage rescue, barricade operations, and reconnaissance. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 6/24/2013] Its personnel are trained in dealing with terrorist situations in buildings and hijacked aircraft, among other things. [Discovery Channel, 12/1/2001; Haney, 2002, pp. 213; Schading and Schading, 2006, pp. 156]
Mock Terrorists Are Played by US Military Personnel - Others taking part in Jackal Cave include members of the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (see (September 10-15, 2001)), and some Hungarian military elements. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009; Naylor, 2015, pp. x] The terrorists in the exercise are being played by operatives from the Defense HUMINT Service—the US Defense Department’s clandestine spy network. Members of the US Navy’s SEAL Team Six are also taking part and are in the port of Dubrovnik, Croatia, from where the hypothetical enemy is trying to ship nuclear material out on a boat. The SEALs are going to be flown by helicopter to assault the boat in the Mediterranean Ocean.
JSOC Commander Learns of the Attacks in the US and Cancels the Exercise - At the time the attacks on the World Trade Center take place, Jackal Cave has barely started. One or two Delta Force staffers and some operatives with the Operational Support Troop—Delta Force’s in-house intelligence arm—are out tracking the mock terrorists through downtown Budapest. Meanwhile, Major General Dell Dailey, head of JSOC, is at the US embassy in Budapest, where he has been briefing senior officials on the exercise. He learns about the attacks on the WTC after leaving the briefing with his senior enlisted adviser, Army Command Sergeant Major Mike Hall. Major Jim Reese, a Delta Force officer, sees the coverage of the burning Twin Towers on television and then runs after the two men. He tells Dailey, “Hey sir, you need to see this.” Dailey quickly walks to his operations center at the embassy and sees the coverage of the attacks on TV. He then answers a phone call from his boss, Air Force General Charles Holland, head of US Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Holland tells him to abandon the exercise and return to the US as quickly as possible. After hanging up, Dailey turns to Reese and Lieutenant Colonel Scott Miller, another Delta Force officer, and says he is canceling the exercise immediately and returning to the US, and they should get back to the US too. However, as America’s airspace is closed to international commercial flights for several days following today’s attacks, it will take almost a week for the JSOC personnel who are in Europe for the exercise to return to America. [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-xiii, 85]
Entity Tags: 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta, Jackal Cave, Charles Holland, Dell L. Dailey, Scott Miller, 10th Special Forces Group, Navy Seals, Jim Reese, Nuclear Emergency Search Team, Joint Special Operations Command, Defense HUMINT Service, Mike Hall (US Army)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
According to Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and expert on national security issues, the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST), the agency that investigates nuclear threats (see (September 10-15, 2001)), is sent to New York City following an intelligence report that al-Qaeda may have smuggled a nuclear device into that city. The CIA has received a report from a source code-named Dragonfire that the terrorist organization has obtained a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon from the former Soviet Union. During the search for the weapon, Vice President Dick Cheney and several hundred federal employees are relocated to a secure underground bunker. No weapon is found. [Los Angeles Times, 9/19/2004; Blueprint Magazine, 10/7/2004]
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