Officials verify dirty bomb probe results

Posted Feb. 11, 2009, at 8:43 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — In the wake of revelations that a Belfast man had a stash of potentially hazardous materials at his home when he was killed last December, state Public Safety Commissioner Anne Jordan stressed Wednesday that at no time was the public at risk.

Jordan did confirm that a number of materials were taken from the home of James G. Cummings on the night of Dec. 9, and that the FBI was contacted.

“A [hazardous materials] team from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection was called to the home the night of the homicide to remove a number of items from inside the home,” the commissioner said in a statement Wednesday. “An assessment that night by members of the hazmat team indicated the home was safe for State Police detectives to enter and conduct their investigation after the materials had been removed. In addition, detectives felt it was appropriate that the FBI be contacted.”

Police have identified Cummings’ wife, Amber Cummings, as the person who shot him, although she has not yet been charged. While the homicide investigation remains open and active, Jordan said, she deferred any comment about the materials investigation to the FBI.

“I can’t confirm or deny an investigation,” John Donnelly, a regional spokesman for the bureau, said Wednesday. “As of this morning, in consideration of the state’s open homicide investigation, we’re making no comment.”

The Bangor Daily News reported Wednesday that Cummings’ name was listed in an FBI intelligence alert that surfaced recently on the Web site of WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents. The document also was posted and reported on by unattributable.com, an online magazine that covers and blogs on current events and which first called attention to the report on the Cummings investigation.

The document featuring Cummings is attributed to the FBI but appears under a series of alerts that were logged by the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center in Washington, D.C. It states, in part, that on Dec. 9, 2008, “radiological dispersal device components and literature, and radioactive materials, were discovered at the Maine residence of an identified deceased [person] James Cummings.” Cummings was killed the morning of Dec. 9. It also referenced that Cummings had literature on how to build a so-called dirty bomb.

A spokeswoman for the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center who asked not to be identified confirmed Wednesday that the report that was leaked online was authentic, but she downplayed its substance.

“That’s a document that was pulled a month ago when the investigation was still ongoing,” she said. “We’ve since determined that there is nothing to it.”

The D.C.-based threat center is one of 60 “fusion centers” throughout the country that were created in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

“Essentially, they were created to bring law enforcement officials and the private sector together to share information and prevent terrorist attacks,” the spokeswoman said.

Maine has its own fusion center, but the reason Cummings ended up on the D.C. center’s radar is because his threats had the potential to affect the presidential inauguration, the woman said.

“The information that leaked was for public safety officials, not for the public,” she said. “And the fact is, it was put out before the investigation was completed.”

No additional documents have surfaced online that reference Cummings. The threat center spokeswoman said she’s in the process of having the current document removed from WikiLeaks, one of the sites that posted it.

The document indicated that Cummings had quantities of hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon. Cummings also reportedly had literature on how to build dirty bombs and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, additional radioactive materials, although he did not actually have those materials.

A spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci’s office declined to comment on the case involving Cummings other than to refer to the statement from the Department of Public Safety. Members of Maine’s congressional delegation also have declined comment. Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have deferred all questions to the FBI.

While the FBI and the Washington, D.C., threat center declined to talk specifically about any of the materials found at Cummings’ home, Public Safety Commissioner Jordan said she was satisfied with the result.

“I’ve been told by federal officials that the items seized could be purchased legally and that there was not sufficient quantity or quality to pose an immediate threat or hazard to the health and safety of the public,” she said.

The spokeswoman for the D.C. threat center said, from her perspective, the materials linked to Cummings were not indicative of a terrorist network but rather a lone, disturbed individual.

erussell@bangordailynews.net

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