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There’s a Bomb in My Backpack

Could a trail-savvy terrorist hike a nuke into America through wilderness areas on the Canadian border? An anonymous hiker-patriot alerts the White House.
june 09 bomb 445x260 tamaki(Illustration by Jillian Tamaki)

Dear President Obama,
I’m writing today to tell you about a hole in the ground. It’s just north of Washington’s Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area and a bit south of Kootenay Pass, in eastern British Columbia. Let me warn you, Sir, the pit is a real whopper: six feet deep and three feet across. Despite its size, though, the crater isn’t readily visible. Fallen willow and alder branches obscure the hole, and waist-high huckleberry bushes surround it, creating a neatly concealed booby trap for unwary bushwhackers. The pit sits at UTM coordinates 11U 0499797E 5431505N (WGS 84), at about 5,000 feet elevation, in a sprawling forest of Western red cedar and Douglas fir that spans the Washington-Canada border. I know what you’re thinking, Sir: Why should the Commander-in-Chief be concerned about this particular hole in the ground? Because on this stretch of the northern frontier, it’s virtually the only deterrent keeping bad guys from sneaking into the United States.

I discovered it the hard way. My right leg punched through the ground cover–my forward momentum halted by the impact of tibia against thick branch–and my entire body plummeted toward the Earth’s core. Yes, Mr. President, I know about this hole because I fell in it. But I wasn’t there on some casual recreational ramble. No, I was there as a patriot–a hiker on an investigative mission. Following the examples of noble whistleblowers like Deep Throat and Scooter Libby, I’d decided to see for myself just how easy it would be for a terrorist toting a dirty bomb to hike undetected into the U.S.

Sir, here’s something your national security advisors better know: If perpetrators of the next attack on American soil choose to sneak over the border with backpacks full of deadly chemicals, this hole will do nothing to stop them. I climbed out of it in less than a minute and continued hoofing it–albeit with a throbbing shin–south, toward the unguarded border near Metaline Falls, Washington. Beyond there, it’s just a seven-hour bus ride to the heart of the Seattle metropolis and its 3-million-plus unsuspecting residents.

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