… consider all of the people outside of that circle, the people getting ready for some of those 199 flights. Each of them was possibly within 100 yards of a rare, deadly nerve agent that might have made its way through the airport until the moment that it was swiped on Kim’s face. Depending on how the VX got onto that cloth, and where, and how careful the assassins — two women, according to reports — were in applying and transporting it, that danger could remain.
Vestergaard pointed out the obvious risk posed by an assassin carrying a cloth with VX through an airport.
“We watched her walk across one of the terminals. She would have had to have carried this cloth with her. Even if she had gloves on, it would have dispersed somehow, somewhere,” she said. “Onto her, maybe onto someone else if she would have brushed against someone. If something would have dropped, onto a shoe, onto a suitcase.” Wherever she doused the cloth might be contaminated, Vestergaard added. “Even to open the vial and carry a vial” risks contaminating the environment.
It works quickly. “Its effect is mainly through direct contact with the skin,” the OPCW indicates. Poisoning using a gas leads to a more rapid effect than through contact with the skin, because in the latter case it can take 20 to 30 minutes for the agent to reach deeper blood vessels. When it does, however, the effect is to essentially paralyze respiratory functions — the victim suffocates. Because persistent agents don’t evaporate, it requires a smaller amount to kill. In the case of VX, the OPCW says, the amount of the agent required to have a fatal effect in 50 percent of victims is 10 milligrams.
An amount the size of three snowflakes. One-ninth of a grain of sand.
Asked whether she was surprised by the idea that Kim might have been killed with VX, Vestergaard said she was.
“Everything about this strikes me as incredulous and bizarre,” she said — but so did the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, a former spy who was killed after being slowly poisoned with the radioactive compound polonium, she said. That someone was murdered in a public place in broad daylight, though, isn’t a surprise. That’s often how assassinations are conducted — including with the use of chemical weapons.
I admit, I have a greater amount of respect for Mossad’s style of a gunman on a motorbike. The target walking to work, or driving to the mall… all can be handled with prompt dispatch, followed by a quick ride to the airport.
Fancy-dancy nerve agents, administered by ignorant hirelings, is not something that I would expect.
But that’s how it is. “Professionals are predictable: it’s the amateurs that are dangerous.”
“In some respects, it’s not surprising,” she added. “With North Korea, the other thing that doesn’t surprise me is that they want to be surprising.”
I’m old enough so this bizarre method of assassination still feels incredibly sci-fi. “Three snowflakes, and it’s all over.”
Fortunately, this was a nerve poison, and not some impossibly infectious biowar strain of killer measles, say.
A properly-positioned Imperial Starport Authority security officer must have some amazing set of stories to tell!