The plan was to load the uranium onto a massive Russian cargo plane, one of the few in the world specially equipped to fly nuclear materials. On November 20, the day before the plane was to leave for a nuclear facility in Russia, Libyan officials unexpectedly halted the shipment. Without explanation, they declared that the uranium would not be permitted to leave Libya. They left the seven five-ton casks out in the open and under light guard, vulnerable to theft by the al-Qaeda factions that still operate in the region or by any rogue government that learned of their presence.
The reason we're hearing about this now?
A person with access to the cables provided them to The Atlantic in order to publicize the dangers of loose nuclear materials under the control of unpredictable regimes in unstable countries.
The GOP has lately been threatening to sink the ratification of the new START treaty, which among other things would help us keep Russia's nuclear materials from falling in the hands of such regimes, or worse. Contra Charles Krauthammer, unless one doesn't think twice on squandering goodwill we've built up with the Russians, disrupting the diplomatic efforts of Eastern European nations, and preventing us from keeping an eye on an enormous and aging nuclear bonanza that terrorists would surely also like to keep an eye on--this is in fact a very large issue.