As fighting continues in Libya, a disturbing new report reveals that over 20,000 surface-to-air missiles have gone missing in the country. This is a Brian Ross special, so take it with a huge grain of salt, but the White House basically confirmed the report in a morning press gaggle.

U.S. officials had once thought there was little chance that terrorists could get their hands on many of the portable surface-to-air missiles that can bring down a commercial jet liner.

But now that calculation is out the window, with officials at a recent secret White House meeting reporting that thousands of them have gone missing in Libya.

“Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that’s our worst nightmare,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, a member of the Senate’s Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee.

The nightmare has been made real with the discovery in Libya that an estimated 20,000 portable, heat-seeking missiles have gone missing from unguarded Army weapons warehouses.

Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to this today while on Air Force One from Los Angeles to Denver.

“The potential for conventional weapons proliferation from Libya has been of concern for many years. . . Since the beginning of the crisis we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya’s effort to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles including recovery, control and disposal of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.”

A State Department official is on the ground in Libya, Carney said, working on the issue.

The potential for proliferation isn’t the best reason to not get involved in a foreign country in the midst of a civil war, but it’s always worth recalling that this was going to be a concern if Gadhafi was overthrown. And this goes back to the selling of conventional weapons to Libya, which the US willingly approved back in 2009. Weapons proliferation starts at that point; when shoulder-fired missile launchers “go missing” that’s just an extension of the loss of control begun by the sale.

Ultimately, we’re never going to get a full handle on the whereabouts of all these Stinger-type missiles. That was the case in Afghanistan after the Soviet war and it’s the case today. Funny how blowback keeps, well, blowing back.