Sunday, October 29, 2006

LONDON WATER WAS TO BE POISONED WITH RICIN: US celebrity sputters

Friday night on David Letterman, the peddling of fiction:

O'Reilly: "Do you know what Ansar al-Islam is? Do you know what that is? You don't. All right, I'm not saying this in a condescending way. I'm really not, okay? I'm not going to call you a bonehead or a pinhead, all right? Ansar al-Islam was the al-Qaeda affiliate in northern Iraq that tried to poison the British water supply with ricin. They operated with Saddam Hussein's okay. Again, complicated, but it isn't so black and white, Dave. It isn't 'We're a bad country, Bush is an evil liar.' That's not true."

The transcript is here.

O'Reilly had no idea what he was talking about. While only making chit-chat with the famous late night TV host, he was the bonehead.

The facts were covered by me through the auspices of the respected think tank, GlobalSecurity.Org, here.

There was no information to the effect that London's water could be poisoned with ricin by al Qaeda. In fact, it's quite remarkable to find such a famous TV newsman/pundit recaste history in a simple tiffe with Letterman, who is essentially just a variety show ringleader/comedian.

A handful of castor seeds in the hands of one loner, Kamel Bourgass, was found in the Wood Green area of London, hardly a WMD, although the press would have a field deal with it for a time.

Fox, along with every other major news organization in the United States, uses GlobalSecurity.Org on a daily basis. But quite often they're only fond of the security information that fits their world view. If there's anything else inconvenient in the daily bushel basket, forget it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

HEY HEY HEY: Music break courtesy of Thunderboss

JP Patterson and Ross "The Boss" Funichello (actually -- Friedman) of the Dictators have made an album of "Party-Time Surf Rock For Your Pre-Bar-Fight Reveries." Bought as a marked down copy at Amoeba in Hollywood, "In adherence to '70s classic-rock finery, Thunderboss falls somewhere between the Dictators' own Manifest Destiny without the jokes and Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow with more "Freeway Jam" and no "'Cause We've Ended as Lovers," according to me. Read the rest at the Village Voice here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

JIHADIST STILL FLOGGING RICIN: Still crummy on the biochemistry

A small item from one of the private intel sites that alleges it keeps you abreast of the worldwide terror threat. (Read: We translate documents from jihadist websites like Althabeton and reprint juicy parts even when it's total rubbish.)

"In a document posted on August 12 entitled 'How to Fight Alone,' [al Qaeda partner Muhammed Khalil al-Hakaima] provides readers with a list of what he describes as 'simple and accessible means' to use against the 'enemy occupiers,' it is said.

"Among other statements, he recommends that followers study the human anatomy in order to identify vulnerable areas and to take up martial arts and exercise, presumably to prepare for hand-to-hand combat scenarios. He then mentions utilizing tactics such as stabbings, arson, car bombs and cutting the brake lines on automobiles. Al-Hakaima suggests using lethal doses of narcotics such as cocaine and heroin as weapons, although he does not specify how exactly to employ these agents. He even goes as far as to recommend the use of readily available poisons, such as castor oil seeds, which contain ricin, a potent toxin that can lead to death if consumed . . . "

Lethal doses of narcotics, huh? To be administered to whom? Junkies? Can it be baked in a cake or worked into hamburger?

We'll just say you're pretty thin in the playbook of violence when you're down to recommending people study judo or meditate upon ways to get others to eat castor seeds.

And so the idiotic Kurt Saxon/Maxwell Hutchkinson recipe for ricin, beloved by American neo-Nazis and al Qaeda dimwits -- that's progress -- raises its head for the umpty-umpth time.

Save yourself the trouble of looking for jihadist poison recipes and scrutinize this fragment of Anas al Liby's Manual of the Afghan Jihad here, rendered unto Dick Destiny by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times a while back.

For additional reading, consult From the Poisoner's Handbook to the Botox Shoe of Death for thorough background and pretty pictures. And the tale of The Castor Oil Killer for more details on a similar level of expertise.

Readers -- security experts and pleasant laymen -- know by DD's repeated postings that ricin isn't a practical weapon of terror. There is only a small amount of it present in castor seeds and lacking any technical knowledge on how to remove it -- other than grinding the seeds into a powder -- the so-often sited Internet recipes actually destroy most of the toxic protein.

Since many American neo-Nazis and Islamists appear to be really light in the loafers when it comes to applications in the hard sciences of biology and chemistry, it is good news when they're spied flogging the same old trash.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

OUT OF AN ABUNDANCE OF NINNIES: Media and authorities worse than icky dolt who triggered NFL dirty bomb hoax

"Out of an abundance of caution . . . " was the key slogan distributed by the media. And as a result it was once again time to laugh at our protectors in the war on terror. Laugh loud -- because if you don't -- you'll surely have to cry.

Out of an abundance of caution, Homeland Security was releasing "news" of the alleged dirty bomb plot against NFL stadiums.

But with GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD thinks readers of this blog will agree that upon reading the on-line musings of icky Jake J. Brahm, there should have been no alert, no matter how feeble or furnished with caveats.

Somewhere within the apparatus of the FBI and Homeland Security, someone had Brahm's identity and would have been aware of his idiotic blogs. And they would have argued it's going to look really bad if the newsmedia runs away with this.

Out of an abundance of caution, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke and all his controllers should be dismissed. They're one indication that the system is broken. An alarm bell that rings all the time is two things: Something making a noise everyone ignores and a machine that always malfunctions. It shouldn't have tripped on someone like Jake J. Brahm.

Because of an abundance of caution, critical thinking is absent from the building. Kicked out and you're a troublemaker if you mention it.

The newsmedia may eventually get around to discussing its roles as facilitator and amplifier -- CNN was a major culprit. But this discussion will occur within the trade publications, pubs no one reads except J-profs and some editors. So when the next Jake J. Brahm shows up . . .

Excerpts from the news prior to the naming of Jake J. Brahm:

WASHINGTON — A Website is claiming that seven NFL football stadiums will be hit with radiological dirty bombs this weekend, but the government on Wednesday expressed doubts about the threat.

The warning, posted Oct. 12, was part of an ongoing Internet conversation titled "New Attack on America Be Afraid." It mentioned NFL stadiums in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland, where games are scheduled for this weekend.

The Homeland Security Department alerted authorities and stadium owners in those cities, as well as the NFL, of the Web message but said the threat was being viewed "with strong skepticism.'' Officials at the NCAA, which oversees college athletics, said they too had been notified.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said there was no intelligence that indicated such an attack was imminent, and he said the alert was "out of an abundance of caution.''

As if an "ongoing Internet conversation" would berald an attack: The Star.


The timing of the alert however, less than three weeks before the mid-term elections, will be met with a lot of skepticism, especially by Bush Administration critics.

Just a few minutes ago on CNN, Paul Begala, the former Clinton White House aide who’s a political analyst for the cable news channel said, “It is interesting these things always seem to spike right before an election.. A lot of people are going to be deeply skeptical.”

I asked Knocke about the timing of the DHS alert given the level of cynicism that’s out there as reflected by Begala's comment. In recent years, there've been allegations that the Bush administration has used threat information for political purposes and those suspicions obviously are very strong.

A journalism blog at the Chicago Tribune. Wow! Working out the political angles!


Report: Dirty bomb threats at NFL stadiums

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 -- Seven U.S. stadiums scheduled to have NFL games this weekend have been threatened with radiological "dirty bomb" attacks, CNN reported.

The cable news outlet said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has told the NFL of a threat seen on a Web site that said the devices would be set off Sunday outside stadiums in Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, Miami, New York, Oakland and Seattle.

Homeland Security officials told CNN there is no credible intelligence to support the threats and said people should go about their business this weekend. They said they informed the NFL and state and local officials out of an abundance of caution.

UPI



FLOWERY BRANCH — The Georgia Dome was among seven NFL stadiums that a Web site claimed would be hit with radiological dirty bombs this weekend.

The government didn’t put much stock in the threat, which was posted last week as part of an ongoing Internet conversation titled “New Attack on America Be Afraid.”

Still, it prompted both the Falcons and the Georgia Dome to put out statements expressing faith in their security measures.

“We are aware of the recent reports, and the Department of Homeland Security has been in communication with the league office,” Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said. “All NFL stadiums, including the Georgia Dome, are very well protected through comprehensive security procedures

The Rome News Tribune


"Veteran CBS newsman Bob Orr, whose beat is transportation and homeland security, has criticized broadcast coverage of a warning made on a website that seven 'dirty bombs' -- conventional bombs with nuclear material inside designed to contaminate an area -- would be detonated outside seven football stadiums this weekend. Despite official assurances to the NFL from intelligence analysts that the threat was 'non-credible,' the matter was leaked to CNN, where, said Orr, 'it created quite a sensation.' Given the manner in which the cable news network covered the matter, wrote Orr on the CBS blog Public Eye, viewers might have 'thought al Qaeda was massing at goal posts from the Meadowlands to the Oakland Coliseum ready to storm the fields and strike a blow at another sacred American institution.' Other media outlets followed with similar reports. The story, Orr wrote, proved to be irresistible. 'It the kind of sexy elements that get news directors to crank up team coverage -- big crowds, dirty bombs, football, and a warning from the government. What it was missing was some substance and restraint from media outlets which let hype trump context.' "

Nicely put but no one
paid attention.

Friday, October 20, 2006

FEDS CHARGE COMPULSIVE PUBLIC MASTURBATOR: Your tax dollar stamps out dirty bomb hoax by icky dolt

DD had been assiduously avoiding stories about the NFL dirty bomb plot all week. But when its clowning perpetrator was named in the Pasadena Star News, it was time for an Internet trawl.

I'm such a card!"Jake J. Brahm, of Wauwatosa, Wis., surrendered to the U.S. Marshal's Service on Friday morning and was scheduled to appear in court in Milwaukee later in the day," wrote the newspaper via AP.

"He was charged in a sealed criminal complaint filed Thursday in Newark, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said. One of the seven stadiums allegedly targeted was Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

"Christie said Brahm admitted that between September and Wednesday he had posted the same threat about 40 times on various Web sites. Authorities would not discuss how or when they became aware of the postings . . .

"Brahm worked as a grocery clerk at Outpost Natural Foods, a co-op near his house, said Jeremy Layman, assistant store manager. He said Brahm made his shifts on time and was not a concern.

" 'He was a normal guy. That s all we're going to say at this time,' Layman said."

And here we come to know a normal guy as a person who appears to be the same fellow who writes the unique blog, "Jake Brahm Wangs Da Poo."

"I think I spend too much time masturbating," announces the author in the banner. "If I made it public how much I masturbate, maybe I'll cut back some."

This blog fails," admits one post, not particularly perceptively. Yet the author is determined to vociferously inform us he spends a great deal of time in one-handed struggle, a desire -- which to some extent -- will now be fulfilled.

With a vivid and puckish sense of imagined destiny, "Jake Joseph Brahm" also writes: "In 2009, the now full-blown terrorist organization Cryptozoological Liberation Agitators, of which Jake Brahm lead [sic] under the pseudonym Emma Smith, committed a series of heinous terrorist attacks against, among others, the financial district of New York (exploding several car bombs, comprised . . . primarily of ammonium nitrate, and elephant feces), the fashion districts of Los Angelas [sic] (descending nuclear strike, with the help of the now flourishing capitalist North Korea), and the redneck district in Juno, Alaska . . . "

And "[s]ometimes, if I haven't wanged da poo for a few days, a little bit of cum will seep out of my wee-wee when I take a poo-poo," he writes in yet another entry. "This is normal, right?" But maybe not quite so normal as pestering people outside the supermarket.

What should I do today? Post dirty bomb hoaxes to the Internet until I become infamous? Or polish my joint and catalog it in my on-line diary? Decisions, decisions.


With friends like like these. Wouldn't you just know it, he wants to be a rock musician and maybe a music journalist, too.

Maybe he can get together with Huck Fish and swap legal advice.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

GREAT WMD FAILURES: Casey, the castor oil killer

A week or so ago DD blog promised a story on alleged 'ricin terror' that would cause your eyes to roll. And today it's unveiled, the case of the young man who wound up in the government's anti-terror statistics when his marijuana stash tested positive for a weapon of mass destruction.


Be now assured that America is safe from a drug addict trying to make a weapon of mass destruction from castor oil, a laxative. This comes by way of the example of Casey Cutler, a drug addict from Mesa, Arizona, who wound up in the Department of Justice's 2006 count of WMD terror cases broken up by the government. It was reprinted in "Congress's Vigilance in the Five Years Since 9/11: Making America Safer," a propaganda sheet issued by Senator John Kyl on August 6, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, in anticipation of the five year rehash and memorial.

Read the rest here at the Reg.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A SNIPER CRAWLS INTO POSITION: Hey, who's that man on the lawn in a shaggy suit? Is that a member of the SWAT team?

Preparation for terrorist attack at the local level in the US is sometimes so ludicrous, if you don't laugh at it, you'll have to cry. Conducted in exercises, one can reliably count on instances in which citizens are put through run-throughs or tabletop scenarios built upon really bad information about terrorist capability.

So with GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD claims a picture's worth 1,000 words.


And from the Pocono Record, a small newspaper in eastern Pennsylvania near DD's old haunts, comes this doozy.

While one can applaud the desire to conduct readiness drills for the purposes of education and training on terror threats and response, DD has no idea why anyone would believe an exercise that outwardly looks so terrible would be particularly valuable in training -- other than for the determination that phones work and that people can follow orders.

But in "Emergency Workers Stage Casualty Drill," a reporter for the Record writes, "Monroe County's first-ever Mass Casualty Drill, dubbed 'Monroe Vigilance,' was staged . . . including police, fire, EMS, and coroner operations, along with Monroe County's Dispatch Center and Pocono Medical Center . . . Under the watchful eye of Cocciardi and Associates, a group that plans and administers exercises such as these, scenarios were set up and acted from start to finish."

In this case, domestic miscreants, angered over the destruction of their methamphetamine operation by the feds, retaliate by attacking a local school, hence the "camouflaged" sniper ("camouflaged" here meaning "something that sticks out, like a giant gopher") from a SWAT team. Citizens are apparently doused with -- guess what -- ricin.

"Students from Keystone College were the victims; some were 'killed' in the chemical attack," wrote the newspaper. "Jay Selwood, 20, a freshman, said their role in the exercise was part of the first-year seminar that helps freshmen adjust to campus life."

"It was an easy 'A' . . . And we don't have to get wet like in some other drills." The student said his character "smelled funny" because of the chemical attack.

Ricin, a toxic plant protein found in small amounts in castor seeds, has never been used in a mass chemical attack. And chemical and biological warfare experts -- the ones who are good and actually know some science on the matter -- usually will tell you it's only application is as a weapon of assassination.

It was used in the 1978 slaying of dissident Georgi Markov in London and has been involved in domestic incidents in which Americans have either tried to poison a family member or have plotted the same.

And American crazies from the neo-Nazi right are regularly arrested with castor seeds and castor powder in their possession. But none have ever staged an attack or shown a slight capability to cause mass death with the poison. Indeed, there is simply not enough of it in the castor seed to make it practical or easy to use in such a way.

In any case, ricin does not kill immediately, which is the situation described in the Monroe County anti-terror readiness exercise. And it wouldn't cause someone to smell funny, unless -- of course -- they'd failed to wash or been hosed down with something else as part of a decontamination exercise.

Cocciardi and Associates, the agency which planned the drill, looks to be an industrial safety training firm that moved into homeland security preparedness in the wake of 9/11. It trains municipalities in eastern Pennsylvania. Good luck with that, folks.

"The public [was] banned from watching the exercise 'due to the classified nature of some of the actions that will occur," said an official from Northeastern Pennsylvania's Emergency Response Group to the Record, in a story that preceded the dog-and-pony show. But "News media will be escorted into the simulated hazardous areas to cover the event."

DD and readers understand why this would have to be the case. You wouldn't want to destroy the confidence of the citizenry, now, by allowing them to see the threadbare quality of the circus. Or the man on the lawn in the shaggy suit. Definitely classified stuff, except for the students and the newspaper.

"All it took to get two hostages released was a pizza," writes the Pocono Record of the simulated terror attack. Discounting the the "ricin" deaths, it sort of ended well.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

THEIR GARMENTS WERE VERY FINE, BUT SALES WERE NOT: DD hard rock consumer guide -- still more Angel appreciation


Discovered by Gene Simmons in 1975, Angel was scripted to be the white to Kiss’ black. Coming out of the Washington, D.C., club scene, dressed in heavenly white vestments, the band looked absurdly delicate. Angel’s ’75 debut was a grandiose, murky mix of metal, Keith Emerson keyboards, and singer Frank Dimino chirping Dungeons and Dragons lyrics. If you were around then, you might have thought Casablanca Records had another hit arena band on its hands. People were hopelessly optimistic that way . . .

Read the entire review at the Baltimore City Paper, here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

WIRED BUT NO SMARTY-PANTS: I was scared by a cyberterror simulation, says journalist

Momentary horse-laugh of the day goes to Chris Suellentrop, an editor at Slate, writing about becoming a convert to the decrepit church of cyberterror in "Sim City: Terrortown:"
AS SOMEONE WHO FANCIES HIMSELF a smarty-pants Washington writer, I had been convinced by the smarty-pants Washington elite that the threat of cyberterrorism – terror attacks carried out online instead of, you know, with bombs – is a hoax. I even commissioned and edited an article that said as much for Slate, the online magazine for the smarty-pants set. The theory goes something like this: Technology companies, desperate for profit after the dotcom bust, concocted the idea of cyberterrorism in the wake of September 11 to gobble money from the federal homeland security trough. But we all know that nobody's life is in peril if Osama bin Laden orchestrates a multifront attack on Orbitz, CheapTickets, and Expedia.com.


No surprise, Suellentrop is not such a smarty-pants. In defining cyberterror, he misses the boat by a good many years.

It's a little surprising, because WIRED actually covered the beat on-line much of the time prior to 9/11.

In any case, Suellentrop credits cyberterror mania to "technology companies" post 9/11.

In fact, the town-criers on the cyberterror danger were government officials, the most famous of whom was Richard Clarke, who earned this column, "Legacy of Miscalculation."

Reprinted everywhere that was Republican red, it led to a cover story at the NYC altie-newsweekly, The Village Voice. [Summarized: Dems thought Clarke's after-the-fact 9/11 tell-all would turn the election over to John Kerry. I predicted the opposite -- because Clarke was a weak savior -- for the cover of a hardcore "lefty" news pub, The Village Voice, where I'd been called a "commie puke," among other things.]

Ahem -- so anyway, for better or for worse, DD knows the story of cyberterror.

And companies jumped on that bandwagon years after the American government had flogged it into the ground. In the wake of 9/11, when it looked like the feds were going to throw money at everyone who could cry "terror" even feebly, many tried for some of the gravy. There is little indication in 2006 they reaped a bonanza for their efforts.

And another long-time critic of cyberterror was Rob Rosenberger, an old colleague from VMyths. He wrote an entertaining audiobook about Clarke's tenure as US Czar against Cyberterror.

What Suellentrop also obviously doesn't know was that the meme of cyberterror had a very rich history, dating from the time it went under the phrase, "electronic Pearl Harbor," or EPH.

Punch it into Google like this and three of the first four entries belong to me.

And as GlobalSecurity.Org official expert, the CATO Institute actually flew me into DC from Pasadena in 2003 to be the Devil's advocate in a seminar on cyberterror, although by that time serious national-level debate on the subject was pretty much over.

But the most comprehensive sampling of quotecant on "electronic Pearl Harbor," or cyberterror -- if you will, comes from the homepage of the Crypt Newsletter, an on-line publication I edited off servers at Northern Illinois University, during the Nineties. It's here and I stopped adding to it around the turn of the Millenium when the cyberterror burble became deadeningly shopworn.

Notice -- this was all well before 9/11.

Crypt Newsletter had been on-line since 1993 or '94 and I stopped maintaining it about five years ago. It will go off-line sometime in 2007 when the criminology prof who maintains the computers at soci.niu.edu goes into semi-retirement. He was editor of the well-known Computer underground Digest aka CuD.

Some quotes from 2000 and earlier, on cyberterror, from the archive:

". . . Y2K will illustrate what a attack could do . . . Anybody who says after January 1, 2000 that this [threat of cyber attack] is all just made up I think is an idiot."

--- James Adams, author of the book "The Next World War" and head of iDefense, a company that provides intelligence on cyberterror, appearing in USC's Networker magazine, 1998-99.

Adams' business was launched for the sake of defending the nation against cyberterror. The business went into bankruptcy in the following years and Adams was ejected from its leadership.


Or how about this one from November 4, 1999:

``We expect that (terrorists) will attempt to use Y2K as a cover for putting some kind of attack into a vulnerable place . . . That is, when a Y2K solution goes in, they will fly underneath that with an attack of their own that will shut the system down . . . " said Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett at a National Press Club event.


This comes from 1999, too:

Then a National Infrastructure Protection Center analyst was deployed to furnish another hypothetical -- emphasis on "hype" -- scenario for which no evidence is provided: Osama bin Laden could instigate a computerized equivalent of the World Trade Center bombing. [That's the first WTC bombing.]

"Alan B. Carroll, an FBI agent . . . urged those at the conference to imagine a computer or communications version of the World Trade Center bombing - a disaster that brings down, say, computer or telephone networks on which society depends . . . 'Referring to the alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden . . . Carroll said that 'given the resources of this man, you can imagine the kind of damage he could do.'"

The NIPC no long really exists. It would up being broken into pieces, part of it going to the Dept. of Homeland Security, part to the FBI.


And this from 1999, from the Washington Times column edited by Bill Gertz. One author is produced, flogging a book on cyberterror and the People's Liberation Army:

"William Triplett, co-author of a new book on the PLA," said: "All of this offensive-warfare talk, when China is not threatened by anyone, shows that the dragon is at the point where it doesn't have to hide its claws."

According to Triplett, "China could launch a devastating computer-run sabotage operation by attacking U.S. oil refineries, many of which are grouped closely together in areas of Texas, New Jersey and California."

"A [Chinese] computer attacker could penetrate the electronic 'gate' that controls refinery operations and cause fires or toxic chemical spills . . . "

During cyberterror's glory years, a revolving cast of bad actors -- bands of criminals, programmers or nation-states -- would go in and out of fashion as designated theoretical adversary. In addition to the evergreen miscellaneous collections of arch-hackers, the French, Russians, Indian offshore programmers, occasionally North Korea, and once or twice, even Saddam Hussein were favored. But China was always the most popular.


Also from 1999, Congressman Curt Weldon, on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered:"

"[Curt] Weldon says a successful hacker could disrupt civilian life, striking hospitals or train systems," said the NPR interviewer.

WELDON: "It's not a matter of if America has an electronic Pearl Harbor, but when."


1999 again, in Reuters:

"Hacker Threatens To Leave Country In The Dark" was the headline of an un-bylined story issued by the news agency on Sept. 29.

"A computer hacker has threatened to break into the computers of Belgian electricity generator Electrabel Wednesday afternoon and halt the power supply to the entire country," proclaimed the news service in 500-word squib.

``Tomorrow I will leave Belgium without power, and that is not so difficult,'' an anonymous hacker crowed to a Belgian newspaper.

``Wednesday I will get into Electrabel's computers between 1:30 and 3:30 in the afternoon and shut down all the electricity.''

The Belgian electric company, Electrabel, "said it was taking the threat seriously but felt that the hacker had little chance of succeeding."

``There is very little chance that Belgium could be without power,'' said a corporate spokersperson.

No Belgian blackout was subsequently reported.


But the great grand-dad of "electronic Pearl Harbor" and cyberterror, although there are indications he later tried to renege on the title, was Richard Clarke.

Prior to 9/11, few Americans knew who Richard Clarke was but observers of the cyberterror meme knew him very well. He owned the entire property -- lock, stock and barrel, taking it off the much less well-known John Hamre, an assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration.

And Clarke's best proclamations, echoed down through the years, were published in Signal, the magazine of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

In its August '99 issue, Clarke said there was "a very real possibility of an electronic Pearl Harbor."

"Without computer-controlled networks, there is no water coming out of your tap; there is no electricity lighting your room; there is no food being transported to your grocery store; there is no money coming out of your bank; there is no 911 system responding to emergencies; and there is no Army, Navy and Air Force defending the country . . . All of these functions, and many more, now can only happen if networks are secure and functional.

"A systematic [attack] could come from a terrorist group, a criminal cartel or a foreign nation . . . and we do know of foreign nations that are interested in our information infrastructure and are developing offensive capabilities that would allow them to take down sectors of our information infrastructure . . . "

Signal went on to describe a national disaster caused by cyberterrorists, embellished by Clarke.

"One possible scenario would feature a demand leveled by a foreign government or terrorist group," wrote the magazine. "When the U.S. government refuses to comply, this adversary demonstrates its capabilities by reducing a region of the United States to chaos. 'I think the capability to do that probably exists in the hands of several nations,' Clarke stated. 'I think it could exist in the near future in the hands of criminal and terrorist organizations.'"

"Envision all of these things happening simultaneously -electricity going out in several major cities; telephones failing in some regions; 911 service being down in several metropolitan areas. If all of that were to happen simultaneously, it could create a great deal of disruption, hurt the economy . . . "



Suellentrop writes in his essay that he was invited to take part in a computerized wargame in which cyberterrorists attack a town in New England. It was pimped, or I should say -- designed, by Dartmouth's Institute for Security Technology Studies.

Now, with a name like that, you might think it's an academic operation which broadly addresses national security problems and technology.

But if you go out to its website, it's just like the dreary old Nineties collections of faculty members and miscellaneous experts, virtually anyone will do, as long as they are ready to keep working the cyberterror angle with courses, lectures and monographs that drill into your head the menace of it. Sullentrop, not knowing much about the subject, was actually a very good person to invite for the simulation, easily bowled over by the theatre of it.

In the Nineties, you could read the proclamations of cyberterror experts almost daily in the US newsmedia. After 9/11, their presence dwindled rapidly until virtually no one in the mainstream pays attention to them anymore. The mandarins of cyberterror were definitely of a time. In other words, now these guys need all the publicity they can get.

With nothing new here, it would be expected that any simulation by such an institute would be one designed to show its participants how deadly cyberterror is, with no wiggle-room allowed.

But what Chris Suellentrop doesn't seem to realize, at least he gives no inkling in his writing, is that all such simulations, when run for journalists or officials, are rigged so the participants can't win.

Instead he suddenly gets religion and sees the light.

"The game couldn't end soon enough," Suellentrop writes. "I don't think we won."

" . . . But in eight hours, I went from smarty-pants to scaredy-cat. Computers don't kill people; people with computers kill people.

Well Chris, such simulations at a Dartmouth institute are simply role-playing games, and if you take part in one, your job is that of the patsy, one of the designated players allowed to go "Oh my!" as the simulation's orchestrated world comes crashing down around you. You're not exactly in a position to ask whether or not you've been party to pre-arranged or scripted crap.

DD won't go into it, but it hasn't seen one yet where the object wasn't simply to create an escalating disaster that flummoxed players, no matter what they did. They never take into account the natural resilience and expertise which may exist within the citizenry or even simple things like Murphy's Law. The terrorists always have perfect execution. Entropy always works for them.

By the standards of old-timey electronic Pearl Harbor/cyberterror scenarios, Suellentrop's simulation was unimaginative. Hackers mess with the 9/11 system. It's the first thing everyone thinks of and goes back to the Nineties' most notorious fed cyberterror simulation, Eligible Reciever.

Cyberterrorists then deface a government web page! Wow! No one thinks to say to the refs, "So what, who's waiting with bated breath to read it?" Or, "If a tree falls in cyberspace and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Electronic highway signs are made to display a message that indicates a bioterror attack is underway. By experience, no such highway signs exist in Pasadena. Some can be found on the multiple highways surrounding southern California, but I'm far from sure such a message would have much impact on the tremendous volume of motorists rushing by.

More buttons were pushed and a hospital was worked over. Always, people die.

"I'm talking about people shutting down a city's electricity . . . shutting down 911 systems, shutting down telephone networks and transportation systems," said Richard Clarke to the New York Times in 1999. "You black out a city, people die. Black out lots of cities, lots of people die."

Quaint.

Read the adventures of the smarty-pants -- at the famous tech comic book, WIRED.


And indeed Wired News did cover the cyberterror beat. Noah Schactman of Defensetech sends over a 2002 story entitled Terrorists on the Net? Who Cares?

An excerpt:
"The idea that hackers are going to bring the nation to its knees is too far-fetched a scenario to be taken seriously," said Jim Lewis, a 16-year veteran of the State and Commerce Departments. He compiled the analysis for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Nations are more robust than the early analysts of cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare give them credit for," Lewis wrote in the report. "Infrastructure systems (are) more flexible and responsive in restoring service than the early analysts realized, in part because they have to deal with failure on a routine basis."


A recent Congressional Research Service report also dealt with cyberterror in a foolish manner. Distributed by Steven Aftergood's Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists here -- the CRS does not desire its analyses to be "public" for nonsensical reasons -- DD hopes to get to it soon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

FIZZLED: North Korea bomb test, possible "predetonation" failure

Reuters: "Gary Gibson, senior seismologist at Australia's Seismology Research Centre, said a 4.2 magnitude quake would be the result of a one kiloton explosion."

"A U.S. intelligence source agreed that a preliminary examination of the data did not indicate a large blast or a series of explosions. But the source stressed that analysts were still working towards a definitive evaluation."


Back in 1991, DD attended a seminar on nuclear weapons presented at the Center for War, Peace and the News Media/Knight Center for Specialized Journalism on the campus of the University of Maryland.

The seminar furnished about thirty pounds of briefing books and unclassified scientific papers on the nuts and bolts of nuclear proliferation as well as the materials and methods of weapons production. There was no getting around the complexity of the subject matter and the necessity of coming to grips with the dry language of bomb-makers. [In other words, you might want to skip this.]

Speakers included scientists from the arms control agencies as well as the national labs.

One of the lecturers was J. Carson Mark, a former head of the Theoretical Division of Los Alamos.

In a paper entitled "Reactor Grade Plutonium's Explosive Properties," published by the Nuclear Control Institute, Mark reviewed some comments by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb, made one week after the first fission explosion at the Trinity site on July 16, 1945.

Oppenheimer, writing to General Leslie Groves, on use of the atomic bomb in combat, said: " . . . The possibility that the first combat plutonium Fat Man will give less than optimal performance is about 12 percent. There is about a 6 percent chance that the energy release will be under 5000 tons, and about a 2 percent chance that it will be under 1000 tons. It should not be much less than 1000 tons (1 kiloton) unless there is natural malfunctioning of some of the components."

Another week later, wrote Mark, Groves reported to the Chief of Staff: "There is a definite possibility, 12 percent rising to 20 percent, as we increase the rate of production . . . with the type of weapon used that the blast will be smaller due to detonation in advance of optimum time. But in any event, the explosion should be on the order of thousands of tons."

"Evidently both Oppenheimer and Groves were referring to what will be identified in the following discussion as a 'fizzle yield'; that is, the smallest nuclear yield this particular device could provide. They do not state a value for this yield, but in view of their saying 'it should not be much less than 1000 tons' it may be presumed that they were thinking of some value like 700 tons or so."

Mark then goes into a discussion on the probabilities of a the entire device surviving long enough without a spoiling (preliminary to the main act) chain reaction occuring that would cause the weapon to blow apart before reaching its theoretical yield.

Predetonation resulting in a fizzle, which certainly seems to pertain to North Korea's test, depends on a number of factors: how well the bomb design is manufactured, how fast the bomb assembles into supercriticality, the bomb mechanism's size, weight, composition and density, and, most importantly, the number of background neutrons from what the weaponeers call spontaneous fission within the workings of it.

Mark described this problem further in another paper called "By What Means Can Terrorists Go Nuclear?"

". . . [T]here is a moment when the [bomb's] fissile material becomes critical (projectile still on its way to its destination [in a gun-type weapon], or only a small part of the material compressed [in an implosion-type weapon]) and the time it reaches its intended state. During this interval, the degree of supercriticality is building up toward its final value. If a chain reaction were initiated by neutrons from some other source during this period, the yield realized would be much smaller --possibly a great deal smaller -- than the nominal yield. Such an event is referred to as preinitiation (or sometimes predetonation).

Further, Mark writes, "If the [bomb's] assembly velocities (of the projectile or material driven by an implosion) are quite low, the earliest possible preinitiation could lead to an energy release (equivalent weight of high explosive) not many times larger than the weight of the device."

Other parts of the discussion on bomb design obstacles, also presented at the seminar, indicated that yields lower by a factor of ten in crude designs can be indicative of fizzles. What information has been published on the North Korean test falls into this range.

Summarized, there are certain number of things that can go wrong when firing your first atomic bomb, particularly when using a crude design. And one might expect to see them from a weird and crazy hermit nation, like North Korea, endeavoring to enter the nuclear club.


Tuesday: The Los Angeles Times employed an expert to touch upon the issues addressed in this discussion: "The lower yield could be a result of bad luck or bad design," said Michael Levi, at the Council of Foreign Relations, to the Times.

And, "The fizzle of a 15-to-20 kiloton weapon would be a kiloton or two, added Owen Cote, associate director of a security program at MIT.

In 1991, the nuclear weapons seminar presented at the University of Maryland's Knight Center was designed specifically for journalists. It was well ahead of its time in its aim that reporters be brought up to speed through immersion in the technical details of the subject. One of the purposes of it was to impart enough training so that the usual experts would not be required to hold their hands so much on the nuclear proliferation beat.

Also in, discussion on dud blast at Defensetech.
An earlier summary from the Reg.
THE SPEECHES OF AZZAM THE AMERICAN: Somewhat less popular than CIA commercials

American officials and pols usually portray al Qaeda operatives as clever, capable of anything, "taller" than they may be in real life. No ninnies, flakes, weirdos, weaklings or foolish-looking warriors allowed, like in Western society.

I love eating chocolate cupcakes.
And then Azzam the American, nee "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" Adam Gadahn of southern California, comes along and spoils all that hard work, scotching the image with one silly-looking video capture.

Although the subject of articles in print and bits on the evening news, DD reckoned almost no one watches videos of Azzam. Thus throwing into question the cosmopolitan savvy of al Qaeda leadership in thinking employment of a bizarre and unphotogenic fellow, even by lax he-lived-on-a-goat-farm standard, is beneficial. Look, if no one will watch or listen, even after you've been made famous world-wide, you must really be one unpersuasive lump.

This was an easy theory to put to the test, using the barometer of all wisdom in the universe, YouTube.

On YouTube, videos of Azzam the American, here, are somewhat less popular than a recent CIA commercial.

"Those nutty Al Qaeda terrorists are at it again," writes the uploader, fruitlessly hoping that, perhaps, Azzam video will become as coveted as The Incredible Mouth Band.

"They released a video this week featuring that wacky 'Azzam the American' and the #2 Al Qaeda guy Dr. Ayman al-Zawahri fills us in on what's up."

Unfortunaly, "Since most of the audio reproduced in this . . . video is not in English, a Mrs. Barbara Wallace is your translator."

Friday, October 06, 2006

THUNDEROUS EXPLOSIONS AT CHEM PLANT RELEASE CHLORINE CLOUD: Folks not doomed, fortunately

Mass chemical production facilities, chemical storage and transportation have been a part of American life for decades. Sometimes they explode or catch fire. Railcars and trucks overturn and rupture. Spills occur with some frequency. There are evacuations. People are sickened and some die.

Not counting pollution, there are hazards, serious ones, associated with having a big chemical industry.

But having a chemical industry during the war on terror isn't automatically an apocalyptic boobytrap awaiting detonation, despite frequent claims that evil men lurk everywhere. It is misused when it is dragged into one act plays aimed at driving people mad with fear over terrorism. Reality is a little more complex and unpredictable. Fortunately.

Today, from Associated Press:
More than 17,000 people were urged to flee their homes early Friday after a thunderous series of explosions and a raging fire at a hazardous-waste disposal plant released a greenish-yellow cloud of deadly chlorine gas.

No employees were believed to have been inside the EQ Industrial Services plant on the outskirts of Raleigh [North Carolina] when it was rocked by the blasts late Thursday. Officials said 44 people went to emergency rooms, most complaining of breathing problems, but nearly all had been released by midday.

A timely morning rainstorm helped scrub the air as firefighters cautiously approached the chemical fire. . . . The plant handles a variety of industrial wastes, includes paints, solvents, pesticides and weed killer.
As a thought exercise, compare the news with the following statements on terrorists theoretically attacking chemical plants.

"Of all the various remaining civilian vulnerabilities in America today, one stands alone as uniquely deadly, pervasive and susceptible to terrorist attack: toxic-inhalation-hazard (TIH) industrial chemicals . . . The IDLs (immediately dangerous to life standard) for the two most common industrial chemicals, ammonia and chlorine, is 500 and 10 parts per million, effectively," said Richard Falkenrath, a well-known national and local (as in NYC) apparatchik in 2005.

Falkenrath was flogging the menace of terror attack on insecure chemical facilities before Congress. To get attention, he cited grave theoretical statistics, instead of real world items.

"A cleverly designed terrorist attack against a . . . chemical target would be no more difficult to pepetrate than the simultaneous suicide hijacking aircraft by 19 terrorists . . ." proclaimed Falkenrath.

And then, the prediction of Old Testament-style tribulation:

. . . the loss of life could easily equal that which occured on September 11, 2001 -- and might even exceed it by an order of magnitude or more . . . even the most conservative estimates of the Department of Homeland Security concede that there is at least one [jargon deleted] chemical facility which, if successfully attacked, could result in more than one million deaths."
US SECURITY BOFFINS ASSESSED LIQUID EXPLOSIVES: Sluggish analysis revised carry-on rules

The revised carry-on rules for liquids allowed on airplanes came too late to help DD's best friend. On a cross-country trip a few weeks ago, she had to mail her medicines and necessaries ahead of the flight and quickly drink a bottle of water before entering the airport. I was angry and skeptical of the stringent prohibitions, so was she, and so -- we reckoned -- were a lot of travellers.

DD, with GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, after a few years of observation and first hand knowledge, has no confidence in homeland security threat assessments which lead to policy and procedures.

The rules on liquids were initially driven by hysteria and very bad information.

It has been discussed in "Peroxide bombs easy to make" and "Peroxide bombs explode: The usual memes."

Subsequently, DD blog found basic syntheses for liquid explosives, published in the scientific literature, and pointed them out here and here. It encompasses the basic chemistry of "peroxide bombs." And examination of the citations builds confidence in the reader that the alleged liquid bombs of the London plotters could not have worked as described.

The new and somewhat more relaxed rules on liquid carry-ons, were determined by security boffin testing, wrote The New York Times, in "Extensive Tests Led to New Carry-On Rules, Officials Say" on October 4. [Full article here.]

Various conflicting details on what the plotters planned and their materials and methods have leaked.

In an older story by the Times entitled "Suspects Not Ready for Immediate Strike," reporters wrote weeks ago: "Despite the charges, officials said they were still unsure of a critical question: whether any of the suspects was technically capable of assembling and detonating liquid explosives."

In this story, the liquid bomb was HMTD, a compound similar to triacetone peroxide, but made by addition of hexamine -- the compound comprising campfire tablets, and concentrated peroxide in the presence of acid. This contrasted with the original American press' version of the story in which triacetone peroxide was made by combination of the common chemical, acetone, and concentrated hydrogen peroxide in the presence of acid, perhaps lemon juice.

"A chemist involved in that part of the inquiry said HMTD, which can be prepared by combining hydrogen peroxide with other chemicals, 'in theory is dangerous,' but whether the suspects 'had the brights to pull it off remains to be seen,' wrote the Times weeks ago.

But in the Times story from two days ago, it is now claimed: "Based on the materials found in Britain, investigators developed a specific theory of the bomb plot, two officials who have been briefed on the inquiry said."

"With the seal on a sports drink called Lucozade intact," continued the Times, "the plotters apparently intended to remove the drink with a hypodermic needle and replace it with highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, a syrupy liquid once used as rocket fuel. Another bottle would be filled with a common household substance, which The New York Times agreed not to disclose at the request of Homeland Security officials. After the two were mixed, a detonator hidden in a hollowed-out AA battery would be used to set off the bomb, according to this theory." [Emphasis DD's. And another knock on Homeland Security "officials" for requesting obscurity on a subject that's been published in a widespread manner, anyway.]

" . . . ingredients were mixed in the beakers and, with the help of a robotic device, detonated while technicians were in a nearby bunker, security officials said," added the Times

The Register, with a little help from Dick Destiny, wrote this on August 17th, after consulting with an explosives chemist who has published on triacetone peroxide:

"So, assuming that the homebrew variety of TATP is highly sensitive and unstable - or at least that our inept jihadists would believe that - to avoid getting blown up in the taxi on the way to the airport, one might, if one were educated in terror tactics primarily by hollywood movies, prefer simply to dump the precursors [concentrated peroxide and acetone] into an airplane toilet bowl and let the mother of Satan work her magic. Indeed, the mixture will heat rapidly as TATP begins to form, and it will soon explode. But this won't happen with much force, because little TATP will have formed by the time the explosion occurs . . . "

Taken with the NY Times article, what this probably means with regards to homeland security testing, was that the threat assessment men were dumping acetone and peroxide together in the presence of a little acid.

[Other available compounds, since the Times relates the government used concentrated hydrogen peroxide in connection with "once used as rocket fuel," widens testing choices to ethanol, methanol or calcium permanganate, mixtures similar to what the Germans used for rocket fuel in World War II. However, rocket fuel grade hydrogen peroxide isn't something you can pick up at the hardware megastore.]

With small amounts, less than three ounces, they found very little that was militarily interesting -- violent reaction, but a reaction with little force. By gradually ramping up the amounts and tweaking conditions, they were able to produce explosions, but ones which required amounts of reagents well beyond the current regulations.

The summation of the process, although brief, does illustrate why the plans of the terrorists, while ambitious, should be taken with a great deal of salt in regards to actual capabilities. That is, in the absence of evidence and knowledge of where they had tested their prototyped liquid bombs, if they had at all.

And it also asks readers and journalists covering the story to think about the differences between US scientists, with training in explosives and unlimited resources, and the young British terrorists, or any group of terrorists with similar wishes.

Since we still do not know what precisely what "materials" and information on methods was gained in Britain, and homeland security officials do not elucidate for the Times, it is impossible to say whether US security scientists were basically limiting themselves to duplicating what terrorists had already prepared, or were running through the entire gamut of development and testing of liquid bombs, a process in which they greatly exceed the capability of the terrorists. The New York Times piece strongly indicates the latter.

While this doubtless has some benefit in getting one's head around what is broadly possible given maximum available expertise, it frequently does not have a lot to do with what is applicable in the real world. It doesn't answer pressing questions like, "Were the terrorists just pipedreamers?"

How were they going to get their concentrated hydrogen peroxide? Had they even done the procedure once?

So when a government official, Kip Hawley, an assistant secretary for transportation, "confirmed [to the New York Times] that the risks posed by the London plot were real," it simply is not a confirmation. It's just another statement, one among many emphasizing the dire nature of the threat, without
substantiation from solid information on materials, methods and training in the terrorist group.

“This was a serious, serious, serious threat — chilling is the word,” Hawley said to the Times. And that might be true, but given the history and past track record on announcements re this particular terror plot, it is more likely that it is not quite so.

It's important because in the war on terror it has apparently been homeland security practice to basically ignore what capabilities terrorists actually have in favor of throwing teams of technicians and scientists into destructive applications in order to determine what can be done given resources and training far in excess of what terrorists actually have or can do.

It argues for the creation of a process in which open science and inquiry can be used to evaluate solid terror evidence immediately, not one in which law enforcement and government agencies keep it secret, to be duplicated only by the clearance-approved scientists and technicians within the apparatus.

So after all was said and done what was determined, although the Times doesn't come out and say it directly, is that the original predictions and assumptions on liquid bombs couldn't be duplicated, although homeland security scientists were able to create explosions using TATP or a similar compound. No surprise.

The limit of liquid, or of a volume that carry a liquid or separate aliquots of bomb chemicals, was set at a one-quart plastic bag.

"Taking into account the possibility that terrorists might act as a team and pool ingredients, officials arrived at the limit of one quart-size plastic bag per passenger," wrote the Times. "That amount of liquid explosives could still cause damage or harm passengers, but it would be unlikely to destroy a plane, officials said."

In other words, terrorists almost assuredly can't bring down a jet-liner trying to make TATP on the flight. This fact, when teased out of the cryptic bits of information provided to the Times by homeland security officials, should be reassuring to air passengers.

Another large question, one unasked, is this: Why won't such officials just say this instead of the now standard dithering over with what they think ought to be told or not told to citizens.

Infamous source, states obvious: Penrose "Parney" Albright, on the initial liquid bans.
“I think they overreacted,” said Penrose Albright, a former assistant secretary at the Science and Technology division of the Department of Homeland Security. “Where they are at now is where they should have been from the beginning.”


For the NYT head's up, thanks and a tip o' the hat to Bruce Rolston at Flit blog.


Some original wit and wisdom on liquid bombs, courtesy of experts in the press:

"All I have to do is take [the chemicals] in the restroom with a standard water bottle," said Langerman to the Los Angeles Times for its story, "Humble Ingredients for a Deadly Purpose." "I empty the water out, mix them in the bottle, and before I'm done mixing them, the reaction has already occured and the plane is in serious trouble."

"Hellbrew is cheap, simple to make," blared the Toronto Star.

"Anyone with half an hour, a set of instructions found online and about $75 can easily make the stuff," said the newspaper.

An experiment to test the capacity of such combinations was carried out combining an easily bought hair cream, with sodium chloride, or bleach . . . They used half a tube of Brylcreem and a cup full of sodium chloride and they put a crater in the ground with it," [a professor] said to another newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

Sodium chloride! Table salt and hair cream bombs!

"Prof. Ehud Keinan of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Scripps Research Institute is a renowned expert on peroxide-based explosives," claimed one P.R. piece from a news database. "He can explain these explosives in depth, and discuss how . . . they are easy to make from ingredients available . . . even [in] supermarkets."

Supermarkets! Home Depot, too!

"Chemicals sitting in anyone's bathroom at home could be used to make a bomb that would badly damage a passenger jet, and experts have been warning about this danger for years," wrote Reuters.

No, strike that! You don't even have to go to the supermarket, just the bathroom!

"The possibilities are endless if they have a good engineer, a mad scientist," a pseudo-expert said to Newsday.

"But if you could somehow disguise your liquid bomb ingredients as milk or juice, you could probably get away with a little gulp in front of the airport screeners," wrote someone named Daniel Engbar, "The Explainer," for Slate.

"In very large doses, acetone also has a narcotic effect, and hydrogen peroxide can cause your bowels to rupture," he added.

But "The process [of threat assessment] is ongoing, which is one of the reasons Homeland Security already knew that a wide variety of liquids could pose a threat . . . The problem: The range of liquids is so great it can also include the gin or vodka poured freely in first class," delivered John Nance of ABC News.

No, forget the bathrooms and the supermarkets! Go to the liquor cabinet! If you chicken out in your liquid bomb plot, you can at least get happy drinking it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

CIA AD BLITZ CONTINUES: Desperation showing

As noted late in September, the CIA is taking out a television ad blitz for recruitment purposes. In The CIA Wants You! DD noted appearances in the breaks between reruns of King of the Hill between five and six o'clock.

And earlier this week DD saw another during the F/X channel's Nip/Tuck.

Nip/Tuck, in case you've been out, is the drama about two Miami plastic surgeons, Sean and Christian. In addition to regularly showing stomach-turning physical deformity, it amusingly trots out every depravity in the book, from gluttony to greed to the urban legend of an organ-stealing operation in which high-class hookers act as bedroom surgeons, doping their marks, then removing their kidneys for resale. Now one of the characters is into Scientology at the behest of a porn star.

The CIA's ad blitz is remarkable, in places where it seems to be aimed at attracting a new brigade of young analysts, bureaucrats, potential agents, and boffins.

Coincidentally, it comes hot upon the heels of a Los Angeles Times news story that reported it was having to rely on a preponderance of outside contractors to fill its workload, perhaps with negative consequences.

"Largely because of the demands of the war on terrorism and the drawn-out conflict in Iraq, U.S. spy agencies have turned to unprecedented numbers of outside contractors to perform jobs once the domain of government-employed analysts and secret agents," wrote the Times.

One CIA ad, now showing on the Discovery channel, has been uploaded to YouTube here. It is a come-on for scientists and engineers. Work on the development and application of classified technology, it says.

Recruitment at the CIA has, in the past, been a long and Kafka-esque procedure. Having witnessed it first-hand, DD is convinced, along with friends who knew of it, that CIA hiring, in and of itself, was problematical and had (and might still have) some bearing on the many accumulated faults of the agency prior to 9/11.
FLOGGING IT: Beyond the call of duty

No nation is more equipped to fight the war on terror than the United States. And by this, I don't mean our big military!

No ladies and gentlemen, I mean red, white and blue experts! We have experts everywhere with fancy degrees, in every corner of the country, assiduously doing their bit, and flogged by p.r. departments so you don't forget it.

For example, today, just wandering about, I was struck down by the press release "Clemson University Experts for Stories on U.S. War with Iraq."

"Experts say it’s not a matter of if but when terrorists will attempt a strike at our food or water supply," it gaily announces.

"If they succeed, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans will become sick, and some among the youngest and oldest victims could die. An early warning detection system is urgently needed. At Clemson University, Paul Dawson and Ya-Ping Sun have devised to a way to tether luminescent molecules to food pathogens, such as E.coli and Salmonella. Using nanotechnology, the researchers are building a new screening method to protect our food supply."

What does Iraq have to do with agroterrorism? Who knows? It's not even important.

It's just important to know that you should write a story or talk to Clemson scientists because it is "not a matter of if but when terrorists will attempt to strike at our food" and then "perhaps thousands . . . of Americans will become sick."

Not only are these boffins protecting us from agroterror, they also know everything about anthrax.

"U.S. scientists say they've developed a countermeasure to combat weaponized anthrax, a biological agent used in 2001 to kill five people," reads a UPI brief, republished at Science Daily today.

Readers will remember that just last week DD related the story told in a scientific paper published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Written by the FBI scientist who examined the mailed anthrax, it said the material was not weaponized. [Read about it here at the Reg.]

". . . a widely circulated misconception is the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production. This idea is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone," wrote FBI scientist Douglas Beecher.

". . . some fraction [of the anthrax spore mixture] is composed of particles that are precisely in the size range that is most hazardous for transmission of disease by inhalation."

Oh no, Clemson men! They can't read!

"For anthrax to be effective, it has to be made into a fine powder that can easily enter the lungs when inhaled," said Clemson University chemist Ya-Ping Sun for the UPI news agency. "What we have done is come up with an agent that clings to the anthrax spores to make their inhalation into the lungs difficult."

And how would this work against bioterror? Perhaps one could persuade the terrorists to spray the agent on their anthrax before going out for an attack. Or it could, maybe, be sprayed over the mail in the US or in buildings everywhere all the time, in case of attack by anthrax.

"Brilliant!" -- as the two men say in the Guinness commercial.

W. T. Sherman said "War is hell." But our terror wars are never so hellish there's no time for vainglorious press releases.


Looking Back! Quote of the Day from a scientist's press release in October of 2001, after the anthrax mailings.

" . . . what I would be more fearful and weary of is an outbreak of smallpox or the bubonic plague, caused by terrorist acts. Smallpox, for example, is contagious and there is no effective treatment available. Even as we speak, some federal officials have reason to believe that Iraq is developing it as a biological weapon," said Jim Matthews, an associate professor of pharmacy for Northeastern University. (Science Daily)

With so many experts, it's easy to see why the war on terror is going well.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

TO THE BIG HOUSE FOR RICIN POSSESSION: American man, not jihadist, as usual

The US newsmedia is like a cloud of flies for dog excrement when the topic is Islamic terrorists said to be involved in ricin production. The name of the dead terrorist, al Zarqawi, must be echoed thousands of times, always mentioned in connection with his alleged ricin factory, even though no hard evidence of the poison's production has been found corroborating it. [For what evidence there was, see here.]

And the company that has taxpayer dollars to manufacture a ricin vaccine, DOR Biopharma, simply cannot issue a press release without insinuating that terrorists are using ricin.

But when Americans are arrested or convicted on ricin possession, it almost never makes national news. While they're busy at it, in number -- far more than their jihadist rivals, the American ricin-makers just don't have the right color of skin, religion and politics for the war on terror.

It just wouldn't do to confuse citizens with fact, like that which shows domestic attempted ricin production is far more common than jihadist ricin diddling.

Recent example Numero Uno: Late in September, a married couple was arrested in Mississippi for a murder plot said to involve ricin. It barely made the local news, appearing below an item about the robbery of a barbershop.

And from the Arizona Star, today:
A seven-year prison sentence has been handed to a 59-year-old Phoenix man convicted of trying to make the deadly poison ricin. Earl Carroll, U.S. District Court judge, sentenced Denys Ray Hughes for the attempted production of a biological toxin for use as a weapon, possession of an unregistered destructive device and possession of an unregistered silencer.

In delivering his sentence, Carroll noted the case was one of the most serious to come before him as a judge.

He says the evidence overwhelmingly proved Hughes attempted and intended to produce the deadly biological toxin ricin.


DD covered Hughes earlier this year when discussing the evidence seized from his properties.
From Hughes' "library:" "The Weaponeer," a Saxon pamphlet with a ricin recipe, "Poor Man's James Bond, Vol. 3", also containing a ricin recipe, "Poor Man's James Bond, Vol.2," Festering Publication's "Silent Death," containing yet another ricin recipe, "Deadly Brew," "Deadly Substances," and an assortment of what Dick Destiny blog calls really bad science books . . . with titles like "Grandad's Wonderful Book of Chemistry."

Accompanying the books in evidence were a mortar and pestle, bottles of castor seeds, castor beans in a package, castor beans in a bin, and Red Devil lye -- which is another reagent dumbly recommended by survivalist literature as useful in purifying ricin . . .


The rest is found in The Jailbird Bookshelf.

Other recent cases include the Casey Cutler incident, in which the accused tried to make ricin from castor oil, which contains no ricin, and the story of Steven Ekberg, a Florida man living at home with mom, caught with the usual assortment of boring but incriminating reading materials: The Anarchy Cookbook,” “The Unabomber Manifesto,” an “Assorted Ways to Kill Someone” document, a “Common Poisonous Plants” document, and the books or pamphlets, “Explosives and Demolitions,” “Guerilla Warfare,” and “Encyclopedia of Terror.”

Through GlobalSecurity.Org, DD has discussed all of the domestic ricin cases in the last couple years. And I will have more to say on the unusual travails of Casey Cutler at a later date. It's an exciting story of utter confusion, biochemical bumbling and shame. So stay tuned. You'll flip.

A detailed recap of the latter two cases are here -- at GlobalSecurity.Org.

Monday, October 02, 2006

THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS: Search term fun and recent stories

Excluded this time around, the usual requests on how to make homemade chemical bombs and techniques in acid throwing, where to buy cyanide, etc.

taking a cia polygraph test Yes, the CIA is hiring. I saw it on Channel 11.

christopher shays christian science Temper, temper.

bioterror agroterror september 2006 I see dumb people.

sci fi investigates sedona The Mothman, Legend of Boggy Creek, Search for Bigfoot & Bigfootville. Don't watch this stuff, it'll make you as stupid as Boston Rob Mariano and Co.

+parney +albright Parney Albright Fan Club/Official War On Terror Trading Cards.


hiker cut off arm to save life He's The Claw, Not the Craw!