Thursday, November 30, 2006

OSAMA BIN VIRUS: Out of an abundance of caution, Dept. of Homeland Security and mainstream newsmedia insult your intelligence again, just in time for dinner

"A U.S. Homeland Security Department unit issued an advisory about a potential attack on U.S. financial institutions' computers, a department spokeswoman said."

It's time for another official GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow horselaugh. The wily toads of al Qaeda and company were successful at getting the knobs at Homeland Security to twist in time for the dinner newshour.

"The advisory stemmed from a posting on the Web site of a group called al-Firdaws urging an attack on financial institutions, said a Homeland Security Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity," bleated one wire report.

Anonymoids. Synonymous, in this case, with fruitcakes.

"Al-Firdaws is related to al- Qaeda, the Islamic radical group behind the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies," continued the report.

"The Homeland Security official said that the Web site posting called for denial of service attacks against financial institution Web sites starting tomorrow . . . Such attacks may try to cripple a Web site with a flood of e-mails, for example.

"The al-Firdaws posting, which was translated by U.S. authorities, asked for people with computer skills to conduct the attacks on their own, the official said."

Ah, tomorrow is electronic Pearl Harbor Day?

Couldn't the jihadists have just waited until the 7th?

In any case, Dick Destiny owns the history of electronic Pearl Harbor and no one can say otherwise, as illustrated here.

The news continues a threat stream that's well over a decade old. For example, an excerpted news piece from 1999:
"Hacker Threatens To Leave Country In The Dark" was the headline of an un-bylined story issued by the Reuters 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 a 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."
However, the al Qaeda cyberterror threat will never go down without a fight.

No one in federal national security circles will ever be caught saying unanonymously that it's dealing in rubbish. Instead, the standard abundance of caution disclaimer is spotted, a little too obvious jargon for the more honest "CYA." "9/11 changed everything" -- another slogan -- is also a good stage prop.

And now DD will post humorous anecdotes and quotes on the jihadist cyberterror threat in order that readers might share in the GoodTimes. (Sorry, an inside cyberterror joke. An official DD No-Prize to you if you're old enough to remember the reference.)

First up, old colleague, Rob Rosenberger.

I stole the title Osama bin Virus off him for this piece and here is the original on Vmyths, where Rosenberger dealt with the subject with the level of expertise and and superciliousness it deserved years before al Qaeda showed up in the wires.

"I wish Osama bin Laden would try to destroy us with his laptop," wrote Rosenberger. "He'd fail miserably and then we'd all get to laugh at him."

At the foot of the page, please note one of Rosenberger's comedy albums, also entitled "Osama bin Virus," which is available through CafePress.Com. Infidel scum, you will die slowly!

And earlier in the year, one can read this story, "The Man Who Put al Qaeda on the Web."

It's about, feel free to laugh some more, a jihadist who named himself after James Bond. (At best, Rosa Klebb, buddy, Klebb -- or perhaps the little guy played by Tattoo who Roger Moore put in a suitcase and threw overboard in "The Man With the Golden Gun!")

In any case, anyone stupid enough to call themselves an iteration of 007 on the net puts themselves in with teenage hackers under aliases like The Archfiend. You would expect such a person, one who left a visible trail of low-level nuisance-making, to now be in jail. And that's exactly were he is, shaming the name of Bond in the process.

Anyway, DD was a source for this particular story.

The following encapsulates some of it. The rest of the article, at the end of the link, offers balance for those who feel every side must be considered out of, shall we say, an abundance of caution.
"Some have wondered if, by not immediately trying to shut down sites that post information about making bombs and poisons, authorities aren't taking a fatal risk in the name of acquiring intelligence about a bigger plan. Not to worry, says George Smith, a senior fellow at the public-policy and research organization Smith dismisses the effectiveness of al-Qaeda's online training information. 'The level of sophistication is equivalent to what teenagers were distributing about 10 or 15 years ago,' he says.

"'s Smith describes the general level of Internet security maintained by al-Qaeda as 'really lousy,' and says that its sites are routinely invaded by people within U.S. borders. [Another named law enforcement source went] so far as to call the online terrorists 'script-kiddies,' a derogatory term for inexperienced hackers who use programs developed by others. For example, he says, in trying to promote denial-of-service attacks, the jihadists have simply instructed sympathizers to 'download this tool and drop in an address.'"
DD'S TERRORIST SCIENCE INCOMPETENCE STUDY: Prefer smoke detectors to gammators (A continuing series)

Although crazy al Qaeda terror man, Dhiren Borat, was dreaming schemes of dirty bombs made from thousands of smoke detectors, real experts removed three devices known as gammators, containing about 200 Curies of radioactive cesium from high schools in Texas in 2005.

"The barrel-shaped devices at the three high schools each [weighed] about 1,850 pounds," informed a Los Alamos news release.

"Surrounding each radioactive source, which rests on a small turntable, is a welded steel shell filled with lead shielding. Each one-inch diameter rod originally contained about 400 Curies of highly radioactive cesium-137, which has decayed to about half that level over time.

"About 150 of the Gammators were supplied to schools across the United States and to other countries in the 1960s and 1970s through the 'Atoms For Peace' program. Hospitals used similar devices to irradiate blood."

In Texas, they were used in high school science projects, namely the irradiation of plants and seeds. Associated Press returned to the story yesterday in a piece entitled "High Schools Trying to Get Rid of Radioactive Materials." (Kudos to Defensetech, where DD spied the link.)

Listen up, dumbshit al Qaeda men hoping to glean information from the net on potential resources!

The gammators are now probably all locked up! And even if they weren't, al Qaeda men wouldn't know where they were in dusty high school backrooms because that's not the kind of thing you can punch into the alleged all-knowing Oracle and get back a convenient list on which to base travel plans. Plus, you'd essentially fry yourself pretty good, kid, trying to get 200 Curies of cesium out of a steel and lead case that weighs almost a ton.

"Crews had to use brute force to wrestle one of the devices down two flights of stairs to reach the truck during the operation . . . " informed Los Alamos boffins.

The recent AP story on removal of radiosources in public high schools, outside of the older information on gammators, dealt with low level sources which wouldn't be of any use in terror applications. More precisely, they're useful as whoopie cushions in stories which increase the fear in science-phobic parents, students, teachers and school superintendents.

And that's something we always need.

"A physics teacher was taking inventory of chemicals in a storage room at Tri-City High School when she noticed a container that looked a little strange," informed AP.

"She peered closer and worried that it was radioactive. It turns out, it was."

Oh no! But does AP or the sources for the story actually say what the source was? Of course not! If it was a low level source, that would just spoil some of the tenor of the piece. And don't ask any questions why the alleged physics teacher didn't know what it was.

To put things in perspective, the wood shop instructor became the high school chemistry teacher at DD's old high school in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. That was one example of the state of science education, a condition that has come to guarantee students will be incurious, science-phobic and mind-roastingly uninformed by the time they get to college.

Which might be a good thing if you're on the hard right side of national security affairs. You see, you wouldn't want anyone in the civilian population to know anything about science because they'd only add to the population of potential domestic terrorist homebrew WMDers.

In reality, the existence of a few gammators in public school science labs is an indication that, at one time decades ago, Americans did take the education seriously. They were willing to furnish access to the kinds of equipment, chemicals and elements which went a long way to spark curiosity and enthusiasm for science in children.

As when DD learned all about Willie Pete, or white phosphorus, in seventh grade -- first hand! While I didn't injure myself or any classmate, now WP in the chemistry lab would be something to spur lawsuits, prison time and the summoning of Homeland Security.

"In what one state official called a 'classic example,' a Colorado high school kept a chunk of ore from a field trip in a display case for years," the AP reporter continued.

"The rock turned out to be radioactive, said Ken Niswonger, chief chemist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which has collected materials from schools since 1999. 'The ore was quite hot,' Niswonger said. 'Everyone who walked by got quite a high dose (of radiation) over 20 or 30 years.'"

What was the nature of the dose? Folk tale or true? No one says for the story.

Imagine, having a chunk of ore from a mine! Get it away! Danger! What about the miners? Did they wear lead suits while carrying it? Or how 'bout the people who lived and live near it? Guess not.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

THE WHOOPIE CUSHION NATSEC STORY: NBC titillates but does not illuminate with recent nuke plant terror piece

"What if an airplane were to crash into a nuclear plant?" asked NBC's Lisa Myers in an alleged expose on sensitive Nuclear Regulatory Commission documents in public reading libraries nationwide. "How long would it take terrorists to penetrate security barriers outside nuclear facilities? What are the most vulnerable parts of a nuclear plant to attack in order to inflict maximum damage?

"The answers to all those questions, and many more, are available to the public, as NBC News discovered in a recent hidden-camera investigation."

Not exactly. Readers of DD blog now know the standard of the whoopie cushion, or 'gotcha,' newsmedia expose on terror vulnerability. Find some documents that look bad to laymen, round up a couple authority figures to proclaim them roadmaps -- or just plain maps -- to terror, stir and put on the air or publish. NBC followed the formula on November 27, insisting the NRC was not secretive enough, putting the polity in danger by not removing documents on nuclear plants from public reading rooms where they serve a purpose having to do with -- wait for it -- public safety.

"What this means is that we've given the terrorists an easy map in order to find out about our nuclear facilities," 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas Kean told NBC, as republished in Steven Aftergood's Secrecy blog.

"In fact, however, it is simple to think of worse possible things, beginning with publicizing the supposed existence of 'an easy map' for terrorists," astutely retorted Aftergood.

Aftergood continued: "Scolding government bureaucracies for not being secretive enough undermines efforts to achieve the increased openness that the 9/11 Commission said was needed to prevent future terrorist attacks.

"More fundamentally, there are an infinite number of ways to cause destruction and wreak havoc. Using the media to ratchet up public fear over the nightmare scenario du jour is the work of terrorists. It would be a pity to help them."

Aftergood thoughtfully explains why NBC News, in this story, was full of crap -- here.

The newsmedia has an established track record since 9/11 in ratcheting up public fear over threats du jour. Their work is not accompanied by reasonable discussions of what terrorists are actually known to be doing or what their capabilities may be. The work is not accompanied by additional discussion on variables and squishiness inherent in real life, the kinds of things that make possession of an alleged document on how to drive an airplane into just the right spot of a nuclear power plant not the same thing as a certain and inevitable way to it.

DD did a word count of Myers' piece. The result wasn't scintillating -- a little over eight hundred words.

Wow! National security vulnerability disclosed and offered up for serious debate in what wouldn't quite count as an medium-sized essay.

For NBC, Kean -- of course, was a trump card. If a 9/11 Commissioner said it was serious it had to be, right?

“What we learned in the 9/11 investigation was that these terrorists are smart, they're determined, they're willing to work as hard as necessary, they do their research, and they practice,” said Kean to NBC. “These are people who prepare very, very, very carefully. And so, if it's available and there's a way they can get it, they will."

This is no longer particularly true. Perhaps it never was.

It has it uses as rhetoric -- the kind where threat advocacy is being undertaken, the juicing of an alleged vulnerability so that your voice may be heard above the din of others in the same business.

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, DD has shown numerous instances in which terrorists think they are preparing very carefully but are not. It has shown a number of cases in which their hard work and alleged research is nothing of the kind. Terrorists must be evaluated case by case, not given blanket powers because of one big victory.

Rampant worst-case scenario concoction and whoopie cushion vulnerability assessments are really bad habits, almost vices, that are now part of the American toolbox -- a very flawed one -- in the war on terror. And when the newsmedia pretends to take them up as a public service they are made worse.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NATIONAL LAB INTO CRAP SCIENCE IN SERVICE TO MILITARY AND NATION: Alleged bomb-sniffing bees, on your dime. Wouldn't you much rather have a new wonder drug, though?

DD has been familiar with the coming wonders of bomb-sniffing bees for the last five years -- at least. Today the bomb-sniffing bee tale pollinated Reuters, which distributed it worldwide where it subsequently gave erections to multitudes of editors in the mainstream media more entranced by it than the same old daily horrifying news of total disaster from Iraq.

Instead of a link directly to Reuters, better to spare your sanity and depend on DD allies at El Reg.

Los Alamos scientists are the culprits here, insulting everyone's intelligence with claims that their bomb-sniffing bees will be a boon to police forces and the military in the war on terror. Yes, the bomb-sniffing bees will certainly be useful in Iraq, where the entire country is an ammo dump. Send them there, right now, so the bees and the soldiers stuck with trying to use them can have another reason to add to their collective nervous breakdown.

The bomb-sniffing bees stick out their proboscis at the scent of bombs, burble Los Alamos scientists. It's an unequivocal indicator they insist.

To which DD replies he has seen bees in the backyard stick their proboscises out at many things, but not explosives, because we don't have any. And then it envisions the comedy when local police forces buy into the phlogiston of bomb-sniffing bee-keeping only to find a number of things to be true: (1) They're not so good at bee-keeping, (2) the bomb-sniffing bees don't work so hot, so can't we go back to using dogs because you can tell them what to do and they wag their tails, and (3) what's a proboscis?

The bomb-sniffing bee technology, having been worked over plenty on cable TV shows -- you know, the ones dedicated to utter supremacy of US weaponry and military/police ingenuity on the History and Discovery channels -- is dead on arrival.

DD could be wrong but is willing to bet no one who isn't compelled to do so will sign on for the creation of bomb-sniffing bee detachments. The bomb-sniffing bee tech story does, however, uphold its part of the quaintly American security delusion that really great science is done by the military or national labs all the time and that if they're just left to do it without supervision, our enemies will be buried by the wondrous applications which must inevitably ensue.

"We are very excited at the success of our research as it could have far-reaching implications for both defense and homeland security," said a Los Alamos bomb-sniffing bee scientist, a member of the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project, to Reuters. It gives you quite the erection, huh, bub?

Related: Perhaps the bomb-sniffing bees could work in conjunction with this other great war-on-terror invention, the Pooting Machine.

Friday, November 24, 2006

DEATH BY RADIONUCLIDE: Polonium-210, 4,500 Curies/gram

The grim and agonizing death of Alexander Litvinenko in a London hospital was guaranteed from the moment his unknown assailant put it in his food or drink. Discovered by Marie Curie, polonium-210 is an astonishingly active alpha particle emitter.

The figures from this Argonne National Lab fact sheet on the element are all one needs to know. Its specific activity, a measure of its radioactivity by weight, is very high: 4,500 Curies per gram. "The energy released by its decay is so large . . . that a capsule containing about half a gram reaches a temperature above 500 degrees C.," reads the report.

One milligram, a thousandth of a gram, would deliver 4.5 Curies of the material.

Litvinenko was cooked from the inside.

And since polonium-210 is an alpha emitter, it was trapped inside him, not reaching those standing in the same room, making a very small amount of it fairly easy to clandestinely transport and deliver.

"Between 50 and 90 percent of the polonium taken in by ingestion will promptly leave the body in feces," continues the report. "The fraction remaining in the body enters the bloodstream . . . It is estimated that 45 percent of ingested polonium will be deposited in the spleen, kidneys and liver, with ten percent deposited in bone marrow . . ."

All of these factors must have contributed to the difficulty in identifying the poison, an identification which would have only revealed that Litvinenko stood no chance of survival.

An utterly nefarious application, one that will have you looking at your food and drink with a bit of fear and trembling when in the presence of suspected enemies for some time to come!

From the point of view of the Russian black bag ops division that allegedly commissioned the application, it must send a grisly and fearsome statement to whistle-blowers and dissidents.

Monday, November 20, 2006

ISLAMO-MacGYVER: I made bombs from sand and urine, claims fabulist, among other things

DD often enjoys the stories of crackpots. Take this one, I Was a Teenage WerewolfMy Life As A Spy At the Heart of al Qaeda by "Omar Nasiri," cashing in with a strategic book deal. (Complete piece, here.)

"Assad Allah was an enormous Algerian who had taught me how to handle explosives at the Darunta training camp near Jalalabad," writes Omar. "With his green eyes and red hair, he looked like an Irish rugby player."

"As a trainee mujahid I had learnt some basic things, such as how to set off an explosive using a watch or a mobile phone. But with Assad Allah we used complicated mathematics and chemistry, and the work required intense concentration.

"We learnt to make every explosive from scratch: black powder, RDX, tetryl, TNT, dynamite, C2, C3, C4, Semtex, nitroglycerine, and so on. We learnt how to construct each of these from everyday products: corn syrup, hair dye, lemons, pencils, sugar, coffee, Epsom salts, mothballs, batteries, matches, paint, cleaning products, bleach, brake fluid, fertiliser, sand — even my own urine. . . "

Islamo-MacGyverNasiri knew how to make bombs from sand and urine! In any case, it's rather pointless to discuss the absurd idea of thinking of your urine as a sufficient source of nitrogen, one which you might be able to convert after a bit of hit or miss vile labor, to a small amount of saltpeter. And DD doesn't have to do it! That's because there are many determined but slightly thick American men, hobbyist explosive home chemists, who've mulled it over during chats in cyberspace. Knock yourself out.

Islamo-MacGyver contradicts himself in the space of a couple paragraphs. Although he professes to know how to make Semtex "from scratch," a couple grafs later he states: "We learnt how to blow up a train, cars and buildings . . .We talked a lot about aeroplanes: Semtex was easiest to get on board, because it was almost impossible to detect, but it was hard to obtain . . . "

An editor should have straightened that out.

Since Islamo-MacGyver's story comes in the form of a book excerpt republished in a big newspaper, think of it this way: If you had a shot like it, would you waste it telling a story about what you really knew how to do? No, of course not. No one would be interested in that.

Islamo-MacGyver also showed up on Brit television, claiming al Qaeda had planted disinformation in Iraq in order to fool America into attacking Saddam Hussein.

"A senior al-Qaeda operative deliberately planted information to lure the U.S. into invading Iraq, according to a double agent who said he spent years working inside the terror network," informed Bloomberg News. (Story title, a great one: "Al-Qaeda Planted Evidence to Provoke Iraq Invasion, Spy Says." Why not for the Sunday WaPo or New York Times?)

"The informer, a Moroccan who uses the pseudonym Omar Nasiri, made the assertion in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation's Newsnight program . . . "

"Nasiri said Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, a leading al-Qaeda figure who was captured by U.S. forces in late 2001, falsely told his interrogators that al-Qaeda was training Iraqis. U.S. officials subsequently suggested there were links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in the lead up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq."

"Al-Libi lied because he wanted to make a Muslim country the base for a jihad by provoking a U.S. invasion and he considered Iraq the best option, Nasiri said. Nasiri said he heard al-Libi outlining his belief that Iraq was the best country for the jihad in a meeting at a mosque months before his capture."

Oh great Islamo-MacGyver, if only you had known we've been over this before.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

BAROT, NOT BORAT: Crackpot dirty bomb mastermind, as seen by mainstream media

Dhiren Barot, not Borat, the alleged al Qaeda mastermind who thought he could make a dirty bomb from thousands of smoke detectors, was not portrayed as an incompetent creep by the mainstream media.

Instead he was traded up as a mass murdering and near super demonical jack-of-all-terrors boojum. Barot, not the boob known as Borat, was capable of mayhem from London to New York.
Barot, the dirty bomber
The newsmedia declined to explain the flaunting ignorance of Barot's dirty bomb plan, which threw into question his capacity for simple extended reasoning. Although Barot had no materials for any of his extravagant plots, he apparently had electronic documents out the wazoo. Newsmen chose to interpret this as a case of quantity equaling quality when an inverse assumption was just as legitimately logical.

Excerpts from the media, on the man who thought he could make a dirty bomb from thousands of smoke detectors:

"An al-Qaida operative conducting surveillance on U.S. soil in 2000 favored using a limousine packed with explosives or a hijacked oil tanker truck to attack financial institutions in Manhattan and New Jersey, police officials said.

"Police say Barot was fixated on the black sedans regularly used by corporate executives in New York . . ."

Seattle Post Intelligencer.

"The proposals for the strikes in Britain and for those against the Prudential
Building, the International Monetary Fund in Washington and the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup headquarters in New York were sent to al-Qaida leadership like 'corporate reports going to head office,' a British judge said.

"Barot himself was nearly impossible to keep track of. An experienced terrorist, he was highly skilled in counter-surveillance techniques, and made it as difficult as possible for officers to gather the evidence they knew they needed if he was ever to be convicted in a court of law.

"In the end, their hand was forced. When Barot's terrifying plans were discovered on a laptop seized during a raid in Pakistan, detectives knew they had to arrest him immediately, despite the fact that there was almost no admissible evidence against him . . ."

The Guardian.

Borat, not Barot."In a detailed proposal submitted to al-Qaida financiers in Pakistan, Barot planned to use a six-man team to blow up limousines in underground parking garages — a plan that Barot said would kill 'hundreds if the building collapses.' "

"Lawson said Barot also wrote in documents that he wanted to add napalm and nails to the limousine bombs to 'heighten the terror and chaos.' He also considered adding radioactive material, Lawson said, but decided a dirty bomb should be used in a separate attack.

"[Judge] Butterfield described the plans as determined, sophisticated and deadly."

"Discovery of the plots led U.S. President George W. Bush to raise the U.S. terrorism threat level in 2004. . .

"Four computer files found by investigators had been drawn up like "business plans," setting out detailed cases for attacking different U.S. financial sector targets, Lawson said. Prosecutor Edmund Lawson said the group had proposals to use a radioactive 'dirty bomb' and to ignite a petrol tanker, ramming it into a high-profile British target . . ."

-- from the International Herald Tribune.
LONDON'S CRACKPOT DIRTY BOMBER: al Qaeda man flaunts feeble grasp of health physics and arithmetic

"The full details of Dhiren Barot's [not Borat's] plot to set off a radioactive 'dirty bomb' containing smoke detectors was revealed yesterday [in Woolwich Crown Court]" wrote the Independent on Nov. 8.

Continuing breathlessly, the newspaper explained: "At a cost of £70,000, Barot, 34, proposed building a bomb that would cause radiation sickness in about 500 people and produce mass panic.

"The Muslim extremist suggested setting off the bomb incentral London, or a city in Spain or the United States . . .

"Edmund Lawson QC, for the prosecution, said that the plan appeared to have been based on an incident in France when a lorry carrying 900 smoke detectors crashed, provoking concern about possible exposure to radiation . . ."

"In a terrorist document Borat#@!Barot wrote: If something so small and simple such as 900 burning smoke detectors could cause so much havoc, then by increasing the amount used, the possibilities are good."

"He suggested in his presentation document to al-Qa'ida leaders that the radiation project should use around 10,000 smoke detectors . . . "

At which point DD, wearing the official GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt, let out a horselaugh.

Readers have come to know the stories of many wanna-be terrorists. They have little or no grasp of science and applications, hatching dreams of chemical or biological mayhem with a handful of poison seeds, or even the weird belief, originally nurtured in US neo-Nazi circles, that botulism can be easily cooked up from horse or cow flops.

And readers know of the addled drug addict from Arizona who thought he could make ricin from castor oil. His beliefs, an equally nuts roommate and a marijuana stash activated the federal WMD response network!

So in this scheme, Dhiren Barot's [not Borat's] savvy falls somewhere above the castor oil/marijuana WMDer, perhaps equal to that of US security experts who felt rosary peas could be made into a WMD. Barot is also neck-'n'-neck, intellectually speaking, with murderer Kamel Bourgass. Bourgass envisioned getting significant amounts of cyanide from cherry stones and apple seeds. [Also, see video of Bourgass' paper laden with cherry pits, linked here.]

Make no mistake, the press -- in the UK and in the US -- has taken Borat'sBarot's plans very seriously. And perhaps his bad intent and obvious ill-will must be taken into account. However, as far as masterminding plots of mass destruction through radiation, Barot appears to be a gold-plated feeb. And that is good news!

Dick Destiny will explain why.

Smoke detectors contain a vanishingly small amount of americium-241, a man-made radioactive element indicated as radioactive ammunition for potential dirty bombs.

However, a smoke detector contains only about 1 millionth of a Curie of the element.

In dirty bomb threat analyses -- mostly notably by atom scientists and more recently by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) -- smoke detectors are not considered as significant sources of americium-241. In fact, they are entirely absent from such analyses. And that's because they contain a trivial amount of the material.

On the other hand, americium sources are used in oil well mapping. Such sources contain much more active material. Much much more.

Did DD just say much more?

A typical radioactive source for oil well logging contains 10 Curies of americium, as noted here, in the Pugwash paper entitled "Nuclear Terrorism." An americium source like it was used as the theoretical basis for part of a dirty bomb impact analysis by the FAS here.

Since our jihadist, Barot, not Borat -- oof (!), didn't have his arithmetic hat on when calculating the efficiencies of his dirty bomb plot, DD will put one on for him.

Barot -- remember, he's not Borat -- would have had to buy ten million smoke detectors. That's ten, followed by six zeros, to make the small dirty bomb payload envisioned in the FAS analysis. Not nine hundred, or even ten thousand. Ten million!

"In the 1980s, annual sales of smoke detectors approached 12 million units..." informs one scholarly government paper on the physics, technical applications, toxicity and health effects of americium.

BoratBarot, then, would have needed not just a truckload of smoke detectors. He would have needed a veritable ocean of them! A corner of the entire market, so to speak. That constitutes quite the stealthy and practical mass terror enterprise!

It's worth restating that it's good news when al Qaeda operatives reveal in detail how utterly incompetent in such arts and sciences they are. It is even more interesting to consider what it says about the leadership and judgment of a terror organization that is swayed by the pipedreams and blandishments of a Barot (or maybe a Borat).

It is not so good news when authorities and the mainstream newsmedia ask their audiences to believe that such skills elevate said terrorists -- meaning Barot -- above the level of the seriously deluded crackpot.

This is another way of saying Barot appears to be the equivalent of our Jose Padilla. And what happens to the Padillas and BoratsBarots of our war on terror?

They're put away, permanently, while playing the parts of boogeymen.

Related: Barot, not Borat -- as seen from the mainstream media.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Continuing this week's riff, Get Sarin Cheap in the Third World, DD brings you yet another company attached to the teat of biochemical terror funding.

PharmAthene, a company located in Annapolis, is into the pocketbook for over $200 million dollars for its sarin cure, Protexia.

"The funding announced today [$1.7 million] from the NIH, in addition to a recently announced contract from the Department of Defense, which provides up to $213 million in funding for advanced development of Protexia across multiple indications, offers important validation for Protexia and our Company's biodefense capabilities," reads a company press release.

"We look forward to rapidly advancing the development of Protexia to meet the urgent biosecurity needs of our Nation and Allies."

That's Nation, with a big N. And Company and Allies -- proper names.

Protexia is a recombinant protein and although the company says it will be cheap, if it ever actually works as advertised, "cheap" is a purely relative term, as in -- somewhat less expensive than what it costs to currently produce vanishingly small quantities. No such medicines are cheap and the firm will depend upon the US government to buy and stockpile the theoretical future nostrum.

The reader knows that PharmAthene is not the only company working on sarin antidotes. Ohio State University is researching proteins produced by algae and universities in Arizona are also into the line of work.

To contrast sarin spending with public health, today DD jumps to an article from the Los Angeles Times, "Pesticide use rises, but farms shift to less harmful varieties."

The story was essentially about use of organophosphate compounds employed in California agriculture. Sarin is an organophosphate also but far too toxic to use as a pesticide, contrary to the belief of the clowning terror beat business reporter at an Arizona newspaper.

"Many insecticides, herbicides and other pest-killing chemicals have been linked to cancer, neurological damage, birth defects or other reproductive effects," wrote the Los Angeles Times today.

"The greatest risk is for farmworkers, but some chemicals drift off fields, exposing neighbors."

And when the Los Angeles Times writes farmworkers, readers know it to mean illegal aliens and immigrants, people with generally no or totally inadequate access to health care, let alone cures to organophosphate poisoning. Because of the nature of the industry and its labor force in California, acute organophophate poisoning is apparently difficult to track.

Materials on-line at CDC-NIOSH do shed light on the matter, suggesting in one 2001 national report, California reported over 340 cases for the year 1999.

But back to the Los Angeles Times.

While the state has reported that use of the most harmful pesticides are down, this is a purely relative term, too.

" . . . Telone, or 1,3-dichloropropene [a toxic alternative to very toxic organophosphates] is increasing at a fairly alarming rate . . . more than 9 million pounds were used in California in 2005, much of it on almonds, grapes, strawberries and carrots," reports the newspaper.

It has replaced methyl bromide, another organophosphate, "that is a potent neurotoxin and has been phased out under an international treaty because it depletes the ozone layer."

Telone, writes the paper, "has been linked to various cancers in animals and leukemia and lymphoma in highly exposed humans. It was banned statewide in 1990 because of high concentrations in Merced County air, then returned to use with new restrictions in 1995 . . ."

"While the growth in less toxic pesticides is an important move into the future," said a scientist to the newspaper, "some very toxic, very drift-prone chemicals are used in California in large, increasing volumes."

There was no comment in the newspaper article on the amount spent for health care in exposed farmworkers per year. It contrasts sharply with gleeful reports on the amount of money spent on potential sarin cures in pursuit of the war on terror.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

ON GROWING YOUR WMDs IN BROOKLYN: Hsssst, don't tell al Qaeda, US neo-Nazis or terror beat journalists

Terror beat journalists in the US and Britain are crazy for stories about malcontents and ricin. Or rather, would-be terrorists found with a handful of castor seeds and the idiot recipes for ricin, texts scattered over the Internet like gaily-colored beans.

It has never mattered that the castor plant is used decoratively in gardens, or that castor oil squeezed from castor beans is a renewable resource which has been used in human agriculture and industry for ages, the mash waste product of which has somehow not resulted in regular mass die-offs.

Since the beginning of the war on terror, only three "facts" -- all wrong -- matter to mainstream newsmedia national security reporters and pundits: (1) ricin is easy to make in your kitchen, cave, hut or shed; (2) you can find out how to do it on the Internet; and (3) it's easy to kill many, maybe thousands, with a handful of powder from castor beans. Ricin can even be a reason to go to war over.

It should come as no surprise then that only journalists not attached to the war on terror, like gardening hobbyists and columnists, would be better sources to read about the hazards of the castor plant.

And so today, DD directs readers to the New York Times and the column, brightly entitled "Garden Q&A."

One reader's question is reprinted:

"I want to grow the huge, gorgeous red-leafed plants I’ve seen on my neighbors’ stoops in Brooklyn. But I’ve been told they are ricinus, the plant that was used to assassinate the Bulgarian dissident Georgi I. Markov, back in 1978. Please tell me this is not the same ricinus but only a harmless cousin."

Columnist Leslie Land replied:

"There is only one species [of castor plant,] Ricinus communis" and it contains ricin. ". . . And like many plants in the spurge (Euphorbia) family, it can cause rashes in those who are sensitive to it.

"But if castor beans are far from harmless, they are also far from alone. Consider popular spurges like the houseplant crown of thorns, and toxic garden beauties like larkspur, daphne and rhododendron.

"In other words, castor beans are fine to grow as long as you do not eat them and are careful to keep children away from them. For safety, plants in public places, including front stoops, should have their bright red seedpods removed. As you may have noticed, nobody does this. Yet accidental poisonings are rare.

Your neighbors probably grow Carmencita, the most common red-tinged castor bean . . ."

Single castor plants are so attractive, writes the columnist, they are "show-stoppers."

"If size matters most, go for the green version, Zanzibariensis, a 10- to 12-footer with 3-foot-wide leaves . . . "

Readers of DD blog know common sense and critical thinking are banished from many areas of journalism, expert commentary and policy-making in the war on terror. It wouldn't be proper to consider the gentle wisdom of the garden columnist and wonder why, if ricin is such an easy to manufacture WMD, people are allowed to grow the plant on their stoops in Brooklyn.

There oughta be a law!

So if you rely on New York Times national security reporters instead of the gardener, you're in a fix. They've been known to write crap received wisdoms like, "It is still easy to find crude amateur recipes for turning castor beans into ricin. They have been printed in books on unconventional weapons like 'Silent Death' and 'The Poisoner's Handbook' and intelligence agencies have said that translations of those recipes have been found in al Qaida hideouts . . ."

"A five-minute Internet search Tuesday produced a kitchen recipe using lye and acetone . . . " (Citation: February 4, 2004)

The Garden Q&A is here.

Spurred by Tuesday's "Get Sarin Cheap in the Third World" entry on one aspect of what's really going on with the funds spent on alleged defense against biochemical attack, a reader submitted a letter. DD will be getting to more on this subject today and tomorrow but in the meantime I thought readers might like to see it separately.

Anonymous writes:

. . . This is an excellent example of what I have seen many times during my involvement in public health preparedness over the past 10 years, and especially since the Amerithrax incidents and the Smallpox fiasco. The number of people and organizations who see CBW preparedness/research primarily as a new funding stream for what they really want to do, and/or "their ticket to the big time," has been truly astonishing. It is far worse than even the "normally" incoherent funding methods of academic research. It's obscene.

From what I have seen, the vast majority of the Health & Human Services/Centers for Disease Control/Dept. of Homeland Security funds spent thus far for public health preparedness have very little day to day application, and very limited use in emergency situations. (Or they are even redundant as your Sarin example shows.) So as a whole, the American public health and healthcare emergency capacities are really only slightly improved today, despite the staggering sums of money spent so far.

The entire American healthcare system still teeters on the brink of collapse, and even though hospitals, for example, are identified as "First Responders" under one Presidential directive, and "Critical Infrastructure" under another, no meaningful amount of money has actually reached street level in most states. And all the while costs rise, Medicare reimbursment rates are cut, and the great American "Eat/Sit" lifestyle looks more and more like slow-motion suicide on a vast scale. It's going to be an interesting twenty years. And the next major public health crisis will be a real eye-opener. At least for the survivors... (Cynical? Moi?)

Research like that discussed in your article happens all over the country, and the vast majority of it is about protecting jobs rather than citizens. So: Wash your hands. Cough into your elbow. Be ready to self quarantine at home for at least ten days in densely populated areas. Watch the postings at Promed-mail and hope that buys you a headstart.

Don't quit.

Promed-mail is "The global electronic reporting system for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases & toxins, open to all sources," operated by the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

GET SARIN CHEAP IN THIRD WORLD: Not really, just another big daily terror beat journalist in need of a leash

"Arizona's three state universities are quietly becoming more involved in bioterrorism research, securing tens of millions of dollars in grants," wrote reporter Anne Ryman of the Arizona Republic on November 10.

With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, patient reading reveals classic terror beat clowning from the mainstream newsmedia.

This involves a story which cites what various local universities are doing, immediately following with declarations from scientists in receipt of monies that their work will benefit the entire health community, not just bioterror defense. Their credentials as advisors and consultants on bioterror are always prominently on display.

Counter-arguments from scientists working in public health research and not in recipient of bioterror dollars are generally left out. They create trouble and doubt.

"If [bioterror] researchers develop a vaccine against the Ebola virus, for example, it could be used to save lives in Africa, where Ebola has wiped out entire villages, continues the reporter. "The case is similar for sarin, which is used as a pesticide in developing countries."

Holy Hannah! If only Aum Shinrikyo had known, the Japanese terror group could have saved on all the investment in diluted sarin production infrastructure. And if al Qaeda "biochemists" -- chemical weaponeers who have so far come up blank, get wind of it, cities will become concrete ghost towns.

Buy sarin cheap in developing countries!

The purpose of the reporter and the newspaper is to show that Arizona state universities are wisely spending bioterror and chemical terror panic funding. In the zeal to show the business and medical worth to the community, they stumble into an error which a minimal amount of fact-checking could have remedied.

Organophosphate pesticides
are in common use in the developing countries as well as the United States.

And sarin is an organophosphate compound.

Organophosphates inhibit the action of the critical enzyme, acetylcholinesterase. But organphosphates vary greatly in their toxicity. While many have uses as pesticides, sarin is way too toxic to use in such a way.

For example, an illegal alien in the fruit industry in California can potentially have his lunch contaminated, or be sprayed with an organophosphate while in the fields or orchards, a pesticide like methidathion. But although methidathion is very toxic, it is orders of magnitude less toxic than sarin.

Acute organophosphate pesticide poisoning is treated with administration of atropine and an oxime. If the latter is administered within 24-72 hours of exposure, according to the literature, the binding of the organophosphate to the poisoned enzyme before it has irreversibly set can be reversed. Intubation of poisoned workers or people who have tried to commit suicide by drinking insecticide, as well as supportive care, is also administered.

However, willy-nilly research on sarin is not so simply justified by the logical but incomplete assertion that it will aid in finding cures for organophosphate poisoning.

For one, treatments already exist. And if a new treatment were devised, a novel therapeutic compound devised that works as well as what is already in place, what is the chance that it would be used to help people exposed to organophosphate pesticides in developing countries, or in the illegal immigrant worker population in California, where medical care is cheap and hard to come by?

To look at this in a more nuanced way, consider the reporter's claim concering the rationale for vaccine work on Ebola virus.

Finding a cure for Ebola virus is a noble goal.

And prior to the war on terror, there was a cadre of dedicated scientists very interested in curing disease caused by Ebola virus and its brethren. But creating labs and granting inexperienced personnel access to Ebola virus in an expanded defense effort justified only by the war on terror can also be seen as having serious downsides: the suspicions, even if unwarranted, in other countries that work on biological agents is thin cover for bioweapons development, greater chances of fumbling fingers and losses of dangerous organisms, etc.

"In Arizona, bioterrorism research makes up a fraction of research dollars at universities but is growing in importance," writes journalist Ryman. "None of the schools is conducting classified research."

"The technologies we develop will have lots of other applications," ASU President Michael Crow said to the newspaper.

And this is what every academic scientist has said down through the ages in American research. Indeed, DD -- in his academic research career -- never met one advisor or colleague without this statement tucked in their backpocket, no matter what the subject or interest.

"At ASU's Biodesign Institute, national security is one of its research missions along with health care and sustaining the environment," writes the newspaper. "The institute is led by scientist George Poste, who has served as an adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense on bioterrorism . . . Poste preaches the value of cross-disciplinary work. In bioterrorism, insights can flow not only from that area to health care but also the other direction."

The original.

Weekly, even daily, deadeningly repetive riffs appear on the biochem terror beat. It is a type of hack business beat, one which should be cynically retitled, "Lashing your research to the terror-funding gravy train."

"Algae Could Help Terrorism Victims," according to Associated Press.

Ohio State University scientists think they've found a new way to protect people from terrorists - algae. Researchers plan to create a human protein that attacks nerve-gas agents in the bloodstream.

Algae will be used to reproduce the protein.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $4.5 million dollars to OSU for the project.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Today's New York Times shoved a species onto the frontpage DD hasn't seen in such lofty quarters in a long time: The Technoquacks.

"Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense: New Technical Wave" was the title; John Markoff, the reporter.

The story was all about how an alleged bundle of geniuses prone to intelligence-insulting proclamations which sound sort of gnomic when unaccompanied by sarcasm or a sense of humor, were going to issue in Web 3.0, "Pushing the Boundary of How Information Can Be Organized." This would set conditions so "A new kind of web would seek to supply meaningful answers."

" . . . the very idea has given rise to skeptics . . ." writes Markoff, which is something Times tech stories would never have mentioned about similar subjects ten years ago.

And then the reporter begins to trot out -- as examples of common sense -- dudes of a kind known as just the opposite in the mid-90's.

But first DD has to set you up with the definition of technoquack.

A technoquack, according to the Crypt Newsletter ca. 1997, was "an individual, e.g. a consultant or computer scientist, who specializes in mentufactury -- the generation of gratuitously stupid, insane and/or incomprehensible claims about future technology."

Usage: The technoquack from the MIT Media Lab enjoyed vexing people with periodic declarations that Americans would eventually harvest gasoline from trees in their backyard.

It went hand-in-hand with its synomym, Golden Pizzle of Information.

Golden Pizzle of Information: any authority figure accustomed to being publicized unquestioningly; or, computer experts fond of making dumbly obvious, fraudulent, indecipherable or insane statements which few dare to seriously question. See technoquack.

Keep in mind the phrases "dumbly obvious" and "gratuitously stupid."

"There is a growing realization that text on the web is a tremendous resource," comes the first of the dumbly obvious as well as gratuitously stupid declarations,
genetic markers of the technoquacks. In Markoff's piece it was attributed to Oren Etzioni, "an artificial intelligence researcher at the University of Washington."

Next up, W. Daniel Hillis, "a veteran artificial intelligence researcher."

"It is pretty clear that human knowledge is out there and more exposed to machines than it ever was before," said "W. Daniel Hillis." Human knowledge is out there and Hillis showed the wealth of his wit in an instant.

Hillis was one of the original technoquacks, pilloried in Crypt Newsletter for an infamous 1997 editorial published by the Los Angeles Times.

Hillis, then billed as a computer scientist who worked at the well-known molecular biology research firm -- note the requisite sarcasm -- Disney, in Glendale, California, gave readers his thoughts on the future of biotechnology.

As a product of the Gobble-Wallah College of All Computing Knowledge, aka the previously referenced MIT Media Lab, Hillis was said by the LA Times to have invented a computer out of tinker-toys, one perhaps capable of besting lab staffers at tick-tack-toe.

The editorial was classic technoquack. Quoting from it is still a gift almost a decade later.

Wrote Hillis:

"I'm as fond of my body as anyone else, but if I can be 200 with a body of silicon, I'll take it."

"We may grow telephones, but manufacture cabbage."

"[We may develop] a tree which has gasoline or kerosene as its sap."

"My scientific friends accuse me of being a mystic . . ."

"Maybe you'll plant a house, let it grow, and then move into it."

What's that about brains and body being made of cabbage? Oh, my bad, the man meant silicon.

The Crypt News jibe made it into the famous tech comic book, WIRED magazine, a coincidence which -- at the time -- was like seeing the town whore applying for sessions in the Church Universal and Triumphant.

Amusing as this is, a bigger funnyman was set to follow -- Doug Lenat who "has labored" on an artificial intelligence system named Cyc "[for] the last quarter century]," a brain " . . . that he claimed would some day be able to answer questions posed in spoken or written language -- and to reason."

Lenat, wrote Markoff, was underwritten by our intelligence agencies.

And what stupendous question can the Cyc supercomputer, allegedly packed with common sense, answer?

Since it's said to funded by our intel organizations, you're given a pass and a few good try points for guessing, "Where are the WMDs in Iraq?"

Instead, it's "Which American city would be most vulnerable to an anthrax attack during summer?"

Wouldn't you just know it, a quarter of a century passes for Lenat and Cyc and it takes the war on terror to give them purpose.

Anyway, that firmly qualifies as a question only a department of homeland security apparatchik would think is interesting. It also comes too late, homeland security types and every other analytic function in the security apparatus having answered it -- ad nauseum -- just post-9/11 when anthrax spores were put into maildrops in New Jersey and Florida. [The best answer to the question is not to ask it, as it's more senseless than practical, which may say something on the nature of the labor of technoquacks.]

Keep up the good work, fellows. It's priceless.

Friday, November 10, 2006

WHO NEEDS A-BOMB PLANS ON THE NET: On recent nuke cookbook mania

The mainstream newsmedia is too fond of articles in which it is said some flavor of demonical terror menace can be put together from cookbooks found on the Internet.

They constitute news stories as the equivalent of whoopee cushions for the emission of a thrilling farting noise, pieces of a kind in which critical-thinking and common sense are shown the door. Always, they are instantly copied to other outlets and pasted into congressional and terror expert analyses as footnotes, in support of official declarations that the enemy is out there and capable of anything -- like tomorrow -- and you must be always afraid and vigilant.

From El Reg, today:

Predictably, the Nov. 3 New York Times revelation that sensitive documents on a-bomb design, recovered from Saddam Hussein's regime and released on-line, became a political football. If there was value in it, as opposed to red meat for Democrat blogs, it was swept away by the mania inspired by a Times source, one anonymous diplomat, who was quoted as claiming them to be a "cookbook" of methods.

An eye-rolling statement, it was used to rip Republicans. And they had it coming, enamored as the GOP has become of declaring that about half the United States' citizens are unpatriotic slugs who want to lose the war.

Read the rest of it here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

THE JAILBIRD'S BOOKSHELF (An infrequent series): Download crap manuals on poisons and get sent over . . . again

Readers of DD blog know it's expert on the poisons and anarchy literature of the Internet and how the pamphlets are found in the hands of American neo-Nazis, incompetent Islamists with dreams of superterror and sundry idiots. And how when it lands them in the hands of the police and they go before a judge or jury, they can count on efficiently being sent to the dungeon in chains. Why, even the hard drive of DD contains these same manuals!

So it comes as no surprise when Reuters reports, as it did today:

"Police on Thursday charged a woman on terrorism-related offences for possession of a computer hard drive loaded with operating manuals for guns, poisons, mines and munitions.

"Police said the charges against the woman were connected with the arrest last month of a man caught at Heathrow airport in possession of a night vision scope and a poisons handbook.

"Police said among the items on the hard drive found in her possession were the Al Qaeda Manual, The Terrorists Handbook, The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, a manual for a Dragunov sniper rifle, The Firearms and RPG Handbook, a manual for a 9mm pistol and a manual on how to win hand to hand fighting."

The entirety of it is here.

And while the process of being packed off to jail in such cases is not so novel, the fact that the "manuals" -- and in this case it is useful to know that manual is defined as an electronic something which contains no valid information, but trash written in such a way as to be scary to the layman -- are still such objects of desire by a stupid and threadbare would-be criminal/terrorist element, is.

DD has long ragged on the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, by example here in: Horse Dropping or Cow Dropping?

To review, careful examination of the Poisons Handbook shows that it is crammed with errors, seemingly the work of someone with little discernible sense, profoundly ignorant of the nature of simple compounds and incompetent in even minor laboratory procedures.

It is an example of someone professing to know what he is doing on poisons who profoundly and obviously does not know what he is doing. It also contains obvious fabrications, although DD has no desire to point out and correct them, one by one, for the sake of ninnies for whom the volume constitutes irresistible flypaper. (See here for the last eye-popping mainstream major newsmedia funnypage on the "handbook.")

As for the al Qaeda Manual, or more accurately, the Manual of Afghan Jihad, DD refers you to our President's creative use of it it in recent happier times.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


With the firing of Count Rumsfeld, DD's "Bad Guys & Gals Boogie" (or now, more appropriately, "Don Rumsfeld Boogie") is the song for today. About ninety seconds in length, it's a quick download, also containing a vocal performance by the Count reciting one of his famous zen koans on terror. Get it here.

Curt Weldon, a long-time Congressman from the old home state of Pennsy, who DD came to know well for numerous idiocies having to do with national security issues, was also fired -- by voters. Being investigated by the FBI for the possibility of trading favors to ex-Commie businessmen with his daughter as intermediary, a story first elucidated by the Los Angeles Times about a year ago, ignited a fire that would solidly contribute to the end of his political career. Good riddance to Weldon, one of the House's genuine noxious pest weeds.

Weldon was always fond of hectoring the polity about alleged demonical menaces to American civilization no one but him was doing anything to combat.

"Electronic Pearl Harbor" was one of them.

Speaking at a famous security conference in 2000, Weldon said of it: "In my opinion, neither missile proliferation nor weapons of mass destruction are as serious as the threat [ -- cyberterror -- ] you are here to discuss."

It was quite surprising, as far as Weldon propaganda went, because it was only two years earlier that the Republican from the House used almost exactly the same maniacal delivery to describe what was then his current fad: loose Soviet suitcase nukes.

Dreaded loose Soviet suitcase nukes were said to be possibly floating around in the criminal underground, just waiting for the right buyer wishing to blow up an American city. The Russians denied it, Weldon ranted, the Russians denied it, Weldon ranted, the Russians denied it. But those suitcase nukes were hidden in America, dammit!

[Cut to the television drama "Jericho," tonight at 8:00!)

Weldon was well known inside the Beltway for his remarkable ability to see things others could not quite glimpse -- cyberwars more dangerous than missile proliferation, suitcase nukes, electromagnetic pulse attacks, the latter a mostly fictitious menace that could allegedly knock the country back to the Stone Age.

Another atrocity, claimed Weldon, was the giveaway of the "blueprint" -- and DD uses the term very loosely -- for the thermonuclear W87 warhead. (This has special resonance considering the misguided hoo-hah over the story of the exposure of alleged sensitive Iraqi atom bomb design papers last week. Who needed them when the "blueprint" for the W87 was exposed in 1999?)

Weldon, wrote Steve Aftergood in his Secrecy & Government Bulletin, "lashed out at the Clinton Administration which, he insisted, had leaked the W87 design to [U.S. News & World Report magazine]."

"Rep. Weldon told the House on June 7 that 'in 1995, this [W87 illustration] was classified. This administration leaked this document to U.S. News & World Report, giving the entire populace of the world... access to the design of the W87 nuclear warhead.'"

Read the entire story here.

"Curt Weldon has outlived his usefulness to the country," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in an article entitled "The 10 Worst Congressmen" at Weldon was number eight, "The Conspiracy Nut."

These just in: "The Democrats weren't the only winners in last night's elections. The Army and the Marines are looking like they just came out on top, too," writes Defensetech.

And you'll also not want to miss, Rummy Gone; Transformation next?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

IRAQ 'N' ROLL FOR ELECTION DAY! Three years of shit freedom sandwiches for every Iraqi, on us! Who else wants some?

"Iraq 'N' Roll!" is a rock operetta. Guest stars include Dick Cheney, Iraq's Minister of Information for Victorious Call and Combat, Count Rumsfeld and the Wicked Witch of Abu Ghraib. Fourteen cuts of war fever classic rock, including the Dick Cheney-penned “We Will Not Relent,” the jazzy “Posing for Pix in Abu Ghraib,” and the doom metal of “Mortared at Midnite.” Listeners just will not be able to resist tapping their feet to the Foghat-like thumping beat of “Bad Guys & Gals Boogie.”

Annoying amusing pictures, art and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to War" at the DD on-line funpage.

Don't forget to vote!

Monday, November 06, 2006

BY WHAT MEANS CAN TERRORISTS GO NUCLEAR? Some good news and bad news

Today, UPI's Shaun Waterman went with a story entitled: "Analysis: No real terror A-bomb threat." It dealt with the recent publication, by Foreign Policy magazine, of "The Bomb in the Backyard." "Bomb in the Backyard," by Peter Zimmerman and Jeffrey Lewis, is about how Osama bin Laden might go nuclear. More broadly, the paper can be said to give an overview of how any sophisticated terrorist operation might attempt to do so.

"Bomb in the Backyard" is an interesting read, nicely tuned for the layman. It's here although you'll have to pay for it.

The technical issues it deals with have been known for a good long time. DD, for example, was first exposed to them in detail over a decade ago at a University of Maryland short course called "The Nuts and Bolts of Nuclear Proliferation."

It came with about thirty pounds of briefing books, a critical mass in a manner of speaking, one which has come in handy from time to time over the intervening years.

But back to the UPI piece:

"Two leading U.S. nuclear scientists say a team of terrorists with industrial equipment, physics and engineering skills and access to highly enriched uranium could build a crude atomic weapon in the United States for less than $10 million," writes Waterman.

"The claim, on the heels of revelations that U.S. agencies Web-posted detailed technical documents from Saddam Hussein's Iraqi nuclear weapons program that might aid such an effort, is likely to fuel concerns about the possibility of a terrorist nuclear strike inside the United States.

"Such a strike is already one of the 'low probability-high consequence events' that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's new risk-based strategy is designed to direct more resources to combating.

"But a careful review of the evidence suggests that there are technical obstacles to such an attack that are insuperable, for the time being at least . . . "

Read the rest here. Full disclosure: DD was a source in this article.
LORDS: This Ain't a Hate Thing, It's a Love Thing

On Gringo, Brit import hipster hard rock band, Lords, reviewed at by DD.

"The Unfortunate Death Of The Lords" enters with an early ’70s style, one that’s halfway between rough psychedelia and riff stomp. It sounds like Stray, a persistent band of English undercarders from the era of classic rock fond of mixing a little art with their boogie madness. Lords’ singer Lord Philippe Jean Welding squawks "I see black rings around my worried eyes" in tune and on time with the syncopation of his companions on rhythm. It puts him a step or two ahead of most of the competition in the land of hard rock for people who don’t like hard rock—in other words, hipster metal. The drums are rattletrap but just when the tension builds to irritation, they lock in and gallop to the end where you’re let down gently with morose fiddles performing in the parlor for a Lords wake. Read all of it.

Hey, some Brit reader or passerby ought to send DD a copy of the new Winnebago Deal CD. They don't get to California and I'm a fan.

Friday, November 03, 2006

COLD ANTHRAX CASE: Hobbyist chemists can make it, sez anonymous government man

Today the Los Angeles Times ran "Many Fear FBI's Anthrax Case is Cold," by reporters Richard B. Schmitt and Josh Meyer. It was notable for its use of wretched sources and a lazy interpretation of what's known about the anthrax samples from microbiologist Douglas J. Beecher's paper on the spores found in the letter to Patrick Leahy. In fact, the reporters don't even bother to mention Beecher's work as an original source. It's an omission worth a dinging when coupled with the reliance on an unnamed "former federal official."

And is always the case, when given anonymity, expect the eye-rolling quote. Of course, the reporters do not disappoint.

"Now all of a sudden you have people who may be hobbyists . . . or chemists who think they can do this stuff and may have done this stuff," according to the Times' poorly-chosen expert.

Hobbyists! I think I'll make dried spores from Ames strain anthrax as a hobby! And put some in the mail!

Of course, readers can be glad the "former" anonymous law enforcement official is out of the game, intelligence-insulting as he is.

Reading Beecher's paper does not create the impression the anthrax was made by hobbyists. It merely dispels the widely disseminated notion that there was some unique quality to it that could have only come from a state-sponsored bioweapons production lab.

What the paper does make clear is that the material was very dangerous to handle, so much so that the FBI laboratory work on it had to rely on a great deal of professional training and scientific rigor. And that is a definition which would tend to exclude hobbyists, contrary to the beliefs of anonymous law enforcement officials and the simple-minded.

But read the original, linked above, to get the full flavor of it. Whatever the case, DD isn't losing any sleep over the notion that hobbyist bioterrorists might soon begin again to attack the nation.

The Times article also entertains the fancy that the FBI, perhaps, is not making use of the best scientists in the hunt for the Amerithraxer. DD would say that publication of the Beecher paper in the peer-reviewed scientific literature makes just the opposite case, but the poor judgment of our symbolic analysts in the mainstream media is never to be underestimated.

So the Times trots out Ken Alibek, "a bio-weapons pioneer from the former Soviet Union." Ken Alibek wants to help. And the FBI's not interested.

" . . . Alibek said he had written to [Robert] Mueller to volunteer," writes the newspaper. " ' I said please keep in mind, I have expertise and would like to help you resolve this case,' he said. Alibek said he got a 'thanks, but no thanks' letter from a top aide . . . "

And DD, with GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, would say the FBI gave the right response.

At the time of the anthrax attacks, Ken Alibek was in the news claiming citizens could protect themselves from anthrax by ironing their mail. See here -- for one example.

(As background, this came from a meeting with Congressman Chris Shays, a pol who DD regards as a useless pox when it comes to knowing anything sensible about national security. Between making available the knowledge that an atom bomb can be made from stuff scrounged at Home Depot and ironing anthraxed mail, he seems to have the alpha and omega of zany-but-also-nuts covered.)

But back to Alibek. Since Amerithrax he's been busy. In 2003, Alibek and a cohort at George Mason University made the startling
out-of-the-box claim that smallpox vaccination might confer immunity to HIV infection.
They were quickly shelled into silence by the scientific community.

And in 2002 his name was discovered attached to a brand of OTC health pills called "Dr. Ken Alibek's Immune System Support Formula." In Science magazine, Alibek said he'd been acting as a consultant to the pill-maker. Another scientist called the remedy snake oil.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

SING A SONG OF FEVER: From rabbits, not blackbirds baked in a pie

A whimsical item came in over the e-mail notification transom, ostensibly linked to the keyword bioterror.

The Martha's Vinyard Times informs a man has written a song about tularemia, showcased at a science conference on the pathogen. Caused by the bacterium, Francisella tularensis, it is well known on the island as rabbit fever, a disease that occasionally also afflicted friends of Dick Destiny during rabbit season, decades ago in Schuylkill County, PA. [Generally, they appeared to get it when cleaning rabbits or from tick bites acquired while hunting.]

"The characteristics of tularemia have also thrust it onto the front lines in the war on terror," writes the newspaper. "Scientists around the world consider the bacterium a prime candidate for use as a bioterror agent because it occurs naturally and can be cultured."

Fortunately, no Islamists have as yet shown any facility with Francisella.

But the interesting bit of the story is the song, "Tularemia," by one Tristan Israel, who knows the disease firsthand. (And writing from what you know is always a good dictum to follow, unlike composing about what you don't -- such as engagement in glorious sex at Treblinka.)

"According to Mr. Israel, following a bout with tularemia in 2000 he composed a song, 'Tularemia," continued the newspaper. "Somehow a group of research scientists heard his song and decided the lyrics went well with beer."

Accordingly, from "Tularemia:"

Way back on the Vineyard,
'bout 3 years ago,
my mother she said "Tristan
in Chilmark do not mow!
For some have tried to go there,
yes and some have tried to work,
but the rabbits would not let them
and they quickly fell down cursed"


Tularemia in the air.
Why and where did it come from?
Is it ticks is it skunks is it hares?
Tularemia high,
massive antibiotics
and maybe you won't die!

Read the entire story and listen to the tune here.

Often the daily newspaper contains stories about pop music acts so howlingly awful they serve as unintended comedy. In other words, no one came make up stuff as funny as a reporter lacking any funnybone dealing with an act whose pompous image begs it not to be taken seriously.

In this case, today's Los Angeles Times' Weekend arts preview contained an interview with the semi-marginal "indie punk" band known as Say Anything, which -- as it turns out -- is an appropriate label.

"Don't Get Comfortable Around Them," is the title of the piece by August Brown, setting the reader up with the idea that the band has edgy wisdom to convey, a premise unintentionally blown in the very first paragraph.

"The first single off Say Anything's major label debut is . . . 'Alive With the Glory of Love,' is about having sex in a concentration camp. Over doo-wop harmonies and buzz-saw guitars, the band's 22-year-old frontman and songwriter Max Bemis shouts, 'When I watch you, I want to do you right where you're standing . . . right in plain view of the whole ghetto.' When Bemis plays it live, thousands of teenagers in the mosh pit . . . join him on the song's bridge, when he sings, 'I'll make you say: Our Treblinka is alive with the glory of love!"

Now DD has no doubt that some teenagers -- perhaps more than a few -- can be convinced to sing along with lyrics that make Kiss' '70's odes to blow jobs and cunnilingus seem resplendent with the deepest meanings of human erotic love. Kids are like that. And you really don't want to know precisely what all the hard rock bands in my record collection sound like.

But one expects a little more from a newspaper reporter. Like recognition that some people just cry out to have the tar wailed out of them in print, if only as a good-natured diversion for readers who aren't all simpletons.

And I regularly did this at the Morning Call newspaper in the Eighties in features and a column called "Nightclubbing." (See here and here for examples.)

In other words, if the local sodden festival promoter came into the office bubbling over with ridiculous news about her latest big-day-out in Bath, PA, in which it was said the local criminal motorcycle gang would provide security, it was perfectly fine to slyly mention Altamont in the very next paragraph. Subsequent letters to the editor and the reaction of local authorities tended to add color and depth to the reporting.

But Dick Destiny digresses slightly. That type of reporting doesn't exist so much anymore, often relegated to the fringes or solely the domain of the Internet. Instead, you get loads and loads of articles about feebs like Say Anything, intelligence-insulting affairs which cry out for a heavy backhand that can no longer be applied because it's alleged to be upsetting and destructive to the idea that art should always be taken seriously. And that superciliousness, in any form, is bad.

In any case, Brown's article on Say Anything continues on about Bemis, the kid who sings about having glorious sex in Treblinka, suffering from sporadic mental illness.

"It makes me question things, like the thin line between sanity and insanity," says the artist. Hmm, the font of wisdom that makes small brooks to flow.

"But in a style of rock based on authentic emotional volatility, might Bemis' mental illness lend an extra edge to his public image as a talented but wounded song-writer?" asks the Times reporter.

Uh, no. I think he blew that with the "Our Treblinka is alive with the glory of love" line.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

BUY YOUR WMD ON eBAY: Annals of incompetent terror drill/simulations, continued

Did you know you can buy a WMD on eBay? It's true. Right here.

Those are rosary peas, seeds of the Crab's Eye weed, which is commonplace in Florida and known as ratti in India. It also contains the protein abrin, which is more toxic than ricin, another similar enzyme.

Somehow mankind has muddled through, managing not to exterminate itself with rosary peas, which have been used in ornamental jewelry and ripped out of lawns by annoyed gardeners.

That is, until the US-led war on terror, a war in which the incompetent concoct terror scenarios about weapons of mass destruction, scenarios which toss common sense and critical-thinking out the window. With GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow T-shirt on, it has been determined that this is done so that "readiness" may be practiced and the public convinced the tax dollars going to the Dept. of Homeland Security are well spent.

Datelined FORT INDIANTOWN GAP (a dilapidated Pennsy US army post where Cuban refugees were once held and DD rode in an armored personnel carrier as a Boy Scout), the Lebanon Daily News reported a week or so ago:

"With the early morning frost still coating the grass, the men raised their guns and slowly moved in.

"Clad in white-and-blue HazMat suits, bulletproof vests and gas masks, the men split into three groups and waited for the signal. Then, with the sudden crash of battering rams smashing into doors, they sped into action.

"The raid at the Gap was part of 'Exercise Wide Vigilance,' a bigger training simulation held yesterday by the South Central Pennsylvania Regional Counter-Terrorism Task . . . "

And what was the terror plot that was being broken up? A lab said to be using rosary peas to make a weapon of mass destruction.

". . . Lebanon and Lancaster HazMat teams were also on hand to get a bit of practice dealing with a highly dangerous situation," reported the Lebanon newspaper.

"According to Dr. David E. Marx, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton and the 'evil chemist' in yesterday’s scenario, the chemical being made in the [terror] lab was abrin, a close cousin of ricin and sarin, the latter of which was used in the bombing of a Tokyo subway in 1995. Abrin has no known antidote. Marx set up the faux lab to mirror what authorities could expect to find in a real lab.

" 'It’s as close as you can get without really doing it,' [Marx] said."

"Terrorists planned to explode bombs at the two sites, sending the [abrin] into the air. Marx said that, according to his calculations and the size of the lab, enough of the chemical was made to kill 2,500 people."

But abrin has never been used as a WMD. And it is not listed in the US military's blue book on chemical and biological warfare/terrorism, Medical Management of Biological Casualties. [N.b., it is a statistic in an appendix of relative toxicities of natural poisons in the back of the book. But it is not handled as part of the threat spectrum with the other recognizable agents in the volume.]

Capable of killing thousands of people, according to this clowning exercise, the rosary pea is more sensibly discussed in this forum on weeds at Dave's Garden. And it also sold at this garden shop in Florida. Call the FBI! Summon the SWAT team! Get the emergency technicians and throw everyone's clothes into a burn bag!

Without getting into the technical details, it's not possible to make rosary peas into a WMD. Technically speaking, it is possible to envision people being individually poisoned by abrin, if they were a target of a single assassination, or somehow mistakenly chewed and ate a couple rosary peas. Because of the latter, the FDA has been doing a small bit of work aimed at examining how to look for abrin in food.

But the US government has gone well beyond this, constructing a public belief system in which demonical menace is said to lurk everywhere and that death by exotic means is easy to achieve. It's a system in which terror advisors and consultants simply make things up on a frequent basis. And they make such useless exercises up because it is a way in which to get paid by the government for aiding in alleged terror preparedness.

"Yesterday’s exercise, the biggest of its kind in the region, was funded through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security" wrote the Lebanon newspaper.

Readers of this blog may suspect that the addled concept of rosary peas as a WMD has filtered down from sources it has read of previously. Like the benighted chemical warfare recipes in the Afghan Manual of Jihad or Maxwell Hutchkinson's Poisoner's Handbook.

And they're right!

The Hutchkinson book, which has been responsible for so much trash belief re the capabilities of terrorists and their chemical dreams of mass death, does not disappoint. It furnishes the usual "wisdom" -- wisdom in this case meaning the lack of it -- on the subject.

On abrin, from page 8, in a section entitled "precatory beans:"

"Precatory bean plants may be purchased at nurseries nationwide.

"Some years ago, a few very stupid people came up with the idea of using the attractive scarlet and sable beans for rosary beads . . . If your target is strongly religious, then these beads can easily be modified to kill."

Hutchkinson continues with the advice to scarify the rosary peas so that the abrin might leak out and poison anyone who handles them. Since abrin is a protein, it can't be much of a contact poison, anymore than you can eat a piece of meat by putting it on your skin, but Hutchkinson, of course, does not know this. He is more interested in poisoning the Pope.

"As the abrin slowly kills your target, an interesting cycle will begin," he writes. "The worse your target gets, the more he will pray with his rosary beads, which will only make him worse . . . "

"These items make wonderful presents for the religious target. We'd send one to the Pope, but he already has nineteen hundred years of Christian spoils to adorn himself with."

So what is to be thought when a local government carries out a terror exercise in which the threat is based upon such wretched mythology? To paraphrase Hutchkinson, "Some days ago, a few very stupid people came up with the idea . . ."

David Marx, 'evil scientist' in terror exercise
The abrin terror simulation and exercise was brought to you by the same people who furnished this one about two weeks ago. These are put together by an occupational safety consultancy known as Cocciardi and Associates, located in eastern Pennsylvania, a business which has been successful in selling to local governments.