Friday, June 01, 2007

BEWARE STINK-BOMB TOTING TERRORISTS: Dept. of Homeland Security 'chemicals of interest' list informed by Poisoner's Handbook

General knowledge of chemistry and biology within the US government's security bureaucracy is dreadful.

While it is not a subject anyone wants to discuss in a public mainstream forum, the ignorance does impact policy-making, particulary when it involves people writing rules to keep us safe.

For instance, unusual paranoia over chemical attack in the US takes many forms. It can be seen in a recent piece of trouble from the Department of Homeland Security, a long list of "chemicals of interest" it wishes to require all university settings to inventory and track.

"Academic institutions across the country claim they will have to spend countless hours and scarce resources on documenting very small amounts of chemicals in many different labs that are scattered across sometimes sprawling campuses," reported a recent Chemical & Engineering News, the publication of the American Chemical Society.

"For 104 chemicals on the list, the threshold is 'any amount.'"

An update to address university workload concerns is said to be scheduled for "early to mid-June."

However, before that happens, let's take a peek at the list.

If one has a little bit of background in chemical weapons synthesis, one can see DHS is possessed by the idea that terrorists might storm into universities and plunder chem labs for precursors to nerve gases.

This seems almost reasonable. However, the precursors, all fearsomely named organic compounds likely to make the average reader passer-by fall asleep in disinterest, is not where the list stops.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has written an analysis of the trouble sheer ignorance has caused at the Register. See it here.

Caution: You'll be entering a zone which requires you to accept the fact that I have a drop-dead serious advanced degree in the hard sciences and also know, first hand, the biochemical literature of terrorists and how it has been evaluated by our national counter-terror mavens.

Chemicals of interest list at DHS.

Official comments of the American Chemical Society.

Terrorists Planned Deadly Gas Attack On Western Targets.News story at DHS/FEMA, referencing unnnamed terrorist chemical attack document. Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has this document. Fundamentally, much of it is simply an Arabic translation of parts of Maxwell Hutchkinson's The Poisoner's Handbook.

To "make" the toxin that causes botulism, use "horse dung or cow dung," it reads. Combine "dung, meat or soil" in a can. Then "wait ten days." "30ml of the agent can kill 60 million people, God willing," it continues.

The stupid and embarrassing parts about horse dung and cow dung in a can are not furnished in the story at the site.


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