Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Readers of your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow's articles on jihadi poison documents know their intrinsic net worth.


Having examined them in detail over the last four years, it can be said with certainty that not one grants a terror capability. They indicate only an astonishing amount of wishful thinking by authors who apparently have no education in basic high school science.

Nevertheless, news of such terror tracts has been repeatedly published in the mainstream media claiming the opposite.

It has always been an odious thing to see, fit to be judged as an intellectually bankrupt practice which entails misrepresentation and a purposeful distortion of the meaning and relevance of jihadi poison recipes derived from Maxwell Hutchkinson's The Poisoner's Handbook.

Published by Loompanics in 1988, the "recipes" in The Poisoner's Handbook have been copied throughout the web, in English and in Arabic. In some form, they are commonplace in jihadi papers purporting to describe capabilities in chemical or biological warfare.

This silly paragraph from The Poisoner's Handbook does not constitute a recipe for a biopoison or a WMD.

One of the recipes, for botulinum toxin, is infamous.

It is found littered throughout the terror literature on biological poisons and requires the reader to be so stupid he or she actually believes botox can be made from randomly tossing meat, some dirt and a couple vegetables in a can.

"Botulism is fun and easy to make," crows Hutchkinson, convincing only idiots that he knows what he's writing of.

Hutchkinson's plan is no more a recipe for making botox than a regimen for vigorous full squat weight-lifting is a way to condition your legs for an Incredible Hulk-like jump to the moon.

No matter, Hutchkinson's formula has been published in slightly different forms in jihadi documents which can advocate subsitution of animal excrement, horse dung or cow dung, for various ingredients.

To pretend that Hutchkinson's recipe, or anything derived from it, is valid is fundamentally dishonest. It is usually accompanied by an argument from authority claiming that some manner of terror capability and activity is demonstrated.

DD has been chipping away at these specious presumptions for the past few years. It is no longer possible to go on the Internet, search for these documents, and NOT FIND the critical analyses on them authored by me.

Nevertheless, many publications and experts continue to spread disinformation on them.

The most recent entry in this sham is an article entitled "Chem-Bio Cyber-Class: Assessing jihadist chemical and biological manuals," by Anne Stenersen writing in the September 2007 issue of Jane's Intelligence Review.

The argument is now more muted as to the threat posed by such manuals. The conclusion is that jihadi knowledge, as exhibited in poison documents, is "shallow."

However, the article still makes claims which are untrue.

Jane's fudging of Hutchkinson's ridiculous botox recipe.

"The manuals contain very few details of laboratory experiments with biological weapons, although some describe the testing of botulinum toxin on rabbits ... " writes Stenersen. "The poison is given to rabbits in several ways: dissolved in alcohol or water and given orally or by injection, or dissolved in another chemical (details of which cannot be provided here because of UK terror legislation) and applied to the skin. The rabbits die in all the experiments ..."

Stenersen, in declining to name the other "chemical" means dimethyl sulfoxide. (More on this below.)

To understand how this particular bit is distorted requires the reader to know from which document Stenersen is paraphrasing. In no place in the Jane's article are any of the poison documents referred to by their actual titles.

In this instance, Stenersen is discussing The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, in particular its entry on "Betaluminum Poison," a jihadi syntactical error for a derivation of Hutchkinson's 1988 botulinum toxin "recipe."

Snapshot 1 of Mujahideen Poisons Handbook derivation of Hutchkinson recipe for botox.

Snapshot 2 of 2: The person or persons who wrote the entry for "betaluminum poison' could not possibly have achieved the results claimed because it is based upon Maxwell Hutchkinson's nonsense. This throws into question everything printed in the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, a publication which appears to often be an exercise in making things up -- a succesful effort -- for the purpose of leading others to believe that a very sinister capability has been achieved.

Part of the Mujahideen recipe is in the second snapshot and this is where Stenersen gets her information on alleged jihadi animal tests with botulinum toxin.

At this point it is important for the lay reader to be informed there is no evidence anywhere that terrorists have as yet produced botulinum toxin. And botulinum toxin cannot be made from this formula.

Yet Stenersen and Jane's ask the reader to believe something quite the opposite without pointing out the author of the document is really full of it, quite possibly making it up, as is often the case with dodgy anonymous writers.

"[One ml] of the solution was dissolved in [dimethyl sulfoxide]," writes the jihadi author. "The solution was touched onto the rabbit's skin. It died ..."

Botulinum toxin, in any case, is not a skin contact poison.

In August 2005, the Washington Post published the above snapshot from the Betaluminum/Hutchkinson botox recipe found in the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook for its Sunday feature on page 1. (This copy is reduced in size.)

The above snapshot was published in the Washington Post two years ago. It is still on the newspaper's website and the full-sized version is here.

At the time, the Washington Post tried to make the case that this most unserious recipe was one example of determined al Qaeda training in the making of poisons, abetted and amplified through the spread of such documents on the Internet.

Two years later, Jane's Intelligence Review repeats the same script with minor variations.

To put this another way, Castleberry's Hot Dog Chili Sauce is a real world example of botox in a can. The recipes of Hutchkinson and jihadists, as interpreted by terror analysts and newspaper reporters, are not.

Relevant past articles:

From the Poisoner's Handbook to the Botox Shoe of Death.

Ultimate Jihadist Poisons Handbook.

Horse dropping or cow dropping?

Terrorists, the Internet and the Betaluminium Threat -- at the Federation of American Scientists.


Anonymous Brian said...

I noticed this article, and your article in the Register on the London Ricin case... While I think you've amply demonstrated that these recipes cause no danger because of their impotence (and the apparant ignorance of the Jihadists) doesn't the same evidence speak towards the intent of the holders of these recipes?

In other words: They may be idiots firing blanks, but they still want to kill us?

6:23 AM  
Blogger George Smith said...

The Ultimate Jihadist's Poisons Handbook and other posts in the series affirms an obvious intent.

However, the reaction to it isn't appropriate.

For example, in the London ricin case, Kamel Bourgass's handful of castor seeds and stupid recipes were a criminal matter only, not part of "proofs" that the US needed to invade Iraq. And that's what it was used for.

In other cases, these recipes have regularly been put forward as proofs of capabilities which no jihadists appear to possess. And that's just plain dishonest. The practice misinforms the public for varied reasons having to do with the personal agendas of various authors and experts -- to gin up fear, to get something published so as to establish a reputation, to get something exciting and frightening on the frontpage of a famous newspaper, to name a few.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Dear Dr. Smith,

I find your blog interesting, although I do not necessarily agree to all of your writings. I appreciate your efforts, though, at downscaling the hype connected to al-Qaeda’s alleged posession of CBRN weapons.

I see you have read my article in Jane's. I just wanted to point out that the article is aimed at giving a neutral description of the contents of various jihadist manuals in order to illustrate the crude nature of these recipes. It is not my purpose to delude readers to think it is possible to make botox by Hutchkinson’s method. This is why I state in the article that this is something ”...the manuals describe as botulinum toxin.” I am referring to the experiments on rabbits not to "proove" that botox was produced, but to illustrate how the authors of the manuals allegedly "test" their recipes. I agree, however, that I should have been clearer at pointing out that these experiments, in fact, do not proove anything. Therefore I do appreciate your criticism, although I do not believe that it justifies your use of the words ”trash” and ”scam” when referring to the article as a whole.

9:11 AM  
Blogger J.D. Abolins said...

Anne wrote that her article intended to illustrate how the authors of the manuals allegedly "test" their recipes.

This raises and interesting question: how do we know if the writers of the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook are being truthful and/or accurate in describing the animals tests they conducted? Could we well be a false claim for propaganda purposes to make the handbook seem more "scientific".

In any case, the technique described can be examined by others, as George Smith has done.

1:51 PM  

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