Tuesday, July 31, 2007

COLD FUSION AS A METAPHOR ON WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED TO O'HANLON AND POLLACK: Though condemned and ignored, the desktop fusion lobby struggles to be heard, anyway

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow reads his mail.

Rest assured, I pay attention to every bit of it. However, I sometimes decline to drop everything to publish your remarkable news and sometimes I don't even ack the sender.

In relation to this post, DD mentions that there were some who took offense to my use of Fleischmann and Pons as a comparison with Iraq War quacks Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. This was unfair to Fleischmann and Pons, who were not quacks, I was told, and thousands of papers have been published on cold fusion.

I felt one e-mailer had a point worth addressing, if not for the reason proffered in his communication. I was a bit harsh with Fleischmann and Pons in comparing them to O'Hanlon and Pollack. Their cold fusion did not help start a war, unlike the cold fusion of the two Brookings rascals.

That said, DD took a quick review of the public record on cold fusion. And it would be a good thing for journalists covering the Iraq War Glee Club to see.

Of course, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack wouldn't want to be treated like Fleischmann and Pons or the remaining members of the tabletop fusion research lobby. It would mark the end for them and they would be reduced to presenting talks in back rooms at national security conferences, attended by only a handful of adoring fans and followers. The New York Times and major media would stop calling.

There would be no more TV appearances for them. No huzzahs in glossy magazines, no requests to write 1,000 word parcels of common-sense defying received wisdoms.

Consider the following.

"Unlimited energy brewed in a bottle sparked a worldwide sensation nearly 18 years ago," reported the Chicago Tribune in March of this year, coincidentally the same month I compared Kenneth Pollack to Fleischmann and Pons.

"Promises that cold fusion would power the planet, however, were shot down in little more than a month," it continued in "Once touted unlimited energy source generates litte interest today."

"On Thursday, researchers who continue to believe in cold fusion drew fewer than a dozen spectators to Chicago for the national meeting of the American Chemical Society," it continued.

" 'I don't know that my efforts have been dismissed,' said George Miley, director of the fusion studies lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 'They've just been ignored.'"

" 'These are mostly the same guys who jumped on board 18 years ago,' said Robert Park, a physics professor at the University of Maryland who wrote 'Voodoo Science,' a book about pseudoscience. 'To my knowledge, they haven't convinced a single soul outside their own community.'"

"The Wall Street Journal's front-page story [on cold fusion in 1989] gave the claims [of Fleischmann and Pons] credibility, and within a week cold fusion landed on the covers of Time, Newsweek and BusinessWeek.

"In other traditions," said [a sociologist to the newspaper], "the people in charge might say go get these guys and burn 'em at the stake. In science, they just get ignored."

In 2006, the Salt Lake Tribune covered a portion of the American Physical Society's annual meetings devoted to "nonsensical findings" -- an description one could just as well apply to O'Hanlon and Pollack.

"The American Physical Society's annual March meeting includes a handful of presentations that event organizers acknowledge are either scientifically suspect or outright nonsense. Year after year, a handful of researchers present findings on:"

* "Free energy" sources that will solve the world's energy woes.

* The merits of cold fusion.

* Einstein's major blunders.

* Geological evidence for Noah's flood.

Source: American Physical Society

9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Also Researched Cold Fusion

In one odd eruption, the Salt Lake Tribune reported in 2006 on a Brigham Young professor of physics who once had supported cold fusion.

"Brigham Young University placed physics professor Steven Jones on paid leave Thursday while it reviews his controversial research on the collapse of the World Trade Center.

"Jones published the paper, 'Why Indeed Did the World Trade Center Collapse?' in the book, 9/11 And The American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, and online, and began lecturing in Utah and across the country about his theories, which allege that the planes crashing into the towers created a diversion for an unnamed group, possibly the U.S. military, that had planted bombs inside the towers."

Near the end of the article, the newspaper reported: "It is rare for a tenured professor to be put on paid leave at BYU. Jones has taught at BYU since 1985 and has been widely published in scientific journals. He garnered international attention in 1987 when he claimed to have created small amounts of cold fusion, though he said it was not enough for a stable energy source."

In 2006, Martin Fleischmann was mentioned in a daily newspaper in connection with the development plans for an as yet unseen home-heater run by cold fusion.

He was ballyhooed and then discredited and then largely forgotten," reported the Deseret Morning News. "But cold fusion pioneer Dr. Martin Fleischmann still holds the secret to a cheap energy source for the world, says a California company that plans to produce prototypes of a cold fusion-powered home heater, with Fleischmann as 'senior scientific adviser.' "

In 2006, DD's local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times published a rather more substantial article on the controversy surrounding R. P. Taleyarkhan of Purdue.

"Evoking echoes of the cold fusion fiasco more than a decade ago, Purdue University said Wednesday that it was reviewing the work of physicist Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, who claims to have developed technology to achieve tabletop fusion," wrote science reporter Thomas Maugh. For the record, this research is called bubble fusion .

"Purdue's announcement came as the journal Nature released findings Wednesday from its investigation of Taleyarkhan's widely publicized claim and as a UCLA researcher challenged Taleyarkhan's report that he had detected fusion byproducts in a key experiment."

"Taleyarkhan expressed confidence that Purdue's review would vindicate his claims, but other researchers said the evidence was likely to be a death knell for the controversial technology, which proponents had claimed would eventually become a major energy source ... It now appears that the technology Taleyarkhan and others proudly call 'star in a jar' is probably no more than a flash in the pan."

While at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Taleyarkhan had published in 2002 in the journal Science. That paper became a source of intense controversy when other scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory protested.

"After the external review process had been completed, [Science] scheduled the paper for publication," wrote Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief for the magazine. "Then we were contacted by senior science managers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), who said that certain reservations had developed about the findings and their interpretation. In a series of telephone and e-mail contacts, they urged that we delay the scheduled publication of the paper."

Objections continued to come in although the paper was eventually published.

"I certainly agree with [Taleyarkhan critic]Robert Park and others that Science has acted irresponsibly here," wrote a scientist from Princeton in a subsequent e-letter. "Science knew that the result was controversial in the sense that it was unlikely to be correct, and that in fact an internal review by ORNL had cast serious doubt on the submitted paper ... The general press and the public at large are very gullible and are easily influenced by sensationalist articles that offer 'amazing' results that are too good to be true."

Another scientist wrote in to thank Science magazine for the article. It had performed a service in showing other researchers where to being throwing stones.

And throw stones they did.

The LA Times 2006 article continued: "Added retired physicist Michael J. Saltmarsh, who was assigned by the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to check out Taleyarkhan's initial report of the technology: 'It was very sloppy experimental work, and I simply don't believe it.... All of his papers are internally inconsistent, and they don't really make sense.'

"The episode has parallels to the 1989 announcement by two Utah researchers, B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, that they had created fusion at room temperature by forcing deuterium into special electrodes with an electrical current. Their findings were never replicated."

Purdue University subsequently exonerated Taleyarkhan in the review mentioned by the LA Times article.

However, the scientist and research remained hobbled by controversy. A House oversight committee began investigating Purdue over the integrity of it, commenting in a staff report: "...no other researchers have been able to independently replicate Dr. Taleyarkhan's experiments, including researchers from three universities ..." (Title: Investigation by Purdue University of Allegations of Research Misconduct by Dr. Rusi Taleyarkhan, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Science and Technology, May 7, 2007.)

House Committee Report on Purdue Investigation, Requests New Results.

In 2004, the Boston Globe published a story on another cold fusion scientist, Peter Hagelstein.

If one examines the public record, the stories tend always to be the same.

Cold fusion is getting a new look or there has been a controversial paper published on tabletop fusion or bubble fusion, always something fantastic. There is some noise and then everyone goes back to ignoring the small self-absorbed crew of professors working their dreams of fabulous desktop energy.

In "Heating up a cold theory," Beth Daley wrote, "Although he's a tenured Massachusetts Institute of Technology associate professor, Peter Hagelstein leads a life of exile.

"He has never made full professor. He no longer has a lab. Barely anyone came to a lecture he gave about his research a year and a half ago. Virtually all of Hagelstein's problems stem from his study of cold fusion, a type of nuclear reaction that if it exists at all might have the power to create unlimited, clean energy, essentially on a tabletop. Fifteen years ago, two University of Utah chemists claimed they created such a reaction, an announcement quickly denounced as quackery."

"Today, cold fusion is as scientifically scorned as UFOs."

But cold fusion was about to heat up, it was claimed. Of course, it didn't.

"To other scientists, this is the natural course of bad science: It doesn't get much public funding, and eventually goes away," reported the Globe.

Update (8/01):

E-mails on the cold fusion set of posts continue to arrive.

DD recommends gentle correspondents spend time reading the thrust of Dick Destiny blog, like today's entry on Moloud Sihali and the famous terror trial in which he was involved.

Please note, too, that the name of this blog is not Cold Fusion Hater or The Man Who Would Deny the Truth About Tabletop Fusion.

Those blogs and webpages may be somewhere else.

Although your well-composed thoughts are carefully read to the last word, comments --vexingly -- are moderated.

However, while obviously serious missives were penned today, at this time only one thoughtful contribution from reader Chris is excerpted:
Something that often irks me, however, is when a perfectly good term gets hijacked in the press and subsequently ruins yet another piece of my personal semantic space.

Cases in point: "cold fusion" and "tabletop fusion".

These terms have been permanently enshrined as synonyms for quackery thanks to the misadventures of Fleischmann & Pons and the [mainstream media's] subsequent goofiness.

They are, however, both perfectly good labels for non-quackery-based phenomena.
A bit of technical detail is elided for the writer's central point:
Continued research into either of these fields now, sadly, carries with it the Fleischmann & Pons legacy, which tends to doom any such efforts to being staffed by whack-jobs and funded at the most meager levels.

This is not to say that these areas are any more or less likely to bear fruit than the better funded hot fusion efforts, but limitations on research into them due to widely held associations to snake oil salesmen strikes me as a damn shame.
THE IRAQ WAR'S FLEISCHMANN & PONS CONTINUED: Hailed by mainstream media; A penny for Kenneth Pollack's thoughts

Ken Pollack's contribution to critical thinking and common sense. Publicity tour originally paid for by Bush administration. Down 36 cents from March.

While your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow was reading in the Los Angeles Times "Internior Ministry mirrors chaos of fractured Iraq" yesterday, much of the mainstream media joined the charter members of the Iraq War Glee Club, Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institution.

"The colonel pulls his mercedes into the parking lot of the drab, 11-story concrete building, scanning the scene for suspicious cars," reported the Times. "Before reaching for the door handle, he studies the people loitering nearby ... He grips his pistol, the trigger cocked, wary of an ambush ... This is Iraq's Ministry of Interior -- the balkanized command center for the nation's police and mirror of the deadly factions that have caused the government here to grind nearly to a halt."

If you had read Fleischmann and Pons O'Hanlon and Pollack, whose recent tour of Iraq was paid for by the government, you were sunnily informed happy days might just be around the corner if we just hung in there.

It was a lead-pipe cinch the blogosphere would explode.

The editorial was a perfect example of the mainstream media willfully and maliciously delivering contaminated water repackaged as something new and refreshing. Instead of labelling O'Hanlon and Pollack properly -- as two of the prime Anfuhrers for the Iraq War -- it peddled them as war critics who'd suddenly revised their opinions upon seeing the reality on a junket to Iraq.

As explained yesterday, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons were two scientists who purported to have discovered "cold fusion" in 1989. Initially the media ignored their shabby and incompetent work for the sake of a sensational story. However, the truth soon arrived and the quacks were run off. Since then, no one has had to hear from them.

In the world of science, or critical and scholarly work as DD was taught, once you pull a stunt like that, you virtually never get a do over.

The reasons are simple.

No one trusts you. You're considered incompetent and a trickster, a rascal who's sold out the profession. And no one wants to go to the trouble of rechecking your work. No one will go down a second time.

Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon are the Iraq War's Fleischmann and Pons. And the only reason they do still exist to argue something is because the mainstream media doesn't adhere to standards of logic, common sense and decency.

It's hard to ignore the graphic from Amazon on Pollack's odious book, The Threatening Storm. You can't find a more plainly damning display. Yet your graphic intensive, video-oriented media couldn't find one news reader or host to say "Hey, buddy, your stupid book on the goodness of war with Iraq is worth a penny on-line."

"One of the most important books on American foreign policy in years," reads the old blurb from an editor of Foreign Affairs. "There is no greater strategic challenge than Iraq, and nobody better qualified to tackle it than Kenneth Pollack. To have such comprehensive, high-quality professional analysis available publicly and in real time is simply extraordinary. From now on, all serious debate over how to handle Saddam starts here."

"Iraq is at the top of America's foreign policy agenda and this book should be at the top of your reading list," trumpeted the great and wise Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek. "Whether or not you agree with Pollack's solution -- and I do -- you will admire The Threatening Storm. It is intelligent, balanced, and measured; a model of fair-minded analysis on a topic that rarely gets any. Before you make up your mind on Iraq, read this book."

"[The] Thinking Citizen's Guide to the Iraq Debate," chimed in a reviewer from New Mexico, in October of 2002.

Of course, Fleischmann, Pons and "cold fusion" still have their supporters. Just minutes after posting yesterday's essay, one wrote in to admonish me.

Pons and Fleischmann were not "quacks," I was told in no uncertain terms. "Thousands of papers confirming the cold fusion were published ... "

However, unlike the work of O'Hanlon and Pollack with regards to thinking on the war in Iraq, no one has yet seen fit to launder "cold fusion" back into the mainstream.

"A bombshell New York Times op-ed piece published Monday, titled 'A War We Might Just Win,' cites recent progress in Iraq," went one editorial from the Mountain Mail of Colorado.

"Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon, both called 'left-of-center' Democrats, one of whom served in the Clinton administration, said during the past four years the Bush administration has lost virtually all credibility in Iraq. But now it is war critics who 'seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.'"

"The report comes at a time when even some Republican politicians who earlier supported the war have begun publicly questioning the Bush administration strategy, suggesting timetables for pulling Americans out of combat in Iraq."

The newspaper's was a standard dishonesty, casting the impression that 'left-of-center' critics of the war had done their homework and changed their positions.

"Purporting to document Pollack's evolving views on Iraq, CNN left out his original gung-ho Iraq 'tune,' wrote Media Matters.

"During the July 30 edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Heidi Collins introduced Kenneth Pollack of The Brookings Institution by saying that Pollack 'has been a vocal critic of the administration's handling of the [Iraq] war, but he says that an eight-day visit has changed his outlook a bit' ... However, while focusing on Pollack's criticisms of the 'handling' of the war, Collins failed to note that Pollack was an influential proponent of the Iraq invasion before it happened, leaving viewers with the impression that Pollack was a war opponent who has become more supportive of the war."

Indeed, the State Department bragged repeatedly about arraging an international sales effort for the Iraq war, its star -- Ken Pollack -- in 2002.

"We contacted Mr. Pollack and asked him if he would interrupt his book tour, which was not that easy to persuade him to do, and he agreed and went on a number of digital video conferences and visits to countries as far spread as France, Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, and now he's scheduled for South Africa and he's agreed to do a series more," said an undersecretary, Charlotte Beers, to the National Press Club. [Pollack is] that third voice, and he is speaking about the cases, pro and con, of invading Iraq in a more reasoned and reasonable way than most people could, and he has another voice to offer."

Yesterday, multiple Internet sources dredged up tons of putrid muck from the septic tank of quote in the public record by O'Hanlon and Pollack, words to inspire a proper rage.

The mainstream media, however, purposefully avoided doing the same research.

A penny for Ken Pollack's thoughts -- ratings furnished by Amazon booksellers.

Monday, July 30, 2007

JIHADISTS TRAIN FOR TERROR IN FANTASY WORLD COMPUTER GAMES, CLAIM QUACKS: News organ furnishes somewhat novel intelligence-insulting excrement

"One radical group, called Second Life Liberation Army, has been responsible for some computer-coded atomic bombings of virtual world stores [in the on-line fantasy game called Second Life] in the past six months," wrote a reporter for the Australian, today.

"On screen these blasts look like an explosion of hazy white balls as buildings explode, landscapes are razed and residents are wounded or killed.

"With the game taking such a sinister turn, terrorism experts are warning that [Second Life] attacks have ramifications for the real world. Just as September 11 terrorists practised flying planes on simulators in preparation for their deadly assault on US buildings, law enforcement agencies believe some of those behind the Second Life attacks are home-grown Australian jihadists who are rehearsing for strikes against real targets..."

Entitled "Virtual Terrorists," alert reader Cubic Archon tipped your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow to this bit of titillating terror infotainment dressed up as real news.

Of course, it is not good scary terror infotainment unless experts are on hand to inform you that it has been a subject of quiet concern for some time. But now the danger has become too great, the threat impending, and they must speak!

"Terrorist organisations al-Qa'ida and Jemaah Islamiah traditionally sent potential jihadists to train in military camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia," continues the Australian. "But due to increased surveillance and intelligence-gathering, they are swapping some military training to online camps to evade detection and avoid prosecution."

"Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al-Qa'ida, says it is a new phenomena that, until now, has not been openly discussed outside the intelligence community.

"But he says security agencies are extremely concerned about what home-grown terrorists are up to in cyberspace. He believes the dismantling and disruption of military training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan after September 11 forced terrorists to turn to the virtual world."

" 'They are rehearsing their operations in Second Life because they don't have the opportunity to rehearse in the real world.'"

"Intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the US and Australia are so concerned they have established their own reality world games in a bid to gain the same experiences as the virtual terrorists.

"Monash University academic and former Office of National Assessments intelligence officer David Wright-Neville agrees that online games and virtual worlds are being used by potential terrorists to hone their knowledge base ... Intelligence analyst Roderick Jones, who is investigating the potential use of the games by terrorists, says [Second Life] could easily become a terror classroom."

Are you ready to your local anti-terror forces stamp out the on-line game? Or are your eyes rolling over yet another ad hoc squad of experts ready to say anything to a news organization in the process of concocting another exciting fraud from the terror wars?

"Basically, we have a succession of inaccuracies about Second Life in the first place (e.g. you can't leave 'a trail of dead and injured' there, even virtually, given that there's no permanent death or injury built in; the 'Second Life Liberation Army' was a media publicity stunt," writes Cubic Archon in e-mail.

He added that the news piece offers "ridiculous sourceless commentary."

Archon finds the next claim laughable.

"Kevin Zuccato, head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre in Canberra, says terrorists can gain training in games such as World of Warcraft in a simulated environment, using weapons that are identical to real-world armaments."

"World of Warcraft is a fantasy game," the e-mailer points out. "So, in the real world, terrorists are going to be attacking with magic swords and fireball spells?"

Since Archon makes good points about the meretriciousness of claims that terrorists can use Second Life as a way to plan attacks, DD turns the real estate over to him:
I am a fairly long-term user of Second Life and, while it has some great potential for certain types of teaching and real-world modelling - it's used increasingly by architects, for instance - this is about as credible a threat as the one about school shooters building models of their school in Counterstrike and using them to rehearse attacks. Bouncing about in an online simulation isn't combat training.

And the idea that it is being used by al Qaeda to recruit, any more than, say, Myspace, is sourceless nonsense. There are all sorts of "comedy" names and groups in Second Life, and it would surprise me immensely if people hadn't started up "al Qaeda" type groups, perhaps with virtual explosive belts, to satirise the media obsession with them. To be honest, this sort of article almost makes me want to do that myself - or maybe build a replica of Pearl Harbour and start bombing it from virtual aeroplanes.

You know, it would be terrific if Second Life was really as good and realistic as it is portrayed here, that you could actually learn how to do something as complex as build explosives or field-strip a rifle from the comfort of your own bedroom, but unfortunately it isn't.

Supplying related URL's, Archon writes: "Another past example came from Threatswatch.org here. [This] was quite roundly panned by Second Life users in comments and on various blogs."

Other common quack terror memes found in story revolve around the evergreen claim that al Qaeda's cyberforces are beating the pants off us on the Internet. It's an amusing conceit if you've followed the analysis of documents from the trials of of Younes Tsouli, Dhiren Barot and others on this blog.

Here are some more flavors of it: OH! MY! GOD! Terrorists are using the Internets! It is easy for terrorists to download a recipe for ricin and betaluminium poisons from the Internets! It took this reporter five minutes to find the plans for a terrorist's bomb on the Internets! A European legislator wants to make it unlawful for any website to have plans for bombs on the Internets! You can easily download plans for an atomic bomb from the Internets!"

[Few] governments understand the importance of the internet to terrorism," claims someone, probingly, for the Australian.

"US terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman, from think tank RAND Corporation, says ... 'We have to contest this virtual battle space in much the same manner as we are very successfully doing in other traditional forms.'"
THE FLEISCHMANN AND PONS OF THE IRAQ WAR: New York Times publishes notorious quacks

Ken Pollack: Listed in high school yearbook as member-in-good-standing of Iraq War Glee Club

In the category of superlatively aggravating, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by two of the Iraq War's biggest supporters, Michael O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack. One can imagine the Times chose to go with it simply because editors knew it would push buttons all over the blogosphere.

In "A War We Might Just Win," two proven Iraq War quacks write that almost everyone, including you, is mistaken on Iraq.

"The Bush administration has over four years essentially lost all credibility," they write, poking the reader in the eye with the blunt stick of the idea that, somehow, this is now a misconception or state of affairs in need of correction. Having just been to Iraq on a tour paid for by the Department of Defense, the writers know the real story.

"We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms," it is said.

Glenn Greenwald gives O'Hanlon the review he deserves here.

"The [Times] Op-Ed is an exercise in rank deceit from the start," writes Greenwald. "To lavish themselves with credibility -- as though they are war skeptics whom you can trust -- they identify themselves at the beginning 'as two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq.' In reality, they were not only among the biggest cheerleaders for the war, but repeatedly praised the Pentagon's strategy in Iraq and continuously assured Americans things were going well. They are among the primary authors and principal deceivers responsible for this disaster."

In March of this year, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity Senior Fellow noted that the Los Angeles Times tried to present Brookings man Kenneth Pollack as a respectable expert -- sneaking his alleged wisdom back into its pages on a story about the strategy in Baghdad. (The original blog entry is here.)

"We are doing it, and all the other smart aspects of the Baghdad security plan, very late in the day," said Pollack for the LA Times. He was identified as a "counterinsurgency expert ... who was an advocate of the 2003 invasion."

This was outrageously misleading. Pollack was no counterinsurgency expert. He was far more although some readers in southern California might have forgotten.

Pollack was one of the chief Anfuhrers for the Iraq war, one who had written a book advocating it. He was subsequently put on a national and world publicity tour by the Bush administration in order to aid spreading its political message.

"This is one of the biggest flies in the ointment in Iraq today ... If we're not willing to stay for the months, if not years, it will take to regain the trust of of average Iraqis, none of [David Petraeus's] smart moves are going to work," said Pollack for the Times in March of this year, again striving to put off the day of reckoning and killing rational argument by claiming that more time, always more time, is needed.

And today, he and O'Hanlon lead a huzzah for the work of David Petraeus. We should keep on keeping on, they say.

O'Hanlon and Pollack should be viewed like Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, the scientists who brought the United States "cold fusion" in 1989. Through the wisdom of the mainstream media, what was shabby and incompetent work was unquestioningly tossed at the public for the sake of a big story. Saner minds eventually prevailed and sent the duo to the historical trashbin with deserved reputations as quacks. And we never had to hear from the again.

In a world that valued logic and scholarly thought, the fuglemen for the Iraq war would be treated similarly. Like famous science quacks Fleischmann and Pons, the Iraq War quacks should have been run off a long time ago, too. Instead, we get the opposite at the New York Times. The op-ed page editor at the biggest and most powerful newspaper in the country, the same newspaper that uncritically published administration-line material that contributed in a major way to the rush for war, work it was later compelled to disown, hates you. The Times Op-Ed chief thinks you're stupid, just more rubes who'll believe it's simply wide-ranging and probing to seek out the wisdom of such "experts," fresh from a government-financed junket to Iraq.

Some selected bits of press on Ken Pollack, from our March 2007 piece.

Pollack argues his case well, going beyond the vituperative pronouncements of the administration to link operational objectives to national strategy, but he does not spend much time on the reconstruction of the country, which is, after all, the reason for invasion in the first place. He does make two noteworthy points, however: the removal of Saddam would allow for withdrawal of most of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region; and second, with its wealth in oil, Iraq can pay for its own reconstruction. Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option, and critics abound, but for Pollack the question is "not whether [we invade], but when." -- from a review of the man's best-selling book in the Naval War College Review, Autumn 2002

You can tell a lot by the books people read, especially when the readers are members of Congress making life and death decisions about a war.

Winston Churchill is big on Capitol Hill, among both Democrats and Republicans. So is Kenneth Pollack's new book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," whose title is derived from Churchill's "The Gathering Storm."

Not on the must-read list are books like Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down," a harrowing account of just how grim urban street fights can get, even for today's most elite forces. Nor, judging by interviews and the buzz on Capitol Hill, is there a surge of interest in "hearts and minds" books on Arab history or the culture of radical Islam. -- The Christian Science Monitor, December 2002

"Saddam has taken the entire Iraqi program on the road," said Iraq expert and former National Security Council official Kenneth Pollack in his recent best-selling book, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." -- subsequently repeated thousands of times, like an incantation to ward off common sense, in the Scripps Howard newswire, February 2003

Despite its human and financial cost (which [Ken Pollack] says could be less than we think even as we prepare for the worst), we are the only ones who can prevent the world from facing a nuclear-armed Hussein. It's in our interest; it is our duty. -- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 2002

Others who predicted a short and decisive victory included Sec/Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Dep. Sec/Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Defense policy analyst Richard Perle, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), ex-CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack, and ex-Reagan
admin. official Kenneth Adelman (Efron, Los Angeles Times) -- Bragging Rights for Iraq, The National Journal, April 2003

Even as President Bush delivered his pivotal speech on September 12th to the United Nations regarding the conduct of Hussein's regime, we noted there was a very timely book launched at the same time by Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institute called, "The Threatening Storm." We contacted Mr. Pollack and asked him if he would interrupt his book tour, which was not that easy to persuade him to do, and he agreed and went on a number of digital video conferences and visits to countries as far spread as France, Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, and now he's scheduled for South Africa and he's agreed to do a series more. He's that third voice, and he is speaking about the cases, pro and con, of invading Iraq in a more reasoned and reasonable way than most people could, and he has another voice to offer. -- Undersecretary of State Charlotte Beers, at the National Press Club, December 2002

At a press briefing Dec. 18, State Dept. public diplomacy topper Charlotte Beers announced that her division has asked author Ken Pollack to interrupt a book tour and travel overseas to talk about his book "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq."

Turns out the State Dept. also has been courting foreign journalists over the past year.

"We set up many more responsive facilities than we've had in the past for the foreign press at the president's ranch in Texas, at the White House and in our own State foreign press centers, which are Washington, New York and Los Angeles," Beers said.

In fact, one of the reasons to go to war with Iraq sooner, rather than later, is so that we never find ourselves in that position where Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons and we have to risk the obliteration of Riyadh, or Kuwait, and the Saudi oil fields, or Amman, or any of the other capitals of the region that we would worry so much about. Or, for that matter, New York. If the Iraqi's decided to put a nuclear weapon on a freighter, they could just drive it into New York Harbor and have the same effect there. -- Pollack, State Department-sponsored worldwide video conference, two weeks before war.

In hitting American forces with chemical weapons, Saddam would exact vengeance, said Ken Pollack, a former CIA analyst now with Brookings. He also might hope to delay them from entering the city. -- Course of Baghdad Battle Hinges on Unknowns, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2003

"Unlike so many Iraqi oppositionists, [Ahmed Chalabi] actually does what he says he's going to do," says Ken Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. -- from an article that should have been entitled, "Ahmed Chalabi -- A Great Guy!" by Sally Quinn, the Washington Post, November 2003

"I think that we will find the [WMD] stuff," Ken Pollack said. "I think it's simply a matter of time, but I think that we will find, at the very least, the production capability." -- in another State Department-funded worldwide videoconference with Ken Pollack, one entitled "Dr. Wrong, Once Again and With Passion," May 2003

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Brookings Institution analyst Ken Pollack writes "the search for Iraq's nonconventional weapons program has only just begun. In the meantime, accusations are mounting that the Bush administration made up the whole Iraqi weapons threat to justify an invasion. That is just not the case - American and its allies had plenty of evidence before the war, and before President Bush took office, indicating that Iraq was retaining its illegal weapons program" -- Pollack in the NYT via the National Journal, June 2003

Update: A penny for the thoughts of Ken Pollack.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

VOX POPULI & THE DOOM LINE: We review a poll
One year ago, the people spoke to LA Times pollsters on terror. They weren't remotely close to being right.

Your friendly neighborhhod GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow used the above snapshot here in "Fear & the Likelihood of Terror Attack," one year ago.

My original reaction to whether or not a terror attack was likely in the next twelve months was "I don't know."

The vast majority of those polled by the LA Times thought one was likely -- 73 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans. (The columns, left to right are -- All, Democrats, Independents, Republicans.)

Even more interesting were the results for the question, "Why do you think there have been no major attacks in the United States since 9/11...?"

Very few thought the war on Iraq had consumed terrorists attention. Even less, that they had chosen other places to attack.

It showed a lack of understanding or knowledge of major and even minor events reported from the war on terror. Keep in mind, the British had just disrupted the "airline liquid bomb" plot.

Both these hunches, or beliefs from the American heartland, were as wrong as could be. The war on terror in Iraq was attracting terrorists. And it has inspired -- and does inspire -- radicalized young men in other countries to launch terror attacks and concoct plots in those countries, Britain being the notable example.

The beliefs, sampled by polling, qualified as superstitions.

Our leaders and the mainstream media play big roles in this. It's not spontaneous generation, like flies coming from sealed jars of fish heads in the shires.

Much weekly reporting on terror is pointlessly scary and uninformative. Although it carries a patina of professionalism and delivery from the standpoint of authority, it is not illuminating. You can read it regularly and not really learn anything. You can divine only that you ought to be frightened and that the war will last, more or less, forever.

The US government must shoulder a great deal of blame, too. It is secretive, deceitful and simply doesn't care to inform citizens about events unless it's to announce a victory that turns out to not be one or to make a shallow argument that it is protecting citizens from something. Real hard news must be pried from it or received from other more reliable sources.

The lack of honest information from the US government, coupled with the weekly doses of fear from the newsmedia, certainly contributed to the high numbers of those who thought a terrorist attack was very or somewhat likely.

Has anything changed?

If you read today's New York Times Book Review and actually believe what is written, you might think so. If you read this blog, you'd think not.

It's feature piece was "Our War on Terror" by Samantha Power, a Harvard professor, who proceeds to read the tea leaves on the future of counterterrorism as it can be determined from a grab bag of books.

Special attention is given to the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, deemed important because it was downloaded millions of times after being made available for nothing.

It's offered as a Philosopher's Stone for the war on terror, something which if taken very seriously and if followed by all of us, will transmute lead into gold. It won't be easy, the reviewer tells us. And the military can't do it all alone.

The Philosopher's Stone was the alchemist's most desired tool. Alchemist is another word for quack. In the case of the insurgency manual, think of David Petraeus as the head alchemist, the Doctor of Philosophy in the Army's alchemical academy of counter-terror.

As for deeming something worthy by its number of downloads, this being true, then the war in Iraq, the efforts to combat violent jihad, should simply be turned over to the wisdom of YouTube, no?

What the Sunday Times book review does show, rather than answers for the "War On Terror," is that while there isn't a shortage of books on what must be done, there aren't any that you need to read.

Only an idiot would think that this sentence, quoted from the Army manual, constitutes an extraoridinary bit of wisdom: "An operation that kills five insurgents is counter-productive if collateral damage leads to the recruitment of 50 more insurgents."

Yet the Times book review seems to think it's really something.

Samantha Power, whoever she is, also considers the following sentence from the counterinsurgency manual to be "breathtaking:" "Sometimes, the more force is used, the less effective it is."

She also appears to be one of the only people who can stand to spend more then twenty seconds on anything written by national security consultant Stephen "I've Found a Disturbing Lack of Attention Paid to America's Security Vulnerabilities" Flynn, aka Mr. Danger. (In pop music journalism, this is known as giving a good review to something you'd never pay a dime for because it came for free and, so, "What the hey?")

The Times book review turns over three full pages to this insipid pursuit of a global unification theory on unsere kampf. It brings to mind the old proverb, "A surfeit of words indicates a famine of intelligence."

Mr. Danger.

Winning hearts and minds.

David Petraeus -- from the archive. Caution: Supercilious.

Friday, July 27, 2007

THE TERRORIZERS: In competition with al Qaeda

Read this blog once a week and you'll always see one or two entries on how the mainstream media, the government and an assortment of terror industry experts have misrepresented or lied outright about something from the alleged war on terror.

The enemy is always plotting, capable of anything and disasters are around the corner. We escape it by the skin of our teeth. It won't happen the next time. Barely any reality is allowed.

By observation in Pasadena, the war on terror isn't anything my townsmen concern themselves over. Here, George W. Bush's war on terror doesn't exist. One can read about Michael Chertoff coming to the port of Los Angeles to christen a radiation detection device that doesn't work and hear some expert roped in from USC or RAND to say that the nation would be brought to its knees if attacked there.

Notice I wrote: "One can read."

I think most decline the offer.

Part of the laissez faire comes from the cant of terror news, delivered non-stop since 9/11. Call it burnout or perhaps something better -- an unstated realization that a lot of it must be and is horseshit delivered to gin up fear, sell newspapers, increase viewers, push your political belief that Democrats are traitors and George W. Bush is the greatest military leader of all time, etc.

Over at the Register, Thomas C. Greene, writing from Dublin, has developed a good set of essays expressing his strong dissatisfaction.

"Since 9/11, I've needed to keep a supply of sick bags handy at all times," writes Greene. "The fear mongering related to Islamic terrorists has now reached the level of terrorism itself. Wild exaggeration is the norm: every incident is a potential catastrophe; every wannabe clown is a battle-hardened jihadi; al Qaeda is everywhere and stronger than ever; Osama is ready to pounce at any moment.

"What do we call people who sow fear, hoping to intimidate the public with threats of violence to advance their own interests? What's the word I'm looking for?

"Yes, that's right; we call them terrorists. The Bush Administration certainly qualifies as a terrorist organisation: it has played the fear card for political advantage so many times, it's virtually impossible to cite an instance when they didn't exaggerate the threats facing Americans today.

"But what about organisations with an economic rather than a political motive? News organisations want to sell papers and attract viewers - and fear sells."

You'll not want to miss the rest of "I party with terrorists."

Last summer, TIME magazine and 60 Minutes terror infotained you with the scary story of al Qaeda's Mubtakkar of Death. Government men were said to be messing their pants over the danger. Why didn't you mess yours?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ULTIMATE JIHADIST'S POISONS HANDBOOK: Inshallah, Maxwell Hutchkinson made world famous

The legacy of Maxwell Hutchkinson.

Readers of your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow know I'm sick of Maxwell Hutchkinson's The Poisoner's Handbook, an 88-page pamphlet published by Loompanics of Port Townsend, WA, in 1988.

Discovered by teenagers, it was ripped into cyberspace shortly after publication and furnished the basis for many recipes for poisons found on western anarcho-websites.

In a parallel development, piecemeal portions of Hutchkinson were translated into Arabic. From there, he has been copied ad nauseum into jihadist texts which purport to inform readers, presumably always eager to kill kuffars, on how to make biological and chemical weapons.

Recovered from al Qaeda hideouts, mosques, hard disks and websites, its stupidly ugly and mean-spirited narratives form a significant part of the dirty booty considered to be inspirational training documents circulated and archived in cyberspace.

The illustration above and below come from the collection of an expert servant of the court system who works terror trials in Britain.

Jailed terrorist Younis Tsouli, aka Irhabi007, password-protected this jihadist translation of Hutchkinson, an Adobe photoshop file, by combining the initials of the Islamic Media Center and part of his handle -- "IMC007." Tsouli believed himself to be quite the secret agent.

The e-mail addresses on these files, khadija1417 and zubeiddah1417, appear to mark them as possibly branded by Oussama Kassir, a mentally unstable low-life and petty criminal fingered by the US government as an alleged henchman of Hook Hamza, the infamous London-based cleric who was found guilty of a series of race hate and soliciting to murder charges in London.

Hamza, who was not often shown in the US newsmedia, was a gift to British newspapers. They published easily hateable photos of him waving his prosthetics or stomach-churning head shots with headlines like "Hook and a Hooker: Cleric cheated on wife with whore [and] told trial 'brothels are targets.'"

While not as quotable or grotesque as Hook Hamza, Oussama Kassir boasted to the Seattle Times in 2002: "I love al-Qaida. I love Osama bin Laden."

Kassir, who has been held in Prague for the last two years, is a Swedish citizen alleged to have been involved in trying to set up a terror training camp in Bly, OR, in 1999.

However, with regards to the poison documents, authorship is somewhat unimportant in terms of the larger truth.

Jihadists continue to copy Maxwell Hutchkinson into different forms around the world.

No matter how simpleminded, it is always startling to see yet another document loaded with Hutchkinson and embellished by a variety of misguided anonymous souls. One appreciates their noxious intent and limitless ill-will while simultaneously understanding that the same boobs can bring down the country only in their minds.

Page from "gas mask" document -- above -- containing material on "poisonous mushboors" and ricin ("casteeroil"), bowdlerized and translated from Hutchkinson.

While the IMC007 document pictured above is almost entirely taken from Hutchkinson, the electronic recipe book pictured at the top of the page is a bit more extended.

Material from The Poisoner's Handbook is interspersed with other text cribbed from western websites and encyclopedias, abridged pieces quite obviously translated from English sources.

One can ascertain this because comments and text added or originated by jihadi authors are littered with invocations to Allah, his mercies and wills. The actual factual material, taken from English originals, isn't so decorated.

An expert brought by the defense in the trial of Jose Padilla and Adham Amin Hassoun was attributed as discussing this phenomenon in a story in today's Los Angeles Times.

Kamel Younis, identified as a state-certified Arabic-English translator told the US court in the Jose Padilla case: "Arabs have a way of introducing Allah in many things they say."

"[Younis] likened [such] comments to an English speaker saying 'Oh my God!' or "I hear you' ..."

It was said to be a tendency toward "flowery language" and used as "neutral filler."

From my reading of Islamic poison texts, I'm not so sure I buy it.

In these, it often seems like a psychoneurotic tic in which the anonymous author is compelled to frequently announce his bending to the will of Allah as part of a loyalty oath. Tonally, the invocations are like a kneejerk and unpious expression of pseudo-piety.

"Merciful peace be upon you with Allah's mercy and blessings," writes the author no less than three or four times in one section of the poison document spanning only a few hundred words.

"With the help of Allah almighty I will explain every detail," he continues, only delivering details which are nonsensical, like the use of spoiled tuna to cause death "in 5 minutes."

Part of a mercifully brief error-laden discussion on scombroid food poisoning, the author apparently believed tuna could be used in some manner if enough spoiled fish -- left "10-12 hours from the cold" -- were to be secured.

"Allah, we pay attention to your call to explain agricultural poisons and how to extract the deadly poison," one reads. A meaningless list of poison plants follows, including "cannabis," "opium poppy," "tobacco," "oleander," "weeds" and "fungus," among others.

"May we have the help of Allah almighty in explaining this ..." asks the supplicant, fruitlessly.

One is tempted to laugh while reading the words of someone not only dumb but also completely bonkers.

Yet such Islamist documents have been taken very seriously, presented as parts of terror cases, used as justifications that the enemy is clever and powerful while presented in the news as evidence of plots of catastrophic dimension.

For example, this same document was the featured player in a May 27, 2006 story planted in the Weekend Australian and subsequently recirculated by the US Department of Homeland Security through FEMA. (Presented as real news of a terror plot, DD linked to it on a FEMA server a few weeks ago. The agency immediately yanked its copy. Evidence of the link could not, however, be immediately erased from Google. See below.)

"Indonesian terrorists planned to attack Western targets by spreading hydrogen cyanide, a deadly gas used during the Holocaust, through the air-conditioning systems of large buildings," reported the Australian and, by proxy, DHS/FEMA.

"Details of the method of the proposed attack, designed to maximise the number of victims, were revealed in a 26-page training manual produced by members of Jemaah Islamiah, the terrorist group blamed for the Bali bombings," it continued.

It is a substantial distortion of the document which does, indeed, describe cyanide as a poison but not as part of a nascent plot.

However, the news -- passed on as it was -- is primarily an example of all-too-common dissembling on the nature of the terror threat. For the Weekend Australian, it was 500 words of terror infotainment. For the FEMA website, it was to tell users how potentially deadly Islamic bioterrorists are.

"But the plans went awry when police raided a JI safe house in the southern Philippines and discovered the training manual," continued the publication.

"The details have been revealed for the first time by Rohan Gunaratna, [a local terror expert.]"

Gunaratna was, naturally, on hand to inform "the document discussed several chemical gases, pesticides, narcotics and biological toxins. Among them were hydrogen sulfide, phosgene, chlorine and arsenic."

In terror infortainment stories published by the western mainstream newsmedia, the terror expert is always deployed as an argument from authority.

It's a practiced, smooth and shady trick in which the media organization, or the writer, dresses up a fraud as a fact. As far as DD could determine, almost the entire Weekend newstory, subsequently rebranded by DHS/FEMA as "news" on a foiled chem-bio terror plot, was a fraud.


Because it depended upon a radical misrepresentation of the jihadi poison document we're about to analyze in detail.

The pesticides portion of the jihadi document was merely a copy of a subchapter published in The Poisoner's Handbook.

Compound listings in Hutchkinson, from 1988, name di-syston, guthion, systox and phosdrin -- trade names for crop-dusting pesticides. The jihadist translation of the Hutchkinson entries for them are virtually verbatim.

"The document surveys several agents of disturbing potency and expresses considerable optimism and fascination with regard to how minuscule amounts of the respective agent are needed to kill a large number of people," continued the Weekend Australian report.

"In particular, when discussing one toxin, it said: ''30ml of the agent can kill 60 million people, God willing.'"

This section dealt with even more material taken from Hutchkinson and repeats the evergreen jihadi fascination with botox, the poison which causes botulism, and the alleged ease in which it can be made in a can filled with animal dung and meat.

"[Twelve] grams of [the poison] is enough to killing [all] human being ... and 30 mL enough of this poison to kill 60 million people ..." it reads. DD's translation, while not as smooth as the fragment published in the Weekend Australian, along with other materials mentioned in the document, marks it as either the same document or a duplicate.

"Work steps to prepare the poison: horse or cow dung, dirt and water. Fill a can with milled corn ... place over the milled corn pieces or meat ... place over the meat, dung or soil (about one and half tablespoons) ... now pour water over the dung," continues the jihadi recipe for the poison, thirty milliliters of which can kill sixty million.

"Place the can in a dark warm place for ten days. At the end you will notice a swelling in the can and small brown deposit near the lid."

Returning to The Poisoner's Handbook, page 26: "Fill a jar with corn, green beans or chopped beats. Drop in a few pieces of meat and about a tablespoon of dirt. Now pour in water..."

"Put the jar in a dark, moderately warm area for ten days," continues Hutchkinson. "At the end of this period, you should notice a bloat to the lid and small amounts of a brownish mold."

The jihadi copyist of Hutchkinson briefly deals with heroin -- a narcotic -- as a poison.

"One gram of pure heroin is sufficient to kill, preferably a heroin addict," it reads. "If the person to be killed is a heroin addict, it is such a good opportunity to make him a free gift."

It bungles Hutchkinson slightly, who maintained in 1988: "As little as one gram of heroin will kill anyone. If your target is a heroin addict, this is the perfect choice. If you are friends of the target, give him a 100 percent cut..."

Diamond dust is also a considerable poison, according to the jihadist.

"Fatal dose: less than 0.1 grams of dust of diamonds. The poisoning : If someone swallows a very simple quantity of dust of diamonds, the rippling movement of the esophagus tract causes the splinters of diamond to bury itself along the gastrointestinal tract ... the pain of this process can only be imagined ... the process and symptoms take from two months to six months ... even in the advanced stages of poisoning, the difficulty of trying to save the injured through surgery to remove fragments of diamonds is almost impossible, to be sure."

"Diamond was the preferred method of assassinations in the Renaissance."

From Hutchkinson, on page 39:

"If one ingests diamond dust, the natural peristaltic motion of the digestive tract causes the splinters of the world's hardest substance to imbed [sic] themselves along the alimentary canal ... the pain of this can only be imagined. This goes on from two to six months, until the victim is dead.

"The only way to extricate the tiny diamond splinters is surgery ... an impossible feat."

"Diamond dust was actually a rather popular means of assassination during the Renaissance."

On "phosphine gas," the jihadist informs:

"How best to use: saturate the gas in the house of the person to be killed. When he returns and opens the door he will be looking for the source of the odor ..."

Hutchkinson laughing writes: "Perhaps the best way to make a hit with phosphine is to saturate the target's house or room with the substance. Your target returns to his or her house/apartment, enters, wonders what the hell is going on, spends half a minute looking for the source...By this time, he/she has inhaled enough to suffer a few symptoms and then die."

The jihadist republishes some chemical formulae on how to produce phosphine, plucked from Hutchkison's text, embellished with some additions taken from chemistry sheets on the web.

"Scorpion poison," jihadists inform us, is much less powerful than the venom of a black widow spider "but may be sufficient for the eradication of young children and the elderly."

Even the gentle honeybee, friend to all humanity, is earmarked in this jihadist's poisons handbook. That's low.

"A former Navy sailor charged with supporting terrorism by disclosing secret information about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them also discussed attacking military personnel and recruiting stations, federal prosecutors said yesterday," reported Associated Press today.

"The sailor, Hassan Abujihaad, discussed sniper attacks on military personnel and attacks on recruitment sites, prosecutors said in Federal District Court, although they said it was unclear if he would face additional charges. Mr. Abujihaad’s lawyer, Dan LaBelle, has said there is no proof that his client disclosed the naval information."

Also known as US vs. Paul R. Hall, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow wrote about the case a few months ago, at el Reg.

Abujihaad has regularly been described as someone who was an al Qaeda collaborator while serving on the US destroyer, Benfold. The usual tale is that he described ways to attack his surface action group as it was moving into the Persian Gulf.

The original federal indictments contained quite a bit of information on Abujihaad's activities, mostly derived from e-mails from him to a British website known as Azzam. Azzam sold videos of jihadis fighting in Chechnya and the Balkans and is accused by the US government of materially aiding terrorist organizations.

Abujihaad's story is complicated and not particularly heartening, which is probably why the US newsmedia -- when covering him -- usually just resorts to the usual tall tales. It is not a victory in the war on terror although it may eventually go into the justice department's record books as one.

"Material support of terrorism and disclosing previously classified information" are the beefs in the indictment against Abujihaad, according to a government press release from March of last year. This sounded serious and the newsmedia did its usual listless job in reporting on it.

"Hassan Abujihaad, 31, is accused of supporting terrorism by disclosing secret information about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them," wrote Associated Press. "Investigators say he provided those secrets, in classified documents, to a suspected terrorism financier."

However, the actual material in the indictment is of much thinner cloth. And the nature of it is why DD now posits government prosecutors are attempting to burnish their case against him, possibly by introducing additional gossip concerning his alleged transgressions.

Abujihaad's material support of a terror organization, consisted of the accused's buying of a couple jihadi videos from Azzam in the United Kingdom and overspending by five dollars in their purchase.

In addition, he communicated sensitive information on the position of his surface action group. While examination of the mails shows they were in no way a serious threat to the US Navy, Abujihaad also included injudicious grumbling in them, inflammatory insults -- calling his superiors "scary pussies" running "around like headless chickens," criticisms which likely ensured the US government would spare no expense in bringing him to trial on terror charges.

Abujihaad's tale, a bit of a sad one, is one in which the book against, so far, does not show any serious involvement in terrorism. It is the story of a man who ordered videos and had loose lips when he should have kept his virtual mouth shut, a case of extraordinarily bad timing and even poorer judgment.

You can read the original and the pertinent government documents here at el Reg.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

U.S. INTEL AGENCIES CONCUR ON TERROR THREAT: Wouldn't you like your money back on that one?

Set a fire and an example.

"Nearly six years after the United States set out to crush al Qaeda, the terrorist network has 'regenerated key elements' of its ability to attack targets in America and is intensifying its efforts to put operatives inside the country, according to a sobering new report from US intelligence agencies," went the lead story in today's Los Angeles Times.


Depends on your point of view.

The .pdf of the sanitized National Intelligence Estimate report on whitehouse.gov wasn't quite worth the few seconds it took to download.

If you've read DD blog 2006-2007, you have a better handle on terror capabilities than anyone who would rely on such a pitilessly shallow and abridged document.

It's become quite clear that not all soldiers in jihad are very good ones. And the quality of any "training" al Qaeda provides is certainly open to question. Its reputation as a force of elite can-do-anything jihadi men is not an accurate one.

It may have some good operatives. It certainly and fortunately has a noticeable cadre of mistake-prone irregulars.

Over the past few weeks I've run a series of posts on terror plots in England.

The visible proof of failure and documents scattered across websites and captured laptops clearly indicate a few things, some very unpleasant, some heartening.

The unpleasant news is that George W. Bush's disastrous war in Iraq has inspired and will continue to inspire terror plots in the United Kingdom.

Whether nipped in the bud or failed because of shortcomings on the part of conspirators, DD has received a steady stream of mail in the past year from UK sources asserting squarely and with some authority that Bush administration policies and actions (and those of the British government under Tony Blair) in Iraq have had powerful and very negative consequences. In England, the war has become a grinding incitement, one powerful reason for a small number of young Islamic men to come together in the plotting of terror.

This has not been a subject of much discussion in the US mainstream media although it's common in English publications. There has been an absolute reluctance to wave the unpleasantness in George W. Bush's face. Not that it would do any good.

Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell also said "al Qaeda was still seeking chemical, biological and nuclear devices, but analysts do not believe the network has acquired such weapons," wrote the Times.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow coughs impolitely.

It's become baldly obvious from terror documents obtained in trial that al Qaeda and those inspired by it have quite a bit of desire for WMDs.

You've consistantly read them here and nowhere else, certainly not from National Intelligence Estimate's or daily newspapers! Yes, duh, the enemy would use such weapons if they had them. How much was paid to come up with such a nugget of nose-gold?

You've also read the authors have none of the scientific or technical savvy to even begin mounting effective development operations to get them.

And you have read that said terrorists have been inspired in their desires to get such weapons because they have read how easy it is to make them, from western sources. And unlike others more critical, skeptical or well-informed, they seem to believe everything they read from such sources.

To get this information, it has not been necessary to assemble a consensus opinion from American intelligence agencies.

Can al Qaeda cajole sufficient numbers of highly-trained scientists to go to work for them to make chemical and biological weapons in the tribal wastelands of Pakistan? Bet against.

Could they do it in England?

Bet against. However, they may be able to mount trivial efforts, hoard a packet of castor seeds, buy some noxious materials from hardware stores or the local chemist, perhaps steal reagents from a community college laboratory. It will be very hard if not impossible for them to do volume business, England not being a failed state like Iraq.

A Congressional Quarterly tipsheet encapsulated some of the received wisdoms of the day, including mine, in a graf:

"In face of terror threat warnings, 'cynical complacency is no longer a good option,' James Pinkerton insists in a Newsday op-ed urging renewal of 'old social safeguards, such as good-citizenship oaths.' As some question whether 'the war on terrorism is real - al Qaeda is convinced that it is and they're preparing for another sortie right into America's soul,' radio host Steve Yuhas states on OpinionEditorials.com. Jihadists hatch 'many plots, some of which are utter nonsense and a few of which have been carried out only to fail in everything except the generation of spectacular publicity,' George Smith weighs in The Register. How worried are you? The San Francisco Chronicle asks its readers."

We'll send you out to review some recent terror plots and trials, starting with the crazy jihadi e-mails revealing wishes to bombard Mayport, Florida.

The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock and Spencer Hsu informed American readers of it on July 7.

"Evidence introduced at the trial included transcripts of anonymous chat-room postings, including one from 2004 that read: 'We are 45 doctors and we are determined to undertake jihad and take the battle inside America,'" reported Whitlock and Hsu.

"The message referred to using six Chevrolet GT vehicles and three fishing boats and blowing up gasoline tanks with rocket-propelled grenades.

"As a target, the posting mentioned a U.S. naval base and related strip clubs, singling out the now-retired aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy," continued the Post.

It was oh-so-amusing how those reporters and editors at the Post neglected to mention the jihadi e-mailer who generated the plan, discussing his know-how, among other rib-ticklers.

"[Our] experience of preparing car-bombs is zero," wrote our determined enemy.

See it here.

Terror news infotainment hijinks by Newsweek.

The failed chapatti flour bombers.

Terrorist Dhiren Barot follows the will of Allah.

Burning Man: Jihadi expert on nothing comes up short.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A YEAH RIGHT GIRL: Obit -- Kelly Johnson, Girlschool, 1958-2007

Twenty-five when she made the cover of Guitar Player magazine in '83. Oww! Flash a grin in leopard skin!

Kelly Johnson, lead guitarist for the Brit heavy metal band Girlschool, has died of cancer after battling the disease for six years.

Johnson made a number of records -- none of them in the least bit disappointing -- with Girlschool from 1980-84, returning briefly for a reunion album a few years ago.

The Virgin Encyclopedia of Heavy Rock maintains, rather remarkably, that upon leaving Girlschool, Johnson "took up sign language to work with the deaf." If true, it is a wonderful anecdote and balance to life in a heavy metal band.

The International Encyclopedia of Hard Rock & Heavy Metal -- an out-of-print tome (one you simply must have should you see it at a yard sale), not nearly as ponderous as its title would seem to indicate, writes emphatically:

"At first Girlschool were regarded as just another 'girl' group for leerers but soon they established a musical ability which silenced the chauvinists."

Johnson and her bandmates had a hit single in the UK -- "Please Don't Touch" -- in the guise of Headgirl, a combined act with Motorhead ca. 1980. A couple of singles from their Hit & Run LP charted to a lesser degree in 1981.

DD bought Girlschool LPs, records of imported foot-stomping yell-along tunes for louts and loutettes, at a dingy Northampton, PA, store most notable for its collection of English punk rock. It was there I also found the "Yeah, Right" single, a song in which the girls of Girlschool wearily and boozily responded to the warnings of a nagging parent with the shouted title.

While this version of Girlschool was deemed too tough-looking for the American market and suffered as a consequence in promotion, it had a vigorous following at the club level, fans who can be heard loud and clear on the 1998 CD, Live on the King Biscuit Flower Hour.

Featuring Johnson on guitar, the CD is an hour-long performance of the gutsy, wildly enthusiastic rock 'n' metal the band was known for.

Although DD can't be certain, Johnson may have been the first woman hard rocker to get a full cover out of Guitar Player magazine. And while the heading "Women in Rock" has long been a cliche clubbed to death while doing service to pop music marketing, in 1983 it wasn't stale.

Perhaps the nicest thing one can be remembered for is that your music inspired others to perform it. Catchy and electrically bruising, Kelly Johnson made you want to pick up your guitar and play.

Girlschool homepage.

Frequently, it is good for morale and the critical facility to not only view the jihadis and their desires to kill "naked women," "pigs" and "kuffars" with contempt, not only because of the crabbed and evil worldview, but also because of their lack of practical initiative and know-how.

This is not an issue that has been served at all by the mainstream newsmedia.

Primarily, stories on terror plotters and plots deal only with how fearsome our enemies are.

Generally written to furnish only the worst or most frightening details, they have become an accepted way of reporting the "war on terror" out of factual context.

Rectification of this becomes easier to do if one can reliably see jihadi documents and electronic mail. And that is one of the salient reasons for the existence of this blog.

Today, I'll ask you to read of the e-mail plot by forty-some "doctors" alleged to be jihadi men seemingly dreaming about sinking the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy and bombarding the town of Mayport, Florida.

The determined jihadi men would use six car bombs to hit EIGHT targets, including nightclubs where "naked women" dance so that additional casualties, "50-80 whores," could be generated.

"Allah willing," of course.

The evil plan was revealed during the recently concluded UK terror trial of Younes Tsouli, aka irhabi007, the so-called godfather of al Qaeda's "cyber-jihad."

The plot was subsequently passed on, out of context, in some of Britain's more idiotic newspapers, which like their American peers, use only the scariest bits of news from the war on terror.

It was also published by the Washington Post's Craig Whitlock and Spencer Hsu on July 7. The newspaper was certifiably reprehensible in its reporting, omitting glaring details for the sake of scare.

"Evidence introduced at the trial included transcripts of anonymous chat-room postings, including one from 2004 that read: 'We are 45 doctors and we are determined to undertake jihad and take the battle inside America,'" reported Whitlock and Hsu.

"The message referred to using six Chevrolet GT vehicles and three fishing boats and blowing up gasoline tanks with rocket-propelled grenades.

"As a target, the posting mentioned a U.S. naval base and related strip clubs, singling out the now-retired aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy," continued the Post.

Amusing how the reporters and editors of the Post missed out on how the jihadis planned to hit more targets that they had carbombs for, is it not?

Another rib-tickler, one in which the jihadi author discusses his know-how, is also conveniently missing from the Post's account.

"[Our] experience of preparing car-bombs is zero," writes the jihadi.

Readers now know they don't have to just take their friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow's word for it.

They can surf out to my analysis at the Reg here, read the details and actually download a copy of the transcript of the jihadi plot from the trial, hosted here at DD dot com.

Die laughing. (Don't forget to read the comments!)

You can fool some of the people some of the time WaPo.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Pitiless annoying person with plastic guitar at club in Manhattan. Sneakers and tatts more cost effective.

Two of the most fabulously irritating things I've been able to count on at the BestBuy in Pasadena are the Guitar Hero console game and the store's greeters.

BestBuy greeters are invariably the most obese and outsized thug the chain can hire, tasked with the job of rushing up to you upon entry to deliver a standardized salutation. The object isn't to put you in a good frame of mine but to discourage you from shoplifting -- if such was your nefarious plan.

Retailers were sold on the idea years ago that the employment of greeters shakes the confidence and breaks the concentration of shoplifters, thus improving the bottom line.

However, the greeter doesn't follow you around the store or park in a place that interferes with browsing the goods.

That function was reserved for the Guitar Hero game, an installation of which was placed near the music department. For well over a year, DD found Guitar Hero and the flies it attracted unavoidable, significantly diminishing the amount of time I was willing to spend in the CD department shopping for new titles. Since I buy a lot of CDs, you'd think record companies, hurting for sales as they are, could have done something about it. It's my extremely well-informed opinion that if you actually like Guitar Hero, you must subconsciously detest guitar rock.

At BestBuy, Guitar Hero in-store players were the doggedly pathetic and inept adult loser or child/teen in-training to be one. While such people might be embarrassed to be caught fake-wailing on a plastic toy in their bedroom, the arrival of Guitar Hero ensured that what should have modestly remained in the privacy of the home wouldn't.

So naturally, the New York Times' SundayStyles section, one carefully designed to search out only the most annoying people in a nation with no shortage of annoying, found a bunch of Guitar Hero players. (And placed them right next to a feature on another really annoying person, the unfortunate looking skin-headed pornstar turned Bible-beater, Rod Fontana/Boyer.)

"Kevin Doyle and Ivan Wine strode to the front of River Gods and picked up the [toy] guitars with the confidence of guys who had played this bar and those instruments many times before," wrote Katie Zezma, fudging the scene a bit for "Virtual Frets, Actual Sweat: The New Karaoke."

"With their wives watching from a nearby table, Mr. Doyle -- a software consultant in a Dewar's Scott T-shirt, and Mr. Wine -- a graphic designer with an unruly goatee and, strapped on the [toy] guitars ..."

"But the two men were not showboating. They were actually concentrating, biting their lips and staring ... at the screen ... When Mr. Doyle and Mr. Wine finished the last riff, the audience whooped and cheered."

"We rocked the song," said one of the nerds.

Sure they did.

For the next few hundred words or so, the Times reporter tries to get the reader to believe there's something groovy going on, not just a variation on a reason to stay away from certain bars where middle-class patrons become distraught if not allowed to sing very badly or do a pantomime of something they've seen on TV.

Playing Guitar Hero, DD could not escape noticing at BestBuy, isn't at all like actually playing the guitar. Playing a musical instruments requires an ear. Guitar Hero doesn't. It takes a variation on computer game click-and-twitch play, your ability rating upward the faster you can do such things according to the system's interior clock.

Although people who don't do real guitar might not be expected to know it, there's an unduplicatable pleasure one gets from playing an instrument made from a nice piece of wood. Your ears and fingers become a most intimate and emotionally satisfying connection between the instrument and the melodies or noise which must ensue.

In fact, many of the best times which come from the playing of an electric guitar arrive in complete solitude. Even the poorest players will tell you that.

Near the end of the piece, the Times seems to vaguely get this, finding an actual person who plays guitar -- a music student -- to furnish his opinion.

"It's like making love to a rubber doll," said the fellow.

DD thought even that a bit generous.

In terms of pricing, Guitar Hero isn't that much of a bargain compared to actual rock bottom entry-level guitar prices.

With a Guitar Hero bundle going for about eighty dollars, it's just a couple tens more than a guitar made in a slave-labor country on the southeast Asian rim and shipped to the port of Los Angeles in a cardboard box. While these guitars are certainly sh--, they are significantly less sh-- than phony pieces with a few pastel-colored plastic buttons.

(Sidebar: The US and Japan used to make s--- cheap guitars for beginners. I had two. However, labor costs being what they are in civilized countries, the function was outsourced. While you can certainly still buy an American made guitar that is awful -- search pawn shops and eBay -- they are no longer even remotely cheap. Therefore, the need for the US industry to outsource to slave-labor proxies.)

In any case, it is a timeworn tradition that almost everyone starts on a guitar that's a piece of crap. Whether it comes in a cardboard box from BestBuy with an alarm clock-sized practice amp or off a peg at a pawn shop, the investment which gets you into the real game isn't much. Unlike Guitar Hero, it will last a lifetime if you let it.

Gibson SG -- Les Paul Standard model -- like one played by DD. Is the real thing fun? You bet it's fucking fun.

If you enjoyed this post, you'll sure like Rock camp for kids and adults!

"The US business community is under threat from Islamic 'cyberjihadis' and New Zealand is also at risk," claimed electronic Pearl Harbor shill for New Zealand's Computerworld magazine.

"...[The] sceptical George Smith says people spreading news of electronic jihadists exaggerate the threat to attract attention to themselves and sell a product or service."

“It’s business-motivated,” DD told the magzine.

"Cyber-jihad" has become the substitute-term-du-jour" for claims functionally identical to those made about "electronic Pearl Harbor" for the last decade.

"[In] March 2008, New Zealand will join the international Cyber Storm 2 cyber security simulation, aimed at testing our critical infrastructure, including utilities, central government and telecommunications networks," reported the magazine. "It is organised by the US Department for Homeland Security, and also involving Australia, Canada and the United States."

See if you can spot the humorous error in my identifier here.

The electronic Pearl Harbor men.

Friday, July 13, 2007

TERROR NEWS INFOTAINMENT: How a journalist shovels it

"To a post-9/11 lexicon of phrases like 'threat level' and 'homeland security,' we need to add another: food defense," wrote Newsweek's Sharon Begley recently. As part of a new "science" blog run by the magazine, Begley comes late to the party on the allegedly pressing menace of agroterrorism.

Since she is behind the curve, Begley immediately emits a number of howlers which would be enough to get someone dismissed or busted down a few ranks in a profession with higher standards.

"Suspects in last month's failed car bombings in London and Glasgow, for instance, include physicians, a reminder that terrorists can have biomedical know-how," she wrote, insinuating terrorists might have a capability not at all self-evident in the failed carbomb plot.

Begley is not alone in use of this irritating trick and we'll get to some more fine detail on it in a moment.

In the meantime, the reporter's assertion asks the reader to entertain the idea that "doctors" in the plot -- never mind that they weren't all doctors, jihadis so inept they parked a carbomb in a no-parking zone where it was towed away -- show that al Qaeda might have some capability with regards to biological attacks.

This latter idea has been regularly critiqued as simplistic and dumb, by me on this blog as well as writings on the Federation of American Scientists' website and at GlobalSecurity.Org.

On July 3, a small company supported by US government monies for defenses against bioterror used the same tactic as Begley.

Burping out a press release claiming "Presence of UK Physicians in London Bomb Plot May Mean a Bioweapon is Next," a small biopharmaceutical company's CEO tried to attach the recent failed UK terror plot to a reason to pay attention to his firm.

"The attempted bomb attacks this week in London allegedly by five doctors foreshadows a more dangerous world, according to David Wright, CEO of PharmAthene, a leading biodefense company that develops and commercializes biomedical products to counter chemical and biological weapons," read the company's press release. (Thanks to RMS.)

“Given their training in life sciences, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to believe that they may soon graduate from vehicle bombs to bioweapons,” it continued.

It is a desparate bid for attention to claim that people who couldn't make carbombs work are ready to move into bioweapons development. And that, therefore, your company -- which coincidentally is trying to develop experimental drugs for chemical and biodefense -- is ideally positioned to help.

Yet one expects this manner of behavior from businesses and academics working to attach themselves to the teat of biodefense spending.

It is, however, a bit more odious when the same rubbish comes from a journalist at Newsweek. Since your standard reader can't be expected to know the fine details on a subject, let alone what intelligence has actually been gained from terror documents, they're easy to roll by argument from authority.

"It is 'simple,' says the FDA, 'for one person to intentionally contaminate the food supply and have a major impact,'" writes Begley, invoking a government agency and regurgitating a variation of the meme that terrorism, in this case a biological or chemical attack on the food supply, is easy.

What jihadis and al Qaeda have been shown to have is a strong desire for a capability in biological and chemical weaponry but little or no scientific acumen. And their interest in these has been significantly whetted by regular declarations from American sources that making such weapons is easy. One simply reads it from their documents.

The vast majority of jihadi documents examined by this author are extremely poor (some are only very poor) in the actual information they contain. Principally, they stem from garbage-anarcho literature published by the American neo-Nazi/Survivalist fringe in the Eighties. A few others are uninteresting cut-and-pastes from western websites and short pieces from the occasional introductory book on chemistry or microbiology.

In the 90's these materials began to be copied into Arabic as part of a diffuse project to assemble terrorism materials into an encyclopedia-of-war for the digital domain.

Some of it was done "possibly in the United States," according to a colleague who has studied the matter professionally. The result has been over one hundred .pdf files describing various potential methods of terrorism. Among these are a significant number of tracts dealing with biological and chemical weapons.

However, the technical quality of the CB materials was and is extremely low. The jihadi literature is also characterized by duplication. The same sources are copied over and over and over with revisions being only informationally insignificant additions. These are promptly distributed on the web.

The ubiquity of these terror materials, while indicative of a desire for chemical and biological weapons, has never pointed toward a capability. And it has exposed as a canard the assertion that all terrorists have to do is to download from the Internet to gain such a capability.

"Food-defense experts say the list of foods in which an attack could have what FDA calls 'catastrophic consequences' begins with those made in large batches; poisoning a 5,000-gallon kettle of pasta sauce is easier and would cause more widespread harm than poisoning 40,000 individual bottles of artisanal honey," writes Begley for Newsweek.

"The list of chemicals that could poison food is almost endless. Among microbes, the most easily obtainable and pathogenic include salmonella, E. coli O157 and Clostridium botulinum."

In this instance, Begley throws together apples and oranges, as well committing a couple of factual errors.

Salmonellosis and botulism are forms of naturally occuring food poisoning.

However, the actual instances of human efforts to duplicate salmonellosis and botulism are virtually zero.

With regards to salmonellosis as a weapon, the only case which can be cited is that of an outbreak in The Dalles, Oregon, in 1984. In that case, salad bars at local restaurants were contaminated with Salmonella typhimurium.

As for Clostridium botulinum, there are no cases of the production and use of botulism toxin in such a manner. Indeed, production of botox has only been in the domain of national bioweapons programs and -- in one very special case -- a specialty lab in California.

The specialty lab, which makes batches of a variety of biochemicals of interest to biodefense science, allowed unscrupulous quacks from the cosmetic surgery industry to purchase and divert purified botulinum toxin for resale and use as a knock-off botox drug. The only company with a license to sell botox as a drug in the United States is Allergan. (The entire story.)

In addition, as Milton Leitenberg and I wrote on the subject a couple of years ago, "Any strain of the bacterium which produces botulinum toxin won't do [in weapons production]."

"Many strains of Clostridium botulinum in nature produce very little or no toxin. Finding the right one in nature out of literally 600 or 700 strains can take a long time. For example, the task took the pre-1969 US offensive BW program many man-years of work by highly trained and competent professionals."

Clostridium botulinum in the service of terrorists, contrary to Begley's Newsweek piece, is not "easily obtainable."

No such piece as Begley's is complete without another red-herring to chase after.

These usually take the form of another specialty chemical or toxin, usually said to be easy to use by terrorists.

"Particularly attractive agents are those that take many days to cause illness, such as the mushroom toxin alpha-amanitin," writes the journalist.

Specifically, Begley isn't even particularly accurate. A widely distributed medical journal paper from 1976 on mushroom poisoning -- which is what is meant when amanitins, peptide poisons are mentioned -- states: "A. phalloides-type mushrooms produce life-threatening reactions 6-24 hr after ingestion."

DD would beat Begley over the head with this further but it is sufficient to say it is not immediately obvious upon reading the paper how poison mushrooms can be fashioned into a weapon which significantly threatens the food supply. (From "Diagnosis and treatment of Amanita phalloides-type mushroom poisoning" by Charles Becker, et al, 1976, West. J. Med., 125: 100-109.)

But why alpha-amanitin, anyway?

Begley vaguely mentions FDA concern over it. We imagine it possible someone whispered it in her ear during a phone conversation or she read something on it from the web without understanding where the threat assessment came from. Or it's possible it just sprouted in her head unbidden -- like a mushroom.

With knowledge born of experience, your friendly GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow knows that US assessments of terror potentials have often been driven by texts, really dodgy ones, found in the hands of jihadis.

Indeed, jihadi poison documents contain short sections on poisoning by mushroom.

"Poisonous mashroom," reads one in my possession. Another, functionally identical and part of a batch of documents retrieved from the irhabi007/Younis Tsouli terror trial in London, addresses "Poisonous Mush Boors."

If one looks at "poisonous mashroom" -- the jihadi shows no technical knowledge. It is in no way useful in an attack on the nation's food. The jihadi spells the poison in question wrong twice: "amantin" and "amanetin."

"There are other types of [mushroom which] must show some symptoms of 8-6 hours ... starting with in the form of pain, nausea and vomiting [which] then disappear after two hours the patient will feel good and vibrant and after two to three days the patient feels the same symptoms strongly [and] die," reads a text translated by DD.

It is almost a straight copy -- discounting some reshuffling and the horrible jihadi syntax -- from Maxwell Hutchkinson's The Poisoner's Handbook.

Published in 1988 in the US by Loompanics, it is a thin volume at 88 pages. This apparently made The Poisoner's Handbook ideal for copying and translating in cyberspace. It is also a frankly terrible thing, filled with errors and only useful, in a terroristic sense, in its haphazard naming of compounds and mixtures which are poisonous.

Under "Poisonous Mushrooms," Hutchkinson writes:

"Symptoms do not take effect for six to eight hours ... The target will then experience some ... pain, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms will go away after a couple of hours, and your target will feel fine for the next two or three days. Then symptoms reappear much more strongly and your target will die."

Hutchkinson's book doesn't discuss how to find poisonous mushrooms or even include pictures.

"There is a tendency in some books to overrate the lethality ...," he writes. "One or two of these mushrooms will probably kill anybody, but don't expect the amount to be poisonous enough to wipe out a village."

If you have followed this blog over the past year, you have come to know that The Poisoner's Handbook has become one of the most copied and downloaded books in the world. Seemingly everywhere, its scraggly advice on poisons has been taken apart and embellished upon by jihadis. It has become wearisome translating it back into English over and over. This irritation is compounded by the fact that it has influenced US terror assessments of al Qaeda/holy warrior capability.

Since Hutchkinson does not discuss where to find poisonous mushrooms, the unknown jihadi author of "Poisonous mashroom" does.

"[Cemeteries] and especially those places animals urinate, especially dogs," he writes.

Sharon Begley's terror info-tainment. At Newsweek.

From the archives: Hutchkinson and The Poisoner's Handbook.
DAILY MUSHROOM CLOUD: One week after Harvard bore, the bore from the American Enterprise Institute

There can never be enough warnings about terrible nuclear attacks.

"The recent car-bomb threats in Britain were stark reminders that terrorists continue to probe for ways to attack us -- and not every attempt will fail or be repelled," writes Norman Ornstein in today's Washington Post.

With it, Ornstein proudly joins the ranks of the small army of crushingly repetitive bores who exist to pump newspapers opinion pages full of warnings about terrible things for which only they have solutions.

While the clownish car-bombers were only successful in setting one of themselves lethally on fire and placing one weapon-of-choice in a no-parking zone where it was promptly towed away, this tedious man employs the tried and true methods of a half dozen other pundits. Given a convenient news item, use it as a springboard for one of your terror disaster bete noires.

"Consider the worst-case scenario: a suitcase nuclear attack at a presidential inauguration, with the outgoing and incoming president and vice president, most of Congress, and the Supreme Court present; the outgoing Cabinet scheduled to leave office; and no incoming Cabinet members yet confirmed," Ornstein writes.

"There would be chaos," Ornstein continues, deadening and obvious, with "no clear president to take over, probably many Al Haig wannabes announcing that they were in charge, no quorum to reconstitute Congress, no court to sort out the conflicting claims."

However, Norman has an answer. All Daily Mushroom Clouders do. Last week, the answer was Graham Allison's "Three No's."

This week: "In the aftermath of Sept. 11, I wrote a series of pieces pointing out the vacuum in governance that could be created by another attack. I helped create a Continuity of Government Commission ... "

Good boy, Norman. Don't break your arm patting youself on the back.

Word to the Washington Post editorial page. We've upped our standards. Up yours.

Norman J. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2007, he was named "America's hottest pundit" by Clissandra Tyler-Chenoweth, fashion and style editor at Washington Lobbyist and Staff Worker magazine.

America's Hottest Pundit at the WaPo.

Last week: Mushroom Clouder wins Fonebone Award.

Daily Mushroom Cloud archive, Pt. 1.

Daily Mushroom Cloud archive, Pt. 2.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

THE CURSE OF DHIREN BAROT: 'Dirty Bomb Vulnerabilities' report and Congressmen cite Barot's smoke detector plan as illustrative example of al Qaeda desire and capability

"Congressional investigators set up a bogus company with only a postal box and within a month obtained a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that allowed them to buy enough radioactive material for a small 'dirty bomb,'" read a story on A11 in today's Los Angeles Times.

Today the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released "Dirty Bomb Vulnerabilities."

Put together as a staff report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, it is described as part of a bipartisan investigation, ongoing since 2003, "into US government efforts to prevent a nuclear or radiological attack on US interests."

"In addition," it reads, "PSI has [with the assistance of the Government Accounting Office], probed certain vulnerabilities in the US government's practices and procedures for issuing licenses to possess radiological materials."

All well and good.

However, it's perfectly obvious the war on terror has set a precedent in the misuse, by authorities, of news about dangers to the United States.

Time and time again, government men and experts cite examples of terror plots as justifications for their reasoning, their policies and their actions. But when the details of such things are examined closely, they often simply don't hold up.

And it is not confined to national nausea-inducing whoppers like the reasons for attacking Iraq.

From top to bottom in war-on-terror threat assessment, there has been a chronic distortion and twisting of information on terror plots to fit various agendas.

These agendas can be political, business-oriented, or simply to lend a handy reason for ratcheting up security another notch and silencing debate.

It reveals a steady practice -- sometimes corrupt and intentional, sometimes simply the product of a combination of laziness and ignorance -- that too often completely ignores disagreeable and complicated collections of facts which get in the way of a premise or a story-line on the presence of terror capability.

What results is not risk assessment but a cherry-picking of headlines from the news to support various flavors of it's-a-scary-world and we're working to fix it for you.

For one very new example, let's take a look at the Senate/PSI/GAO report.

"Dirty bombs pose an ongoing threat that the United States must be prepared to counter," reads the beginning of its "Executive Summary."

The report then goes on to cite two examples from the newsmedia.

The first is a very brief piece from the Associated Press in 2006: "Al Qaeda in Iraq Beckons Nuclear Scientists."

It was short news story on an audiotape released in Iraq, one in which a terror leader in that country called on nuclear scientists to join the fight. It was not a grand and detailed description of a capability but a vague request for technical assistance in making weapons, one apparently never repeated.

The 20-minute tape also included exhortations to begin kidnapping people.

While it was an insignificant item, worse was the Senate subcommittee's use of a story published by TIME magazine in 2004 entitled "London's Dirty Bomb Plot."

"...[Would-be] terrorists arrested in London in August 2004 reportedly sought to construct a crude radiological dirty bomb," reads the report.

And so the cracked plans of Dhiren Barot were again introduced into a terror assessment and vulnerability study in order to bolster arguments contained therein.

Readers will try not to gag when their friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow shows them facts from the war on terror have once again been edited out of all thinking.

Barot's stupid and unworkable plans for dirty bombs -- there really is no other honest way to describe them -- included using thousands and thousands and thousands of smoke detectors. Another plan for a radiological attack involved throwing used exit signs containing tiny amounts of the radioisotope of hydrogen -- tritium, into buildings.

Indeed, Dhiren Barot never made any dirty bombs; he just had fanciful and nonsensical blueprints for them. And these plans were released by London's Metropolitan Police under the heading of Operation Rhyme late last year. These plans, as .pdf files taken from a seized laptop, are now hosted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.

However, back in 2004, TIME's David Zagarin and a colleague wrote an exciting and breathless tale of terror nipped in the bud and this is what the Congressional subcommittee chose to cherry-pick from the historical narrative.

Zagarin's sources were anonymous -- "senior US law enforcement officials." They were perhaps also in no position to comment accurately.

"Reports on the British investigation, now circulating among U.S. law-enforcement agencies, assert that the group was trying to construct a crude radiological dirty bomb," TIME intoned.

"The arrests turned up a cache of household smoke detectors, which the British suspect the group wanted to cannibalize for their minute quantities of americium-241, a man-made radioactive chemical."

Barot was not much of a man of firm action and at the time he was arrested by British authorities there was little or no material evidence against him. It was only later that his electronic journals were seized.

"Officials tell TIME it's extremely unlikely that enough americium could be harvested from smoke detectors to create a device potent enough to inflict radiation sickness, let alone kill people. But others argue that spewing even a small amount of radioactive material into a crowded stadium or subway station could trigger sensitive radiation sensors, incite panic and cause long-lasting contamination."

The Congressional report did serve a small purpose in pointing out that US government employees posing as a dummy company were able to obtain -- without inspection -- and alter an NRC license for the purchase of industrial moisture density gauges containing small amounts of radioactive materials.

On the other hand, in its citation of Dhiren Barot's dirty bomb plot, the investigation and framers of it revealed a complete lack of interest in actually putting its vulnerability study into the context of real intelligence on the capability of the subject cited.

Instead, the usual "it's not a matter of if, but when" thinking seemed to be the order of the day.

"The former head of Britain's MI-5 intelligence has said 'it is only a matter of time' before a dirty bomb strikes a country in the west," read one statement by Senator Susan Collins.

Senator Daniel Akaka also invoked Barot, taking scary words for effect from a common news story on the case.

Akaka: "I would like to remind the subcommittee of an another al Qaeda operative, Dhiren Barot, who told a British court in May about his plans to attack the UK and US using a dirty bomb comprised of 'A few grams of cobalt 60 with several pounds of explosives ... enough to close off an area the size of Manhattan.'"

Akaka gets the context of this quote wrong and also misrepresents it.

From Barot's journal: "A few grams of cobalt 60 with several pounds of explosives are enough to close an area the size of Manhattan."

However, Barot concludes immediately: "Another problem with cobalt is in its retrieval."

At this point, since Barot feels he cannot get cobalt-60 and that it is too dangerous to handle, anyway, he goes on to recommend making the dirty bomb from smoke detectors.

Although Barot seems to have an inkling that this will not work, "Americium [the radioisotope present in minute quantity in a smoke detector] meets the criteria I have set."

"Availability -- smoke alarms are available from most stores..."

In other words, the facts about Dhiren Barot's so-called dirty bombs weren't important, just the impression that they have something to do with what the Congrssional investigative team was trying to show.

In fact, Dhiren Barot's dirty bomb plot -- the one that wouldn't work -- required no purchase of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license through a dummy company, "smoke alarms [being] available from most stores..." in the words of its author.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission acknowledged that more checking was needed in [its] licensing ... " read the Times story. "We've fixed the problem," said the NRC's commissioner, Edward McGaffigan, for the news article.

"It is clear that terrorists are interested in using a dirty bomb to wreak havoc in this country," reads the Senate report near its end. "[It] could be a 'nightmare scenario.'"

However, it is also abundantly clear, from reading the journals of Dhiren Barot, that his interest in dirty bombs was something of a consequence of reading the writings of experts in the United States who have been stating for years that they are easy things to make -- not a reflection of his ability to duplicate such claims in real life.

Dhiren Barot's dirty bomb plot.

The files of Dhiren Barot.

Senate hearing: Dirty Bomb Vulnerabilities.

Monday, July 09, 2007

CHAPATTI FLOUR GANG CONVICTED: Jihadi flour-and-peroxide boobs sent over

Failed chapatti flour and peroxide bomb from 2005 looked more like your breakfast bowl of mush after it fell to the kitchen floor. Acted liked it, too.

Almost two years after failed bomb attacks sent shudders through London on July 21, 2005, four men were convicted today in the case," wrote the New York Times a few minutes ago.

"In court today, four men — Muktar Said Ibrahim, 29; Hussain Osman, 28; Yassin Omar, 26; and Ramzi Mohammed, 25; all immigrants from the Horn of Africa — were found guilty of conspiracy to murder in the attempted bombings," it continued.

"Mr. Ibrahim, described by prosecutors as the leader of the group, traveled to Sudan in 2003 and to Pakistan in 2004 to train at terror camps, prosecutors said ..."

"It is not clear why the explosives failed to detonate, the prosecution said during the six-month trial," wrote reporter Alan Cowell.

More than likely, answers your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow, because the "bomb-makers" were another collection of stupid men, in contravention of the usual received wisdom that jihadists are Islamo-MacGyvers, always well-trained, efficient, smart and capable of whipping up a batch of death from anything.

"The homemade bombs contained a mixture of chapatti flour, used to make unleavened bread, and hydrogen peroxide," wrote the newspaper.

During the trial, the prosecution presented a case in which the incompetent plans of the Londonistan bombers were scientifically viable.

In the flour and peroxide bomber case, prosecution took pains to convince that the bombs, which fizzled, were deadly. In this, a variety of experts were trotted out to make statements to point in this general direction although they were never particularly convincing, except as arguments from authority, as to how or why cobbled-together soggy things consisting of flour and an indeterminate concentration of store bought hydrogen peroxide would be so.

A senior case officer at the Forensics Explosives Laboratory in Kent, tested samples [of the mess pictured above] and attested "It was comparable to the gelignite and the TNT ...These are both high explosives as well."

Another witness was brought to attest to the chemistry savvy of one of the bombers.

He flunked an introductory chemistry course, it was said, and in our nuts world of anti-terror work, instead of this being evidence of a lazy dunce, a contributing and rather obvious reason as to why plans might have failed, it was portrayed as the opposite.

From January of this year, the BBC reported:

"Ann Obatomi, [one of the terrorist's] chemistry teacher at Enfield College, told the court that when the student had taken the course, the syllabus included rates of reaction and 'looking at the effects of temperature, the use of catalysts, to increase the rate of reaction'.

" 'They would find out if they increase the concentration, that would increase the rate,' she said."

"The court was told that Mr. Omar took four hours of chemistry a week but at the end of the academic year, in summer 1999, he failed the course as his attendance tailed off."

In the counter-to-common-sense world of terror assessment, failing an introductory chemistry course at the equivalent of a community college is evidence that you're a mastermind.

In any case, the Chapatti Flour Gang serves as another stinging-to-al-Qaeda piece of evidence that the terror organization and those inspired by it do not commonly make the best of operatives and foot soldiers, contrary to the mythology embraced by talking heads and politicians in the mainstream news media.

And such people certainly do not constitute any part of a reason to continue in the pulverization of the failed state of Iraq, or the trashing of a nation's good reputation because of the empty-headed religious belief that if al Qaeda isn't fought there, they'll come to overthrow us here.

Update: "In the trial [of the Chapatti Flour Gang] that ended today, the jury said it was not able to reach a verdict on [two remaining defendants] — Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 34, and Adel Yahya, 24," wrote. the New York Times. "During the trial, Mr. Asiedu, who was accused by prosecutors of dumping his back-pack of explosives in a park, turned against the other defendants." Adel Yahya was not in Britain at the time of the failed bombings.

Peter Clarke, "[London's] most senior counterterrorism police officer," issued a statement pooh-poohing the idea that the failed bombers only wanted to "protest the war in Iraq."

“These men obviously set out to replicate the horrors that had been inflicted on Londoners on July 7, 2005,” read the statement.

“The convictions show that the jury rejected the blatant, indeed ridiculous, lies told by these defendants in a futile attempt to escape justice. These men are dedicated terrorists who no longer pose a danger to the public ... "

The jury, apparently, handed in a more nuanced verdict that was desired. The Times, therefore, called the results of the trial "inconclusive."

Your GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow reckons the jury had it right. The incompetent fashioning of the failed chapatti flour and peroxide bombs was too complicated and tortured to be the work of war-protesting hoaxers.

Dud chapatti flour bomb with nuts and bolts taped to it. Note where detonator was scooped out by bomb squad.

Why the Chapatti Flour Gang's bombs were a joke.

The Chapatti Flour Gang bomb chemist who flunked out of community college.

The Chapatti Flour Gang listened to kuffars -- Meatloaf and Michael Bolton. Bloody hell!? No CD's of Karaoke Jihad: Sing-along with Ayman?

Friday, July 06, 2007

DAILY MUSHROOM CLOUD: Harvard bore pimps book, just like the three or four hundred other books on nuclear terror

July 2 had been a slow day in the editorial office of the Baltimore Sun, so Fenster felt the need to cut his losses. "Just slot that crap from the Harvard guy and we'll head out early," he told a lieutenant. "No one's gonna read it anyway."

"... [Yet] the danger of a nuclear attack by terrorists is not only very real but disturbingly likely," wrote Graham Allison deadeningly for the Balto paper on July 2.

"To assess the threat of nuclear terrorism, it is necessary to answer five questions," lectured the former Pentagon bureaucrat.

While selling a book, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, one nobody would open unless compelled to by a job, Allison may have been thinking: "We have to be right on this everyday. The nuclear terrorists only have to be right once."

"Who could be planning a nuclear terrorist attack?" he mused.

Answering his own piquant question, Allison replied: "Al-Qaida remains a formidable enemy with clear nuclear ambitions."

Going on to argue from a higher -- though fabulously discredited -- source, Allison continued, "Former CIA Director George J. Tenet wrote in his memoirs that al-Qaida's leadership has remained 'singularly focused on acquiring WMD' - weapons of mass destruction - and willing to 'pay whatever it would cost to get their hands on fissile material.'"

A wonderful talker gifted with the art of telling nothing but that which has already been heard one thousand times or more, Allison posed another question he would take it upon himself to answer.

"What nuclear weapons could terrorists use?

"They could acquire an existing bomb from one of the nuclear weapons states or construct an elementary nuclear device from highly enriched uranium made by a state."

Allison wished people would buy his book but knew that since he'd placed twenty-fifth in Pentagon Political Appointee & Office Worker magazine's annual list of the fifty worst writers peddling rote stuff off their experience as part of the defense department, it was highly unlikely.

So he came up with a catchy hook on which to hang his shopworn story.

"There is a feasible, affordable checklist of actions that, if taken, would shrink the risk of nuclear terrorism to nearly zero," he wrote. "I have proposed a strategy for a no-loose-nukes agenda under a 'Doctrine of Three No's. '"

Wouldn't you like to read it?

No. No. And no.

FoneBone Prize winnerGraham Allison was an assistant secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton and is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. His 2006 essay, "Deterring Kim Jong Il," won the Fonebone Prize, an award given out by Senior Appointee Weekly for the national opinion piece most likely to have been written by a computer program and two editorial interns at the Washington Post.

The remarkable archive of Daily Mushroom Clouds at DD blog.

Also see here. Wow, that's a lot of mushroom cloud predictions!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

DHIREN BAROT AND THE WILL OF ALLAH: If I should prove to be feeble-minded, it's God's will, said the terrorist

One of the most irritating facets of the hype surrounding news of the failed doctors-as-terror-clowns carbomb plot, is the recirculation of the mythology of Dhiren Barot.

Barot, locked up for life as a terrorist after pleading guilty in British courts in 2006, has been regularly portrayed as an al Qaeda "General" who concocted what became known as the Gas Limos Project, an outline for bombings using limousines packed with gas cylinders.

In 2006, the Metropolitan Police placed Dhiren Barot's laptop files on the world wide web under the heading of Operation Rhyme. Months later, it removed the landing page from its website without explanation.

Barot's files were heavily redacted by British authorities.

However, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow had downloaded them and conducted a reverse analysis of the texts so the mind of Barot might be better understood.

I published this analyis here where it remains a semi-popular read.

In the war on terror one can reliably count on authorities and experts to exaggerate the powers and savvy of al Qaeda terrorists. Having dealt with this at length, it's accurate to say that such claims are often dependent on the public not getting a close look, or an accurate interpretation, of gathered evidence. And even when the evidence is produced for examination, the mainstream media will not look at it, prefering to rely on its interpretation by lawmen or experts who'd lose their livelihoods if they became known for conservative views on the subject.

Nowhere has this been more true than with the files of Dhiren Barot.

While one can immediately appreciate Barot's naked evil, his animosity toward "the kuffar" coupled with a desire to cause great harm, it is also impossible to escape the insipid character of the man. If Dhiren Barot was trained by al Qaeda, indeed -- was a high-ranking general, then al Qaeda is now well down the road to defeat.

Dhiren Barot, it can be said with some authority, was a demonstrably stupid man.

The Times of London recently described Barot and his plans thusly:

"Barot, 44, further suggested coating [his gas] cylinders with napalm and adding petrol cans filled with nails to 'further maximise the damage caused.'"

However, at no point in the story did the newspaper tell readers Barot's file showed no evidence that he knew how to make napalm. And since napalm cannot be bought in the supermarket or hardware store, the item even fell outside the terrorist's own recommendations that jihadists must stick to easily procured materials.

"Explosives and fire experts who studied Barot’s plans said that, although 'slightly muddled,' they could be carried out," wrote the Times.

"Charles Todd, of the Forensic Explosives Laboratory, said that it was 'a credible plan to make and initiate a very large explosive-incendiary device.'"

This depends on how one defines "muddled" and "credible."

To read Barot's files is a fabulously irritating experience. They are the journals of a wishful man, a fellow who planned many things.

Barot wanted to pack charcoal around his gas cylinders, liked the idea of using napalm, and wanted to shoot open his gas cylinders with an Uzi. Nowhere in his journals, however, does he demonstrate much clear knowledge on how to directly go about any of it.

Barot does -- on the other hand -- constantly invokes Allah as a sop for every failure of imagination, thinking and execution.

Inshallah this, inshallah that, Dhiren Barot writes. Inshallah! Inshallah! Inshallah, if I am full of s---, it was Allah's will.

DD realizes the yawning inanity of it may be hard for some readers to grasp without proof.

Therefore, I have excerpted some, but not all, of the Inshallahs of Dhiren Barot.

Call it "Barot's Greatest Bits."

Inshallah, it would be foolish to trust in Allah, Barot writes at the beginning. At which point the terrorist's cup begins overflowing with "Inshallah."

It is here, Inshallah, that the burned-out light bulb of ideas in Barot's head spits sparks. He'll build a dirty bomb from smoke detectors!

Inshallah, inshallah!

Inshallah, Dhiren Barot will find grenades. Note: Dhiren Barot never found grenades.

Inshallah, our imagination is aided by Allah.

Inshallah, a dirty bomb from 10,000 smoke detectors has the potential to be pretty big. Or not.

Inshallah! If I succeed, it was the will of Allah. If I don't, Allah wanted me to fail.

A final volley of "Inshallahs" for good luck.

DD found it impossible to come away from these files with anything but contempt for Dhiren Barot. This is not merely because Barot was such a mean-spirited and hopeless terror shmuck -- but also because his writings have regularly been misrepresented by the mainstream media for the sake of the telling of a scary story.

And the tale is that this terrorist, and therefore all others, had and have great skill and ingenuity.

"Homemade, Cheap and Dangerous" blared the Washington Post today and Dhiren Barot was the lead exhibit.

"[A] 39-page memo recovered from an al-Qaeda laptop computer in Pakistan three years ago read like an Idiot's Guide to Bombmaking," wrote reporter Craig Whitlock. However Whitlock and the Post don't mean Barot was an idiot. Instead, they tell the fine story that Dhiren Barot provided credible plans for others, presumably even idiots, to make bombs like those in the recent UK plot.

No matter that those plots, and Dhiren Barot, came to naught.

"Forget military explosives or fancy detonators, it lectured," continued Whitlock, describing, completely inaccurately, material from Barot's journal. "Instead, the manual advised a shopping trip to a hardware store or pharmacy, where all the necessary ingredients for a terrorist attack are stocked on the shelves."

Like napalm?

Barot devotes a few paragraphs to it, stating, "Along with petrol, we can also put napalm and charcoal to good use."

"As a case study, if a person wishes he can study the Vietnam war in which America, being unable to handle the harsh jungle terrain and guerilla warfare, simply used huge gallons of napalm..."

Huge gallons.

Although Dhiren Barot does not know how to make napalm and cannot purchase it at "a hardware store or a pharmacy" -- he recommends to study the Vietnam war -- Whitlock and the Post overlook the interesting details.

" 'Make use of that which is available at your disposal and . . . bend it to suit your needs, (improvise) rather than waste valuable time becoming despondent over that which is not within your reach,' counseled the author of the memo, Dhiren Barot, a British citizen who said he developed his keep-it-simple philosophy by 'observing senior planners' at al-Qaeda training camps."

In this matter, Whitlock and Post editors play their readers for fools in pursuit of their tales from the war on terror. Instead of informing people of the true nature of the terrorist in question, they selectively quote him, creating the impression that he was a highly capable individual, when examination of his actual files shows the opposite.

However, the Post and many other big newspapers have done this before.

In fact, they do it whenever there is alleged big news from the war on terror.

"Counterterrorism officials have warned for years that Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants have tried to obtain weapons of mass destruction, such as a nuclear device or chemical or biological weapons," wrote Whitlock. "In response, U.S. military and intelligence agencies have invested vast amounts of money to block their acquisition."

"So far, however, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have relied almost solely on simple, homemade bombs crafted from everyday ingredients -- such as nail-polish remover and fertilizer -- when plotting attacks in Europe and the United States."

But does the Post let you know about it's embarrassing role in this charade?

Of course not.

"Terrorists Turn to the Web as Base of Operations," was on Post headline from August 2005 for a big Sunday frontpage feature.

"Among other things, al Qaeda and its offshoots are building a massive and dynamic online library of training materials," it claimed. The Post mounted fragments of these alleged training documents on its website.

Al Qaeda documents showed, the Post insinuated, that the organization was training to make the deadly "betaluminium" poison. What the Post had found was one of the idiotic jihadi documents that purported to show how to make botox from horse crap.

The news article was ridiculed many times, notably here.

It is unrealistic to presume that the practice will change. The received wisdom on Dhiren Barot will remain that he was a savvy al Qaeda "General." The regular news won't allow that he was a stupid man with a fondness for heaping his many failings on the will of Allah. That would actually aid in helping people understand that the nature of the terror threat is not one of easy capabilities and always fiendishly efficient jihadists.

However, you don't have to be restricted to such an intellectually impoverished view.

Barot's .pdfs -- including his Gas Limos Project journal entries and writings on making a dirty bomb are on-line here, here, and here. They are bulky downloads. [Note: The Gas Limos Project and dirty bomb plans are included in the first download, 6.1 Mb.]

DD thanks Steven Aftergood and the Federation of American Scientists for hosting them.

Homemade, Cheap and Dangerous. From the WaPo.

Must reading from the archives: Understanding the "it's easy for terrorists" hype delivered regularly by the mainstream media.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

MAD DOG SCHEUER: Laff along with Mike

"Everyone is entitled to my opinion!" could be the motto of Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. Regularly showing up on American television, Scheuer is good as a talkative churl spewing calumnies on whatever political figure in the war on terror news hosts want defamed, always enthusiastically addressing the person being spoken to as "Sir!"

Over at el Reg, DD condenses the gentle wit and wisdom of Scheuer, distilled from an April Congressional hearing on extraordinary rendition and its impact on America's image in Europe.

"Effete sanctimonious Europeans," snarled Scheuer. "I am the Eichmann," said Orange County Republican, Dana Rohrabacher. "I am catholic," said a Democrat. Goo Goo Goo Joob.

"This guy is unbelieveable," said one reader. "Only in America could you be taken seriously while you look down on someone for being Anti-death penalty and suggest that the whole of a continent are anti Roman-Catholic."

"The West has lost the GWOT," said another.

"Is he looking to restore the Holy Roman Empire or something?" added another wag.

Read it here.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

ALIBEK DISSECTED LIKE FROG: Russian defector pimped bioterror threat says newspaper. No kiddin'!

In today's Los Angeles Times, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow was pleased to read "Selling the threat of bioterrorism: A scientist defected, helped shape policy and sought to profit." Written by David Willman, it adds to the literature putting a spike through the reputation of the famous ex-Commie-turned-capitalist bioweapons expert, Ken Alibek.

In doing so, it travels over ground covered by DD and familiar to readers of this blog and GlobalSecurity.Org's National Security Notes over the past couple of years.

Alibek has been far from the only scientist to pimp the threat of bioterror and wind up gaining from the conflict-of-interest. But he is certainly one worth addressing on the pages of a big daily newspaper like the Times.

DD knows if you plugged "Ken Alibek" into Lex-Nex before today, there was no shortage of mainstream pressmen acting as rote stenographers for whatever Alibek had to say concerning bioterrorism. Alibek is present everywhere, preaching oncoming doom, the presence of proliferating tools of bioterrorism, hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of times. The occasional stories which held curious Alibek items up for critical inspection were generally consigned to obscure publications.

The Times collects Alibek's lobbying efforts for government money and some of his less well known embarrassments including not-particularly-reproducible science and distinctly unusual proclamations.

Notably among these was the Alibek claim in 2003, made along with colleagues at George Mason University, that the AIDS virus either did not grow or was inhibited to a certain degree in cells isolated from people immunized against smallpox. This suggested to Alibek and George Mason University that smallpox vaccination could be adopted to provide protection against the AIDS virus. Subsequently, it was claimed that patents had been filed for “therapeutic use of the smallpox vaccine and its application to HIV vaccine research.”

No such patents could be found by this analyst. And a paper based on this by Alibek and a colleague were rejected by the Journal of the American Medical Association and, later, the Lancet.

In news articles which appeared a couple of weeks after Alibek's startling AIDS/smallpox announcement, other scientists dismissed the research on the basis of a “lack of evidence” and criticized its delivery via press release, ostensibly done to gin up financial interest. Alibek claimed he was “offended by claims that research produced by his university and the National Center for Biodefense may be tainted by financial conflicts of interest."

This leads one to imagine Alibek's head blowing up after reading today's Times frontpage story.

Nevertheless, Charles Bailey, another bioterror expert whose reputation and history originally extended from work in the biodefense establishment at Ft. Detrick, as an Alibek crony and director of George Mason's National Center for Biodefense claimed, “This is evidence of the caliber of bioscience research out-of-the-box thinking that is going on at George Mason.”

Keep Charles Bailey in mind because the Times used him in today's article to impeach Alibek.

While the two became friends and began collaborating when Alibek defected to the US,
the Times got Bailey to remark critically on its subject.

"Does the inconsistency [over Alibek's statements and his other activities] cause [Bailey] to reassess Alibek's earlier statements regarding global biological threats?" asks the Times.

"Bailey answered quietly. 'Definitely, it does.'"

While Bailey's utterance may be honest, it's a bit like witnessing two fellows drowning side-by-side. Then one clambers on top of the other so he might survive a little longer.

Bailey has also been in on the bioterror gravy train with Ken Alibek.

In today's Times article, the newspaper mentions Aethlon Medical Inc., a San Diego company actively involved in getting money from the US government for a blood-purifying widget said to be just right for fighting bioterror.

As reported by DD in January of this year, Alibek was on Aethlon's science advisory board. Today, the Times reported Alibek touting the company's product which "could be rapidly deployed even against genetically altered biowarfare agents." The Times added "Aethlon said that Alibek served without pay on the advisory board but 'may be compensated in the future for his advisory work.'"

However, the Times did not mention that Alibek's long-time business partner and colleague, Charles Bailey, was also on Aethlon's advisory board.

Aethlon has been fairly obscure in the news. However, its blood-purifying bioterror-curing device was pitched in an issue of Army Times. It is advertised as a one-size-fits-all answer for bioterror, in effect, a silver bullet cure.

The article was entitled, "Firm creates 'kidney' for first responder, device may help troops during bioterror attacks," and was published in February 2006.

"Imagine being infected with a deadly germ like anthrax or the Ebola virus and never feeling any ill effects - or even having to slow down," wrote Army Times. The bacterium which causes anthrax and the Ebola virus, readers are reminded, are two utterly different beasties.

"A small biotech company based in San Diego thinks it has the answer for troops and other first responders who need protection against the kinds of biological agents that can kill them in their line of work. It's a small device that can be worn on an arm or leg as it cleans toxins from your blood - and allows you to keep working without missing a beat, company officials say."


On hand for Army Times was Charles Bailey.

The blood purifier ". . . shows significant promise and needs to be developed further," said Bailey to the magazine. "There are a lot of advantages that this procedure would have."

Wrote Army Times, " . . . Bailey said he has no stake in the financial future of the company."

Ha-ha. Such poor journalism that was!

A quick look by DD blog into the great Internet archive, however, showed George Mason's Charles Bailey on the scientific advisory board of the company in February of 2006, the same month as publication of the Army Times piece.

A common thread running through Alibek's pitches for bioterror funding has been the fashioning of a silver bullet cure.

This is always dressed up as a search for a common agent, or cocktail of agents, which could be administered to protect against a wide spectrum of bioterror threats, even against organisms which are completely dissimilar, like viruses and bacteria.

One infamous Alibek patent application, one which never came to fruition, was 20040018193, entitled “Rapid acting broad spectrum protection against biological threat agents.” Dated from January of 2004, it was the embodiment of a silver bullet cure, a therapy to treat smallpox – a viral infection, and anthrax, a bacterial one, with a large uncharacterizable admixture of materials including antibodies, antibiotics and the cell walls of bacteria -- the “peptidoglycan, lipoteichoic acid, or muramyl peptide fraction of bacterial cell walls.”

The latter are the chemical names for components found in the cell walls of bacteria. They are, coincidentally, also the components found in an OTC nostrum attributed to Alibek. The working idea here is that the eating or into-nose-spraying of bacterial cell wall fragments acts as a boost to the immune system or a bioterror prophylactic, whichever one prefers.

“This invention was made with Government support under MDA972-01-C-0084 awarded by [Defense Advanced Research Progam Agency – DARPA] and DAMD17-01-C-0033 awarded by the Department of the Army,” stated the original Alibek bioterror defense patent application.

Through the years, DARPA funding has been instrumental in propping up Alibek.

And so for the LA Times, reporter Willman went to Tony Tether, that agency's director, a man known to have great enthusiasm for really bad ideas no one else will fund.

Pushed by Republican congressman Jim Saxton, Tether bankrolled Alibek. For the Times, Tether describes himself as reining in the bioterror expert but, according to the paper, "[Tether] preserved the funding ... Some of Alibek's subsequent work with mice has shown promised, [he] said."

In 2002, Alibek had his name on bottles of pills called “Dr. Ken Alibek's Immune System Support Formula,” sold off the website dralibek.com. (Since lapsed, the website, along with drkenalibek.com and kenalibek.com, can be found in the Wayback Machine, www.archive.org.)

A brief for Science magazine wrote that Alibek “says the pills have nothing to do with his research on how the body can fight off bioterrorist agents.” For Science, Alibek said he was acting as a consultant to Vital Basics, the company marketing “Dr. Ken Alibek's Immune System Support Formula.” Another scientist, from the US biodefense establishment, called it snake oil.

A close look at the Alibek pill bottle back label (displayed at the foot of this article) displayed by dralibek.com shows that in addition to vitamins, there is listed a “proprietary blend,” an admixture of ingredients, including “peptidoglycans, teichoic and lipoteichoic acids” from billions of bacterial cell walls. One difference, among others, between Alibek's DARPA-supported patent application is that the potential bacterial cell wall mixtures as anti-bioterror therapies underwritten by DARPA and the Army are to be administered nasally while the pills were offered as a nutritional supplement.

The anti-bioterror nasal spray/inhaler is an idea Alibek continues to pursue.

The Times also mentioned Alibek's venture into OTC pills. Alibek denied he was paid by the company selling the pills although the company said he was, reported the Times.

Curiously, in November of last year, the Los Angeles Times ran a story entitled "Many Fear FBI's Anthrax Case is Cold." For it, reporters Richard B. Schmitt and Josh Meyer trotted out Alibek.

Ken Alibek wanted to help in the anthrax case, was the message the reporters tried to convey. And FBI men, those shirkers, were not interested.

" . . . Alibek said he had written to [Robert] Mueller to volunteer," reported 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.

At the time of the anthrax mailings, Alibek also became known for a rather ludicrous proclamation. You could protect yourself by ironing your letters, he claimed.

"We need to calm down this situation. We've got the ideas we need.... We need to see how to deliver these ideas to our people to reduce this level of fear," said Alibek, as reported in an October 2001 edition of the Christian Science Monitor. "[Alibek] is now a private consultant in the US on biological weapons defense. 'Simple things help. If you steam-iron these letters, they become harmless,' [Alibek] said, responding to a question about what to do about suspicious mail at home."

The Times astutely boxes out other infamous Alibek proclamations.

"Attempts to wipe out Iraq's biological weapons capability were probably not successful" -- from Alibek testimony to Congress in October of 2001.

"There is no doubt in my mind that [Saddam] Hussein had WMDs," attributed to Alibek, from an on-line discussion in 2003.

The Times reported Alibek was no longer a faculty member at George Mason University. (To date, the school's National Center for Biodefense, of which Alibek was a key part, has produced very little, if anything, of note.)

The newspaper described Alibek's departure from the George Mason center in August of last year as the result of "an internal controversy."

Currently, Alibek formed AFG Biosolutions, another small company aimed at developing cures for bioterror. In April of this year, a paper local to Alibek printed a story entitled, "Bioterror scientist cites lack of funds: Dead end for research into antidotes."

"Although he expects there to be another deadly anthrax attack, a top biodefense expert said yesterday he is shifting to cancer research because he cannot get funding to develop antidotes to biological weapons," read the news article.

" 'Unfortunately, the likelihood is very high' of a follow-up to the anthrax mailings of 2001, Ken Alibek told a seminar at Princeton University. 'And the agent very likely is still anthrax.'"

"[Alibek] has been working on ways to trigger the body's 'nonspecific' immune system -- which repels countless microbes every day -- as an all-purpose shield against many biological agents at once," continued the article, showing Alibek was still pursuing the silver bullet cure dreamt of in his 2004 patent application. "[Alibek] envisioned inhalers, like those used by asthma sufferers, to boost immunity at the first sign of bioterrorism."

"Alibek said his Maryland company, AFG Biosolutions Inc., achieved some success in animal tests of antibodies to protect against avian influenza and a virus similar to smallpox."

AFG Biosolutions is currently the recipient of a small business research grant from the National Institute of Health, entitled: "Nisin as a decontaminant for B. anthracis spores on human skin." Funding amounts to $311,603.00, according to the agency.

In the past, Alibek has been the chief officer for Hadron Advanced Biosystems, a subsidiary of a defense contractor now known as Analex. In 2001, Analex announced Alibek's Advanced Biosystems had been funded by DARPA to the tune of three million dollars. The Army, said Analex press releases, had pitched in an additional 3-4 million.

In 2002, Analex announced it and Alibek had filed another fistful of broad-ranging patents.

These "provisional patent applications cover novel treatments of Anthrax and Filovirus [Ebola] infections, a new approach for the identification of Smallpox drug candidates, a medical device design with many potential uses including for cancer treatment and biodefense, and a new use of biodefense research for possible cancer treatment," claimed the company.

"The United States Army Research Command supported three of the nine patent applications," claimed the company. None of these patent applications panned out.

Also that year, Analex announced Charles Bailey had been brought on board to assist Alibek.

" Dr. Bailey is well known for his exemplary contributions to our national security, and we are honored that he has joined Hadron to support our biological warfare defense and anti-terrorism programs," reported Analex in a press release.

"I am pleased to join Dr. Alibek and his team of excellent scientists," said Dr. Bailey. He added, "I look forward to contributing to the enormous growth we anticipate in these vital scientific and national security programs."

Analex Corporation (nee Hadron) eventually divested itself of Alibek's Advanced Biosystems. The latter failed while Analex continues as a defense contractor not apparently tied to the business of providing defenses for bioterror.

Alibek rhymes with Yechh:

Alibek expose at the LA Times.

Blogroll: BugsnGasGal reflects on Alibek and considers other even more deserving targets.

Aethlon's blood-purifier. Alibek and Bailey on advisory board.

You can't steam iron out the anthrax, Ken Alibek.

The remarkable patent applications and pills of Ken Alibek at GlobalSecurity.Org. A modern Dr. Ironbeard!

Product label from Dr. Ken Alibek's Immune System Support Formula pills.