View Full Version : WaPo fulla shit, again

08-10-2005, 07:11 AM
WaPo fulla shit, again

Little wonder Wapo's share values keep plummeting.



"Terrorists Turn to the Web as Base of Operations," a Washington Post headline declared in a front-page, above-the-fold story on August 7.

"Among other things, al Qaeda and its offshoots are building a massive and dynamic online library of training materials," the Post reported, and offered sample documents from this library on its own web site.

But contrary to the Post story line, the cited library materials suggest a startling lack of technical competence. Unfortunately, the Post did not critically examine the materials that it presented.

The Post story's uncertain grasp of the underlying science was signalled early on when it twice mistakenly referred to a virus as the cause of pneumonic plague. Pneumonic plague is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, not by a virus.

A page excerpted by the Post online from "The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook" purported to explain how to manufacture "betaluminium poison."

But there is no such thing as betaluminium poison. (The word appears to be a corruption of "botulinum"). Nor would the proffered production method -- combining fresh horse manure, meat, grain and water in a sealed jar -- yield much more than a stinky mess.

"The first time I saw [the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook]," said chemist George Smith of GlobalSecurity.org, "I thought it must be a hoax."

"Careful examination of the document shows that it is crammed with errors, seemingly the work of someone with little discernible sense, profoundly ignorant of the nature of simple compounds and incompetent in even minor [laboratory] procedures," Dr. Smith wrote in National Security Notes in March 2004:


In short, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook that was excerpted on the Washington Post web site indicates something nearly the opposite of what the Post article on terrorist use of the internet claimed to show.

"The 'Poisons Handbook' is an example of someone professing to know what he is doing on poisons who profoundly and obviously does not know what he is doing," Dr. Smith said.

If the Poisons Handbook is indeed representative of the "massive and dynamic online library of training materials" offered by jihadists, then that is good news for public safety and security.

The Washington Post, the best of newspapers, is far from alone in succumbing to, and propagating, exaggerated threat assessments. There seems to be a powerful temptation to believe that terrorists are everywhere and, aided by "the internet," capable of everything. It is a temptation that needs to be confronted and thought through.