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Tuesday, November 07, 2006 

Scum-watch: Stay scared.

All the opinions offered in today's Sun leader are utterly contemptible, from the argument that those who accidentally kill through dangerous or careless driving are guilty of a crime tantamount to murder, (Why say it's tantamount when it's obvious that the leader writer believes it is murder? I thought the Sun was meant to speak freely.) to the unmitigated support it gives to the DNA database (which they bizarrely call DNA tests) without bothering to consider the dangers the databases poses to the innocent citizens it campaigns for, whose information is kept whether they are ever charged with a crime or not. (Not to mention the danger of being accused of a crime you didn't commit as a result of leaving your DNA at what later becomes a crime scene.)

Let's concentrate on the main topic, which is headlined "Stay on guard":

EVERY month without a new 7/7 terror strike lulls us into dangerous false security.

Memories have faded so fast that some would rather condemn police for overkill than praise them for trying to protect us.

So the trial of terror plotter Dhiren Barot is a timely wake-up call.

Barot admits planning bombs big enough to puncture the River Thames and flood the capital’s Tube network.

His targets included mainline stations and top hotels.

And he aimed to paralyse London and New York with simultaneous nuclear dirty bombs.

Barot can’t be dismissed as a harmless fantasist.

He was trained to kill by al-Qaeda. His signed plans were found in Pakistan.

Barot’s confession saves us a long and costly trial.

But security chiefs warn there are hundreds more where he came from — and thousands willing to offer support. It is only a matter of time before some succeed.

We cannot afford to drop our guard for an instant.

The Sun tells us that Barot can't be dismissed as a harmless fantasist. Indeed, he apparently "aimed to paralyse London and New York with simultaneous nuclear dirty bombs", the leader tells us. You don't need Barot to be a fantasist when the Sun can play that role perfectly well. Where was the "nuclear" material for these bombs going to come from? Err, smoke alarms. Yes, that's right, Barot was planning to harvest americium-241, a man-made radioactive chemical, from smoke alarms for his nefarious plot. The BBC Horizon programme in 2003 ran a couple of scenarios which involved bombs containing a radiation source. It concluded that you would have to stand in the area where the bomb had been exploded for an extended amount of time, apparently without the area being quarantined and cleaned, and only then would the level of contamination lead to 1 in 7 developing cancer. Barot's plan was utterly ridiculous. It's little wonder that next to no reports are mentioning the reality of his dirty bomb idea; it falls apart with the slightest amount of scrutiny, but the "nuclear dirty bomb" message comes through loud and clear.

Also on Barot's terror shopping list was his desire to puncture the walls of a London underground tunnel, leading to water flooding in. He wrote:
" ... Imagine the chaos that would be caused if a powerful explosion were to rip through here and actually rupture the river itself," he wrote. "This would cause pandemonium, what with the explosions, flooding, drowning, etc that would occur/result."
One problem with this. Such a bomb would need to be so powerful that it would rip not just through the train carriage, but through the reinforced tunnel walls and at a point where the tube is very close indeed to the Thames. As the police have admitted, not only did Barot not have explosives, he didn't even have funding for his plans. They clarified this slightly by stating that they have also not found any of the weapons which they allege that Barot did have in his possession, which remains a rather tenuous justification to say the least.

The Sun is quite right however that he can't be dismissed as a harmless fantasist. He clearly attended terrorist training camps, although whether he was trained by "al-Qaida" in more arguable. It's alleged he was involved in mujahadein operations in Kashmir, where he wrote The Army of Madinah in Kashmir, detailing his experiences and ways in which to kill Indian soldiers. He was fully aware of counter-surveillance methods, which he used in an attempt to evade attention.

Barot though was caught, and without the need for 90 days detention. Not only that, but the police case was so compelling that he admitted to his plans for potential mass murder. Rather than the Sun using this as an example of the police getting things right for a change, it's an excuse to further scare the public of the terrorist threat. Apparently we're being lulled into a "false sense of security", only a few months after the anniversary of the 7/7 attacks, only 3 after the alleged "liquid explosives plot", and only a couple after John Reid's brainless speech advising Muslim parents to be suspicious of their children, as extremists are out to brainwash them. Instead of being concerned that between the 7th of July and now the police have killed one innocent man and injured another, we're meant to take everything they tell us about the terrorist threat at face value, even when they claim that the "liquid bombs plot" was meant to "kill on a unprecedented scale", despite scientists immediately calling into question the idea that such explosives could be mixed and detonated once on board a plane. We're meant to submit to whatever measures are necessary in order to fight this scourge. Rather than reassuring us that a man with such ominous and deadly plans is now starting a life sentence, the Sun wants us to stay scared. We can only speculate as to why.

Related post: Five Chinese Crackers - Super soaraway PROPAGANDA ARSEPAPER!

Update: I slightly misrepresented Barot's idea concerning radiation from smoke alarms. His actual plan, outlined in the prosecution's case against Barot by Edmund Lawson QC, was based on the concern caused in France when a truck carrying 900 smoke detectors crashed. Barot's plan was to use around 10,000 smoke detectors, and either set them on fire or put them on top of explosives. As Tom on BlairWatch explains:
15cm * 15cm * 4cm = volume of 900 cubic centimetres
10000 of those is 9000000 cubic cm or 9 cubic metres. So we're talking of someone spending £50,000 he didn't have piling up a stack of smoke alarms into a tower 1m square and 9m tall, then setting fire to it, in the middle of a city, without anyone noticing, releasing a total of 0.002 grams of a slightly radioactive substance which is only dangerous in gram quantities. Scared yet?

Yes. Terrified. Spy Blog also goes over the prosecution claims with a critical eye.

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