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Saturday, March 15, 2008 

Barot and Borat.

Remember Dhiren Barot? Referred to without irony by the Sun as the "dirty bomb mastermind", and sentenced last year to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder, what few of the press reports went into were his exact plans for constructing this dirty bomb. That might have had something to do with how his plan involved not the use of a high-strength radiological source, which he quite freely admitted that he was going to be unable to obtain, but rather smoke alarms.

Thanks to the NEFA Foundation, who have just posted a whole cache of documents on Barot and his co-accused on their website, we now have Barot's own "final presentation" (PDF) on radioactive materials and radiation dispersal devices, more commonly referred to as dirty bombs. Presumably meant to be part of his application to higher-ups in Pakistan for funding, something which he never received, the document reads as a mostly plagiarised dissertation on radioactive materials, with some first person comments on how an attack would be carried out, with references to how some would be unusable because they themselves would die before they reached the target with the appliance, even if they were on a suicide mission. Although large parts of it are blanked out, it's Barot's conclusion which is the main bit we're interested in.

While Barot also considers in his conclusion cesium-167, it's the americium found in smoke alarms which he settles on:

This then was his dirty bomb plan, and it's just as loony as we originally thought it was. Can there really be anything much more laughable than the idea of Barot and his henchmen harvesting americium-147 from industrial gauges and then putting it in, of all things, a Coke can? As Watching Us, Watching Them pointed out, there would be far more risk to the public from the burning of the plastic from the smoke alarms than from the actual tiny amounts of americium inside.

There's little doubt that Barot was a dedicated jihadist who believed in what he was doing. Like many of his brethren however he was a fantasist, and not just any sort of fantasist, but a Walter Mitty like figure who wrote pretentious, deadly serious type plans for attacks which were just completely infeasible. Pointing this out ought to have been the media's first duty; that far from being any sort of mastermind or senior al-Qaida figure, something certainly not proved, he was far from acting on any of his dilettante-type brainstorms. As we know however, the power of nightmares are far more powerful than the power of reality.

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