Ink bomb defused ’17 minutes before it was due to go off’

According to reports in the Daily Mail, Mirror, The Sun and the Daily Telegraph one of the ink bombs was defused just ’17 minutes before it was due to go off’. The information was disseminated by the French interior Brice Hortefeux via French TV. The Mail, Mirror and Sun all fail to make any mention of how credible this information is. The Daily Telegraph does point out that the Metropolitan Police are unable to confirm this detail, having only announced that they had found a ‘viable explosive device’.

Interestingly, both Forbes and the Washington Post have run an Associated Press follow up that reports:

The White House says it has no information that would confirm a French government report that one of two bombs mailed to the United States last week was defused just minutes before exploding…

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday the question of when the bombs were to go off is still under investigation and there’s no information confirming such a close call.

U.S. investigators have also said they were unable to confirm the French report.

A quick Google search for ‘ink bomb’ brings up reports from the Sun and Daily Mail that the bomb was just 17 minutes away from exploding. This information has perhaps already become accepted in the minds of many, whether it is confirmed or not. The tabloid press don’t care whether it is true or not. They do not seem to be updating their articles to include the lack of confirmation that the White House was able to provide nor whether any other source has confirmed it.

It is just another terror story that goes global before any real information is known. It might be true, it might not be; but the whole point of good journalism is to hold back from printing such claims as absolute truth until the relevant sources have been checked and the truth established. Still, good journalism is bad business and vice-versa.

An important question about the MailOnline iPhone app

MailOnline has finally launched their iPhone App whilst Android and other mobile platforms ‘on their way’. The blurb for the app makes pretty depressing reading: ‘Now you need NEVER be without your favourite website again‘. What exactly can the app do for you? well it can provide you with exactly the same crap that the Mail website can:

Our brilliant app is everything you’d expect from Britain’s biggest newspaper website.

It’s got all the amazing breaking news, showbusiness gossip, glitzy pictures and fantastic sports stories that have made MailOnline a must-have part of millions of people’s lives.

The application is free for 60 days and then costs £4.99 for 6 months or £8.99 per year, which probably makes it cheaper than buying Closer or Hello! magazine.

However, even though the Daily Mail provides plenty of information about getting the best out of the app, at no point does the Daily Mail make it clear whether it causes or cures cancer. Until it can clarify this I for one shall not risk installing it.

Mail Quiet over White Terror Plot

I read a brief story over at Pickled Politics today about a terrorist confessing to plotting acts of terrorism and manufacturing weapons to carry the plots out. The link was to an article in The Independent:

A white supremacist today admitted producing deadly ricin while preparing for acts of terrorism…

At Newcastle Crown Court he admitted producing a chemical weapon – ricin – and preparing for acts of terrorism.

He also admitted three charges of possessing a record containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing acts of terrorism.

Perhaps because he is a white supremacist he didn’t get any coverage in the Daily Mail, who instead chose to report: ‘Seven Muslims arrested in Ireland over plot to kill Swedish cartoonist who drew Mohammed with the body of a dog‘ and ‘Pakistani men arrested ‘within days of massive Al Qaeda terror attack on Britain’‘. The Daily Mail did report the initial arrests back in June 2009, so why haven’t they reported on the confession? Maybe it just doesn’t fit into their worldview in which all terrorist plots are only planned by brown people.

Keeping Abreast of New Terror Threat

From a column in Forbes, by a certain Elan Singer, 5 January:

what is the shrewd terrorist to do if he cannot place a little PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) in his underwear?… While most religious clerics would frown upon breast implants for aesthetic reasons, there are more than a few who would likely put their blessing on a pair for explosive reasons…And there is no shortage of physicians who are terrorist sympathizers or even terrorists themselves. Just look at Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was a prominent gynecologist before dedicating his life to death and destruction. He is more than capable of popping some implants into an eager small-breasted terrorist… As a plastic surgeon who has done hundreds of these procedures, I know that all you really need is a knife, some suture material and maybe a bite stick.

This is speculative, but it’s also plausible. A reader letter to the Ottumwa Courier outlined the same scenario the next day.

Remarkably, just weeks later the Daily Mail warns us that it may all be true:

…an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time.

…It is understood MI5 became aware of the threat after observing increasingly vocal internet ‘chatter’ on Arab websites this year.

The warning comes in the wake of the failed attempt by London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day.

One security source said: ‘If the terrorists are talking about this, we need to be ready and do all we can to counter the threat.’

A leading source added that male bombers would have the explosive secreted near their appendix or in their buttocks, while females would have the material placed inside their breasts in the same way as figure-enhancing implants

So “an operation by MI5? actually means… looking at some websites. Judging from experiences such as the “Terror Target Sugar” Glen Jenvey fiasco and the “Madonna Targeted by Muslim Fanatics” non-story, one is strongly advised to consider whether the “chatter” is anything more than some anonymous person linking back to Singer’s article or the Ottumwa Courier letter and saying, “hey, wouldn’t that be great?”

But there’s even more, from WorldNetDaily yesterday:

Agents for Britain’s MI5 intelligence service have discovered that Muslim doctors trained at some of Britain’s leading teaching hospitals have returned to their own countries to fit surgical implants filled with explosives.

…Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaida are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery.

…Hours after he had failed, GCHQ – Britain’s worldwide eavesdropping “spy in the sky” agency – began to pick up “chatter” emanating from Pakistan and Yemen that alerted MI5 to the creation of the lethal implants.

A hand-picked team was appointed by Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, to investigate the threat. He described it as “one that can circumvent our defense.”

Top surgeons who work in the National Health Service confirmed the feasibility of the explosive implants.

In a report to Evans, one said:

“Properly inserted the implant would be virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines. You would need to subject a suspect to a sophisticated X-ray. Given that the explosive would be inserted in a sealed plastic sachet, and would be a small amount, would make it all the more impossible to spot it with the usual body scanner.”

WND does not cite the Mail article, nor does it give the sources for its more dramatic claims (aside from WND’s own paper newsletter Whistleblower, which doesn’t count). How exactly a conspiracy-mongering conservative internet news-site operating out of the west coast of the USA acquired this extra information – including a direct quote from the head of MI5 that is found nowhere else on-line (1), and material from a report prepared for him – is somewhat mysterious.

Pointlessly, WND also includes a picture of a woman suicide bomber named Iat Alacharas – who actually carried her bomb in a purse.

Meanwhile, the Mail reports that one man is on the case:

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee, said: ‘Our enemies are constantly evolving their techniques to try to defeat our methods of detection.

‘This is one of the most savage forms that extremists could use, and while we are redeveloping travel security we have got to take this new development into account.’

That would be the same Patrick Mercer who allowed himself to be serially duped by Glen Jenvey.

(1) Yes, I also looked for “defence” as well as “defense”, and I did plurals as well.

This article first appeared on Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion.

Detecting a Bogus Fear Story

Fear is one of the staple products of the mainstream media. Whether it be everyday products giving us Cancer, paedophiles around every corner or terrorists waiting to detonate around us: fearful is the default emotional state that we should be in. Today an article on the Daily Mail website caught my eye, largely because it is just the sort of article that seems to be completely made up just to scare people: ‘Terrorists ‘plan attack on Britain with bombs INSIDE their bodies’ to foil new airport scanners‘.

The article is supposedly based on an ‘operation by MI5’, but details are thin on the ground and a number of unnamed sources sound pretty vague – as if those sources don’t really exist. MI5 apparently ‘became aware of the threat after observing increasingly vocal Internet “chatter” on Arab websites this year’. Which rather sounds like MI5 take seriously people chatting on the Internet. In which case I’m surprised most of the people on BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ haven’t been investigated for wishing all sorts of violence against people slightly different to themselves.

This news story just doesn’t convince me. I could have made it up, anyone could have made it up. The premise is simple: terrorists might try to get round new security measures. Surely we already know this? The article gets slightly interesting because after the author has tried to scare the reader for a few hundred words they then point out that a security company could offer a solution:

Companies such as Smiths Detection International UK, which is based in Watford, Hertfordshire, manufacture a range of luggage and body scanners designed to identify chemicals, explosives and drugs at airports and other passenger terminals around the world.

Interestingly enough Smiths Detection would make a lot of money should airports become convinced that the threat of surgically implanted bombs were real, and the Mail has a history of mentioning the firm by name.

Sometime in 2002 – as far as I can make out – Smiths Detection was holding ‘urgent talks’ with the government to ‘strengthen’ police forces against combat chemical or biological attacks. The Daily Mail covered this with a short, undated article which made it sound like Smiths Detection was selling the government an apocalyptic vision of a Britain under siege from chemical and biological attacks. According to the Mail article they had already ‘provided’ the police with Chemical Agent Monitors and Lightweight Chemical Detectors. Smiths vice-president (at the time at least) Tim Otter revealed – according to the Mail – that the police had been ‘buying little bits here and there’ but perhaps Smiths Detection wanted a more wholesale adoption of their security devices. Although, to date, it seems that there has been no widespread chemical or biological attacks (even though the government ‘terror alert’ has remained at high levels for the past few years).

In 2006 things seemed to be looking up for the company when the Mail reported on a Smiths Detection ‘Machine which ‘sees’ through clothes boosts terror fight‘, a machine which just happened to be launched at a conference where the then Home Secretary John Reid delivered a keynote speech. In 2007 the Daily Mail confirmed that BAA would be buying new Smiths Detection ‘x-ray machines’ in a ’10-year deal worth at least £20 million’. This article focused on explosives on hand luggage, which presumably after being solved by a clever machine provided by Smiths Detection has now led terrorists to store their bombs internally. Which just happens to be something a new Smiths Detection machine can detect.

However, all is not rosy for the Smiths Group, as the Mail reported in March 2009: the company had a net debt of £975 million which wasn’t being helped by governments deferring orders and preferring to bail out banks rather than focus on the threat of terrorism.

I’m not saying that terrorism isn’t a real threat, and I’m not saying that Smiths Detection do not offer effective solutions to certain terrorist threats. However, I am very conscious that around the time when Smiths Detection were talking to the government about their wonderful devices and how we were all going to be attacked a million people took to the streets in London to protest against the Iraq war and were soundly ignored. The London bombers made it perfectly clear that their actions were as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not as Tony Blair protested because they were ideologically opposed to our ‘way of life’.

The mainstream media can keep hyping up the ever more ingenious ways that terrorists can kill us and companies like Smiths Detection can keep hyping up ever more expensive and ingenious ways to try and protect us. However, unless we actually try to engage with the fundamental reasons as to why people want to blow us up I get the feeling that this circle of fear and expensive salvation will continue. After all, the mainstream will never run out of ‘unnamed sources’ and ‘foiled terror plots’ that really did exist, honest, they just aren’t allowed to report any details…