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Biotech The Military Politics

Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague 369

Posted by timothy
from the theocrat's-cookbook dept.
Foreign Policy has an in-depth look at the contents of a laptop reportedly seized this year in Syria from a stronghold of the organization now known as the Islamic State, and described as belonging to a Tunisian national ("Muhammed S."). The "hidden documents" folder of the machine, says the report, contained a vast number of documents, including ones describing and justifying biological weapons: The laptop's contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations -- and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another. ... The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education: The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals. ... "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.
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Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

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  • Not so sure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andurian (1162629) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:21PM (#47788343)
    I'm anything but a conspiracy nut. I think we landed on the moon, that Oswald shot Kennedy, and that Icke is a con man. But the timing on this is seriously convenient. We want to attack ISIS, and *poof*, evidence suddenly shows up that ISIS has weapons of mass destruction. It's enough to make me consider making tinfoil hats.
  • by Copid (137416) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:41PM (#47788461)
    I'd be a little more inclined to believe that the person who wrote the document was a real expert if there had been a known case of these guys actually producing a biological weapon. This sounds a whole lot more like people who have never built a biological weapon teaching other people who have never built a biologial weapon how to build a biological weapon. Lots of thought experiments being put on paper as instructions as if they were tried and true methods.

    I can do a write up for how to build a nuclear bomb for my terrorist brothers based on my rudimentary undergraduate physics education, but there's no way in hell those instructions would actually produce anything useful.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:57PM (#47788533)

    This may come across as a troll, but I promise it's not. I'm looking for a genuine discussion on something.

    From the small amount of reading I've done, it seems that the Koran is pretty clear: Islam requires non-Muslims to convert or pay tax or be killed:

    http://infidelsarecool.com/200... [infidelsarecool.com]

    http://www.vexen.co.uk/religio... [vexen.co.uk]

    So it seems to me like all fully observant Muslims are required to engage in, or at least approve of, this behavior.

    If that's true, then:

    (1) Why do so many Muslims renounce such violence? Is it that they can't stomach what appears to be this straight-forward interpretation of the Koran?

    (2) If there is some alternative, justifiable interpretation of the Koran, why aren't governments fighting that propaganda war? Does the fact that they're not doing so indicate that no such justifiable interpretation exist?

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:29PM (#47788937)

    the 'culture of fear' continues on.

    BE AFRAID! IF YOU FOLLOW OUR INSTRUCTIONS, YOU WILL BE SAFE!

    yeah, right.

    I'm tired of this scare bullshit. I worry more about my own people (the government and authorities) than I will ever worry about some foreign 'bad guy'.

    when are people going to finally tire of being told to 'be afraid!' ? maybe the next generation will wise-up. (probably not, though; they are not any smarter than we are and they are falling for all the same propaganda.)

    at least some of us can see thru this. not that it helps, any.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:36PM (#47788969)

    You are forgetting that if Abu al-Attacker successfully infects a few thousand people, this can overwhelm the medical care infrastructure and deplete the stocks of antibiotics. Once that happens, and there are enough cases to stir up a good epidemic, we have a serious problem on our hands.

    This obviously hinges on the ability to infect lots of people in the first place, which in turn requires obtaining feedstocks and making and spreading enough of the stuff to infect a goodly swathe of people without or at least before the attacker succumbing himself.

    So how viable the plan is for any given terrorist group remains to be seen. And, of course, we've heard so many scare stories that we've become jaded (the TSA's lingering fear of exploding water, anyone?). And this may well be fanciful brainstorming, not an actual plan, also because bacteria typically don't discern between believer and unbeliever.

    But it's not as cut and dried as you make it seem. "Typical" research is about advancing the state of the art, even in mass killing, and so would "naturally" seek to be able to overcome "typical" hurdles like antibiotics and medical care. The key is exactly that brute force in sufficient quantity works just fine, and brute force is what these people do far better than advanced research. So this idea fits their modus operandi fairly well.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:34PM (#47789203)

    I'd be a little more inclined to believe that the person who wrote the document was a real expert if there had been a known case of these guys actually producing a biological weapon. This sounds a whole lot more like people who have never built a biological weapon teaching other people who have never built a biologial weapon how to build a biological weapon.

    It's been known for quite some time that al Qaida and company have conducted lethal experiments with biological agents, even if at times inadvertently. You are also far too dismissive of them. Many terrorists and terrorist leaders have been well educated people: engineers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc. You should also keep in mind that al Qaida has previously canceled attacks because they were uncertain that a particular attack would produce casualties of a large enough number to meet their approval and maintain their "brand" as highly dangerous.

    Black Death 'kills al-Qaeda operatives in Algeria' [telegraph.co.uk]

  • by Dan1701 (1563427) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @04:57AM (#47790099)

    During the second Sino-Japanese war (1937 to 1941) the Imperial Japanese military frequently used both chemical and biological weapons against the Chinese, to no really marked effect. Toxic gas attacks only really work on an unprepared enemy, and take some time for the agent to spread out enough to be useful. Biological warfare is even less predictable; the Japanese military during this war frequently suffered quite large casualties in their own army as a result of biological agents blowing back onto them. Civilian casualties were large, but the military effect of all of this was quite small and you have to remember that this was conducted in a time before widespread countermeasures were available.

    These days, attempting to breed up the hundreds of millions of fleas needed to spread plague then trying to contaminate them, and subsequently disperse said fleas in the environment would be a huge job, and largely futile given the fairly low amounts of insecticides needed to kill off fleas. Spraying large areas of towns and cities with chemicals like deltamethrin would of course not be particularly popular, but it would stop a flea attack dead.

    Similarly weaponising anthrax is not a job for the faint-hearted, nor for the inexperienced or indeed anyone who has not got access to the antibiotics needed to treat an infection with this disease. As an aside, weaponised anthrax was the stand-by weapon devised in World War 2 for if the D-day invasions had not worked; the Scottish island of Gruinard was the original test target, and was only decontaminated by soaking the entire landmass in a seawater-formaldehyde mixture. The problem here once more is that a weaponised biological powder is hard to disperse, and ridiculously easy to counter as commonly-available HEPA-grade masks will keep it out of a person's lungs.

    The final point to remember with terrorism is one of motivation. Terror attacks only work to achieve the terrorists' aims if they are very carefully targetted and choreographed along with a political campaign, to make them look like attacks against a mutually-disliked foe. This is why the IRA in Eire and Northern Ireland are largely silent these days; they changed from being seen as freedom fighters to being thought of as a general blight upon the entire society. Islamic terrorists are already being cast as such a blight, and never really get the chance to put over their side of the argument.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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