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Biotech The Military Politics

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

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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  • by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:50PM (#47788119)
    Is the "19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons" a viable plan, or wishfull thinking? Getting ahold if bubonic plague is not exactly easy. If it was ebola, that would be easier...
  • by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @07:55PM (#47788165)

    Buried in the "hidden files" section of the computer were 146 gigabytes of material, containing a total of 35,347 files in 2,367 folders.

    WTF is the "hidden files" section of a computer? From their screenshot, it appears the guy just made a directory called "Videoooooo" and stuffed it full of New Folder, New Folder 2, Copy (3) of New Folder, etc. My cat can hide stuff better than that.

    Most of the things they're describing are absolutely nothing to worry about. Instructions for stealing cars? How to use disguises? This is the kind of shit that was all over every BBS file door 20 years ago. You can download torrents chock full of gigs of this "extremist literature" or "terrorist training materials" now. ISIS are surely a bunch of cunts and I imagine they do pose some threat, but the value of this laptop and its contents is highly exaggerated.

  • by wispoftow ( 653759 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:02PM (#47788203)

    NB. I can't believe that I am responding to this submision, but here I go.

    I can guarantee that whatever disease was launched would make its way back to the population that ISIS purports to represent. I predict that its consequences would eventually be more devastating in the generally-poorer populations.

    It seems there is a reason that chemical/biological warfare didn't make it much farther than the first world war -- for the simple reason that the "wind" changes direction.

    I think Shylock said it best: "cut me, and do I not bleed?" We're all humans, and we need to cut this crap out.

  • by 0xdeaddead ( 797696 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:02PM (#47788219) Homepage Journal

    Im somewhere between 0 and 0.
    really? hidden documents?

    big whoop.

    But I know a scared population is an easy to control one.

  • The horror! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:06PM (#47788235)

    I can't imagine USA engineers designing and creating weapons of mass destruction. How could these bastards! I mean, education is always for good things, right? right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:11PM (#47788271)

    Ebola isn't realistic either. You'd get more results with empty glass vials and a written "Deadly Ebola" label in a few dozen big malls.

    The widespread panic would have the same effect for much less cost.

  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:16PM (#47788309) Homepage Journal

    This will last about a generation, and a lot of damage is to be expected. There will be soft targets hit. It will last approximately until the Gen2 kids of the Jihadists realize " Dad was an ASSHOLE ". Nazis, Japanese, USA vs. Mexico/Indians... it usually self corrects if Dad gets paddled. Gen2 (or G3) Kids can grow up to be different kinds of assholes (USA no doubt has several generations, I admit) but it's usually an altogether different kind of asshole than grandpa was. Anarchists of 100 years ago did proportionately about the same amount of "terror" as Al Qaeda /Jihad. But shooting world leaders and blowing up post offices didn't impress the kids who grew up with it and realized the anarchists were just assholes.

    If Dad succeeds and gets rich, history shows, all bets are off. Successful assholes breed. Letting dictators rule for several years just gives latent asshole syndrome. So let the assholes get what's coming to them, because the more successful they are, the more we'll elect people to drop bombs on them.

  • by alantus ( 882150 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:31PM (#47788401)

    Just recently Israel was fighting against Hamas, who was launching rockets while hiding behind civilians that they were purporting to represent. They really don't care about the people they "represent".

    Suicide terrorists are glad to blow themselves up if they take a few infidel's lives with them. They believe they get rewarded with a number of virgins in heaven.

    El Che Guevara is hailed as a hero for dying for his cause, even when he was directly responsible for the killing and misery of so many, especially his own people. You can buy one of "Che" iconic t-shirts almost anywhere, they sell like hotcakes.

  • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:32PM (#47788405)
    I remain conflicted; as a moderately competent STEM educated person, I am aware of any number of ways of reducing Western cities to chaos without a lot of effort and no risk. Yet our jihadi brethren never succeed in pulling it off. 7/7 in London and the Boston bombing seem to have been independent efforts, not carried out by people in the jihadi chain of command. Which leads me to suspect a lot of the hype is FUD by our government, or at least its security agencies, to milk the situation for as much as possible. OTOH it is totally clear that IS and HAMAS are committed to doing very nasty things to anyone who gets in their way. Something weird is going on; I look forward to discovering the truth, but I have nasty suspicion we won't.
  • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:34PM (#47788425) Journal

    No no no, the US and UK have elections coming up and want to shit on your civil liberties again and look tough whilst doing it.

    Security Security Security TERRORISTS

    Please be sufficiently terrified and not notice it's a sham caused by western meddling in the 1st place.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:50PM (#47788499)

    Yea and it's not the middle ages either and there are no strains of plague that are anti-biotic resistant. The only Bacteria that are scary are anti-biotic resistant ones, all the rest can be cured with a dose of anti-biotic. That's why people with the real knowledge don't research bio-weapons from bacteria, they use viruses that have no effective treatment option.

    This sounds like some rank amateur typing up a letter that says "we could do X" where X is some fanciful attack. What I see here is groups like the CIA playing this up as a fund raising drive even if the "plan" is stupidly simple and not even viable. This in fact sounds a lot like the yellow cake uranium crap they pushed into the media.

    People need to stop falling for this BS.

  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:55PM (#47788521)

    Jihadists succeeded in a pretty big way with the 9/11 attacks. I fail to see why another group wouldn't be capable of doing something of that magnitude again, given some proper funding and competent planning. It seems illogical to conclude that there isn't a real threat against western targets after we've seen those and other attacks.

    I'm not saying we should panic, overreact, or (in the case of the NSA) overreach, but I think some vigilance is surely warranted.

  • by sl149q ( 1537343 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:02PM (#47788561)

    Yes, it probably would reflect back to their own population.

    a) they don't care
    b) they would blame it on the US
    c) they would blame it on the Israelis
    e) they would call them martyrs
    f) they don't care

  • by Copid ( 137416 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:08PM (#47788587)
    There's a difference between "being prepared" and "Oh, shit, let's panic!" When this stuff comes up, the public reaction is usually the latter. These guys aspire to all sorts of stuff and if even half of it were realistic they would have taken over the world by now. The reality is that their resources and competence don't match their aspirations and our policy responses should take that into consideration. Some nutbar in a cave announcing his intention to get hold of a hydrogen bomb and blow us all to hell should cause us to spot check the security of the known hydrogen bomb storage sites. It shouldn't cause us to start digging billion dollar fallout shelters under every major city or grounding airplanes whenever somebody uses the word "hydrogen."
  • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:21PM (#47788665) Journal
    I'm not saying panic either. But I wouldn't blow them off. I would think that the biggest barrier they have is access to the equipment and materials to build what they want. They number in the tens of thousands at least, and we keep hearing how many were engineering grads or university students. They can't all be stupid. But sure another roadblock they will have are the throngs of stupid people they have lumped themselves in with. The thing is for biological warfare they don't even need weapons systems. They'll just infect a few hundred 'martyrs' and put them on a plane somewhere. Pneumonic plague (black death) doesn't need physical contact.
  • by SylvesterTheCat ( 321686 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:30PM (#47788713)

    The problem with biological weapons is that unless you make sure all your so called friends are immunised or leave they are also going to among the casualties.

    Do you really think they see that as a problem?

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:51PM (#47788807)

    Yea and it's not the middle ages either

    Those Islamic folks seems to think it's the Middle Ages . . . or they would like to bring the people under their control back to the Middle Ages.

    Ah, the Middle East: God's Monkey House

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:40PM (#47788981)

    If you're launching a rocket, exactly how do you "hide behind a civilian'? Seriously, how do you do that?

    Not launch missiles from (or store them in) a school or hospital? No other countries military does that.

    Or, not launch missiles right next to the hotel where journalists are staying []? I don't recall reporters electing Hamas.

    You are obviously a propaganda stooge for Hamas. How anyone could live with themselves otherwise backing a group that kills children to build tunnels and fires random rockets at peaceful populations is beyond me. What's an 11-year old going to do with all those virgins anyway?

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:43PM (#47788993)

    Actually bubonic has been cycling in rodents in the US Southwest since 1900, when Chinese laborers shipped into San Francisco brought the disease in. A human outbreak was quickly contained, but bubonic in animals has been a part of Western life ever since. Roughly every year, someone in northern Arizona gets it from handling a dead animal.

    For terrorist usage, a disease like this is weaponized by developing a public dispersal plan. "Not infecting your co-workers" hinders use of deadly diseases by conventional bad guys like drug cartelistas, but ISIS warriors are willing self-sacrificers. This allows them to develop tactics that nobody else would contemplate.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:46PM (#47789011)

    You have no idea how deep the conditioning goes. In Palestine children's programming is (no joke) broadcasting cartoons showing that jews should be killed and you get a nice reward in heaven for killing yourself in the pursuit of killing said jews.

    The kids are also building the tunnels used to eventually kill jews.

    With enough brainwashing, how are they to rebel? And if one child does break free, they will simply be executed.

    You are applying your own western way of thinking to the problem where children have any value at all. In the middle east for religious fanatics they are just tools of war and treated as such.

  • by Dereck1701 ( 1922824 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @11:12PM (#47789123)

    Sadly you're completely right, a bag of flour thrown off a building or put a few Lite-Brite signs out and you throw a city into chaos. All at the cost of a few bucks and one or two nuts willing to do it. You don't have to look far to see how crazy things have gotten, there have been what, two aircraft diverted in the past week because of minor incidents on-board at least one of which "required" a fighter escort because of a few drunk women having a fight? I can't recall where it came from but there is one statement that pretty well sums it up "the terrorists said "boo" and our reaction was to shoot ourselves in the head". We simply can't sustain this idiocy, eventually we'll end up like Russia at the end of the Cold War, throwing so much money into buying bullets (security) that we can't afford bread (the economy).

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday August 29, 2014 @11:32PM (#47789199)

    The thing is, religious texts say a lot of shit, particularly the major religions which often have a whole lot of text including not just their "official" book but all kinds of other documents that have some measure of authority in their belief system for various reasons. Also because the documents are old, and composed of various collected stories of various authorships, there are generally plenty of contradictions, things that have been shown to be untrue, and so on.

    So what really happens is people choose to believe the parts they like, and ignore or reinterpret the rest. They follow the parts they wish and find justifications for not following the others. This happens all the time in all religions. Generally, religious ideology is an excuse, a justification, for a behaviour, not the case. People don't read a holy text and say "Oh, well I have to follow this to the letter!" Rather they have something they want to do and they find a way to make their belief system justify it.

    You can see it with things like the "prosperity gospel" Christians and so on. Any even somewhat literal reading of Jesus's teachings shows the guy was the ultimate hippy. All about helping the poor, against material wealth, etc, etc. However, they find a way to justify their views in the bible.

    Or the crazy things Orthodox Jews go through to supposedly obey arbitrary restrictions in the torah, while then skirting around them. Like they believe that the prohibition on making fire on the sabbath applies to electricity. However then there are things like ovens with timers greater than 24 hours, so you can have it come on automatically on the sabbath and that's ok. Oh Shabbos Goys, non-Jewish individuals you can hire to do things for you that you are not allowed to do on the sabbath.

    Same shit with any of the variants of Islam. What the Koran says isn't really relevant. They'll find a way to make it justify what they want to believe. They can find a way to twist it to allow things that are specifically forbidden, or to ignore things that are required, or whatever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @11:48PM (#47789261)

    Yes, eventually, there will be another large scale attack on the US that will inflict a large number of casualties.

    We assume a few things about terrorism:
    1. 99% of the attacks will either be stopped or simply never get off the ground, leaving 1% that actually make it through to succeed to some extent.
    2. 99% of those attacks will either fail (Times Square bomber) or be small scale attacks (Ft. Hood shooting)
    3.The 1% of 1% that get through and are not small scale attacks will be so rare that they do not present a significant risk to the general public.

    If 1,000,000 people were to try to kill us and these numbers held, only 1,000 would actually make it past planning the attack and not be caught. Ten of those people would actually succeed in carrying out a large scale attack against us.

    The last time that happened, 19 people killed nearly 3,000 of a country with over 300,000,000 people. Our food kills a higher percentage of us annually than terrorists. Yes, there is a very real threat. It's just a very small, real threat. I've seen terrorism first-hand in Iraq. It's a horrible sight when someone detonates a suicide vest in front of a crowd of people. But honestly, I'm more scared of the staircase leading out of my apartment than someone blowing themselves up near me in public. Those stairs are steep and it's all concrete all the way down...

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @03:17AM (#47789779)

    Please be sufficiently terrified and not notice it's a sham caused by western meddling in the 1st place.

    Many problems in the world are either caused or exacerbated by ignorance of the sort that you have just demonstrated. Al Qaida's goals have nothing to do with what the West does or has done, other than repelling the Muslim invasions 500+ years ago. They want to rule the world, and that means taking over places they don't rule now. Pretending the problem is something other than what it actually is will be very likely to have unfortunate results. The Islamists are teaching their children that they will retake the lands they formerly ruled, and eventually control it all. Now there is a key point here: it doesn't matter if you believe them, believe that they actually believe that, or that they will succeeed. They do believe it, and will act on it, so Western societies and the rest of the world had better be ready for it.

    Alarm in Spain over al-Qaeda call for its “reconquest” []
    HAMAS Targets Spain []

    The price of denial and PC thinking is starting to be felt in very ugly ways.

    Rotherham: In the face of such evil, who is the racist now? []

  • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @05:01AM (#47789979)
    FUD works because people don't think things through; we are very bad at proper risk assessment. The question remains whether we should trust our government to do better - or suspect it of abusing the opportunity this allegation makes. Recent history encourages the latter!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @05:46AM (#47790073)

    That'd work. Provided, of course, that such a thing can be found. Picking something well-known and relatively easily available (go to Arizona and find a couple dead rats) is a bit of a different game from setting up a lab and tinkering with various promising biologicals until they'll do what you want. This bunch hasn't shown to be big on applying advanced knowledge, or much of advance weapon development. That we know of anyway. But the monoculture does make for a nice attack surface. Still and all, their priority for the moment is with arabic apostates, and since this bunch is sunni, that includes every muslim in their vicinity not of sunni denomination. So until "all the others" are wiped out (or a change in policy) there likely won't be much in the way of attacks outside the area.

    In short, I'm not sure they have either the will or the wherewithal to do what you describe. Though they might, the chance they do seems about as high as the chance Powell could have been right about WMDs.

  • by Dan1701 ( 1563427 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:05AM (#47790115)

    Western culture sees men and women as more or less equal, with neither having a right to oppress the other. This leads to areas of the middle east where the women get liberated, empowered and at that point the culture is forced to get a lot more open and the male-domination gets tempered by a great deal more discussion. Quite a lot of men in that culture cannot handle this sort of thing, and fall back on their religious document (written by a Medieval primitive) as justification for their prejudices.

    The Islamists making all this noise are the thick ones, the losers, the unsocialised and frankly maladaptive ones who cannot make the switch from a prescriptive male-dominated society that uses females as property, to one where women have a culture and an equal say in things. Basically, we're listening to losers yapping away at everything and everyone, because they cannot quite handle the Western way of life.

  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:40AM (#47790175)

    FUD works because people don't think things through; we are very bad at proper risk assessment. The question remains whether we should trust our government to do better - or suspect it of abusing the opportunity this allegation makes. Recent history encourages the latter!

    Keep in mind that it's quite literally the government's job to try to protect against or prepare for worst case scenarios. FEMA does it with natural disasters. The military plays end-of-the-world wargames and trains for battle against people we hope never to fight against. And of course, the various Homeland Security agencies look for people who want to do America or its citizens harm. It's their job to try to anticipate or prevent worst-case scenarios. We hire people to do this so we won't have to.

    This create a quandary of sorts. On the one hand, they're by far the most qualified to answer the question as to how legitimate the potential threats are. On the flip side, it's in their own best interest to magnify the threats so as to increase their own budgets and importance, which is a natural trend for any bureaucratic agency. We can, however, blame them for overreaching their legal and constitutional bounds in carrying out their mandate. And we need to call them out when we see that they've magnified threats beyond their logical probability as well. That second part is a bit harder to do - realistically, only our elected officials have access to the most sensitive raw sources and data, so we have to trust that they'll exercise proper oversight in that regard.

    As lay persons, you and I (and the general public) are not really qualified to determine whether various threats are real or not, both because a) it's not our area of expertise, and b) we don't have enough data to make a well-informed judgment. For instance, many terrorists may have been stopped by good intelligence, but it's possible this information can't be released to the public (similar to the allies Ultra/Enigma project in WWII), for fear of compromising the source or techniques used. This leaves the public feeling like there is no credible threat, which on the one hand, is a good thing, but on the other, leads people to question the necessity of the very agencies preventing the attacks. It's unfortunate that these agencies have undermined their own trust, because now we have a hard time believing them even if they're telling us the truth.

    Who do you turn to when your best guard dog has been crying wolf?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @08:29AM (#47790451)

    Of course, this type of attack doesn't have to kill many people. We are talking terror and demoralizing the enemy here, not racking up the mass numbers. Watching people in LA starve to death on the news would get the US completely out of the Middle East, similar to how Reagan pulled all troops out when the Marine barracks was attacked.

    I was agreeing with you up till this point, I suspect anything on such a wide scale would have exactly the opposite affect on US foreign policy. (massive increase in troops)

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @03:37PM (#47792059) Journal

    This is nothing but cultural imperialism - imposing our own, "correct" values at gunpoint and forcing the native peoples to accept it or die.

    Yeah well, I ain't a moral relativist. They treat people as property (and hey force them to accept that at gunpoint).

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer