11.02.16

You can’t hide on the Dark Web

Posted in Bioterrorism, Cyberterrorism, Ricin Kooks at 11:56 am by George Smith

If you’re going to do anything with real goods, illicit, dangerous, or both, you can’t hide on the Dark Web. If there’s enough manpower to investigate and it’s present at the right time, your anonymity is pierced.

From Sweden, on a recent ricin case:

A Swedish court has sentenced a 27-year-old German man to one year’s imprisonment for stealing toxic substances from a university where he was a student.

The Uppsala District Court on Friday said Gurkan Korkmaz used the alias LarryFlow to offer lethal substances like ricin on dark-web online markets, but added that it could not be proven he actually sold the substances.

Swedish police started the investigation in the fall of 2015 after receiving tips from U.S. police.

The FBI has put a not insignificant amount of resources into penetrating marketplaces on the dark web. The most public part of the operation has been the tracking, arrests and convictions of those buying and selling poisons like ricin or abrin.

Korkmaz was arrested as the supplier of a ring of blackmailers that had sent ricin letters to a government offical in the Czech Republic in hopes of extorting payment in bitcoins through the use of threats. No digital money was paid out.

From a newspaper report:

[Events] follow the initial arrest of the [Korkmaz] in April on suspicion of selling poison through the internet to a group that blackmailed a Czech minister for large sums of money.

“There was an attempt to blackmail the Czech state. There was a threat to spread different kinds of poison among the general public in the country if the state did not pay out quite a lot of money in bitcoin to the blackmailers. This man’s participation is that he is alleged to have supplied the poison,” prosecutor Henrik Söderman explained.


Swedish authorities were initially alerted to the man’s trail when the FBI notified their colleagues in Sweden that poison had been sold via a website.

The police have not yet identified the buyers …

Korkmaz did not attempt to make ricin. Instead, he stole it from a lab, one that presumably used a purified source for research.

10.23.16

Global warming good for unusual disease

Posted in Bioterrorism at 12:11 pm by George Smith

From the Washngton Post on Vibrio vulnificus:

A recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that “rising ocean temperatures related to global warming “is strongly associated with spread of vibrios, an important group of marine prokaryotes, and emergence of human diseases caused by these pathogens.”


“In eight out of nine regions of the North Atlantic, the study found that as temperatures warmed, numbers of vibrio bacteria also grew,” The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney wrote in August. Furthermore, it also showed a relationship between growing vibrio numbers and growing vibrio cases in humans, a relationship that was particularly pronounced during heat waves.

Way back when I was the scientist who discovered a particular protein-dissolving enzyme, a collagenase, that helped explain why it does what it does.

V. vulnificus — from the archives.

09.28.16

Kid with castor beans brings the ricin squad

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 12:54 pm by George Smith

From a Texas news station:

“The Athens Fire Department assisted in the weekend raid of an Athens home.

“Fire Chief John McQueary explained their involvement.

” ‘There was a situation that our HAZMAT team, they’d like us to be involved with to support federal agents…’

“McQueary describes the decontamination role his team played. ‘Our role for the Athens Fire Department was to decon their agents when they got out… Deconning is outside the hot zone.’ The hot zone of a product suspected to be ricin.

“Homeowner Richard Fulton said in a statement that his teenage son had been attempting to make ricin out of castor beans … “

Before 9/11 and Homeland Security, there were no ricin squads. Now they’re everywhere. And though it may be hard to believe castor bean harvesting used to big agribusiness in the US. Fields of castor bean plants existed and they were not lethal. People worked in castor bean processing plants. [1] AND THEY DID NOT DIE.

Those places in the world that still harvest castor don’t care about the weird war-on-terror mythologies Americans have built up concerning castor beans and ricin.

But kids, don’t get the ricin squad called to your house. It will put everything in plastic bags and tubs and haul it away.


[1]. Health Aspects of Castor Bean Dust: Review and Bibliography provides something of a look back at castor oil and castor mash production in the United States through a looking glass of health effects associated with milling. The most noticeable were allergic reactions and asthma due to a potent small allergen, separate from ricin, but also found in castor bean mash.

Allergic reactions to the dust could be severe. The government recommended control measures and the wearing of goggles in plants that milled large quantities of castor seeds

Severe clusters of allergenic illness were associated with large quantities of very powdery dust produced after treatment with organic solvents to remove the oil component.

Much less often, ricin intoxication occured, apparently due to “incautious” consumption.

No significant hazard was associated with farming castor plants.

While castor oil was the primary product, castor mash was also diverted for use as fertilizer. In 1957, castor bean agriculture and milling was done in nine states, which included a region in southern California. The review contains some medical citations of allergic reactions and eye irritations associated with use of castor as fertilizer.

Readers of the pamphlet will note the huge piles of castor powder on the docks in Marseille, France. Their existence resulted in a large outbreak of allergic illness when the wind, or “Mistral,” went the wrong way.


And, now, the only rockin’ blues song on ricin ever. Pure Americana because that’s what castor bean religion and the ricin squad are — American as, um, pie. “Ricin Mama,” then, from the “Old White Coot” LP, an absolutely true story.

09.14.16

Both were Americans

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks, War On Terror at 3:48 pm by George Smith

From an Associated Press story on August 23rd, on exotic weapons and emerging technologies in the hands of terrorists:

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that technological advances have made it easier for terrorist and criminal groups to obtain materials needed to make weapons of mass destruction, and some are actively trying to obtain nuclear, biological and chemical weapons to target civilians …

Gregory Koblentz, director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University, said there are several emerging technologies that present challenges to international efforts to curb WMDs, including gene editing.

“Instead of gene drives being used to eliminate disease, they could be used to introduce new diseases into plant or animal populations,” he told the council.

Other potentially dangerous emerging technologies include the use of drones and the use of the Dark Web, which can only be accessed using special encryption software, guaranteeing anonymity to its users.

Koblentz said that in 2014 the U.S. arrested two people who had sold the toxins abrin and ricin — ricin is classified as a chemical weapon under the Chemical Weapons Convention — to customers in Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, India and the United States via a Dark Web marketplace called Black Market Reloaded.

“The global reach and anonymity of the Dark Web provides a new means for criminals and terrorists interested in dual-use equipment or materials to do business,” he said.

Black Market Reloaded was fairly quickly infiltrated by US law enforcement. Agents subsequently used identities on it to initiate sting operations involving the promised sale as well as the buying of poisons like ricin and abrin.

The two arrested on the Dark Web, specifically — users of Black Market Reloaded, were both Americans. Jesse Korff and James Christopher Malcolm.

Both accepted plea deals from the federal government with Malcolm sentenced to five years, Korff much longer.

Both were connected to the case of Ryan Chamberlain for which I served as a science consultant to the defense.

Considering the nature of the investigations and the results (there were about half a dozen arrests coming off BMR), the continued belief that the Dark Web provides anonymity in such instances is rather laughable.

09.05.16

Shut up about ricin and biowar. Carfentanil is here.

Posted in Bioterrorism, Decline and Fall, Ricin Kooks at 3:14 pm by George Smith

For the last decade and a half the American media has raised the poison found in castor seeds — ricin — to mythic proportion. And I’ve spent years doing my best to dispel the mythology.

Ricin has never been “easy to make.” And the mash of castor seeds is not a weapon of mass destruction. I’ve even been furnished expert consultations in criminal/terror cases involving it.

There is, however, a chemical that’s come to America’s white population. Carfentanil, a knock-out compound, with no real practical use other than tranquilizing elephants. And it is quite potent and already doing a great deal of harm.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Hatmaker became one of more than 200 people to overdose in the Cincinnati area in the past two weeks, leaving three people dead in what the officials here called an unprecedented spike. Similar increases in overdoses have rippled recently through Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, overwhelming ambulance crews and emergency rooms and stunning some antidrug advocates …

In Cincinnati, some medical and law enforcement officials said they believed the overdoses were largely caused by a synthetic drug called carfentanil, an animal tranquilizer used on livestock and elephants with no practical uses for humans. Fentanyl can be 50 times stronger than heroin, and carfentanil is as much as 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Experts said an amount smaller than a snowflake could kill a person.

The implicated carfentanil is believed to be made in Mexico or China and put into heroin shipments, probably precisely because of its power, the manufacturers believing, perhaps, that it would lead to faster addiction and complicate forensic analysis.

But this is a clear miscalculation because he drug is so powerful.

“[Police] officers and sheriff’s deputies are so concerned about the potency of carfentanil and other synthetic opioids that they carry overdose-reversing naloxone sprays for themselves, in case they accidentally inhale or touch the tiniest flake,” reads the newspaper.

The chemical activity of carfentanil and the less powerful but more common fentanil, employed to spike heroin formulations now coming into the US, has catalyzed an exploding health crisis in rural and ex-urban America.

For the numbers, which are astonishing, read the rest of the piece.

In 2002, Russian special forces used fentanil when storming a theater in Moscow where 800 people were taken hostage by Chechnyan separatists who’d rigged themselves and the building with explosives. The results were catastrophic. One hundred and seventy people were killed due to the use of it.

06.26.16

And if you gaze long into the abyss…

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 2:51 pm by George Smith

The abyss also gazes into you.

Words to take seriously if you’re reading about the so-called Dark Web.

Tipped by the always timely Pine View Farm, I send you to a tech podcast at the Guardian, entitled “Inside the darknet” by Chips and Everything.

As far as it goes, not bad, although the professed need to have lawyers with you when browsing through TOR made me laugh a bit. Plus, it was my understanding that TOR was at least partially underwritten as a potential tool for whistleblowers in foreign countries.

What the tech podcasters don’t know, or chose not to mention, is that the FBI, as well as British law enforcement, have infiltrated the darknet, posing as buyers as well as sellers in sting operations. It’s an open secret because if you’ve followed the newspaper listings on various criminal cases (just look in the Ricin Kooks tab), you’ll see this has been so.

Most recently, in the news, a handoff from the FBI to the Brits in the case of Mohammed Amer Ali, a Liverpool man, who thought he was buying ricin.

Ali was actually dealing with the FBI:

Mohammed Ammer Ali, 32, carried out extensive research on the “dark web”, eventually arranging to buy 500 milligrams of the lethal substance.

But, unknown to him, his online vendor was in fact an FBI agent who tipped off UK police.

Detectives organised for a “controlled delivery” – with a fake consignment of ricin being sent to Ali’s Liverpool home in February 2015.

The next day, Ali was arrested and his home searched by officers clad in chemical protection suits …

It was a fairly standard case if you follow the newspaper’s timeline. The only stickout point is the nature of the so-called ricin shipment.

The theoretical amount, alleged to be enough to kill 1,400. No such amount of pure ricin has ever been accumulated. It is a number with no traction in reality.


And if perhaps think I’m commenting only from second-hand information, full disclosure: I’ve been expert consultant to a federal public defender’s office in a case that involved sale and purchase of materials vended on the darknet.

09.22.15

Peanut butter poisoner/businessman gets life

Posted in Bioterrorism, Predator State, The Corporate Bund at 2:51 pm by George Smith

Stewart Parnell, CEO of Peanut Corporation of America, was effectively sent to prison for life for a salmonella epidemic caused by his company’s shipping of contaminated peanut butter in 2008. He was given 28 years in prison. The outbreak sickened over 700 and killed nine people outright.

Parnell’s brother, also in the business, was given 20 years, a lower-level flunky, five.

The sentences are, by far, the toughest ever handed down to food company executives.

At the time, DD blog wrote about Parnell more than once.

Some excerpts:

Stewart Parnell, Peanut Corp., before Congress. Where is his turban and beard? Where’s his video found on the
Internets by our government, like all the rest of those frightening guys from other countries shaking their fingers and ranting in Arabic at the netcam? Where are the experts from CSIS or Brookings saying what a dangerous fellow he is? Where are our tough lawmakers squeezing the truth from him? Talk, you! His hometown newspaper said he was a good football player in high school, though. Oh, where did it all go so wrong?


In the predator state, the bad company led by bad men will literally poison the public. And they won’t stop until people are killed. In the predator state system, still that’s not even enough to get them dragged from the street.

A year ago Baxter International and another US company it did business with killed people by selling tainted heparin. Heparin is a necessary drug in US medicine and it used to be made here. But in the rush for profits, like many other US businesses, both companies subcontracted their formerly in-house work to China, where there were people willing and malicious enough to deliver a cheaper counterfeit substance, a derivative of chondroitin sulfate, used to mimic heparin. The counterfeit material sickened hundreds and killed a number of people outright. There were news stories and vows of reform. And then nothing happened; it was back to business as usual in the predator state. It was no time to get in the way of commerce!

Today readers have the spectacle of the house hearings in which Peanut Corporation of America’s CEO, Stewart Parnell, is seen as willfully urging his employees to get his salmonella-laced peanuts out the door.

“[Parnell] gave instructions to nonetheless ‘turn them loose’ … ” reports the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. At the time, Parnell was engaged in finding a laboratory that wouldn’t return a positive salmonella test, kind of like fishing through a high school bundle of failed exams, looking for the lone good one, the coincidental exception…


The wheels of justice grind slowly.

The Bush administration spent a great deal of time in office building up homeland security defenses against mostly-imagined threats in biological and chemical terrorism.

On the domestic side it did all it could to destroy food safety by getting rid of regulators.

The years of the Bush presidency could be characterized in many ways, all bad, one being the recurring feature of a surprising number off mass illnesses caused by contamination in food products.

For example, the killing of a large number of beloved pets by mass distribution of melamine as an adulterant in their food.

In this climate, the Peanut Corporation of American, run by Stewart Parnell, caused one of the biggest outbreaks of salmonellosis in the country’s history. The outbreak killed nine people and sickened hundreds.

By contrast, anthrax bioterrorist Bruce Ivins killed five and made 17 others very ill.

It wasn’t until 2013, five years after the outbreak, that a grand jury indicted Parnell and his associates. Family members of those killed in it remarked that they thought the sentence was appropriate but that it had come way too late.

Parnell’s defense protested the severity, commenting that Austin “Jack” Decoster, a CEO who had caused the biggest egg recall in American history for another recent disease outbreak, received only a couple months in prison. Parnell’s defense has a point.

On the other hand, the salmonella epidemic caused by Decoster’s Quality Egg/Wright County Egg did not kill anyone straight-off, although it sickened more — estimates range from 1,600 — 56,000. Decoster, it’s clear, was just lucky.

Decoster, like Stewart Parnell, is a truly Dickensian character and the blog covered the news in a series of posts entitled Eat Shit Farms.

As the story unfolded, an unsurprising picture emerged, that of an American businessman who had used lawyers and evasions to fight off food regulations on egg production for years. Because it could get away with no regulation, Decoster’s Quality Egg became a dominant national business with which could undersell competing egg farmers in other states where local oversight was stronger.

California, it turned out was an example. Egg farmers had to immunize their herds against salmonella, which added a couple pennies to the price of eggs. DeCoster’s egg farming operation avoided this.

Subsequent photography of Quality Egg showed other major health problems, the build-up of chicken excrement until the sides of the building bulged out from the pile being an unforgettable example.

From news article on Jack Decoster’s sentence in April of this year for the disease outbreak in 2010:

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Two former egg industry executives were sentenced to three months in jail Monday for their roles in a major 2010 salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, faced up to a year in jail on charges of shipping adulterated food. They will remain free while appealing their three-month sentence.

Prosecutors said the sentence sends a strong message about the importance of following food safety rules…

“There’s a litany of shameful conduct, in my view, that happened under their watch,” Bennett said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked 1,939 illnesses to the outbreak, but officials estimate that up to 56,000 people may have been sickened.

09.11.15

Glass Jaw Day

Posted in Bioterrorism, Bombing Moe, Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, Imminent Catastrophe, Permanent Fail, War On Terror at 2:02 pm by George Smith

Fourteen years ago Osama bin Laden showed the world the United States had a glass jaw. After one very hard hit, the world superpower would appear to rise up, united only to see its people and leaders fail in spectacular fashion as they abandoned all principles they thought they stood for.

Fourteen years later, we’re subdued and fearful owners of a combination corporate dictatorship national security state equipped with an armored car-driving paramilitary police force and surveillance apparatus designed for the suppression of civilian participation. Add to that an embedded racial apartheid, one that puts African Americans and the poor in prison for profits, targets of extortion in the way of organized heists disguised as fines for petty infractions and legitimately resentful of their terrible officials.

The largest military and national security complex in world history was erected. And it’s only strategy, with the only exception being the recent agreement with Iran , is attacking much poorer nations with overwhelming force, selectively bombing impoverished regions of misery and lawlessness, launching pinprick military raids/assassinations and creating or exacerbating failed states.

A small example, yesterday, from Fox News and overseas sources (delivered by mercenaries probably on the US payroll, yet), reasonable evidence that ISIS can manufacture small amounts of mustard gas in Syria, for use in mortar shells and improvised bombs aimed at local militias opposed to them.

And who brought it about? We did when an illegitimate war was launched, one that destroyed Iraq and destabilized the entire region, a place where we’re still bombing people, making things worse, stirring the pot, training lousy local fighters who desert, and arming the same with weapons that eventually get turned over to even worse people.

From Fox:

One Kurdish soldier said that of 52 mortars ISIS launched at his team during one attack, three released yellow smoke that caused their skin to immediately water, discharge liquids, blister and create large wounds. Soldiers exposed to the gas vomited and experienced extreme abdominal pain and severe burning and itching eyes. Other mortars discharged a silver glittery substance that stuck to their skin like glue. The Kurdish soldiers said the Iraqi military also said ISIS used these chemical weapons on their forces.

The attached photos, if genuine, show wounds that appear to be caused by a blistering agent.

The nature of the story appears to show that only small amounts, militarily insignificant, are being produced and put into mortar shells, in and of itself a hazardous undertaking. The primary aim would appear to be to cause an additional measure of terror and demoralization.

The incident also appears to describe a failed improvised weapon, I’m guessing — something sticky and flammable — styrofoam or styrene dissolved in an organic solvent until thickened, to adhere. In this case, there was no ignition.

And what are we looking forward to in 2016?

More of the same, almost certainly.

Why, here’s the alleged leading candidate of the Democratic Party, being distasteful and awful, as it turned out, in making what she thinks is an off-camera joke about the killing of Moe Gadaffi.

Hilarious. Failed states and refugee crises.


Still the best song that applies. Shoulda been a contender.

Incidentally, it’s the only rock video to show anthrax mailer Bruce Ivins entertaining in a Maryland bar AND his vanity-pressing white label single, “Pass Me By.”

Ivins’ anthrax mailings touched off the biggest investment in bioterror defense in world history (we’re always number one in these dubious achievements), all to counter a threat, the predicted scope of which has never materialized.

The best and only bioterrorist minted during the war on terror? Our man! Paid for by the US taxpayer.

Also eyeball the video for the “puffer machine.” (We’ll check you now, for purity!) Designed for the detection of explosives at airports, many were bought. None of them worked and it was subsequently canned.

08.01.15

UK Man, a few cards short of a full deck, convicted on ricin charge

Posted in Bioterrorism at 2:03 pm by George Smith

By now it should be patently obvious that the FBI, as well as British national security, are well into operations and investigations on the Dark Web.

In the latest news, Mohammed Ammer Ali has been convicted of buying what he thought to be five vials of ricin from an FBI special agent named “Peter” who was fronting a sting operation aimed at netting people who were trying to by poisons on the Internet.

From the Guardian, a few days ago:

On the evening of Tuesday 10 February this year, Mohammed Ammer Ali sat down in his computer room to write his daily to-do list. Alongside a reminder to pay the car insurance were the aide memoires: “Get pet to murder” and “Paid ricin guy”.


What Ali was not to know, however, was that the seller he knew as “DarkMart” and “Psychochem” was an undercover FBI agent. And the powder concealed in the children’s toy car was not ricin – it was a harmless substance planted by detectives from the UK’s north-west counter-terrorism unit, who were watching his every move.

At 8am the following morning, a dozen police officers dressed from head to toe in protective clothing burst through the front door of the family’s modest flat above the Salt & Pepper restaurant in inner-city Liverpool, arresting a partially-naked Ali.

A series of raids were carried out simultaneously at other addresses across Merseyside. Acting on an FBI tipoff, counter-terror officers moved quickly to thwart what could have been a major bioterrorism case with parallels to the Wood Green ricin plot in 2002.

There was one problem: detectives could find no suggestion that Ali was involved in any terrorism plot.

A quiet family man from Bolton, Ali had worked for his parents’ newsagents business until he got a job as a software programmer for a local company shortly before his arrest. He was computer mad and excelled at school. Following psychological assessments after his arrest, he was diagnosed with showing personality traits associated with Asperger syndrome.

On the stand, Ali indicated he bought the material on the Dark Web to find out “what all the fuss was about.”

If absolutely true, it was a dreadful class.

Ali also said he had been inspired by the television show Breaking Bad. This adds to the already odd feature of the hit cable show that starred Brian Cranston: The only TV show in history to have inspired a handful of people in the US and the UK convicted on ricin charges.

A long write-up on the trial was published by the Daily Mail.

It includes a picture of Ali with a glowing nose, the result of a substance planted in the toy car containing the vials of harmless powder sent to him by British counter-terrorism forces, the purpose of which was to prove he had opened and handled it.

Ali, reports said, will undergo further psychiatric evaluation before sentencing.

06.06.15

The Umbrella Corporation (still more)

Posted in Bioterrorism, War On Terror at 1:06 pm by George Smith

The New York Times:

The Defense Department said Wednesday that it had mistakenly sent suspected live samples of anthrax to at least 51 laboratories in 17 states and three foreign countries, a higher number than officials had disclosed last week …

Defense Department officials warned that the tally of labs that had received the shipments would probably grow.

The New York Times mentions that the number of labs in America’s so-called bioterrorism defense and research infrastructure has risen to 1,500 from what was already a high number, 400, in 2004. It is an American specialty: an amalgam or public and private sector labs doing what amounts to sometimes dangerous science welfare work, magnificently over-staffed and over-resourced against a national threat, the predicted scope of which never materialized.

It is likely that many will not remember, but those of us who were experts in biological weapons and the alleged use of them by terrorists, warned for years that the expansion would increase the probability of dangerous errors and the potential for another Bruce Ivins.

Again, the number of bioterror attacks since Bruce Ivins (not counting the cracked, troubled and/or misguided people who grind castor seeds) who worked in the heart of the American bioterror research establishment — ZERO.


For comparative purpose, a document from the bookshelf of Osama bin Laden on on building the “terror franchise” and seized as part of the alleged trove of information seized in the killing of the man, is here.

It reads:

TOXICANTS: immediately needed

4. Actual production and testing of biological toxicants. (Anthrax, Botulism, clostridium, endotoxins, Exotoxins etc.)

Believe it or not, this was actually classified. Utter cynicism when faced by an incontrovertibly ossified system is often completely justified.

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »