11.15.14

Ricin Wrap-up

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 1:16 pm by George Smith

Last week saw an eruption of news on one of the genuinely exceptional things in our country: the small demographic of white usually guys who let an interest in castor seeds and poison lore get the best of them. It’s an interest that inevitably brings hazmat trucks and a joint anti-terrorism strike force to their neighborhoods.

And the news covers the age spectrum, from the youthful to the old.

In contrast to prior years, 2014 has turned into one in which young nerds, a couple of them university students, try their hand at pounding castor seeds into powder.

The newest bean-pounder is University of Wisconsin (in Oshkosh) student Kyle Smith.

From the Green Bay newspaper:

A University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student has been suspended after he was charged with possession of ricin.

University officials announced Tuesday that 21-year-old Kyle Smith has been placed on interim suspension and cannot set foot on campus for the time being. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the biological weapons offense. He made his first appearance Monday in federal court in Green Bay.

Two of Smith’s professors contacted police last month when they became suspicious he was making the deadly toxin, WLUK-TV reported. Tests confirmed a vial of white powder found in Smith’s off-campus home was ricin, according to a criminal complaint. The Oshkosh Police Department and Wisconsin National Guard also found a lab notebook during the search.

And a judge has now handed down the shortest sentence in ricin convictions on the book in the case of Georgetown University student Danny Milzman, covered much here.

Milzman, readers may recall, was a great fan of Breaking Bad, showing appreciation of Walter White’s “cooking” of ricin and its recurring role in the drama.

For the record, much in the series concerning ricin was almost total rubbish, from the way it was made to its eventual use.

From the Washington Post:

A Georgetown University student who was arrested for manufacturing the deadly chemical ricin in his dormitory room in March, was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to a year and a day in prison.

In issuing her sentence, Judge Ketanji B. Jackson said Daniel H. Milzman’s intentions for manufacturing the chemical were “ambiguous at best” but that Milzman put numerous people, including his classmates and dormitory roommate, at great risk.

Jackson also ordered Milzman, 20, to undergo a mental health evaluation …

Since Milzman has already served seven and a half months in jail, he will be released early next year.

The unique short sentence is as close to a diversion as one can get, I suppose. This year I argued for the worth of a diversion track for many first-time castor bean pounders.

Most of them cannot be described as terrorists and they pose mostly only a threat to themselves as they become a source of heartbreak for their families.

In the last fifteen years there have been zero fatalities associated with all ricin cases in the US.

In 2013 those arrested on ricin cases were all older than this years batch. They were unique in that all three were caught in schemes that mailed ricin-containing castor mash to the president of the United States. All three appear to have been frame-up jobs, one against a rival, one against a husband, and one against the office of a small business where a secretary ignored the romantic affections of a janitor.

This years ricin complaints all involve younger men, two of which are the university students mentioned here.

The old ricin-powder criminal, someone middle-aged or very old and angry with the federal government, was represented yesterday when sentences were handed down for two men involved in a domestic terrorism plan in Georgia.

From the New York Times:

Ending a case that involved questions about the line between rhetoric and criminal conduct, a judge on Friday sentenced two men to a decade each in prison for their roles in a plot that included using ricin in a series of attacks in major cities.

The decision by Judge Richard W. Story, of the Federal District Court, came nearly 10 months after a jury here convicted Samuel J. Crump [71] and Ray H. Adams [58] on a pair of charges connected to possession of ricin for use as a weapon …

Mr. Crump, by his own acknowledgment, was something of an excessively ambitious conspirator.

“There’s no way I could make that stuff,” Mr. Crump said of ricin. “It takes a scientist and a million dollar lab, which we didn’t have.”

Judge Story agreed that it was unlikely that the plans Mr. Adams and Mr. Crump mapped out would have been successful.

However, this appeared to not be ameliorating.

Crump and Adams have been in jail since 2011. There original plot was a cracked scheme that involved the theoretical distribution of ricin-containing bean powder out of car speeding along on the highway, the idea being that it might drift over a town. [1]

Ricin cases and those convicted in them are almost entirely unique to the United States. In the last fifteen years this country has generated a steady stream of them. And they all make headlines.

In fact, 2013 and 2014 have shown an upward trend in this very unique phenomenon. That is, there are now more guys (and one woman) arrested on ricin beefs than at any other time.

The numbers are still very small. But the imitation, fascination and absurd appeal of castor bean pounding refuses to die and is even increasing, a bit more each year.

Ricin-making, from old neo-Nazi and survivalist poison recipes, to Breaking Bad, to an almost monthly presence in episodic crime television and in movie dramas about terrorism, is solidly embedded in the culture and character of the United States.


[1]. From the Atlanta Journal & Constitution:

According to testimony, the men talked of a plane dropping ricin on Washington and spreading the poison on federal government buildings in Atlanta, Athens and Gainesville and in public areas, such as on I-85 in Atlanta.

2 Comments

  1. Mike Ozanne said,

    November 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    On the subject of Georgetown U, I just took their MOOC on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism. Therein they listed the Wood Green plot and Ricin as exemplars of the determination and versatility of Al Qaeda in seeking WMD’s. I (at first) politely called bullshit on this but the staff have yet to respond. I’m guessing I’ll eventually have to take it up with their academic standards committee.

    What do we have to do to finally get the Ricin bollocks dragged to a crossroads and staked through the heart……

  2. George Smith said,

    November 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I’d expect them to try and ignore it or just do the brush off. The true account, from first-hand evaluation of the evidence, is in my old GlobalSecurity.Org pieces under “National Security Notes.” And they’re all still on-line, complete with the old poison recipes.

    21 castor seeds, 20 of them in a jewelry tin, and one on top of a dresser, do not demonstrate a facility with WMDs. Period.

    The initial ricin false positive was just that, although it was covered up for awhile, also explained in the write-ups. In the ricin trial, Kamel Bourgass was convicted on the crime of “being a potential nuisance with poisons and explosives.”

    That’s “nuisance.” He was also a murderer; he killed a policeman with a knife.

    I was cited in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus. That story is still on-line.
    They wouldn’t have had it without me although they were mighty unhappy with being scooped and the outcome of the trial. Pincus was an angry man when he briefly spoke with me to confirm stuff.

    Technically you could call it a ricin plot. That’s legitimate. It’s not so legitimate to say it demonstrates anything about al Qaeda, on a number of levels.

    First, one of the initial strategies of the UK prosecution was to tie Kamel Bourgass to al Qaeda by comparison of the poison recipes to those recovered from al Qaede hideouts in Afghanistan.

    This they could not do because they did not come from Afghanistan. They came from Yahoo servers in this country. And that, too, is explained.

    And that damaged the prosecution case because there was no way to attach Bourgass and the materials recovered to al Qaeda.

    However, the way it’s taught at Georgetown is not that surprising. Since it’s a course on Terrorism and Counter-terrorism, in this country, what’s the book on explaining the complicated details, that it was, at best, “wanna-be” terrorism that never came off.

    I could give hours of lecture on it.