The US government’s post-9/11 “war on terror” breathed new life into its long, failed “war on drugs.” An American public showing signs of increasing disenchantment with the latter was told that drug money fueled and financed terrorism, and that the “war on drugs” was part and parcel of the war on al Qaeda.
Now this, via Reuters:
Italian police said on Friday they had seized about $6 trillion worth of fake U.S. Treasury bonds and other securities in Switzerland, and arrested eight Italians accused of international fraud and other financial crimes. … Potenza’s prosecutor Giovanni Colangelo said an international network “in many countries” was behind the forgeries. Italian daily Corriere della Sera said on its website that the criminal network was believed to be interested in acquiring plutonium, citing sources at the prosecutors’ office.
I can only think of a limited number of reasons why someone would want plutonium, and all of them except for use in atomic/nuclear weapons would more likely run through legal/”official” channels of securities fraud, theft, etc.
Or, to put it a different way, if the US government didn’t visibly run some serious debt, al Qaeda and so forth couldn’t try to finance its nuclear terror aspirations by faking instruments of that debt.
If heroin cultivation in Afghanistan is a “war on terror” concern, so is an unbalanced US government budget and $15 trillion + in US government debt. But I’d advise against holding your breath while you wait to see if Congress declares “war” on those things.
Two interesting quotes caught my eye in a recent Andy Smith note:
“We cannot stop terrorism or defeat the ideologies of violent extremism when hundreds of millions of young people see a future with no jobs, no hope, and no way ever to catch up to the developed world” Hillary Clinton, Remarks to the Center for Global Development at the Peterson Institute for International Economics
For a moment there I thought she was talking about the US – “when millions of young Americans see a future with no jobs, no hope, and no way ever to catch up to the Baby Boomers”. Generational class warfare anyone?
“could seriously disrupt bond markets if it triggered concerns about creditworthiness or inflation because of concerns with government incentives to inflate debt away” Bank for International Settlements in invitation to top central bankers and financiers for a meeting in Basel
This doesn’t need any further comment for readers of this blog, suffice to say I find it interesting that the BIS acknowledges that inflating debt away is an option.
PS – unfortunately Andy Smith’s stuff is not publically released, because I rank him as the top precious metals analyst.
The government’s anti-terrorism ardour was endorsed again last week, as Section 76 of the new Counter Terrorism Act came into force on the 15th February. Section 76 in itself, seems to highlight the laudable extremes the government are willing to go to to ensure our safety. Although I understand that the government need something to show for the £3 Billion a year they invest in counter-terrorism, a part of me can’t help but wonder how much time and effort is spent on preventing terrorism, and what they are compromising as a result.
Although homicide has dropped in the UK since 2005, it is still very high compared to previous decades. In 2007 alone an average of over two homicides took place every day in Britain, leading to nearly one thousand deaths. In 2008, a total of 945 people were suspected of homicide. Firearms were used in 17,343 reported crimes, of which 42% were handguns and 172,989 violent offences were reported in London alone. For once I’m not going to slam the British judicial system’s lenient and ultimately devolutionary policies when it comes to crime. However, what does concern me is that in 2007 the government spent about £5.6 Billion on fighting crime and around £2 Billion on counter-terrorism, yet only one person was killed in a terrorist attack in the UK, Kafeel Ahmed, who, ironically, was one of the terrorists involved in the Glasgow International Airport Attack. In fact, since the beginning of the millennium, a grand total of 57 people have been killed as the result of terrorist attacks in the UK, compared to thousands of murders on the British streets by ‘non-terrorists’. So why is it, that when terrorism is so low (considerably lower that it was 10 years ago), the Home Office is investing more and more money in counter-terrorism, so much so that the cost is expected to rise to £3.5 Billion in 2010?
I think that most British citizens are under the impression from watching the news and reading the papers that they are under constant threat from terrorism, just from reading about the lengths the British government go to, and the amount of money they spend! And although a total of 57 deaths in nine years might justify a conservative estimate of around £10 Billion, let’s not forget the July 7th bombings which killed 56 of those 57 people.
The government would of course argue that the reason only 57 people have died as a result of terrorist attacks, is as a result of the massive investments they have made in counter-terrorism. This is something I would dearly like to believe and if it were true, would put my mind at rest when I consider what my taxes are being spent on. Unfortunately, though, a mere look at failed terrorist attacks over the past nine years proves it’s not the case.
On the 1st of June 2000, the Real IRA planted two bombs on Hammersmith Bridge set to detonate in the early hours of the morning. Funding in counter-terrorism was miniscule back then compared to the behemoth amounts thrown at it today, and the police had no knowledge of what was going to happen at all. A man named Maurice Childs found one of the bombs and hastily threw it over the bridge, it exploded, creating a 60ft column of water. The other bomb blew up a short while later, without achieving the desired effect nevertheless. Mr Childs, a hairdresser, was awarded an MBE for his courage.
On July 21st, 14 days after the 7/7 bombings, another attempt was made on London’s public transport system. At a time when you’d expect authorities to be at their most vigilant, the only thing which stopped the terrorists from blowing up trains at Shepherd’s Bush, Oval and Warren Street tube stations, and a bus on Hackney road, was shabby bomb making, not good police work. The police, having been caught off guard twice in two weeks and publicly humiliated, quickly stepped into action the following day, they accumulated their ‘intelligence’ and proceed in killing an innocent man: Jean Charles de Menezes.
On the 29th June 2007 two car bombs were discovered and deactivated in Haymarket and Cockspur Street. A year in which around £2 Billion was spent on counter-terrorism, the police had no intelligence whatsoever prior to the bombs being found. The first bomb, in Haymarket, was discovered by an ambulance crew attending a minor incident at a nightclub near where the car was parked, and the second one was transported to a pound at Park Lane for illegal parking! The staff at the pound noticed a strong smell of petrol coming from the car, and reported it to the police having heard about the first car bomb.
There have been two planned terrorists attacks publicly thwarted by the authorities, both in February 2007. The 2007 Plot to Behead a Muslim Soldier which entailed a six month investigation under codename: Operation Gamble and lead to five men being sentenced. And later that month, Police reportedly thwarted a plot to kill Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, after intercepting $330,000 from a courier at an Airport. It is suspected the money was going to be distributed around the UK based Saudi dissidents. It’s worth mentioning however, that nobody was arrested, including the courier, according to the Israel News “Detectives said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against the cash smuggler.”
So, my question to Mrs Smith is simple: What are the billions of pounds allocated to counter-terrorism being spent on? When the police have yet to publicly foil a terrorist bombing in the UK, and a mere two innocent lives have been saved by the police (assuming the $330,000 was going to be spent on the murder of Abdullah of Saudi Arabia), and one taken away, how can the government justify such a huge ‘investment’?
Surely the real terror can be found in underpasses and subways, at train stations after dark, not from religious extremists, but hoodies with knives looking for a buck for their next fix. Real terror can be found on your high street, on your doorstep even. Isn’t this the terror we should be focusing on?
And surely, before spending billions upon billions of pounds on intelligence, equipment and training in counter-terrorism, shouldn’t we first train our government officials to stop leaving private data on trains?
Why would a scientist who had built his career on researching drugs and vaccines to protect his countrymen from anthrax purposely mail letters contaminated with anthrax to two government officials of the very country he is trying to protect? More importantly, was Bruce Ivins, a U.S. Army researcher of 35 years, the true culprit responsible for mailing the letters coated with anthrax in fall 2001 which killed five people? These questions may never be answered by Ivins since he died July 29 from an overdose of Tylenol. Seven years after these letters were mailed to two U.S. Senators among others, the FBI still has not firmly answered the question of who did it. In 2002, Steven Hatfill, an associate of Ivins, was labeled a “person of interest” by previous Attorney General John Ashcroft. Six weeks ago Hatfill won $5.8 million from the government for both associating him with the crime and the subsequent repercussions on his career.
While some wonder if Ivins was merely another innocent victim in the seven year search for a possible home-grown bioterrorist, others believe that his inability to handle the pressure and recent mental instability is anecdotal evidence of his guilt.
Where Did the Spores Come From?
Unfortunately, not all the evidence associated with Ivins has been released, but it is known that recent advances in science have allowed the FBI to run tests that would have been difficult several years ago. For example, it has been reported that the anthrax spores sent to the Senators have been sequenced. This means that researchers and authorities now know every gene and every detail of the DNA that made up the type of anthrax, or strain, sent in 2001. Since there are many different strains of anthrax, knowing which strain was sent may help authorities link Ivins to the crime if he, for example, used the same strain in his lab. Interestingly, the anthrax coating the letters was found to be a mix of two different strains, one from Ivins’ place of employment, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Debate, however, still surrounds whether Ivins would have been able to produce the very fine powder found lacing the letters.
As the FBI works towards finding solid evidence, scientists are worried about another problem: continued funding. The episode in 2001 caused a surge of economic support for the biodefense budget. Prior to 2001, biodefense research was mainly carried out by USAMRIID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and funded at $685 million per year. After the anthrax scare, funding for new biosafety labs across the country increased to a high of $8.2 billion in 2005 and has recently fallen to $5.4 billion each year. Richard Ebright of Rutgers University stated in the August 8 issue of Science that the reason there was such a surge in funding was because it was believed an outside force had attacked us. Now that we know it was initiated domestically, Ebright believes the “expansion was fraudulent.” He believes the increased research in biodefense has actually made the country less safe than it was before 2001. Others maintain that although the anthrax scare in 2001 was most likely made by a domestic scientist, there are still those outside U.S. borders that could initiate such an attack and we need to be ready for such an event by continued funding and research.
A Frightening Substance
Anthrax is a particularly frightening substance because of what it can do in such a short period of time. Initially, when anthrax is inhaled, it presents as a common cold. According to the CDC, victims usually have a sore throat and mild fever. This is part of the problem, when something as deadly as anthrax mimics the symptoms of something relatively harmless like the common cold, most people don’t go the hospital and don’t get help. The common cold usually lasts a few days and disappears. Unfortunately, after a matter of days, anthrax symptoms turn more deadly by producing “severe breathing problems and shock.” The CDC notes that inhaling anthrax is usually deadly; however, it is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person. The CDC has posted on their site that in previous cases, victims did not have a runny nose, which is usually associated with the cold or flu. This is poor comfort at best. Another problem is that anthrax is essentially undetectable until it is too late. It does not have a particular color, smell or taste which would alert someone to its presence. The spores are also too small to be seen with the naked eye. The only way one might suspect anthrax contamination is by looking for a powdery substance since the anthrax spores must be mixed with a powder if they are to be used and transported.
Whether biosafety labs face a reduction in funding and more stringent requirements in order to work with such dangerous materials, the science community has been stirred up by these recent events, causing many to wonder what the future holds. The possible actions of such a scientist long held in high regard for his research has shaken the scientific community a bit and led many to wonder if he really did it, why he would do it and how the government is going to propose to prevent similar occurrences in the future.