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Be afraid!

2008-02-13 21:39:30.182431+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

NYPD spreads fear and terror needlessly:

Undercover police secretly set up a fake company to demonstrate how easily and anonymously a terrorist could purchase chlorine on the Internet for a deadly chemical strike against the city.

And you know what? You can buy bleach and ammonia based cleaners anonymously! In every town in America! There's only one way to be safe: We need to track the ID of everyone buying cleaning products, and limit the amount of cleaning products they can buy per month, and...


[ related topics: moron Consumerism and advertising Law Enforcement ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-14 15:32:05.611853+00 by: JT [edit history]

I think there's a difference between buying 100 pound cylinders of chlorine gas and a bottle of clorox. Chlorine gas has been used as a chemical weapon since WWI when the germans would flood trenches with it.

chlorine info
Toxic by inhalation, ingestion and through skin contact. Inhalation can cause serious lung damage and may be fatal. 1000ppm (0.1%) is likely to be fatal after a few deep breaths, and half that concentration fatal after a few minutes. May irritate or burn skin. OEL (8hr TWA) 1 ppm.

This is why you're always warned not to mix bleach and ammonia. The ammonia causes a chemical reaction with the processed bleach which allows it to release small amount of chlorine gas. Not very much, definitely not enough to take out your neighborhood, but enough to make you lose consciousness and potentially to die if not moved to fresh air.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-14 16:49:19.199274+00 by: Dan Lyke

I haven't run the numbers on what it'd take to do major damage to a subway, but there are any number of industrial gases that are easily available that could be applied similarly to a canister of chlorine. Raising the alarm over one particular risk is just alarmist.

There's always the chance that these guys are trying to flush out the idiots, kind of a "look, over here, a way for you to plot a terrorist attack (that we've already wired up a tracking system to detect)", but given what I've seen from the alleged "anti-terrorist" forces in this country, I have trouble believing that they're that canny.

However, I could believe that some of the would-be "terrorist" types are stupid enough to fall for that kind of shenanigans.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-14 17:31:56.489944+00 by: JT [edit history]

I saw a news channel do a story once about a reporter who posed as an agricultural worker and purchased 5 gallons of liquified anhydrous ammonia, which can be used as a fertilizer, without a license. This type of ammonia is deadly and can be used as a weapon, but the more common use is that this is one of the chemicals used to chemically dehydrate crystal methamphetamines.

There wasn't any outrage over some diversion about the news channel pointing out how to get one weapon or one chemical to produce illegal narcotics, why should a government agency doing the same thing illicit such a different response?

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-14 18:06:54.052108+00 by: Dan Lyke

Had I seen the news report, I like to think I'd have said something similar. However, I expect sensationalist fear-mongering from the news media, that's what they're paid for...

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-14 18:38:28.024072+00 by: JT

So would a better solution be for the agency to set up a false company and purchase a number of dangerous chemicals? I fail to see why just purchasing one type of chemical is a problem. There have even been stories about people who were arrested for purchasing anthrax through the mail a number of years ago, but I didn't think it was sensationalizing anthrax, I only thought it showed it was easy to get something via the mail or internet which could potentially be used as a weapon. Sort of like buying a shotgun without an ID at wal-mart... I see those stories every year or so, but I never think that much about them either.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-14 18:53:33.499445+00 by: Dan Lyke

What I find distasteful is that they put out the press release announcing the situation. That's how AP articles get written.

Yes, you or I or the NYPD or whoever can walk into an industrial gases place and plunk down cash for things that'd kill a few subway cars full of people. We can also walk into a supermarket and do the same thing, although we'd have to plan that attack a little more carefully, but not a whole lot more carefully.

Mass murder is possible.

What I find irresponsible is putting out a press release stating a specific method that may or may not be terribly efficient, when the only possible purpose of that press release is to scare the populace into either funding dollars, or accepting silly restrictions on purchasing materials that won't actually make us any safer.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-15 14:33:46.18537+00 by: JT

Media sensationalism over chemicals used for terrorism? One word... carbon. Several thousand factors apply to global warming, atmospheric particulate density, lava floes beneath tectonic plates, global rainfall averages compared to changes in atmospheric flow (wind), constantly changing currents of the ocean and it's effects on global weather, the earth's natural cycles of ice ages and warm periods... and what have we heard about over the past 5 years? Carbon. How much carbon do you produce? How much carbon does this business use? How can we limit the amount of carbon put into our atmosphere? What was the carbon level before the industrial revolution?

The media's about sensationalism and picking one topic and sticking to it. You remember the "summer of the shark" in Florida? You know, the lowest rates of shark attacks within a 10 year span when shark attacks became national media every time anything happened on the beaches.

Now the word terror is key (again). NYPD didn't give this to you, you didn't find it on their site. You found it... in the media. I'd say this isn't a problem with NYPD making this sensational.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-15 14:54:56.052803+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'll give that to you if you'll offer that the only reason I got it from the media was that some NYPD spokesperson decided it needed to be a story. I've seen how AP stories get written, and I'm damned sure it wasn't because Tom Hays was snooping around the bars that the New York cops hang out in and managed to extract the story from one of them.

The reason media sensationalism happens is that harried reporters get handed a mostly written press release that serves somebody's purpose, the reporter gets to hand a story to their editor by changing a few words and passing it up the chain, and the editor is happy because this reporter is so productive.

In fact, several times when I've found a story I've gone back and chased it to its original press release (for instance), and every time, the changes in the AP feed only made it less readable or less accurate.

That video tape didn't make it to the media without help, and I'll bet it came with a handy press release, probably even in electronic form, for the reporter's cutting and pasting pleasure. The same way that the carbon stories or whatever else make it into the papers and on to TV.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-02-15 16:49:47.730732+00 by: Dan Lyke

I guess the bright side to this is that if the NYPD is just now figuring out that the way to buy restricted gases is to set up a dummy company, it's no wonder people have been able to get tanks of nitrous oxide to get high off of for years now. I just remembered a bunch of friends doing exactly that in the 1990 time frame...