Feeds

Amazing terror weapons: the imaginary suitcase nuke

KGB/Mafia scam compound gets day in court, cleared of all charges

Top three mobile application threats

Analysis Three men were last week cleared of charges after one of the global war on terror's more ludicrous trials. They had been accused of an imaginary plot to produce an imaginary radioactive 'dirty' bomb using an imaginary substance. Imagination throughout proceedings was greatly aided by the efforts of Mazher Mahmood, the imaginary "fake sheikh" who produces scoops for the News of the World, which has been known to imagine itself a newspaper.

The trial centred on an alleged plot to acquire red mercury, described by the News of the World as "a deadly substance developed by cold war Russian scientists for making briefcase nuclear bombs", and described by The Times (relation) as a chemical "thought to have been developed by the Soviet Union whose existence was called into question during the trial." There is however no question about its non-existence. Note the statement from the International Atomic Energy Agency saying so.

It's not entirely clear who cooked up the original red mercury story. It might have been dreamed up by the Soviet Union, complete with 'suitcase bomb' as a cold war sting, or it might be sourced to the Russian Mafia as something it could 'sell' to terrorists who don't trust Wikipedia. Or a bit of both, but really, there's no such thing. But you can see how Mafia scammers, popular newspapers, terrorists and counter-terrorists could all, for slightly different reasons, get twitchy at the mention of 'suitcase nuke', and how there's plenty scope for them to bang into one another when they've got twitchy.

They should all know better (apart from maybe the Mafia). How, then, do you end up keeping three suspects in custody for two years and spend over £1 million on a trial (the total cost of the investigation was surely a lot more)?

In his evidence Mahmood claimed to have been contacted by a man described in court as Mr B, who had said he had been unable to interest police in his claims. Via B, Mahmood made contact with the alleged plotters, posing as a possible source of red mercury. Once Mahmood was involved the Met's terror squad was interested, the three men were arrested in September 2004, and the NotW ran a screamer exclusive. Whether or not red mercury existed was not important, the prosecution claimed at the outset: "The crown's position is that whether red mercury does or does not exist is irrelevant," prosecutor Mark Ellison told the jury.

And, from the point of view of the charges, this was correct - for them to be found guilty the prosecution needed to prove simply that they had attempted to obtain "a highly dangerous mercury-based substance" which they believed could be used to make a dirty bomb; their beliefs and intent were therefore relevant, but the substance itself was not.

From our point of view however, the non-existence of red mercury is of considerable relevance. Could that have been why Mr B's initial approach to the police was rebuffed? To what extent did the Met's terror squad believe in the existence of red mercury? And if it did believe in it, to what extent does it still believe in it? Might it also believe in the son of the late President Mobutu when he tells it he needs help to move $50 million out of Kinshasa?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.