The Register Columnists

George Smith

Contact Mail Follow RSS feed
The Register breaking news

Email trail from navy man to London 'terror' site goes fuzzy

In pre-trial maneuvering this month the US government's case against ex-Navy signalman Hassan Abu-jihaad became more moth-eaten. Prosecutors filed an interesting brief indicating they had no evidence against the defendant of a terror plot modus operandi. Abu-jihaad has been charged with e-mailing information on the transit of …
The Register breaking news

US looks to old Herr Kohle for energy security

Analysis By now we all know the United States has no energy policy for the future. Rather, it does and it's a humiliating one: Global warming is a conspiracy by other countries trying to squelch the American dream and the right to buy elephantine SUVs. As one journalist covering autos for the Los Angeles Times put it in late December: "[ …
The Register breaking news

FBI's 'idiot dude' fails to boost US Navy terror emails

We now return readers to the case of alleged terrorist Hassan Abu-jihaad, the former US Navy signalman banged up for sending Babar Ahmad and Azzam Publications information on when his surface action group was transiting the Strait of Hormuz in 2001. Another alleged crime was buying a few Chechen jihadi videos and tipping the web …
The Register breaking news

How to be a failure at Guitar Hero III

Review Guitar Hero III and Rock Band are totally unavoidable in shopping trips to consumer electronics stores. As a guitar player for 40 years, I view the in-store demos of the games as primarily exercises in pitiless annoyance. What could be more embarrassing than people holding plastic toy guitars in public while trying to mime along …
The Register breaking news

It's not too late to join the bioterror gold rush

Analysis "If ramping up fear among American's about the threat of biological warfare was intended, in part, to drum up support for biodefense spending - as some conspiracy buffs theorize - then the downside is that accidents may result in an overreaction in the public and the media," reported The Fort Worth Star Telegram in a business …
The Register breaking news

Promote your local synthetic biologist

Analysis If your news filter is set to "bioterrorism" you may have seen a recent column by Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian. Spurred by a London visit by Craig Venter, it was the usual journalistic script on synthetic biology. Having delved into Lexis, we can say with authority that a couple of hundred major stories have run on synbio …
The Register breaking news

How just thinking about terrorism became illegal

"A proposal to scan suspect hard drives causes unease in [Germany]," read a recent frontpage story in the Los Angeles Times. Positioned boldly above the fold, the reporter and editors recognized the potential keen interest in anything having to do with the implementation of snooping in "My Documents". In the United Kingdom it's …
The Register breaking news

TV for those who enjoy massacres

Analysis In 1991, Bad: Or the Dumbing of America was published. Written by Paul Fussell, a man with experience of war, it pessimistically ran through all that was execrable in the United States with the realisation things were only going to get worse. Under bad magazines, scorn was reserved for the successful Soldier of Fortune, a …
The Register breaking news

The War on Terror's professional witness

Analysis The recent conviction of Mohammed Atif Siddique on terror charges highlighted the role of globetrotting professional witness Evan Kohlmann. Defenders in the US and UK have come to recognize him as a figure brought in to furnish opinions which are only of use to prosecutions in the frightening of juries. Kohlmann was also tapped …
The Register breaking news

Renewing the mythology of the London ricin cell

Analysis A significant and noticeable part of the US and European academy of terrorism studies is like a shark. If it stops swimming forward, it dies. This has two consequences: a drive to publish or perish which, in turn, motivates it to creep onto past battlefields, assessing which bodies can be ignored for the sake of renewing …
The Register breaking news

Legacy of Ashes - the undoing of the CIA

Book Review At the beginning of the Nineties, this journalist went through the Central Intelligence Agency's hiring process. The process took about a year to complete, its length and rigor attributed to the great importance of its classified mission plus a purported desire to get just the right kind of people - America's best. In any case …
The Register breaking news

Gaming 4G warfare for the USAF, with rayguns

In press coverage of how virtual wargames will revolutionize actual war, the lion's share of publicity has generally gone to private sector boffins bankrolled by the US Army. Most often, they appear as wizards from the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies. Journalists love the place and can't …
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Crazy cyber-jihadi emails planned death for Mayport, FL

Younis Tsouli - irhabi007 - was earlier this month jailed for ten years. It's a good sentence for the cyber-jihad twit, someone who became fodder for television news shows like 60 Minutes. Wishing to show how al Qaeda was beating the pants off the good guys on the Internet, Tsouli was the perfect example for them, one of …
The Register breaking news

'Effete' Europe useless in GWOT, says bin Laden man

"Everyone is entitled to my opinion!" could be the motto of Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. Regularly showing up on American television, Scheuer is good as a talkative churl spewing calumnies on whatever political figure in the war on terror news hosts want defamed, always enthusiastically addressing …
Flag Iraq

Iraq collapse may pose new WMD threat, say UN monitors

As soon as 63-year old Russell Defreitas was arrested in early June for an alleged plot to destroy JFK through fuel explosions, terror beat journalists couldn't resist their favorite hobby: telling stories about how everything in the US is at risk. The description "elderly patsy" immediately came to mind when eyeballing …
The Register breaking news

DHS: beware stink-bomb touting terrorists

Unusual paranoia over chemical attack in the US takes many forms. It can be seen in a recent piece of trouble from the Department of Homeland Security, a long list of "chemicals of interest" it wishes to require all university settings to inventory. "Academic institutions across the country claim they will have to spend …
The Register breaking news

Suspect in case that helped sell Iraq war cleared, again

"An Algerian who was branded a terror suspect after being acquitted in the ricin plot trial, was yesterday cleared of being a threat to Britain's national security, reported the Guardian this week. "Mr Justice Mitting, chairing the special immigration appeals commission (SIAC), ruled that there were no national security grounds …
The Register breaking news

Loose mouth and loose change - $5 tip leads to terror finance rap

In the terror case against Hassan Abujihaad, formerly known as Paul R. Hall - sailor on the destroyer Benfold, the US government has another mangy cat in the GWOT. "Material support of terrorism and disclosing previously classified information" are the beefs in the indictment against Abujihaad, according to a government press …
For Sale sign detail

TV's cyber-jihad slot exposes al Qaeda's web ops. Or not

Analysis Depressing evidence that the US news big deals have jumped the rails flows daily in the war on terror. Take 60 Minutes' recent special on "jihad.com." Reported by Scott Pelley and produced by Harry Radcliffe, the 800lb gorilla of US journalism led with the tired story of al Qaeda in cyberspace. It was so poor one could easily …
The Register breaking news

Torture and '24' - because it hurts us less than the real thing?

The terrorism action show "24" is now thought to be such heady stuff to the average American, media sources have decided to complain about it. And what is the objection? The contrived plots or the utterly unrealistic grasp and use of technology? No, it's the torture. New Yorker magazine just spun out a longish piece on how Joel …
The Register breaking news

Richard Clarke: cyberczar, prophet, terror tech porn king...

Book Review Richard Clarke, the world's most famous security expert, has a new book entitled Breakpoint. A techno-thriller, it takes its place among its equivalents, romance fictions for American men, a genre for combining combat action porn with loving trademarked descriptions of weapons. The men in this story get hard over firearms, …
cloud

Fact, fiction or bioterror drill? How to cook up a ricin scare

We Yanks love to be scared. The more scared we can be, the better. The Effect of Bioterrorism Messages on Anxiety Levels, a recent article in a peer-reviewed health quarterly, put a point to it. Those covering the science of terror beat in the United States have known for a bit that the mainstream media's uncritical transmission …
The Register breaking news

Frankenstein's cure for ageing - botulism

Chemical Alley How easy was it to buy an eye-popping 3,081 vials of research botulinum toxin, the deadly neurotoxin produced by Clostridium botulinum, always found on jihadist terror wish lists? Very easy in 2003 - unlike so many other things alleged to be simple to do by designated evil-doers in the war on terror. Two Arizona scammers in …
The Register breaking news

The Electro-pulse of Doom that threatens America

Be afraid. The recent election removed a stalwart defender of the United States against one demonical menace among many, the electromagnetic pulse attack, the one that will fry our electronics. The spiritual leader of the cause, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, was endorsed by Frank Gaffney, right wing defender of the faith …
The Register breaking news

The myth of the home-bake terror nuke 'cookbooks'

Analysis Predictably, the Nov. 3 New York Times revelation that sensitive documents on a-bomb design, recovered from Saddam Hussein's regime and released on-line, became a political football. If there was value in it, as opposed to red meat for Democrat blogs, it was swept away by the mania inspired by a Times source, one anonymous …