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back to article The American way of bioterror - an A-Z of ricin crackpots

It takes a special kind of American to be fascinated by ricin, and last week the latest, Roger Von Bergendorff, was indicted in the District Court of Nevada. Bergendorff possibly qualifies for an award in failed Darwinism, being the only person in recent times to have seemingly accidentally poisoned himself with the protein …

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Linux

Constitution

"It's a crime to know of and not report the production of ricin when the government comes inquiring."

What, wait, I thought that I had a constitutional right not to rat myself, or others out? Isn't being forced to report a crime a bit strange and dangerous?

Isn't that how that Brazilian guy got killed in the UK - by a "good citizen" calling in to report a man with a gun?

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Ash
Pirate

There is only one Weapon of Mass Destruction.

Sensationalist media.

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Epic Fail

"They hired a hit man for $10,000 to stab him to death. The attempt failed. Tepatti also attempted to shoot her ex-husband while he slept on the sofa with a gun equipped with homemade silencer made from a potato. She missed. Both drugged him with Valium and tranquilizers. He was made sleepy."

Brilliant!

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Re: Constitution

The 5th Amendment gives you the right not to act as a witness against yourself, but (as far as I know, not being an expert) there's nothing preventing other people testifying against you.

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Alert

Brazilians

> Isn't that how that Brazilian guy got killed in the UK -

> by a "good citizen" calling in to report a man with a gun?

No, your thinking of some of the other unarmed citizens the police have accidentally gunned down..

Menezes died because he had the misfortune to live near a terror suspect and look a bit foreign in a country policed by the homicidally incompetent.

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Anonymous Coward

My title

Yeh, I heard that about the way you can't implicate yourself of a crime in the states but I don't think it applies here if the wording is correct...

"It's a crime to know of and not report the production of ricin when the government comes inquiring."

So as long as you report it you're not ratting yourself out coz you haven't committed a crime, just reported one.

The above implies that you could just answer the government inquiry with "Yes, I knew" when they came a knocking but then I'm not sure how you'd answer the next question, "Why didn't you report it earlier?"

/extremely pedantic rant

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not unconstitutional

Aiding and Abetting:

A person charged with aiding and abetting or accessory is usually not present when the crime itself is committed, but he or she has knowledge of the crime before or after the fact

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IT Angle

Reminds me of the qat/kat situation

This mildy hallucinogenic sedative plant is chewed traditionally in Jemen, Somalia and parts of Erithrea and Ethiopia.

The problem is that the active compound (which makes it an illegal drug) is not stable and it persists only in near-undetectable quantities in harvested leaves. By the time it reaches the US or the UK. Even so, it seems much desired by the local immigrant community in NY, and very hard to find [there is a long story in the Village Voice a few months ago, culminating in failure to find it]. However, if I walk to my local internet cafe here in London, it is even advertised by a notice on the window.

To me this represents how the War on Drugs has been completely abandoned by the US: police officers report that even if they find truckfuls of the `drug', they do not prosecute as there will no be demonstrably active drugs and no conviction can ensue. (They also cannot prosecute for fraud, as you could someone selling a random chemical as cocaine.) In contrast, they can prosecute in the War on Terror for doing pointless things with castor oil and even claim it's a "significant step" in bioterror.

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Coat

A-Z?

Why were these crazies not in alphabetical order?

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@Anonymously Deflowered

You beat me to it, that report along brightened my whole day today :D

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There is only one Weapon of Mass Distraction.

Sensationalist media.

Use it.

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Bronze badge

WExcuse me...?

"Michael Crooker, a Massachusetts man now serving time as a convicted felon, was arrested by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in 2004 for sale of an air rifle equipped with a silencer."

Okay... I'm familiar with BB and pellet guns... The only other air-powered gun that I know of is a paintball type, which I've never used, so I'm not sure how loud they actually get...

...But a SILENCER on an airgun?!!?

That just seems so wrong.

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Thumb Down

Overreacting somewhat.

"Bergendorff, like everyone else before him, is headed for prison for an indefinite period, a just sentence when considering that, unintentionally or not, the ricin crackpot's major contribution is to frighten the locals when the gendarmes and hazmat teams descend on the neighborhood."

What? How the hell can you justify _indefinite_ detention on the basis that the *police* worried the neighbours. On that basis having your house searched could itself be seen as a criminal offence.

Now they can suspect you on the basis of fuck all, use suspicion as a basis for searching your house, find NOTHING, but then charge you with disturbing the neighbours. Neighbours who would not have been disturbed had he been left alone.

As you yourself pointed out, he was only a danger to himself and his dog. America needs to man the fuck up.

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Ru
Thumb Down

@Mike Moyle, silencers on airguns

They do have a noticable effect, even on the fairly low powered airguns which are legal in the UK without a firearms license. They will be just as useful on larger and more powerful airguns, which could plausibly be lethal weapons.

But it is a particularly uncool crime to be punished for.

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@Steve

Re: "How the hell can you justify _indefinite_ detention..."

I read that as merely describing it as being so far undefined, the , ahem, perp not having been sentenced yet

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Norman Bates

Most of these `oddball´ types who are messing around with castor plants and seeds could take a Batesian shortcut if they want to kill someone, just smack them round the back of the head with the shovel instead of using it to dig the garden.

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ah, the profiles of terrorists

losers, mentally unbalanced, unable to function in society, drug users-and the writer dismisses these guys as not being a threat?

Thats the profile of just about every suicide bomber and successful terrorist in history. the only difference between these wacko's and Oklahoma City or an Israeli schoolbus incident is that these guys got caught.

It's the ones you *didn't* catch that you should keep an eye out. It doesn't mean you let your guard down, or laugh it off when some @ss is doing their damnest to make something to harm a lot of people. Because sometimes they get lucky.

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US gun laws

They have some odd "gotchas" in the US wrt guns -- silencers (and also "sound moderators") are scary, possibly because of their connotations as assassination weapons. It takes a Federal Firearms Licence (FFL, effectively a dealer's licence) to own them and it costs a chunk of money to buy and transfer ownership of such a silencer or a silenced weapon, like the DeLisle carbine. It is classed in the same way as fully-automatic weapons like machine guns.

In the UK on the other hand, fitting a silencer to a legally-held rifle is not a big deal. Many people who use air rifles for pest control (rats, pigeons, rabbits etc.) over here fit silencers aka suppressors since it allows them to get more shots at their targets without disturbing them.

Another odd "gotcha" in the US is detachable shoulder stocks for pistols -- they are permitted to collectors but only for historical weapons with matching serial numbers (stocked WW1 Lugers, for example). New manufacture shoulder stocks are FFL-only and cost a lot to own and obtain. In the UK again, shoulder stocks for legally-held handguns are not a problem.

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Profile of a trerrorist?

>>"losers, mentally unbalanced, unable to function in society, drug users-and the writer dismisses these guys as not being a threat?"

>>"Thats the profile of just about every suicide bomber and successful terrorist in history. the only difference between these wacko's and Oklahoma City or an Israeli schoolbus incident is that these guys got caught."

a) I'm not sure it is anything *like* the profile of every successful terrorist in history, or even like the profile of many terrorists.

b) It's the profile of a large number of people who are extraordinarily unlikely to become terrorists.

It seems pretty obvious that for someone who enjoys fantasising about wiping out their enemies with ricin, they'd have much more success using a firearm, which (at least in the USA) they could probably get hold of with little difficulty. You could argue that playing with castor beans is keeping them from doing some actual harm.

As the article pointed out, likely it would take a rather different kind of person to pull off real ricin production and use. Such a person probably wouldn't do the dumb things that would lead to them being caught before the fact, or be put off by seeing a string of losers getting caught and locked up.

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Black Helicopters

Anyone connected with a "shock horror" crime...

...can end up in jail whether they help the authorities or not.

On 14th April 1865, a man on horseback called at the home of Dr Samuel Mudd and asked him to treat his broken leg. Dr Mudd did so. The following day, Dr Mudd heard the news that President Lincoln was dead - assassinated the day before by one John Wilkes Booth who had broken his leg during his barnstorming escape. Realising that this was the man that he had treated, Dr Mudd immediately went to the authorities and told them all he knew. He was arrested and later convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was pardoned (but still declared guilty) four years later. It was only a century after that they got around to declaring him innocent. By which time he was, of course, dead, having lived out the rest of his life as a pariah.

If someone you know thinks they're "manufacturing ricin" then telling the authorities might not be a good idea - you never know how they will react. Instead, explain to why they should not do this. If they are too crazy to be swayed by reason, get AmanFromMars to explain to them.

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Jobs Horns

Re: Anton Chigurh's "sniper rifle"

Uh, pretty sure it was a shotgun.

Sniper rifles tend to produce a hole rather than a spray that leaves Stephen Root gurgling on his office floor.

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Anonymous Coward

FBI

ATF FBI? ...Apparently they have nothing useful to do!

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Pirate

Better poisons

can be obtained easily from your neighborhood park if you know what to look for. Start with Jimsonweed, that stuff grows anywhere and it's more fun too.

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Stop

@ Constitution

here in the UK, if you are clocked by a robot speed camera, you get sent an 'S172' form. On that form you have to incriminate yourself by admitting you were the driver, or grass the real driver up who also has to then incriminate himself. Failure to incriminate yourself means you get prosecuted for failure to fill in the form, basically a lose/lose position for you and win/win for the police. The ECHR has ruled this compulsory self incrimination does not breach your human rights.

George Orwell would have been delighted at the accuracy of his predictions.....

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@Robert Sneddon

You said:

"They have some odd "gotchas" in the US wrt guns -- silencers (and also "sound moderators") are scary, possibly because of their connotations as assassination weapons. It takes a Federal Firearms Licence (FFL, effectively a dealer's licence) to own them and it costs a chunk of money to buy and transfer ownership of such a silencer or a silenced weapon, like the DeLisle carbine. It is classed in the same way as fully-automatic weapons like machine guns."

You're a little off, but close. Anyone in the United States who can legally own a pistol can legally own any weapon covered by the NFA (National Firearms Act). This includes Machine Guns, Sound Suppressors (A.K.A. silencers), Short-Barrelled Rifles, Short-Barrelled Shotguns, and All Other Weapons (A.O.W. is basically anything that doesn't fall under any of those definitions, or Long Gun on Handgun).

One must be a licensed Class III dealer to sell these items. Owning them requires a lengthy background check and BATF approval, and a $200 transfer tax for all but the AOW, which carries a $5 transfer.

Machine Guns are no longer legal for civilians to purchase new, but are legal to possess so long as they were registered before the ban took effect in 1986. This means there is a finite supply of legal machine guns, and the entry-level full-auto costs about $4000, for something like a shitty MAC-10.

When it comes to detachable shoulder stocks and the like, one can legally fit them to a modern pistol, so long as one is willing to jump through some hoops. Typically one has to register the weapon as an SBR, which entails a $200 transfer tax and a pile of paperwork.

And regarding the Anonymous Coward's suggestion of jimsonweed, are you trying to kill someone, or simply make them hallucinate? It's a pretty mild neurotoxin, and takes quite a bit to kill.

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@oldfartuk

Regarding identifying drivers, you could look at it from the point of view that a responsibility that comes with being a vehicle owner is some amount of control over who's driving it.

If someone doesn't want to be put in the position of saying who was driving their vehicle when asked within a reasonable timeframe (assuming they know), they can choose not to own one.

Where would *you* draw the line on people having to help identify who was driving a vehicle? If the vehicle injured someone in an accident? If it killed someone?

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Dead Vulture

Bean Danger

So it's fine to have a gun, but not to grind up some beans to make a paste which might kill someone?

A think I'm going to hide my booze and ciggies, they are pretty poisonous too.

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