Category Archives: Unconventional Weapons

Bombay 2008: A Failure of Analysis

Recall a case where the attack recipient’s intelligence services had all the clues, but didn’t put them together? Yeah, there’s been a few. Pearl Harbor. Operation Barbarossa. D-Day. The Battle of the Bulge. The Nork invasion of South Korea. The Chinese invasion in support of the Norks. Suez. The Six Day War. The Tet Offensive. The Yom Kippur War. The collapse of Imperial Iran. The Russian invasions of Hungary/Czechoslovakia/Angola (true, it was Cubano proxies)/Afghanistan/you name it. Russia’s H-Bomb. Sputnik I. The collapse of the USSR and European Communism.  9/11. The Bali bombing. It might as well be a motto of governments everywhere: “We never saw it coming!”

To that list of operational con jobs (and the implied list of bamboozled intelligence agencies), you can add the 2008 small-arms attack by Lashkar-e Taiba terrorists on Bombay, India.

Once again, an “intelligence failure” turns out, when closely examined, to be an intelligence analysis failure. India (and Britain, and the UK) had all the raw intelligence information necessary to anticipate LeT’s move — but they never processed the sweepings of surveillance into usable, actionable, analyzed intelligence.

[T]he British were spying on many of [Lashkar-e Taibi planner Zarrar Shah’s] online activities, tracking his Internet searches and messages, according to former U.S. and Indian officials and classified documents disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

They were not the only spies watching. Shah drew similar scrutiny from an Indian intelligence agency, according to a former official briefed on the operation. The United States was unaware of the two agencies’ efforts, U.S. officials say, but had picked up signs of a plot through other electronic and human sources, and warned Indian security officials several times in the months before the attack.

What happened next may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft. The intelligence agencies of the three nations did not pull together all the strands gathered by their high-tech surveillance and other tools, which might have allowed them to disrupt a terror strike so scarring that it is often called India’s 9/11.

“No one put together the whole picture,” said Shivshankar Menon, who was India’s foreign minister at the time of the attacks and later became the national security adviser. “Not the Americans, not the Brits, not the Indians.” Menon, now retired, recalled that “only once the shooting started did everyone share” what they had, largely in meetings between British and Indian officials, and then “the picture instantly came into focus.”

via Big clues were missed in 2008 Mumbai terror attack – Worcester Telegram & Gazette – telegram.com.

So, if we’ve got this right, we’ve built a surveillance state that reaches into every PC worldwide — but when it comes to the terrorists who are supposedly the cause of all the intrusive spying, it can’t find its ass with both hands and a GPS grid.

Do read the whole thing. It’s a New York Times report, but by sending you to the Worcester, Mass., Telegram & Gazette website, you dodge the Times’s paywall.

Simple Sabotage Field Manual

simple_sabotage_field_manual_coverWe thought for sure we had featured this already, but if so, we can’t find it on the site. This is a sabotage manual  dating to 17 January 44 . It was classified SECRET but was declassified long ago — 14 June 76, to be precise.

It is only 32 pages long, typeset but with no illustrations. It’s rather typical of OSS training materials in that it seems to use a sort of Socratic method, where the book, film or other training method is not aimed to teach people simple rote skills, but to spur deeper discussions and thought.

Despite its limits, there is a lot to be had here, including from the introduction by BG William Donovan to the closing suggestions, “General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creat­ing Confusion.” (And yes, it does seem like that last part of the manual has been in use by everyone in DC for quite a few years).

Some of the suggestions border on the whimsical:

Saturate a sponge with a thick starch or sugar solution. Squeeze it tightly into a ball, wrap it with string, and dry. Remove the string when fully dried. The sponge will be in the form of a tight hard ball. Flush down a W. C. or otherwise introduce into a sewer line. The sponge will gradually expand to its normal size and plug the sewage system.

Here is the book in .pdf:

SimpleSabotageFieldManualStrategicServicesProvisional.pdf

Or, if you want it in .mobi for Kindles and Kindle-reader apps, or, in .epub for iBooks, or several other file formts, you can find it at web.archive.org.

 

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Are Sneakers a Deadly Weapon?

Question before the Court: is this a deadly weapon?

Question before the Court: is this a deadly weapon?

This case is before the Supreme Court, as a small-time criminal unhappy with the way a violent assault landed him in the big time, and an army of pro-criminal lawyers, try to lawyer him out of the pickle a bad temper and bad judgment got him into.

And yes, alcohol was involved; the incident happened at closing time at the city’s notorious bar-cum-fight-club, where a weekend night without flashing blue lights in the street was an occasion worth remarking. The bar has since been closed (after this and many other violent incidents).

PORTSMOUTH — The New Hampshire Supreme Court is deliberating whether a sneaker-clad foot can be a deadly weapon, based on an appeal by Josiah Mayo, who knocked a man to the pavement with a roundhouse kick to the face, outside the now-closed Page Restaurant and Bar.

via Page assault moves to Supreme Court – News – seacoastonline.com – Portsmouth, NH.

During a July 15, 2012 fracas outside The Page, Mayo “turned to wind up, swung his shod foot around in a martial arts-style roundhouse kick and hit the victim’s face with so much force that the victim was immediately knocked unconscious, fell back and fractured his skull,” according to a brief filed with the Supreme Court by Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan McGinnis.

Sounds like deadly force to us.

One of the victim’s friends was punched in the head and kicked in the leg and when he turned around to see who did it, he saw “a bunch of angry faces and people ready to fight,” the attorney general summarized. Mayo and his cousin, Daniel Mayo, both of Portsmouth, started yelling “and racial slurs may have been used” by others in the crowd, the attorney general reports. The victim and his friend “were not arguing, making threats or being aggressive,” McGinnis wrote.

Josiah Mayo

Josiah Mayo, small-time thug unhappy with his lot.

This is the weakest part of the prosecution case: the racial slurs (Mayo and his family are black; the victim and his friends are white) and general nature of the booze-fueled violence that night. Mayo had a case for self-defense, albeit a weak one; he presented it (and testified) in the lower court, but he had a credibility problem, as he’d given contradictory and incriminating statements to the police and the press.

In these days of fraught racial politics, some want to make this a case about race. We’re not seeing this. Unlike some states, New Hampshire has very little black-on-white crime. This is often ascribed by locals to our enlightened ideas about race relations and our abolitionist past, but it may simply be a statistical consequence of having relatively few blacks or other minorities, and having low crime all round. In all the nation, most crime is intra- rather than inter-racial, and with our almost all-white population, violent crime here is usually white-on-white. (There was a Black Lives Matter demo in Portsmouth Friday night, attended by about 80%

Anyway, here’s another description of Mayo’s crime, which we take as coincidentally interracial, but deliberately violent:

At that point, according to the state’s brief, Mayo kicked the victim in the face and “his entire body went rigid, he fell back like a tree and his head hit the pavement with a loud crack.” The victim’s friends said he was bleeding and out cold, according to court testimony.

Again, that sounds like deadly force with a deadly weapon to us, using the Forrest Gump’s Mama’s standard (“Deadly is as deadly does.”) However, as Andrew Branca would teach you if you attended one of his seminars or took one of his webinars, no court in the country uses Forrest’s Mama’s Standard; those hard-headed judges persist in using their own state’s statutes and case law. So there arises what lawyers call “a colorable argument.” Meaning, a question of law and of fact where advocacy for both sides before a neutral tribune is required to make a best resolution of the case.

Portsmouth police officer Christopher Worthington responded, kept calling the victim’s name and shining a flashlight in his eyes, but didn’t get a response, the attorney general reports. When an ambulance arrived, the victim regained consciousness and began vomiting blood, according to the attorney general’s brief.

We would describe that as a victim of assault with a deadly weapon. There is absolutely no question that if the victim had expired, which as we’ll see in a moment, he very nearly did, Mayo would have been charged with murder or manslaughter.

The kick was not the only blow landed by Mayo on the victim, but it’s the only one that has had appellate legs. He’s still going to be in prison for assault, regardless of the appeal’s outcome. What the appeal can do for him is pull his release day years closer.

The victim, who had previously worked as a bouncer at The Page, was hospitalized for five days, three of them in intensive care, for a skull fracture and inter-cranial hemorrhage, according to the attorney general. Mayo was identified as the assailant by witnesses, then later by video surveillance images, court records state.

Here we see another clue in the story: the victim was a former bouncer. It would not shock us to  learn he had been a bit forward in helping the current bouncers, probably buddies of his, to push the drunks out at closing time.

Ah yeah. Most choirboys have multiple mugshots of various vintages, right?

Ah yeah. Most choirboys have multiple mugshots of various vintages, right?

Mayo is a career criminal with numerous other convictions, and was on parole at the time, which is one of the subjects of the appeal: his lawyer argues that these facts should not have been used to impeach his credibility, lest they prejudice the jury.

His other two points of appeal are the lack of a self-defense instruction, and that a sneaker can’t be a deadly weapon:

The second part of Mayo’s appeal states that the trial court judge wrongfully failed to dismiss the assault with a deadly weapon charge. Mulvey argues that Mayo’s foot in a high-top sneaker doesn’t fit the definition of a deadly weapon, which is defined by law as “any firearm, knife or other substance or thing which, in the manner it is used, intended to be used or threatened to be used, is known to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.”

“The defendant’s foot, in a regular sneaker, used in the manner described above, does not meet the definition of a deadly weapon,” Mayo’s lawyer contends. “The force of the impact of the cobblestone ground caused the skull fracture and not the kick itself.”

For some reason, we hear this legal argument in 1930s comic Brooklyn accents: “Oy! It wasn’t me, Yer Honna. It was th’ skreeet what attackled him!”

One of the issues not before the Supreme Court, but that might help readers in evaluating Mayo’s credibility, is that Mayo fled the scene after assaulting the 32-year-old Maine man. He fled to Maine and was picked up coincidentally there on a probation violation a couple of weeks later, whereupon Maine cops discovered he was wanted in NH.

Nothing good eventuates in the small hours of the clock.

Ever see a “Flute Gun”?

This is a new one on us. It’s a little old — it was turned in during a gun turn in (which they did not, mercifully, refer to as a “buy back”) in Tampa, Florida in February, 2013, making it practically matchlock-era by blog standards, but it’s new to us.

Hillsborough FL flute gun3

Yep, that’s exactly what it looks like — a .22 bolt rifle built into a flute. It looks like an unfinished project, but the details are completely unknown.

Hillsborough FL flute gun

Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull was not available for comment. Naturally, the press fixated on the flute gun and two inert, fired AT weapons, an M72 LAW and an AT-4, to the exclusion of interesting weapons — including one far more deadly than any of these, at least, potentially.

Two rocket launchers and a flute fashioned into a gun were among the weapons turned into the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s Gun Swap program on Saturday. A total of 2,541 weapons were exchanged for $75 and tickets to a Tampa Bay Rays home game at five locations throughout the county.

via Rocket launchers, ‘flute gun’ among weapons turned in at gun buyback | wtsp.com.

Here’s a close-up of the muzzle area, where it looks like two flutes were grafted together to make the needed length. Or maybe that’s where a flute takes down. We’re guitar guys, we don’t pretend to know boo about flutes.

Hillsborough FL flute gun2

In all their fright over the flute gun and the harmless-but-scary-looking “rocket launchers,” the media ignored the heavy quantities of sawn-off shotguns in the turn-ins, and they missed the gun in the background here.

Hillsborough FL flute gun etc

Yeah, if you go past the Jennings pistol and the flute gun, and past the crude sawn-offs, that’s a Browning AN/M2 or M3 aircraft machine gun. It looks like an M2 to us, because the buffer is not the full width of the back plate (the dead give-away of the M3 is that huge buffer). Either way, that;s 1,000 to 1,200 RPM of 12.7×99 mm coming at you right there. (Of course, it looks to be in $#!+ state, maybe from a crash site).

The guns from the turn-in were sent to Jacksonville to be torched (which may add more costs). The leadership of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office opposes the private ownership of firearms, which is why they dropped $200k buying these odd guns, and a lot of armed robbers’ older sawn-off shotguns. Your tax (and forfeiture) money in action.

The $200k expenditure (so far) against a $60k budget tells you a lot about the fiscal management and overall priorities of the HCSO.

Improvised Weapons in Africa

“While expertise is high and growing in the art of weapons manufacture, the know-how in the production of cartridge [sic] and other ammunition is still lacking.” — Abdel-Fatau Musah, pull quote from the report in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Spring 2002.

Weapons recovered by South African police in 2010.

Weapons recovered by South African police in 2010.

Abdel-Fatau Musah is an anti-gun activist sponsored by Holocaust collaborator George Soros’s Open Society Initiative for West Africa, and while much of what he wrote in a 2002 article in the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Small Arms: A Time Bomb Under West Africa’s Democratization Process, was tendentious nonsense, he made some comments on improvised weapons that illustrate a point we keep hammering on: you can’t really ban guns, because you can’t uninvent the technology. From the thatched secret armories of Mindanao to the Tribal Trust Lands of Pakistan, humans who believe they need to arm themselves find entrepreneurs that arm them.

Improvised firearms are not new; they were once a reaction to colonialists' disarmament schemes. Smoothbore gun used by Mau-Mau terrorists in the 1950s.

Improvised firearms are not new; they were once a reaction to colonialists’ disarmament schemes. This smoothbore was built and used by Mau-Mau terrorists in the 1950s.

These third world armories have yet to produce a John M Browning, but it just might happen. As Musah notes, after deploring the existence of massive war stockpiles and ill-protected government armories, and blaming the great powers for the fact that the end of colonialism could be mistaken for the end of civilization in much of Africa, if there’s no handy stockpile a gunsmith will invent himself and start building one.

And the more he does it, the better he gets.

If one looked up the Small Arms Survey of 2001 for the list of arms producers, one would find that only Nigeria and Guinea possess the capacity to produce limited quantities of light weapons and ammunition in West Africa. Throughout the sub-region, however, cottage industries with the capacity to produce sophisticated firearms and imitation assault rifles dot the countryside. Originally established to meet local demands for hunting, these secret factories have grown in expertise and capacity to satisfy ever-growing demands brought about by general insecurity.

He also notes that the unauthorized gunsmiths react rationally to government pressure.

To avoid detection and repression, producers in Ghana have established networks of parts manufacturers, with each cell specializing in the production of specific components of the rifle. The components so produced separately—barrels, triggers, butts—are later assembled at a secret location for distribution. While expertise is high and growing in the art of weapons manufacture, the know-how in the production of cartridge [sic] and other ammunition is still lacking. The high rate of inward smuggling of ammunition is a consequence of this fact; this dependence offers options to control the overall trade.

He writes the conclusion to that paragraph as if he didn’t understand what he just said in the preceding lines.

If you try to restrict ammunition, yes, they’ll just make that, too. It’s not rocket surgery.

FIR 11307

Here’s another Mau-Mau blaster from the IWM. We struck out on images of the recent Ghanaian weaponry. Even the Impro Guns blog doesn’t have any.

Ghana, for instance, banned the local manufacture of firearms in 1962. Ten years later, they amended the Arms and Ammunition Act to allow manufacture with a license — and no license has ever been granted, or, for that matter, applied for. Yet guns are widely made.

Ghana, under the ECOWAS treaty and with the help of the EU and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation named after a Weimar era politician. The foundation’s politics are best understood by its veneration of the Karl Marx Haus in Trier, Germany, where it maintains a library of the “scientific socialism” it supports, and a hagiographic museum of the man who inspired the world’s greatest mass murders. It even says the baroque setting of Marx’s birthplace will “take you captive with its charms.” Well, if there’s one thing Marx’s ideology produced, it’s plenty of prisoners!

The Polish officers of 1939 were not available for comment, neither were the Old Bolsheviks of 1936-38, the 18 million who went into the Gulag, the millions that never came out, etc., etc.,

In Germany, the FES seems to overlap politically with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, which is descended from the East German quisling government and which has an anti-semitic tilt (ironic, as Luxemburg was Jewish. But many of the founding “Communists” of East Germany were resprayed Nazis, and by 1945 the original Communists, many of them Jewish, had been exterminated under red star as well as swastika, so maybe not so ironic).

ECOWAS, the EU and the FES consider minimum small arms regulations to be national and international registration, extremely restrictive may-issue permitting, and confiscations “as needed”.

His ultimate conclusion is even further afield — that SALW (the international ban seekers’ term for “Small Arms and Light Weapons”) — need to be controlled internationally, like nuclear weapons. 

At least two problems with that conclusion arise:

  1. the nuclear nonproliferation regime is extremely costly, which has only been justified by a strong international consensus for it at most times; and,
  2. the nuclear nonproliferation regime has failed repeatedly, and is failing again with respect to Iran.

No one is likely to sanction homegrown revolver development like they do, say, homegrown enriched-uranium manufacture. And as he noted with respect to the Ghanian bush gunsmiths, bans have consequences, but never the intended ones.

This is just one more attempt by Africans and their enablers in international organizations to try to shift the blame for misconduct by African individuals and governments onto other powers.

X Products AR Can Launcher

There’s modular, and there’s crazy modular. Here’s an AR upper with a twist — it contains a plugged, ported barrel, and launches an ordinary 12 oz. soft drink can out to 100 yards. Coming soon from X Products, you can preorder it (as an upper) now with a $20 deposit.

Can_Cannon_Right_Hand_View_with_Logo

More fun than anyone should have… The Can Cannon is a patent pending launching device that uses a propriatary gas ported barrel and pressure tube to launch heavy, thin wall objects, without burning a hole in them or directing hot gas directly into them. Currently set up for launching full un-opened 12oz soda cans, when used with standard mil spec blanks it can reach an average distance of 105 yards!
Why would you launch a soda can? Because it’s fun! Plus, it’s an incredibly fast and fun decoy to shoot at. Every demonstration leads to more smiles and laughs than any product we’ve ever introduced. BATFE approved design is not considered a Destructive Device or firearm.

via AR-15 Soda Can Launcher – Accessories Launcher – X Products.

Expected cost of the whole thing will be $399 or less (again, this is upper only) and it works with GI M200 blanks.

X Products is, of course, well known for its line of 50-round drum magazines for ARs and various other rifles in 5.56, 7.62 and 9mm. One is shown above in the Can Launcher, and the one below is in a Black Rain Ordnance AR.

X-15_Drum_in_Black_Rain_Rear_ViewThe metallic X Products drums are heavy for a 50-round mag, but reliable (although they can be… selective… about the supposedly-STANAG weapons they’ll work with, X is pretty up-front with this information).

You’re probably wondering a few things. Like: how does X make this work? And how did they get ATF to sign off on this as a non-gun? And we wouldn’t be Weaponsman.com if we didn’t have answers for you.

That big, soda-can-caliber cylinder threads on like a free-floating fore-end, but the barrel of this AR is radically different. It’s short, and ported, and capped. When you drop a can in, it rests on the cap and creates a de-facto high-pressure-low-pressure system like that going on inside a 40mm grenade.

The blank’s high pressure in the barrel exits through the ports into the large area behind the can, pressurizing it and sending the can downrange with a satisfying toonk!

The pressure in the “low pressure chamber” behind the can is sufficient to launch the can.

The ATF, for their part, appears satisfied that the capped blanks-only barrel is not intended for live-ammunition use. (And indeed, if you tried it, you would not be pleased with the result).

There are videos of this in action at the link above. So, how much did we like it? Enough to put ourselves down for one:

order_screenshot

 

We have absolutely no earthly, practical use for the thing (X Products suggests launching decoys for training gun dogs, but our dog only thinks he’s big enough to do that). But we are buying it because it’s neat, it will be fun if we can figure out where to shoot it, and because imagination ought to be encouraged, and we know no better encouragement than the profit motive.

 

Here’s an AR training aid of sorts

We have our doubts as to whether an injection-molded plastic part, even one with brass inserts, will be serviceable as a practical AR-15 lower. Even the manufacturer says so. (Yes, we now you can build a lower out of anything, but even the forged-aluminum-alloy originals wound up benefiting from reinforced pivot pin receiver bosses and a beefier buffer tower). But just for showing off how an AR trigger mechanism works, they’re the cat’s ass!

unpolished ghost gun receiver

We are proud to offer our Clear Stripped Lower Receiver we are calling the “Ghost Gun.” This lower is made as a training tool and product showcase model that is usable but is not designed for the rugged use that our fiber-reinforced Nylon models are. We designed this model to showcase trigger and internal function for teaching and industry usage. This receiver is made from a UV stabilized Nylon that is highly resistant to oils and lubricants. It also weighs in at 3.6oz ( the lightest receiver that has ever been made) Any high quality parts kit can be installed but minor fitting might be required.

flame poliched ghost gun receiverThe manufacturer, Tennessee Arms Co. LLC, offers the “ghost” receiver for under $60; a flame-polished version, which makes the surface of the plastic smooth and clear, is an extra $10, or you can do it yourself with a propane torch (and a great deal of caution). Or you can use the receiver in its standard, translucent mode (seen in the image at top).

Another good use might be to show off different AR triggers on a shop counter.

Because it is a complete receiver, it must ship to an FFL (or export in accordance with law). They do reiterate the warning about durability on their sales page:

This receiver is only intended as a teaching tool and for product showcase. If regular hard use is intended please purchase one of our Fiber-Reinforced Nylon models.

via Ghost Gun- Clear Stripped Lower Receiver – Tennessee Arms Company, LLC.

Along with the clear receiver, which they say is a clear aliphatic polyamide (Nylon), TN Arms also makes opaque receivers of other nylon polymers. Nylon has a long history in firearms; the first mass-produced plastic receiver was nylon (the Remington Nylon 66), as are Glock receivers.

The injection molding of the receiver seems to have been quite a challenge, with two brass or bronze inserts, limited draft, and areas that have to be cored, including the magazine well, trigger pocket, and mag release pockets, to name a few. We’d like to see that mold! (And we wouldn’t like to pay the bill for it!)

A Tale of Two Ebola-Research Mishaps

ebola virionsToday, as the Washington Post tells this story. It has the feel of a single-source anecdote, of being “too good to check.” It is neat, compact, no one is mentioned by name, and there’s a moral to the story: ready-made for narrative-addicted Posties.

But it is what happened, says the Post, to a Russian infectious-diseases lab tech.

The Russian Mishap as told by the Post

She was an ordinary lab technician with an uncommonly dangerous assignment: drawing blood from Ebola-infected animals in a secret military laboratory. When she cut herself at work one day, she decided to keep quiet, fearing she’d be in trouble. Then the illness struck.

“By the time she turned to a doctor for help, it was too late,” one of her overseers, a former bio­weapons scientist, said of the accident years afterward. The woman died quickly and was buried, according to one account, in a “sack filled with calcium hypochlorite,” or powdered bleach.

The 1996 incident might have been forgotten except for the pathogen involved — a highly lethal strain of Ebola virus — and where the incident occurred: inside a restricted Russian military lab that was once part of the Soviet Union’s biological weapons program. Years ago, the same facility in the Moscow suburb of Sergiev Posad cultivated microbes for use as tools of war. Today, much of what goes on in the lab remains unknown.

via Ebola crisis rekindles concerns about secret research in Russian military labs – The Washington Post.

In fact, there is a case of a Russian researcher dying of laboratory-acquired ebola — in 2004. Here’s Judith Miller at the New York Times. University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in 2004. However, the unfortunate Russian researcher in 2004 was in Novosibirsk at the Vector (formerly Biopreparat) facility, not near Moscow.

Now, we’re familiar through work with a similar mishap in the United States, with a somewhat better outcome, that happened about the same time.

The American Mishap

USAMRIIDOn February 11, 2004, a scientist was injecting a test treatment into laboratory animals (mice) deliberately infected with a mouse-adapted strain of Ebola Zaire, at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in order to study the disease. She inadvertently stuck herself with the needle. It went right through her bio-safety suit glove and her surgical glove into the soft muscle of her hand. (She was trying to inject the sample into the mouse’s belly, whilst holding the mouse in her hand). She was in a Bio Safety Level-4 containment lab at the time, the strictest and most inconvenient of medical precautions.

The accident and its aftermath has been written up by Kortepeter et al. in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2008. Here’s their description of the accident:

The person had been following standard procedure, holding the mice while injecting them intraperitoneally with an immune globulin preparation. While the person was injecting the fifth mouse with a hypodermic syringe that had been used on previous mice, the animal kicked the syringe, causing the needle to pierce the person’s left-hand gloves, resulting in a small laceration. The virologist immediately squeezed the site to force the extravasation of blood. After decontamination of the blue suit in the chemical shower, the injured site was irrigated with 1 liter of sterile water and then scrubbed with povidone-iodine for 10 minutes.

In terms of exposure risk, the needle was presumed to be contaminated with virus-laden blood, although it was suspected that low levels of virus were present on the needle. The animals had not yet manifested signs of infection, and much contamination may have been removed mechanically when the needle pierced the gloves. The local decontamination of the site also reduced potential for infection.

BSL-4 is used for pathogens which are highly contagious, lethal, and for which there are no suitable vaccines or therapies. The most common BSL-4 agents are hemorrhagic fevers, including filoviruses like ebola, Marburg, and Lassa; and CCHF. (We’re probably forgetting a few). Many of the nastiest nasties like Yersinia pestis (plague), yellow fever, Rickettsia spp., are BSL-3 because there exists an approved or experimental vaccine or treatment for them in humans.

BSL-4 implies, among other things:

  1. Hermetically-sealed rooms with highly-engineered HVAC systems to control any air interchange; HEPA filters catch even the tiniest viral particles. The BSL-4 facility is physically isolated from non-BSL-4 buildings or areas. Operations are conducted in accordance with a detailed procedures manual.
  2. Permanent underpressure (so air would never flow out if the seal leaked or was breached; a truly leak-proof seal is a near impossibility, but it can be approached asymptotically).
  3. At a minimum shower-in, shower-out through an airlock.
  4. Minimum number of people allowed in. All personnel must have (extensive) BSL-4 general and facility-specific training.
  5. Everyone inside must wear a positive pressure personnel suit. Every individual’s suit has a segregated air supply.
  6. No clothes from outside go in, no clothes from inside come out.
  7. Anything that does come out, comes out through sterilization measures, usually an autoclave.
  8. Even inside the BSL-4 containment, work with BSL-4 pathogens takes place under hoods or (preferably) in cabinets.

These are international rules and we’d assume the Russians follow them also.

Anyway, she thought the plunger didn’t move, but instantly reported the accident, and took basic first-aid measures. And things started to happen. Because an ebola patient is not infectious for 24 hours, she was allowed to go home and pack for a month away from home. (Home wasn’t very far, because the same facility where she worked hosted her quarantine area). Then she came back to USAMRIID, and walked through the round stainless-steel vault door of RIID’s “Patient Isolation Suite,” or, as everybody called it, The Slammer. There she would stay for 21 days.

If she lived that long.

They made it as comfortable as possible for her. She had a computer and TV, and could stay in touch and read the news — including reports on her own health in the local paper — on the internet. She had a VCR (yeah, not DVD) with a bunch of old movies.

There were basically three possibilities: (a), she hadn’t been infected; (b), she had, and would soon be dead of the disease; or (c), she had been infected, but would be one of the minority that beat the disease. The postdoctoral researcher was young, but adult, and healthy, which helped. And all the skills of all of RIID and its many peer organizations and cooperating scientists were galvanized into action.

An Experimental Hail-Mary Pass

In addition to the other precautions, RIID scientists and their industry and academic peers took a look at whether any experimental therapy might work. A small company in Corvallis, Oregon, AVI BioPharma (formerly AntiVirals, Inc). had been working for years on a concept called Morpholino Oligomers (called PMOs sometimes, abbreviating a longer name), which interposes a synthetic therapeutic molecule — the PMO — between the patient’s cell’s nucleic acids and the single-stranded RNA virus causing the disease. (Viruses use the infected organism’s cellular mechanisms to reproduce themselves). At the time it was a highly experimental therapy, unproven not just for ebola in humans, but for any disease in humans, any primate, or even any laboratory animal.

Because viruses need living cells to reproduce, the scientists at AVI were big believers in direct-to-animal testing, using rodents, ferrets and non-human primates. But with just 21 days max, if Researcher X had been infected, there would be no time for testing. Worse, given the state of technology of 2004, it took about 8 days to make the morpholino in potentially-therapeutic quantities, but it took several days to sequence a pathogen’s genome, and the gene sequence of the infectious virus strain was necessary to start morpholino development! Here, the researchers caught a break: since RIID was working with a known ebola strain, they had a good sequence in-house. The gene sequence of the virus was blasted through the internet to AVI, and morpholino production started. In a very short time, a tiny vial of potentially life-saving — but completely untested — ebola therapeutic morpholino was on a jet from Oregon to Maryland.

It was eight days after the researcher’s lab accident.

A Lucky Break

Medicines are tightly controlled in the various nations of the world. The US has an early-20th-century food-and-drug-act with many subsequent amendments, one that tends to strangle real medical research — like morpholino research — while giving legal cover to bogus nostrums and snake-oils (all the stuff that advertises on radio; it’s all crap). But giving an experimental molecule that hasn’t even been given to a mouse to a human is strengstens verboten. Still, if Researcher X had broken with ebola, they’d have given it to her. But the researcher got a lucky break. She never tested positive for the virus, never developed systems, and walked out of the Patient Containment Suite for the last time on 3 March 2004, 21 days after entering.

If she had broken with ebola, perhaps morpholino research would be further along today. But perhaps she’d be dead; there is that, and we wouldn’t wish her dead to advance science.

Science will still get there.

How Science is Getting There Today

Most of the players have moved on. The top guy in RIID’s program then went over to DHS’s expensive, duplicative, and troubled biodefense program. AVI BioPharma has become Cambridge, Massachusetts -based Sarepta, which continues morpholino research and recently reported successful non-human primate trials for a morpholino therapeutic for Marburg virus. Like ebola, Marburg is a Cat A bioterrorism threat agent, and Sarepta’s research has taken place in collaboration with USAMRIID.

One thing has changed. A 2011 rebuild of several buildings at USAMRIID eliminated the Slammer. RIID is hard up for space, and the Patient Isolation Suite hadn’t been used since 2004. The 2004 incident described here was its first use since 1985; from 1972 when the Slammer opened to 1985, 20 other patients were considered and 17 were admitted, some of which for diseases later downgraded to BSL-2 or -3 pathogens. None of them broke with the disease; it seems like every case was an exercise of due caution. The managers of RIID concluded that any future BSL-4 patients, including suspected ebola exposures, could be adequately contained in local hospitals. The duplicative new DHS BSL-4 facility at Ft Detrick (NBACC), and a triplicative planned new facility (NBAF), an exercise in Nebraska Avenue empire-building which DHS is extremely defensive about, also do not contain any facility for isolating infected researchers.

ISIL VBIED with American Suicide Operator

aby_hurayra_moner_abu_salahMeet al-Hurayra al-Amriki, the last bit of which means “the American.” He blew himself up in an attack on the Syrian Army in Jebel al-Arba’een in Idlib Province on 25 May 14. (Al-Hurayra, “The one with the kitten,” was one of the companions of Mohammed; al-Qaeda’s glamor shot of his suicidal namesake shows him holding a kitten, presumably his love interest).

This long video, captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute, is his “martyrdom video,” the crude mohammedan imitation of the genteel Shinto tea and saki ceremony that saw the kamikazes off. The parallels are remarkable, notably the shallowness of awareness of the propaganda-soaked suicides. Our interest is not in his reasons, nor in his message — the first is shallow, juvenile angst and gang-identification, the death-seeking of a 22-year-old going on 16; the latter the empty boasting of a child-man about to die in futile service to a lost cause and cynical leaders — but in his means. If you skip ahead to about three minutes from the end, you’ll see what’s purported to be the VBIED that he used to make an attack on Syrian government forces, and film that purports to be the explosion that may or may not have injured the Syrians, but presumably was, as SVBIEDs always are, 100% effective in punching “Abu’s” ticket. Did he see the “smile of allah” he so wished for? We’re doubtful.

An ideology that tells you, “Blowing yourself to smithereens in the hopes you indiscriminately kill somebody, practically anybody, is the path to salvation,” may be bearing a message from a supernatural being, but it ain’t God.

As he tells us, he’s the spawn of an Arab palestinian man and an Italian-American woman. Well, this neckbearded numbskull is not the worst result ever of an airheaded broad getting her multiculti mandingo on; he’ll be a forgotten footnote to these decades of barbarism.

As he doesn’t tell us, his real name was Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha. He was from Vero Beach, Florida. His father carried a Jordanian passport; his mother converted to the religion of death and barbarism, and they raised their children — including two other boys and a girl — in the ways of Mohammedanism. The father was a grocer, but the family was improvident with money and lost their home to foreclosure. Yet they managed to find money for visits to the middle east.

Moner was a loser, suspended from high school for fighting, then dropping out. He obtained a ticket-punch GED from a “school” that specializes in that kind of thing, then stumbled through three different colleges, dropping out of each without measurable achievement.

The jihadis who launched this not-so-smart bomb were smart enough to avoid any opsec violations that tell us much about the bomb and its triggering device(s). It is customary to have multiple initiators: a command initiator for the splodydope himself to pull, a remote initiator for the commanders to use if the splodydope loses his nerve or is disabled, and a dead-man switch. Judging from the fireball, there was a lot of low-grade explosive in the truck, probably a mix of ANFO and fillings melted out of ordnance (or complete shells if they were in a hurry). Other jihadi social media postings have suggested that the truck contained 17 tons of explosive, primarily artillery shells.

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The vehicle is a commercial dump truck, crudely armored. It’s a good choice as it has plenty of power and a very strong frame, just the ticket for carrying the explosives and the armor. The armor appears to be mild steel plate, little respected by armor buffs, but wait… what are the steel targets at your range made out of? Exactly. This thing isn’t a tank designed to go into combat, fight, disengage and then go back later, keeping the crew safe: it’s designed to go into combat and keep the crewman alive long enough for him to trip the bang switch, or to get close enough to the enemy for his ever-helpful masters to trip the switch for him.

(These masters are surely going to shaheed themselves, surely, one of these days, just not right now).

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The armor, then, is meant merely to delay the vehicle’s penetration. In front of the main front armor plate, there is an additional flat front plate, and a sort of cow-catcher plow to remove road obstacles. The heavy armor on the front indicates that they intended a straight, direct assault against their objective.

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This second shot of the cow-catcher was taken as the vehicle drove off to perdition. The bags may contain explosives. The cow-catcher was rather high, probably in order to clear the unimproved roads where the vehicle started out. It appears to be welded in place. The cow-catcher also adds to the protection of the vehicle’s powerplant; a mobility kill is a mission kill against a VBIED.

The flags are those of the al-Nusra Front, one of the al-Qaeda-associated jihadi groups fighting against Bashar al-Assad. After literally years of American dithering, there are no significant anti-Assad groups left that are not also anti-American. Arming Syrian rebels now means arming American enemies. Naturally, Washington is all for it.

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Visibility from inside the vehicle was poor straight ahead. The driver had a small window in the armor plate in front of him, and an even smaller one in the vertical armor plate in front of that. Standoff between the two plates provides some protection from RPGs as well. Jihadi slogans and Koran quotes painted in the cab bolster his will.

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There was no armor visible on the side of the cab.

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The nose was not the only vital part of the VBIED to be armored. Jihadi welders added plate to the rear wheel area and the fuel tanks, and armored the tires with big disks attached to the lug nuts. It’s impossible to tell if the steel plate alongside the nose end of the dump body is armor or trim. (The part that is forward of the slanted front of the dump body).

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We are not sure what make of truck this is. We have ruled out most of the Japanese brands, Mercedes, Magirus, Renault, and Kamaz. Any ideas?

The armor shows that the enemy is a learning enemy, even if his splodydopes themselves can’t pass on their lessons learned. It’s a far cry from the SVBIED of ten years ago, which was a couple of 155 rounds in the trunk of a taxi driven by some martyrdom wannabe. But it’s not invulnerable.

Vulnerabilities of this kind of SVBIED include antitank weapons and enfilading fire. Accurate .50 M2HB or DShK fire would also be effective, even from dead ahead. If you’re operating in SVBIED country, you want to have flanking outposts on your high-speed avenues of approach, able to light up the cab of your would-be al-Jazeera star from the side. You need them on both sides, and they need aiming stakes so that they know to check fire when their fire would otherwise fall on the opposite outpost. (The enemy will be trying hard enough to kill you. Don’t do his work for him).

That an attack like this is still effective over 30 years after they did it to the USMC in Beirut shows that the attack, while easily frustrated by effective fire, can often be executed in the time it takes defenders to shake off the cobwebs. Also, too many gate posts are expected to stop an attack with a rifle or a rifle-caliber light machine gun; what happens when the attack looks like this? We’ll tell you what: your gate can’t stop the attack, not in time.  Give them something that can hit a moving tank and turn it to slag… and give them no-hesitation ROE. (The enemy will probe your ROE with unarmed civilian vehicles, and then go all lawfare on you if you smoke ‘em. Smoke ‘em anyway. You’ll have sent some jihadi impersonating a civilian to the martyrdom he seeks, and your guys will not go to the martyrdom they most definitely aren’t seeking — win all round.

More on Moner al-Deadmeat:

“A Weapon is Where you Find It” — the Legal Angle

According to a court brief reported in the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, an 18th-Century definition of “arms” includes: “any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.” The authors of the amicus curiae brief that cited that Supreme Court precedent: Michael Rosman, Michelle Scott, Lisa Steele and Eugene Volokh filed the brief in a Massachusetts case, seeking to overturn the extreme anti-gun state’s ban on nonlethal self-defense weapons.

First, they had to propose a definition of weapons, or, in Constitution-era legal English, “arms.” They choose to draw on the Supreme Court’s Heller decision of 2008, in which the Court wrote (as quoted in the amicus brief):

The 1773 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined “arms” as “weapons of offence, or armour of defence.” Timothy Cunningham’s important 1771 legal dictionary defined “arms” as “any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.”

it is, in our opinion, hard to beat the concept that arms are any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another. That’s part of why we have our When Guns Are Outlawed… series, in which we cite various odds and ends used as murder weapons, or that draw blood in the course of mishaps.

The most important weapon is the human mind. Then, hands and feet, and only then need you look for items that extend the reach, momentum and striking power of your hands and feet, or that launch a projectile. But the decision to fight is tied to the decision to survive. It’s a conscious decision and it happens in your own cerebral cortex. Once that decision has been made, the impulse to arm oneself to increase probability of survival has been born.

Until next post, let’s all keep our wrath under control, and look to our individual and collective survival.