Tuesday, July 27, 2004

We're Not Prepared

The more details come out of the investigation into the Madrid bombings of March 11 of this year, the more I am beginning to get the feeling that I'm walking around with a big target pinned to my back, while the government seems to be calling 'over here!' to our enemies. The first stages of paranoia? Mmm, maybe. I'll try and explain, then you tell me if I'm sliding.

When Italian police arrested Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed in Milan, considered to be one of the masterminds behind the Madrid attacks, they had been tapping his phone conversations for three months. The wealth of information about the planning and motivation of the attacks, is just starting to come out now. Yesterday, Spanish newspaper El Mundo (link in Spanish, local copy kept here)
published new details from the transcripts of Rabei Osman, aka 'Muhammad the Egyptian', in which at the end he mentions a weapon they devised, which looks like a blow dryer and would cause convulsions and high fever (translated, emphasis mine):

Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed, aka 'Muhammad the Egyptian', considered to be the brain behind the terrorist attacks of March 11, and arrested in Italy, said that "Madrid is a lesson to Europe, they need to break with the US" and praised the head of the Spanish government, Rodríguez Zapatero, "for valuing Arabs"

'The Egyptian' also called for a large-scale attack in Italy like in Madrid, he assured that Berlusconi is "a dictator" and that his government "will have the same ending as that of Aznar", for following "the American dog", as he referred to George Bush.

[...]

"Madrid is a lesson to Europe, which must understand that they need to break with the Americans. The Berlusconi government is following the same methods as the dog (referring to Bush) and I hope that God will eliminate this government of Berlusconi because it's dictatorial and a destroyer of Islam. We hope that God will give them [Berlusconi government -ed.] a disaster, and that so Italy will have a disaster", stated 'the Egyptian'.

[...]

They're slaves, now that the dog (Bush) comes [this was on the day of President Bush's visit to Rome -ed.] they put all these controls in place which serve nothing, if we want to strike, we can. It's Berlusconi's fault, who is a great dictator", states the terrorist. 'The Egyptian' adds that according to him, all countries that follow the US "will have the same fate as Aznar".

He underlines that after the Madrid attacks, which caused 192 victims, "all the Arabs and all the Spanish went onto the streets, calling Aznar a murderer".

Continuing his conversation, 'the Egyptian' has words of praise for the president of the Spanish government, stating that José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero "inmediately understood the importance of the Arabs, and his rise to power has opened a dialogue".

He attacks Berlusconi again, and they are talking about if what happened in Madrid would take place in Italy, the blame would be on Berlusconi, "whoever follows this dog (Bush) will hurt himself".

On the same day, but later, 'the Egyptian' returns to talk with his friends and he talks with them about a weapon, "in the shape of a hair dryer", which "causes a lot of damage to your health".

He adds that when this weapon, of which more details are lacking, starts to blow hot air, "it heats the temperature a couple of degrees, the body will start to suffer convulsions and it weakens [the target -ed.]and the (body) temperature starts to rise".
My first instinct says Ricin, don't know why, but it may also be Anthrax, but that tends to take longer to cause effect. I'm not a toxin expert here, but Ricin in powdered form, distributed by blow dryers?

Now, this is bad enough, but look at this recent Reuters report about the same terrorist. During his stay in Paris, he was directing the cell(s) in Madrid by phone, masking his calls by hacking into a local bank's phone switch:
Prosecutors this month began a probe into a flurry of calls to Spain and Morocco from a bank in the Val-de-Marne area.

The calls increased significantly in the days before the attack and stopped a few hours before the bombs ripped through a series of commuter trains on March 11, killing 191 people, according to the daily newspaper Le Parisien.

Police have established that the calls were made by "phreaking" -- a practice similar to hacking that bypasses the charging system.

The paper said Rabei Osman Ahmed es-Sayed, alias Mohamed the Egyptian, a suspect in the attacks who was arrested in Milan in June, spent several months in Val-de-Marne last year.
I tried this myself for a while, back in the eighties, but never got it to work, it is hard to do, even though the average techie will snuff at it. This is an enemy using low-end means in a counter-counter terrorist fashion, which absolutely worked.

There's one tidbit of information more I wanted to share. This week it came to light in the local press here, that a second car was used to bring the terrorists to the train stations. It was detected in June, three months after the attacks. On the first day they found a minivan, with detonators and tapes with coranic verses. This time, the police were alerted by the rental company Hertz, who recovered a stolen car from the same spot where they found the minivan, and while cleaning it, they came across a box with clothes, and again tapes. DNA testing proved two persons had been in touch with the items, one a presumed cell leader who blew himself and six other terrorists up, when their hideout was stormed in a suburb of Madrid (they started tearing down the building yesterday), and the other one, well his DNA was found in the other car, but he remains at large.

And now the politicians are calling each other names, because the government decided to keep this under wraps until this week. Recall if you will the whole setup by the Socialists directly after the attacks, inmediately spreading rumors that Aznar's government was lying, (leading exactly to all these Spaniards flooding the streets calling for Aznar's head, to the joy of the terrorists we now know). The PP is fuming that they were forced to inmediately make everything public right after the first attack, while the Socialists are now claiming that they didn't want to harm the ongoing investigation.

I said it right after the attacks, the real-time reporting of progress, by the Interior minister and heads of police, directly endangered the investigation itself, but the PP government felt itself cornered, defending against rumor mongering to which there really was no defense.

Meanwhile, there are intelligent and tech-savvy terrorist cells and at least one plotter of the Madrid attacks out there, and they're working on some Doomsday Weapon.

So, am I being paranoid?