Another story of WMD that slipped by the AP?

Discussion in 'TM Lounge' started by gzent, Feb 4, 2004.

  1. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

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    WASHINGTON - A 7-pound block of cyanide salt (search) was discovered by U.S. troops in Baghdad at the end of January, officials confirmed to Fox News.

    The potentially lethal compound was located in what was believed to be the safe house of Abu Musab Zarqawi (search), a poisons specialist described by some U.S. intelligence officials as having been a key link between deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda (search) terror network.

    Cyanides salts are extremely toxic. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, exposure to even a small amount through contact or inhalation can cause immediate death.

    Zarqawi, believed to have been operating in Iraq before March's invasion, was still being sought by coalition forces. It was not clear if anyone had been apprehended in connection with last month's find.

    Early last year, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) detailed Zarqawi's significance in an appearance before the U.N. Security Council.

    "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants," Powell said.

    Zarqawi was described as a poisons expert with strong ties to the former Iraqi regime and the terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam. A Palestinian born in Jordan who fought in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, Zarqawi returned to Afghanistan in 2000 to oversee terrorist training camps, Powell told the Security Council.

    "One of his specialties at the camp was poisons," Powell said. "When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosives training center."

    Zarqawi is believed to have begun establishing terror cells in and around Baghdad prior to the start of the war last March, and is thought by U.S. officials to still be in the country.

    U.S. officials, who said they were getting new intelligence in the hunt for Zarqawi, also believe he had been attempting to produce large quantities of the toxin ricin in northern Iraq.

    Fox News' Bret Baier and Ian McCaleb contributed to this report.
     
  2. sonic

    sonic New Friend

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    THIS IS NOT EVIDENCE OF WMD!!!!!

    Sodium cyanide (the most common salt) is an extremely useful industrial chemical, used in the production of steel, in plating of metals (probably including plating of trumpets), in mining, and in the chemical industry. So someone had 7 lbs. of this toxic material? I have 0.5 lbs. on the shelf in my research laboratory. Am I a terrorist?

    Just for some perspective, US annual production and use of sodium cyanide in the late 1990s was about 500 million pounds.

    So please accept my fair and balanced response to your intentionally provocative post. We report, you decide. But for God's sake, people, use your heads!

    Your friend,
    sonic

    P.S. Cyanide is toxic, but so is virtually everything.

    P.P.S. I am hoarding enough water in my bathtub to kill a million people. As long as I can hold their heads under it long enough and one at a time.[
     
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Still, if you deployed it the right way, you could kill A LOT of people with 7 pounds of sodium cyanide. Introduced into a city's water supply in the right way and you could kill millions. Wouldn't this then be considered a weapon of mass destruction.

    Besides, the article said that the cyanide salt was a "potentially lethal compound". The intended use of this block of cyanide is speculation at this point.
     
  4. sonic

    sonic New Friend

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    Nov 7, 2003
    Reasonable points, Patrick, but let's do the math. The LD50 for sodium cyanide (that is the dose that is likely to kill 50% of individuals exposed to it) is 15 mg/kg body weight, or roughly 1 gram for a 150 lb adult. 7 lbs. of sodium cyanide would provide that 1 gram dose for 3,178 of those "standard" adults, and so provides enough cyanide to potentially kill about 1,600 people. This is not a trivial number (especially if you, your family member, or your favorite musician is one of those 1,600), but it is far short of the "millions" you suggested in your post.

    Second, if someone did indeed place 7 lbs. of sodium cyanide in a municipal water supply (7 lbs in say 1 million gallons, a very small volume when municipal water supplies are considered) then a thirsty consumer would have to drink over 311 gallons of that water to ingest the 1 gram of cyanide which would have a 50:50 chance of killing him. This is not hocus-pocus, this is using math and science to separate fact from myth.

    Your friend,
    sonic[/b]
     
  5. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    This is a quote from one web source:
    http://www.manbir-online.com/diseases/cyanide.htm


    "The lethal dose of potassium or sodium cyanide is 200 to 300 mg and of hydrocyanic acid is 50 mg. Effects begin within seconds of inhalation and within 30 min of ingestion."

    By doing a little math by converting pounds to milligrams (1 pound = 453 592.37 milligrams) I was able to come up with 3175146.59 mg in 7 pounds of sodium cyanide. I took the median number of milligrams for a lethal dose (250) and divided that into 3175146.59. That gives me a number of 12700 and change. Since you really can't kill half a person, I'm going to stick with the 12700. That's quite a few more than your 1600.

    Suffice it to say that from my sources and calculations, 7 pounds of sodium cyanide can do a considerable amount of damage. Let's also consider your earlier quote that the US produced some 500 million pounds of the stuff in the 50s. Wouldn't it be a fairly safe bet that this one 7 pound block is not the only sodium cyanide in Iraq? Would it not be a fairly safe conclusion that there is much more of it that just hasn't been found? Put that kind of a substance in the hands of a dictator and extremeist, and it's enough to make me a bit worried.

    One last thing. Did it say in the original article that the cyanide found was sodium cyanide? Cyanide is not a single substance, it's the name for a family of salts. For instance, there is sodium cyanide and potassium cyanide, but the compound that may be thought of as the parent of all these salts is called hydrogen cyanide.
     
  6. rdt1959

    rdt1959 Pianissimo User

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    Sonic;

    I don't think the issue really is that they found a potentially lethal..or even dangerous...chemical in Iraq. I think the issue is that they found it in an setting in which a person that is suspected of being a key player in a terroist network could use it.

    You may have 0.5 lbs of sodium cynaide in your research laboratory. Fine. I sure don't have any sitting around my house, do you? And if you do, you probably have a pretty legimate reason for having it.

    Now, what if you suspected that your neighbor did have it in his garage (for example), had no reason to have that chemical at home, and also suspected your neighbor has some ties to terrorists. Would that concern you?

    That may be a pretty weak example, but I am trying to illustrate that the real issue is the chemical compound found in THAT location, with possible links to a known (or suspected) terrorist.

    Btw, using your own math, that much of the compound in a water supply is enough to wipe out the entire population of my home town!

    Personally, I am not sure if we should classify this as a case of WMD or not though. I am concerned that they found it, because it makes me think how much more (or what else) this guys colleagues might have. And for the record, your comment about water in your bathtub does actually strike a chord with me. I will admit, that just about anything laying around the house can be used for evil purposed if wished. Right now in fact, there is a woman on trial in Atlanta, GA for murdering her husband. She allegedly poisoned him with anti-freeze.

    Anyway....

    The issue is not that they found a certain chemical, but that they found it linked to a person who would not have any use for it but to carry out terrorist activities.

    Just my opinions.
     
  7. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

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    Sonic,

    Is it unusual for Sodium Cyanide to be shipped or stored in 7lb blocks?

    Is it unusual for a 7lb block to be found in a nonindustrial location in Baghad?

    Is it unusual for a 7lb block to be found in the home of a suspected terrorist?

    These questions should be answered objectively before dismissing the discovery as insignificant.

    Greg
     
  8. nyc_lurker

    nyc_lurker New Friend

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    Photography...

    In Feb of 2002 there was a huge hoopla over the capture of some Moroccans in Rome with a sizable amount of Potassium Ferrocyanide and maps of the US embassy. When the press made a huge deal out of this I was amused because I use to have this stuff in a photo lab I worked in. Now, I believe these fellows in Rome meant to do harm with the mixture since adding a bit of acid would release cyanide gas. The key point is that the press made no attempt at clarifying that Potassium FerroCyanide was not the same thing as "Cyanide".

    Anyhow, some manure and bleach can be quite lethal but this terrorist has some chemicals that can be used as weapons...so what? I can readily get the same stuff. Are you insinuating a WMD program because of the presence of such?

    Edit:

    I'm thinking of Potassium Ferricyanide when I was mentioning photography while what was found in Rome was Potassium Ferr_o_cyanide. I still wonder whether the original poster is trying to make a statement that this is evidence of a WMD program (or is "WMD program activity" the preferred term these days?).
     
  9. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

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    For those pedantic sorts who need things spelled out, my point is:

    Is this another story relating to the hunt for WMD that is reported only on the internet, in this case, foxnews.com, but is never mentioned by the Associated Press?

    There have been numerous stories from Iraq that seem relavent to the war that are not reported in the mainstream media and I found it odd that no other news source reported this.

    Guess they're all too busy getting the latest on JJ's niple-jewelry! :D
     

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