back to article Renewing the mythology of the London ricin cell

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 …


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  1. Nano nano


    Generating considerable volumes of HCN or (smelly but poisonous) H2S in a confined space are much simpler than mucking around with castor beans - but as long as it distracts them from doing really harmful stuff, best to let the factoids remain ...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have to come here for hard news

    Another item with the most tenuous IT connection, and long may this sort of thing continue.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bin Laden as Agent Provocateur

    "The demands of the war on terror often require a supply of bad guys, new and old, even when they're not."

    Neocons need AQ to be a big scary enemy, and AQ need Neocons to do their marketing for them.

    It's become a very dysfunctional relationship where the 'good' guys don't really want to catch the bad guys and the bad guys don't really want their demands to be met.

    More like the Bond-Spectre relationship. If Spectre didn't exist, Bond wouldn't have an excuse to go to the Bahamas and drink martinis.

    Isn't it time for AQ in Jamaica so the US troops can have some beach time before AQ magically appear in Iran or Venezuela for the next invasion? As long as they're coordinating their invasions, couldn't they coordinate a few holidays too?

  4. Mike Taylor

    Bin Laden as Agent Provocateur?

    I definitely prefer Maggie Gyllenhaal

  5. xnfec

    What were they actually doing

    While I am sure that the government failed yet again to appear even remotely plausible, it is not clear from the article what Bourgass was actually up to. Was he actually trying to make Ricin and if so why? He may have had nothing to do with Al Qaeda but was actually involved in a terrorist plot?

  6. Simon Greenwood

    Bush repeats the lie again

    In his speech in Australia this week Bush repeated the lie about having dealt with 'Al Queda in Iraq'. Presumably John Howard could be trusted not to stand up and say 'do what, George?'. We are being set up for them to be found in Iraq, in Pakistan if things go wrong in the election, and yes, probably Venezuela. Fortunately, everyone with any sense does now say 'do what, George?'

  7. Tony

    Why did he have them?

    What use were the beans meant for? Why were most of them kept in a jewelry tin?

    Where were the others found?

    There is virtually no reason for anyone to even possess castor beans.

    It is not necessary to extract the toxic ricin from the beans, simply eating them (or feeding them to someone) is lethal.

    George and Dick leave out many, many relevant facts in the case and in doing so they sound like cheerleaders for a man convicted of murdering a policeman.

    What's up with that George and Dick? This man was no innocent babe.

  8. Alistair

    He had bowel issues?

    Castor beans are toxic in the same way peach pits are toxic.

    Castor bean oil has been used for centuries as a laxative.

    Castor beans are commonly used in making jewelry

    Mister Blair -- get new advisors (yeah I mean you tony)

  9. Tony


    Peach pits are hardly edible. One would have to consume several hundred grams of the *contents* of a peach pit to feel ill effects. A handful of castor beans is lethal. They are used as poison for lawn pests such as moles.

    I was dosed with castor oil as a child, as were millions of others. The oil pressed from the bean does not contain ricin. Obviously.

    I don't believe castor beans are commonly used as jewelry in most of the developed countries. And I have it on good authority that England is a member in good standing. If you have evidence to the contrary on either point please share.

    My position as an adviser to Mr. Blair has never been proven.

    Read the link:

    Your attempt to connect Kamel Bourgass with jewelry-making is laughable.

  10. 1865

    Dick by name, dick by...

    For someone who's making money by undermining a trial by publishing his findings for the defence when that information could be prejudicial, dick is quite an apt moniker.

    And just how reliable a source is anyone who works for Global Security? Check out their designs for the new Iraqi currency;

  11. Tony

    No comment

    from George or his Dick. Surely they have a moment to respond to comments here? It would be lovely if the Reg. insisted that after publishing this rubbish the author would be held accountable to respond on the forum. Some could argue that a someone with no testicles to respond to arguments could be likened to female genitalia.

    Speak up and defend your story unless you are a coward.

  12. Chris

    Re: Tony

    Wow, Tony, you told us. It must be great to have nothing better to do all day than to post trivial trolling bullshit and then continuously refresh your browser hoping for another person to attack. There were less than six hours between your first and (as of this writing) last comment, and you bitch that the author didn't respond? Guess what, this is the first time I've checked El Reg today too, and you've got three posts already. I must really be behind.

    As for the castor-beans-as-jewelry, the other poster was pointing out what he believes to be fact (not knowing about castor beans, I make no judgment on whether or not it is fact). He never said that this individual used that as a defense.

    By the way, I really like how in your first post, you say nobody ever has a need to be in possession of castor beans, and then in your next post, you say that it's used for lawn pests and that you yourself consumed castor oil as a child. Sorry, but both statements cannot be true (that is, unless you believe in doublethink). Oh, and if you're going to try to insult someone, as your last comment did, then grow a pair of balls and actually use the word "pussy" instead of trying to sound all high and mighty talking about "no testicles" and "female genitalia".

    Oh, and the author never once claimed that this suspect was innocent. He was merely stating that the fact that this one suspect had a recipe for ricin didn't make it a terrorist plot or prove/provide any link to Al Queda.

    I vote your posts double-plus-ungood, you trite trolling twat.

  13. Francis Vaughan

    A bit of perspective and civility please

    What an astounding bit of flaming. It would be nice, if before writing, a few minutes research was performed, on all sides.

    Caster beans are indeed seen in jewellery. The beans are quite beautiful. Sadly this is a known route for poisoning of children, if they suck on, or worse, chew on a bean in a necklace. The toxic effects of the ricin on beans in a necklace can also result in skin irritations.

    Castor oil is used as a laxative, and has been for centuries. It has this effect because it contains residual amounts of ricin, which act on the intestinal linings resulting in the desired effect. Ricin poisoning from use of castor oil is a known risk, which is partly why castor oil has fallen out of favour as a laxative.

    So much for that part. But the other points remain, as made. Despite the apparent poor quality of the ricin recipe, and the small number of beans. There were beans, and there was a recipe. As proved recently in Glasgow, competence and intelligence are not prerequisites for becoming a terrorist.

    As in all such affairs, there is clearly blame and bad behaviour on all sides. This isn't good. Sadly, it is also no surprise.

  14. Iain Cartledge

    Re: Chris

    Sorry for being pedantic, but you'll just get it in the eye from Tony for putting terrorist plot instead of global terrorist plot.

    The point of the article is clearly to point out that there was no link between Bourgass and aQ. The US and the UK are in positions where anything that can be remotely tied to terrorism, is. Just because this guy is actually a criminal doesn't make him more of a global terrorist, or part of a global ricin conspiracy. Even if you disagree with the authors on some of their opinions, I think it's pretty fair to say that the paper they are commenting on is clearly tripe.

  15. Nev

    Yet more smoke...

    ... to blow up our collective arses.

    And what ever happened about all those anthrax plots?


  16. Rob Crawford

    Love the way people go off track

    I don't think there is much serious arguement regarding the intent of these would be attackers.

    Evil is evil whether they where successful or not.

    However the issue that I have is when the (so called) scientists, et al say to the court (& public) "This was a viable method of attacking large numbers of the public" when in reality it was no such thing.

    Politicians I understand taking advantage of the situation (the only lifeforms below politicians are those in the banking industry and terrorists)

    Security services have a vested interest in such misrepresentation so we shouldn't be surprised.

    However so called scientists, the ones called upon to come up with counter measures and methods of clearing up after WMD attacks are a different matter !

    Either :

    They are incompetent and know nothing about the subject


    They follow the "party manifesto" and don't care about the reality.

    Either way I do not feel confident about the research they are carrying out for our defence.

  17. Misha Gale

    re: 1856

    "making money by undermining a trial by publishing his findings for the defence when that information could be prejudicial"

    Eh? This trial was years ago - do you know of somewhere this information was published while the trial was still ongoing? If so, links please.

    Or is there some principal of jurisprudence I'm unaware of that states that an expert witness can't publish his/her findings even after a verdict has been returned?

  18. Steven Knox

    Logic and Reading Comprehension skills

    are clearly lacking here -- which is a pity, because we otherwise have the basis for a really good discussion, with some very good points.

    For example, Chris, Tony said "There is virtually no reason for anyone to even possess castor beans" not "no reason at all" as you imply. "Virtually no reasn" is not "no reason" anymore than "virtual reality" is "reality". Tony is right here, as the only people who really need to possess castor beans are those who are processing them to produce castor oil, pest control products, etc.

    On the other hand, Tony, Chris is right that the article has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the suspect, and that the writer has no obligation to respond to you. This is a COMMENTS PAGE, not a FORUM. The main purpose is to allow readers to provide insightful comments, not to provide an immediate back-and-forth dialogue.

    Finally, George, I have to fault you somewhat in that the tone of your article implies that your evidence proves that this was not a "WMD cell". It does nothing of the sort. It does show that the prosecution did not have or provide enough evidence to prove that this was a WMD cell. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. While no link was found, that does not mean that there was no link. You also imply that the fact that Bourgass' recipe didn't work means that he wasn't part of a terrorist network. It doesn't; it only means he wasn't part of a competent network. I understand that you feel you are fighting people who seem to mangle the evidence at every turn, but the correct response to that is to provide the evidence a safe haven, not t mangle it in the other way.

  19. Paul

    Why are people so quick to miss the point?

    I'm pretty sure these guys were guilty of *wanting* to cause death and destruction, but, twisted and wrong as that is it isn't actually a crime. The reason it isn't a crime is that we leave in a society of free speech and free thought. Possessing castor beans isn't a crime either, and neither is possessing a recipe for a substance that isn't dangerous. As terrorists, these guys were incompetent and thus fairly harmless.

    But, as with the bungled London/Glasgow car attacks, it would be too much for the government to admit that the 'global terrorist conspiracy' is mostly made up of a bunch of incompetent kids with plenty of rhetoric in their minds but little actual capability. NuLabour prefer to propagate the widely-believed myth that anyone with intent can easily become a mass murderer because they want us all to live in perpetual fear, particularly of anyone who dares to question their infinite moral monopoly.

    Personally I find our own government far more terrifying than a few middle eastern warlords and a bunch of naive kids.

  20. 1865

    @Misha Gale (and Paul)

    Misha, perhaps I misinterpreted Dick's statement "I had contributed some relevant materials and information on ricin recipes to Duncan Campbell, a forensic scientist who was providing expert work for the defense. This gave me access to court evidence - the poison formulas of Bourgass, among other information - and as a consequence I was able to publish on the trial in the US before the British pres were permitted to go forward with the story" but Dick was profiting from pushing his spin on events during the UK embargo, which was in place as parts of the investigation was ongoing.

    Paul, intent to murder, rape, etc most certainly IS a crime. And you've brightened my Monday morning by your admittance that you are terrified of people like Hazel Blears, Alistair Darling and Geoff Hoon. Perhaps it's best if you stay under your duvet today?

  21. Chris

    re: 1865

    1865, please learn the difference between WANT and INTENT. INTENDING to do something illegal may very well be illegal, however simply WANTING to do something illegal is most certainly not illegal.

    I *WANT* a million dollars, however I have no *INTENTION* of robbing a bank to get it. I *WANT* to tear down the current administration of the U.S. government, however I have no *INTENTION* of doing so. I *WANT* to be a rock star, however I have no *INTENTION* of trying to make it happen.

    Using a little common sense and a little intellect, it's easy to see the difference. When thought alone becomes a crime, we all become slaves.

  22. Nigel

    Castor Beans Used a Jewelry

    So, Castor beans ARE used for making jewelry !

    See also (from the US FDA) :

    Approximately 1 billion pounds of castor beans are produced annually. Castor beans are used as a source of oil, medicinal products, protein feed, ornamental landscaping and jewelry

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