Monday, March 18, 2019

The weirdest article you will read today

“ISIS was looking for scientists,” said Ahmed, a 36-year-old follower of the so-called Islamic State who holds a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry and drug design. And Ahmed was looking for a chance to put his scientific knowledge to use.... 
...While Ahmed started his work for ISIS by spreading this research and interacting on web forums on behalf of the group in 2015 and 2016, he fully intended to join the lab in Mosul upon his graduation and was confident of his ability to create the desired chemical and biological weapons. At the time, he believed ISIS was already an established state and would continue to expand. 
“I would upload and [my research] would get read by the high command of the Caliphate,” he told us. “They were interested in my posts and asked how we can acquire these chemicals. I also summarized books from a Russian website. There are loads of [scientific] journals I could access on the web and it’s not classified.  I told them everything was in my summary, but also told them, you must have a real lab.” 
...He hoped to branch out from poisons and plagues to explore new technologies for delivering them. “I learned in the engineering world they [ISIS] were interested in anti-aircraft missiles and drones. They complain about coalition jet fighters destroying their troops on the ground. The admin on the website, there was a guy on the website who provided links from a British university to make drones from organic synthesis to make the whole body of the drone. It was some kind of solution, liquid phase synthesis, polymer science. We have already developed anti-aircraft missiles. We were going to use them.”
This is just a weird one, and I'm not convinced (or at least I'd like other corroboration) that ISIS got as involved in chemical weapons research as this fellow (who seems not so reliable) says....

13 comments:

  1. Wow, he sounds like a real peach.

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  2. I love the last part about the drones. He clearly picked up this news story: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36694899 which is Lee Cronin spouting nonsense as usual. I guess Ahmed saw this and thought, yup, sounds sensible, I'm gonna do that as well!

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    1. John: So this other guy? He's a terminator like you, right?
      Terminator: Not like me. A T-2019. Advanced prototype.
      John: You mean more advanced than you are?
      Terminator: Yes. A mimetic 3D polymer.
      John: What the hell does that mean?
      Terminator: Liquid plastic.

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  3. And for all the writer's comments about this guy being a skilled chemist, why do I get the feeling that he was one of those guys who sends spam emails to look for a postdoc?

    "Dear Prof. MISSPELLED NAME, I am deeply interested in MATERIAL LIFTED DIRECTLY AND WORD-FOR-WORD FROM YOUR WEBSITE"

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  4. Now that the Caliphate is no more, maybe he could send his resume to Sun Innovations Inc in Fremont, CA. I heard they are offering up to 50k a year for an experienced PhD chemist with a broad background

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  5. “I used Russian search engines that no one can penetrate and a Tor browser to hide and search,”
    How unnecessarily convoluted - he acts as if accessing Sci-Hub was some kind of achievement.
    Probably couldn't make aspirin if you showed him how to do so.

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  6. Funny sidenote: Ionis Pharmaceuticals used to be known as Isis Pharmaceuticals but they had to change their name over all the ISIS/ISIL stuff. I worked there when it was called Isis and I cannot get Ionis into my head. So I keep talking to people about my time at Isis and all my good friends at Isis. It goes about the way you'd expect it would.

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    1. There is also an excellent band called Isis who received countless threats on their websites from people that could not separate a bunch of white guys playing post-metal out of Boston from the extremist group in the Middle East.

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    2. Did they ever play in the Middle East (the restaurant/club in Cambridge)?

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    3. @ Iron Chemist - never even crossed my mind, but yes, they did!
      https://isistheband.bandcamp.com/album/live-iv-selections-2001-2005

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    4. Reminds me of a friend ofibe who named his newborn Isis right before the Islamic State exploded all over the news. Poor girl.

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  7. These debriefs of former ISIS scientists are fascinating, if dark.

    ISIS was keenly interested in chemical weapons and is only the second non-state actor (Aum Shinrikyo being the first) to use them. They had built a mustard plant that produced their own agent that they then deployed in mortars. It was neither tactically nor strategically significant, but it was jarring enough for Pres. Obama to make the destruction of their mustard plant a high priority.

    From a synthetic chemist's perspective, the production of nerve agents seems trivial. But scale-up; managing the waste streams; ensuring adequate purity of the final product (whether as binary or unitary weapon) for storage; and designing effective weapons and doctrines for their use is a major technical challenge. Although ISIS produced many of its own conventional weapons--some of them of very good quality--they needed a lot more time to master chemical weapons. Their (fortunately) pitiful efforts culminated in only a few minor mustard and chlorine attacks. Given this return on their investment of resources, they would have been better off 10 gallon pilot plant or even just some large glassware and competence. And this is consistent with conventional wisdom in the past decades: that in their cost/benefit analysis, terrorists and militant groups are unlikely to choose to pursue chemical weapons over conventional high explosives

    As for Dr. Ahmed, he's...not right. An egotist seeking his fame or infamy by whatever means.

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  8. ISIS is fake, story is fake.

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