The Global Ricin Conspiracy

June 6, 2009

It’s weird the way that the authorites have come to talk about terrorism. Take the arrest of two men from Durham this week, apparently for making and storing the poison ricin in their flat and, according to the Daily Mail “[planning] to use it as part of a biological weapon against ethnic minorities in the UK.”

I can believe that. But when Durham’s assistant chief constable Mike Barton tells us that “The tentacles of this are worldwide” and that “This shows that the terrorist threat in the UK is real and present” I can’t help suppressing a mirthful twitch.

It’s exactly the same language that Peter Clarke uses to hype the threat from islamic terrorism – which has to be worldwide (is it not exciting enough if it is generated right here in little old blighty?).

Barton is, however, an endearingly silly chap. Stating that “We believe the people involved to be white supremacist extremists and one of our lines of inquiry was that they were going to target people from ethnic minorities” he added sagely that “White supremacists seem to hate an awful lot of people.”

You don’t say?

Intriguingly, “The two properties raided were searched as part of long running counter terrorism operations involving MI5 and other agencies” while, “They had been monitoring access to internet websites containing information which is ‘unhelpful to public safety’” and “Mr Barton said the discovery of ricin came as a complete surprise.”

So what did they expect to find? A full scale re-enactment of the Triumph the Will? A meccano Auschwitz? Or perhaps they just had a gut feeling that white supremacists needed a bit of exposure now that the muslims just aren’t performing and the political establishment has decided to restart the Carry On series.

If so then, well, it would have been nice a while back, as white supremacism is hardly new. I’d say it goes back oh…a few hundred years at least.

These arrests are shrouded in mystery. The local paper, for example, writes that “Officers have so far been unable to disclose the identity of the white-supremacy movement Davison is understood to belong to, but have revealed they follow an “England is for the English” ethos.”

Despite not knowing who these guys were affiliated to, the authorities do believe that they were part of a global conspiracy – but it all sounds a bit Hardy Boys to me. Obviously I don’t want white supremacists to be hoarding ricin to (somehow) target ethnic minorities, but whenever MI5 comes along boasting of closing an “intelligence led” operation, the nonsense detector can’t help clanging.

Incidentally, ricin has a history of being used by white supremacists to shore up their power base. Several supremacists burst into the home of Mahmoud Abu Rideh in 2002, arrested him for being part of a conspiracy to poison British people with ricin, then dropped the charges and put him under a control order, which he still has to respect, meaning that he now wears an electronic tag, has a 12 hour curfew and cannot visit anybody without clearing it with his captors.

Arab News reports that “No one in his family is allowed a mobile phone or Internet access, which has hampered his children’s schoolwork. He is forbidden from visiting train stations or airports, barred from working, and he is only allowed to keep less than £100 in his home. Almost every time he comes home, he says, he has to undergo a humiliating strip search, while his wife is forced to dress at home as though she is going out because police regularly turn up unannounced.”

Mahmoud Abu Rideh

Mahmoud Abu Rideh

His captors are, of course, operatives of the British state, which holds Mahmoud captive despite not bringing him to trial (or charging him at all). They have even sent him through a letter of apology for his arrest and have restored the control order after the High Court quashed it.

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