Borders, cyanide, and terrorism

Posted: May 29, 2002 12:00 AM
Unidentified bandits stole 10 tons of sodium cyanide briquettes earlier this month during a roadside robbery in Mexico. The lethal chemical, combined with sulfuric acid, is used in gas chamber executions; a single whiff can kill in minutes. The hijacked truck was found May 16 with some of the storage containers still intact. But between 70 and 80 drums, each weighing about 220 pounds, are still missing. State Department official Francis Taylor said he was "concerned about it ending up in terrorist- or criminal- or people-that-don't-know-what-they-have hands." So should we all be. Assurances from American embassy officials that Mexican authorities are "taking the lead" to find and prevent the cyanide from leaving the country are hardly comforting. This is a government, after all, that encourages millions of its citizens to break our laws and violate our borders every day. And whose idea of border security is for us to build water stations and light towers for the comfort and convenience of their nation's smugglers bringing people and goods into our country illegally. The Dallas Morning News points out that "there is no evidence that the material might be headed for the United States or even that the hijackers knew what they were stealing." Well, there's no evidence to the contrary, either. There is plenty of evidence, however, that this deadly poison is in high demand by Osama bin Laden's operatives all over the world who want to kill Americans. They want to send it through our air vents, smear it on our doorknobs and dump it in our water supplies. Ramzi Yousef, one of the convicted 1993 World Trade Center masterminds, told federal agents that he would have used sodium cyanide if he had the money because he wanted to create a deadly gas cloud that would rise into the office towers and kill everyone. Ahmed Ressam, the al Qaeda terrorist convicted in the Los Angeles International Airport millennium bombing plot, testified recently that he had been trained in an Afghanistan camp on how to kill people with cyanide. Here's a partial transcript from his testimony last summer against a fellow conspirator: Question: "You practiced these techniques on the dogs so that later on in one of your operations you would be able to perform such techniques on human beings, is that correct?" Ressam: "Yes. We wanted to know what is the effect of the gas, yes." Question: "Some of your potential targets while you were in the camp were American citizens, is that correct?" Ressam: "In regard to targets in general, yes. Yes, we were speaking about America as an enemy of Islam." Question: "[O]ne of the examples was to put the cyanide right near the air intake of a building such as a government building, correct?" Ressam: "Yes, that's right." Question: "And the reason that you would put the cyanide, you were trained, near the air intake would be to kill the most amount of people without endangering yourself and without being detected, correct?" Ressam: "Yes, that's how gas is used in killing." Ressam also described how terrorist coaches instructed al Qaeda campers on how to mix cyanide and other toxic chemicals into an oily paste to smear on door handles so that those who touched them would be killed by toxins coursing through their blood. This method, Ressam confirmed, was to be used "against intelligence officers and other VIPs." In France last March, European intelligence agents disrupted a plan by suspected al Qaeda terrorists to test a poison gas weapon reportedly made with hydrogen cyanide. In Italy, two different groups with links to al Qaeda were arrested earlier this year in possession of cyanide compounds. One of the groups had maps of underground tunnels, where holes had been dug, and a water main leading to the American Embassy in Rome. America is under attack. Eight to nine tons of cyanide are missing. And we are letting Mexico "take the lead" in finding the shipment and preventing it from making its way across our borders and into our water and lungs? Be afraid.