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Profile: Duncan Campbell

Duncan Campbell was a participant or observer in the following events:

On September 13, after two months of legal argument in court, the British trial begins against Kamal Bourgass and his alleged co-conspirators Mouloud Sihali, David Khalef, Sidali Feddag and Mustapha Taleb. The trial reveals the true extent of the capabilities of the so-called “ricin ring.” The same day of the raid, January 5, 2003, chemical weapons experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in Wiltshire had discovered in more accurate tests that the initial positive result for ricin was false: there was no ricin in the flat (see January 5, 2003). This finding was not released publicly for two years. [Independent, 4/17/2005] The trial also reveals that the results of the Porton Down test were not released to police and ministers until March 20, 2003, the day after the war in Iraq begins (see January 7, 2003). [BBC, 9/15/2005] George Smith, a scientist and senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, serves as an expert for some defendants in the trial and confirms that the discovery that the initial ricin finding was a “false positive” was made “well before the outbreak of the war in Iraq.” The alleged ricin plot was used by authorities, including Colin Powell, as evidence against Saddam Hussein’s regime in the build-up to war with Iraq. [Washington Post, 4/14/2005] The “poison recipes” discovered in the raid are found to have come from a website in Palo Alto, California, and are the invention of right-wing survivalist Kurt Saxon. His website sells books and CDs with bomb and poison manufacturing instructions. Journalist Duncan Campbell of the Guardian, called as an expert witness, further demonstrates that the instructions could have come from the Mujahedeen Poisons Handbook, which was written by veterans of the Afghan war and had been on the Internet since 1998. In fact, these recipes were useless in the production of weapons of mass destruction. [Guardian, 4/15/2005] The hysteria over the capabilities of ricin is also laid to rest during the trial. It is made clear that ricin is not a weapon of mass destruction and has only ever been used for one-on-one killings and attempted assassinations. Ricin was used by the Bulgarian secret service to kill dissident Georgi Markov on the streets of London in 1978. Professor Alistair Hay, a prominent authority on toxins, says Bourgass’s attempts to manufacture chemical weapons were “incredibly amateurish and unlikely to succeed.” He dismisses the allegations of suspected Algerian al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Meguerba that ricin would be smeared on door handles. To reliably kill, ricin has to be directly injected; swallowing ricin could kill, but is a thousand times less effective, while touching ricin is even less likely to kill. Hay’s testimony leads to the prosecution dropping Meguerba’s claims. They then suggest that Bourgass planned to smear ricin on toothbrushes, and put them back on a shop’s shelves. Professor Hay tells The Independent that this was a highly ineffective method. “The claims made before the trial about this major ricin plot were very, very questionable,” he says. [Independent, 4/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Duncan Campbell, Sidali Feddag, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Alistair Hay, David Khalef, Mouloud Sihali, Mustapha Taleb, Maxwell Hutchkinson, Globalsecurity.org, Kamal Bourgass, Mohammed Meguerba, Kurt Saxon, George Smith

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Gareth Peirce, who acted as solicitor for three of the men acquitted in the ricin plot trial (see April 8-12, 2004), says that “there was a great deal that this country was led to believe in that in part caused it to go to war on Iraq, erected on the basis of an alleged major conspiracy involving ricin.” He adds: “[W]ithin 48 hours, Porton Down knew that ricin had not been found. If enormous public concern and fear has been generated, then the responsibility clearly of the Government is to reassure people that it was in fact a false alarm, that no poisons were found. But at no stage has any public correction been made.” Kamal Bourgass’s lawyer, Michel Massih, dismisses the charges as “utter nonsense, complete and utter fantasy… one could simply buy weed killer or rat poison from a shop in Britain.” Bourgass received a life sentence for the murder of DC Stephen Oake (see June 29, 2004). Massih further states: “[I]t is around the time of the build-up to the war in the Middle East. You have a scenario which is almost begging for there to be something… then on January 8 this rubbish comes out. The lies Bourgass told the police were almost forced upon him… they were the lies of a seriously frightened man… fanciful, silly lies. Asked about a black bag discovered in the flat in which the recipes were hidden, Bourgass claimed he had found it in the street in Brixton. Asked why he had kept it, he replied ‘because I’m stupid.’ This was not a cunning plot; this man was knee-jerking.” Suggestions for Bourgass’s motives include poison forgery for hoax purposes and targeting of the Jewish community in north London. Although no motive was clearly established at trial, it was made clear that Bourgass had acted alone. [Guardian, 4/15/2004] Journalist Duncan Campbell of the Guardian, called as an expert witness during the trial, says of the affair: “[W]e have all been victims of this mass deception. I do not doubt that Bourgass would have contemplated causing harm if he was competent to do so. But he was an Islamist yobbo on his own, not an al-Qaeda-trained superterrorist. An ASBO [Anti-Social Behavior Order] might be appropriate.” [Guardian, 4/14/2005]

Entity Tags: Duncan Campbell, Michel Massih, Gareth Peirce, Kamal Bourgass

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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