The Sun and “A Terrifying Reality”

Two days ago, as I blogged here, the Sun announced that “al-Qaeda fanatics are plotting a deadly cyanide poison attack on the London Olympics”. “Chief investigative reporter” Simon Hughes wrote that an unnamed “investigator” had spotted, on an unnamed website forum, that a certain “Abu Hija Ansari” had posted instructions, in Arabic, for mixing hand-cream with cyanide. Further:

A second extremist said on the website: “It is a good idea and you need to plan well.”

She added chillingly under a logo of the 2012 Games: “It’s time to prepare for the event, as once again they are interfering with innocent Muslims.”

The Sun‘s story spread widely, and in the UK inspired derivative articles from the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. According to the Telegraph

Neither the government, Scotland Yard nor the Security Services have commented on the reports.

However, the Mail tells us that

Scotland Yard said it had no information on the alleged cyanide.

The Sun also secured a quote from Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the all-party homeland security group:

“I hope the individuals are identified so action can be taken. Those who believe there is no terrorist threat are living in cloud cuckoo land.”

One would expect Jenkin to do more than “hope”, especially given that police apparently don’t know anything about it – but so far there has been no follow-up or any further developments.

The Sun‘s cyanide revelation came a week after it supposedly exposed terror plotting taking place inside on-line games. David Willetts and Tom Wells reported that:

TERRORISTS are using online war games like Call of Duty to plot attacks, The Sun can reveal.

…Last night, a source said: “It’s a terrifying reality. These people waste no time finding a secure method of chatting.

“They are logging into group games over the internet and discussing terror plots. Security people know about it.

“For millions who love these games this will be a huge shock.

“To think fanatics use them for their own ends is a real worry.” Sources say plotters choose realistic conflict games so they can mask their deadly discussions as harmless web chat.

…News of the growing threat comes five years after the CIA first warned of the menace.

This one doesn’t even bother to tell us what kind of “source” has made us aware of the “terrifying reality”. Although the story appears plausible, the article is utterly devoid of any information about any actual instance where this may have occurred.

This comes in the wake of the Sun‘s “breast implant bomber” yarn (which quoted Joseph Farah, of all people, as a “terrorist expert”), and the paper’s “Taliban HIV-Needle” story, which was fed to it by Patrick Mercer. Both stories were similarly short on specific detail, and no further evidence ever emerged.

Apparently we’re supposed to have forgotten that the last time the Sun relied on an investigator to discover on-line terror-plotting, the investigator turned out to have made most of the postings that were then used as evidence. The investigator’s posts in the guise of an Islamist led to him being arrested at the end of 2009 “on suspicion of inciting religious hatred against Jews”; however, for reasons that were never made public, the charge was eventually dropped.

UPDATE: The Sun‘s “Call of Duty” story was picked up by the Daily Mail, which added that:

…The claims come a month after it emerged that the government is set to announce new laws to require communications companies to store all information passed between users online.

What remarkable timing…

2 Responses

  1. The “breast-implant bomb” has an aura of credibility, after the incident in Saudi Arabia in late 2009 involving the rectum bomber” Abdullah Asieri .

    But the provenance is – as you state – dodgy indeed. It is shocking to see Joseph Farah mentioned as a terrorism expert. It is possible that the Sun is confusing him with genuine journalist and terrorism researcher Douglas Farah – but I doubt it.

    Now the tabloids cannot use phone hacking of celebrities to create their “news” it seems that whipping up hysteria about the Olympic games has became a substitute for celebrity gossip.

    This is very worrying and irresponsible to the nth degree. There are reasonable grounds to be concerned at the potential of an attack at the Olympics – but crying wolf in this way does no-one any good.

    If there are stories of genuine terrorism, they should be revealed to the security services, not exposed in a tabloid first. If real, media exposure could allow the potential terrorist to disappear.

    This seems to be game playing. And a bit like other hoaxes that remain in recent memory. Something to do with grannies and their wheeled pull-along shoppers…

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