CIA made satire into dirty bomb plot: report
John Byrne
Published: Monday February 9, 2009

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'How to Build an H-Bomb' was a joke, but apparently helped buttress CIA case

A British citizen held at Guantanamo Bay who the Pentagon accused of plotting to build a dirty bomb had actually been reading a satirical article posted on the web, according to a British newspaper report.

Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopan janitor who was seeking asylum in Britain, allegedly admitted to browsing a story that instructs readers how to building a nuclear bomb. Trouble is, that story was apparently a joke.

Mohamed says that he made the admission -- and others relating to purported terrorism -- after being beaten, hung by his wrists for a week, having a gun held to his head, and held in a dungeon-like cell at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.

A British newspaper reported Sunday that the "offending article," "How to Build An H-Bomb," was actually published in Seven Days magazine and re-posted on other websites.

"Written by Barbara Ehrenreich, the publication’s food editor, Rolling Stone journalist Peter Biskind and scientist Michio Kaku, it claims that a nuclear weapon can be made ‘using a bicycle pump’ and with liquid uranium ‘poured into a bucket and swung round,'" the Daily Mail wrote Sunday.

"We can reveal that the story which apparently led to Mohamed’s ordeal could not possibly have been used by a terrorist to build a nuclear weapon," the paper added. "The satirical article, published in Seven Days magazine, says its authors were given ‘three days to cook up a workable H-bomb. They did and we have decided to share their culinary secrets with you.’

"Not that Seven Days supports nuclear terrorism," it adds. "We don’t. We would prefer to die from familiar poisons like low-level radiation, microwaves, DDT or food dyes, rather than unexpectedly, say as hostage to a Latvian nationalists brandishing a home-made bomb.'"

The CIA decided that despite its humorous intentions, the reading of the piece was enough to accuse the 30-year-old janitor of plotting a dirty bomb attack, Mohamed's lawyer said. Mohamed was also accused of being trained at an Al Qaeda paramilitary camp in Afghanistan; his lawyer says he visited Afghanistan to see the Muslim world for himself.

"Unclassified evidence corroborates Binyam’s claims that he was threatened – at the time the White House was obsessed by the idea terrorists had access to nuclear materials," said Mohamed's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith. "Binyam said that he told them about a website he had once seen on the internet called How To Build An H-Bomb. He said that this was a joke but they thought it might be serious.

"I am speculating but I think this news was sent up the line to the White House, which is when the paranoia kicked in," Stafford Smith added. "This is how they made their huge mistake, thinking he was a major terrorist as opposed to a London janitor."

Mohamed was subject not simply to apparent torture but also to the Bush Administration's extraordinary rendition program, in which terrorist suspects are kidnapped and put on private jets, then dropped in third-party countries that condone torture.

The charges of a dirty-bomb plot were later dropped -- just as they were against US citizen Jose Padilla, who was held in a military brig without charges for several years. Padilla was later convicted of other terror charges.

"The Foreign Secretary is refusing to release classified documents relating to Mohamed’s detention," the Mail added. "Last week, the High Court ruled that the 42 intelligence papers must remain secret. However, the judges insisted they had no choice because the Government had informed them of a ‘threat’ by the US to withdraw all intelligence co-operation with Britain if the papers were published by the court."

(Editor's note: This article incorrectly reported that Rolling Stone magazine published the satire, RAW STORY regrets the error.)