FC: NYT: Jim Bell, crypto-convict, Osama bin Laden v2.0?

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sun Jun 09 2002 - 23:11:51 PDT

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    Nicholas Kristof has an opinion piece in Sunday's New York Times titled 
    "All-American Osamas." He says:
    >It would be a mistake to put one's faith in the militias' eternal 
    >incompetence. Jessica Stern of Harvard has written about an 
    >anti-government activist named James Dalton Bell, who earned a degree in 
    >chemistry from M.I.T. and is unquestionably brilliant. By age 14, he says, 
    >"I was studying the isomerization of benzyl thiocyanate to the isocyanate."
    >Weren't we all? But Mr. Bell, who is now in jail, is also believed by the 
    >authorities to have manufactured sarin, a nerve gas, in his basement. He 
    >led a chemical attack against an I.R.S. office and wrote an Internet book 
    >called "Assassination Politics," which outlines a very clever scheme to 
    >pay for contract killings of federal officials with digital cash in a way 
    >that preserves anonymity at both ends. There is also evidence that Mr. 
    >Bell talked "hypothetically" of poisoning a city's water supply.
    Kristof is misrepresenting the facts. (1) Bell was never charged with 
    manufacturing sarin, and the trial record includes no evidence to that 
    effect. You'd think that if these unnamed "authorities" -- a bland, useless 
    term -- had anything beyond inchoate fears, they would have said something 
    after they raided his home; (2) Bell stink-bombed the carpet outside an IRS 
    office with mercaptan, a smelly chemical that forced the office to close 
    for the day. Saying it was a "chemical attack" is misleading; (3) "AP" is 
    not a particularly clever scheme, and it nevertheless was and is legal to 
    publish. (Bell was charged with "stalking" federal agents. He says he was 
    investigating them stalking him [which they were, albeit with court orders.])
    I'll bet anyone $100 that Kristof never interviewed Bell before making such 
    incendiary statements.
    Jim Bell archive:
    From: "Jones, Lisa" <ljonesat_private>
    To: "'declanat_private'" <declanat_private>
    Subject: FW: my letter to the NY Times re. Jim Bell
    Date: Sat, 8 Jun 2002 12:23:02 -0700
     >  -----Original Message-----
     > From:         Jones, Lisa
     > Sent: Saturday, June 08, 2002 12:09 PM
     > To:   'lettersat_private'
     > Subject:      letter to the editor
     > To compare James Dalton Bell to Osama Bin Laden ("All-American Osamas,"
     > Nicholas Kristof) stretches the outermost bounds of credulity and insults
     > the intelligence of your readership. Have we all become so swept up in
     > anti-terror hysteria that a simple stink bomb is worthy of being labeled a
     > "chemical attack"? A few mail board posts on an utterly infeasible and
     > hypothetical subject become an "internet book" and a fiendish plot to take
     > down the government? Having an advanced knowledge of chemistry at an early
     > age is suspect, and makes repeating baseless rumors about what Bell may or
     > may not have done morally palatable? Absent any proof, it certainly
     > appears that Bell--however nutty and unsympathetic he may indeed be--is
     > the victim of a society increasingly more interested in
     > security-at-all-costs than upholding the rule of law and our
     > Constitutionally-protected rights. "Being a scary person" shouldn't be
     > reason enough to lock someone away. As Noam Chomsky once said, if you
     > don't believe in the rights of people you despise, you don't believe in
     > the idea of rights at all.
     > Anyone who is interested in the facts of this case and seeing how it has
     > been blown all out of proportion really should visit the archives at
     > <http://www.cryptome.com>. Because as frightening as Jim Bell may be to a
     > few people he has a personal grudge against, the mentality of those who
     > would take away the rights of anyone outside the common consensus scares
     > me even more.
     > Lisa Jones.
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