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Terror inflation

The AP is reporting that the Nigerian underpants bomber has been indicted on charges of “trying to use a weapon of mass destruction.” (Indictment PDF) Which is really weird, because I thought he tried to set off explosives (specifically, PETN). Aren’t weapons of mass destruction chemical, biological, or nuclear in nature, and therefore capable of, you know, destroying things en masse?

But nope, there it is, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B (TERRORISM), Section 2332a: “the term ‘weapon of mass destruction’ means… any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title.” Which is to say, basically anything that goes boom, including guns with a bore greater than a half inch (shotguns exempt).

If I were a betting man, I would bet this is a recent (dare I say “post-nine-eleven”?) change in the criminal code, designed to make terrorists appear more sinister/dashing. And indeed, the Web site I cited indicates that Section 2332a (“weapons of mass destruction”) of Title 18 was modified by Congress on January 5, 2009.

I have no idea how one would go about digging up old versions of Title 18 to find out if this is a recent definition. The take-away, though, is that now you can build a pipe bomb (or what the hell, a cannon) and go around bragging that you’re hiding WMD. (Although you might have to be a Muslim for it to count.)

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