weapons of mass destruction

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 23 23:02:32 UTC 2013


> weapon of mass destruction n. a weapon intended to cause widespread
> devastation and loss of life, (now) /esp./ a chemical, biological, or
> nuclear weapon; usu. in /pl./

No one appears to have mentioned that the charge against Jahar Tsarnaev
is "using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction", not the
specific charges of intentional homicide.

This does not appear to be an isolated incident:

> The affidavit of FBI agent Paul Higginbotham undergirding Harroun’s
> recent arrest and charge sums it up like this: "There is probable
> cause to believe that, in or about January 2013 to March 2013, Eric
> Harroun conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction, i.e. a Rocket
> Propelled Grenade, outside of the United States, in violation of 18
> U.S.C. 2332a(b)."

The statute is interesting on its own:

> (a) *Offense Against a National of the United States or Within the
> United States.-- * A person who, without lawful authority, uses,
> threatens, or attempts or conspires to use, a weapon of mass
> destruction--
> (1) against a national of the United States while such national is
> outside of the United States;
> (2) against any person or property within the United States, and
> (A) the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce is used
> in furtherance of the offense;
> (B) such property is used in interstate or foreign commerce or in an
> activity that affects interstate or foreign commerce;
> (C) any perpetrator travels in or causes another to travel in
> interstate or foreign commerce in furtherance of the offense; or
> (D) the offense, or the results of the offense, affect interstate or
> foreign commerce, or, in the case of a threat, attempt, or conspiracy,
> would have affected interstate or foreign commerce;
> (3) against any property that is owned, leased or used by the United
> States or by any department or agency of the United States, whether
> the property is within or outside of the United States; or
> (4) against any property within the United States that is owned,
> leased, or used by a foreign government,
> ...
[goes on to describe the sentence...]

But, of course, the fun part is the definition:

> (c) Definitions.-- For purposes of this section--
> ...
> (2) the term “weapon of mass destruction” means--
> (A) any destructive device as defined in section 921 of this title;
> (B) any weapon that is designed or intended to cause death or serious
> bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic
> or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors;
> (C) any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector (as
> those terms are defined in section 178 of this title); or
> (D) any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity
> at a level dangerous to human life;

OK, we need to get further down the rabbit hole from (2)(A), into 18 USC

> (4) The term “destructive device” means—
> (A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas—
> (i) bomb,
> (ii) grenade,
> (iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,
> (iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than
> one-quarter ounce,
> (v) mine, or
> (vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding
> clauses;
> (B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which
> the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly
> suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or
> which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of
> an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore
> of more than one-half inch in diameter; and
> (C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in
> converting any device into any destructive device described in
> subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be
> readily assembled.
> The term “destructive device” shall not include any device which is
> neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device,
> although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned
> for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar
> device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of
> the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684 (2), 4685, or 4686
> of title 10; or any other device which the Attorney General finds is
> not likely to be used as a weapon, is an antique, or is a rifle which
> the owner intends to use solely for sporting, recreational or cultural
> purposes.

So, bombs, grenades, mines, rocket-propelled grenades (using
Holywood-style hand-held "rocket-launchers") and flare guns (if the
flare charge is large enough and only what it's used as a weapon, not
for "signaling") would all be classified as "weapons of mass
destruction". The only reason we don't hear more about this is because
charges are usually filed under code and a numeric representation is
usually not as sexy (and most reporters may be too lazy to look them up,
save for Ackerman).

Interesting that "signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety or
similar device" is left for us to interpret (or for the AGUSA to
interpret, to be more precise--not quite the same thing). Same with
"sporting, recreational or cultural purposes" (e.g., is protected
big-game hunting under this rubric? what about using people in hunting
games? It's certainly "sporting" and "recreational" to some people, but
is it exempt?). "Pyrotechnic" in particular leaves me puzzled. We can
sort of figure out the rest. And, as Victor Mature might attest (had he
survived), pyrotechnics can kill just like the real thing...

Just wait till the Tea Party gets the wind of this! We're going to have
all kinds of fun...


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