Two members of a fringe Georgia militia accused of plotting to develop a lethal biotoxin for use in attacks aimed at bringing down the government are due to appear in federal court on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, Nov. 3).
The bond hearing will take place at the federal courthouse in Gainesville, Ga.
Ray Adams and Samuel Clump have been charged with plotting to produce ricin, using castor beans that Adams allegedly grew in his yard and provided to Clump. The men purportedly discussed spraying the biotoxin from a vehicle traveling along major highways, according to previous reports. Their fellow militia members, Dan Roberts and Frederick Thomas, are accused of scheming to build a bomb. All of the accused are senior citizens.
If the accused are found guilty, they could be sentenced to 10 years or more behind bars. Family members assert that the accusations are without merit (Greg Bluestein, Associated Press/Boston Globe, Nov. 9).
Analysts think that while the alleged perpetrators might have developed a small amount of ricin, it likely was not enough to injure or kill large quantities of people, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Tuesday.
Ricin is deadly in even trace amounts and there is no known antidote. Its potential applications as a biological weapon have been considered by various terrorist groups, due to the relative ease of acquiring the ingredients and directions needed to produce the toxin. But state-level biological warfare programs have historically stumbled in the attempt to turn ricin into a powder that could easily be disseminated.
"Ricin is a protein ... the more you purify it, the harder it is to keep around," said bioterrorism analyst George Smith. "People don't understand that."
The militia members allegedly had talked about purchasing supplies from area retailers and constructing exhaust vents. A cup containing "white powder" was listed as one of the items taken by authorities from the homes of the accused, according to a search warrant.
Still, had the men's alleged plot not been disrupted by the FBI, they potentially could have used ricin to poison a few people and used those attacks to fuel a widespread panic, experts said (Schneider/Leslie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 8).