This article is more than 1 year old

DHS: beware stink-bomb touting terrorists

'Chemicals of interest' list smells fishy

"The manufacture of hydrogen sulfide is [simple]," writes Hutchkinson. "It is created by water coming into contact with phosphorus pentasulfide."

This is actually true, unlike many things in terrorist poison handbooks. On the DHS list, phosphorus pentasulfide is only of interest if a university has a ton of it. Hydrogen sulfide, any amount. Phosphorus pentasulfide, one ton. Looking for logic becomes like trying to pick up spilled mercury.

While the American Chemical Society and universities would not be expected to know any of this, it does noticeably impact policy. On a FEMA (FEMA being part of DHS) website, for instance, we read "Terrorists Planned Deadly Gas Attack On Western Targets."

The standard woeful chemical terror document is cited, although not by name. Hydrogen sulfide, cyanide and narcotics are mentioned. These clues inform that the terrorist document is another child of Hutchkinson. Of special note is the box out quote -"30 ml of the agent can kill 60 million people" which addresses the Islamist terror biochemist's fascination with the toxin that produces botulism.

Jihadists, it has been found, have no idea how to make the toxin. They just like the idea of something that deadly and because the translators of Hutchkinson have said it is easy to do by throwing meat, excrement and dirt in a can, it is almost everywhere in their literature.

Of course, it's just a question of time before terrorists gain the capability to attack with such things, it is written.

Although it wouldn't be clear to the heads of university chemistry departments and other organizations affected by the DHS "chemicals of interest" list, it is somewhat obvious to this writer that the agency's regulations are strongly influenced by people who believe the literature of Hutchkinson and others, translated into Arabic, to be an actual threat.

The practical end result has been bad and universities have issued a loud protest over the list.

For instance, IPC, a trade organization of the electronics industries writes in a letter that the DHS list is "inadequately defined," a rather gentlemanly way of putting it.

In another memo of comment, the ACS also notes the DHS requirement will be "impossible to implement in laboratories" and it will "conflict with the education and research mission of institutions."

The ACS memo cites a few onerous examples from the DHS document, hydrogen sulfide being one of them.

How this will sort out in the next weeks remains to be seen. Initial bets would be on academic science brushing back the Department of Homeland Security.®

George Smith is a Senior Fellow at, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like