Ray gun plot called 'stuff of comic books'
ALBANY, N.Y. — The portable X-ray weapon that two upstate New York men are accused of trying to build to secretly sicken Muslims and enemies of Israel isn't feasible, radiation scientists say, calling it “the stuff of comic books.”
Glendon Scott Crawford and Eric J. Feight were charged with conspiracy to support terrorism in an indictment unsealed this week. Authorities say they built a remote-control switch they planned to attach to a van-mounted, industrial X-ray machine to secretly radiate people who would get sick or die days later.
However, radiation safety experts at the University of Rochester and University of New Mexico said there were several problems with the plot: Any device to accelerate radiation would take massive amounts of electricity, the weight would probably crush most vans and victims would have to remain still to face prolonged exposure from radiation at close range.
“There is no instant death ray. ... It's not feasible. It's the stuff of comic books,” said Dr. Frederic Mis, radiation safety officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center, after reading the criminal complaint describing their plan. “That's going to be the interesting thing for the court to face because their designs would not have worked.”
At a brief hearing Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Christian Hummel ordered Crawford, 49, and Feight, 54, held without bail until a preliminary hearing in July, saying they posed a threat to public safety. Defense lawyers argued they were not a threat and should get bail.
Crawford was arrested this week immediately after attaching the remote control Feight built to the X-ray machine, which was inoperable and provided by undercover FBI agents, at a warehouse in Schaghticoke. He turned it on but for his own safety didn't flip the switch to emit radiation, prosecutors said. The evening and morning before that, Crawford showed them two intended targets, an Albany mosque and an Islamic center in Schenectady.
Federal authorities showed the device and its specifications to a radiation expert who considered it a credible threat, prosecutors said. They declined to name the expert.
Mis, the University of Rochester expert, said prolonged X-ray exposure does kill tissue, with skin ulcerations appearing from a week to months later. “What we worry about in radiology primarily is skin damage,” he said.
For safety, they advise staff to limit entering or performing diagnostics in an X-ray area, Mis said. There are accounts of Russians fatally injecting or feeding radiation to victims, and even planting it in a chair a victim repeatedly sat in, he said, noting the possibility the designers here could have hurt themselves or accidentally someone else.
“What if they find someone sleeping on a park bench? What if they backed up the van, opened the door, and turned the device on for eight hours?” Mis said. “Even these guys might stumble upon somebody and hurt somebody.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama promises to veto Republican vote to reverse NLRB rule on unions
- Railroad measure awaits House approval
- Natural gas royalties lawsuit hinges on transaction date
- Maryland’s Senator Mikulski announces retirement
- Lawmakers press Veterans Affairs for improved access to rural health care
- $4.8M in gold taken in armored truck hijacking in North Carolina
- Homeland Security panned for passing on bio-threat technology
- Carnegie Mellon expert to school Congress on security
- Florida fisherman’s high court win spurs call for legal reform
- Nurse who survived Ebola virus says Dallas hospital failed her
- Supreme Court justices split on states’ panels to prevent gerrymandering