Venezuela to nuke New York… Not!

Here we go again. The same trick over and over—and the sad part is, we fear most people are falling for it. (Or at least those who take note of such news at all.) Yesterday's AP headline read: "Tape: Scientist offers to build nuke bomb targeting New York." If you just read that and the lede, you would come away thinking Venezuela was trying to develop the capacity to nuke Gotham City. It is only if you bother to read futher that the bait-and-switch becomes clear. Venezuela was not involved at all. The dumb sucker who got busted had no actual contact with Venezuela—only an FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan official. To wit:

ALBUQUERQUE — A disgruntled, former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist promised to build 40 nuclear weapons for Venezuela in 10 years and design a bomb targeted for New York City in exchange for "money and power," according to secret FBI recordings released Wednesday.

In the recordings, Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni tells an agent posing as a Venezuelan official that the bombs would prevent the United States from invading the oil-rich nation and brags to his wife that the passing of secrets would make him wealthy.

So Mascheroni spoke to a guy pretending to be a Venezuelan, and was busted for wanting to sell nuclear secrets to Venezuela, after an FBI man put the idea in his head. But Venezuela's motives are implicitly impugned, and everyone's sense of paranoia (as if there were a deficit of real things to be paranoid about) is needlessly heightened. We're increasingly convinced that this is done strictly for propaganda purposes—certainly not to protect the public from any threats, because the threats are being articifially created by the government. This tactic has been used to fabircate the perception of Iranian links to Mexican drug cartels, and create the illusion of FARC links to al-Qaeda, and so on. Yeah, sometimes this tactic has been used to snare really bad guys, like international arms traffickers. But in the countless utterly specious "terrorism" cases of recent years it may be perversely counter-productive—actually radicalizing poor dupes who were guilty of nothing more than braggadocio. In fact, there's a good case that the 1993 World Trade Center attack was indeed a government conspiracy of this type that got out of control and took on a life of its own.

In any case… No, Venezuela is not trying to nuke New York. Read past the lede, and don't believe the hype.