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Boston Marathon Bomber Charged With Using 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the 30-counts-ought-to-do-it dept.

The Courts 533

New submitter bunkymag writes "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has now been indicted on over 30 charges relating to his part in the Boston Marathon bombing. Of particular note however is a charge of using a 'Weapon of Mass Destruction.' It's a bit out of line with the commonly-held perception of the term, most notably used in justifying the invasion of Iraq. However, U.S. criminal law defines a 'weapon of mass destruction' much more broadly, including virtually any explosive device: bombs, grenades, rockets, missiles, mines, etc. The question arises: is it wise for Tsarnaev to face such a politically-loaded charge? From an outsider perspective, it would seem easy enough to leverage any number of domestic anti-terror laws to achieve anything up to and including the death penalty if required. Why, then, muddy the waters with this new WMD claim, when the price could be giving further ammunition to groups outside of America that already clearly feel the rules are set up to indict them on false pretenses, and explicitly use this sense of outrage to attract new terrorist recruits?"

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We're making this all up anyway (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132813)

They could charge him with a felony parking violation. What difference does it make? Not that I'm sympathetic to the bomber. Just sayin'.

Re:We're making this all up anyway (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132937)

he was after all on the same internet as ed sno...

Re:We're making this all up anyway (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133131)

It really feels as if the government is getting desparate to find boogymens for everything. Now they have a guy they could have potentially stopped from using WMDs if they had been allowed to use more intrusive surveillance (never mind that they already did the surveillance).

Notice how in the case of manning and snowden the complaints aren't about what they revealed, they are about that they revealed it. This is all pointing directly into scare and diversion tactics. And we can only hope that it ends with a revolution.
The arabic springs are the start, not the end, the opression is everywhere.

Re:We're making this all up anyway (4, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#44133161)

The problem is if they ever charge you with terrorism because the firecrackers you throw hit the wrong spot. Would you like a death penalty for an accident? Setting precedents is dangerous, including the one of making this all up part.

Re:We're making this all up anyway (3, Funny)

durrr (1316311) | about a year ago | (#44133313)

They want the WMD charges to stick, because then they can retroactively justify the Iraq war as there totally were WMDs all over the place there.

They missed a period. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132817)

Should it not be weapons of Mass. destruction?

Or perhaps just weapons of MA destruction?

Yes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132827)

Killing 3 people and maiming 234 using explosives and shrapnel counts as mass destruction in my book. Thanks for asking, though.

Re:Yes (4, Interesting)

flatt (513465) | about a year ago | (#44132903)

Killing 3 people and maiming 234 using explosives and shrapnel counts as mass destruction in my book. Thanks for asking, though.

Then charge him with three counts of murder and 234 counts of attempted murder. Does it really matter that this was done with explosives? Would you feel better if he stabbed 237 people to the same effect?

Re:Yes (4, Insightful)

zlives (2009072) | about a year ago | (#44132985)

wonder if the Colorado gun man gets charged as such too.
"killing 12 people and injuring 58 others"

Re:Yes (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133317)

Also, how about the US military? They drop bigger weapons on civilians just for giggles.

Re:Yes (1)

Shortguy881 (2883333) | about a year ago | (#44133069)

Would you feel better if he stabbed 237 people to the same effect?

But then his knife would be a weapon of mass destruction!

Re:Yes (2, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44133159)

Does it really matter that this was done with explosives? Would you feel better if he stabbed 237 people to the same effect?

Gloria: "Do you know that sixty percent of all deaths in America are caused by guns?"

Archie: "Would it make you feel any better, little girl, if they was pushed out of windows?"

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

Frobnicator (565869) | about a year ago | (#44133273)

They do it because they want to force a plea deal.

The only reason they include it is for the so-called trial penalty. It is realistic enough that a judge won't throw it out, but it is so extreme that if the guy chooses to attempt a trial the risk is greater. It will be so extreme that he won't want that risk, so he'll choose the plea bargain instead of rolling the dice at a trial.

This is the biggest current flaw in the US legal system. Prosecutors have no stake in the game, no disincentive from adding trumped-up and unrealistic charges. It is something that other nations managed to get right with prosecutors needing to pay for accusations that don't result in convictions. If prosecutors needed to pay some significant penalty money to compensate the accused for every charge that is dismissed, the problem would quickly dry up.

Re:Yes (3, Informative)

expatriot (903070) | about a year ago | (#44133139)

there is a difference between federal law and state law. Murder is not generally considered a federal offense (in one of the civil rights murders it was federal only because it occurred on federal land http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ex-federal-prosecutor-who-led-historic-case-dies [ap.org] )

That is why people entering the country have to say they will not commit a crime while they are here. Any crime they commit is probably only a state issue, but lying on your federal entry form ...

the way I see it (0, Troll)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#44132847)

I dont have a problem with the term being used. it is a legitimate term. The bombs did in fact cause "mass destruction" therefore he did use a weapon of mass destruction. Having said that he should simply be hung in the center of boston when this is all over with, i dont care what they call it as long as he is left lifeless in the end. If he gets a life sentence instead of death I can just see the riots that will break out in boston

Re:the way I see it (4, Interesting)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#44132879)

I would hardly count 3 dead as a weapon of mass destruction. All the buildings are still there as well.

Re:the way I see it (4, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#44133067)

For purposes of criminal law, the bomb was legally a weapon of mass destruction. The effect of the bomb qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction for purposes of discussion.

Boston Marathon bombing [bostonglobe.com] 3 dead, 254 wounded. Fifteen victims suffered amputations, two of which had double amputations.

There are two contexts in which "Weapon of Mass Destruction" is used. In military usage it refers to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Criminal code usage is a superset of military definition, plus "destructive devices." Basically, explosive or incendiary devices with more than 1/4 oz payload. The charges are in-line with current criminal law practice.

Re:the way I see it (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44133101)

Sure, but current criminal law practice is to make everything sound rather grandiose. When most people think of WMDs they think of weapons that can cause real mass destruction. Things that kill thousands or millions.

Re:the way I see it (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#44133237)

perhaps that explains why they are trying him in criminal court rather than military court?

Re:the way I see it (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#44133141)

The criminal definition is different from the military definition. That's all this is. Criminally, a weapon of mass destruction is one that destroys indiscriminately, that's all it really means. Yes, there's a lot of verbiage about the size of the explosive and the delivery mechanisms and whatnot, but the underlying thought is causing indiscriminate death. The thought processes and motives are different and state of mind is an important issue in the legal system.

Re:the way I see it (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#44133255)

A man with a pistol can cause indiscriminate death. Id hardly count that as mass destruction.

Re:the way I see it (4, Insightful)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | about a year ago | (#44132891)

as long as he is left lifeless in the end.

Easy there, ganjadude. Personally, I'd like to see the guy rot in a cell.

Keeping people alive to make them think about what they've done seems far more just to me than letting them escape their guilty conscience.

Re:the way I see it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133129)

Keeping them alive makes the rest of us pay for it...

That's just stupid.

You want him kept alive forever? YOU pay for it... I'd rather pay $.005 for a bullet and be done with it.

Re:the way I see it (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44133203)

Cheaper than an execution. Look up the real numbers and be surprised.

Also morally superior. I see no reason to make us all murderers.

Re:the way I see it (-1, Flamebait)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#44133253)

onyl cheeper if you consider all the appeals and extra bullshit that most on death row push for. In a clear cut case like this, just hang him and be done with it. That or a firing squad where his victims get to pull the trigger.

Re:the way I see it (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44133271)

That is probably the singly most morally repugnant thing I will read all day. As far as I can tell you appear to be no better than this bomber.

Re:the way I see it (4, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44133241)

Keeping them alive makes the rest of us pay for it...

That's just stupid.

You want him kept alive forever? YOU pay for it... I'd rather pay $.005 for a bullet and be done with it.

You are an idiot. [deathpenaltyinfo.org]

Please stop talking until you learn something about the topic.

Re:the way I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132913)

Having said that he should simply be hung in the center of boston when this is all over with, i dont care what they call it as long as he is left lifeless in the end.

Amen!

Re:the way I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132923)

as long as he is left lifeless in the end

That's the kind of due process that even the US government can get behind.

Re:the way I see it (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#44132925)

Using a weapon of mass destruction is a pretty serious violation of the law of conservation of mass. Where did he get the anti-matter?

Re:the way I see it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132995)

Same place I buy my pants, holmes. This is America!

Re:the way I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132947)

The problem is that if the bomb was a WMD then Hellfire missiles certainly are WMD's and have been shot at civilians.

Murder is murder, premeditated murder is premeditated murder. Should have been enough.

Re:the way I see it (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#44132987)

I can agree with that. I just dont see the outrage by the submitter. If we look at the facts. the man on trial did commit "mass destruction". Sure it is reaching but that doesnt make it untrue.

Re:the way I see it (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#44133075)

If that's the case, every bomb the US has ever dropped counts as a WMD.

Re:the way I see it (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#44133263)

as explained before, military definition for WMD is not the same as criminal code definition. By the criminal code definition, he did in fact use a WMD, by military standards he did not. That could explain why he is having a criminal trial rather than a military trial.

Re:the way I see it (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#44133105)

...its all fun and games until you buy some fireworks and then get arrested and charged with possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Do you really think they threw that charge in to be cute?

They are trying to set a precedent, and by the looks of it they will because as you see from the comments here, this guy is automatically guilty of anything they charge him with in the publics eye.

Re:the way I see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133289)

Sure, he did some big damage, but weapons of mass destruction are known as weapons that do shit tons of damage, and I mean metric shit tons here. Calling some home made bombs weapons of mass destruction is kinda like calling a guy who crosses the border with 5 gram weed in his pocket somebody that does international drug trafficing. Its kinda true, but its really using the wrong word here and has 2 bad effects, for starters they make the crime commited by the person seem way worse than it was (while those few deaths in this case are bad enough, if you heard in the news that somebody set up 2 WMDs in boston, you are going to be thinking goodbye city, which isn't the case). A second effect is that when they use it often, it becomes useless as a wording for the actual crime (if a person is called a pedophile in australia, did he actually rape children or did he have porn with small breasted women on his computer?).

Remember 1984, changing defenitions of words to fit whatever cause is one of the things that they did. This is really the same.

Re:the way I see it (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#44133127)

For the purposes of criminal law, both the bomb and a Hellfire missile would qualify as weapons of mass destruction. For military purposes, neither are.

Killing while waging war in accordance with the law of war does not constitute murder.

Re:the way I see it (4, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44133269)

Cool, so when does the President go on trial for authorizing the murder of civilians using WMDs? [policymic.com]

Before you respond with any of that , "at war blah blah blah" nonsense, keep in mind that Congress has not declared war on Pakistan.

Re:the way I see it (3)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year ago | (#44133261)

If we call a pressure-cooker bomb a "weapon on mass destruction", what do we call a nuke? WMD is a term that has long had a fairly well defined meaning: nukes, chemical weapons, bio-weapons. If we make the term mean something else, then we just need a new term. If we are going to make up a new term, the why not use it for small bombs?

Words matter! The debate over WMDs in Iraq will be more confusing in future discussions if we change the meaning of the word. It may seem like a good idea to the US to use words like that for emphasis, but what do we do when we are accused of using WMDs against civilian populations in the form of drone-strikes? Of is Israel is accused of using WMDs against Palestinians and demands are made that the US uphold its treaties?

The boston bomber should be accused of using an explosive device to commit mass murder and mayhem. A conviction on that should put him away for the rest of his life, or execute him.

I'd say what I'm thinking... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132849)

but I'd be afraid that I'd be audited.

However (5, Funny)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year ago | (#44132851)

By this new definition of "Weapons of Mass Destruction", Saddam did have WMD's and they were in Iraq.

Retroactive Evidence ;) (3, Insightful)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about a year ago | (#44132897)

By this new definition of "Weapons of Mass Destruction", Saddam did have WMD's and they were in Iraq.

I didn't though of that. Maybe the government is pulling a "Romney" in trying to find a casus belli for that war fiasco retroactively :P

Re:Retroactive Evidence ;) (1)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year ago | (#44132945)

I didn't though of that. Maybe the government is pulling an "Obama" in trying to find a casus belli for that war fiasco retroactively :P

FTFY

Re:Retroactive Evidence ;) (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about a year ago | (#44133189)

I didn't though of that. Maybe the government is pulling an "Obama" in trying to find a casus belli for that war fiasco retroactively :P

FTFY

Well, if we are going to split hairs, let us remember that the classic "retroactive" meme came out of the Romney presidential campaign staff (specifically the "retroactive retirement" comment made by Ed Gillespie). I'm not making any particular value judgement pro or against any camp, but simply pointing out the typical use of the "retroactive" political meme that originated during the last presidential clown-fest... err, campaign.

Re:Retroactive Evidence ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133221)

I didn't though of that. Maybe the government is pulling an "Obama" in trying to find a casus belli for that war fiasco retroactively :P

FTFY

Damn - the retroactivity has reached critical mass and gone recursive!

Re:Retroactive Evidence ;) (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#44133195)

This is a difference between criminal law versus military. The bombs used in Boston do not constitute WMD for military purposes. WMD in the military context are nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Criminal law in the US is a superset of that and includes explosives and incendiary devices with more than 1/4 oz. payload.

Re:Retroactive Evidence ;) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133243)

Or they are getting ready to invade [consults magic 8 ball] Canada, and need an excuse.

Re:However (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132949)

also, pretty much every country has WMD now.

Re:However (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133037)

Does this mean that the United States and Allies deliberately chose to use "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Kuwait, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and Vietnam, since they indiscriminately harmed civilians as well?

Shouldn't all the Presidents, Secretary of States, Joint Chiefs of Staffs and soldiers be investigated for war crimes during those conflicts?

Re:However (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#44133293)

Shouldn't all the Presidents, Secretary of States, Joint Chiefs of Staffs and soldiers be investigated for war crimes during those conflicts?

Yes. In fact, I would argue that those people should be put on trial any and every time they commit a violent act against another person or nation.

If the system is just, as they swear to us it is, then they should be found innocent of any wrongdoing, right? What's to fear?

Re:However (1)

zlives (2009072) | about a year ago | (#44133043)

as does every other country... so maybe its time to buy defense contractor company shares... o wait its always time to buy defense contractor shares

Oh the irony (5, Insightful)

ACluk90 (2618091) | about a year ago | (#44132853)

So according to the government's own definition the U.S. military not only owns, but uses weapons of mass destruction, probably on a daily basis? I thought they raided Iraq, because the just owned such weapons. This definition is ridiculous!

Re:Oh the irony (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133085)

No no, you misunderstand. WMDs are owned and used by bad guys, never by good guys. This Boston fellow is a bad guy, therefore what he uses must be WMDs. The US military are good guys, because they don't use WMDs. We know they don't use WMDs because they are good guys and good guys don't do that. It's all perfectly simple when you think about it.

Re:Oh the irony (1)

Shortguy881 (2883333) | about a year ago | (#44133109)

Not only does the military use this new definition of weapons of mass destruction on a daily basis, they do so in the United States. All the bombing tests that go on here can now be described as the US using weapons of mass destruction on American soil.

Re:Oh the irony (2)

WillgasM (1646719) | about a year ago | (#44133225)

Not OUR bombs. They're defined as "Fiery Freedom Hugs". It's a very subtle distinction based mostly on the color of paint used.

Let's invade Boston (2, Insightful)

thepike (1781582) | about a year ago | (#44132855)

If this bomb was a weapon of mass destruction then it turns out Bush was right! Iraq totally had WMDs. See, the whole war on terror is justified.

WMDs in Iraq (5, Interesting)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#44132863)

So there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after all!

Why not call him a pedo too? (5, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#44132869)

If you're going to just make up definitions to make things sound worse, why not call him a pedo as well and charge him for that too?

Seriously, the guy's a murderer plain and simple and deserves to be locked up for the rest of his life. But a conventional bomb simply is not a weapon of mass destruction unless you want the term to have no meaning.

Nukes are WMDs. Chemical weapons fit the bill, as do biological ones. Possibly a really huge conventional bomb could reach that (e.g. a daisycutter in a populate d area), but a bomb set off in a crowd which kills 5 people? That's not even remotely a WMD.

The stupidity of this burns, frankly.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (0)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#44132901)

weapon of mass destruction to me is exactly what it sounds like. does it cause "mass destruction" if the answer is yes, than it is in fact a weapon of mass destruction. 2 bombs going off in a crowded city seems to fit that definition pretty well IMO

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#44132963)

weapon of mass destruction to me is exactly what it sounds like. does it cause "mass destruction" if the answer is yes, than it is in fact a weapon of mass destruction. 2 bombs going off in a crowded city seems to fit that definition pretty well IMO

Well, no. Not if the city is still there after the bombs go off. What size was the crater? There was no crater? No weapon of mass destruction then.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#44133039)

well I guess this is where the nit picking begins. what "level" of destruction do YOU see equaling "mass destruction" vs what I or others consider "mass destruction" If the cost of the damage is in the millions or billions, and there is a large number of injured or dead, I would call that mass destruction. Hell I would even call it treason what he did.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about a year ago | (#44133135)

If the cost of the damage is in the millions or billions, and there is a large number of injured or dead, I would call that mass destruction.

If only we could catch those lightning bugs torching our forests.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#44133227)

Personally i would say its not mass destruction if there are no significant damages to multiple structures. The name gives it away, its destruction, on a mass scale. The only exception to this that i can see is if the weapon produces fatalities on a large scale instead of structure damage. Like chemical and biological weapons, which kill on a mass scale yet leave structures undamaged.

Why stop there? (1)

denzacar (181829) | about a year ago | (#44133281)

If the cost of the damage is in the millions or billions

So a glass of water thrown at a valuable painting is a weapon of mass destruction?

and there is a large number of injured or dead

Cars, skis, swimming pools, common cold, corners of furniture that seem designed for you to stub your toe on, LEGO bricks...
Millions get killed or injured by those EVERY DAY!

And don't get me started on A4 paper and the cuts one can get from THAT.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133021)

Except they really didn't do much of mass destruction, you could have killed and wounded as many or more people with a gun, does that mean guns are now weapons of mass destruction?

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year ago | (#44133181)

No no no no no, owning guns is an American right. After all, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Or a good guy with a WMD, I guess.

Gawd, how dumb. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133081)

If killing people in a crowd is a weapon of mass destruction, then the shooting off of guns into a crowd by police in combating riots are all weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, demolition of buildings require bombs blown up in cities. So your companies are using weapons of mass destruction.

And your government is using them in Iraq.

And if you're going to count the number dead, then three is enough to count as "mass" now???

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (1)

Minwee (522556) | about a year ago | (#44133107)

weapon of mass destruction to me is exactly what it sounds like. does it cause "mass destruction" if the answer is yes [...]

...Then you're violating the law of conservation of matter, and going to be in a whole lot of trouble once the universe figures out what you have done and catches up with you.

You might weasel out of it by invoking E=mc^2, but the former residents of what used to be the city you tried it in would be justifiably pissed off about it.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133167)

You are a moron. It did not caused "mass destruction", it caused panic and a few deaths. When someones uses the term WMD, I'm expecting something capable to decimate all living beings in a large area and as such any person using them should be charged with crimes against humanity. This does not qualify, it doesn't even comes close. Not even 911 attacks come close to a WMD even when it indeed caused a lots of deaths and destruction.

This guy should be charged by murder, attempt of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and any terrorist charge you want to add. That would be fair and more than enough to get him locked forever or executed. But charging him with using WMD makes the whole thing lost all its meaning, and as a side effect makes the US government and army guilty of using WMD against both armed and civilian opponents and as such, every single serving officer should be considered a war criminal and charged for crimes against humanity.

You can't have it both ways.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (3, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#44132935)

More:

It's even stupider than that. From skimming the law, it appears that any destructive device can count as a WMD, which mean's it's apparently legal to own one, given that one can own destructive devices.

In fact the Bofors 40mm AA autocannon (the largest machinegun in civillian hands) fits the bill, and there's videos of someone (legally) setting off his WMD at a number of entertaining targets.

Stupid definitions are just stupid.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132953)

Because then you start mixing in sexual freedom and this whole don't stop people from loving who they love.

Re:Why not call him a pedo too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133121)

You're trying to reason logically in a country that has abandoned logic and the rule of law for more than a decade. What's next, knives weapons of mass destruction ? Oh oh wait, what about GUNS ? Weapons of mass destruction too. Therefore the government shall confiscate all weapons of mass destruction and put people that use or store such weapons in jail. I loooooooooooooooooove america. /sarcasm

Any explosive device is a WMD now? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year ago | (#44132871)

Well, that means the US and the UK were correct - Iraq *did* have weapons of mass destruction, it had millions of such weapons. Infact, pretty much every country has them.

In sane-land, this is ridiculous. If it wasn't, how about the US stop blocking the extradition for all the IRA terrorists and money men the UK have been seeking for the past 40 years?

Re:Any explosive device is a WMD now? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#44133309)

That is for purposes of criminal law, not military application. Criminal law is a superset of the military definition to make more things illegal.

If it wasn't, how about the US stop blocking the extradition for all the IRA terrorists and money men the UK have been seeking for the past 40 years?

The problem there is the same problem the US has had trying to get the military commissions underway, as well as other bits of national security related issues - judicial overreach. Judges blocked extradition of those wanted for involvement with the IRA. My impression is that many from the UK were pleased when judges in the US interfered with the prosecution of various al Qaida related terrorists in the US. I'm not so sure they would be pleased to realize the same problem occurred with the IRA. It is often less fun when the shoe is on the other foot.

WMD, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132905)

I suppose then that the 4th of July is just one big WMD-fest.

Charges don't matter to groups outside America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132907)

We don't charge those guys, we push a button in Nevada and watch them go boom. I don't think anyone joining these groups at this point realistically imagines being captured and taken to trial in America. We've got a few hundred dudes in Cuba who aren't event charged, much less getting a trial. I'm sure they'd love a WMD charge if it got them in front of a judge.

We're all terrorists... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132929)

Every one of us has the makings for weapons of mass destruction in our kitchen.

In light of recent NSA leaks, it makes sense they would sensationalize everything they can. Not only to distract you, but also to criminalize you.

Without more "enemy combatants," they're running out of ways to justify their existence. They're attempting to make more.

Clinton's Law (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about a year ago | (#44132939)

As an online discussion of different legal definitions of illicit human behavior grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and the definition of "sex" approaches 1. When such an event occurs, the person guilty of invoking Clinton's Law has effectively forfieted the argument.

Re:Clinton's Law (1)

Minwee (522556) | about a year ago | (#44133149)

As an online discussion of different legal definitions of illicit human behavior grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and the definition of "sex" approaches 1. When such an event occurs, the person guilty of invoking Clinton's Law has effectively forfieted the argument.

And thus, by your own argument, your argument is invalid. This is an example of "Captain Kirk's Law of Computer Systems Management", and it typically involves a lot of smoke and the use of phrases like "Does not compute!" and "Prime directive!"

Inciting terrorist recruitment? (1)

CyberSnyder (8122) | about a year ago | (#44132969)

I wouldn't worry about that. We could give ponies to crippled children and that would somehow be used to recruit terrorists.

State of Fear (1)

tatman (1076111) | about a year ago | (#44132979)

Everyone should read it. At least the commentary about how information can be misused to stir up the masses and move society in one direction or another.

[Begin Rant]Unfortunately, that's were "we" have gone with terrorism. It isn't enough to call someone a terrorist. No they used "weapons of mass destruction" because it sounds more terrifying. It isn't enough to call a robber a robber any more either. No, we've starting calling them terrorist now. Anything to arouse the masses and get them worked up.

It feels like the same thing is going on with the latest flu or viral "epidemics". The latest economic news. It doesn't end.[End Rant]

Domestic audience (3, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44132981)

I suspect this is another instance where the Federal prosecutors are thinking of primarily domestic considerations. If they bring the biggest and most impressive-sounding charges they can, then all the surveillance powers and generally noxious government behavior seem more justified. It pays to keep the public scared: it keeps the "homeland security" budget super-sized and it makes the Federal prosecutors look and feel bigger than they are. Both of those outcomes are good for their careers.

The way prosecutors operate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132983)

You know why prosecutors are immune from prosecution? So they can afford to be just.

But this is how US prosecutors operate at all levels: they always throw the book at the suspects like its spaghetti against a wall. Whatever your alleged crime is, it is going to escalate quickly within the offices of the prosecutor. Forgot to return the pen you borrowed to sign the check you used to pay for groceries at Walmart, and walked out with in? No, you won't get charged with shoplifting... expect a charge of grand larceny.

E=Mc^2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44132997)

Isn't a nuke the only actual weapon of "mass" destruction? A conventional bomb may rearrange a lot of matter, but you still have the same total mass you started with. A nuke's the only thing that actually destroys mass/matter..

Pressure cooker manufacturers beware! (1)

shikaisi (1816846) | about a year ago | (#44133027)

Well, it seems that the US now has a casus belli to invade pretty much any country that has a factory producing pressure cookers. Look out, Ecuador!

meaningless like 'hate crime' (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#44133073)

Try the guy on 3 counts of murder, a bazillion of attempted murder, and throw in a few parking tickets and douchbag haircut crimes as well. The legal system already accounts for people like this, no need to layer on another helping of hysteria and chest-beating.

Good point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133077)

If setting off a small home made bomb qualifies as using a WMD, then every grenade toss by both sides in Syria
must also qualify as using WMDs, and every rocket launched by any side qualifies as using WMDs, and every
rocket launched from a Huey or Apache qualifies as using WMDs, don't even think about ground based or naval
artillery or bombs dropped from planes.

My Gawd ! Most of the US armed forces ( not to mention the military of every other nation ) are guilty of using
WMDs ! What's next, when my dog lets off an SBD, she's guilty of using a WMD. Well she certainly has a mass
effect on everybody in the room.

Justifications (0)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#44133083)

It's all bullshit.

The USA either thought or didn't think that Saddam had WMD - they went in anyway.

The USA and everyone else knows full well that Kim not only has nukes but threatens to use them..and doesn't do jack shit about it.

Did someone say Bush Oil ?

A Cheapening of the Charges (4, Insightful)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about a year ago | (#44133117)

"Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has now been indicted on over 30 charges relating to his part in the Boston Marathon bombing. Of particular note however is a charge of using a 'Weapon of Mass Destruction.' It's a bit out of line with the commonly-held perception of the term, most notably used in justifying the invasion of Iraq. However, U.S. criminal law defines a 'weapon of mass destruction' much more broadly, including virtually any explosive device: bombs, grenades, rockets, missiles, mines, etc. The question arises: is it wise for Tsarnaev to face such a politically-loaded charge? From an outsider perspective, it would seem easy enough to leverage any number of domestic anti-terror laws to achieve anything up to and including the death penalty if required. Why, then, muddy the waters with this new WMD claim, when the price could be giving further ammunition to groups outside of America that already clearly feel the rules are set up to indict them on false pretenses, and explicitly use this sense of outrage to attract new terrorist recruits?"

Absolutely not. Tsarnaev is a terrorist and a murderer. As such, he should be indicted logically, using the law logically, and with all the abundance of evidence arrayed against him.

By trumpeting the charges and re-defining the semantics behind the term WMD, we turn a legitimate case into a political circus. Moreover, when we cheapen a word or term (WMD in this case), when we redefined in an ad hoc manner away from the commonly accepted semantics of it, we setup a terrible precedent, one than can be legitimacy challenged by Tsarnaev's attorney.

There is no sane way in which we can interpret a pipebomb or a pressure cooker bomb as a weapon of mass destruction. No common person exercising common sense and common knowledge can accept such a definition. Any such redefinition is no longer objective. It is biased and subjective, one that can run into trouble with a judge in a court of law (or a jury).

So why risk it? I mean, there are many reasons, political and circus-like reasons, yes, but no valid, legal or ethical reasons.

Tsarnaev is guilty of terrorism. It is guilty of murder. It is guilty of harming other people and property. It is guilty of robbery. It is guilty of kidnapping. It is guilty of manufacturing and deploying destructive devises (of which WMDs are just a very small subset.) One could argue that he is guilty of organized crime (with the objective of committing acts of terrorism.)

There is plenty of objective evidence with which to finding him guilty of all of that in state and federal courts.

He is not guilty of using a WMD. This is a slippery slope for something that is completely unnecessary. If we use that logic, does a mass shooting turns a rifle into a WMD? Does crashing a car to run into a store turns it into a WMD? As horrible as these things might be, there are laws of sufficient strength and logical soundness to prosecute such acts.

This move does not make us safer. In fact, it might have the opposite effect since it trivializes the meaning behind "WMD", which could make it more difficult to prosecute an actual WMD charge.

Authorities, please: Let us not make one more mockery out of legal institutions and charge this criminal appropriately. Do not turn our courts for such an important case into a political circus, please.

This is not new (2)

RetiredMidn (441788) | about a year ago | (#44133119)

The Times Square (attempted) bomb [wikipedia.org] was termed a "weapon of mass destruction" in the charges that were filed. I do think "WMD" is over-kill for those cases.

Government Attitude towards Citizens (1)

brwski (622056) | about a year ago | (#44133155)

The use of the term "WMD" simply lays bare government's attitude toward the people under their rule:" they are objects, having some value for the state, which can be damaged or destroyed. They are not people, they are not citizens, they are property. And they don't care that we know that to be the case.

Contextual usage (1)

Intropy (2009018) | about a year ago | (#44133177)

It's almost as if words relating to relative magnitudes are context dependent. A weapon that causes mass destruction on the scale of an individual targeting a crowd isn't a weapon of mass destruction when a country targets another. A .50 is a high caliber gun during a drive by in urban LA, but not when a tank fires on another.  The Tsar Bomba was a really big bomb, but a tiny nova.

watch out, Food Network (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44133229)

The government has figured out your evil schemes and has their eye on you and your pressure cooking WMDs.

No death penalty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133245)

If he is willing to die as a martyr in defense of Islam, and people will glorify it, let him rot in prison with pictures of western decadence and naked men outside the cell but in plain view. Giving him, in his mind, a vip to heaven and other mental cases a figure to revere is the wrong answer

Why muddy the waters with this new WMD claim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133265)

Because we can.

Ummm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133299)

Any explosive device? Cars & bullets both use explosions to function and are both capable of killing multiple victims.

I was planning on canning tomatoes tonight. (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about a year ago | (#44133315)

I think maybe I'll just freeze them.

Less dangerous.

Waaaaait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44133321)

I am pretty sure that WMD is supposed to be read literally, as in the bomb literally destroys mass, but in the sense of it destroying the old standard definition of mass being atomic mass rather than mass itself. (so in other words, turning materials in to plasmas)

This is just absurd as fuck.
Seriously, fuck the US Justice system, it is an embarrassment.
Yes, he is a stupid terrorist set out to kill people, but give him the right god damn punishment that fit the god damn crime.

Oh, by the way, best not question your government Americans, you might end up on the PRISM watch list. And I'm only half joking when I say this, you will end up on some watch list somewhere for even questioning this.
Hell, I might even end up on it because my country is buttbuddies with your country these days.
I wish it went back to the good old days where we ejected you from the country and there was still that present-but-calm hatred, the kind of hatred between 2 employees in the same company that compete with each other.

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