the power of powder

One of the greatest things about living in the D.C. area is the people you meet around town and the random things you learn from them. I once shared martini’s with a woman who worked as part of an Accenture consulting team to the United States Postal Service. The project? Something about testing the feasibility of using SmartDust at the USPS as part of internal quality control process; dust-particle scaled, self-contained microelectromechanical devices spread onto random letters or packages would collect and monitor data about the delivery process. Seems the project was going well up until letters containing anthrax bacteria were mailed to the offices of two U.S. Senators. In the wake of "Amerithrax" it seems that dust went from "potential tool" to "potential threat."

Although the anthrax killed five people and severely sickened seventeen others, the culprit(s) behind the threat have not been found. Now it seems the attention given to the affair has bred at least one copycat terrorist. Today the Associated Press reported that

"A man suspected of mailing more than a dozen threatening letters containing white powder to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Jon Stewart and other high-profile figures was in custody and awaiting a court appearance. Prosecutors were expected to file a criminal complaint against Chad Conrad Castagana, 39, in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday. He was arrested Saturday for allegedly conveying false information and sending threats by U.S. mail."

If Atlantic Monthly journalist Amy Waldman is correct, and "the United States is now prosecuting suspected terrorists on the basis of their intentions, not just their actions" – how is it that we are not bring terrorism- related charges against this man? Letters like these, while not physically harmful, create an environment of fear that poses no less danger than yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre.

People who mimic historical acts of terror should be charged as terrorists.

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