Via blogger Richard Bartholomew, we've discovered a tale that plays like a weird wingnut version of the telephone game.
Back in January, there was speculation in the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's attempt to blow up a plane approaching Detroit on Christmas that Al-Qaeda was working on ways to implant an explosive called PETN into the breasts or buttocks of would-be suicide bombers. After the UK's Daily Mail did an article on this at the end of January, and WorldNetDaily followed in a Feb. 1 article, credited to WND's $99-a-year G2 Bulletin newsletter.
Several weeks later, the British tabloid The Sun rehashed the story, not crediting WND yet purporting to quote WND editor Joseph Farah and describing him as a "terrorist expert." The Sun story came back across the pond and was posted on the Fox News website (both are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.).
Unfortunately for all news organizations involved, the breast-bomb was apparently just too good to check, so it's no surprise to learn that when the claim is examined, it's more than a tad implausible. As Neal Ungerleider at True/Slant writes:
2. PETN is a poor substance for exploding breast implant bombs. Pentaerythritol tetranitrate is known for two things: its relatively thick density/appearance/feel in solid form and for its extremely high brisance. The first means that any that any suicide bomber with breast implants large enough to detonate a hole in a plane would be walking in an odd manner that would likely invite scrutiny. The second means that a dedicated detonation device would be required to blow up the breast bombs - subcutaneous explosive detonation is not an easy task. A collorary of this is that any detonator the suspected breast bomber would have in their posession would have mechanical or electronic parts. That might not be so easy to hide in the carry-on.
3. The "explosives in the buttocks of some male suicide bombers" did not work at all. This author has written about al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's love of rectal suicide bombs before. It turns out that planting explosive charges in the body effectively turns the body of the bomber into a shield protecting the intended target from harm: Instead of the target being blown up or seriously damaged, the bulk of the blast is absorbed by the suicide bomber's body. It's a perfect tribute to the laws of physics.
WND weighed in again in a March 27 article telling its version of how the story spread, denying that Farah would ever call himself a "terrorist expert," and disavowing the things The Sun quoted him as saying. However, WND left out the stuff about the breast-bomber stuff being implausible, insisting instead that "it's no joke," then complaining that The Sun didn't credit WND as the source for the story (even though the Daily Mail ran an article before WND did) and using the opportunity to shill for subscriptions to "the real enchilada" G2 Bulletin.
WND also admitted that the source of the breast-bomb item was "one of G2 Bulletin's contributors, Gordon Thomas," who is "a London-based correspondent with deep contacts in British intelligence." But as Bartholomew points out, even right-wingers like Daniel Pipes are less than impressed by Thomas, who apparently believes that Mossad is responsible for the deaths of Princess Diana and publisher Robert Maxwell, and makes even more fantastical claims about Israeli intelligence. Reviewing a book by Thomas, Pipes writes, "In brief, what is reliable in this book is old-hat, while what is new is utterly unreliable, a mishmash of blather and fantasy."
Somehow, it's completely unsurprising that such a person is writing for WorldNetDaily. Or that Fox News would treat a British tabloid that's best known for celebrity gossip and pictures of topless women as a trusted source on issues of national security.