The Wrong Hands: Popular Weapons Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to a Democratic Society

By Ann Larabee | Go to book overview

Introduction

Al-Qaeda’s online magazine, Inspire, appeared on the Web in 2010. It included a section on “open source jihad,” defined as “a resource manual for those who loathe the tyrants; includes bomb making techniques, security measures, guerrilla tactics, weapons training and other jihad related activities.” In its first issue, it provided instructions for how to “make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.”1 This was a step-by-step guide, illustrated with glossy photographs, for making a bomb in a pressure cooker. Responding to the news of Inspire, Republican congressman Peter Hoekstra called for the nation to “ratchet up our law enforcement and intelligence counterterrorism programs,” warning that “we underestimate this kind of radical jihadist propaganda at our peril.”2Inspire’s editor was a young US citizen, Samir Khan, who had traveled from Charlotte, North Carolina, to reside with the radical cleric and senior al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Both were killed in 2011 in a secretive drone strike: highly controversial because it involved the assassination of an American citizen without trial. While some observers wondered whether Khan had been killed for editing a magazine, the Obama administration said he was collateral damage. It was not, however, unhappy at his death.3

When the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013, a photograph of one of the devices was released, showing what appeared to be a piece from a pressure cooker. Internet forums and news stories buzzed with the speculation that the bombers were al-Qaeda and had used Inspire’s bomb-making directions. Some wondered what could be done about such texts, whether censorship was in order. Inspire, along with other “jihadist” texts, appeared as evidence in the indictment of the surviving bomber, Dzhokhar.4 The government was preparing a case that would feature his radicalization process, made deadly by dangerous instructional speech.

Popular weapons instructions like “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” have been around for a very long time and have excited curiosity, hope, fear, and anger. Efforts to control them, suppress them, and use them against public enemies in the United States go back to the nineteenth century, when the

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The Wrong Hands: Popular Weapons Manuals and Their Historic Challenges to a Democratic Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Science of Revolutionary Warfare 15
  • 2 - Sabotage 36
  • 3 - The Anarchist Cookbook 64
  • 4 - Hitmen 90
  • 5 - Monkeywrenching 108
  • 6 - Ka Fucking Boom 131
  • 7 - Vast Libraries of Jihad and Revolution 152
  • 8 - Weapons of Mass Destruction 171
  • Conclusion 185
  • Notes 191
  • Selected Bibliography 221
  • Index 239
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