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Charleston Post and Courier mangles nuke-drill facts

Total Information Analysis | August 16 2005

An interesting item was posted today on, the associated website of the major daily paper Charleston Post-Courier. If you haven't read it yet, check out this site's Key General fired as nuke terror drill set for Aug 17 for background. Here's some of the pertinent excerpts and attendant analysis of the Post-Courier's online item:

Still, this chatter has stirred up folks all over the Lowcountry, worried that nuclear fallout could seriously ruin their weekend. Officials with Charleston County, the state's emergency management personnel and even the Department of Defense have gotten worried calls from folks scanning the skies for mushroom clouds over Fort Sumter.

Trouble is, as with most conspiracy theories, the facts often get in the way.

Locals officials say no drills are planned this week, and the state Ports Authority says no plans have been made to detonate any nuclear weapons in the harbor.
Hmm. Local officials don't know of any drills, but the state Port Authority just says they haven't been told a nuke is going to go off. No, really?!!
"We're not aware of that," Port spokesman Byron Miller said.

The rumors began with a Northern Command press release about a terrorism training exercise that began: "Here's the scenario ... A seafaring vessel transporting a 10-kiloton nuclear warhead makes its way into a port off the coast of Charleston, S.C. Terrorists aboard the ship attempt to smuggle the warhead off and detonate it."

If this sounds familiar, perhaps you remember "Special Bulletin," a 1983 movie with roughly the same plot and set in Charleston. Perhaps the terrorists don't have a manual, just cable television.

One Web site says the idea is that the exercise was intended to "go live" and be used for cover for a real attack. For proof, they say terrorism drills were planned in the United States on 9/11 and in London on 7/7.
"They say"?! First off, this isn't just something "they say." This can be easily verified after a few minutes on google. The reporter doesn't say which website he's referring to -- most sites have just said there is a great danger that the attack could, or could have been intended to, go live.
Problem is, the terrorism drill, which will focus on bad guys getting nukes, will take place this week at Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Va. -- about 400 miles up the coast. Charleston was apparently mentioned on a lark.
If Charleston was chosen as "a lark," why did the NORTHCOMM press release say that Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) Region IV would be invited to participate in the drill? Region IV pointedly does not encompass Virginia, where Ft. Monroe is, but does include South Carolina (along with Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee).
The organization charged with homeland defense has no plans to stage a drill in the Lowcountry.
Did the Post-Courier check with FEMA about any planned exercises? NORTHCOMM also announced they'd be inviting South Carolina Emergency Management Division to play as well. There are no denials from those folks in this piece, either.
"We have no planned exercises in Charleston," said Lt. Jody Vazquez with the Northern Command.
What about exercises "off the port of Charleston"? That's what the NORTHCOMM release said the drill was about. Not "in Charleston."
[...]As is often the case in the world of conspiracy theories, nothing is ever simple. The story, as reported on Internet sites such as and, says that the recent firing of a four-star general, ostensibly for sexual misconduct, was actually an attempt to thwart a military uprising against "neo-con hawks in an attempt to prevent further global conflict." The general, Kevin P. Byrnes, was head of Fort Monroe's Training and Doctrine Command. And, according to these Internet sites, Byrnes was leading an insurgency bent on stopping the United States from escalating global conflict.
This is rather odd that has not reported on Gen. Byrnes at all, but sister site has. Both sites ran an early story about the NORTHCOMM drill on July 27, though. That piece urged folks to call Ft. Monroe and ask questions. Byrnes was fired from his position 14 days later. Perhaps the reporter is a fan of both sites and got confused?
[...]Other details, such as why Iran would blow up Charleston, are not explained in these theories.
Wha-huh? Clearly, every site that has discussed this issue has said that the danger is factions inside the U.S. government blowing something up, not Iran.

Can the reporter really be this semi-literate? Perhaps not, and an editor insisted or insinuated that the story had to be this juvenile (some elided passages are even worse) or else it wouldn't be run at all.

Regardless, hopefully enough noise has been made about this that anything sinister planned will not have a chance to go down.
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