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Health & Lifestyle / January 20, 2010
By Matt Harvey

Heroin being prepared for injection

Even the strongest Afghani brown can’t save Scottish junkies from the waking-nightmare that’s gripped them since December—when word first leaked out in the press of dope-fiends dropping dead from Anthrax-tainted heroin. Since December, press reports say there have been 14 confirmed anthrax poisonings among Scottish heroin junkies, and one in Germany. Eight of those have died. As any Irvine Welsh reader knows, the slums of Glasgow and Edinburgh are notoriously smack-plagued, so panic has no doubt hit copping centers in these towns especially hard.

The source of the poisoned dope is still a mystery—Scottish health sleuths blame it all on “contaminated heroin or a contaminated cutting agent.” So far, reports on the outbreak have treaded lightly on the terrorism angle, only implying that what is most likely Afghani brown (just about all the heroin in Europe comes from Afghanistan) might have been hit with bio-terrorism. The Taliban surely benefits from the drug trade (as do reportedly many of the American-backed government’s warlords), so it would seem strange for pro-Taliban terrorists to introduce Anthrax as weapon that would otherwise hurt the Taliban.

EU governments are anxious that the German case could be the start of a cross-continental epidemic, an AFP story reports:

“There is no outward sign or color enabling the user to tell whether the heroin has been contaminated by anthrax, and contaminated heroin dissolves or is used in the same way as uncontaminated heroin,” a French Ministry warning reads in part.

Hardcore addicts can do little with such creepy information, especially if he does not have access to other opiates. If the cases continue to spread, junkies—already a superstitious lot—will concoct pseudo-scientific rituals to test their drugs for contamination.

Scotland has long been a hotbed of Anthrax fears. The Independent claims the bacteria strain was behind a “spate of deaths among Scottish heroin addicts in 2000.”

Just four days ago, strangely enough, The Scotsman revealed that “Operation Dark Harvest”— a 1981 Anthrax terrorist attack launched across the UK—was the work of a shadowy Scottish nationalist group called the Scottish Civilian Army (SCA). At the time, it was not definitively known if the 10 lbs bags of tainted soil left in front of government and university offices were really contaminated, Scottish Health Department files show. Initially, the 1981 Anthrax terrorist scare came in response to media reports that an island off the coast of Scotland that had been used to test British Anthrax bio-weapons during World War 2 still posed a danger—infected sheep had washed ashore to the Scottish mainland, killing local livestock. The “Operation Dark Harvest” group demanded that the government properly dispose of the Anthrax, or else…

The shadowy SCA seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. But Howard Fienberg, a sketchy “senior DC lobbyist,” has an anonymously authored pro-Scottish independence position-paper on his website that lauds the SCA’s approach as an “extraordinarily effective way of drawing attention to the hazards of chemical and biological weapons.” The paper continues: “One of the problems to be faced by an independent Scotland would be controlling its population.”

So there’s plenty of Anthrax that the military planted on an island just 600 yards from Scotland’s shores. And there are plenty of Scots still clamoring for independence.

One thing’s certain: there’s more to this story.

Read more:, Matt Harvey, Health & Lifestyle

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  • 1. gyges  |  January 20th, 2010 at 8:21 am

    The Taliban surely benefits from the drug trade

    The Taliban all but eliminated the opium trade in 2001. This was part of a deal with the UN who agreed to provide compensation for farmers who gave up growing opium.

    Then the UN refused to pay up.

    Then there was the invasion.

    Now the production is at record levels.

  • 2. matt  |  January 20th, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Good news.

  • 3. Nestor  |  January 20th, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Or, maybe, anthrax contamination just can happen naturally? After all it is a disease, it must have natural reservoirs and such

  • 4. Seward's folly  |  January 20th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Fascinating and bizarre… Maybe junkies are like the canary in the coalmine.

  • 5. Alex_C  |  January 20th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    It’s the US that benefits from the heroin trade.

    And while anthrax has natural reservoirs, there’s no way it’d normally end up in the sap of a poppy.

  • 6. wow  |  January 20th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    weird … why does this article have different font from the rest?

  • 7. Spade  |  January 20th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    It’s just this simple; yes, the Taliban would do this and not hurt their trade in heroin. All you have to do to create terror is have a few hits among the millions be bad.

    Ask War Nerd: Didn’t our SF/RECON taint ChiCom ammo dumps with doctored ammo so that every once in a great while a round would be fired containing detcord that burns much faster and creating a higher chamber pressure and blowing the bolt of the NVA/VietCong right into the face of their soldiers… seems a plausable way of creating “terror” and lack of confidence in the enemy/supplier… you follow the logic?

  • 8. napoleonkaramazov  |  January 20th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Interesting, I live in Scotland and quite near to Gruinard island.

    While I could say ‘If the Taliban did it they are doing us a good job cleansing the streets of junkies, saving the enormous amount of money it costs to rehabilitate and treat them (Britain is after all a welfare state).

    But then you remember these are real people who are addicts. Heroin is not cool or edgy, exile fans. Some people come off it and manage to live reasonably prosperous lives. These addicts may have kicked the habit and enjoyed life again.

    “The shadowy SCA seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. But Howard Fienberg, a sketchy “senior DC lobbyist,” has an anonymously authored pro-Scottish independence position-paper on his website that lauds the SCA’s approach as an “extraordinarily effective way of drawing attention to the hazards of chemical and biological weapons.” The paper continues: “One of the problems to be faced by an independent Scotland would be controlling its population.” ”

    The SCA were a bunch of rabble rousing hooligans and braindead fools like all extreme Scottish nationalists. They have delusiions of grandeur. You will probably find their members drank themselves to death or are in a psychitaric hospital. In Scotland this extremism is supported by nobody sane. The only kind of anti Englishness is football nationalism- to get at the ‘evil’ English is supported by many Scots but that is a fucking national football (soccer)team rivalry.

    Howard Fienberg? never heard of him. Why no link? I know there is a huge Scottish American diaspora and maybe some get mad ideas in their head like the American Irish diaspora who funded the IRA to kill British troops (even though we were your most powerful ally in the cold war. This guy doesn’t even sound Scottish, more like a Jewish or German American. One silly lobbyist with his own fantasies does not equal a conspiracy. He probably watched Braveheart and thought it was an objective retelling of Scotland’s history.

    Gruinard has been safe for years, sheep are even grazing on it again. The British government spent millions decontaminating it and their is not a trace of anthrax.

    “So there’s plenty of Anthrax that the military planted on an island just 600 yards from Scotland’s shores. And there are plenty of Scots still clamoring for independence.”

    Besides would patriotic Scots start killing off their fellow Scots? It does not make sense. After all, nearly all the victims have been Scottish. Scotland is a small country, 5 million, so one small to medium sized batch of heroin smuggled in could provide all of Scotland’s heroin. Heroin would first come in from England as there are 10 times as many people, therefore 10x the market. The Scottish market is basically an afterthought to England’s. The cutting of the drug would be done there, or before in Turkey or Albania, whose gangsters pretty much control Europe’s heroin trade.

    Like I said it is a very human tragedy, maybe someone did intentionally put anthrax, maybe it was accordantly mixed. Either way, the people that are dying do have families and loved ones, and making crass assumptions is not particularly good.

    So now, the title, including ‘murky UK politics’ is really a misnomer. The SCA were never anywhere near the political mainstream.

  • 9. napoleonkaramazov  |  January 20th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Is Mr Fienberg’s mad website. Specifically, the article you refer to
    (anonymously authored pro-Scottish independence position-paper on his website)

    (It has not been updated for 15 years)

    He does say “One of the problems to be faced by an independent Scotland would be controlling its population.” but then he goes on about family planning and work permits, not anthrax infecting excess people.
    (Besides Scotland has a major demographic crisis as many people leave and the rest get older. If anything we need more people)

    It is just so absurd beyond belief (and there is no longer any anthrax anyway, they cleared it all away)Are you saying an independant Scottish government would use anthrax on their own people, or that Scots ‘freedom fighters’ would use it against the British government, or they are already using it on their fellow countrymen (the drug addicts)

    Remember, context is king. Why did you not bother to link his site in?
    Read through his site and read his nonesense. Scottish nationalism has always had a lunatic fringe.

    His page is really old, like 15 years old. He must have been some ‘revolutionary’ undergaduate at the time (the mid 90s). He obviously got involved with a load of lunatics. Maybe he was even still in his teens or early 20s then. So, basically a collection of undegraduate essays for a student journalism and the exile sees grand conspiracies. Hardly Kompromat?

    Scottish nationalism is fundamentally romantic and appeals to the heartstrings rather than the brain. Young Mr Fienberg probably had a good time in Scotland and was respectful of the culture. Scotland is a very cultured country with a (largely) cultured people and foreigners and natives alike rate it highly. So he sets up a rambling website as a tribute and posts his schoolboy essays on it. Big deal.

    So basically Exiled, you got some old ramblings from a website that has not been updated in 15 years, when someone who is now in a position of modest influence was a bright eyed undergraduate full of typical revolutionary ideas of youth. And you think it is some kind of grand conspiracy that a gang of mentally ill nutters tried to spread anthrax around in the early 80s and now they are no longer around?
    This website is so old all of the links are out of date. I don’t know what kind of narcotics you boys were on when you started chasing fantasies.

  • 10. napoleonkaramazov  |  January 20th, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Forgot to add his linkedin page.

    If anyone wants to sign up to that they can see his full profile.

    *Board Member at American League of Lobbyists
    *Director of Government Affairs at Marketing Research Association

    * University of Essex
    * Trent University
    * The University of Dundee

    He is American, I presume.
    But he has only pursued higher education in Scottish and English universities.
    He went to Dundee first. If he hated the evil English so much why did he then go on to two English universities earning an MA in international relations from Essex? (I would guess he got his first degree in I.R. from the Scottish uni.

    I.R. students and academics tend to talk about fictional situations and hypotheses quite often. He had his own fantasy of a tartan utopia, he was young and put it on the internet.

    This guy can be contacted easily.
    He even has a twitter account ffs. Or his Marketing Research Association email adress.
    Hardly a CIA ghost or something.
    Why doesn’t somebody drop him an email and ask for clarification. I am sure he would like to read this.

  • 11. good 'ol johnny  |  January 20th, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    amen, napoleonkaramazov.

    this is sad … it’s easy to think of junkies livin’ on the street and all, but the reality is that’s only a small portion. and i wanna say that a lotta fuckers would turn up in dumpsters if the heroin here in denver was cut with shit like that.

  • 12. peter  |  January 20th, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    hey where the fuck is the warnerd/john dolan? If he has quit let us know

  • 13. SweetLeftFoot  |  January 21st, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Napoleon provides a good summary.

    I’d disagree with one thing. Not all the gear, especially in Glasgow, comes up from England.

    There’s increasing amounts of ‘freelancers’ bringing it in from Pak … Glasgow has a big Pakistani community … in smaller loads, couple of keys at a time strppaed under Grandamas hijab.

    Its quite possible these guys, who don’t know the ins and outs of how took after gear, have allowed to get contaminated.

    FWIW – my desk overlooks one of Edinburgh’s key open air smack markets and it certainly hasn’t slowed trade.

    And none of the Edinburgh junkies I see every day look like Ewan McGregor or Jonny Lee Wilkinson, and there’s never any cool soundtrack.

    Just a load of sad fucks with fetal alcohol syndrome who shout at each other in a semi intelligible dialect that bears little relationship to English.

  • 14. gyges  |  January 21st, 2010 at 8:34 am

    In the 70s there was a chemistry Prof in London who claimed that heroin was not addictive. He ordered some ‘for his research’ and injected himself with the appropriate dose every evening for a month.

    Then he …


    He simply stopped.

    Has anyone around here heard of Rat Park?

  • 15. BlottoBonVismarck  |  January 21st, 2010 at 8:47 am

    8. 9. 10. napoleonkaramazov – Working way too hard

    It always gets my suspicions up when I see a commenter being _real_ serious about debunking a story. Particularly a crazy story. Particularly in three long parts.

    Makes me think stooge / disinformation provider / rebuttal artiste / of whom there are so many these days.

    Given that most of the Afghan heroin comes to us via players in, or related to, the Mayor of Kabul’s government and that most of the proceeds benefit the US, it would be nice to think that the brave Afghan resistance were cunning enough to pull off a nice spoiler and destroy the heroin market in the west.

    $500B (B as in Billion) in drug profits said to be laundered on Wall Street a year. Drug money being said to have been the only real floating cash available when the Neocon Nazis blew up the world’s financial system last year. Google for details. –

    But do they have access to anthrax?

    However ‘cute’ such a tricky move might be there is nothing ‘cute’ about murder. Ours. Theirs. Or anyone else’s. And there are probably ten better arguments that say that it is (yet another) way of continuing the US’s Operation Gladio’s ‘strategy of tension’ by blowing the crap of Europeans and blaming the left for it. When in fact it was the right.

    So, refusing to waste any more time on this, unlike 8, 9, 10, we are left s Matt Harvey says “One thing’s certain: there’s more to this story.”

  • 16. napoleonkaramazov  |  January 21st, 2010 at 11:01 am

    15. BlottoBonVismarck

    I would have limited it to my first post if the exile had not included that reference to Howard Fienberg. If you see the 2nd and 3rd posts deal only with Fienberg.

    The fact that the article liberally provided links, then when Fienberg turns up there is nothing about him. He is a marketing researcher and lobbyist who spent some time studying in Scotland in the 90s and wrote a few student essays. He makes a small point about anthrax island (Gruinard), which was very much in the Scottish nationalist’s conscience and so is found in many nationalist pamphlets and essays. 15 years later the exile picks them up and relates them to heroin addicts dying from a batch of anthrax, and of course that he is now a senior lobbyist in Washington, therefore is an evil shadowy guy. (He has a twitter account ffs. Contact him and see for yourself.)

    This is like the pirates and global warming chart.

    What I am concerned is is about the human cost of the drug addict deaths. Yes, they were drug addicts, but they weren’t once. Many do come clean and live stable lives. Many don’t sadly. Their lives were cut short. Accident or intent, who knows?
    And if I took the most callous approach and we assumed that a nefarious organisation was tainting the drugs, then is going to bring down the country, killing off the people who cost the NHS the most per capita and fill the prisons? (Which raises a question. Could have been a rightwing Thatcherite type wanting to ‘get rid of the scum’ as they often say.

  • 17. Dr. Luny  |  January 21st, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Have they actually found Anthrax in the heroin? Maybe there are just low levels of anthrax in the environment and a few junkies with fucked up immune systems were especially vunerable.

  • 18. bigdog  |  January 21st, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Would it not be resonable to suppose that Afghan heroin is sometimes smuggled with legitimate Afghan exports?

    Consider two recent anthrax deaths, one in the borders region of Scotland and another in London, both victims were drum-makers who had used poorly treated animal skins.

    A growing Afghan export in animal skins, mainly goat and sheepskin to supply the recent revival (in Britain at least) of that 1970’s hippy fashion must-have the Afghan coat.

    The dangers from anthrax are well understood amongst those who work with cattle, goats and sheep. The dangers are also present in the tanning industry.

    A much more likely tree to bark-up?

  • 19. Pádraig Ó Buth Chanain  |  January 21st, 2010 at 3:25 pm


    That’s no fucking Hun name! Leave your real name, cunt!

  • 20. Seward's folly  |  January 21st, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Karamazov: Methinks [thou] doth protest too much. weird.

  • 21. Notesy  |  January 23rd, 2010 at 5:04 am

    What exactly is being insinuated here?
    A conspracy to….. what exactly? Limit Scotland’s unsustainable population growth (!) and/or its nationalist movement by…. poisoning junkies with WWII anthrax?

    A breathtaking dumb article.

  • 22. blech  |  January 23rd, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    I don’t think that’s what’s being insinuated here.

    The only thing “breathtaking” is that junkies are dying of Anthrax at all.

  • 23. Philip Pilkington  |  January 24th, 2010 at 6:06 am

    When stuff like this happens I always wonder if its the spooks – but then again I don’t think my opinion matters very much; I think the CIA contact me through my fillings.

  • 24. BlottoBonVismarck  |  January 29th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    For 23. The simple version – Toy Trainspotting –

    Even better – With apologies to anyone who loved the original (on this site? No chance) –

  • 25. Frank McG  |  February 2nd, 2010 at 6:18 pm


    If you want a “breathtaking dumb” article, be sure to check out Mark’s declaration that Obama’s calling for education to combat racism instad of lynch mobs back in college is a sure sign that he’s in bed with Wall Street plutocrat conspirators.

  • 26. mps  |  February 3rd, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Anthrax does not just end up in drugs or on the streets of a major city. I am a rancher, I am familiar with the disease, and its a tricky thing to get infected with. This seems like a very high fatality rate if this was naturally occurring anthrax spores. Has anyone considered that this is a test run of a batch of weaponized anthrax? Someone, and I am not going to speculate as to who, may be doing a trial run with a new batch. They targeted a population they believed no one would really care about and they are looking at fatality rates among infected in order to plan a next move. I am sure I am not the first one to have this thought, but I am also sure that the agencies monitoring/responding to this sort of thing would not be running to the public if they thought this was the case. It would cause a god damn panic in the US, shit, we’d have armed bands of rednecks driving diesel trucks full of beer and 30-06’s into neighborhoods they deemed dangerous, shooting everything that didnt look like them in the name of protecting the homeland or fatherland or whatever the hell we are calling the place now.

  • 27. zsu  |  February 21st, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I’d lose no sleep if all the junkies got killed off tomorrow by anthrax.

    Most of them that I have seen in Glasgow and the central belt are nothing but wastes of space. I’ve worked in charitable organisations that provide them with help, but most of them are plain ungrateful and rude to the staff, while yammering away on their iphone (yes these supposedly poor junkies can somehow afford expensive phones). I personally don’t blame the heroin for making them like that. Rather they were pieces of shit in the first place who just happened to get hooked on smack.

  • 28. gyges  |  February 27th, 2010 at 12:50 am

    How sweet. I saw this …

    The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.

    … and thought of you.

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