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DIY Cruise Missile Grounded 690

Posted by michael
from the shot-down-in-a-blaze-of-glory dept.
PSaltyDS writes "The DIY Cruise Missile project from New Zealand has been previously covered on /., but the BBC now reports that Bruce Simpson has been forced to shutdown by his government. His project web site says 'The New Zealand government has moved aggressively to shut down this project -- and by using quite unscrupulous methods which appear to be in breach of the law.'"
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DIY Cruise Missile Grounded

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  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:43PM (#7673937) Homepage Journal
    "The authorities here finally decided to bankrupt me over a tax debt and I have now had to give the missile to a friend for safe keeping."

    You would think that people would learn. If you're going to skirt the edge of the legal system, always pay your taxes!

    Remember, Al Capone [fbi.gov] was jailed for tax evasion, not organized criminal activity. His claim that "The government can't collect legal taxes from illegal money." (1 [archives.gov]) held no more water than Simpson's claim that the government is trying to "bankrupt" him.

    And speaking of Simpsons...

    Lisa: Bart. Bart! What are you doing? We've got to get out of here.
    Bart: Target sighted. Launching air-to-nerd missile!
    [launches a missile model, hitting Lisa]
    Lisa: Owww!
    - Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming [snpp.com]
    • Never So Simple (Score:4, Interesting)

      by blunte (183182) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:56PM (#7674137)
      The truth is rarely as simple as people (you?) believe.

      I can't speak for this gentleman, but I can speak for myself. In the US, even if you believe you are an employee of a company, and you believe they are witholding your taxes as they should be, you are personally liable if they didn't.

      That's the situation I found myself in, and thus, the reason I ended up owing 5 figures. I'm sure if the government had something personally against me, they could work that debt into something criminal.
    • by Jason Earl (1894) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:57PM (#7674143) Homepage Journal

      Is is just me or does anyone else think that it is funny that this guy honestly thought that the government of New Zealand wouldn't have a problem with him building a cruise missile?

      No wonder the government folks said that he could export his creation to Iran, my guess is that they thought he was completely crazy. They probably called the folks with the jackets that zip up in the back and the oversized butterfly nets the second the guy walked out of the office. It's never a good idea to rile up crazy people.

      • by tonyr60 (32153) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:07PM (#7674273)
        Bruce has put together a specification and built some bits for a device that could theoretically fly some distance in a controlled manner.

        But a device to cruise some distance carrying enough ordanance to make a difference at point of impact it is not.

        A pickup full of diesel and fertiliser would pose much more of a risk to the Govt of NZ and such a device is legal here, as long as intent to do harm is absent.
        • by child_of_mercy (168861) <[johnboy] [at] [the-riotact.com]> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:16PM (#7674367) Homepage
          a light aircraft's auto pilot a GPS system and a weekends tinkering would get you something darn close to a cruise missile without all this fuss.
          • by LordHunter317 (90225) <askutt @ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:49PM (#7674767)
            No it wouldn't. A GPS from an light aircraft cannot successfuly navigate a missle 10ft (that's Feet) off the ground, at Mach 0.8. That's how fast and how low a cruise missle cna fly. That's why they're so lethal, you can't see them on Radar, and by the time you have visual its too late.

            Also, range is a big issue. Cruise missles have 100s of miles of range. A little DIY might get 100 tops, nothign to worry about.
            • by child_of_mercy (168861) <[johnboy] [at] [the-riotact.com]> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:56PM (#7674849) Homepage
              no thats how fast/high *SOME* cruise missles can fly.

              a V1 (generally considered the first cruise missile) had nothing like what you're talking about.

              light aircraft have ranges heading into many hundreds of miles.

              and if launched in time of peace (as per terrorist attack) and kept in unregulated airspace could get within seconds of it's target without radar being an issue.

              New York and Washington in time of high alert might be able to respond in time, but off the top of my head i can't think of another city in the world (baghdad?) that would be protected.
              • and if launched in time of peace (as per terrorist attack) and kept in unregulated airspace could get within seconds of it's target without radar being an issue.

                Without transponder squelching or radio contact, doubtful. If you were to fly low enough over any urban area, the FAA/Transport Canada/Whoever would be on your ass in a heartbeat.
                Not to mention that without either an N number or a country code (C-Gxxx) you won't be allowed in the sky, and with one they can trace the origins of the aircraft
            • That's not the height you'd fly enroute to the target though. Think about it, at 10ft there are all sorts of things that might be parked in it's way. You usually need some downwards motion in the final phase of the attack run. Besides all the targeting capability in the world doesn't help you when some idiot feeds in the wrong coordinates or issues idiotic inflight course corrections.

              You want the routes to be variable, if you just fly in a bunch of missiles using the same routes ala the 1991 Gulf Conflict

        • by homer_ca (144738) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:23PM (#7674432)
          Yes, a good old fashioned suicide bombing would be simpler and more effective at doing damage. The big advantage of guided missiles is the ability to do damage from a safe distance- not a priority for a martyr. However the novelty of the attack and the resulting publicity and notoriety might be reason enough for someone to try it.
      • Well, yes (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nailer (69468)
        does anyone else think that it is funny that this guy honestly thought that the government of New Zealand wouldn't have a problem with him building a cruise missile?

        I don't. New Zealand is ostensibly a democracy that offers its citizens a reasonable degree of freedom

        Then again, so is the US. So I see your point.
        • Re:Well, yes (Score:3, Insightful)

          by yog (19073)
          Someone decides that a remotely-triggered bomb can be built quite cheaply from off-the-shelf parts. He figures out how to do it, tests it on a small scale, then publishes a web page on how to do it, entitled "Do It Yourself People Destroyer". On this web page he not only lists how to combine easily available substances like fertilizer and batteries into an explosive large enough to destroy a large building like a church, but he also provides the schematics for the remote control device used to detonate th
    • Did you know that the IRS will not turn over HOW you got your money?
      You could put down 'Bank Robbery', they don't care, as long as they get the money.
      • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:37PM (#7674587)
        It has to do with that Fifth Ammendment thingy. You can't be compelled to testify against yourself. Since you are compelled to provide financial information for tax purposes that information cannot be used to prosecute a criminal charge.

        This is not to say that certain authorities won't watch you very, very closely afterwards though. Saying that something is not admisable in court isn't at all the same thing as saying that inadmissable evidence can't be used as leverage to gain admisable evidence. Many have been convicted of crimes for not paying attention to this fact.

        The infamous New York City madam who made millions from her house of considerable repute was caught and convicted, of promoting prostitution. A fairly minor charge. As I recal she served something like 18 months.

        Why? She learned the lesson of Al Capone and payed her taxes scrupulously. Had business permits, Workman's Comp insurance for her employees, in fact ran it as a completely legitimate business, except, of course, for the fact that her trade was itself illegal.

        When they finally got her it was only for that illegality that they could prosecute.

        Number one rule. Never violate any law except those you explicitly set out to violate. It's daft to get nailed for an otherwise successful robbery because you sped away from the scene with a taillight out and an expired vehicle registration.

        KFG
  • Darn! (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheWart (700842) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:43PM (#7673943)
    Well, scratch the cruise missle off of my list of things to build...guess I'll just have to move straight to the ICBM. sigh.
  • ...are on his forums [interestingprojects.com].

    He has some ideas for civilian uses of the technology, i.e., "the use of small squadrons of UAVs to assist off-shore search and rescue operations."
  • by dolo666 (195584) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:46PM (#7673994) Journal
    I applaud the use of rocket science at home, but I don't think the general public should have cruise missles.
  • by Thinkit3 (671998) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:47PM (#7674003)
    If you did all numbers in hexadecimal (but still using SI), they wouldn't understand it enough to ban it. They'd probably just laugh at you and say only the decimal radix would work.
  • by Alystair (617164) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:47PM (#7674005)
    .... his cruise missle project was shot down *budump bum ching*
    • Re:You could say.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pancho123 (703666) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:00PM (#7674181)
      His work has further implications....Uncle Sam is spending millions of dollars in building Cruise Missiles.. A 5K (+explosives+nav. system) cruise missile? ha! What happens if a U.S. company hires this guy, and builds a cruise missile for the army, thousands of times cheaper than the ones from the big defense firms? Management would p00p their pants...
      • by R2.0 (532027) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:52PM (#7674796)
        Not really...

        Military cruise missile: a precision weapon to get a large explosive (500#, I think), onto a small target so as to maximize target damage and minimize collateral damage.

        Terrorist cruise missile: a crude weapon to get an indeterminate payload (chemical, biological, radiological) to a target with minimal accuracy required. There is no distinction between target damage and collateral damage; in effect, the collateral IS the target.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:47PM (#7674006)
    Reminds me of the days when we were kids and used to strap on cans filled with a mix of sodium chlorate and sugar to our skateboards.

    Fucking cops had no sense of humor.

  • hurm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by bsDaemon (87307)
    Step 1: create weapons of mass destruction

    Step 2: declare war on USA
    Step 3: Collect war repartations
    Step 4: Profit!!!
  • by jeeves99 (187755) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:48PM (#7674023)
    He proclaims he doesn't want "nefarious types" to get ahold of the development information, but he doesn't say how he screens the subscriber list to weed out these people.

    Open source software == good

    Open source flying cylinder of death == bad
    • by Janek Kozicki (722688) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:11PM (#7674317) Journal
      How could one stop research in so important area of science called rocket engines? [howstuffworks.com]

      How a government could to that?

      There seems to be some kind of plot in it
      (from Bruce Simpson's [interestingprojects.com] page):

      The strange thing is that just a matter of months ago, they told me I could export the very same technology to Iran -- despite the fact that it is widely considered to be a terrorist sponsor and similar exports are prohibited in the USA.

      And then the government decided shut it down.

      Note also that israeli x prize team recruits [xprize.org] serious brainpower.

      If things are not about money (or sex) then politics [haaretz.com] must be involved.

      I hope that such a genius person as Bruce [aardvark.co.nz] will either join Xprize [xprize.org] or find another way to continue his very important for science work on rocket engines.
    • Open source flying cylinder of death == bad

      Oh right, and those closed source flying cylinders of death are a real bouqet of roses, too.
  • by sssmashy (612587) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:48PM (#7674025)

    The New Zealand government has been pretty agressive about exploiting the success of the LOTR movies to make millions of dollars in tourism revenues.

    I guess they don't want those befuddled tourists who knock on doors aking where Frodo lives to accidentally stumble upon a homemade cruise missile silo instead.

  • Poor guy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cutriss (262920) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:48PM (#7674029) Homepage
    but the BBC now reports that Bruce Simpson has been forced to shutdown by his government.

    Well, there goes his uptime...
  • from the United States Government have helped Mr. Simpson with his debt problems by relocating him to the tax haven of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. No longer will he burdened by oppresive tax responsibilities. Thank you John Ashcroft, humanitarian.
  • ... when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands.
  • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:53PM (#7674089) Journal
    Bruce Simpson runs a daily on-line column called the "Daily Aardvark", which gave lots of details on the bankrupting in installments last week. (Normally it is commentry on New Zealand internet related stuff - see this week for a taste of what it is normally like.)

    Dec 1 [aardvark.co.nz]
    Dec 2 [aardvark.co.nz]
    Dec 3 [aardvark.co.nz]
    Dec 4 [aardvark.co.nz]
    Dec 5 [aardvark.co.nz]

    I believe that Bruce appears on Slashdot as "NewtonsLaw" - I expect he'll put in an appearance.

    From my understanding, it is an IRD vendetta that has bankrupted him, unrelated to the "cruise missile" project.
    • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:36PM (#7674578)
      Yea, I'm the guy -- and to answer a few of the points raised here already:

      No, I was not making it easy(er) for terrorists to build a cruise missile. In fact people should read the project's FAQ [interestingprojects.com] for more information on why this project was started.

      For those who haven't read it, the original article I wrote which produced a number of "put your money where your mouth is" responses can be found here [aardvark.co.nz]

      As for the suggestion that I'm just a scummy tax-dodger, the links to the relevant editions of my daily internet column will help put that matter into perspective. Suffice to say that I have repaid the tax I owed and have been left with a "penalty" bill that I have continued to repay (having paid another $20K towards this just weeks before the government made its move).

      Perhaps the most dissapointing aspect from my own personal perspective is that I went out of my way to:

      • Decline a grant of $36K in taxpayer's money that was offered to assist with my jet-engine development work -- I figured that those waiting for medical treatment or expecting a decent education could use the money more than me.
      • Notify the Secret Service that I'd been contacted by an Iranian Aerospace/Missile company seeking to gain access to my jet engine designs in return for an "investment" (the figure quoted was US$100K).
      • Query the advice I was given by the export-licensing part of the NZ government which told me that if I wanted to export my technology to Iran there would be no problem and there was no restriction on such sales -- even though the technology had clear military applications.

      No, I did not export anything to Iran and I never had any intention of doing so -- despite the governments insistance that it would be all right.

      Once I became aware that the government were very serious about shutting this project down, I made sure that the missile was removed from my possession and is now elsewhere. I can also say in total honesty that I do not know where it is.

      My tongue may be firmly in my cheek when I say this but -- would you turn over a missile to a government that endorses the export of military technology to Iran? If they were going to sell it in an attempt to service my tax penalties I shudder to think who they might flog it to :-)

      Quite honestly, I suspect that the government thought I would not be able to build this missile and that when I made an official application to the Defense department for some space in which to perform the tests -- they suddenly realized that the whole situation could get even more embarrassing if it were proven that the damned thing worked.

      Since they had openly admitted through the media that what I was doing was not illegal, their options for shutting the project down were very limited. I suspect they were all overjoyed when they found that I had not yet fully repaid my tax-penalties (although I was still regularly sending off cheques to service the debt). This, combined with the taxman's own agenda, gave them the perfect mechanism for solving what was rapidly becoming an embarrassing situation.

      As you'll see in my daily column, the tax departments actions are clearly a breach of the tax laws which require the department to recover the maximum amount of any debt owed.

      By bankrupting me they effectively chose to forego their right to collect the outstanding penalties and, since I had already sold most of my realizable assets (house, hobby-items, many tools, etc) to ensure my tax-repayments were kept up to date, there was no way they'd get a single penny from that bankruptcy action.

      What's even worse is that in July I went to the USA and signed a heads-of-agreement with a US company who were going to commence manufacture of my X-Jet engine for use in UAVs and RPVs. This deal alone was worth a huge amount of money to the NZ taxman and wo

      • So right now I'm living in a cold, drafty, leaky house that I rent for US$70 a week (so you can imagine how crappy it is), I'm not allowed to be self-employed, there are no jobs going for a jet-engine designer and even if I wanted to flip burgers, the town where I'm living has just suffered a mill-closure that has put a whole lot of people on the unemployment line. It's not going to be a very nice Christmas this year :-(

        I may be crazy, but I think that you should set up a paypal account and let the co
      • by Mike Hawk (687615) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:22PM (#7675118) Journal
        I have no evidence to disbelieve all that you say, but I do have a couple questions about the choice of some of your phrasing...

        Decline a grant of $36K in taxpayer's money that was offered to assist with my jet-engine development work -- I figured that those waiting for medical treatment or expecting a decent education could use the money more than me.

        This jumped out at me right away as an appeal to pity/spin attempt/I don't know what. I question your true motivation for not accepting the money. 36k devided amongst the many school children in your nation surely would not go very far per student. A few pencils each maybe? Perhaps a computer lab for one school? It would seem to me that the real reason you would refuse government money is to prevent them from having any control of your project. Now I'm not saying anything is wrong with that, having complete control over one's own project is certainly desirable to any inventor/scientist/creator but if you seeked to hide this point, I have to wonder why, and to question your motivation in general because of it. Take it with a grain of salt if I'm way off, but do consider this is how it appears to the skeptical reader.

        I also don't see how it is embarrassing to any government if an individual builds a missile. If you are invoking the terrorist implications, I would not fear this new device any more than a moving truck. Trucks have been shown to be quite effective when filled with the correct materials and parked in a suitable position for destruction. What, exactly, is embarrassing? No, I suspect there is other motivation for them going after your project. I would be willing to listen to any other theories you or anyone else has. The fact that you were doing it with permission? I don't understand.

        And finally, as far as not knowing where the missile is, is that really the most responsible way to handle the situation? Wouldn't it be better to destroy the device? I have to assume plans still exist and a new missile could be easily constructed when conditions change for you, though the article indicates that is not your goal. But then if that is not your goal, why do you need this one any further? Your stated point seems proven. Not knowing where it is also does not instill in me the notion that you are doing whats right for "everyone". Perhaps this is just another bad PR move on your part, but this doesn't really add up to me the way it seems to for you. This is a potential weapon we are talking about, not a stash of cocaine.

        At any rate, I appreciate your comments and if you choose to respond I hope you can see past what looks like personal attacks but is really just a skeptical view of your post and shed further light on the situation.
        • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:46PM (#7675381)
          This jumped out at me right away as an appeal to pity/spin attempt/I don't know what. I question your true motivation for not accepting the money. 36k devided amongst the many school children in your nation surely would not go very far per student

          That is indeed true - but then again, the small amount of tax-penalty I had not finished repaying would not go far either.

          You must understand that New Zealand's public health system is so underfunded that many people are left suffering on waiting lists for surgery that could greatly improve their quality of life -- if not save that life. The government cries "poor" when nurses in this country ask for a reasonable living wage -- and that same government pretends to be surprised when so many of our trained medical staff emmigrate to the USA or other countries that pay three or four times as much.

          Given that, at the time the grant was offered to me, my technology was at little more than the "good idea" stage and still represented a huge degree of risk, I could not see how it would be fair and reasonable to have the government gambling taxpyer funds on a "maybe" at the same time we were refusing dialysis treatments to elderly patients (thus ensuring their early demise) because of funding constraints.

          I also don't see how it is embarrassing to any government if an individual builds a missile.

          Once again you must appreciate that the NZ government is in an unusual situation.

          We have a long-standing ban against nuclar equipped vessels entering our ports and, since the US fleet will neither "confirm nor deny" the presence of nuclear weapons on their ships, they are effectively barred from our harbours.

          That has clearly put us off-side with the USA.

          Then, earlier this year, our Prime Minister leveled a stinging insult against Bush during an interview with the media. This also didn't exactly rack us up any points.

          Let's not forget also that we refused to send troops into the Iraq conflict -- further alienating us from the USA.

          And, when news of the cruise missile project first broke, a US official was quoted on NZ TV as saying that they considered the project "unhelpful" -- I'm sure most readers can translate that from diplomacy-speak to the real intended meaning.

          But now we have the spectre of the USA forging a free-trade agreement with our nearest neighbor (and largest competitor for our key export markets). Naturally our government doesn't want to find that the Aussies end up with preferential access to the massive US market so they're now bending over backwards to do whatever it takes to win favour again. One very simple way to earn a few brownie points is to scuttle the very project that the USA deemed to be "unhelpful".

          It certain that if I had been allowed to go ahead with the testing and proven that the missile really worked as expected, this would have further upset the US government -- at a time the NZ government could least afford to do so.
  • by MutantEnemy (545783) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:53PM (#7674093) Homepage
    From the BBC site:

    he believes he has proved his point - "that by using off-the-shelf technology in a suburban garage a terrorist can create a weapon against which there is no effective defence.

    One would think a simple hand-delivered bomb would suffice.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:54PM (#7674100)
    ... or does it seem like a bad idea to piss off someone who is building a missile?
  • by herrvinny (698679) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:54PM (#7674113)
    However, there have also been a number of people who claim I'm overstating the case and that it's not possible to build a real cruise missile without access to sophisticated gear, specialist tools and information not readily available outside the military.

    You don't need a *real* cruise missile, you just need a model aircraft [centralhobbies.com]. In fact, I've been thinking about getting one (not to build a missile, of course, but just to play with). There are even ones with gas turbines [blueyonder.co.uk]. Hell, do you really need a lot of explosives to terrorize someone/some group? You could even just load a model aircraft up with some colored gas, dump it over a group of people, and probably someone would get trampled to death in the rush to escape. I'm not a chemist, but I'm sure there's a heavier than air colored gas that's nonlethal that can be easily obtained. Even a model helicopter [hobby-lobby.com] would be fine.
    • by angst_ridden_hipster (23104) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:26PM (#7674466) Homepage Journal
      herrvinny: Who's there?

      Guy in Sunglasses: John.

      herrvinny: John who?

      GIS: John Ashcroft, asshat. Please put this bag over your head, and come with me. We're going on a nice all-expense paid trip for one to Cuba.

      herrvinny: Why? What did I do?

      GIS: Does posting terrorist plots to Slashdot ring a bell?

      herrvinny: But that was just hypothetical. I was critiquing a stupid government decision in a specific case --

      GIS (hitting herrvinny with cattle prod, and putting a bag over his head): Shut up! We'll take care of you terrorist swine! You probably pirate mp3s, too.

      herrvinny: mmmmph ... mmmmph! mmmmph!

      (etc)

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxrubyNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:55PM (#7674123)
    Before donning tinfoil hats here, remember that all governments like to get paid. Whilst what he was doing had very high hack value, it certainly wasn't cheap. When their local tax people saw that he was prominently spending money on a world famous endeavour rather than paying his back taxes, they acted. No conspiracy here folks, just a tax authority doing what tax authorities worldwide do on a daily basis. That being said, I watched his project with high interest.
  • Note! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mullen (14656) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:57PM (#7674144)
    Take note, this guy takes donations:

    Donations [aardvark.co.nz]

    On a side note, I was really hoping this guy would have built this thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @06:58PM (#7674153)
    Here's an article that was in the NZ Herald (our main newspaper) a few days ago. Interesting to see the differences in wording between this article and the BBC one, even in his comments.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?these ct ion=news&thesubsection=&storyID=3537971
  • by sjhwilkes (202568) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:02PM (#7674215)
    That if a privateer can build a cruise missile then all the billions the US is spending on Anti ICBM technology is money down the drain.

    If either terrorists or a foreign power want the strike the US then holing up in the Ozarks and building a cruise missile out of a combination of publically available and smuggled components seems a pretty plausible way to do it.

    I'm sorry to say it because I don't have a solution either, but making us take off our shoes at the airport etc. is an utter waste of time - terrorism is way too easy, just look at Iraq currently with GI checkpoints and patrols everywhere, even martial law doesn't fix the problem.

    Politics is the only answer, coming up with some final solutions in the middle east...
  • Eventuality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blunte (183182) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:04PM (#7674236)
    I'd say this isn't rocket science, but I suppose it is.

    Still, there's no magic. There's no reason any other intelligent, motivated person or group couldn't do the same project. Killing this project will have no positive long term effect. It may stop some "bad" people from buying these, but it sure won't stop bad people from building their own.

    This is like every other technology. You can attempt to stop it, but it will continue to develop. So we (the US) happily agree there should be no more nuclear testing, but that's really only because we can afford to buy/build supercomputers to do nuke sims. It's all so... hypocritical.
  • I just want to know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seraph93 (560551) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:05PM (#7674250)
    Why is this guy acting all suprised about it? From the article:

    The New Zealand government has moved aggressively to shut down this project -- and by using quite unscrupulous methods which appear to be in breach of the law.

    Oh, wow, really? Even though it's not technically illegal, I wouldn't be too shocked to find out that the authorities wanted to have a word or two with me if I was building a V2 in my backyard:

    "Oh, no, officer, this rocket is for humanitarian purposes only! And as a gift to all mankind, I've posted the plans online so that other humanitarians can build rockets of their own! What could be wrong with that?"

    It was a really cool project, but come on. Who didn't see this coming?

  • by sam_handelman (519767) * <`ude.aibmuloc' `ta' `3002hks'> on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:07PM (#7674275) Homepage Journal
    Ordinarily, I'd contemptuously dismiss any toothless rugby hooligan who claimed to have duplicated some of your deadly and sophisticated military hardware in the back of his yurt.

    However, he's built a lot of those cool jet engines, which means his claim to have built a cruise missile is definitely credible. The New Zealand...ian government clearly thinks his claims are credible (unless they really are just prosecuting him for tax evasion, which is always a possibility people.) They might be going persecuting him for talking to the Iranians rather than because they think his missile works, and they'd still refuse to comment for Security reasons.

    If you read his web page he says he's finished the missile except for some trivial details (not his exact phrasing.) My experience working with engineers (I am a Scientist, not any sort of MBA, before any of you start) leads me to believe that these "trivial details" may be less of a paint job and more of a profound deficiency that would prevent the thing from actually working. Of course, I'm just speculating here.

    If they really are trying to squelch his right to free speech with the tax charge - he should give all his missile design documents to some outfit that will distribute them far and wide, raisethefist.com or something. That'll show the guv'mint what for.
    • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:03PM (#7674922)
      They might be going persecuting him for talking to the Iranians rather than because they think his missile works, and they'd still refuse to comment for Security reasons

      After being told by the government that it was okay to export military technology to Iran I immediately went to the Secret Service (SIS) to report this seemingly incredible fact. I never had any intention of dealing with anyone on the wrong side of the "War against Terror" and was gobsmacked that the government would allow such a transaction to take place.

      As for the "trivial details", these are more to do with the launch-system than the missile itself and really are fairly trivial. It would take no more than two days work to complete the necessary work (the missile is already painted :-)

      As for the veracity of the tax charges -- newly introduced sections [legislation.govt.nz] the the NZ tax law make it very clear that the taxman must maximise the recovery of outstanding tax from a taxpayer.

      Bankrupting me clearly violated that requirement -- since they already knew that I'd sold all my assets of value (house, car, etc) so as to meet my commitments to repay the debt. They also knew that the debt would be fully repaid within a few short months and that I'd never failed to meet a payment date.

      By simply waiting a few months they would have gotten *all* of the money owed. By bankrupting me they effectively had to write off the balance of the debt. Tell me how that isn't a breach of clause 176.

      Is it any wonder that I (and many others) aren't left to draw the obvious conclusion in respect to the real motives behind this move?
      • First, I'd like to express deepest condolences about what's happened. I'm curious about the extent of the government's control of your financial matters though. I know nothing of New Zealand's laws regarding these kinds of things.

        I think you mentioned that you weren't allowed to own more than $500 worth of tools of your trade after being declared bankrupt. What happens if you buy or amass more than that? Will it be confiscated? Will they continue to confiscate your tools even after your debt has been
      • I know I have emailed you in the past - I have admired your work from afar, and I respect the projects you have done, and the information you have given out to the community (of pulsejet and jet engine builders). I only wish I had the space and time to do what you are doing - maybe someday I will.

        With that said, what you need to do now is put in some kind of deadman's escrow the plans, etc for the missle, as well as for the pulsejet. This way - should you be "disappeared", these plans would be distributed f

  • by reallocate (142797) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:09PM (#7674290)
    Tech point: How autonomous is this thing? What's the guidance system? Where did this guy get his maps and images? Or, did he?

    Political point: On his web site he says he won't try to understand how politicians think. If he can't be bothered to understand why politicians want to eliminate independent sources of military weapons, he needs tocheck his grip on reality.

    He sounds like one more presumptious and arrogant loon who thinks his moral dilletantism is reason to put others at risk. Good for NZ.
  • Bruce Simpson.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:19PM (#7674396)
    Is a regular on rec.crafts.metalworking and has promised to answer questions there concerning the cruise missile. You might want to keep an eye on the newgroup if you're interested.
  • by Clinoti (696723) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:24PM (#7674437)

    He got shut down not because he could have done it or whether it would have worked or not, but because it reveals the basic anomaly that despite the highest levels of security and defense the lowest (budget) and innovate disruptive technology will continually defeat it. Just like a high level security lab that has the back door jammed open with a pencil because the night crew has to smoke outside.

    Revealing the fragile state of most secure states in this day and age is not only an unwise idea, but a foolish one to broadcast to the world.

    • Odd you say that. Very odd.
      In essence, what you're saying is "Lie to me. Make me happy, keep me in ignorance of any danger I may be in. Just let me feel safe."
      If you read the article, you'd know that this came about because a lot of (ill informed, but opinionated) people (who'd been told "You're safe. Be happy.") said "You can't build a cruise missile at home".
      In the arguments, he said "Yes I can.". They said, in time honoured fashion, "Prove it!".
      So he did.
      Now people who previously didn't know the tru
  • Already done... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by krbvroc1 (725200) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:34PM (#7674541)
    http://tam.plannet21.com/ [plannet21.com] - a site that documents a flight across the atlantic of a model airplane using GPS. Just change model airplane to a metal cylinder.
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) * on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @07:42PM (#7674670) Homepage Journal
    Some phrases you just can't get used to, like this one.
    "I have now had to give the missile to a friend for safe keeping."
  • by Internet Ninja (20767) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:02PM (#7674916) Homepage


    If any expat Kiwis feel up to it they can mail the NZ politicians to lend support to Bruce.


    Jim Anderton [mailto]

    Michael Cullen [mailto]

    Helen Clark [mailto]
  • Basic Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chris Brewer (66818) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:03PM (#7674920) Journal
    This isn't too much about the cruise missile, it's more of the IRD (IRS to you) being right asshats. The general gist is:

    - Bruce had some bad (clumsy, not evasional) book-keeping and finds out he's got a large tax bill
    - He starts paying off the tax bill
    - After a court hearing where the IRD is told off for being idiots (not having a record of a $16k payment and for not having his name right), an IRD employee threatens "We'll get you" in the courtroom
    - Bruce sells his assets (including his house) to pay off his increasing tax bill (interest and penalties - the IRD always seemed to find new debts)
    - Bruce signs up with a deal with a US company to manufacture his pulse-jet engines for a project. This deal is important because the manufacturing was going to be in NZ, creating jobs and bringing in lots of income.
    - While Bruce was in the US signing this deal, the IRD gets him declared bankrupt, despite not being in the best interests of NZ - writing off a $100k debt instead of bringing in potentially millions
    - Bruce contacts the Minister of Finance and Minister of Economic Development in an attempt to overturn the bankruptcy so the deal can go ahead (get-out clause is if either party goes insolvent)
    - Deal expired on 1 December. Now that Bruce is insolvent and is not allowed to run a company for 3 years, he gets to go on the dole (social welfare) instead of creating dozens of jobs and bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars into NZ.

    While this was happening, he received enquiries from Iran about the pulse-jet engine. He contacted the NZ Trade organisation to find out about selling this technology to countries like Iran, and was told "no worries". This didn't sit right with Bruce so he contacted the SIS (NZ Secret Service) and they said "yeah, that's wrong. He's been interviewed by the SIS and says that they're reasonable guys, it's the IRD who are being wankers.
    • Ya, well (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)
      This is why you need to be careful on taxes. Like it or no, they are YOUR responsibility in most countries. For most people, with just a saliry/wage and maybe some investments it is as simple as getting all the standard documentation and filing a form. However if you start to play around substantially with investments (espically complex ones) or running your own bussiness, make sure your books are clean. Don't think every thing is fine, KNOW it's fine, or you could find you owe money you didn't think you di
  • by femto (459605) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:18PM (#7675078) Homepage
    <tinfoil hat>

    So what is the motivation for stringing Mr. Simpson up? Taxes or 'terrorism' (aka being a squeaky wheel)? Maybe it was taxes, but I notice that the BBC uses the phrase:

    New Zealand officials have said they cannot comment for reasons of "secrecy".

    An interesting turn of phrase for an agency which has a reputation for accuracy. Normally tax details are protected for reasons of confidentiality, and 'national security' (aka lots of things) is protected for reasons of secrecy. So is the BBC saying 'national security' (aka war on terror) is behind things? Either way, surrounding "secrecy" with quotes seems to be a form of 'nudge-nudge-wink-wink'.

    </tinfoil hat>

    So what are the implications for other geeks?

    Apart from his taxes, Mr. Simpson appears to have done no wrong. Indeed, reading his discussion forum, he appears to have bent over backwards to do nothing underhanded, break no laws and keep everyone (including government) informed of what he is doing. Given the media coverage of the project, it would be difficult to claim Mr. Simpson was hiding his actions.

    I would compare Mr. Simpson to crypto researchers, P2P software authors and security researchers. Why? Because his work has both 'black hat'and 'white hat' uses, lends itself admirably to beng a political football and demonstrates glaring weaknesses in existing systems. If Mr. Simpson goes down without a fight, will it encourage governments to move against the other areas mentioned above?

    *If* Mr. Simpson is going down due to his missile work, and not for taxes, shouldn't the geek community chip in and help him? (He has a paypal account [paypal.com], under the name 'paypal@aardvark.co.nz', to offset the costs of a news site [aardvark.co.nz] he runs. There is also a 'make a donation' link to PayPal from the news site.) I would think he would be at least as deserving as the college students who have attracted public funding for their court cases over downloading copyrighted music.

    No, I'm not affiliated with Mr. Simpson. I also don't pretent that Mr Simpson is some sort of an angel. It's just that the facts seem so damned hard to find in this case. Here are a few possible scenarios:

    • Mr. Simpson is being screwed in the name of the 'war on terror' for pointing out how vunerable we are to unmanned vehicles.
    • Mr. Simpson didn't pay his taxes and that is all there is to it.
    • Mr. Simpson could see a tax bill coming and started a the cruise missile project in an attempt to make himself untouchable
    Personally, I dismiss the last possibility, but don't have enough information to decide between the first two. If it turns out to be the first possibility, that scares the shit out of me and, in the name of democracy, Mr. Simpson would deserve all the support anyone can give him.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @08:35PM (#7675258)
    I helped design one of the engines commonly used on US cruise missiles in the early eighties, and it was fairly obvious 20 years ago that a DIY cruise missile was quite an achievable goal, requiring only slightly more sophistication than the average EAA homebuilt airplane. The guidance issue is the biggest one (you could adapt a commercially available autopilot system for control purposes), but the wonderful thing about doing a cruise missile that doesn't have to penetrate USSR airspace during wartime is that you can use GPS -- possible then, almost trivial now given off-the-shelf hardware. I outlined a novel back then where a couple of out-of-work aerospace engineers built such a device for import/export purposes (the intent being to fly low over the Gulf Coast and drop 100 kilos of a suitably valuable substance after you ascertained you were really alone in the drop zone.) The plot twist was to have been having the project hijacked for more nefarious ends.

    In any case, a small team of talented individuals could put something impressive together these days for less than the cost of a luxury car, and it would easily penetrate current US air defenses. Why do you think Lockheed is hard at work on the high-altitude blimp/advanced radar platform?
  • by the-build-chicken (644253) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @10:04PM (#7675984)
    why the hell are you worried about a tax debt...you already have a more effective arsenal than the NZ govt ever had.

    Go on...you know you want to...
  • by GISGEOLOGYGEEK (708023) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @10:45PM (#7676332)
    Theres a big difference between making a jet powered go kart (which a great many have done), and making an autonomous machine with the brains to keep it self not only flying, but flying to a specific target.

    Look at his website, only 3 of the 15 or so pages that document the project actually link to anything even though the project is basicaly done, and those three show nothing of any substance except that more will be uploaded 'in a few days'.

    He doesnt even show any hint that he has any understanding of aeodynamics and design and control of flight surfaces.

    He just happens to know how to bolt a mini jet engine to a go-kart. Thats it. The engine he claims he is designing is just as much a scam! Posters on his forums point out how his engine looks exactly like the off the shelf engines anyone can buy!

    I call shenanigans! The subscribers and donators to his project and all of you that believe it have been scammed. His tax bill wasn't paid because he couldnt fool enough of you to send him money. Notice how eager he is to sell exclusive media rights to his story yet the best you see is the go kart? its all a money grab.

    And now that he's bankrupt, he is conveniently blaming it all on the government. Claiming the missile is in a friend's possesion, ignoring the fact that if the government really cared, they could just demand that he identify the friend or else jail him as a threat to society. Surprise proof of the missile's existance is gone. Let's hope he has a few friends that aren't as imaginary as the one hiding the missile.

    Only the taxman is after him, not the military. There is no conspiracy to prevent him from making the missile, just his own inability to report and pay his taxes properly.

    Gee a scammer who avoids taxes, there's a new twist.

    Could a cruise missle be manufactured for $5,000? Probably after all the research and development.

    Did this guy do it? no way.

    Move on, there's nothing to see here, the little grey men, silent black helicopters, and missing snipers from the grassy gnoll will escort you out.
  • Naming Mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:00PM (#7676456) Homepage Journal
    Instead of calling it a "cruise missle", why not call it an "automated in-flight mail carrier" or "hobby hover-craft". Then the military would not get their panties in bundle over it. Typical of us nerds to open our big mouths without realizing how the rest of the world will interpret it.
  • by theoretician (704987) on Tuesday December 09, 2003 @11:58PM (#7676907)
    I don't think that Bruce is the only person aware of the fact that Cruise Missiles can be built with relatively low budget. There could be many other people, whether with some dark agenda or not is beyond us, who have the knowledge and fund to make some serious progress in similar projects. My question is to what effect is the New Zealand government attempting to "kill the project"?

    It is an interesting point to note that the New Zealand government DO NOT have an air force sufficient enough to defend itself from any form of missile attacks. Is the New Zealand government trying to hide from this shaming fact and the humiliating possibilities by stopping Mr. Simpson from conducting researches on missile technology? I think it's funny how they restrict the knowledge from being publicized.

    According to one of the articles that Mr. Simpson has written, the government itself has breached some of the laws to prevent him from continuing the project. This is absurd. For what reason should the citizens of New Zealand follow the law imposed on them by their government, if it is not consistently applied to all New Zealand citizens, military personnel and governors alike? If the government has "publicly admitted that the project broke no laws," they certainly owe Mr. Bruce Simpson an open apology and should permit him from continuing his projects in missile technology.

    Propagating ignorance will not prevent terrorist attacks. If they should silent those who has the knowledge that could be potentially used by terrorists, no industry could possible exist anywhere in this world. Explosives can be obtained from some readily available chemicals; shoe laces can be turned into a lethal weapon; a plane can become a cannon shell; a pencil can be used by a professional trained person to kill hundreds... and the list simple goes on. Whether some seemingly trivial things can become a terrorist's tool is merely a matter of how limited your imagination is.

    I don't see how shutting down Mr. Simpson's project will be to the benefit of national security or the worldwide hype of anti-terrorist champaign. It is, however, a desperate endeavor of politicians to secure their positions from being put in a vulnerable state, from those who possess the knowledge of technology so much more powerful than what they command.

  • by riedquat (226343) on Wednesday December 10, 2003 @06:03AM (#7678518) Homepage
    This may be of interest, Bruce Simpson appeared in an epsiode in the current series of Scrapheap Challenge [channel4.com] (the UK version of Junkyard Wars)

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