Iraq smuggling Playstation 2

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

Date: Tue Dec 19 2000 - 09:47:59 PST

Yeah, I know, more ramblings from the tin-foil hat brigades. Still, might
explain the Christmas-time shortage of PS2s :-)

Why Iraq's buying up Sony PlayStation 2s
Intelligence experts fear games
bundled for military applications

By Joseph Farah

Many American kids may be disappointed on Christmas
morning because the Sony PlayStation 2 they wanted
wound up in Iraq.

Both the U.S. Customs Service and the FBI are
investigating the apparent transfer of large numbers of
Sony PlayStation 2s to Iraq, according to military
intelligence sources.

A secret Defense Intelligence Agency report states that
as many as 4,000 of the popular video game units have
been purchased in the United States and shipped to Iraq
in the last two to three months.

What gives? Does Saddam Hussein have an
extraordinarily long Christmas shopping list? And why
would U.S. military and intelligence officials be
concerned about such a transfer?

Two government agencies are investigating the purchases
because the PlayStations can be bundled together into a
sort of crude super-computer and used for a variety of
military applications, say intelligence sources.

"Most Americans don't realize that each PlayStation unit
contains a 32-bit CPU -- every bit as powerful as the
processor found in most desktop and laptop computers,"
said one military intelligence officer who declined to be
identified. "Beyond that, the graphics capabilities of a
PlayStation are staggering -- five times more powerful
than that of a typical graphics workstation, and roughly
15 times more powerful than the graphics cards found in
most PCs."

A single PlayStation can generate up to 75 million
polygons per second. Polygons, as noted in the DIA
report, are the basic units used to generate the surface of
3-D models -- extremely useful in military design and
modeling applications.

"When I first saw this report, I was highly skeptical," said
an intelligence source. "So, I did some checking with
computer experts I know within the Department of
Defense. From what they tell me, bundling these video
game units is very feasible."

Additionally, Sony will make the process even easier with
planned upgrades to the system. Beginning early next
year, you can purchase a plug-in, 3.5 gig hard drive for
the PlayStation, along with interface units that allow
integration into the World Wide Web. If the Iraqis have
trouble developing military software for the PlayStation
computer system, they can probably find needed
assistance on the Internet, say U.S. intelligence sources.

What could Iraq do with such a primitive super-computer
constructed with Sony PlayStation 2s?

"Applications for this system are potentially frightening,"
said an intelligence source. "One expert I spoke with
estimated that an integrated bundle of 12-15 PlayStations
could provide enough computer power to control an
Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV -- a pilotless

Iraq has been working on development of UAVs for
several years as a possible platform for delivering
chemical weapons, say intelligence experts.

Bundled PlayStation computers could also be used to
calculate ballistic data for long-range missiles, or in the
design of nuclear weapons, they add. Iraq has long had
difficulty calculating the potential yield of nuclear devices
-- a critical requirement in designing such weapons.
Networking these computers might provide a method for
correcting this deficiency, said one intelligence source.

So, why doesn't Saddam Hussein simply buy computers
or workstations from friendly nations or on the black
market? While this is a possibility, current United Nations
sanctions prohibit the sale or transfer of virtually all types
of computer hardware and technology to Iraq. However,
computer-based video game systems -- like the
PlayStation 2 -- are not included in the ban. Iraq's
scientists and engineers have apparently found a
convenient loophole in the U.N. sanctions.

Defense experts say it is also relatively easy to smuggle
PlayStations into Iraq, since customs inspectors don't
view toys as potential military weapons. Jordanian and
Turkish inspectors rarely examine "small" shipments
under 100 pounds, making it possible to send large
numbers of PlayStations into Iraq without arousing

The Sony PlayStation 2 is one of the most popular
all-in-one home entertainment systems of its kind. At just
over 4 pounds, it contains a 300 MHz-driven, 128-bit
CPU. In addition to a plethora of new games designed to
utilize PlayStation 2's hardware, it can play games from
the original PlayStation's library, audio compact discs and
DVD movies.

Not only has Saddam Hussein apparently found a
creative way around the computer embargo, he has
helped to exacerbate the Sony PlayStation 2 shortage
reported in many parts of the United States.
and other e-tailers are sold out of the units and not
expecting any more shipments in time for Christmas.

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Dec 19 2000 - 09:55:27 PST