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FBI busts duo for building dud death ray 

Online use only for - mandatory credit to (Skip Dickstein/Albany Times Union) --Per Will Waldron, Times Union photo editor Glendon Scott ...
Glendon Scott Crawford 49 of Providence, N.Y., leaves the Federal Courthouse Wednesday afternoon, June 19, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. after being arraigned.Skip Dickstein / Albany Times Union

Two middle-aged men from New York were arrested after the FBI caught them conspiring to build a machine that would fire radiation at people and kill them. The only problem: The machine the men had in mind would never have worked.

The FBI began watching the pair, Glendon Crawford, (49), and Eric Feight (54), in April last year after it was tipped off to the duo's plan. The two visited Jewish organizations looking for help to build a machine that would take out "enemies of Israel." Shaken members of those organizations contacted the police.

Over a year of surveillance, an FBI Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force found out that Crawford and Feight were planning to build a death-ray that could be packed into a truck and driven around.

As the US Attorney's office in Northern New York described it, "the essence of Crawford's scheme" was to build a "mobile, remotely operated, radiation-emitting device capable of killing targeted individuals silently with lethal doses of X-ray radiation." According to the formal complaint, the two hoped "the target(s), and those around them would not immediately be aware they had absorbed lethal doses of radiation."

But radiation delivered in such lethal doses would need a tremendous amount of energy to power up, and be cooled off, radiation and nuclear engineering researchers told the Albany Times Union, so it's unlikely the plan would have worked.

An FBI team led by Special agent Geoffrey Kent arrested the two on Tuesday, charging them with "conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists." According to the New York Times, Crawford was arrested as he tried to plug in a previously de-activated X-ray machine that undercover FBI agents had given him. In the release, they explain that the "device ... was rendered inoperable at all times and posed no danger to the public."

Crawford claimed to belong to the Ku Klux Klan, and as part of their watch, they FBI sent in undercover agents posing as members of the South Carolina Ku Klux Klan, the Times Union reports.

The two suspected they were being watched, the Times Union reports, and used a codewords in which Feight's alias was "Yoda."

We have contacted the U.S. Attorney's office in Albany and will update this story if and when we hear back.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.