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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 September, 2003, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
US spies monitor whisky plant
Bruichladdich Distillery
The distillery was contacted by e-mail
A distillery manager has told of his amazement after learning that US spies hunting weapons of mass destruction had been monitoring his whisky plant.

Bruichladdich Distillery on the island of Islay was contacted by the Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), after an agent clicked on to the distillery's website.

The woman revealed the organisation's interest in the whisky plant after alerting the distillery to the fact that one of its webcams was faulty.

Cameras had been installed by the company to show off its traditional distilling techniques.

Metal machinery

The distillery's managing director Mark Reynier said all was revealed when he replied to the contact thanking her for pointing out the problem.

"We replied by e-mail thanking her very much for bringing it to our attention," said Mr Reynier, 41.

"When I got a reply saying: 'We really do enjoy looking at your distillery,' it was then I noticed the sign-off at the bottom with the initials DTRA.

"I replied back saying I couldn't help noticing your address, and finally the reply came back giving a fantastic explanation about how the agency's work was all to do with the anti-terrorist threat to American security.

Distillery workers - Bruichladdich Distillery

"They said they had been monitoring our webcams because the process of making something very innocuous and pleasant is close to making weapons of mass destruction, apparently.

"We just think it is the funniest thing we have ever heard."

Mr Reynier added: "In their defence, there is a lot of activity in the distillery, with lots of metal machinery and people moving around, which might have roused a few suspicions."

The US Government agency based at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, USA, is responsible for American national security.

The agency's website says: "In the post-Cold War environment, a unified, consistent approach to deterring, reducing and countering weapons of mass destruction is essential to maintaining our national security."

An agency spokesman was reported as saying the distillery's webcams were of "no official interest".

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