Friday, August 11, 2006

ABC News: U.S. Warned By GAO, FBI About Danger Of Liquid Explosives

The idea of using liquid explosives isn't new.

Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center attack, planned to use liquid explosives concealed in a bottle of contact lens solution in 1994 to blow up 11 flights over the Pacific. But Yousef was arrested in Pakistan, and convincted in 1997. He is serving a life sentence without parole at the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo.

Maybe our government decided the problem ended there, especially after Sept. 11, when the focus turned to passenger screening and awareness. After a plot by Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" was foiled, additional attention was paid to shoes.

But some parts of our government continued to be concerned about the possibility of liquid explosives, ABC News reports.

-- In February 2005, a Government Accountability Office report determined that the Transportation Security Administration had "delayed the development of a device to detect weapons, liquid explosives … in containers found in carry-on baggage or passenger's effects."

-- A different report, issued jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, noted in its title the "Possible Terrorist Use of Liquid Explosive Materials in Future Attacks."

But in spite of the reports, the government has not yet adopted technology to trace liquid explosives. The only defense thus far: not allowing any liquids onto airplanes.

The most advanced technology to detect explosives is a new trace portal now installed in 33 airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration. These portals blow puffs of air on passengers and then test tiny particles collected from the puff.

Perhaps the answer will soon be an end to all carry-on luggage. Or a "taste test" -- if you can't drink what's in your soda can, baby bottle, etc., then you can't bring it on board (liquid explosives are fatal if swallowed.)

But the better way to fight the "war on terror" is to develop the technology to win that war. The Bush Administration would do well to announce that it has either a) funded research to develop the technology to trace liquid explosives or b) that it plans to do so immediately.

12 Comments:

Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Soon, the terrorists will likely find a way to denotate explosives from clothing, so the airports will not permit passengers to bring or wear any clothing on board the airplane.

That was a joke. Seriously now, it took awhile but if a recent trip to LaGuardia Airport in NYC is any indication, it appears the airports have quietly adapted new technology at least to address the shoe-bomb situation.
Passengers were not required to take off their shoes.
Instead we had to stand on shoeprints of a metal platform that electronically monitored for explosives.
Maybe the airports will similarily implement new technology to detect explosives in containers?
Of course, the safeguards always seem to occur after the fact. As JABBS' points out, officials appear to have the foresight. It's almost as if the airlines under the Bush administration at least put off any added expenditures for security as long as they can. That's what this administration appears to be all about, pinching pennies for homeland security while throwing $250 million a day at Iraq.

12:00 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Then we have this news report from the AP that the Bush Administration actually sought to divert $6 million that would have been used in part to develop technology to find explosives in plastic containers.
Will the White House press corps confront Snow with this report?
http://tinyurl.com/z73x7
Here is a notable quotation from the report:
"Lawmakers and recently retired Homeland Security officials say they are concerned the department's research and development effort is bogged down by bureaucracy, lack of strategic planning and failure to use money wisely.
The department failed to spend $200 million in research and development money from past years, forcing lawmakers to rescind the money this summer."

12:22 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

David R. Mark said...
"The idea of using liquid explosives isn't new."


You're right. It's nothing new. Anyone who follows this sort of thing is very familiar with the Ramzi Yousef/Khalid Sheik Mohammed "Bojenka" plot back in 1994.

David R. Mark said...
"Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center attack, planned to use liquid explosives concealed in a bottle of contact lens solution in 1994 to blow up 11 flights over the Pacific. But Yousef was arrested in Pakistan, and convincted in 1997. He is serving a life sentence without parole at the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo.


Yes, all that's true, but not before he boarded a plane and planted an explosive device and planted it underneath his seat. He then got off the plane at a layover, but a Japanese national who took that seat was killed when the bomb detonated. Yousef was almost successful in bringing down that flight.

David R. Mark said...
"The only defense thus far: not allowing any liquids onto airplanes."


Well, although extremely inconvenient for travelers, perhaps this is the best overall solution, since apparently, all that is needed to make this type of bomb are fairly innocuous liquids such as peroxide, etc. mixed together once the flight is in progress, and detonated by such electronic devices such as iPods, cell phones or cameras.

4:21 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Trinity, what the hell is your point?
Why don't you address the main premise of JABBS argument, that Bush Administration would be wise to announce a plan to implement technology to search for liquid explosive, and after 9-11 it is questionable why it had not started such research already. While you're at it, address the AP article that documents the Bush Administration sought to thwart a plan to provide funding for such research.

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Ezlivin said...

They had no idea...never have any idea...always unfathomable

This is the most unimaginative bunch of people of which I've ever heard. Even when they are warned directly ("Osama determined to strike in US") they seem to think it can't really happen.

I just hope a terrorist doesn't snap off a limb and threaten passengers with the jagged edges of bone. Then we'll all have to be de-limbed before boarding.

1:21 AM  
Anonymous trinity said...

thewaronterrible said...
"Why don't you address the main premise of JABBS argument, that Bush Administration would be wise to announce a plan to implement technology to search for liquid explosive, ....... While you're at it, address the AP article that documents the Bush Administration sought to thwart a plan to provide funding for such research."


I'll do better than that, twot. I'll have Michael Chertoff address those points. Here's a partial transcript of his intervew on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. I'm sure you won't like his answers, but nonetheless, here they are:

WALLACE: Let's talk about your department. There has been criticism that DHS — and this is criticism since the plot was exposed — that DHS is too focused on fighting the last war, that you're too focused on preventing another 9/11 with box cutters when, in fact, you should be worried about new threats.

For instance, we have known since the Bojinka plot was exposed in the Philippines in 1995 that Al Qaeda was trying to use liquid explosives, yet, Mr. Secretary, as we sit here today, 10 years later, your department still does not have the capability to detect liquid explosives on carry-ons.

CHERTOFF: Actually, Chris, let me set the record straight on that. First of all, last fall, when we announced that we were going to cut back on some of the restrictions involving nail clippers, we made exactly the point you've made now. And this is, of course, months ago.

We said we felt we had gotten the cockpit security to the point we didn't need to worry so much about 9/11 plots, and we were going to put our resources and our training into explosives. We've run six pilots on liquid explosive detection.

We have retrained 38,000 screeners in up-to-date techniques for spotting detonators and modern types of explosive devices. So in fact, we have done the very thing you're suggesting.

WALLACE: But wait. But as we sit here today, if these plotters had come through with bottles of clear liquid in their carry-on, you couldn't have detected that.

CHERTOFF: It's actually unclear whether we would have or not. But of course, until we can ascertain that our techniques allow us to spot this kind of plot, we want to make sure we're safe rather than sorry.

The challenge here, Chris, has been this. It's not that we can't detect the chemicals. It's that the chemicals are very common, and there would be a lot of false positives. And a regime that required us to open every bottle would make it intolerable to get on line and wait to get on an airplane.

What we have to do is build a system that is efficient as well as one that's capable of detecting.

WALLACE: The Government Accountability Office says that in 2003 DHS redirected more than half of its $110 million in research funds to pay for more screeners.

And as a result, in 2005, GAO said this, and let's put it up on the screen. "TSA delayed development of a device to detect weapons, liquid explosives and flammables in containers found in carry-on baggage or passengers' effects."

Then this June, after DHS considered taking another $6 million away from technology, the Senate Appropriations Committee called your research arm — and again, let's put this up on the screen — "a rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course."

Mr. Secretary, aren't those serious problems?

CHERTOFF: Well, let me make this point. You can't look at the screening of bags for explosives as merely a technology issue. Technology is certainly one solution, but you know, human ingenuity is a huge part of this, and that's exactly why retraining and hiring screeners is important.

Look what the Israelis do. The Israelis do not rely only on technology. They have people who are trained in pattern recognition, who ask very probing questions. That is exactly what we've done over the last year, Chris. We have reprogrammed our training to focus on pattern recognition and giving screeners the tools to look at the most modern detonating devices.

So it's wrong to look at technology as the only solution. It's part of a system of solutions.


As far as my own thoughts are concerned, I would say only this. If, in the immediate days following the attacks of 9-11, someone had taken a poll asking if they had faith that the next five years would go by without any repeat of a major Islamo-fascist-related terrorist attack on our soil, I feel quite confident that the response would have been overwhelmingly in the negative. Had someone offered us that deal back then, we would have grabbed at it.

So you want to know my point? My point is that, unlike some of you guys, I believe that those in charge in the Bush Administration are definitely doing something right.

In addition, I believe that all of the precautions that they are taking as laid out in the Patriot Act and the NSA Surveillance programs, etc., are absolutely necessary tools in preventing attacks. Which is why I have absolutely no faith in your party that doesn't understand jack about these issues.

Like I would trust someone like Harry Reid, who took pride and joy in announcing at one point that, "We Killed The PATRIOT Act." Imagine that? Is that not an outrageous statement? Worse than outrageous, the words "without a clue" come to mind.

1:36 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

Chertoff may be able to talk his way around a question. I hardly find his answer convincing on whether the U.S. airports would have been able to detect the liquid bombs.
The facts remain the 9-11 Commission has last year given the Bush Administration an "F" on enacting recommended airplane security reforms. The Rethugs in congress repeatedly acted to kill the homeland security reforms suggested by Dems. And I have yet to hear a good rebuttal from the Rethugs as to why.
The Patriot Acts and NSA are necessary tools in preventing attacks or an unnecessary or with the NSA illegal restrictions on freedoms?
Your analysis only comes from dictator wanna-be-with-no congressional-checks-and-balances Bush, not the dozens of independent analysis who have looked at it.
I'm glad you're such a good trusting little Bushie sheep. You want to live in a Bush dictatorship. Leave the rest of those who want a Democracy alone.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

David R. Mark said...
"Perhaps the answer will soon be an end to all carry-on luggage. Or a "taste test" -- if you can't drink what's in your soda can, baby bottle, etc., then you can't bring it on board (liquid explosives are fatal if swallowed.)"


Even that wouldn't be enough caution, David. They construct sports drinks bottles with false bottoms. The actual cap is still sealed, so even if they broke the seal and drank from the bottle in front of the screener, it wouldn't mean the explosive ingredient would be detected.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

thewaronterrible said...
"I'm glad you're such a good trusting little Bushie sheep. You want to live in a Bush dictatorship. Leave the rest of those who want a Democracy alone."


Yes, yes, I know, twotsky. NOT IN YOUR NAME! Just like the war. Not in your name. Fortunately for you and any of your feckless ilk who think as you do, any success the Bush Administration has with regard to thwarting terrorist plots by the use of such surveillance methods will result in saving your butt too, along with those of us who understand the need for such programs. To know that so many of our own citizens do not yet grasp the scope of the radical Islam threat we face is very troubling.

3:52 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

You miss the entire point.
No one is against Bush surveillance of terrorists. What many are against is his clandestine violations of the law and the Constitution, read freedom protections, in order to do it.
There's no evidence beyond unsubstantiated Bush statements, the surveillance programs would be or have been more effective than they would have been under existing laws.
My eternal question to Bushie apologists.
Until you are willing to admit you would be comfortable with Bush surveillance programs, that lack checks and balances that safeguard Americans' freedoms from the government and that prevent the U.S. from becoming a dictatorship police state, being extended to future president administrations, whether Democratic or Republican or something else, don't be so willing to jump on the Bushie sheep wagon.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous trinity said...

thewaronterrible said...
"My eternal question to Bushie apologists.
Until you are willing to admit you would be comfortable with Bush surveillance programs, that lack checks and balances that safeguard Americans' freedoms from the government and that prevent the U.S. from becoming a dictatorship police state, being extended to future president administrations, whether Democratic or Republican or something else, don't be so willing to jump on the Bushie sheep wagon."


Twot, can I tell you again why you lack credibility? How can I take you seriously when you've asked this question at least three or four times here in the past, I took the time to patiently respond to it, and then, a short time later, here you are asking the exact same question yet again??? I just refuse to get on your merry-go-round.

12:17 PM  
Blogger thewaronterrible said...

I repeated the same question because Trinity has never given more than an evasive, ambigious answer to it.
I had a similar experience posing the question on a few conservative blogs some month ago.
When a simple "yes" or "no" would suffice, all I got were vauge mutterings about checks and balances supposingly still being in place or about circumstances being different under future presidents. These were irrelevant responses with little relationship to the facts.
Trinity and other Bushies simply cannot answer the question with a simple one-word yes or no answer warranted because it would expose the utter weaknesses of their entire position.

2:14 PM  

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