Details on the UK Liquid Terrorist Plot
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is releasing details about last summer’s liquid-bomb plot:
Sources tell ABC News that after studying the plot, government officials have concluded that without the tip to British authorities, the suspects could have likely smuggled the bomb components onboard using sports drinks.
The components of that explosives mixture can be bought at any drugstore or supermarket; however, there is some question whether the potential terrorists would have had the skill to properly mix and detonate their explosive cocktails in-flight.
But they can work—scientists at Sandia National Laboratory conducted a test using the formula, and when a small amount of liquid in a container was hit with a tiny burst of electrical current, a large explosion followed. (Click on the video player on the right side of this page to view the video.)
The test results were reviewed today by ABC terrorism consultant Richard Clarke, who said that while frequent travelers are upset by the current limits on liquids in carry-on baggage, “when they see this film, they ought to know it’s worth going through those problems.”
There has been a lot of speculation since last year about the plausibility of the plot, with most chemists falling on the “unrealistic” side.
I’m still skeptical, especially because the liquid ban doesn’t actually ban liquids. If they’re so dangerous, why can anyone take 12 ounces of any liquid on any plane at any time? That’s the real question, which TSA Administrator Kip Hawley deftly didn’t answer in my conversation with him last week. (I brought it on a plane again yesterday: an opaque 12-ounce bottle labeled “saline,” emptied and filled with another liquid, and then resealed. I held it up to the TSA official and made sure it was okay. It was.)
One official who briefed ABC News said explosives and security experts who examined the plot were “stunned at the extent that the suspects had gamed the system to exploit its weaknesses.”
“There’s no question that they had given a lot of thought to how they might smuggle containers with liquid explosives onto airplanes,” Chertoff said. “Without getting into things that are still classified, they obviously paid attention to the ways in which they thought they might be able to disguise these explosives as very innocent types of everyday articles.”
Well, yeah. That’s the game you’re stuck playing. From my conversation with Hawley (that’s me talking):
But you’re playing a game you can’t win. You ban guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. You ban small blades and knitting needles, and they hide explosives in their shoes. You screen shoes, so they invent a liquid explosive. You restrict liquids, and they’re going to do something else. The terrorists are going to look at what you’re confiscating, and they’re going to design a plot to bypass your security.
Stop focusing on the tactics; focus on the broad threats.