Schneier on Security
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August 21, 2009
Embarrassing Terrorist Failures
From the humor website Cracked: "The 5 Most Embarrassing Failures in the History of Terrorism."
Yes, it's funny. But remember that these are the terrorist masterminds that politicians invoke to keep us scared.
My 2007 essay, "Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot," is also relevant. But less funny.
Posted on August 21, 2009 at 1:33 PM
• 37 Comments
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stupid is as stupid does.
maybe these guys fit the profile of every snake-oil security product sales and marketing campaign.
If they fail they are idiots, and any politician that says they were a threat is scare mongering.
If the same ones succeed, those in charge are idiots for not connecting the dots and stopping them.
Of course, had they stopped them, they'd be idiots and those in charge are scare mongering.
Politicians mess up a lot, true, but creating an equation where they cannot win no matter what they do (if they success, they are fear mongers and if they fail they are idiots) is not exactly fair either.
I wonder how many security professionals would like to have a manager who applies this standard to them in evaluations. Any successful attack on the network and they are failures, and any unsuccessful attack on the network and they are wasting resources and hyping the risk of threats.
I remember expecting a number of more terror attacks after 9/11 as it just seems so easy to either set off a bomb (if you can make one) or walk into numerous crowded places and start shooting if you really wanted to and don't care for your own life.
Luckily, I guess that's more unlikely than it seems.
"I wonder how many security professionals would like to have a manager who applies this standard to them in evaluations. Any successful attack on the network and they are failures, and any unsuccessful attack on the network and they are wasting resources and hyping the risk of threats."
Err it's the standard response to "defence spending", I think I've heard it from just about ever accountant I've ever had the misfortune to try and extract money out of to protect his silly 455.
I should mention that my ancestors are from Scotland and for various reasons (including working in the Off Shore Industry) I have traveled there on numerous occasions.
And I'm realy surprised at how weak the tendons in the foot where of the man attempting to "convert" the terrorists tackle.
I have actually seen a fight in Glasgow where a man cut his wrist so badly (missed his opponent and put it through a window) he lost the use (and nearly the whole) of his hand. Did this stop him from fighting no, he actually knocked his opponent out with the end of the bone sticking out of his arm, and was still kicking his felled opponent when the Police draged him off to be hospitalised.
On being interviewed by the police officer (I'd made the mistake of hanging around) I expressed the opinion that it was one of the more unusual things I had seen, to be told that it was not that uncommon and there had been worse the previous night, where some bloke had half his face ripped off by another one armed man half his size using his teeth...
That being said I actually prefer Glasgow to Edinburgh as the people are actually friendlier and tend to take you as you are.
Oh and the tap water there tastes so much better than any where else in the UK I've been.
"Because it's Scotland, and they still build fucking men up there.
In the space of about 30 seconds, this man was in a car accident, an explosion, lit aflame and then kicked in the balls with more force than a human foot can technically take."
It's a pity that Scotland Yard busted up the "Liquid Explosive" bomber plot before the plotters could illustrate why unstable chemicals should only be mixed by experts in labs with chillers and dosimeters, rather than by enthusiasts in turbulence-shaken, warm airplane lavatories.
The harrowing inconvenience of forcing all passengers to use the forward lavatories instead of the crispy-terrorist-encrusted smoky one in the tail would have supplied encouragement and inspiration to Al Qaeda for years to come.
I think you're simplifying the issue a bit here.
The 'hype' card is played, by most rational people, when the politicians are using foiled terrorists plots as talking points to advance agendas / increase budgets / et al, when in fact they were simply lucky the terrorists were too stupid to pull it off.
No amount of defense spending or anti-terrorist legislation prevented any of the mentioned attacks, save for maybe the bollards (which we can all agree are fairly harmless, low cost, and obviously effective security measures with a near-zero trade off and nary a loss to civil liberties), but should politicians and anti-terror agendas really get the credit? Of course not.
And I think the more these types of attacks come to light, along with many of the other 'foiled' terror attacks, we start to see a pattern of either 'pipe-dreamed' planning, or simply government coercion into admitting the desire to plan an attack, rather than large-scale terror-inducing world-killer-wmd threats, the possibilities of which are 'so high' that we all have to be spoon fed a healthy does of new taxes, less liberty, and more paranoia.
So I disagree. The politicians lose when they're losers. Perhaps the accountants always see a loss, but the people shouldn't be coaxed into believing there wasn't one when there was.
Where are the real terrifying plots that were absolutely plausible and so close to fruition that they're success rate was nearly guaranteed, only to be stopped short by some wiretapping-packet-sniffing-auto-anti-terror-bot network of gossipers, spies, politicians, constitutional amendments, executive orders, liquids ban and police forces?
No, we don't hear about those so much... which, in turn, obviously makes me (and hopefully many others) quite critical of the amount of resources, liberties, compromises in personal privacy, etc at al that we've lost since the last time we, yes, failed to prevent one of the aforementioned terrifying scenarios.
Granted, the statistical / philosophical way of measuring the effectiveness of these types of new 'security measures' is incredibly difficult (if not fundamentally impossible), but show me the real, 9/11-esque terror plots that have been foiled by any means that didn't exist prior to the one recent massive failure in US history to prevent such an attack, and I'll start issuing out credit where it might be due.
Until then, yes, I think the politicians are in a lose/lose situation, especially until one can prove, even remotely, that the things they are asking for (ie - the things they are taking away from us) are at all effective in keeping us safe from the threat they so liberally discuss as a very plausible day-to-day reality. Until then, I don't think they deserve to 'win'.
"Where are the real terrifying plots that were absolutely plausible and so close to fruition that they're success rate was nearly guaranteed, only to be stopped short by some wiretapping-packet-sniffing-auto-anti-terror-bot network of gossipers, spies, politicians, constitutional amendments, executive orders, liquids ban and police forces?"
Hmmm, for some reason that makes me think of the ongoing fiasco with Xe Services.
"It's one thing, albeit often misguided, for the agency to outsource certain tasks to contractors. It's quite another to involve a company like Blackwater in even the planning and training of targeted killings, akin to the CIA going to the mafia to draw up a plan to kill Castro."
In short, I'm basically saying what most of us are, that if these attacks are planned by people with both the will to see it through against all odds, and possessing the intelligence/resources to make it happen, then there is very little society can do to prevent it with any assurance, police state or not, budgets or not, civil liberties or not, etc etc. So in that sense, any politician asking for more of the above as opposed to less, deserves a critical eye.
I mean, look at the list in the article. Despite not even meeting any of the above criteria, some of these plots still advanced as far as the 'things exploding' phase, which I'm certain we can all agree is an undesirable outcome. And if these are the dumb ones, how far are the smart ones going to get when they really mean to?
When money is spent on useless security measures, or measures that are more costly (in any number of ways) but no more effective than less costly alternatives, and *especially when freedom is sacrificed for them, then it is *always a lose/lose for those implementing the measures, and rightly so in my opinion.
"If they fail they are idiots, and any politician that says they were a threat is scare mongering."
Nice try at a strawman.
Success or failure is not the issue. The fact that they're idiots is the issue.
"If the same ones succeed, those in charge are idiots for not connecting the dots and stopping them."
Okay, if you cannot stop an idiot then doesn't that make you at least a little less intelligent than that idiot?
"Of course, had they stopped them, they'd be idiots and those in charge are scare mongering."
No. Only if the people who stopped them then present the idiots as a real "threat".
When you think about it, 9/11 was a pretty stupid plan too. A bunch of people armed with box cutters hijack planes and crash them into buildings? It's the sort of idiot plot that shouldn't have worked but did anyway. It doesn't matter if the plan is dumb, they could still get lucky.
And absolutely no security on Earth is going to stop somebody who tries something dumb and just "gets lucky".
Of course terrorists are stupid. If they were smart and still wanted to be evil/get attention, they would go work in finance (yuk yuk). Seriously, most of the people who read this blog would have much higher success rates, but they aren't terrorists, they're smart, and thus have a slightly better idea of how the world works (and doesn't work) and who is ultimately responsible (no one). This leads me to believe that terrorists are like little kids that are afraid of something they don't understand and try every method imaginable (besides understanding it) to blow it up and make it go away so that it wont bother them any more.
9/11 is a great counterexample that proves that not all terrorists are stupid. Yes, the police work was done that should have enabled them to be caught. And then the information didn't get shared and assessed properly. There was a chance they would be caught, I'm sure they knew that, and in fact they WEREN'T caught and caused a few billion dollars in direct damage, and (much more importantly) caused the U.S. to get scared and its politicians and defense contractors to get opportunistic, and in my view, over the intervening 8 years the U.S. as a country has done more harm to itself than in the preceding 50.
The terrorists who planned and carried out 9/11 don't look as dumb to me as the sheeple who were (and are) so willing to be terrorized by it.
The purpose of terrorism is to cause terror and thereby achieve policy changes or other political ends. Trying to stop terrorist plots before they happen, and arrest or kill the terrorists, is all well and good. But no defense against terrorism will do much good unless the citizens also refuse to be terrorized by it. Which a lot of them still don't seem to understand.
I am sheepishly in agreement, I would prefer to take chances with the big bad wolf and keep my beautiful country's constitution and civil liberties. The Patriot Act is a baa-aad idea.
Have you noticed that after,
"Nice try at a strawman."
Brandioch Conner goes on to say,
"Okay, if you cannot stop an idiot then doesn't that make you at least a little less intelligent than that idiot?"
Brandioch, no it does not mae you less intelligent than that idiot for atleast a couple of reasons.
The first is that you have to defend a perimiter against your attacker. The size of that perimiter is defined by the number and size of viable targets. Your ability to defend that perimiter is defined by your finite resources.
You have two choices spread the resources out evenly across the whole perimiter or concentrate them at the points of most vulnarability.
With limited resources and a very large perimiter you quickly reach a point where you cannot spread your resources evenly as they would be almost as ineffective as not being there. Which leaves only the choice of putting resources at the places of most vulnarability.
This gives you a very big disadvantage compared to the attacker (even if he is a compleate idiot) because the attacker choses where to attack.
This was the problem with the hotel attacks a little while ago they came in the back door that was not sufficiently defended.
A lot of people pointed out that "terrorists are always going to do that" well as seen by some of "these idiots" that is not always the case.
The second issue is "to err is human" we all get tired, we can all be conned, we can all put our trust in the wrong people, we can all be distracted, none of us has perfect foresight or risk analysis and we can all be in the wrong place at either the right or wrong time.
The list is endless of what can and will go wrong that is the reason terrorists "get lucky" with what appear to be increadably stupid ideas like hi jacking an aircraft with box cutters.
Unfortunatly with humans saying "sorry we did not have the resources" or "sorry we did not think that anybody would try something that stupid" or "sorry we rated that attack vector to be so improbable we did not devote any resourses to it" is political suicide.
What has to change is "us". We have to accept that governmet consists of falable human beings and not omnipitant deitis. And therfore accept we can not live in the womb forever and grow up. And that part of the process of growing is that we have to experiance hurt and pain.
Look at these people. Glassy-eyed automatons going about their daily lives, never stopping to look around and think! I'm the only conscious human in a world of sheep.
From a previous comment, "When you think about it, 9/11 was a pretty stupid plan too. A bunch of people armed with box cutters hijack planes and crash them into buildings?"
Some salient features of the 2001 plot:
* funding in the hundreds of thousands of dollars
* substantial training of attacker-pilots in credentialed flight schools
* test/reconnaissance missions (airline flights to gather information and/or verify elements of their plan)
* significant international communication, coordination, and financial transactions in the process of preparing for the attacks
* physical training with the intention of being able to overpower victims/defenders in the course of the attacks
* origination from the highest levels of an organization that had an experience base of several previous attacks, with varying degrees of success
I invite readers to compare these feature with the "idiot" plans in the linked article.
It is easy to find deficiencies in the 2001 plot. Probably the biggest is that security was poor - lots of people knew at least a little about it, and plenty of them were talking, and they brought people into the U.S. who could be identified as having links to dangerous organizations. In the event, U.S. vigilance was as weak as the plotters' security.
The plan was open to criticism on the grounds of feasibility. First, one could have wondered whether the missions could be executed at all - the achieved success rate of 75% reflects both the difficulty of the missions, and the effectiveness of their preparation. Second, if it was their intention to completely demolish the target buildings, certainly most knowledgeable engineers would have predicted failure - the mode of total collapse of the skyscrapers having not been foreseen - although it might have been predicted that WTC 1 and 2 could be so severely damaged that it would be more cost-efficient to raze than repair them.
In my opinion, "stupid plans" must be taken seriously - we have seen how dangerous they can be - but it also not difficult to distinguish between "idiots" (like the airport attack in Scotland) and a relatively well organized conspiracy.
The 9/11 attack did involve all of what you mention and so was reasonably well resoursed.
However a couple of points about their plan.
1, Physical weapon of choice box cutter
The problem they had was finding a weapon to take on board through metal detectors and pat downs etc.
Their plan relied on them being able to carry such a weapon through the check points openly without question.
Now I do not know if this was a calculated trade off or not, but even prior to 9/11 there was a reasonable risk that such a weapon would be found (and was in some cases) and could have been confiscated / consigned to "checked baggage" etc as there is no reason for any body to have it in flight.
2, The plan required being able to get access to the flight controls.
Again this was something that might have easily been prevented by quite ordinary circumstances.
3, The plan required little or no interferance from the passengers and crew.
As happened on one flight even very determined persons armed only with a box cutters are going to get over powered by passengers or crew. If this had happened before they had gained access to the flight controls the chances are that the flight would have been recovered and landed reasonably safely.
There are several other weak points in their plan, but I assume from the number of simultanious attempts that there was an assumption in the planning that one or more of the attempts would actually fail.
So the fact it did work as well as it did could be as others have noted "dumb luck" or several "system failures" due to "human failings".
All plans that rest primarily on human failings to work are very risky. Which is why you generaly plan them all out before you get the plan off paper. Or atleast mitigate them as best as posible.
However their plan had enough risk points in it that it should have failed just on that asspect. However the only mitigation they had was multiple attempts at the same time, which again would easily have failed but for "human failings".
Thus it could be argued it was an "idiot plan" because with the number of "risk points" only an idiot would assume it was going to work.
The fact it did work as well as it did says more about the "human failings" in the system than it does about the plan or the planners.
1. Risk of Carrying Box Cutters
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, attackers had, on their prior recon flights, actually tested carrying box cutters into the cabin, so they were working from actual data. If indeed 25% (say) of the box cutters had been confiscated, this would probably not have made it much more difficult for them to execute their plan. Airport screening is tested from time to time, and even today the interception rates are not impressive.
2. Cockpit Access
In the recon flights, some of the attackers (at some cost to their budget) flew first class in order to observe the cockpit doors and access thereto. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, they had observed that cockpit doors are usually opened not long after takeoff. It was not a secret that flight crews were at that time instructed to generally cooperate with hijackers, though I don't know whether the conspirators were aware of this.
3. Risk of Interference
I would not say, that the plan required little or no interference. It required that the attackers be able to rapidly quell any interference that might arise, and deter further attempts. It would seem that they had made realistic preparations to do so. If they had studied the history of airline hijackings (I don't know whether they had, but this information was not very difficult to find) they would have known that in the vast majority of cases, hijackers had not encountered strong or organized interference from passengers or crew - or indeed any resistance whatever!
Of course, after their tactic of using airliners as weapons became public, strong resistance might be expected - but the plan called for the attacks to be carried out nearly concurrently, in which case it was presumably not vital to account for public knowledge. It has been generally supposed that had flight 193 not been hijacked far behind schedule, that plane would likely have also succeeded in attacking its target.
I don't much admire these men, or their sponsors - and at the end of the day, their plan was idiotic in the grand sense that it was not likely to advance what seem to have been their fundamental political, religious, or social objectives. However, it seems to me that while luck was on their side on that awful day, their success was made more probable by a process of planning and organization that was organized, disciplined, rational, and thorough.
If anyone knows about failed terror attempts that were planned with comparable care, perhaps you'll post about them here.
Luckily for civilization, most headline-wannabes don't, as far as I am aware, do their work that well - it seems that they are often ignorant, undisciplined, slovenly and impulsive. That's great for us! It is also great for us that the 2001 attack killed some of al qaeda's best murder-minds, and that the rationally predictable reaction has neutralized several others.
There was an attack a while ago in Germany, where some people tried to blow up a train by means of a (steel) bottle of propane, geated up with a (plastic) bottle of petrol. The official comment was that "it could in principle have gone off", but no details of the construction were released. There was one photograph that allowed determination what type and size the propane bottle was. My back-of-the-envelope calculation showed that even if all of the energy of the petrol went into the propane bottle (fat chance, I estimate 10% is more likely when you just throw the two in a suitcase an then light the petrol), this was not enough to blow up the propane bottle. After all, these things are designed to withstand a certain amount of heat and liquid propane needs a lot of energy to warm up. In addition, it would have required the passengers just staring at the flames and do nothing for quite a while, with several clearly marked and easy to use fire extinguishers at hand.
To sum up:
- There was no risk of a detonation by a large margin.
- The authorities did not quite lie (the "in principle" bit), but chose to incite the maximun in fear nonetheless.
Sometimes I wonder who the real terrorists are here. Most of the effect is created (and in this case, it seems to me intentionally) by the authorities. Wanting more funding is understandable, but it does not justify support of the terrorists goals.
I'm surprised these fools didn't qualify for FBI support - the program for terrorists who are too unworldly to achieve anything on their own, when the FBI step in to buy dummy stingers etc for them.
The program works well for everybody:
newspapers get headlines,
the FBI get 'terrorists' (don't worry that your pet has a higher IQ),
everybody feels safer,
and presumebly the real terrorists get to go about their business unimpeded...
"If anyone knows about failed terror attempts that were planned with comparable care, perhaps you'll post about them here."
There's a couple of problems with this,
The first being as you noted a basic sea state change as far as security especialy on the Intel side (which appears to be atleast catching some would be terrorists with lax security or known previous contact).
However it is extremly difficult to tell as has been pointed out by Gweihir the authorities are feeding selected/limited information into the public domain.
Even when going to trial the demonstrations given for the viability of home brew explosives are to put it bluntly as they are carried out by experts in lab type conditions, often using "top grade" chemicals which would not ordinarly be available.
For instance the bombs made with chapati flour it was apparently not explained in the court demonstrations that the half life on such explosives is measured in hours not days month or years.
It is known that a number of otherwise well planed and executed attacks by the PIRA did not work to well due to the half life issue on home brew explosives. Which was one of the reasons they started using east european explosives.
However like you I have no respect for your average terrorist they are by and large misfits in both societies and are invariably being used as disposable tools by others in much the same way as a bomb timer or detonator battery.
The lack of intention to survive gives rise to all sorts of problems for effective planning and thankfully for us usually causes a compleate lack of sensible security precautions.
We actually have more to fear from the "chancers" / "idiots" as they succead because of "human failings" even when they fail to carry out their objective.
And though many would disagre treating them publicaly as objects of "bumbling stupidity" will probably have more of a deterant effect than as "calls to the flag".
I would like to say that the vast majority of people are unable to develop and execute a plan more complicated than a grocery list (and even then, how many grocery lists are followed exactly?). Most people are bumbling idiots. Why should terrorists be any different?
BTW, my work experience is software development and I have seen most projects (deployment of a system) fail to deploy on time due to one or more teammates failing to deliver.
Thanks for the Cracked link, that made me ROFL for a while!
I wonder if they got their 72 virgins just for the attempt.
Sure am glad we have the geniuses at DHS and TSA to keep us safe from these masterminds.
This email went round after the Glasgow incident...
If Saturday's incident had happened in a US airport, compared to Glasgow Airport
America: "Oh my God! There was a man on fire, he was running about, I just ran for my life...I thought I was going to die, he got so close to me"
Glasgow: "C*nt wis running aboot on fire, so a ran up n gave him a good boot, then decked him"
America: "I just want to get home, away from here...I just want to get home, I thought I was going to die"
Glasgow: "Am no leaving here till am oan a f*ckin' plane!"
America: "there was pandemonium, people were running in all directions, we didn't know what was happening ; I thought I was going to die"
Glasgow: "F*ck this, moan we'll get a pint in"
America: "We thought he was gonna blow us all up he had a gas canister, and was trying to get into his trunk, I thought we were going to die, I just ran for my life"
Glasgow: " A walked by the motor that wis on fire, and the dafty couldnae even open his boot, he wis in fire annaw so a ran up n gave him a good boot to the baws"
America: "I'm too traumatised even to speak, I thought I was going to die"
Glasgow: "here mate, gees 2 minutes till a phone ma auld dear, if am gonna be oan the telly a want her tae tape it"
"My back-of-the-envelope calculation showed that even if all of the energy of the petrol went into the propane bottle... ...this was not enough to blow up the propane bottle."
If it was just propane then I would agree with you.
That is because the propane will just start to expand like any other liquid and would be unlikley to reach a presure to compramise the bottle (even if the safety features had been compramised). Even if it did the resulting burst would still technicaly not be an explosion in the chemical sense and might not even be a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE http://www.propane101.com/... ) just a simple mechanical rupture.
What hapens then is that the propane expands very rapidly and if it's temprature remains above the flash point and there is atmospheric oxygen available in the right quantities the gas will burn if no oxygen is available it condenses back. If however the liquid gets to the point of being a super heated steam prior to the rupture a BLEVE will happen which has a much increased effect ( http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5161377/... ).
Either way for the device described if oxygen is available after the vesel compramise it will only be at the surface of the rapidly expanding propane gas bubble which produces a very dramatic ball of flame which is why the effect is used for film SFX.
But the burn rate is actually comparativly low, the energy release rate likewise and thus would not produce a shock wave etc (there is footage up on the web of burning BLEVEs but they also have links to adult sites so I won't post a link).
However if the terrorist had done a little homework and put an appropriate amount of oxidizer into the bottle then there would be no "in principle" about it.
They would have had quite an effective fuel/oxidizer explosive (just like most high explosive mixtures such as AN/FO) which in most cases would have more explosive power than conventional chemical explosives such as TNT (weight for weight).
However with out a lot of specialised knowledge such a propane oxidizer mixture would be extreamly unstable requiring very little energy input to get over the entropy hump. The very unstable relationship between propane (and similer fuel gasses) and oxygen is one of the reasons cutting torches have a feed pipe for each gas right up to the mixture/combustion chamber.
However for best effect you would need to produce an expanded mixture that is then ignited this is the classic Fuel Air Explosive (FAE/FAX) that the "Bunker buster" bombs use.
However the fuel they tend to use is the so called "Flare Material" (often a light metal powder such as aluminium and PTFE or similar).
In effect an FAE is a container of weak fuel cells with a central small core of high explosive. This is detonated to cause the fuel to be dispersed into the atmospher. A short time period later an ignition flare is fired into the dispersed gas. The resulting very rapid burn causes a very large overpreasure over a very large volume, the resulting shock wave is comparable to small tactical nukes and will blow out bunker doors and other weak points. In the case of "cave buster" bombs they are designed to produce a very high initial "bunker door buster" shock wave followed by a slower burn to suck out the oxygen within the cave complex.
The design of an FAE is relativly simple compared to other equivalent munitions as is their construction. Unlike kinetic munitions they can be designed to be transported empty thus making them very light and a greate deal safer than equivalent energy munitions.
However FAE are overpresure munitions not kinetic munitions in the traditional sense (big iron bombs) they do not produce high velocity shrapnel by design that acts as an energy transport mechanism. Thus FAEs have a special usage within confined environments (bunkers/caves/etc) where the overpresure wave is most effective.
The shrapnel from an FAE is "pick up" that is objects already in the target zone. However the pickup does include soldiers and their weapons so FAE are quite effective against concentrations of soldiers and their weapons in small or confined areas.
Your "email" reminds my of the old truisim about why the scots made such good mechanical engineers,
"Cos if it diny work" they would beat it with their bare hands till it "ken's whit its ta do".
@ MarkH, August 22, 2009 6:15 PM
I just wanted to comment that I thought that was a well thought out analysis!
"There are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn't need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn't do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn't prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot."
- Mark Twain
Seems to me the guy at the Circuit City who flagged the Fort Dix DVD as dangerous is the kind of guy who is frequently trotted out as an over-sensitive meddler exceeding his authority in the usual narrative. I don't dispute that in the actual event, his contribution was both positive and crucial, but isn't he also the guy who rats out the innocent parent for photos of their children in the bath, and gets the Linux user arrested because a dual-boot computer got taken in for repairs and looked terroristically weird?
@Clive: Very true. But no oxidizer and very, very likely not enough heating up of the bottle and the propane to cause it to rupture.
Quite frankly, had they filled the bottle with black powder, it would have been much, much more dangerous and could have been fitted with a simple and reliable detonator. As I remember, black powder is available in quantities (requires some manual work though) even in Germany once a year for 3 days.
@Note to all: the weapon used to hijack the 9/11 aircraft was not box cutters, that was merely a tool. The weapon was "stand in front of passengers trained not to resist and cause one of the flight attendants (presumably the prettiest one) to bleed in large quantites in order to cause the crew, also trained not to resist, to allow the hijackers into the cockpit." But anything sharp or heavy would have triggered the same response.
I was disappointed to see them not include the guys who failed to bring down the WTC the first time, and idiotically went to ask Ryder for their security deposit back. Even if they were NOT doing a terrorist activity, why would they be so dumb as to think they could get their security deposit back, WITHOUT the truck!?!?!?!? Think about it, people: that absolutely is the most idiotic thing that was ever done in the history of the world.
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