Friday, August 18

Liquid bombs on plane - a danger only to the bomber?

Gotta take some things you read in The Register with a tiny grain of salt but this analysis of whether it's possible to build a bomb onboard an aircraft using liquid precursors seems detailed and factual, and its conclusions are rather terrifying. In summary:
  • It's probably not possible to blow up a plane by combining the most likely liquids used by the terrorists. It is possible to make a small explosion, but likely that the bomber would be the only person killed, since the ingredients are very unstable and it would be incredibly difficult to mix them safely once onboard.
  • The explosives would be more effective (though even more unstable) if mixed and then brought on-board, and they would be easy to get through security (since it just looks like a white powder) but it's more likely the bombers would blow themselves up trying to transport the explosives to the airport.
  • Explosives are just as easy to detonate remotely via mobile phone when they are stored in the cargo hold, and it's still quite easy to get checked-in luggage onto a plane without much of a security scan.
TATP, the explosive the terrorists were most likely trying to assemble onboard the plane, looks like a generic white crystal. You could easily carry it in your checked-in luggage, and if searched, claim it was washing powder or sports drink concentrate. That is, if you could stop it from blowing up.


In summary, the response from the authorities following the latest UK terrorist action has been to ban the wrong materials, from the wrong part of the plane. At least, that's true if you want to reduce the risk of terrorists blowing up a plane. If all you want to do is make it look like you're taking it all seriously and taking steps to avoid bombings, what the authorities have done is effective enough.

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