Friday, August 18, 2006

TATP, IEDs, and whole lotta' BS

A few months ago, for work-based reasons I won't go into now, I attended a two-day conference on how to make improvised explosive devices. No joke. The seminar was run by the FBI's former expert on terrorist bombing and bombmaking, a guy who testified in virtually every major terrorist bombing trial in the last ten years (Kenya/Tanzania, Oklahoma City, Atlanta Olympics). He even brought, for show-and-tell, a copy of the replica shoe bomb the FBI constructed as evidence in the Richard Reid shoebomber case (the guy responsible for making us take off our shoes at airports).

In any event, my takeway impression from the IED seminar was that it was much harder for terrorists to make effective bombs than I thought. Although there is plenty of information floating around on the interweb, much is unreliable. More importantly, without a background in chemistry, it's very easy to blow your own fingers off (or worse) trying to build yourself a little IED for the weekend.

Which one of the reasons why I've been skeptical from the get-go of the hair-gel-on-a-plane plot. We learned about TATP, and it ain't easy to make. And sure enough, other people are starting to figure this out too: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_08/009357.php

Luckily, I have more faith in the British media asking tough questions about this alleged terrorist plot than I would here at home. We shall see.