September 9, 2009

The BBC falls prey to sensationalism

This irks me. I don't think that anyone reasonable ever claimed that there was no such thing as a liquid explosive which could take down an aircraft. Unfortunately, all that this film shows is is that...yes, there are liquid explosives in existence which could be used in half-pint quantities to do considerable, quite possibly fatal damage to an airliner in flight.

What it doesn't show is that there exist such explosives which are:

  • Reliably transportable to the airport and onto the plane
  • Easily prepared surreptitiously either on the flight or past the security cordon
  • Easy to conceal and transport secretly once assembled (i.e. no strong odd smells, sudden toxic effects from the mixing process, can be effectively kept in easily-obtainable containers)
  • Easily and reliably detonated

While the film does show 'mixing actions' and what appears to be the use of a standard drinks container to hold the resulting explosive, that's not enough. I understand that they're not going to identify the compound, much less the steps required to create it. However, they do note that an 'explosives engineer' was tasked with doing this demo - and he sure looks like he's handling things gingerly during the process.

Is that because he's habitually careful? Okay, but I'd be much more afraid of this if you showed me a substance that he could casually toss around in the bottle, fully prepare from (relatively) safe ingredients at his little mixing table in the field, sniff around the bottle a few times, and then walk to the plane and back without looking like he's afraid it's going to go off at any second.

Again, I'm not saying that this experiment didn't, in fact, show just that kind of explosive - but my point is that we don't know that, and *those* facts about the liquid explosive in question are much more troubling and relevant to policy. The fact that it exists and can make a big bang? Not so much. We already knew that.

Posted by jbz at September 9, 2009 4:05 PM | TrackBack

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