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Liquid Explosives and the Scanners

September 24, 2011

What are they looking for through the scanners?

What is it that they are looking for? It’s time to lift the veil of what they are telling us to fear.

Kindly drop your perfumes and toiletries in the bin. You can find them again later on Ebay

Is it rude to mention “liquid explosives” in public? The entire debate around the need for airport body scanners revolves around the subject, but hardly any media source makes mention of them. In security circles, is it the equivalent of farting at a wedding? Our beloved governments dare not mention liquid explosives when discussing the imperative need for scanning millions of innocent people with radiation emitting devices, and neither does the EU. They only dare refer to ‘Prohibited Items’. A more ambiguous objective for a multi-billion dollar scanner roll-out, I cannot imagine. Only the UK government admits that their scanner roll-out is in direct response to the underpants bomber debacle on the 25th December 2009. Still, they daren’t mention the weapon he was carrying – that’s taboo!

200 killed and no one saw anyone dropping off the rucksack bombs

This was all born off the back of post-9/11 Terror Fever, so we know that it’s all about suicide terrorists. Who else would try to take a bomb aboard an aircraft? It’s unlikely to be an attack of the style we were told the Madrid bombers used, in which the apparent terrorists boarded overcrowded commuter trains, put their rucksack bombs down among the passengers and promptly got off again without their luggage and without so much as raise of an eyebrow from the soon-to-be victims (of course all of the scores of cctv cameras along the route and station platforms were switched off that morning). No, it would be impossible to perform that kind of attack at an airport, with or without the TSA. And it can’t be the style of attack that we were told Libya perpetrated against a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. That bomb was placed in the hold and no passenger could possibly have had access. Nor are they trying to stop any airport workers slipping an explosive into the drinks trolley. No, no, no, the gin and tonics do not have to pass security scanners in 100ml bottles sealed inside transparent baggies.

So you see, we are definitely talking suicide bombers with bombs hidden beneath their clothes.

They are not looking for …

  • Hand grenades – metal detector arches spot those.
  • Dynamite sticks – sniffer dogs.
  • Solid plastic explosives such as C2 – needs cables and batteries – metal detector arches again

They are primarily concerned with detecting LIQUID EXPLOSIVES. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The underpants bomber carried liquid explosives because they do not require metallic parts that can easily be detected in traditional metal detector arches. He had TATP and PETN, which for those of you who have suffered seeing Die Hard 3, are the 2 magic liquids that, once mixed together, can explode with a simple shake of the wrist … apparently.

Reid tried to set fire to his explosives in spite of having a liquid detonator (PETN)

Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber carried the same substances in the heels of his hollowed-out hiking boots, leading to the need to remove your shoes at airports over the last 10 years. Clearly (from this picture), he was not able to carry more than 100ml in each heel, so why do we have a ban only on bottles of liquids over 100ml? Either Reid was no real threat to his flight with his tiny amounts of explosives, or the airport liquids ban is a complete waste of time. Someone is not telling us the truth! In any account, the inept would-be shoe bomber had no idea of how to detonate the liquids and simply set fire to his foot.

And please ignore the likes of European Commissioner Siim Kallas who claimed in his report last year that the liquids ban should be lifted because most airports now have hand luggage scanners that can distiguish between PETN and shampoo. Less than 10% of EU airports have bought this technology and their screening processes cannot distinguish between  different liquid substances. The airports are not buying it Mr Kallas. They don’t believe you. They still fear some other inept fool like Adulmutallab or Reid may still besmirch the name of their airport security staff.  I’ll come back to Kallas and the real reason he

"Doh! Can you see the egg on my face yet?" Euro Commissioner Siim Kallas realises that the threat from liquid explosives was just a prank.

thinks the liquids ban should stop, later on.

Liquid explosives must be mixed on site. They cannot be practically mixed at home, dropped into several 100 ml bottles then put into a rucksack and casually tossed over ones shoulder to later be exploded at will. The final substance would be far too volatile, and could do just about anything while you are travelling to the airport. Everything from foaming up, letting off copious amounts of noxious fumes and/or even setting fire. Airport security might notice that one at a distance.

Once on board the aircraft, the terrorist would have to employ the following method … if destroying the aircraft were really his intention:
1. Very gradually, drop by drop, mix the two substances (PETN and TATP, for example) into a fireproof container. This process, it is said, would take around 5 hours considering the quantities necessary for the job.
2. Maintain the liquids and mixture at between 2 and 10 degrees centigrade. Any variation of this would render the liquids inert and inexplosive.
3. In the absence of adequate ventilation on board the aircraft, some sort of breathing apparatus would be needed as during the process as large amounts of noxious fumes would be produced.

Terrorist in the toilet???

So, if you happen to find yourself on a flight that lasts more than 5 hours and a passenger disappears into the WC for the duration of the flight with a couple of buckets of ice and a gas mask, and then the entire aircraft fills with chemical fumes, you should alert the cabin crew. If not, you have nothing to worry about.

That is what Mr Kallas at the European Commission must have realised just before he called for the lifting of the liquids ban.

That is why all the panic over liquid explosives is unwarranted.

That is why airport body scanners do nothing whatsoever to improve your safety.

And that is why unenlightened politicians exposed to the temptations of security industry lobbyists, or far too lazy to do a little bit of rational investigation into these so-called threats, should not be allowed to take human rights risking knee-jerk reactions after every inept would-be bomber sets fire to his clothes in public.

Currently, new legislation that gives the EU’s blessing to member states to use scanners, is moving slowly through the bureaucratic soup called Brussels. Not even the parliamentary members who have to approve the imminent new law know what they are voting on because the European Commission’s impact assessment which was finished in March 2011 has still not been published yet.

We have a copy though, even if the MEPs don’t.
I hope to post it on this site in a few days.

Sam Edi

Scrap the Scanners

Further reading:

Liquid explosive list –

Liquid explosives impossible to mix on board a plane –×2011878

The improbability of liquid explosives –,dwp_uuid=ac91a100-4fae-11da-8b72-0000779e2340.html#axzz1YuVTQtys

Schneier on the Implausibility of a Liquid Bomb Plot –

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2013 3:19 am

    Its really a very informative information for us . Thanks for publish it .

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