So the verdicts are in - or not in. The "liquid bomb" plot trial is at least on hold, possibly finished altogether. A British jury has decided that three men are guilty of conspiracy to murder and cause explosions, but refused to convict them of conspiring to blow up airliners in flight. A further four men have pled guilty to …
Wasn't it you, Lewis, who thoroughly pooh-poohed the very notion of liquid explosives being any threat at all? No mention that I recall of even the possibility of non-binary liquid explosives (accepting that the big debunk was specifically about *binary* liquid explosives) being viable... You're the blowing things up expert; doesn't it behoove you to at least mention that there might be other methods rather than leading us to the conclusion that because binary liquid explosives were impractical, the restrictions on liquids were pure theatre?
I declare a victory for the forces of law and order before the moral hobby-horse riders get in! Mind you, we'll have to send them all off to Gitmo otherwise the Indymedia crowd won't have an "injustice" to whine about. Congrats to the Police and security services, big raspberry at the CPS for not framing a better case against the four not convicted of stiffer sentences, but a success none the less.
Wot? No swearing?
I find it a little incredulous that the bombers managed to get away with the "only going to make a bang in the terminal" excuse.
- They could've stuck the bombs in any bag and set them off check-in side.
- They didn't need to have suicide videos.
- They didn't need to disguise the detonators at all.
If they wanted to get through security, then they were after the planes.
Like you say, they're out of the game, personally, but for justice to be properly done they'd be convicted of the crimes they have committed. It's also possible that the jury saw something we haven't of course.
These guys will be heroes to those sympathetic to the cause. They tried and failed yes, but they also got away with it, and a free to talk to those who might want to have a go, to spread contacts and information, to generate cash for their cause.
Hang on a sec
I may have misunderstood, but it appears that part of this article's argument is that the accused had planned to use a completely different set of reagents to those which had previously been debunked as possible implements of terror, and that this differing set of reagents would in fact work, thus justifying the whole liquids ban.
However, the author has not specified what the explosive agent would be (other than to refer to it as a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and Tang). There's a reasonable amount of detail about how the detonator would be assembled, but nothing to explain what it's going to detonate. Without telling us what the chemical basis of the explosive agent is, we can only take the author's word as to whether an explosive agent can be made with those ingredients. Which isn't a very good starting point for an article discussing the relative merits of controvertial (albeit relatively minor) travel restrictions...
No wonder yours was the first post. You didn't even make it to the 5th paragraph.
Very good article.
Very good article. Had to sign up to tell you!
Eloquent and persuasive.
Excellent article, with the data, arguments and conclusions being well thought through and presented.
@ Volte Face AC
That was Thomas C Greene. See the link at the beginning of the article.
Isn't reading this article a crime?
People have had their doors kicked in for less, I'm sure.
That said - tip-top article. Very informative and sensible.
Blah blah terrorism blah...
We beat the IRA by not being scared. The only way to beat the threats by minority islamic fundamentalists is to get on with our normal life and take reasonable precautions while not letting our basic civil liberties disappear. Airport rules are a pain but regular travellers can work around them and nobody cares about the Daily Mail readers who fly from Gatwick to Spain and now can't bring back vast quantities of undrinkable green spirits.
If I wanted to do a bit of damage, a laptop battery and a flammable liquid (oooh, let's say a litre of 70% abv vodka from the duty free) might do the trick.
And that's without me even bothering to read up on things.
The rules are nonsense.
We're all allowed 5 x 100ml bottles of liquid, but not 1 x 500ml bottle? I can't take a fork through security, but the restaurants in departures all hand them out? How much damage, exactly, can one do with Gillette disposable razor blade?
And even now, as you say, I could meet my jihadi friends in the departure lounge and get together a few litres of liquid nastiness, batteries, containers and whatever else I needed.
Thanks for the information. I've been largely confused by this whole issue and you've managed to simplify it and explain something that previously was so sensitive that only the jury were allowed to know the full details.
I also agree with your analysis that a fair judicial system and following the rule of law is one of the best defences against 'terror'.
"E.g." Mr Page....
But more seriously, I commend you on a very thoughtful and thought provoking article.
So, it still seems you can't make a binary liquid bomb as seen on Die Hard.
It also seems you need a detonator. I'm curious to know if a few hollowed out batteries worth of detonator would be sufficient to blow a hole in a plane, even without the explosive?
It also appears that there are other non-liquid items that would work just as well, so my giving up the convenience of bringing my own drinks on to a plane is just for the seeming.
"I find it a little incredulous that the bombers managed to get away with the "only going to make a bang in the terminal" excuse.
- They could've stuck the bombs in any bag and set them off check-in side.
- They didn't need to have suicide videos.
- They didn't need to disguise the detonators at all.
If they wanted to get through security, then they were after the planes."
None of which could be used to bring a guilty verdict. Remember that to bring a guilty verdict then there can be no reasonable doubt. Your points are all based on assumption, if you are making an assumption then you are not offering proof positive and as such there must be reasonable doubt.
Could they have caused death and destruction on an airliner? Probably. Were they planning to? Hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
The one thing that would have nailed them bang to rights would have been airline tickets. So the question is, were the security services right to pounce when they did or should they have waited to see if their suspects had booked tickets.
Also, whether or not their bombs would have done their job is really a moot point. They intended to detonate their devices. They believed their devices would work. In order to bring a successful prosecution for conspiracy to commit any crime then surely the important thing to prove is that the accused planned and fully intended to commit the offence, not that their plan would have actually worked?
"However, the author has not specified what the explosive agent would be (other than to refer to it as a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and Tang). "
Is Google broken again?
The explosive agent would be Hydrogen Peroxide and Tang. Oh, and another ingredient that the smallest amount of research would reveal. The ingredients make Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine.
I was unconvinced but this article (and the fact my dad was an Organic Chemist so I understood the basics) has convinced me that a plot could be viable. However, they got them before it went off, and that's the important fact to remember. The liquid bomb never worked because they were caught before they had a chance to smuggle it through security.
Speak for yourself...
"So perhaps the liquid limits are worthwhile, the more so as everyone has now got used to them and the worst of the inconvenience has died down."
I'm not used to them. The inconvenience is still considerable.
Just one example: I never know, when I fly, whether I'm going to get a screener who will let my contact lens solution through, or not (it doesn't come in tiny bottles, and since it's sterile, you can't decant it into a smaller bottle). So I'm super nervous every time I go through security, because I really, really don't want to be stuck on a 10 hour flight with dry eyes.
@ Matt Bryant
"big raspberry at the CPS for not framing a better case against the four not convicted of stiffer sentences,"
Have you considered the possibility that the four were simply convicted and sentenced for what they actually did rather than what you think a 7ft baby-eating jihadi with lasers for eyes would probably be getting up to?
An outstanding article as usual. It seems the senior service generates some decent officers along the way. From an ex-RAF Engineering Officer - nice stuff.
The current travel rules allow safety razors in your hand luggage.
It's only old skool cut-throats and double edged replaceables that'll get you a free ticket to Cuba.
Mr. Page, good stuff again.
It's nice to see this view expressed.
The verdicts did surprise me, not because I think it's wrong, but simply because I was expecting the knee-jerk "guilty" verdict. It's a VERY nice thing to see that the jury were able to come up with a verdict that seems reasonable given the circumstances.
The defence is a little weird - but if you're going to do that (blow up something in the terminal) you're going to do it in a way that would have worked to get onto a plane. Otherwise you just won't get the publicity that you want.
All in all - great result for "democracy". And also (hopefully) a wake up call for the government to realise that we're not all sheep being led into an atmosphere of terror. FUD isn't any more valid a tactic in real life than it is in computer stuff.
Anonymous 'cos I'm sure I'm on the security force's radar already. :)
Blimey, this is a bit of a turnaround for the Reg. The last time I read about this topic the Reg article was *categorical*: "liquid restrictions are a waste of time and it's impossible to endanger an aircraft in that way"! There were no "ifs" or "buts" - just a slating of the media reporting and the decisions of MI5 etc.
my dad was an Organic Chemist
That is the main difference between most of the commentors on this kind of thread and you, then : you actually have a rather good idea of the subject matter and can therefor follow the article, understand its conclusion, and make up your mind on whether or not the author did his job right.
What astounds me is the amount of people who will not hesitate to comment on anything and everything as soon as it bothers their limited preconceptions of the universe, without knowing the most basic thing concerning the subject that got them so riled up.
It can be funny sometimes, though.
Google may well have found the answers for me, but do you really think I want to search for information on how to make an explosive agent out of Tang and hydrogen peroxide while at work?
Chances are, carrying out that search would answer my question while also potentially leading to pages/discussions I don't really want to be associated with. Whereas the author posting the explosive agent that he postulates is at the core of the plan, and possibly the active ingredient in Tang that will allow its manufacture from hydrogen peroxide, would mean I could research the chemistry angle at my leisure from academic sources that are less likely to cause me grief.
Now, all that aside, the hexamethylne triperoxide diamine you mention is, as I understood from the article, used in the detonator rather than as the main explosive agent. Are we talking about a bomb that's all detonator here, or a bomb where the detonator sets off a larger explosive charge? I'd like to understand what's being postulated here so that I can make my own mind up, assisted with further research if necessary, rather than just being expected to take someone else's opinion at face value about whether the threat is real and whatnot.
I can't disagree with a single thing you've said!
So... Chrome, then?
Stating the obvious
"Carrying this sort of stuff about is... not something you'd make a lifelong habit of"
Yes, obviously not if you were a suicide bomber...
Are you ready for your door to be kicked down and office raided after revealing quite a lot of detail in the article? ;)
I agree: victory comes when the old-guard tourists/freedom-fighters decide to hang up their AKs without a splinter group of young hotheads taking them down again. I have watched this with various forms of IRA during the course of my life and read it in history books for a lot of other places and organisations.
And "emblondening" is a word I will try hard to use in a sentence sometime.
I'll say it again
The liquid limits are useless, just use a non conventionally shaped bottle.
Walk straight through security....
Wear glasses. Problem solved.
I've got to get me some of them there batteries
....the wife's always complaining about how unsatisfying her vibrator is..!
On a serious note - I so miss the fact that I could bring back bottles of wine from me hols. Seems apparent that mixing 6 x 750ml of wine is, as I predicted several years ago, only going to get me arseholed.
Paris - as she probably has an ample suppy of those batteries ;-)
But why is it that the only news outlet I trust to get these things straight is El Reg? Has mainstream journalism fallen so low you simply cannot trust it any more? [Answer: yes, it has indeed.]
Somewhat analogous to the wisdom of the jury in this case, I often wonder what the state of the world today would be had that idiot Bush and his handlers, instead of pouncing on 9/11 as an excuse to institute a fascist police state, announced "The three thousand deaths at the World Trade Center are martyrs to the cause of civil liberty. That terrorists have abused these liberties does not justify destroying them."
One can only dream. And cry.
At AC RE: RE: Volte-face...
Actually, yes I did. Read the whole thing through.
Made the error of not clicking on the link and checking my memory. Apologies to Lewis are, indeed, duly proffered.
My disappointment should, instead, be directed at the editorial policy of the organ as a whole then.
Well researched & thought out, well delivered. Good work.
CJ - in the US at least, you're allowed to take contact lens solution though in hand luggage. Whether that's 'official', or judgement on the part of individual TSA personnel I don't know, but it's worth trying if the alternative is a flight with dry eyes...
But how powerfull would the bang be ?
I still remain to be convinced that a mixture of hydrogen peroxide & a soft drink would explode violently enough to do much serious damage. It might generate a lot of froth but how much more? It is only contained in a flimsy plastic bottle.
I would really like to see this properly demonstrated.
Lesson for the barbarians
best article in months. I couldn't agree more with your conclusions. Quite a law lesson for the barbarians living on the other side of the pond.
The ban on liquids aboard is still an overkill in my opinion, but that is...
BTW: who cares if your previous point of view was quite the opposite. Only the stupid does not change his mind.
AC because the barbarians scares me.
As I checked the by-line, I seemed to remember that Mr. Page had written before that he'd been involved with bomb disposal. So I was expecting a well-reasoned, no-nonsense article. Mr Page, you delivered in spades. Well done. Now what about the accusations that often fly around on the comments page about El Reg being a "tabloid"-style publication? Not in evidence here, certainly..
Always a tricky one...
...trying to find something suitable to do with people who you arrest not actually engaged in a terrorist act. Stopping them in a taxi to the airport would have given a rather more convincing version of the story, as it stands a lot of what went on was speculation in the eyes of the court.
As mooted, a fair version of British Justice has been seen to be done and maybe that in itself is a bigger victory than convictions themselves. A Daily Mail style field troika and firing squad would have only served to harden opinion that we just want to persecute Muslims...
After the retrial, those of them found guilty should have their citizenship revoked. Let them re-establish a caliphate somewhere else.
stray thought on liquid restrictions
why not lift the limits on liquids and replace it with a "please quaff" rule for any liquids that passengers wish to bring on board? I'm assuming that most components for liquid bombs would have a deleterious effect on the imbiber, of course. Any boffins care to comment on this idea?
Yes, I was surprised too, it was demonstrated to the court though.
I would have expected it to burn rather than explode, maybe a plastic bottle is sufficient containment for that? Or they were going to wrap it in duct tape?
@ Matt Bryant
They didn't actually blow anything up...
Speaking as a Chemist
I've been doing chemistry research for ~15 yrs now, and every time I hear these Tang/peroxide bomb comments I simply don't know what to think. I can't think of any conceivable way that this could form a better explosive than a solid explosive (think dynamite). For people who like using google to try to figure these things out. Start looking up peroxide + citric acid (or any organic acid for that matter). Good luck finding any science related articles which refers to their being explosive.
That said, peroxide does have a nasty habit of forming organic peroxides. However, good luck in controllably making them into an explosive device.
There is precedent for the "no liquids" rule,...
in chap 2 of Red Dwarf, when Petersen is forced to scull 12 cans of Glen Fujiyama in the customs aisle.
Need an "irrelevant science fiction reference" icon pse!
Certainly, slugging back some conc. H2O2 would sting, rather, even if flavoured with fruity powder.
Given that a nice bang needs an oxidising agent and something to oxidise, usually, and the stronger the better, it's porbably a *pretty* good test.
No need for bomb to be liquid
As rescent as two weeks ago at Heathrow Terminal 5, I was subjected to abuse and made to drink ready-made formula milk because it exceeded the magic 100ml (it always does, all containers on the market are bigger).
At the same time, behind my back junior (who is 6 1/2 years old) got through the X-ray a toy alarm clock (with an external ringer - perfect for activating a det or shorting contacts) sitting on top of a box of plasticine.
This just about says it all on the farcical nature of the current security restrictions.
Retrial is on the cards
@AC re: please quaff
Think it's been suggested before, the issue being that if you're happy to blow yourself up mid-air, on your way to numerous virgins / paradise scenario of your choice,, drinking poison ain't going to be much of a deterrent!
Good article. Better than the tripe El Reg publish about IT these days! ;)
newsflash - the gummint has announced it will ask for a retrial.
No doubt the defendants will be continually re-tried until the jury come to the correct decision.
@Stating the obvious
no, no, carrying dets around isn't a lifetime proposition _except_ for suicide bombers.
<-- should be obvious.
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