back to article Gilligan's bomb: Is it time to panic yet?

Noted ex-Beeb reporter Andrew Gilligan - perhaps most famous for coming out on the wrong end of the Kelly/Hutton/Iraq dossier fracas in 2004 - has been up to a different kind of journalism recently - building bombs for Channel 4. Operating on behalf of the Evening Standard and Channel 4, Gilligan recruited a top UK explosives …


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The word for today is "Tharn".

But I still like the 7/7 quote from the old Londoner, who sneered, "We've been bombed by professionals."

A passing thought: how much of British sci-fi has something like that old "London can take it!" attitude at its heart, from Quatermass through Triffids and melting icecaps to the Daleks and Cybermen. And life just keeps on going. (Well, at least until Kylie Minogue turned up last Christmas.)

(No, that's not a mobile phone buzzing in my coat pocket...)

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Re: "so what is being said here? "

@ StopthePropaganda

And, just to complete your failure for today:

Rupert Murdoch became a naturalized American citizen on September 4, 1985, in order to meet the legal requirement that only US citizens could own American television stations, and eventually founded that bastion of Commie-Pinko liberal socialism, Fox News network...

...Just thought you should know.


@AC (re. Ben Franklin quote)

> Just because Benjamin Franklin said it, it doesn't necessarily make it true.

Well no (although it's a damn good indicator: he was clearly no fool) - but irrespective of who said it, it's still completely true. Or would you care to enlighten us of an instance or two where it isn't?



> This is the world you wanted.

Jeez, what idiotic nonsense. You may have read the article but clearly not one word of it registered.


OK, I give up...

What does "We have become the terrorist, haven't we sir?" mean in context please?



Its easy Adam

When the police shoot innocent people in the head, you have to see his point dont you?


They only do it to annoy

Airport security is only there to annoy us and enable the b**gers in Brussels to pretend that they do some good. In EMA I was queiing to get through when the shifts changed, and they just stopped checking our shoes and belts. In malaga they scanned my backpack, when I got home to UK I discovered two half used bottle of water in it. I recently walked through Schipol and noticed that at some gates they were scaning computers sepaately, some weren't, some were havong shoes off, some weren't, some were having belts off, some weren't, and in all cases just waving your transparent bag of assorted tubes of unguents at the checkers meant that they would be ignored. It is all total bo**ocks. In Amsterdam they also use it to boost airport profits, by pouring away sealed bottles of duty free coming in on flights from elsewhere, and straight facedly telling you you should have bought it at the Schipol Df shop.


@Ian Rowe and others

"Your reaction seems to be based on presumptions about the people using the quote. What a poor excuse to have a go at someone whose opinion differs from yours."

And yours seems to be based on the presumption that someone's opinion differs to yours. The point is that is is opinion, not truth.

The poster (me) didn't say they disagreed with it. You simply presumed I did. I simply said it wasn't necessarily true just because somebody said it - and that is the reason I'm tired of hearing it. I didn't make any presumptions, nor did I say that it was untrue either. It's usually quoted without any attempt to justify its veracity. It is just as necessary for those who hold it to be true to "enlighten us of an instance or two" where it IS true, as it is for those who believe otherwise...

This is precisely why it is sometimes necessary to post anonymously, because the stream of invective often aimed at those who dare to suggest that there may be other opinions is truly remarkable.

I take the point that Franklin wasn't daft enough to try his own experiment and that he was aware of the potential danger. It was a poor example.

Anyway, please don't presume to know my opinion, simply because I'd like you to justify yours.


Interesting piece, but....

"Even if one does form, competent and hundreds strong like PIRA, it will tend to be riddled with informers and in the end old Blighty will grind it down."

While it would appear the IRA was full of informers, the only reason they stopped doing what they were doing was that BOTH sides developed a dose of common sense, and had some pragmatic individuals that could see that the bombs could keep going off, and the security services keep digging their heels in, ad-infinitum, and that sitting down and talking was the only viable way forward. Spain/ETA will realise this eventually.

There's also the fear factor of what will happen to you as an informer when your erstwhile compadres find out. The republican movement was particularly trigger happy in this regard, even as recently as 2006 when Denis Donaldson was outed and murdered in no short order. I've no reason to think that the jihadis would behave any differently in this regard, and that even if the entire cell were bagged, other like minded loonies would feel it their duty to avenge the betrayal

Anonymous Coward

Adam White

"We have become the terrorist, haven't we sir?"

NCO training comissioned officer in the dark and dangerous art of bomb disposal. (Dummy gear with safe pyros).

Rookie Rupert gets it all wrong and sets off the device.

Because they have detonated the device, they have done what the terrorists wanted and become one of them. I suppose these days there'd be the added factor of the bomb disposal officer being dead like a suicide bomber...

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Lewis - thanks

A nice "cut the crap" article - I actually said almost the same (in slightly more PC language) to an audience of 100+ VIPs in Zurich yesterday.

Analyse the purpose of all this anti-terrorist nonsense, and it nicely offset any "benevolent" and "for the people/democracy/etc" statements: who really benefits here?

The answer makes for painful reading:

- governments who can breach privacy at leasure (US customes accessing laptops, and UK RIPA which does not dictate the safe keeping of data once it has been 'acquired')

- governments putting themselves above the law (Bush made himself exempt from 200+ laws - anyone got the web link?-, UK/German govs buying stolen goods to chase tax dodgers with the usual excuse that the end justifies the means)

- BAA making a fortune on selling the same knives in the duty free shops that they take off you during security checks

- companies selling security gadgets and, of course, the club that sells all those nice bombs to cause 'colletaral damage' (i.e. killing people because they stand close to someone accused of doing dodgy things - notably too without any judge/jury/evidence involved).

Also observe that all those people authorising such spend tend to land in cushy jobs afterwards, with no residual responsibility for the problems or even carnage they caused. Hardly an incentive to do things right.

What is very clear is that we are, planetwise, worse off than when this game started - gone is collaboration, up is racism and profiling based on how people looked, up is "me first" before collective thinking, we've gone well past 1984 except that we replaced the TV in the story with email, mobile phone and CCTV based spying - awards to US Customs for the most brazen executed industrial espionage to date.

I think it would be a nice start if we managed to get people to take responsibility again for their actions and lies. That has become so utopian that I wonder if we'll ever get this straightened out again, but I'll be damned if I ever play along with it.

Kind regards, a non-sheep. Keep up the good work :-)


@AC re re Franklin quote

What complete and utter drivel.

>> The poster (me) didn't say they disagreed with it. You simply presumed I did.

No, you implied that you disagreed with it and then backed that up by implying that Franklin was stupid for flying kites in a thunderstorm. Even with your second post, the implication is very strong that you do not agree with Franklin, other wise why make the comment in the first place. If anyone misunderstood your meaning then perhaps you should consider that you did not make it very clear rather than chastising others for the misunderstanding.

>> It's usually quoted without any attempt to justify its veracity.

What are you talking about? Are to trying to say Franklin didn’t say those words? It is a quotation for goodness sake. No one is saying that it must be true; they are simply saying that the respected statesman Franklin said it and that they agree with his sentiments. By providing a well known and concise quotation they can neatly summarize their position on the matter. It’s called communication, perhaps you should consider this before posting again.


Re: Detonator

"This was at near-sea-level pressures, so the damage would be more significant still at the low pressure airliner crusing altitudes."

Actually, the damage at cruising altitudes would be significantly less, because the pressure wave from the detonation would dissipate more quickly. Cabin air pressure is comparable to a height of 9000 ft IIRC, so you already have a lower-than-sea-level air pressure inside the plane to begin with; the lower air pressure at 30000 ft outside the plane will take quite a bit of the punch out of the explosion.

For a nice illustration of this effect, you can watch one of NASA's videos of a space shuttle launch and watch what happens to the exhaust plumes of the boosters as they gain altitude.

Anonymous Coward

So whats changed ?

Nothing .. your average Brit thinks there is 0% chance they will be involved in an incident and just gets on with usual day to day stuff.


@Liam Johnson

I didn't imply it. In your haste to disagree with something which wasn't said in the first place, you inferred it.

I still haven't said that I disagree with Franklin, but you continue to insist that I do. I am simply tired of hearing the quote used willy-nilly with no attempt to justify it. If you don't grasp the basic difference, then I can only assume that you either don't want to, or can't.

I'll have my own opinion thanks, not the one that you arrogantly ascribe to me.

Black Helicopters

Social Terrorism

It occurs to me to parallel email based social viruses and these apparent threats from liquids, shoes and even pregnant ladies' bumps (for heavens sake).

The intent of the social virus is to make the recipient send it on to a dozen or more new recipients. Get a calculator and see how many times you can multiply 12 by itself before the calculator borks. They are very easy to create. They cause no direct harm in and of themselves, but rather rely on the "Better safe than sorry" instinct for a nice knee jerk reaction.

It is very hard to actually smuggle a bomb onto a plane. Gilligan notwithstanding it would take a lot of specialist knowledge and planning to get the job done. So why bother. What is it done for? Obviously, to create a reaction in the public in general and the authorities in particular; in aid of promoting your particular cause. There's no need to actually smuggle bombs to do this, just to make the authorities believe that you can and are about to do it. They will then react .. and if history is to be believed *over* react. The response will inconvenience and spread fear amongst thousands and thousands of people. Job done.

The only question is, are the authorities over reacting because they genuinely believe that there is about to be a flood of bogus pregnant ladies blowing themselves up on planes; or are they deliberately pumping up the fear level, using these reports, maybe even generating these reports, in order to justify their own "security" agenda.

[wokka wokka] Wokka Wokka WOKKA WOKKA !!


You give up too easily Mr White

"What does "We have become the terrorist, haven't we sir?" mean in context please?"

It's a polite way of saying "You should have turned it clockwise, you useless fuckwit!"

Or, possibly, "THAT was the wrong wire to cut, you festering baboon!", to a senior rank when they screw up majestically.



What an amazing lack of comprehension you have.

>> I still haven't said that I disagree with Franklin, but you continue to insist that I do

No, you still haven’t said anything useful, but continue to be upset that your lack of clear communication should be misinterpreted.

>>I'll have my own opinion thanks, not the one that you arrogantly ascribe to me.

This is absolutely incredible. I think if you could read, you would see that I made no such comment about your post, I merely said that you seemed to imply disagreement in your first post and didn’t improve the matter with your second post. You are fully entitled to your opinion, but since you seem disinclined to share it with us you can hardly justify calling others arrogant for misinterpreting what you do write.

>> I am simply tired of hearing the quote used willy-nilly with no attempt to justify it.

There is not need to justify it, it’s a Quotation.

>> If you don't grasp the basic difference, then I can only assume that you either don't want to, or can't.

More insults, thank you. Of course I can understand the difference, but you failed to make this point in your previous posts.

>> I didn't imply it.

Well it seems what you intended and what you achieved have diverted from each other. Perhaps if you had taken time to write your thoughts clearly in the first place you would not have to get all upset and resort to insults for being misunderstood.

For added clarification, I would say that I generally agree with the sentiments of the “Franklin Quote”. My stance on that point has nothing whatsoever to do with my reply to your posts; I was and am simply amazed beyond belief that you could get so upset about being misinterpreted when what you write is so clearly ambiguous.


Why is everyone so fixated on TATP?

From the original article:


However, not being interested in bigging up a marginal threat, he also pointed out the many practical difficulties involved in mixing up viable, deadly TATP from (fairly) easily purchased peroxide and acetone - and correctly laughed to scorn the idea that it's feasible to do this in an airliner lavatory.

That's not to say that four or five terrorists couldn't pass through security carrying their precursors and patiently mix up a viable batch of TATP in some secluded airside spot - and anyway, gaining access to airside doesn't necessarily mean passing through passenger security. Once the charge is done, the actual suicide bomber takes it aboard the plane. Bingo.

Dr Alford, being a professional, may not have chosen to mix up something as volatile and dangerous as TATP - or if he did he may have taken steps to desensitise it somewhat, not wishing to foolishly blow himself up.


Neither the "on-board toilet" nor the "secluded airside spot" scenarios for preparing TATP are remotely feasible (unless the "secluded spot" was a portakabin containing a laboratory). Also, Dr. Alford would, indeed, probably have chosen a different substance.

The explosives used in the 7/7 attacks in London were described at the time as "acetone peroxide" (AP). Here's how you make it:

I saw this back on 15th July 2005. I looked it up out of curiosity, since I had never come across any such substance as "acetone peroxide" in my O-level chemistry studies and doubted its existence. (I suspected a bit of disinformation by the security services.)

AP is unstable and cannot be kept for more than two days. Note the disclaimer on the web page to the effect you are responsible for any criminal charges resulting from following this recipe, and if you kill yourself, don't try to sue the author.

AP (which I assume is the same as TATP) CANNOT be used without being very carefully prepared in advance.

However, there ARE commercially available liquid binary explosives, for example, FIXOR (TM). See

This is manufactured by a reputable Canadian firm (MREL) who advertise it for use in clearance of land mines and unexploded ordnance. It has the following advantages (see MREL's publicity brochure):

1. Its two components are non-explosive when separate, and can be transported cheaply as safe material.

2. It is very simple to use: pour the contents of one bottle into the other, shake, shove a detonator through the cap of the bottle containing the mixture, and you're ready to blow.

3. If not detonated within two hours, the mixture spontaneously separates into its original constituents and is then no longer dangerous until given another shake. (A suicide bomber wouldn't leave it lying around for two hours, of course.)

4. Eco-friendly: does not leave toxic decomposition products (and so its separate constituents might not give off detectable fumes, but I am speculating here).

This seems ideal for the job, taken on board in Alcopops bottles by a few different volunteers, travelling separately, who meet up on board for a little party and to share their drinks. Watch out for the guy dropping his trousers to get the detonator out of his a***hole (except that he *would* do that in the toilet).

I'm surprised that someone with Lewis Page's qualifications isn't aware of such commercial explosives, and that El Reg commentators are so easily distracted into poo-pooing obviously infeasible plots.

(Skull and crossbones for sudden death.)



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