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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  1. 4a$$Monkey
    Thumb Up

    Bravo

    An excellent and insightful article.

  2. Andy

    Nice one.

    We can always count on you for a sane 'take' on this stuff. Many thanks.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Provided

    "Provided, of course, that nobody panics. Provided nobody starts locking people up for long periods without charge, or giving them hassle at airports because they've been "profiled""

    Excellent article, bravo.

    This is indeed the problem with terrorists. They're only successful if people get terrorised. If everyone just carries on as normal, they lose.

    It's when the government wants to be be seen by the tabloids as doing something, that we have a real problem. When they ignore existing laws and carve chunks out of our civil liberties, in the name of a "safety" that people only think they want because of the media.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Detonator

    "Dr Alford's mix apparently required a proper detonator"

    I think you've misrepresented the documentary - Gilligan asked the good doctor this very question, and the response was that although he had used one in his test - the hypothetical terrorist could make do with a home made alternative with the substance he was demonstrating and get the same explosive power.

    I also seem to recall El Reg's previous article on this subject dismissing the explosive power of a device made with such small quantities of binary components

    ... however the demonstration which Gilligan arranged seems to suggest otherwise - only a few hundred mils blew a 6-foot wide hole in the side of piece of aircraft fuselage, damaging the structural ribs in the process. This was at near-sea-level pressures, so the damage would be more significant still at the low pressure airliner crusing altitudes.

    I would very much like to be your original analysis to be spot on, as I'm flying half way around the globe and back later this year!

  5. Chronos Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Well said.

    "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.

    Provided, of course, that nobody panics. Provided nobody starts locking people up for long periods without charge, or giving them hassle at airports because they've been "profiled" - as Andrew Gilligan's chum Philip Baum apparently advocates. Provided that the secret state operates under proper oversight. Provided that racism and religious discrimination don't get out of control."

    Not a great deal more needs saying. This is the canonical British method for dealing with this sort of thing. It's part of our culture, our national identity, not to dwell on these events and cower behind our soft furnishings in fear. We used to just carry on regardless. What changed?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Congratulations

    Well Mr. Page, I do believe that this is the first time I have read an article of yours without feeling the desire to burn my eyeballs out with an Oxy-Acetylene torch.

    More like this please, and less of your usual claptrap!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    outraged of tunbridge wells

    was that a register article? - or a party political broadcast by the daily mail readers' association?

  8. Chris Collins

    Non-propaganda

    I thought Gilligan's report was a bit thin on the ground and the whole part about the bomb threat mere filler for his "BAA is ripping people off" revelation. I disagree with the bomb demo as there was too much detail missing for it to be conclusive. Not enough science, as it were. The internet (i.e. Lewis) already showed us how to make the bomb, why pussy around not saying the ingredients and the methodology? What exactly should we fear? Scare the bejezus out of people. Plus, demonstrate exactly how a terrorist would do the job if you want an accurate reproduction. Electronic ignition? No good. If he's afraid he'll blow his hand off demonstrating the IED then that's half the story.

  9. /\/\j17
    Boffin

    They Make 'um Tough You Know

    "... however the demonstration which Gilligan arranged seems to suggest otherwise - only a few hundred mils blew a 6-foot wide hole in the side of piece of aircraft fuselage, damaging the structural ribs in the process. This was at near-sea-level pressures, so the damage would be more significant still at the low pressure airliner crusing altitudes."

    I watch the documentary and yes, it did blow a tiny hole in a scrap (so life/stress expired and massively weakened) section of aircraft body but nothing that worrying.

    If you want to know what you can do to a commercial aircraft at altitude and NOT cause the loss of the aircraft have a quick Google on Aloha flight 243 (http://www.aloha.net/~icarus/243a.jpg)...and pay attention when they say 'keep your seat belt loosely fastened even with the seatbelt sign is off'.

  10. Marc Davies
    Stop

    Gov Panic + greed?

    I'll add to the plaudits for the article, a moment of sanity amidst the mindless shrill of 'average' media views.

    But, lets not allow HM Gov to get away with 'panic' - this implies that they are really "good sorts" who have allowed their breakfast newspaper reading to carry them away on a pilgrimage of public safety.

    Nah, I'm more in the camp that sardonically views the Government (and particularly our friends at the Home Office) to never miss an opportunity to deliver yet more legislation that effectively taints the population at large with the broad-brush of "suspicion" (as all reading this who unfortunately need to fly for our jobs can attest). That, plus the _alleged_ greed of BAA, who [apparently] recently told the boss of silverjet that he couldnt setup a 30-minute check-in & fly service as ... his passengers needed to spend time in the duty-free area, spending money (and adding to BAA coffers in the process).

    Yours strictly in soliloquy (despite the platform :-),

    M.

  11. Steven Griffiths
    Thumb Up

    Will you guys start a newspaper or something?

    On the rare occasions you print a comment piece like this you get a lot less bullshit per page than any of the scare-mongering ass-wipe rags that pass for newspapers in this country, tabloid or otherwise...

  12. Dennis
    Happy

    Re: Detonator

    Are modern aircraft less robust than those 50 years ago?

    Two 8-foot by 4-foot holes in opposite sides of the aircraft. And still landed at night.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article479329.ece

    A longer description of the incident is in "Great Mysteries of the Air" by Ralph Barker.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    The size of the average terrorist

    is about 6in by 3in I believe.

  14. lee harvey osmond
    Paris Hilton

    ten people or less?

    Ten people or less in the average terror cell?

    Does that mean that when you're all down at the supermarket buying hair products for the peroxide they contain, you can use the express checkout lane?

  15. Andrew Bolton

    @Chronos

    "We used to just carry on regardless. What changed?"

    I suspect what has changed is that some very nasty people, mostly in the USA, realised they could make really vast amounts of money and wield a lot of power by making sure people stayed as scared as possible.

    Andrew

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

  16. Dunstan Vavasour
    Black Helicopters

    What Changed?

    The approach of gummint changed. I well remember La Thatch saying that the PIRA shouldn't be given the "oxygen of publicity". Or later, when a mortar was fired into the back garden of 10 Downing Street during a cabinet meeting, Tom King suggested they all get under the table (stoical and comical at the same time). But this lot seem to consider any attack as a PR opportunity which mustn't be missed, albeit one which isn't on the No 10 PR term planner.

    The suicide bomber acquired this demon status because of the grinding series of attacks in Israel. Remember, it was our WMD-less friend Saddam Hussein who was sponsoring Palestinian families to send their offspring for a premature rendezvous with Allah: it seemed as if every week some poor Israeli town or another was losing people to the suicide bombers.

    So it is deliberate gummint policy that incompetent kid fanatics who can't be arsed to learn about bomb making are considered to be a dreadful threat - such a threat that the whole population should be subjugated, and British citizens placed under house arrest for looking a bit foreign. Meanwhile, mass immigration from Eastern Europe is necessary to cover up the demographic truth: British Muslims are far more fecund than the non-Islamic population, and will outbreed the rest of us in a few generations.

  17. Nomen Publicus
    Boffin

    Pathetic security

    Surely the point of the program was that anybody with half a brain can get bad stuff through the pretend security at major airports. Yet, nobody seems to be trying, certainly nobody is being caught.

    Then the real reason for security theatre: for the government that needs to be seem to be doing something, x-raying shoes is something (pointless but sufficiently annoying to make a point to the passengers) and the airports get an extra hour to fleece the poor people who just want to get somewhere else with the least bother.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    V interesting but...

    ...I can't help thinking that some American online rag will get hold of this and try to suggest that you're inciting terrorism...

    I didn't see the programme, but the way you describe it set me thinking about the classic 'free speech' proviso - the claim that you shouldn't be allowed to shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre. I dunno, it seems like Gilligan is doing exactly that, and the net result will be airline passengers treated even more like paying masochistic cattle, and possibly another innocent person gunned down by 'security' forces.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Panties and Bra bombs

    Yep. The next plot will be exploding panties and bras. I recommend that these items be removed from all nubile young ladies arriving at the airport security check-points.

    I'll be sitting over nearby waiting for my flight. I might show up a bit early...

  20. Stephen
    Black Helicopters

    fear game is old

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

    Too true.

    Humans are easily manipulated by fear, the reality throughout history is that the leadership of the time in any nation or empire would choose an enemy and use the fear of that enemy to gain power and/or wealth.

    The Cold War kept the fear going with the old "Duck and cover" drills on children in schools when the reality is a Nuclear bomb would kill anyone who tried to take cover, either instantly or from radiation sickness...

    In an age when the "Evil commies, bent on world domination" are no more we are left with the Jihadis no matter how incompetent they may be. (and given how few attacks actually succeeded since 9/11 on western targets, if this super organisation Al Qaeda does in fact exist it must be seriously incompetent)

    In the meantime new legislation gets passed revoking more rights and liberties... Oh well off to my bunker, nasty little terrorists can't catch me there.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Of course...

    If you really wanted to harm the UK you would attack our energy infrastructure. Lots of gas pumping stations, Oil refineries, electricity substations, high voltage pylons all over the place. Hard to defend them all.... How about a substation near Tewkesbury that supplies power to central Cheltenham? What's that large building where all those spooks hang out?

    Bunsford went with quite a bang.

  22. Ian

    The critical difference is...

    ...that the Tories had good old British stiff upper lip, not a few of them had been in the military, and dusting yourself down and being stoic was the done thing, even after the Grand Hotel. When Brown and Blair hear reports of things happening, their first reaction is to shit their pants, and once they've cleaned that up they run, screaming, into the nearest available bunker to huddle with the rest of the cowards that pass for our `leaders'. The Labour Party used to have the likes of Denis Healy, who was a beachmaster at Anzio. It now has people whose only contact with uniform is denying them money and then sending them to die overseas.

    I was on a plane inbound to LHR when the IRA mortared it in the early 90s. We diverted to STN, got a bus back to the LHR carpark, and got on with our lives. I lived in Birmingham through the 1970s: after the pub bombings we just got on with things. New Labour: New Cowards.

  23. Keller Drozdick
    Thumb Up

    Thanks

    A the risk of being repetitive, many thanks for the well presented article. As you note, not only are the frequently presented attacks largely unrealistic, even if they worked their success depends on our reaction.

  24. John Imrie
    Unhappy

    Plane v's Train

    To get on a plane I have to go through check in where I can get my terror quotient boosted.

    To get on a train I can turn up and go.

    No wonder the Government wants more air ports and less trains.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Stephen

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

    I'm tired of people trotting this out.

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

    He also suggested flying a kite in a thunderstorm to see if lightning is electricity, but I wouldn't recommend it.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    its so much simpler than that,

    Last year when I was returning from Greece, I had accidentally packed stuff in my carry on bags as a last minute rush to clear out the apartment.

    These items were: several blue flame lighters (the kind that look like a mini blowtorch), 3 cans of cheep deodorant, a roll of sellotape and best of all 2 packs of easy lighting sparklers,

    I totally forgot I had them (I meant to shift stuff in to my hold luggage before we went through security)

    As we went through the metal detectors in the airport this stuff set off the bells and whistles, the big burly types asked me open up my bag and have a look; they pulled this stuff out and found the sparklers. One of the guards didn’t know what they were so one of the other guards pulled one out, mimicked lighting it and waved it about. The other guy realised what it was laughed and the whole lot went back in to my carry on luggage and I was allowed to continue,

    You can’t tell me that should I be the sort of person inclined to do so I could not have combined those items and made a pretty cool boom. Even if the thing didn’t blow a hole in the aircraft the fear and panic would have done enough damage as well as shutting down airports for days (and there is no use trying to claim that its because Greece isn’t under “attack” doing this as we circled Heathrow would have had a devastating effect)

    Leaving the UK we had the full search and little clear baggies for all our liquids, coming back was so much simpler, and that the difference, this country is gripped by fear and terror, other countries are not,

    Terrorist in this country do not need to do another attack, were already griped with fear, liberties are being taken away your average Joe feels like they are always under suspicion,

    ‘They’ have won

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Panties and Bra bombs

    I've always wondered if gel filled bras need to be removed when you go through security ...

    And not to mention silicone implants!

  28. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Re: detonator

    Aloha Airlines #243 has already been mentioned, but here is a good synopsis of the NTSB report with numerous photos:

    http://www.ec.erau.edu/cce/centers/edwards/SF335/CaseStudy1Pres.htm

    Decompression at 24,000 feet took roughly half of the fuselage height (everything from the cabin floor up) for 18 feet of the aircraft's length and the crew made a controlled (albeit difficult) landing.

  29. Mark

    WE hope

    "But this lot seem to consider any attack as a PR opportunity which mustn't be missed, albeit one which isn't on the No 10 PR term planner."

    See title...

    PS Re: AC's request about the BF quote: please show how it is false. Please note that if someone is willing to DIE to kill you, you yourself are a dead man walking.

  30. Adam Wicketts
    Thumb Up

    re: The critical difference is...

    agreed, they weren’t the best leaders and they mucked a few things up but your right,

    this country hasn't lost its stiff upper lip, the 99.9% of us who got up and went to work and got on without lives the days after the IRA bombings and the 7th of July bombings still have it. sadly the 0.1%left are all very loud about there fear, or they have a platform from which to shout (media, government, religious 'leaders')

    on another note has anyone else noticed how other bombers are described by the group, (IRA, PIRA, Basque, )or location(Birmingham bombings, Bali, uss Cole) but current attacks on the UK and USA are dates? (9/11, 7/7, )

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The big doughnut

    would not be inconvenienced by a power cut... I know as I was part of the team that built the place...

    black helicopter because...

    anonymous for obvious reasons...

  32. Ross

    Undecided

    I like many here am generally a fan of your musings, but this one just seemed to have a hint of propaganda. Could just be me tho.

    I totally agree that we in the UK got on with our lives when 2000lb ANFO bombs were being let off, but there was one massive difference. The pIRA weren't big on killing civilians on the mainland (they shot their fair share of uniforms tho). The current crop of terrorists thinking very much falls into the "dead ppl = good" category. Wrecked buildings is one thing, 200 dead and maimed folk week in week out is quite another.

    I'm not advocating all this big brother crap, but don't fall into the trap of thinking because the pIRA stopped that we can defeat any other terrorist organisation. It's a totally different kettle o' fish.

  33. Dave
    Boffin

    1) Bunsford 2) cell size 10 or fewer

    1) that oil storage depot did go off rather large and only a teeny proportion of the of the oil stored there had made an optimum stoichiometric mix

    2) my informal studies of group dynamics over the years (not those in terror nutter groupings) lead me to think that two opinions start to form in any group larger than 5 or 6; likelyhood that one-of-ten is an informer seems quite good to me

  34. Magnus

    @AC

    I'd suggest it keeps being trotted out because it is a pithy and well turned phrase which perfectly reflects a strong sentiment felt by many people.

    It isn't merely an appeal to authority.

  35. StopthePropaganda
    IT Angle

    so what is being said here?

    it's all fun and games, there are no terrorists, forget about security because it's all "scare tactics"?

    I guess it's all laughs unless it's Mrs. and lil ones on the plane when someone plays with your "harmless" formula .I love the rare examples people pulled out of their arses about commercial aircraft survivability. Thousands of flights daily, dozens of crashes each decade, many aircraft felled by many times *less* damage. The two cited examples are luck. Blow that hole thru the floor where the wing joins, or in the almost always unlocked cockpit, or anywhere hydraulic/control/signal cables run thru. Airplanes have downed and killed hundreds from a crack less than six inches. Any one of many critical bolts, if loosened by failed maintenance or sabotage kills. I want aircraft maintained tight and all luggage screened no matter what the ACLU says. Flying isn't something most of the world gets to do-it's a priviledge of the affluent in a wealthy society. Having to take off your shoes should only offend the poor b@stard that has to handle your stinky footwear. People's obsession with themselves and their "only care about Number One!" attitude is the only thing being "denied" here. It must be interesting being so arrogant that you'll spend hours writing articles to try to discredit security experts rather than have to spend a few minutes having airport security check your shampoo bottles.

    Even more interesting is the reaction. Terrorists kill a plane with over a hundred souls on board. Security is stepped up and everyone starts screaming that the "security" is infringing on their "rights"-even though there's nothing in the Constitution about it at all. But one gun is involved in killing less than a tenth of the bodycount of a superjumbo crash, and no front page articles complain about trying to oppress the second amendment in the Bill of Rights.

    And then, of course, the dig that America causes this hysteria. The problem is Media giving terrorists the advertisement and glorification they desire. You can thank your own Rupert Murdoch for doing his best to profit from all the hype as well as Americans, French, and any number of Middle Eastern outlets. And you can thank yourselves and your "rebel without a clue" mindset-because every time the government (American or British) tried to keep anything low-key you all screamed "Censorship!" if any body count, pro terrorist or anti-Western propaganda, or anti-conservative manifesto wasn't given out to every media outlet so they could blast it across the front page.

    This is the world you wanted. You wanted your news articles of terror, to encourage terrorists to think America and Britain were weak. But you lost control of that and it turned against you. Sorry, liberals and socialists. Better luck next time. You're doing pretty well with your molehills to mountains "reporting" of Getmo activities, but I'm not sure how many times you can complain of years-old activities or how much emotional traction you'll get from known killers who are back on the terrorist frontlines weeks after they're "found innocent" and released.

  36. John Macintyre
    Coat

    @Anon

    "He also suggested flying a kite in a thunderstorm to see if lightning is electricity, but I wouldn't recommend it."

    well since you wouldn't recommend it clearly he was a twit. Considering he wasn't stupid enough to go out in a thunderstorm and wait to be struck but charged the kite in an electric storm, had a key he knew would stop the charge (using science no less), and used silk wire that wouldn't transmit the chart (and pointed out that if it were a wet storm that would bypass the key and he'd be toasted) he did quite a lot for science on the subject, along with being the reason we now have lightning rods on churches and other tall buildings. It's a myth that physical lightning was involved in his test. And as much as I'd rather tie you to the top of a building instead at least appreciate what some have done for science while others sit on their arses watching the telly.

    Mine's the one with a big key and a kite in.

    Well anyway, while you cower in your bunker thinking the government is making you safe from those bastard terrorists among us I'll continue to enjoy the true british tradition of 'I don't give a fuck, make me a cuppa'. all good.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Another Ben Franklin Quote

    "Three people can keep a secret. If two of them are dead."

    Paris 'cause Old Ben was fond of the ladies...

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @StopthePropaganda

    How can you call yourself that, when what you're demanding is that we all listen to, take to heart, and unquestioningly obey propaganda - as long as it's the kind that goes on about how evil all foreigners are? You should be called "Stop other people's propaganda because I like mine better".

    >" it's all fun and games, there are no terrorists, forget about security because it's all "scare tactics"? "

    No, that's not what the article says. That's what we call a straw-man argument, or in other words, "propaganda" - you just made up a lie in order to trick people into believing the unjustified conclusions you reach.

    >" This is the world you wanted. You wanted your news articles of terror, to encourage terrorists to think America and Britain were weak "

    MAKE YOUR MIND UP! First you say the article is propaganda because it says don't panic, then a second later you say that the article IS in favour of panic and hysteria? And what does this have to do with "liberals" and "socialists"? The Taliban and Osama bin Laden were set up in business and funded to the tune of BILLIONS by ... Ronald Reagan, Ollie North, George Schultz and their supporter and ally Margaret Thatcher - not by some bunch of "liberals" or "socialists".

    I could go on ripping to shreds your ill-thought-out post, with its fabricated supposed examples and incoherent attempts at stringing together a chain of argument, but it's such meaningless nonsense it's not worth my while. Face it, you don't have an argument beyond "Whatever I believe must be magically right because I'm me and I'm special and everyone else must be bastards for not thinking the same as me".

  39. Chris G Silver badge

    @ stop the propaganda

    You're full of crap! The hype has originated from the US with it's reaction to 9/11 and of course it was rapidly taken up by Brown Nose Blair with G Dubya pulling his strings.

    Of course there are terrorists but the number of real terrorists in the world at large in no way requires the massive restrictions and the costs thereof that are currently being applied in some countries. If the terrorists were really out to destroy western democracy, countries like Greece and Spain would already be under siege since the airport security in those two countries are way more relaxed than the UK and the US.

    There are two things going on here, one is the feeling that a lot of muslims in the middle east have that they are being targeted by the western nations who want their oil and that these nations will use any kind of economic or political means to achieve the end of obtaining that oil as cheaply as possible. The other thing is that the west is using that feeling to hype up the terror threat as much as possible to justify their moves against the middle east.

    One other thing, in a nation of people who are mostly immigrants, be it second or third or even fourth generation, what better way to unite them than to present them with an external enemy. Now the commies have gone it's the ragheads in the desert!

  40. Ian Rowe

    @Anonymous Coward Re: Franklin quote

    People use the quote because it is succinct and effective in expressing their opinion. 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.

    I agreed with the articles crux, the impact anti terrorism measures are having on us are greater than the impact terrorists themselves are having. I would rather have the energy they are wasting put into improving life at home or giving potential terrorists less reason to hate us by improving foreign relations.

    The idea that suicide bombers are a self solving problem has some merit to it. That isn't to say we couldn't try and tackle the issues that drive people to do such things but to put the threat of terrorists above that of any other sort of threat is ensuring that they get the attention they strive for. Plus it isn't a very effective use of energy towards the goal of saving lives anyway.

    I am more afraid of leaving a legacy of fear than of dying, it is a shame that our government presumes everyone to be self centered and afraid for themselves over the wellbeing of people as a whole.

  41. Steve

    Re: so what is being said here?

    "even though there's nothing in the Constitution about it at all"

    I think you mean "the American Constitution", unless you think that there is only one constitution and we are all bound by US law.

    "You can thank your own Rupert Murdoch "

    He's Australian - or are you just dividing the globe into the US and "everyone else"

    "Sorry, liberals and socialists. Better luck next time. You're doing pretty well with your molehills to mountains "reporting" of Getmo activities, but I'm not sure how many times you can complain of years-old activities or how much emotional traction you'll get from known killers who are back on the terrorist frontlines weeks after they're "found innocent" and released."

    How lucky we "liberals and socialists" are that you enlightened anti-liberal(?) and anti-social(?) types are locking people up for years without trial to protect us. Except, you claim that known killers are being released, so exactly what use is Gitmo other than to radicalise its inmates?

    Bear in mind that Said Qutub - the guy whose philosophy is the justification behind the actions of Al-Zawahiri and hence Al-Qaeda - only turned to violence after spending time at the hands of CIA trained torturers.

    You are made of fail.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anon

    >> "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

    > I'm tired of people trotting this out. Just because Benjamin Franklin said it, it doesn't necessarily make it true.

    Unfortuantely it is true. If people actually got "Temporary Safety" it might, in some circumstances, be worth it - if only temporarily. The problem is that there is a vast amount of new legislation which allows the govt to ignore your rights when it wants to , when there is no proof you are guilty of anything - and all it is really achieving is keeping terrorists in the news and giving the illusion of safety; any hope of real safety from the continous steam of knee jerk policies is just that - an illusion. You can't secure a whole country and its population against every possible attack from every possible attacker - anyone who says you can probably works in politics.

    The best thing to combat terrorism is to get the journos to stop writing / televising about it - if people realise they are blowing themselves up and they get no air time and eventually human nature kicks in and they realise it isn't worth it. Unfortunately the newspapers make to much money publishing sensationalist stories to actually do what should probably be considered their civic duty (protect the country) - so I don't hold out much hope...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: StopthePropaganda

    You seem to have failed to read the actual article, and instead just replied to what you thought the author would probably write.

    Noone is suggesting that terrorist attacks don't happen. Noone is suggesting its hard to bring down a plane. Noone has a problem with the concept of airport security.

    Lots of people do have a problem with overly invasive security procedures that don't serve any useful purpose, and with airport security staff hassling people that fit their 'profile'.

    I would rather live with a small risk of being blown up by a nutter than live with constant, invasive, surveillance of my life.

    I want the police not to be able to arrest me without charge, I want a fair trial before I am sent to jail. I want a govenment that has to conform to the same laws as I do, and I want those laws to respect my right to privacy.

    I will put up with a (currently very, very small) risk of being killed or injured in a terrorist attack for those rights.

    And if you think I am being melodramatic, go visit camp X-ray.

    Oh, and by the way:

    "Those men are all now dead, of course, which is what happens to competent suicide bombers - it's a self-correcting problem to some degree."

    hehe :)

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Being seen to do something

    I think everyone knows that's what things like the liquid restrictions are about, rather than being a serious attempt to stop any sort of 'incident' from occurring.

    I don't have any particular problem with airport security, but the pointless/stupid restrictions e.g 100ml fluid containers are an annoyance, not because they particularly affect me but more because they distract attention from checks on more conventional and realistic threats.

    Also bear in mind that TATP or whatever explosive compound, mixed on- or off-board aren't the only option available. Highly corrosive liquids, reactive metals (including those that form amalgams with things like aluminium), incendiary materials (including those that form a self-igniting mix but are otherwise harmless) and other options are all practical.

    Indeed the materials tend to be very easy to get, and generally harmless, and in most cases wouldn't raise any interest in a normal security check or could be easily concealed. Plus depending on the chosen delivery method you might be able to 'fix' the aircraft and walk away, with the damage only coming to light later.

    A truly thorough security regime could combat these threats, but the negative impact on passengers and therefore the industry would be too high.

    And I suspect the other reason no-one would introduce this is it goes beyond 'being seen to do something' and becomes seriously problematic, and all to combat a threat that in reality doesn't exist: people have had years and all sorts of motivations to do this kind of thing and generally haven't bothered.

    This may possibly be because in this field competence and motivation tend to have an inverse relationship. Lots of people have the knowledge to do seriously bad things (Mr Page is one based on his training) but don't want to, while those who want to do the bad things tend to be, shall we say, a little ignorant of the practical side. Add the suicide aspect and your supply of motivated and competent attackers suddenly gets rather small and can only get smaller. (of course this ignores the common practice of a competent 'engineer' providing means to motivated delivery personnel, but even that is risky as you'll tend to get caught by association).

    Anyway, am I actually worried about the threat? Not really; it's unlikely to happen at any particular time and the actual chances of being directly or indirectly affected are tiny. Am I worried about the impact of overreaction? Definitely; it takes something that affects a small group of people and has a (relatively) small cost to something that affects a huge group of people and has a large and ongoing cost.

    It will be interesting to see the reaction to this programme when it's shown, and whether we see even more stupid checks implemented.

  45. heystoopid
    Joke

    So

    So , down in Oz on a comedy video skit not all that long ago , the boys waltzed around an airport in their y fronts wearing a plastic bag will become the reality for all air travelers from this day forward !

  46. Graham Marsden
    Stop

    @StopthePropaganda

    "so what is being said here?" Well, it's obviously something which has gone completely over your head!

    You start off with the classic scare tactic of the threat to your "Mrs. and lil ones" and back it up with a mocking reference to the "harmless" formula, thus neatly ignoring the difficulties of actually making it and getting it on a plane, plus the tedious implication that "you're all hypocrites who would change their minds if it happened to you".

    You then go on with "Thousands of flights daily, dozens of crashes each decade" well, there are estimated to be at least 60,000+ flights per day or 22million per year. So even if there 48 crashes a decade ("dozens"), the odds of you (or your Mrs. and lil ones) being a victim are about one in 4.5million, now compare that to the odds of being killed in a road accident.

    "Flying isn't something most of the world gets to do-it's a priviledge of the affluent in a wealthy society." Oh dear, is this the politics of envy? We shouldn't fly because others can't afford to?

    "People's obsession with themselves and their "only care about Number One!" attitude is the only thing being "denied" here."

    Umm, I don't "only care about Number One" I care about the civil rights and liberties of *everyone* (even yours!) and think that they are more precious than surrendering to ignorance about the "dangers" we face according to doom-mongers like you!

    "It must be interesting being so arrogant that you'll spend hours writing articles to try to discredit security experts rather than have to spend a few minutes having airport security check your shampoo bottles."

    It must be interesting being so ill-informed and stupid that you'll spend hours writing posts like yours without bothering to check basic facts first.

    "This is the world you wanted. You wanted your news articles of terror, to encourage terrorists to think America and Britain were weak. But you lost control of that and it turned against you. Sorry, liberals and socialists. Better luck next time."

    What on *earth* are you talking about now? Who, exactly "wanted to encourage" this? You, on the other hand, want to encourage *us* to think that we are "weak" and so we will cave into your nonsense and allow our liberties (you know, the ones that the terrorists want to destroy!) to be torn down to "protect us"! Well bravo! This is the world *YOU* wanted!

    "Stop the Propaganda"? I agree, you stop spouting this nonsense propaganda that says that because *you* can't understand basic facts, *we* should surrender our liberties!

  47. Stan

    thanks..

    ...for a great article. Kind of strange to see it written up in such a straitforward way, journalism is suffering from terror fevor as much as any individual.

    Yet a few folks have read that and wrote in to state it is all, in their opinion, utter bollocks. Well, if it was harder to pull the wool over folks eyes, microsoft really would be microhoo? (go the penguin! :) )

    cheers

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Airport security: oxymoron

    Quite right, the explosive stuff was interesting to watch, but the *really* explosive stuff was the expose of the irrelevance and incompetence of airport security in general. Some folks may already have realised that Heathrow is the worlds worst airport, and some folks may already have realised that most airport security is a total waste of time, but the more exposure this gets, the better it hopefully will turn out for the travelling public.

    It's also a shame the documentary was recorded before Greenpeace got themselves onto the roof of a 777 which had just landed at LHR, in another proof that airport security is mostly for show: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3430484.ece

  49. heystoopid
    Coat

    Ah

    Ah to me the simplest way to kill a modern fly by wire all electronic control Jet Airliner already exists and we nearly had a fatal example on one QANTAS 747-400 flying into Bangkok Airport not all that long ago !

    What price a choice ?

  50. Martin Usher

    Its still not as easy as it looks

    TATP is just one of several quite powerful explosives you can make with common household ingredients. The problem is that you have to make something that works reliably and you have to do this without prematurely killing yourself. That cuts down the field a lot. Even mixing the ingredients for gunpowder, something everyone knows how to make, is tricky -- the mixture may not work or it may work just that bit too well and you lose a few fingers or a hand. (Weedkiller and sugar mixtures are just as dangerous, BTW.)

    This article is just common sense. Its not easy being a terrorist unless you can get quantities of commercial explosives. And if you must do homebrew chemistry then you can probably do more damage to society at a much lower risk to yourself by cooking up a batch of methamphetamine in the bathtub.

    Incidentally, we had a terrible industrial accident in the US recently that killed about 10 people. The explosion was caused by powered sugar.

  51. Dave Bell
    Coat

    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...)

  52. Mike Moyle Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    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.

  53. BitTwister

    @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?

  54. BitTwister

    @StopthePropaganda

    > This is the world you wanted.

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

  55. Adam White

    OK, I give up...

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

    Thanks

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Its easy Adam

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

  57. Beachhutman

    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.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @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.

  59. JMcL

    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

  60. Anonymous Coward
    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...

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    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 :-)

  62. Liam Johnson

    @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.

  63. stizzleswick
    Boffin

    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.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @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.

  66. Andrew Meredith
    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 !!

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    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.

  68. Liam Johnson

    @AC

    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.

  69. Peter Mellor
    Pirate

    Why is everyone so fixated on TATP?

    From the original article:

    <quote>

    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.

    <unquote>

    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:

    http://www.totse.com/en/bad_ideas/ka_fucking_boom/acetoneperoxid173606.html

    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 http://www.mrel.com/FIXOR.html

    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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