How real was the August "liquid bomb" threat?

Old Nov 1, 06, 10:55 am
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How real was the August "liquid bomb" threat?

British Court Frees Airline Plot Suspects

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 1, 2006
Filed at 12:20 p.m. ET

LONDON (AP) -- Two brothers charged in an alleged plot to blow up U.S. bound airliners were released Wednesday after a British court ruled the evidence against them was insufficient to warrant a trial.

Umair Hussain, 25, and Mehran Hussain 23, had been accused of failing to disclose information about their brother Nabeel Hussain, 22.

Nabeel Hussain is one of 11 people charged with conspiracy to murder and preparing acts of terrorism in the plot, which police said they foiled in August. He was granted bail on Friday, along with a 17-year-old suspect who cannot be named because he is under age.

District Judge Quentin Purdy ordered the brothers freed during a hearing at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court, meaning they no longer face any charges.

Police arrested 25 people in raids across Britain on Aug. 9-10 and charged 17 of them, after uncovering a suspected plot to assemble and detonate improvised explosives on board as many as 10 U.S.-bound planes.

A drastic crackdown on security following the arrests snarled air traffic across the Atlantic and caused frustrating delays for thousands of passengers.
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Old Nov 1, 06, 11:04 am
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How real?

Right up there with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Invaders from Mars.

"Smoke up, Kip!"
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Old Nov 1, 06, 11:06 am
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Years ago, I had the opportunity to brief the Director of NSA on a subject related to threats. The thrust of my briefing was that certain threats against which we were spending resources weren't what they were cracked up to be. His response, in the context of describing "The Threat Community" was, "They never met a threat they didn't like."

Ultimately, like the shoe bomb and pointy objects, this threat has taken on a life of its own and nobody of either political party will have the guts to call the threat community on it.
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Old Nov 1, 06, 12:08 pm
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My guess is that it was more fear-mongering by the Blair Administration, at the request of the current U.S. Administration, in an effort to skew the upcoming election results.
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Old Nov 10, 06, 5:13 am
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17 of the 25 will face trial. As for the two brothers mentioned in the OP this should not be confused with the actions of the August 8th.

In August a number of people were preparing to board flights to the US. Their goal was to detonate a liquid explosive device on each of the flights.

Lets wait until the evidence is presented in full at their trial then we can determine if we believe the threat was real or not.

Now for the contreversial bit: Bush and his government were advised about the threat of hijack prior to September 11th 2001 but decided for one reason or another best known to them not to follow this up. The British Government however acted in light of 9/11 and 7/7 to prevent any further tragedy - if they hadn't acted who knows what may have happened.
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Old Nov 10, 06, 5:51 am
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There was a plot, but there was no way that there were going to be 10 planes blown up over the Atlantic at any time in August this way. A lot more developments would have had to take place for such a plot to even be practically conceivable.

The plot as it existed in August was blown out of proportion in the aftermath of the first arrests related to "the UK matter"; and the "security" reaction was overblown too.

Of course when 1200-2000 people have been monitored over the course of the year, it's not surprising that the above-referred "threat community" (located in the UK) finds a plot -- or strings together one -- and blows it out of proportion and/or jumps the gun for reasons independent of threat resolution.

For an example of this "stringing together":

Setting was early 1980s. A cabinet member sent a car to pick up a family member returning from foreign country "enemy#1". Next day the head of government calls in the member of the cabinet and says that they've received credible reports that General ____ from "enemy#1" is staying at the residence of the cabinet member. Cabinet member realizes there's been confusion but wants to see what the head of government knows and how good the intelligence is and so strings it along for a bit. Head of government says the report is credible and has been verified. The report says that General ___'s car dropped him off on the tarmac to board ___ flight and that the cabinet member's car picked him up on arrival and took the general to his home, where the general remained in hiding as of then. Cabinet member explains that the spouse's sister-in-law was picked up from that flight and the purported male general is neither a general nor a male; she is a doctor and a female. Lesson: intelligence doesn't always get all the facts straight before jumping to a conclusion.

Last edited by GUWonder; Nov 10, 06 at 6:46 am
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Old Nov 10, 06, 5:53 am
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Originally Posted by Spiff
How real?

Right up there with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and Invaders from Mars.

"Smoke up, Kip!"
"Smoking rope" and the White House go hand-in-hand. Or is that mouth-to-rope?
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Old Nov 10, 06, 6:14 am
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Originally Posted by Dan Dare
17 of the 25 will face trial. As for the two brothers mentioned in the OP this should not be confused with the actions of the August 8th.

In August a number of people were preparing to board flights to the US. Their goal was to detonate a liquid explosive device on each of the flights.

Lets wait until the evidence is presented in full at their trial then we can determine if we believe the threat was real or not.

Now for the contreversial bit: Bush and his government were advised about the threat of hijack prior to September 11th 2001 but decided for one reason or another best known to them not to follow this up. The British Government however acted in light of 9/11 and 7/7 to prevent any further tragedy - if they hadn't acted who knows what may have happened.
Not a single plane ticket had been bought.

Some of these people didn't even have passports.
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Old Nov 10, 06, 6:31 am
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Originally Posted by Dan Dare
In August a number of people were preparing to board flights to the US. Their goal was to detonate a liquid explosive device on each of the flights.
Yeah, just like I am preapring to board a flight to the moon. I don't have the ticket yet and I don't have the necessary permits, but I am preparing.
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Old Nov 10, 06, 8:19 am
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How real? Duped by Musharraf who is playing a very dirty game JMHO
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Old Nov 10, 06, 10:34 am
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Originally Posted by L-1011
Yeah, just like I am preapring to board a flight to the moon. I don't have the ticket yet and I don't have the necessary permits, but I am preparing.
Don't forget - you're designing your own rocket ship and your design seems to run contrary to the way rocket ships normally work.

But little details like that didn't stop the DfT and Comrade Hawley from lying to the traveling public about the credibility of this so-called threat.
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Old Nov 10, 06, 10:52 am
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Originally Posted by dodo
How real? Duped by Musharraf who is playing a very dirty game JMHO
The Emperor: "I sense Lord Vader is in danger."
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Old Nov 10, 06, 11:07 am
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To add a little more information: it's reasonably common for peripheral figures to be released in these cases. One reason is that although is easier to get a wiretap warrant in the UK than in the US, wiretap evidence cannot usually be used in British courts.
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Old Nov 10, 06, 11:12 am
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Originally Posted by NNH
To add a little more information: it's reasonably common for peripheral figures to be released in these cases. One reason is that although is easier to get a wiretap warrant in the UK than in the US, wiretap evidence cannot usually be used in British courts.
In what circumstances can wiretap evidence acquired through a wiretap warrant be used in UK courts? Under what circumstances can such material acquired by way of wiretap warrants not be used in UK courts?

Also, wasn't there some proposed revision a while back, such that control orders can be applied regardless? Didn't that get put through already?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Nov 10, 06, 11:42 am
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Seems to me that it would take longer than a short trip to the lavatory to mix up a batch of high-grade explosives powerful enough to bring down a plane. Also seems to me that the stuff would be pretty potent and that there would be fumes and odors seeping out of the lavatory door, perhaps even setting off the smoke detectors flight attendants warn passengers about. And then there's the Murphy's Law factor: too little and you have something that won't detonate or will just fizzle; too much and you have something that won't detonate but may perhaps burn the would-be bomber. Add to that the occasional turbulence, the passenger who bumps the door and a host of other factors which are exactly the reason why bomb makers prefer to do their batching in controlled, sterile environments.

I'm not poo-pooing the concept of liquid explosives; I'm just saying that it takes more than just a baggie full of 3 oz containers ostensibly labelled as mouthwash, toothpaste and saline solution to whip up a batch of explosives.

As I've stated before, seems to me that we should be taking ETD samples of bottles and containers over a certain size (whatever a "standard" size is; I think a good place to start is with 8 ounces since that is the standard serving size). If they do not alarm the ETD, then permit them into the sterile area. If they do alarm, then run other tests; scrutinize the bag further; take the appropriate measures to mitigate/resolve the issue.

This, to me, would be a reasonable step as opposed to the current procedures we're following. It will still be an inconvenience for passengers; however, the difference is that we would take proactive steps to rule out that bottle of shampoo as an explosive rather than prohibiting it as a matter of course because it exceeds 3 oz.
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