Sunday, August 13, 2006

GADGETEERS CRAWL FROM THE UNDERBRUSH: They have the technology to detect bombs, just send money

The next worst thing to terror journalism driven by speculation on the ease of bomb-making is terror journalism that trots out salesmen and gadgeteers with the answers, if only we'd spend more money on them.

Before Dick Destiny blog gets to them, however, two late additions to the "it's easy to make bombs" from household items file.

First, from today's Lompoc Record: "The process is frighteningly simple, the result deadly. You take a small bottle of acetone, available at any hardware or home-improvement store, pick up some hydrogen peroxide, available just about anywhere. Then, as one chemical bomb expert explains it, you mix the two together in the restroom on an airliner. The explosive reaction has been set in motion and, in all likelihood, the lives of everyone on board will soon be snuffed out."

No futzing around! Hoo-haw!

But the next opinion piece, from the Taunton Gazette, is best. Readers of Dick Destiny may vaguely recall the Taunton Gazette recommend you keep looking over your shoulder for atomic attack a week or so ago in The Daily Fallout. (It's the fourth entry down.)

Today the Taunton Gazette's editor informed his readers: "The terror plotters, according to authorities, had planned to mix a sports drink with a gel-like substance to make potent explosives that could be ignited by an MP3 player or a cell phone. The sports drink could be combined with a peroxide-based paste to form an explosive cocktail. . ."

Gatorade and a paste! Pow! Better laugh at the stupidity or you'll have to cry.

"How can our nation avoid an attack when we are dealing with this kind of sophistication using such simplicity in the concept?" asks the writer, plaintively.

The answer? If you can make a bomb from a sports drink, the defense, sophisticated in its elegance and simplicity, is furnished by Dick Destiny. Everyone has to take off their clothes and don a uniform made of thin paper (or perhaps a bath robe), distributed before boarding, and which can be disposed of upon exiting the plane.

But if we are not to take off our clothes and submit to cavity searches, then perhaps it is time to put in a call for the gadgeteers.

Since you have me with GlobalSecurity.Org senior fellow hat firmly on along for the ride, don't fear. You'll be safe from their pitches.

The Pooting Machine.
First up, the pooting machine. Dick Destiny saw it on many TV newscasts and McClatchy distributed a graphic of it in numerous newspapers. You know it. It's the gadget that blows little farts of air into the clothes of the passenger, hoping to return a sniff of explosives.

"Even state-of-the-art systems suffer from false positives, detecting non-existent explosives, or false negatives, which miss real threats. They can be fooled by background clutter or strong odors, such as garlic and mint. They're subject to human error. What works well in a laboratory may fail miserably in the field," began the McClatchy article. At that point, it would have been good to stop. The sentence sums up everything you need to know.

Discussion of the lackpresence of skill and suitable training in your average airport screener, who -- as a class, are probably the worst paid security-workers in the nation, was pretty much absent in the journalism of anti-terror gadgeteers.

"A process called Nuclear Quadrupole Resonance scans people or objects with low-frequency radio waves to identify the molecular structure of a substance. The waves produce an echo that gives a signal for each chemical element . . . A suspicious target also can be bombarded with subatomic particles called neutrons. When a neutron strikes an atom, it gives off a distinctive gamma ray that identifies the atom," wrote McClatchy reporter. Just the thing for the barely high-school-educated airport workers cum nuclear resonance chemists to operate!

"HiEnergy Technologies, of Irvine, Calif., is developing such a neutron-gamma ray detector for the Army," wrote the reporter. "It could identity a bomb hidden in a trunk or an explosive device along a highway in Iraq."

And how did this matter, even if it wasn't exaggerated, the device undeliverable? The reporter furnished no answers.

"A far-out device, sometimes dubbed an artificial nose, is being developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee," added the news wire. Of this, Dick Destiny is certain. It's also certain that the "artificial nose" has been in development for at least ten years.

The next quote -- that terror plotters are using computer scientists, from the Denver Post, was simply baffling. It was, of course, delivered by someone selling security services and consulting. So, in the land of news journalism, there was no need to test it for bullshit bombs.

Terrorist organizations are relying on skilled engineers and computer scientists to get around existing aviation security systems and "look for soft spots," such as concealing liquid explosives in Gatorade bottles, said Chaim Koppel, managing director of International Security Defense Systems, a Dallas-based aviation security firm.

"This is going to take funding,” said Sean Moore, vice president for sales and marketing at Irvine, Calif.-based HiEnergy Technologies, Inc.," wrote the St. Petersburg Times in its story, "Technology rushing to catch up with liquid bomb threat."

"Moore’s company has developed a scanner that bombards packages with neutrons to determine the molecular structure of the contents within. It reportedly can locate explosives in both solid and liquid form, but so far hasn’t been sold to any airports . . . 'We already have the capabilities. It’s just a matter of getting aligned with the right partners,' Moore said."

Of course, it really is just a matter of finding the right partners. And the right partners are at The Civitas Group. Ask for Penrose "Parney" Albright. Civitas is a K Street lobbying and consulting firm designed to hook you and your device up to the government teat.

Associated Press dug up Ehud Keinon, "an explosives expert at the Technion Research Institute in Haifa . . . " Readers of the blog will remember Keinon. He was the expert sending around press releases on himself the day the news broke. (Read down to see it here.

Keinon repeated his press release to AP reporter Arthur Max and it was duly republished in quite a few newspapers, including The Washington Post.

“The raw materials to make this compound are available anywhere, in hardware stores, agricultural stores, pharmacies, supermarkets,” he said. “And they're really cheap. I have calculated that to bring down an airplane it will cost you, at retail prices, $35.”

Keinon was also selling a peroxide explosive detector. While Keinon's gadget isn't suitable for the screening purpose it was being peddled for, he claimed it would be "[developed] for large-scale use in coming months." Would you say otherwise, given the same real estate to talk of your great gadget?

If Keinon wasn't enough, AP dug another detector-gadgeteering firm.

"One device on the market, developed by the U.S. company Guardian Technologies of Herndon, Va., uses image-analysis software attached to existing X-ray screeners and circles items matching the density of known explosives," wrote Max.

The cost, according the company's VP?

"The software costs $50,000 to $100,000 per unit . . . "

Software pirates, go to work! Your fellow citizens and their pocketbooks depend on it!


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