Thursday, August 17, 2006

PEROXIDE BOMB, EASY TO MAKE! (a continuing series): What the media believed, and what's real = two different things

Updated -- Zazi case link at footer

For the past few days Dick Destiny blog has discussed the making of insta-bombs with acetone and peroxide, as attributed by speculation on the nature of the London airline plot.

With its GlobalSecurity.Org senior fellow and chemisty hat firmly on, it has suggested again and again, in very clear language, that nothing is so easy as tossing two liquids together in an airplane washroom. It has written that concentrated hydrogen peroxide, a necessary reagent, isn't available in your household or at the supermarket. And it has published images of the peer-reviewed science on the synthesis of triacetone peroxide explosive in the most vain hope that some journalists would get the idea.

The DD page on explosive synthesis was popular. Clickthroughs to it are ticking along nicely. But it was too easy to sell the insta-bomb myth through the newsmedia. And once the legend is embedded, getting rid of it is like trying to dig a hole in your sidewalk with bare hands.

However, occasionally informative pieces appear. One such was published today in The Register, a Brit on-line news pub, a website devoted to tech reporting.

Once in the distant past, Dick Destiny was published by the Register, on topics having to do with computer security, such as here in Unemployed Virus-Writers Take Heart.

So it knows Reg reporters and mailed its citations and blog entries to one of them, slowly walking the discussion through the science or lack of it, as reported, on the insta-bomb.

And, today, while Dick Destiny's name does not appear in the piece, the fruit of its work is upon the tree of it.

"One needs quality stuff to commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale," as Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson put it," wrote the Reg.

"While it's true that a slapdash [peroxide bomb] concoction will explode, it's unlikely to do more than blow out a few windows. At best, an infidel or two might be killed by the blast, and one or two others by flying debris as the cabin suddenly depressurizes, but that's about all you're likely to manage under the most favorable conditions possible . . . We believe this because a peer-reviewed 2004 study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) entitled 'Decomposition of Triacetone Triperoxide is an Entropic Explosion' tells us that the explosive force of TATP comes from the sudden decomposition of a solid into gasses.

"So, assuming that the homebrew variety of TATP is highly sensitive and unstable - or at least that our inept jihadists would believe that - to avoid getting blown up in the taxi on the way to the airport, one might, if one were educated in terror tactics primarily by hollywood movies, prefer simply to dump the precursors into an airplane toilet bowl and let the mother of Satan work her magic. Indeed, the mixture will heat rapidly as TATP begins to form, and it will soon explode. But this won't happen with much force, because little TATP will have formed by the time the explosion occurs."

"We asked University of Rhode Island Chemistry Professor Jimmie C. Oxley, who has actual, practical experience with TATP, if this is a reasonable assumption, and she tolds us that merely dumping the precursors together would create 'a violent reaction,' but not a detonation . . . So the fabled binary liquid explosive - that is, the sudden mixing of hydrogen peroxide and acetone with sulfuric acid to create a plane-killing explosion, is out of the question. . ."

You can read the rest here.

"Thanks very much for putting me in touch with Jimmie Oxley," wrote the author in e-mail, of the U.S. explosives boffin whose name was on the peer-reviewed literature image posted by Dick Destiny blog.

Interestingly, the mainstream American media made use of Oxley, but not in an informative way, burying what quote they took from her in favor of more exclamatory declarations.

These sensational declarations were a disgrace and it's worth rehashing them. In toto, they painted the picture, again and again, that just sloshing acetone and peroxide together in an airplane bathroom, chemicals obtained from your medicine chest or the supermarket, kills a jet-liner.

In delivering these stories the media neglected to dig for facts over speculation. It passed by the opportunity to discuss the importance of finding out what the actual materials and methods of the alleged terrorists where, subjects that still remain unelucidated.

Why is this so? That's another good question. Why is it that everyone can be furnished with speculation out the wazoo, but description of evidence and methods, is not allowed?

Perhaps it will be. But as of now, nothing in this regard. For example, some American journalists have simply been morons on the story. Take for example, John Nance of ABC News.

Astonishingly, Nance gibbers, "The process [of threat assessment] is ongoing, which is one of the reasons Homeland Security already knew that a wide variety of liquids could pose a threat."

"The problem: The range of liquids is so great it can also include the gin or vodka poured freely in first class."

A vodka bomb! Incredible!

One doesn't know what quite to say when confronted with such flaunting stupidity. Is this really what someone at Homeland Security said to him? And is Nance not even possessed of a slight bit of common sense?

And where is the editor? Could not an editor say, "Waitaminnit, you mean you believe someone can down an airliner with the vodka or gin in one of those little one-shot thingies they serve? That can't be right and we're not going with it!"

Or, how 'bout: Yes, Mr. John Nance, everyone knows ethyl alcohol is what's burning in a flaming shot at the bar, but YOU CAN'T MAKE AN AIRPLANE BOMB OUT OF IT, YOU ASS!

In any case, review some of the clownish chatter on the instant peroxide liquid bomb, delivered by the mainstream newsmedia, again.

" . . . terrorists could simply carry aboard a plane the two chemicals used to make TATP. When the chemicals are mixed together, 'chances are it will instantaneously and violently react . . ."

"I empty the water out, mix them in the bottle, and before I'm done mixing them, the reaction had already occured and the plane is in serious trouble."

"'You don't really need to go to a chemical factory to find these thingsā€”it's just common household stuff . . . "

"Anyone with half an hour, a set of instructions found online and about $75 can easily make the stuff . . . "

"An experiment to test the capacity of such combinations was carried out combining an easily bought hair cream, with sodium chloride, or bleach . . . They used half a tube of Brylcreem and a cup full of sodium chloride and they put a crater in the ground with it."

Discussion of Zazi case and previous peroxide bomb plots at GlobalSecurity.Org here -- The Beauty Parlor Supply Store Bomb. With photos.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but some of your links, including the ones to the ABC news reporter and the one that continues the Rode Island Uni Prof, do not work.

10:34 AM  
Blogger George Smith said...


5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A crater? That sounds like it can also melt or slice skyscraper support beams! Somebody think of the children!!

1:45 AM  
Blogger George Smith said...

Updated, Monday 2009.

See here for a longer discussion. Scroll to comments for most germane material.

6:17 PM  

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