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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bomb plot stopped

'Plot to blow up planes' foiled

A terrorist plot to blow up planes in mid-flight from the UK to the US has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said.

It is thought the plan was to detonate explosive devices smuggled on aircraft in hand luggage.

Police have arrested about 18 people in the London area after an anti-terrorist operation lasting several months.

Security at all airports in the UK has been tightened and delays are expected. MI5 has raised the UK threat level to critical - the highest possible.

According to MI5's website, critical threat level means "an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK".

BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford says he does not think the police believe an attack is imminent.

"The reason for raising the threat level is in case there is some other sub-plot, back-up plot around this that the police aren't aware of," he said.

Scotland Yard said in a statement that their investigation into the alleged plot was a "major operation" which would be "lengthy and complex".

"We would like to reassure the public that this operation was carried out with public safety uppermost in our minds."

Home Secretary John Reid confirmed that there had been a plot "to bring down a number of aircraft through mid-flight explosions causing a considerable loss of life".

The British Lose Their Minds
by L C Johnson

Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 07:04:34 AM PDT

by Larry C Johnson
bio | blog

I'm sitting in Europe, scheduled to take British Air back to the states on Friday, and I'm watching British authorities melt down in the face of an alleged terrorist plot.

Rule of thumb: Initial, panicked reports are usually unreliable. The Brits reportedly have taken at least 18 people into custody--all residents of Great Britain.

The last significant, successful plot to bomb a plane was in January 1995, when a group linked to Osama Bin Laden (this group included Ramsi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Khalid Sheik Muhammed, nephew of OBL) had devised a way to carry on a liquid explosive disguised to look like water. The detonator was a combination of gun cotton (looked like cotton balls), a small light bulb, a nine volt battery, and a Casio data watch. Ramsi Yousef conducted a successful dry run of this device and planted one on board a Philippine Airline flight in December 1994. That bomb killed one man (a Japanese citizen) and almost brought down the plane. The plan was to blow up twelve US jets transiting the Pacific basin. It was disrupted when an informant, Ishtiak Parker, walked into the US Embassy in Pakistan and ratted out Ramsi Yousef.

So, what next?

Instead of a common sense approach to security, the Brits have hit the panic button. Here's what needs to be done:

  1. No liquids on board a plane weighing more than one pound.
  2. Eight ounce bottles are okay but you must drink the liquid to demonstrate it is not an explosive.
  3. One carry-on bag per passenger. All carry-on bags hand-searched.
  4. No cotton balls.
  5. No third-party cargo on passenger aircraft.

The latter is the real gap in aviation security. Right now most checked baggage is subjected to inspection by a machine that can detect explosives. Hand carry and cargo are not. You can deal with the threat of hand carry by physical inspection but cargo is a different problem.

In the back of my mind, I worry that this threat might be trumped up in order to divert attention from the disastrous US and British policy (or lack of policy) in Lebanon.

More likely, we have an informant in the UK that identified a potential plot that was in the dreaming stage but had not progressed to actual implementation. Rather than act like security professionals, the Brits are acting like panicked nannies. Very sad.

posted by Steve @ 2:45:00 AM

2:45:00 AM

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