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Thread: Explosive material found in packages on US bound planes from Britain and the UAE

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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Default Explosive material found in packages on US bound planes from Britain and the UAE

    Explosive material has been found in suspicious packages on planes heading to the US from East Midlands in the UK and Dubai the UAE, with organizing locations in Yemen. Authorities are suspecting that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula maybe behind the incident. Although it appears to early to piece together the meaning of this new plot.


    Link to the news story from CNN with comments from President Obama earlier in the afternoon.

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/10/29/sec...pt=T1&iref=BN1

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The UK reporting

    The UK story on the intercepted packages, from the Yemen, at UPS hubs in Dubai and East Midlands:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...ynagogues.html

    The BBC:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11654390
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    so does anyone know if this would have exploded if not intercepted?

    embargoing or meticulously checking mail from terrorist hotspots is just a short term solution. the real issue is that packages can be mailed from anywhere to anywhere under any name within the U.S. - you do not need to show ID to send a package. that is an open threat, whether UPS/FEDEX or US postal system etc. and if you mail a package using surface mail vs airmail - then it goes straight from the shipping center on a truck to destination. so where is there any security check? specially on a really local level like manhattan to manhattan? hopefully this will change starting today. seriously.

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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by subrosa View Post
    so does anyone know if this would have exploded if not intercepted?

    embargoing or meticulously checking mail from terrorist hotspots is just a short term solution. the real issue is that packages can be mailed from anywhere to anywhere under any name within the U.S. - you do not need to show ID to send a package. that is an open threat, whether UPS/FEDEX or US postal system etc. and if you mail a package using surface mail vs airmail - then it goes straight from the shipping center on a truck to destination. so where is there any security check? specially on a really local level like manhattan to manhattan? hopefully this will change starting today. seriously.
    From what I heard on the news earlier, authorities in the UK are still trying to determine how the devices work etc. However, apparently at least one of the packages was bound for a synagogue in Chicago IL, and rumor has it another one may have been on it's way to a Jewish cultural center somewhere within the US.
    Last edited by Kevin23; 10-30-2010 at 03:55 AM.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Behind the headlines

    Some comments having looked at the UK coverage:

    a) why have photos of the device(s) been placed now in the public domain?
    b) the use of PETN
    c) the apparent decoy device which was so obvious a search was ordered at East Midlands hub and which found the primary device
    d) the apparent lack of screening all packages from Yemen
    e) the potential commercial impact on air freight
    f) locating the expert designer (the body bomb, the underwear and now this)
    g) the selection of Chicago targets and synagogues (the first I follow and the second is puzzling)

    Now add the 'spin" and "smoke" in such cases.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    It is emerging that the devices were intended to detonate mid-air in the cargo jets. Reports indicate one of the devices involved a printer-cartridge filled with PETN and linked to a cell phone SIM card encased in the body of the printer.

    Presumably, you cannot get a cellular signal over the Atlantic Ocean, suggesting remote detonation must occur shortly after take-off in the UK or in US airspace before landing.

    The question that comes to me is what - if any, role does the online package tracking feature offered by UPS and FedEx play in the operation. How detailed is the information you can you get from this feature? For example, would it have alerted the sender that the package had landed at the hub in the UK? From there, and with a little more information you could determine what flight the package was on (if it doesnít already tell you), and track the flights departure in real time over the internet.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    e) the potential commercial impact on air freight
    I believe thatís the goal, causing economic system disruption. Two months before the Holidays; perfect timing too.

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by subrosa View Post
    the real issue is that packages can be mailed from anywhere to anywhere under any name within the U.S. - you do not need to show ID to send a package. that is an open threat, whether UPS/FEDEX or US postal system etc.
    No threat, but like anything it has some risk to it. However the benefits of easy domestic shipping, far eclipse the costs necessary to mitigate this very low risk.

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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    It is emerging that the devices were intended to detonate mid-air in the cargo jets. Reports indicate one of the devices involved a printer-cartridge filled with PETN and linked to a cell phone SIM card encased in the body of the printer.

    Presumably, you cannot get a cellular signal over the Atlantic Ocean, suggesting remote detonation must occur shortly after take-off in the UK or in US airspace before landing.

    The question that comes to me is what - if any, role does the online package tracking feature offered by UPS and FedEx play in the operation. How detailed is the information you can you get from this feature? For example, would it have alerted the sender that the package had landed at the hub in the UK? From there, and with a little more information you could determine what flight the package was on (if it doesnít already tell you), and track the flights departure in real time over the internet.


    I believe thatís the goal, causing economic system disruption. Two months before the Holidays; perfect timing too.
    Bourbon,

    Interesting that you bring up the online tracking both of the package and aircraft. However, excuse my ignorance but does the Fedex/UPS online tracking system even tell you the flight # and other info about a cargo plane carrying say a package when it leaves say a hub in Europe? I ask because in my experience with online tracking it only tells you the location or say's en route to X or Y, not any other specific info. Then again, back to what your argument was, you could still figure out that type of info with extensive searching and narrowing down of information.

    Which leads me two other particular questions,

    . Would using a cell phone detonator to explode a bomb cruising abroad an aircraft at 30,000+ feet really work, since I figure there could be a very hard time establishing a signal?

    . Also, it doesn't seem like a very effective terrorist plot to me to blow up the cargo planes themselves since it would only kill the crew abroad, and maybe a small number of people on the ground. Should the bomb have exploded over say, the UK, France, Germany, the US, or Canada? Unless, the package was detonated over a major population area and the the aircraft was brought down then I could see the causalities being higher, and the message more effective.

    . Something to me doesn't make sense how this whole plot, why would those who oversaw this send packages that looked like they were bound to attract attention from a place like Yemen to a potential high-profile target like a synagogue in the United States, especially given the security employed now and days as well the knowledge about mail-related deliveries both of the international and domestic postal and air carrier system?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Something doesn't make sense?

    Kevin23 in part asked;
    Something to me doesn't make sense how this whole plot, why would those who oversaw this send packages that looked like they were bound to attract attention from a place like Yemen to a potential high-profile target like a synagogue in the United States, especially given the security employed now and days as well the knowledge about mail-related deliveries both of the international and domestic postal and air carrier system?
    I suspect that the bomb makers expected their devices to be undetected and exploit the commercial imperative of the international air freight system. Plus the use by others for illegal purposes. Once in the system, unless there are built-in additional search factors, they were confident the package(s) would reach the USA, if not the last point before delivery - when the human factor might ask Yemen to a synagogue?

    It is noteworthy that the item was placed into the air freight system normally in the Yemen, a sign of a lack of capability and confidence that overland movement was not available. Imagine the impact of discovery in KSA or a "rogue" package placed in the system by an insider.

    I have no expertise in bombs, but am sceptical the device(s) were meant to detonate in-flight. Nor would an explosion in a hub be a gain.

    They saw an opportunity, had a working device and took a chance.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Default Investigation into September UPS plane crash to reopen

    An investigation by US authorities into the unexplained crash of a UPS cargo aircraft in September after taking of from Dubai is set to reopen in the wake the recently discovered package bombs in air freight hubs in the UK and the UAE.

    The crash, which killed the crew on board has been dismissed as an accident by UAE air safety officials, citing the absence of anything to indicate an explosive device or any other form of foul play brought down the aircraft.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sourc...C9eLTw&cad=rja

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    Interesting that you bring up the online tracking both of the package and aircraft. However, excuse my ignorance but does the Fedex/UPS online tracking system even tell you the flight # and other info about a cargo plane carrying say a package when it leaves say a hub in Europe?
    Donít know how detailed the information you can get online is, and I also donít know if more detailed information is available to UPS/FedEx employees on their network.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    . Would using a cell phone detonator to explode a bomb cruising abroad an aircraft at 30,000+ feet really work, since I figure there could be a very hard time establishing a signal?
    I donít know, but we know for certain that it wonít work over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    . Also, it doesn't seem like a very effective terrorist plot to me to blow up the cargo planes themselves since it would only kill the crew abroad, and maybe a small number of people on the ground.
    I agree, on the surface it doesnít look very effective. But what if the whole point is to provoke a response and cause economic disruption? What if the US ends up spending billions more on security theater, infringes upon more civil liberties, and/or gets sucked into Yemen?

    For the cost of a few thousand dollars AQAP could make the US waste tens of billions of dollars it doesnít have. Also consider the effect of air freight with Just-in-time supply chains on our economy.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default It's the economy

    Yes, there is merit in the economic impact aspect of this plot, although the propaganda impact is the primary one (too often we forget this IMHO). So the industry plea argument is not unexpected:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...-airlines.html
    davidbfpo

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    Default Some thoughts on the printer plot and AQAP

    Hat tip to Abu M commending All things CT on the plot:http://allthingscounterterrorism.com...plot-and-aqap/

    A whole host of issues raised, including the role of SIGINT, Saudi Arabia and the relationship between AQAP and AQ "central". So read carefully.

    Or try the BBC report on an AQ defector to Saudi Arabia:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11666272
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-01-2010 at 10:58 PM. Reason: Add BBC report
    davidbfpo

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    Death by a Thousand Cuts: See all those security lines? Just because al Qaeda's recent attacks haven't succeeded doesn't mean the terrorist group's overall strategy is failing, by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross. ForeignPolicy.com, 23 November 2010.
    "Two Nokia phones, $150 each, two HP printers, $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200. That is all what Operation Hemorrhage cost usÖ On the other hand this supposedly 'foiled plot', as some of our enemies would like to call [it], will without a doubt cost America and other Western countries billions of dollars in new security measures."

    Thus begins the lead article in the latest issue of Inspire, the English-language online magazine produced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the jihadi group's Yemen branch, which was released Saturday. The cover features a photo of a UPS plane and the striking headline: "$4,200." It is referring to the recent cartridge-bomb plot, and specifically the great disparity between the cost of executing a terrorist attack and the cost to Western countries of defending against asymmetric warfare -- costs now numbering in the billions of dollars a year and climbing. The magazine warns that future attacks will be "smaller, but more frequent" -- an approach that "some may refer to as the strategy of a thousand cuts."

    The slick packaging may be new, but al Qaeda's emphasis on bleeding the U.S. economy is not. From Osama bin Laden's earliest declaration of war against America, al Qaeda has linked its attacks to the U.S. economy. He and other salafi jihadi thinkers had long believed that economic power was the key to America's military might; they thus saw weakening Western economies as their path to victory.
    This guy gets it, why can't everyone else?

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    Default Can we turn a lemon into lemonade?

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    I recall the story of the Federal Express founder writing a college assignment proposing his model for centralized redistribution of freight...and getting a lousy grade from his professor. At the risk of looking foolish in assuming my idea is equally good or unequally stupid, let me offer the following.

    We need a new KC-X aerial refueler. We say we can only afford about 15 aircraft procured each year. It is politically unlikely that one or the other will win outright given past screw-ups and the reality of one aircraft produced in blue states and the other in red states...with American jobs created by both. If we could afford to buy 20-24 (instead of 15) each year we could split the buy, accelerate the KC-X procurement, and double the jobs for Americans.

    Problem is it would add $1 to 2 billion each year to procurement costs.

    The idea is to pitch an idea to FedEx, UPS, and any other interested airlines to buy some of the KC-X aircraft for use in moving air freight, mail AND LUGGAGE. Selected routes would no longer carry air freight, mail, and luggage on the same flight with passengers. Instead, air freighters would carry all the above to centralized locations, where it would be grouped going to the same destination. This would mean luggage would need to go on an aircraft taking off earlier than the passengers to arrive in time.

    Taken a step further, if EADS and Boeing both produce the KC-X, we convince both that the U.S. will allow trial runs of aerial refueling of passenger planes over the U.S. and flying overseas. This and the absence of freight/luggage aboard each passenger plane would create very light planes, made still lighter by taking off with less fuel and refueled in flight. Fuel is weight, So is luggage and freight. Airlines are taking extraordinary measures to get weight off their planes today. Aerial refueling would make planes lighter.

    Forgot to add that both Boeing and Airbus would need to modify a select number of 787, A-350, 747, and A-380 to receive aerial refueling. Since both manufacturers would have experience putting receivers on their KC-X versions, this would be less problematic than the airspace and passenger concerns.

    Best of all, we create a civil fleet of KC-X planes able to be converted for military use in a national emergency. The pilots themselves would often be air national guard pilots near the same centralized facilities.

    Lemons into lemonade. A whole new industry and a cheaper way of replacing old aerial refuelers created by our terrorist friends.
    Last edited by Cole; 11-26-2010 at 09:33 PM. Reason: Had to add missing piece about modifying selcted airliners to receive aerial refueling

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Default coincidence?

    Quote Originally Posted by bourbon View Post
    The question that comes to me is what - if any, role does the online package tracking feature offered by UPS and FedEx play in the operation. How detailed is the information you can you get from this feature? For example, would it have alerted the sender that the package had landed at the hub in the UK? From there, and with a little more information you could determine what flight the package was on (if it doesnít already tell you), and track the flights departure in real time over the internet.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23
    Also, it doesn't seem like a very effective terrorist plot to me to blow up the cargo planes themselves since it would only kill the crew abroad, and maybe a small number of people on the ground. Should the bomb have exploded over say, the UK, France, Germany, the US, or Canada? Unless, the package was detonated over a major population area and the the aircraft was brought down then I could see the causalities being higher, and the message more effective.
    Saw this while catching up on some back reading; from "AQAP postal strike fails", Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor, 5 November 2010.
    -clip-
    "Reports that the explosives had been wired to mobile telephones led to speculation they would have been remotely triggered. AQAP could have monitored their progress using the tracking system on the FedEx and UPS websites and flight tracker sites. The bombers would have had to wait until the cargo aircraft descended to land before they could send a signal to initiate the devices as they came in to range of mobile telephone reception masts, leading to speculation that they hoped the wreckage would inflict more casualties as it fell on Chicago's suburbs."
    -clip-

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cole View Post
    Selected routes would no longer carry air freight, mail, and luggage on the same flight with passengers. Instead, air freighters would carry all the above to centralized locations, where it would be grouped going to the same destination.
    Interesting ideas about the tankers, not something I know much about.

    Itís the airfreight though, what affect would the inability to deliver something overnight, possibly even within 2-3 days, have on the economy? I donít know the answer to that question, but I suspect that we would be surprised by the results.

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