Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More On The Boston Bombing

I don't want to rehash the general facts concerning the bombing, which you can just as easily find anywhere on the Internet. But there are a few interesting articles that caught my attention that are just a bit off the beaten path. 

Some of the most recent news is that the bomb was apparently made using a pressure cooker filled with an explosive and shrapnel, a favorite of terrorists in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. This Reuters article speculates:
At least one bomb and possibly both were built using pressure cookers as the superstructure, black powder or gunpowder as the explosive and ball bearings as additional shrapnel, according to current and former counterterrorism officials briefed on the matter.
The sources, who asked not to be identified, said instructions on how to design such bombs are available on the Internet.
On the other hand, this article at Popular Mechanics explains:

"The forensics start as soon as people realize there's been an explosion," says Tom Thurman, of Eastern Kentucky University.
Thurman knows a lot about bomb investigations. Before his retirement from the FBI in 1998, Thurman was the chief of the FBI Bomb Data Center; he also worked Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland; the bombing deaths of a federal judge in Alabama and an attorney in Georgia, both in 1989; and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.
... Video will be crucial to determining what happened in Boston, much more than the laboratory analysis, Thurmon says. "They will be looking at how the bomb got there: who deposited it and when."
Even the video of the blast can help identify what kind of bomb it is—or in the case of Boston, confirm that the bombs that detonated were the same that went off. "Generally, white smoke means a commercial explosion or improvised device," he says. A common chemical used in these bombs, in the United States and abroad, is acetone peroxide (TATP). It comes in a white powder and blooms in a white cloud when it explodes. In Boston, the initial images seem to show white smoke blossoming at the moment of explosion.
Industrial and military explosives emit black smoke, Thurman says.
This Boston Herald report notes that the bombing could easily be the work of a lone individual:

“When the terrorist has planned an attack and they’re going to utilize an IED as their weapons of strategic influence, it’s hard to stop that in a free and open society,” said Grant Haber, a security consultant who runs the firm American 
Innovations. “It’s difficult. Where we can do a better job is focusing our efforts via a whole-of-government approach, and focus our 
efforts on gaining a better control on homemade explosive precursors.”
The bombs could easily have been hidden in a backpack, avoiding all suspicion among the thousands of spectators who flooded the Back Bay yesterday, experts said.

Retired FBI bomb technician Kevin G. Miles said the attack could “easily” have been the work of one person.

“A one-man operation could 
easily do something like this,” 
Miles said. “It would take some coordination, some know-how and some intelligence, but a lot of bombers throughout history have been one person.”
Miles also said it would have been all too easy for the bomber or bombers to blend in.
“There are thousands and thousands of people. You’re not going to be able to check everybody’s backpack, everybody’s gym bag. Every runner’s got a backpack.
“No one’s going to question somebody carrying around a backpack. They’re not paying attention,” Miles said. “This is the way it is. We’re a free country. This isn’t Russia or Cuba. You’re not going to be able to check everybody’s bag, 
everybody’s pocketbook on a 
massive event like this. This is America.”
Miles said the white smoke was indicative of a “commercially available explosive,” such as smokeless gunpowder.
“It can be very powerful. Smokeless powder confined in a pipe bomb can function with the same velocity as TNT,” Miles said.
He said there is nothing to immediately indicate whether it was the work of a team or a lone wolf.
Note the emphasis on controlling "precursors." This could be a prelude to attempts to control or restrict access to reloading components and supplies, including gun powder.

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