2011-07-07 18:07:59 UTC
And will they be manned, or womaned, by certified proctologists?
"US warns airlines: Terrorists interested in surgically implanting
bombs in humans for attacks"
By Associated Press
July 6, 2011
WASHINGTON — Airlines are being warned by the government that
terrorists are considering surgically hiding bombs inside humans to
evade airport security. As a result, travelers may find themselves
subjected to more scrutiny when flying in the heart of summer vacation
season, especially to the U.S. from abroad.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department sent a memo to security
officials around the country on Wednesday about “body packing,”
describing it as a “criminal tactic with possible terrorist
The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, cited a 2005 incident in
which Colombian men were accused of surgically implanting narcotics
into human couriers.
The memo offered possible indicators of surgically implanted
contraband, including a distended stomach or other unusual bulging,
and visible physical discomfort from a pat-down.
Bombs-in-the-body is not a new idea, but recent intelligence indicates
a fresh interest in using this method. People-scanning machines in
airports aren’t able to detect explosives hidden inside humans. Still,
there is no current information that points to a specific plot
involving surgically implanted explosives, a U.S. security official
said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss such sensitive
As airport security has increased since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror
attacks, so has the terrorists’ creativity in developing methods to
get around it. Aviation continues to be a special target, and evidence
from Osama bin Laden’s compound showed that the al-Qaida leader
retained his fascination with attacking airplanes until his death in
Last year, it was reported that British officials uncovered
intelligence that al-Qaida was seeking to surgically implant bombs
inside people, a move some believed was prompted by the use of full-
body imaging machines at major airports around the world.
“This is something we’ve been concerned about for quite some time,”
said J. Bennet Waters, a security consultant with the Washington, D.C.-
based Chertoff Group and a former Transportation Security
Administration official in the Bush administration.
The U.S. government has been working with foreign air carriers and
governments to identify ways to discover hidden explosives, including
bombs potentially hidden inside of humans. Officials did not want to
discuss specific security measures under consideration so as not to
tip off terrorists who could seek ways to get around them.
Once a terrorist finds a willing suicide bomber, secures the explosive
material and makes the bomb, carrying off this tactic is not that
difficult, said Chris Ronay, a former chief of the FBI explosives
“It’s rather easy and the damage could be rather severe,” Ronay said.
Surgery to implant explosives could be done a couple of days before a
planned attack, said James Crippin, an explosives expert in Colorado.
In order for it to work, there would need to be a detonation device,
and it’s conceivable that if the explosive was implanted in a woman’s
breast, the detonator could be underneath the breast so that all the
operative would have to do is press downward, Crippin said.
But Jimmie C. Oxley, a chemistry professor at the University of Rhode
Island and explosives expert, said it would be tough to carry out such
an effort successfully. She said there are only so many places to hide
a bomb in the body, and a suicide bomber would have to recover enough
from the surgery to travel and set off the device.
The al-Qaida offshoot in Yemen has emerged as the most inventive
terror organization these days and has been behind two plots that
nearly brought down planes over the U.S. The group, known as al-Qaida
in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, was behind the Christmas Day attack
in 2009 when a Nigerian hid a bomb in his underpants and nearly
brought down an airliner over Detroit.
AQAP operatives also concealed bombs in printer cartridges last
October, shipping them to Chicago addresses. That attack was thwarted
because of specific intelligence about the plot.
In late December, the U.S. received intelligence that the Yemen group
was considering hiding explosives in the insulated lining of beverage
containers and carrying them aboard airplanes. There was no
information pointing to a specific plot with insulated beverage
containers, but, like the recent intelligence about the implanted bomb
tactic, the Transportation Security Administration warned domestic and
foreign carriers to be on the lookout.
“Due to the significant advances in global aviation security in recent
years, terrorist groups have repeatedly and publicly indicated
interest in pursuing ways to further conceal explosives,” TSA
spokesman Nick Kimball said, adding that passengers flying into the
U.S. may notice additional security. “Measures may include interaction
with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods
such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies.”
Officials would not specify which terrorist organizations are thought
to be considering this surgical tactic.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. counterterrorism efforts
must evolve as terror groups publicly indicate their interest in
finding ways to conceal explosives.
“The idea that terrorists have been looking for other ways to
circumvent security measures to target aircraft is not at all
surprising,” Carney said.
[Associated Press writer Julie Pace contributed to this report.]