Leadership Journal Archive
October 12, 2007 - January 19, 2008

April 4, 2008

In Case You Missed It

A map with the alleged targets of London terror plot. The targets are flights to San Francisco, Chicago Toronto, Washington, D.C., New York and Montreal.
While the media dwell on celebrity peccadilloes and microscopic analysis of political comments, sometimes really important news gets overlooked. Right now, buried in the pages of a number of U.S. newspapers is a very significant story that tells us a lot about why we need some of the moderately inconvenient security measures with which we live.

If you fly commercially, you will remember that about 18 months ago new restrictions on hand-carried liquids were imposed at airports here and overseas. As we explained at the time, these actions were the result of a major disrupted plot to detonate liquid explosives on airliners flying from Britain to North America. Because we couldn’t say more without violating British legal rules, some of you may have wondered whether the plot was all that serious.

The trial of a number of the plotters is now underway in a London courtroom. The details being unfolded are riveting – and chilling. Unfortunately, the trial is not getting much play in our domestic news outlets, but the evidence should be required reading for those who travel by air.

As the prosecutor has explained, the plotters intended to smuggle liquid explosives on airplanes in plastic bottles of popular soft drinks. To conceal the liquid explosives, the terrorists injected them into the bottles with a syringe and used food coloring to approximate the appearance of a drink. Blueprints showed in court demonstrated how the explosives could be combined with detonators in mid-air.

The targets: at least half a dozen flights, including aircraft headed for Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Particularly disturbing, the terrorists intended to detonate these bombs only when the aircraft were all midway over the Atlantic Ocean and packed with summer travelers. The sinister idea was that after the first plane exploded, the others would be too far from land to reach safety before the next detonation.

Not much imagination is required to conceive of the horror that would have been experienced when word of the first explosion reached crews and even passengers of other transatlantic flights.

Was the plot real? The courtroom was told that the plot was “almost ready.”

I recommend following this story in the newspapers over the next few weeks (if you can find it). The evidence is powerful proof of the reason that we work 24/7 to avert terrorist plots by devoting time, money, and energy to security.

Michael Chertoff

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  • It's great to see Mr Chertoff working so hard every day to scare people and try to turn this country to a police state.....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 7, 2008 4:19 PM  

  • Thanks for doing your job

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 8, 2008 5:22 PM  

  • Apparently the Secretary fails to realize that the alleged plot would be impossible to actually carry out.

    By Anonymous Eric, At April 8, 2008 11:13 PM  

  • Eric:

    In case you missed it ... An identical plot/action has already been carried out ... with success.

    1994 PAL (Philippine Air Lines) returned body of one of their Japanese passengers to his next of kin in two parts. One part was recovered from the passenger cabin, the other from the baggage compartment.

    The bomb used a liquid explosive and was assembled in flight. The explosive was disguised as a bottle of contact lens fluid.

    Only through Herculean efforts and extraordinary flying skills was the flight deck crew able to avert the crash of the airliner.

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Airlines_Flight_434 or


    The threat and ability to succeed is indeed very real.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2008 8:02 AM  

  • My wife and I flew from London to DC on United 925, one of the flights that was targeted, in September 2006, within the time frame that these terrorists were contemplating to carry out their plot. Thank you to the employees of the Department of Homeland Security, and to other U.S. and British authorities, for their hard work in unraveling this plot and preventing this attack.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2008 3:04 PM  

  • Before you make uneducated assumptions on the "impossible"
    plot, maybe you should research before saying something ignorant on this blog.

    And im glad Chertoff is open about this, because it in fact reenforces TSA's mission with proof.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2008 6:45 PM  

  • The mere fact that you resort to using wiki for a good source of information speaks volumes.

    The bomb was assembled from component parts. They didn't attempt to make liquid explosives on board the plane. They smuggled them in.

    United States prosecutors said the device was a "Mark II" "microbomb" constructed using Casio digital watches as described in Phase I of The Bojinka Plot of which this was a test. On Flight 434, Yousef used one tenth of the explosive power he planned to use on eleven U.S. airliners in January 1995. The bomb was, or at least all of its components were, designed to slip through airport security checks undetected. The explosive used was liquid nitroglycerin, which was disguised as a bottle of contact lens fluid. Other ingredients included glycerin, nitrate, sulfuric acid, and minute concentrations of nitrobenzene, silver azide (silver trinitride), and liquid acetone. The wires he used were hidden in the heel of his shoe. At that time, metal detectors used in airports did not go down far enough to detect anything there.

    Got to try harder. Those guys are lucky that stuff didn't go off in the way into the airport.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 9, 2008 8:37 PM  

  • Wow! That is an amazing plot to say the least. I'm so glad that the government is there to protect us when needed. I'll stand in longer lines at the airport any day just to insure that I am safe when I travel. - Michael New Jr.

    By Blogger Michael, At April 10, 2008 4:23 PM  

  • QUOTE:

    The bomb was assembled from component parts. They didn't attempt to make liquid explosives on board the plane. They smuggled them in.

    You made the point. It incredibly difficult to accurately combine the components of the liquid explosive on board. THAT IS THE SPECIFIC REASON ... for the 3.4 ounce limitation.

    The explosive used was in an 8 oz bottle.

    The other components were assembled to it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 13, 2008 4:07 PM  

  • Hmmm, 1qt approz = 1L

    3 3.4/100mL bottles > 8 oz, use the bag for mixing and you're right back from where you started. Nice try, but no cookies for you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At April 20, 2008 9:09 PM  

  • @eric:

    that's what they said about 9/11 after it happened.

    By Blogger Suzie, At April 30, 2008 1:34 PM  

  • Mr. Chertoff,

    Thankyou very much for this article. I'll try my best to evince a follow up in the MSM but, as you mentioned, there will be little coverage there which is why I rely on this space for what "they" will not print.

    And thankyou for doing a great job. Impressive. Thanks also to the men and women of the DHS and others who risk their lives daily so that our 'police state' might remain free and our liberties not taken for granted.

    Vaxen Var

    By Blogger CyberDeck 13, At May 17, 2008 6:29 PM  

  • As a former TSO at OAK when the liquids ban was placed in effect, and a 24 year US Navy Veteran. I applaud the work that all of the fine TSO's are doing. I do realize the plausability of terrorists using these liquid explosive techniques.
    I am proud to say that I continue to work with a different branch of the DHS and I salute my former comrades that continue to work on the front line. Bravo Zulu to all.

    By Anonymous mike, At June 4, 2008 11:25 PM  

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