September 8th, 2011
02:41 PM ET

Air cargo bomb threat Achilles heel of international aviation security

By Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank, and Tim Lister

This article is based on an investigation of several months into the threat posed by explosive devices disguised in air cargo.

Late last October, a pair of innocuous packages were dropped off at a courier’s office in Sanaa, Yemen, for shipping to an address in Chicago. Hours later, the two brown boxes - stuffed with books, clothing, and brand new laser printers - were loaded into the cargo hold of passenger planes bound for Dubai and Doha on the first leg of their journey to the United States.

What the hundreds of passengers on those flights did not know was that ingeniously concealed in the printer cartridges inside those printers were explosive devices containing a white powdery chemical known as PETN.

Al Qaeda had found a potentially lethal flaw in aviation security. Conventional single beam X-ray machines rarely detect PETN. It was the same substance that had been smuggled aboard a U.S.-bound airliner by the alleged "underpants bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the previous Christmas. Western counter-terrorism sources say that chemically, the two batches were virtually identical, suggesting they’d been made by the same bomb-maker.

The printer bombs were timed to explode on the last leg of their journey over the eastern seaboard of the United States. Only a last-minute tip from Saudi intelligence led to their discovery at air cargo hubs in Germany and the UK. Around five times more PETN had been stuffed inside the cartridges than used in the failed attempt over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

"The aircraft could have been brought down," UK Home Secretary Theresa May told the British Parliament days later.

Today, passenger and cargo jets are still vulnerable to a well-disguised bomb containing the colorless and odorless PETN, according to multiple counter-terrorism sources. That is despite improving detection capabilities and greater international cooperation.

"There is no 100 percent, foolproof system for all cargo, all passengers," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN, "but what we can do and are doing is maximizing our ability to prevent such a plot from succeeding. Good intel, good information sharing."

One of those measures is more comprehensive screening. Despite the fact that approximately 60% of all air cargo enters the United States on passenger jets, not all of it is screened.

"Not all cargo is screened; all cargo, however, is looked at in some fashion. So it kind of depends on what you mean. Screening is a term of art, but no, we don't have 100 percent screening of all cargo at all times, that's correct," Napolitano told CNN.

The Department of Homeland Security is also carrying out ongoing assessments of the security of air cargo supply chains, including at points of origin and shippers. In thwarting potential plots, security experts emphasize intelligence tips are the first line of defense.

Despite the discovery of the printer bombs last October, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) was exuberant. "The following phase would be for us to use our connections to mail such packages from countries that are below the radar and to use similar devices on civilian aircrafts in Western countries," the group said in a special issue of its online magazine Inspire.

It also boasted of its technical prowess. "The toner cartridge contains the toner which is carbon based and that is an organic material. The carbon’s molecular structure is close to that of PETN."

According to explosive detection experts, the X-ray absorption of PETN and ink-toner is indeed similar. "They understood the technology and what it did up to a point," says Kevin Riordan, technical director at Smiths Detection, a UK company that is one of the leading producers of explosive detection.

"They are using novel techniques of concealment, novel materials in terms of containment, and novel materials in terms of explosives," he told CNN in an interview at a Smith facility in Doncaster, England.

The device was so well concealed in the printer that it took UK authorities many hours before they found the explosive device –- even after isolating the consignment containing the suspect package at East Midlands airport, several sources told CNN.

"[It]was examined by specialists and at their first examination they declared it not a bomb," according to Sidney Alford, an explosives expert who helped U.S. authorities in the initial stages of the investigation.

"Only when they received intelligence saying we think it is look again or words to that effect did the awful truth dawn on them. That must really have scared them."

Following the package bomb plot, the Department of Homeland Security mandated that all in-bound air cargo travelling to the United States on passenger jets should be screened by the end of 2011.

But according to explosive detection experts, even 100% screening offers no guarantees.

According to a June 2010 report by the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO), TSA officials have reservations about the effectiveness of using canine teams to screen for explosives. The white powdery explosive PETN in particular is difficult for sniffer dogs to detect because it has a low vapor pressure, meaning very little of it naturally disperses into the air, according to explosive detection experts.

Screening through physical search is impractical given the volume of cargo and the ease with which PETN can be hidden. Conventional X-ray machines may also fall short, a leading explosive detection expert told CNN.

Explosive detection experts say air cargo departure points around the world need a new generation of equipment. Napolitano says this has become a priority.

"We've now worked with the World Customs Organization, as well as with ICAO [the International Civil Aviation Organization] on improving standards for screening cargo for bombs but also mail. We've also been working on improving technology that gives us better screening capabilities," she told CNN.

The latest generation of explosive detection equipment involves two stages of scanning - an advanced X-Ray machine which provides a high-resolution image of contents which if suspicious prompts a second test. That involves swabbing the outside of the package or analyzing the air inside it. This technique –- known as explosive trace detection - can detect and identify extremely small quantities of explosive residue such as PETN, according to experts.

Smith Detection is working on such equipment. "PETN can be found quite easily in very small amounts using trace detection equipment and in bulk form by X-ray machines," director Kevin Riordan told CNN.

But he conceded that even with the latest equipment, al Qaeda could take steps to make detection more difficult. "We’d have to say there is always a way through," he told CNN. "The risk is never removed totally."

TSA administor John Pistole agrees. "We are in the risk mitigation, risk management business, not risk elimination," he said, "so we have multiple layers of security in place."

Explosive detection experts tell CNN that well-sealed explosives can be more difficult to detect. Ibrahim al Asiri, the Saudi AQAP bomb-maker suspected of being behind the package bomb plot and the Christmas Day 2009 plot which also involved a PETN-based device, appears to have been well aware of this.

"Good packaging and sealing of the explosive material prevents sniffing dogs or equipment from detecting the explosives," the authors of AQAP’s Inspire magazine wrote.

The new generation of machines are now routinely used to scan all checked and hand luggage at airports in the United States and Europe, according to explosive detection experts, but not all air cargo.

According to explosive detection experts, scanning air cargo presents a greater challenge than checked luggage because a high proportion of it has been consolidated into large pallets by the time it has arrived at airports and is ready to be loaded onto planes.

Efforts are therefore underway to scan air cargo as far "upstream" as possible. Large shipping companies have begun integrating the new generation of machines into their automated sorting systems.

Homeland security experts say that the private sector must step up to the plate if air cargo is to be secured.

"The U.S. has polices on how much cargo needs to be screened inbound. We can control that to some degree but we are very much reliant on our partners," Robert Liskouski, former director of infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security, told CNN.

"There is not one unified body in the world that overlooks cargo standards," Liskouski said.

Industry insiders in the field of explosive detection say that some parts of Africa and the Middle East are lagging behind in deploying the latest generation of explosive detection technology. They say more robust internationally agreed standards are vital.

"The global supply chain presents some challenges because the weakest link in that global supply chain can adversely affect the security throughout that supply chain," said Pistole.

"That IED on a plane is what we are focused on because of what we've seen with Christmas Day, obviously with Richard Reid the shoe-bomber, the liquids plot from August of '06, and then the Yemen cargo plot with the explosives on cargo planes in the toner cartridge printers," Pistole said.

To improve security in the shorter term, the United States and international partners have worked together with the governments of "high risk" countries such as Yemen to improve their air cargo detection capabilities. Smiths Detection, for example, has sold hand-held detection devices to international shipping companies operating in Yemen.

Pistole told CNN that all high risk cargo is being screened, including 100% of cargo from Yemen.

CNN asked explosives expert Sidney Alford to demonstrate the explosive power of the printer bombs dispatched by AQAP, by replicating as closely as possible the design and dimensions of the devices they used. The resulting explosion violently twisted and tore apart an aluminum sheet placed under the printer to simulate an aircraft’s skin. "If that had been part of an airplane’s fuselage then heaven help the airplane: it would have been a terminal event I’m afraid," Alford said.

The threat is all the more serious, according to U.S. counter-terrorism officials, because the AQAP bomb-maker responsible for constructing the printer cartridge devices - Ibrahim al Asiri - remains at large. The concern is that he is improving his already significant bomb-making abilities and could still be producing PETN, whose relative stability makes it convenient for transportation across long distances and slow to deteriorate.

"If he is still out there, then the threat is still out there," Alford said. "Whoever designed this, he is at the clever end of the scale."

While airports and couriers around the world were probably keenly aware of printer cartridges, Alford said, there were other ways to hide explosives. "And they’ll be wondering, what else have we been careless about?"

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  29. Rob Caro

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  30. wilbur

    I dare to say: The Crusades are going well. It appears the Crusades have been going on for about 1,000 years and we are just now aware of it due to Internet. The Crusades. It is this silly war, Catholics vs. Muslims. That is what we got. Of course, Christianity is the Religion of Death and Homicide and R ape, only good thing is Easter Bunny.

    September 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Reply
    • Greg

      Enjoy your cartoons, retard.

      September 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  31. Mr. Davidson

    More government scare propaganda.Petn must be detonated by a separate charge to ignite,typically a 1/4 stick of dynamite is used because PETN is also typically used in large amounts in car bombs. While It may be concealed itself its much less possible to conceal an adequate detonator such as dynamite or an ammunition type detonator. the Media here is in effect employing fear propaganda for our government,not to mention there are definite connections to the various bombers who were in CIA custody at one time or another. Hence why would Al Queda risk all the trouble when it was virtually impossible to ignite the show bomb with a lighter or the jock strap escapade or even the cartridges ,which was stated to be a trail run on security to begin with.Most Americans tend to fear and distrust with contempt the US government more than Al Queda because we already know what Al Queda is actually capable of . Add a little intentional negligence by government offiicials and a lot of plain lying.

    September 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Reply
    • wilbur

      Did you hear? TSA is going to start RECTUM EXAMS. There is no doubt, heard this from a good source. Seems Al Queda is sneaking a tiny rectal nuke into the USA. Terror threat super-duper. Rednecks: buy walmart ammo. Rectal nukes are here!

      September 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • Greg

      However, note that the article says experts looked at the printer cartridge bomb and declared it not a bomb. Only after they were told 'look again' did they discover it was indeed a bomb. I would say that this is a reasonable cause for concern. Why would the government want to artificially inflate the threat anyway? I'd be worried of them doing the opposite.

      September 11, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  32. chris h.

    why does the news media keep posting what should probably classified, so our enemies know what we CAN'T detect.
    Not enough bland filler or good news?

    September 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Reply
    • thebigon3

      PETN has been around for ages and anybody with a computer and a few brain cells can figure out how to make it and figure out that current explosive detection technology can't spot it. You make it sound like CNN is releasing some kind of classified documents. Just because you don't know anything about the subject don't expect that everyone else is just as ignorant.

      September 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Reply
    • Greg

      The article makes it clear that PETN can be detected, its just not as easy as other explosives. Keep in mind also that a bomb is much more than a chunk of PETN – there is atleast a trigger and detonator as well. Only one item needs to be detected, but the other bomb elements can be concealed as well. Its not a situation where these bombs either are impossible to detect or trivial to detect – its a gray area – an art. Our enemy already knows everything that was said in this article, I'm sure.

      September 11, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  33. UrsusRexx

    Re: Air Cargo bombs AND other threats to the common human good...
    <>...tomorrow is Sept.12.2011.
    ...For another year, I'll be free of politicians using purloined memories of 1 & 2 WTC, (where I worked 'til July, 2001; 359 K.I.A.!), to advance their ignorance-&-graft-laden careers! With the exception of, perhaps, Rudy '911' Guiliani, the rest of the year, politicians do us all the mercy of totally forgetting Sept.11th. even occurred, espicially when it comes to ignoring/burying 'first responder-cancer clubs'!
    While I'm cancer-free at present, (minus employment, and/or, health insurance, if/when that situation changes), I'm ALSO a former NYC First Responder, (1970's-1990's).
    And evengelical-fundamentalists, (wether of Christian, Jewish or Islamic varieties), will have to use something else when participating in their various 'moral gymnastics' competitions, attempting to explain how their Deity(s) kill thousands of humans at once while 'teaching' obscure doctrins to their ever-less-receptive hominds!
    I ALWAYS breathe a sign of relief on Sept.12th!

    Meanwhile, back in the Arms Trade, which seems not to have noticed or been affected by the current 1930's econo-depression...
    Human-portable surface-to-air missiles, ('manpad-S.A.M.'s' as their proud creators call them) are one of the premier technologies for removing airliners from the sky...generally minus the consent of any/all humans onboard, of course!
    Every country that makes 'man-pads' (the U.S, NATO, Russia, China, Israel, others...), has ALSO made gigantic profits selling them to the stone-age portions of humanity, which, while they may not have the resources to feed their children, ALWAYS seem to find the $$$ to purchase this year's human-extinction-devices!

    I noticed that, while I'm auto-excommunicated from the 'N.A.M.B.L.A., Rome' school-of-theology, (due to my support of gay equality, abortion, contraception, female & 'gay', (as opposed to 'closeted', molester-) clergy, I DON'T hear bishops, cardinals or popes denying their less & less used sacrements to the military, despite the military's overt willingness to commit ThermoNuclear War on the rest of us; ...If/when the next O'Bama/Perry/Palin/Bachman/Romney/Bush devise the next plausable deniability example, (aka, 'W.M.D.-Threat-Fantasy'), to superficially cover their lust for minerals / resources 'liberated' from that stone-aged culture!
    (Iraq, currently being sodomized for It's minerals/resources, comes to mind; BTW...we found those wmd's CondiSleeza Rice chirped inccessently about, right?...Didn't think so...).

    I recall the U.S military aid & weapons, (including 'Stingers"), given by that holy evengelical, Ollie North, to Osama Bin Ladin, W/O benefit of export licensing, &/or, all the other petty, legalistic / beaurecratic niceities normally REQUIRED by us mere mortals who wish to engage in the international arms trade...! Mr. North is presumably stumping for his favorite (evengelical) 2012-candidate, as opposed to being in jail for theft, murder, terrorism, etc. The weapons he provided to our 'then-friends', ( our 'enemies'), have NOT been accounted for...
    Every time I see the news, I wonder it that Taliban's M-16, (with the 'after-market', 160 rnd.-double-drum-clip') was once safely stored in a Camp Lejune, N. Carolina, warehouse...

    While some bishops DO object to NY State's governor 'living in sin' with his Significant Other, going on to demand HE, (Mr. Coumo), be denied the Eucharist, I DON'T see people who 'kill things-N-blow-sht-up', (a job description), suffering any such 'moral' deprivations. Could that be because Mr. Coumo is living with an 'adult' instead of exploiting a child?
    Hmmm...I live in the same, (alleged), 'state-of-sin'.

    A pope can excommunicate or, converserly, re-communicate a believer, like fellow neo-nazi Richard Williamson, or Tony 'Oil Profits' Blair, whose blood-soaked wealth is directly proportional to dead men, woman, children, (including the pope's precious 'foetels'), gay/straight/trans/celebite; And, of course, ALL the other life-forms destroyed in the mad rush to create Halliburton/KBR stockholder-dividends.

    When the same moral bluster mis-appropriated by Wee-Timmy-Dolan to castigate the NYC family security increase is applied, 'ex-cathedra', to REAL SINS ('Trident', 'B-2Stealth' and other such dubious achievements), perhaps we'll see an improvement in the decimated 'mass attendence' & 'lost vocations' statistics!!

    When an Anglican-to-Roman Catholic conversion, (like Mr. Blair's), is 'ON-HOLD' until there is an explanation of & repentence for War Crimes, (like Iraq), perhaps Mr. Ratzinger will find the small, obscure cannonical rule he needs to permit him to make good on his 'ridding-the-church-o'-filth' retoric, ( empty platitude at present)!! That is...perhaps Mr. Ratzinger will finally DROP his well-known oppoisition to reporting molestor clergy to the a '1ST. Item' on the protection-of-life check list!

    September 11, 2011 at 11:20 am | Reply
    • Semper Fidelis

      My, my, who threw your dummy out of your stroller??????? Where did THAT come from?

      This post is about thehalf witted Americans giving chapter and verse about how to kill decent Americans. Im'm surprised they didn't provide detailed plans and give the terrorists a few thousand Air Miles to be going on with.

      I'm just surprised you didn't manage to fit Israel in your Hate fest as well.

      I wouldn't call your President some of the names you lot call him ; not because I approve oh him but because of his Office. I' be grateful if you showed our Holy Father the same courtesy. Thank you.

      September 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • Semper Fidelis

      Sorry, I forgot to mention – No-one can BE excommunicated. You excommunicate yourself in the Catholic Church. If you do anything meriting excommunication, the Church investigates. If you continue – you set yourself outside the church and the church accepts your decision.

      The only thing is that we don't stick it on CNN !!!! Please don't make wild statements if you're not certain of the facts.

      September 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  34. wilbur

    Based on the number of anti-Muslim and Jewish statement, it appears we are re-doing the Crusades..... online this time.

    September 11, 2011 at 10:13 am | Reply
  35. illuminati

    The only way to stop problems is to halt transportation.
    Remove all implements of destruction (knives, bats, swords, guns, chemicals, automobiles, pencils, nails etc)
    Have each person in the world under constant surveilance (Where they go, who they talk to, conversations recorded, mail and packages opened and checked, email communications and phone conversations recorded, monitor their thoughts [comming soon} etc)
    Put everyone in jail who seems suspicious and does not conform to proper government ways of thinking, acting and behaving.
    Be certain no one has extra money to spend so they can not buy evil items.
    Monitor all of their personal belongings.
    Keep everyone at minimum wage.
    Give the population plenty of bread and circuses so they will not think about the government opperssion, otherwise they might revolt.
    No more officer friendly. Keep the people and the police at a distance from the people. Keep the interactions unfriendly.
    Make a privileged government oligarchy. Only the select privileged few can join and make it a family event from generation to generation.
    Remember that all of the citizens are the enemy and not to be trusted.
    Keep the police well armored. They must constantly wear armored clothing, & drive armored cars.
    Equip the police with armored personnel carriers. Arm the police with machine guns.
    Do not allow dissent or protests.
    Teach the people to spy and report on each other.
    Freedoms. That is an antiquated idea, The time is past for that. Trust the government, They will lead you and protect you.

    September 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Reply
    • wilbur

      You hit it on the head. the local police forces can literally do whatever they want...and they do. There is no longer controls. Nobody 'reads the newspaper', there are never enough people to be outraged. Outrage of any form is met with jailing based on false charges. How cop hauls anyone they want to jail or has sex with any woman: "I smell marijuana". all it takes. from there everyone assumes you guilty. thank you 9.11, anthrax mailings, and G. Bush.

      September 11, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • wilbur

      Sorry but the system is designed in USA to silence victims of brutality. All methods, including frantic referrals to mental health, false jailings, children being taken by the State and given to 'abusive' foster is horrible and terrible and pervasive beyond comprehension. USA now equals USSR but controlled by the Templar.

      September 11, 2011 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • Sharp

      Sadly much of this has already happened. Also the ruling elite now own a major political party outright & heavily control the other one. Their propaganda machine is unmatched in it's cleverness & skill.

      September 11, 2011 at 10:40 am | Reply
  36. albert c

    Did anyone else notice that Cheney recently said iin his interview on CNN: that bin Laden was "captured and killed". How's that – they supposedly just shot him on sight...what capture? Fruedian slip by Cheney maybe, but I think that whole story is a lie.....

    September 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • kirk

      Bin Ladens daughter has said all along that he was held alive for 30 minutes before they shot him in the head.

      September 11, 2011 at 9:45 am | Reply
  37. Inciteful

    Despite what you protest to the contrary, unless we actually have the means to detect the transport of PETN, your publishing of this information is TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE.

    September 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  38. MrMe....

    God, we are so stubid and wasting our money and time with this problem, I wish I am in charge of the Airport security. First, boarding the airplane is naked. But naked. You are only allowed to cary cloth with you while traveling. You get a trash bag in the airport to but you shi**t. you don't like it, fu**ing walk to whereever you want to go.......

    September 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Reply
    • jdoe

      They're talking about screening cargo, dummy.

      September 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Reply
      • illuminati

        they are talking about screening brains idiot.

        September 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
      • Mrme

        I know, but because you are retarded brainless moron, you missed the point.

        September 10, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • cykill

      i hope I never have to live my life in such fear.
      I'm not that afraid of terrorism, why don't you give up a few more rights for the illusion of security?

      September 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Reply
      • illuminati

        I fear the government not the terrorists.

        September 10, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
      • wilbur

        Look, until you guys grow up and take the Rectal Nuke situation seriously there is no choice

        September 11, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • wilbur


      September 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  39. JeffinIL

    Underwear Bomber: Couldn't successfully blow off his own nuts.
    Printer: Also didn't work.
    Apparently, this stuff isn't very effective.
    Don't worry, TSA is still confiscating paperclips and tweezers.

    September 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Reply
    • illuminati

      Are you obsessive compulsive about sexual parts of your body?

      September 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Reply
      • JeffinIL

        I have no idea what you're on about. If it's an attempt at humor, I'm over 14 and don't see it.

        September 11, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  40. Sharp

    The obvious cure is to totally separate cargo from passengers. This will eventually happen when the terrorists manage to bring down an airplane. The passengers are unwilling guinea pigs in this experiment. Of course the argument is that separating the people & the cargo would cost too much money. That is the difference between how real people value human life & how rich people value human life. We also need to kill lots more towelheads. We are still making nice with these terrorists; Not a good plan when you are fighting a war.

    September 10, 2011 at 10:27 am | Reply
    • Dave

      ... and you are willing to pay triple the costs for an airline ticket to do this ?

      September 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Reply
      • Sharp

        Better to pay triple than wake up dead. Triple is an exaggeration.

        September 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • wilbur

      No, those big boys and girls are a bunch of JUDGMENTAL NUTS who believe it is good to PREACH to the rest of the world while we live here in a CESSPOOL of fear! Nobody remembers: it was the Anthrax that made us fear. IT WAS NOT 9.11 IT WAS NOT HIJACKERS IT WAS THE FREAKING ANTHRAX DOES NOT ANYONE REMEMBER?

      September 11, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Reply
    • SAM

      What do you mean by "real" people and "rich" people.
      are you saying "rich" people aren't "real" people.
      my family is fairly wealthy and i am quite sure that we are all "real" people

      September 11, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  41. wilbur

    First of all, it is a mostly made-up problem. is better all around if luggage were shipped seperately to destination. Going from LA to Denver? Bring luggage (somewhere...Fed Exp maybe on govvy TSA subsidy) and it is there waiting upon arrival at final destination. This way all cargo can be 'behind scenes sniffed and processed". Keeps it out of luggage racks. Makes the whole system better.

    September 10, 2011 at 12:10 am | Reply
  42. Ed

    It's great how often there are articles and news about our weaknesses. I imagine this will prove useful for terrorists who can just read this and know what to do next.

    September 9, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Reply
    • Vesstair

      Yes- without articles such as these, the terrorists would NEVER discover the security holes they have already tried to exploit!

      September 10, 2011 at 9:58 am | Reply
    • Sharp

      NEVER make the mistake of convincing yourself that your enemy is stupid. Whatever else these towelhead terrorists are, they are not stupid.

      September 10, 2011 at 10:30 am | Reply
  43. DiscoverTheComma!

    Wow, three writers for this article and none of them could manage to figure out how to use commas!

    September 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Reply
    • OldCactus

      There is always a jerk likle you who really has nothing to say but feels compelled to say something.

      September 10, 2011 at 12:27 am | Reply
      • dneimeier

        Actually, given that this is a news site, and journalism is at the heart of this service, comments on proper grammar are completely appropriate. I find it completely distracting when I go to a professional site that butchers language and grammar. It takes away from the experience (and to a small extent, understanding). It is completely reasonable to call out professionals for screwing up a basic skill they should have learned in middle school and points to the problem of the news machine that we currently have – pump out quantity, to hell with quality...

        September 10, 2011 at 5:39 am |
    • illuminati

      What is a coma?

      September 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  44. madness

    Why not check through air freight and throw away suspect items like printers, laptops, cheap electrical goods than can be bought local and cheaper than the cost of shipping with DHL or FEDEX, when I see the crap some people travel with I'm always confused, I take about 30 flights per year, see TV's and other electronic sh"te being carted around the world,, fully understand a personal laptop full of work/data/information being required, but other stuff unless its urgent medical equipment should be banned,

    September 9, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Reply
    • wilbur

      Thank you. True. Especially women, they pack 3 bags of garbage and use two outfits. Need something? Buy it when/if needed on travel. Pack the bong, hide the weed good ('cause that is all they are REALLY after) and get on plane.

      September 10, 2011 at 12:13 am | Reply
  45. GT

    Solution: semi-nude flights. No luggage allowed.

    Effect: Terrorism virtually eliminated from flights. Local economies get HUGE boost in sales. It's a win-win!!

    September 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • wilbur

      YES! Let the Casino industry run the airlines! Hand out roofies and free wine to the ladies. Nobody going to blow up THAT airplane.

      September 10, 2011 at 12:16 am | Reply
    • Knucklehead

      Everybody partially nude? Now I'm truly terrorized...

      September 10, 2011 at 9:13 am | Reply
  46. Carlos

    Man, those Al Qaeda guys are evil. They are patting themselves on the back for thinking of clever ways to try to kill innocent people.

    September 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Reply
    • wilbur

      Carlos, you mexican....your job here in America is to shut up and agree with everything. You are only doing half your job.

      September 10, 2011 at 12:17 am | Reply
    • Me

      September 10, 2011 at 6:35 am | Reply
  47. Tom

    PETA is more scary than PETN.

    September 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Reply
    • docfee

      you are an idiot.

      September 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
      • OldCactus

        @docfee, you got him pegged.

        September 10, 2011 at 12:29 am |
      • illuminati

        Just swallow some PETN and eat a PETA today. You will feel beetter in the morning

        September 10, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Knucklehead

      Yep...;just one letter away from exploding dogs....imagine the Westbury dog's too much to contemplate..

      September 10, 2011 at 9:15 am | Reply
  48. Tom

    "... a white powdery chemical known as PETN ... the colorless and odorless PETN"

    Isn't white a color?

    September 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Reply
    • tom

      Actually no, white is not a color. Just like black is not a color, they are shades. Colors are made up of the RGB spectrum. Its not nice to pick out tiny errors in news articles, especially if they are not errors!

      September 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Reply
      • Phil

        In additive color mixing, RGB does. In subtractive color mixing, it does not.

        Additive (Red, Green, Blue) light - white.
        Subtractive (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) - black.

        September 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
      • david cuellar

        if white is not a color than you are saying there are no colors...think about it, oh yeah, black is a shade and can be considered a color by mixing three certain colors. Do you know which colors...learn before you try to teach a subject

        September 10, 2011 at 12:03 am |
      • OldCactus

        White is a mixture of all colors of the spectrum, black is a total absence of color.

        September 10, 2011 at 12:34 am |
      • Knucklehead

        White contains all the colors...

        September 10, 2011 at 9:15 am |
      • illuminati

        It is actually invisible and weightless. It has no mass and cannot be touched or felt.

        September 10, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • illuminati

      PETN is actually colorless, odorless, invisible, weightless, takes up no space and is undetectable.
      My God!!! Let us kill ourselves now before the terrorists or the government does.

      September 10, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  49. Zoglet

    Spread the fear presenations bring you "PETN" – just when you thought it was safe to return to the airport!
    Seriously, your more likely to die through a drunk pilot than a terrorist attack.

    September 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • Korova Milkbar

      Fear the mollusk!!!

      September 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  50. jeko

    What I would like to see is the Federal Goverment ban ALL airlines that enter this country from the middle east for 12 months. No countries airlines could enter this if they are hauling middle eastern passangers! Shut down the airlines!

    Oh, wait! That would only happen if Texas banned the TSA for molesting little children!

    Sorry! We return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

    September 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Reply
    • hawaiiduude

      Yes and lets include those pesky israelis in the no fly list cause they seem to get us involved in all kinda wars that have nothing to do with our security.

      September 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Reply
    • OldCactus

      It appears you strive to be the town clown, unfortunately you have only become the village moron.

      September 10, 2011 at 12:35 am | Reply
    • Knucklehead

      If they can figure out how to obtain and package PETN don't you think they could find another way in the country?

      Do us all a favor: don't vote next election.

      September 10, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • Sharp

      Sadly the government is obviously willing to bet civilian lives vs extra costs that it's team can counter the terrorists team. Your ban on air traffic from towelhead countries might just be plan B or C. AFTER we lose 2 or 3 aircraft & lots of civilian lives if our team drops the ball. Too bad we don't get to check the folder in the Pres briefcase. (The one the military aide follows him around with.)

      September 10, 2011 at 10:53 am | Reply
  51. Prakash

    Check this out. They might have used PETN in New Delhi Blast.

    September 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  52. Marco

    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab likes little boys.

    September 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • hawaiiduude

      Only after ben nuttinyahu is finished violating them

      September 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Reply
      • Korova Milkbar

        ...and Barack Hussein Obama is finished fondling them.

        September 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
      • OldCactus

        I'll bet you are involved somehow.

        September 10, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  53. Daniyal

    Hey CNN: IRRESPONSIBLE. First ammendment aside, are you actually putting a security weakness out on the Internet for our enemies to Read. What are you stupid? Have you totally lost your mind. I wonder if the editor, writer and senior execs will think about this if we ever come under attack again..probably not cause you'll be too busy reporting it after the fact....This breach of common sense disgusts me.

    September 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Reply
    • Marco

      The al queda scum and their wh0re mothers already know about this vulnerability because they are trying to exploit it. By gettng the word out there, they'll realize that we know what they're up to and look for something else. Now we just need to find out what the next one is and then the next one etc. etc.

      September 9, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Reply
    • Dale

      Hey Daniyal,

      Sshhhhh, don't tell anyone, but I think these guys might already know about this.

      September 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Reply
    • Alex

      Man do I agree with you, but I think the terrorists already know this.

      September 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Reply
      • OldCactus

        All of them or only some. Now they all know, even the ones who are not associated with Al Queada

        September 10, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • Knucklehead

      Relax. This is a crafty ploy to get rid of the stupid terrorists first. Right now, idiots are blowing up all over the Middle East as they strive to pack PETN into printer cartridges...

      September 10, 2011 at 9:19 am | Reply
    • Sharp

      The history is this. During early WWII the Japanese had their depth bombs set wrong & our subs got off easy. Some stupid reporter published this & guess what the Japanese did? Since then there is careful monitoring of these things. The senior editors are well briefed & their job is on the line if confidential matters are revealed. Seriously, dude use your brain. The situation is already covered by people in both journalism & government. Leave the thinking to the big boys & girls.

      September 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      I agree! Sure, the "real terrorists" already know this but these kind of stories only incite the "amateurs" to try something! Amateurs are much more dangerous than the "professional" terrorists!

      September 16, 2011 at 9:49 am | Reply
  54. Granny

    I just wonder if anyone finds it strange when news media write about the security vulnerabilites that Al Qaeda might use does anyone think MAYBE THEY ARE LISTENING. The media has their 1st ammendment right but at what point are they giving out TOO much information. Just think about it! I shiver when I hear a new broadcast that starts with something that Al Qaeda might try because it is a "vulnerability".

    September 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • Phil

      So what. You don't think these guys already know that?

      I can easily find sites instructing me on how to make a bomb. I can read about vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants. I can view schematics on how nuclear weapons are built.

      All of this stuff is common knowledge.

      September 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Reply
    • Knucklehead

      That's true, but as soon as they log on to post a comment, we've got them!! Way to go CNN!!

      September 10, 2011 at 9:20 am | Reply
  55. themick

    whatever freak

    September 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  56. Iamthebeast Sssotlohiefmjn

    I myself American, Beast. I appreciate that God raises up Al Qaeda, Tim McVeigh and many others to fight my enemies the people in the US government variously in all America and worldwide. I prayed more then 10 years against the World Trade Center wherein a business called THE BEAST . COM about the 81st floor of the North Tower offended me. The Pentagon vs my Hexagram and their White House vs mine that God beholds.
    In my view Obama, Bush, Supreme Court Judges and a host of many others are the ones illegal and with blood guiltiness that should be dragged down and slain with wrath and anger but I am only one man except I know a lot of people that agree with me and even then, I am only one person unless GOD is my Heart and CHRIST is my Hand.
    Naw, I think the real terrorists are Obama who says it is ok and just to kill americans without trials or any format of due process, and tremble in their homes with thoughts of being burnt alive in an instant, they are cowards and evil, they fear dont they?
    I hope I am brave cause my Lord does not like cowards and neither do I have a taste for them. I rather not offend anyone but believe honesty is important and a society thyat covers the feelings of its people will suffer in time for that repression more so then the ones that are brave and allow free speech utterly.
    I do not fear the lake of fire or end times because I have a God that has always been my helper and companion. I rest in my God. To me men like Obama who justify the use of their flesh to do evil are illegal and when I am able I do foul their plans and works send curses all over and in them.
    I do njot know what Al Qaeda plans, I only know I dream of meteors raining down terror and fire, and earthquakes that rock the earth to and fro, storms with wind and waters to desolate and destroy, these are the thoughts I have all the time. These are what I thirst for, chaos and confussion, conflict on mankind. I do not desire to be another. it is the sins I see that raise me against them I see sinning. I see sin of acts like saying its ok to kill americans with no trial or due process by a black hole in the white house and fat judges that are no fellow of mine.
    I bless Al Qaeda and pray they continue in their vain efforts.

    September 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Reply
    • us1776

      I see your meds rolled under your bed again.

      September 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Reply
    • Dan

      Take english Lessons you freaking Retard.

      September 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Reply
    • Choad

      Bravo! Hear, Hear! Right On! Huzzah!

      September 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
    • ihatemuslims....most of them smell

      do you guys ever bath? most muslims i've met are unpleasant to be around. you smell. take your stink and go away.oh yeah........why are their thousands of men in the streets in the middle of the day.don't you people work? if you're not working....why do you smell so bad?

      September 10, 2011 at 8:42 am | Reply
      • Did you know...

        White people smell like wet dogs?

        September 10, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Knucklehead

      How 'bout you go off by yourself and play with explosives? Let Allah guide you...

      September 10, 2011 at 9:23 am | Reply
  57. John

    I think you should all get a life!!

    September 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  58. Gorgon

    Isn't PETN one of those Christian Televangelical outfits?

    September 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • Craig

      Now that's funny.

      September 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  59. Greg

    September 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • ME

      That's four minutes of my life I'll never get back. No points for you.

      September 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Reply
    • the1calleddoc

      How about putting packages from international flights in containers that contain or minimize such a small explosion from such a small amount petn? Then if it did detonate the explosion could be minimized and cause less damage and not bring a flight down.

      September 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Reply
      • bill mahr the idiot

        or better yet , instead of building planes out of lightweight aluminum build them out of steel and concrete.

        September 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  60. A Noun

    Let's talk a moment about sheer common sense.

    Nobody in their right mind ships a laser printer. Printers are cheap and plentiful, and cost less to buy new than to ship.

    Nobody in their right mind ships toner in the same box as clothing; too much can happen to it. Even a non-tainted toner cartridge can be damaged in shipping, thereby ruining all the clothing.

    This should have been red-flagged on the basis of sheer common sense from the beginning.

    September 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • Davethecanuck

      Ever notice how obvious some things seem in hindsight.
      Or have you ever noticed how easy things seem when you are expecting someone else to do it?

      I'd love to review some of the work you've done in your profession... year round perfection I'm sure.

      September 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Reply
  61. M

    @Greg: Please cite your sources. Otherwise I'm still buying the simple explanation : some clever wackos in Yemen just wanted to blow up a plane.

    September 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Reply
  62. Harvey

    The terrorists; long term goal is poke us every once and a while with a stick and watch us spend millions to billion to counteract threats that may cost them a few thousand to launch. Their intent is to topple the United States government by bankrupting it in oblivion. Just like what we did with the Soviet Union.

    Unfortunately, it just might work,

    September 9, 2011 at 11:52 am | Reply
    • Knucklehead

      Harvey, look up. I think we're at least halfway there.

      September 10, 2011 at 9:26 am | Reply
  63. Greg

    It was already verified by several sources in Germany and Great Britian that the printer cartridges did not contain real PETN or detinators. These shipments were sent by our national security infra as a false flag to help justify increased draconian security measures. CNN doesn't seem to understand the false flag concept. Maybe because they are too busy reading NSA and TSA press releases to the general public while calling it news.

    September 9, 2011 at 11:39 am | Reply
    • Rob

      Greg, you need to lay off the crack pipe.

      September 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  64. John

    stan t....I guess you missed Thomas's sarcasm.

    September 9, 2011 at 10:51 am | Reply
  65. us1776

    al-Qaeda, as a philosophy of using terrorism to effect change, is DEAD !! Completely dead.

    The Arab Spring uprisings were far, far more effective at producing change than any of the al-Qaeda terrorism over the past 20 years.

    That's not to say that there are not still some lone terrorist actors out there that still cling to the old ideas.

    But the heyday for al-Qaeda as a philosophy is over.


    September 9, 2011 at 10:21 am | Reply
    • common sense

      Yea Al queada theories are dead. Oh btw, the founding father of the Libyian Arab Spring used to roll with Osama and now 20,000 SAMs are missing.

      Oh they're dead alright, they're dead until they get enough US money to "rebuild their county."

      September 9, 2011 at 10:47 am | Reply
      • GPerform

        He was not a "founding father" of the Libyan Arab Spring uprising, he was one of the commanders because he was in jail with a bunch of LIFG members and after "renouncing" the ways of AQ (I agree with you that it seems a bit opportunist) he was released and now he's a Libyan resistance fighter. He fought the soviets in Afghan but that doesn't entail that he was "rolling" with Usama. A lot of the Arabs fighting the soviets were not part of the Taliban rule nor AQ and that’s just simple history. Lastly Libya doesn't possess 20,000 SAMs, no country does in that matter and even if you tallied up all the SAMs in the middle east it wouldn't even come close to that number. Once you start exaggerating facts or misconstruing them to make a point, your credibility goes out the window.

        September 9, 2011 at 11:22 am |
      • heyheyhey

        Look I know you love watching US soldiers die. We get it, how about you go and troll somewhere else GPerform.

        or better yet, move to libya if it's so much better

        September 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
      • GPerform

        How was that a "troll" post at all? Stating facts was all that I did, and I actually agree with the orignal posts about the theories. I just don't agree with people using half of a fact to justify a point being made.

        And just to add, my job is to keep U.S. troops from dying lol gotta love civs

        September 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
      • Knucklehead

        ...and Ollie North ran with drug dealers and illegal arms traders. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

        September 10, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  66. Thomas

    It is a good thing we know that terrorists don't read CNN on the Internet Tubes.

    Other wise we would be giving them valuable information for free.

    Why does the media make the terrorist's job easier?

    September 9, 2011 at 9:30 am | Reply
    • stan t

      just because YOU werent aware of these issues doesnt mean the terrorists didnt already know about it. anyone with the inclination and ability to do us harm already knows about this.

      September 9, 2011 at 10:13 am | Reply
    • waves

      If you had read the article you would notice the terrorists had already used this plot. They know all about PETN and know about the weakness in our security. Nothing in this article wasn't something they didn't already know.

      September 9, 2011 at 11:58 am | Reply
    • Blessed Geek

      One of Alqaeda's strategy is to induce people into being as intelligent as Thomas.

      September 9, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Reply

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