In Case You Missed It

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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