Friday, July 29, 2011

Bullshit Bomb Plot

Oh my, another bomb plot foiled. The world is safe for Democracy again, thanks to the vigilance of your Amerikan Law Enforsement. They can't spell for shit, but they have guns and badges and egos the size of Texas, yeehaw!

OK, to begin, a practical concession to the current environment of "security" paranoia. This scribble is not intended to encourage anyone to make things that go boom, or to teach anyone how. Demolitions is scary shit, even when working with good quality, commercially manufactured ordnance, and I discommend it. Demolitions of the improvised sort are an order of magnitude more unstable, and I strongly discommend it. Period, full stop, end of sentence.

This scribble is intended to highlight certain practical aspects of hypothetical construction of such improvised demolitions, in order to show how law enforcement and their tame media regularly distort the facts of such alleged cases.

There are two main things you need to know.

First, smokeless powder is not an explosive.

Second, the detonators are the issue.

Point One - Gunpowder

The stuff of Hollywood. We all grow up thinking we know what it is. Well, with a helpless shrug of apology to Woody Allen, let me present to you, dear reader, "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Gunpowder, But Were Afraid To Ask". I will keep this short and simple, I promise.

Basically, there are two types of gunpowder.

The original gunpowder is called Black Powder, and was apparently devised by the Chinese, and used as far back as the Three Kingdoms period, circa the 3rd century AD. Black Powder is a mixture of charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter.

Black Powder is a true explosive, albeit what is classified as a "low explosive".

In the mid-to-late 19th century, Smokeless Powder came into use. Smokeless Powder is a form of nitrocellulose; the first variety was made by pouring nitric acid on cotton, and was called guncotton. Later, nitroglycerin was added to the process.

Smokeless Powder is not an explosive.

Let me say that again. Smokeless Powder is not an explosive.

There are immense quantities of detail which I have omitted for purposes of brevity, but that is the gist of the issue.

Point Two - Detonators Are The Issue.

Every time a story like this breaks, the media breathlessly inform us that "bomb-making materials" were found in the suspect's car/home/backpack/rectum/whatever.

Take a deep breath. You have "bomb-making materials" in your home. So do your neighbours. So does your minister, (rabbi, priest, high priestess, imam, prayer leader, church elder, whatever). "Bomb-making materials" are everywhere. If you don't believe me, root around and find a copy of the old Anarchists Cookbook. Yes, yes, it's verboten reading material these days, but there are still copies floating around out there. FFS, do not, repeat not, try any of the recipes in there, because half of them are likely to blow up in your face, but the point remains the same.

Bomb-making materials are everywhere.

Timmy McVeigh (allegedly) blew up the OKC Federal building with a bomb improvised from lawn fertilizer. In actual point of fact, there were obviously demolitions planted inside the building as well, as attested to by the fact that the broken ends of the concrete beams were rounded rather than jagged, but the point remains, he made a hell of a big boom with explosive improvised from materials you can buy at Home Depot.

The issue is detonators.

It is not possible to improvise an effective and reliable remote detonator, using readily available materials. It cannot be done. The only practical solution is to use commercially produced electrical detonators, what are commonly called "blasting caps".

And those cannot be bought. The only way to obtain them is to steal them, usually from a construction company. And if you're going to break in and steal detonators, why not steal the commercially produced explosives stored nearby (yes, they really do that), at the same time?

So, next time you read another breathless announcement about "bomb-making materials", stop and think about this. Are you getting facts, or a ration of shit?


  1. About 20 years ago one of my neighbors (who lived less than a block down the street from my house) was arrested because he was constructing pipe bombs in his garage. So how was he discovered you ask? Did his family turn him in? No. Did one of his neighbors turn him in? No. The fact of the matter is that, apparently while finishing the construction thereof, one of his bombs exploded. It cost him 3 fingers, a broken eardrum and a prison sentence of more than 20 years. The thing is, he was LUCKY. With the quantity of explosives there in his garage he could easily have killed himself AND his family (possibly even members of the households closest to his). Explosives are DANGEROUS and it is my opinion that under no circumstances should they ever be handled by people untrained for such work.

  2. Please note: the above story is the ONLY example of actually verifiable bomb making I have found among more than 100 cases of 'bomb making materials' being found...and it barely even made the news.