• New technology improves IED detection

    Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are homemade bombs that can both injure and kill civilians and service members. One solution to the problem of IEDs is to find them before they explode by detecting the chemicals used in the explosives. Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed a technology, using silicon to fabricate a sensor that may revolutionize the way trace chemical detection is conducted

  • Boob bombs: breast implants suicide bomb a threat to aviation

    Security checks at Heathrow Airport have been beefed up this past week following “credible” intelligence that al Qaeda operatives may use a new method to attack airlines flying out of London: explosives concealed in breast implants. This would not the first time Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has sought to use the human body as a hiding place for explosives. In September 2009, al-Asiri sent his younger brother on a suicide mission in Saudi Arabia. He built a bomb which could fit in his brother’s anal cavity, and sent him to kill the Saudi deputy interior minister, who at the time was in charge of hunting down al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. The worry about medically implanted explosives has already led airports to use behavioral analysis to augment detection methods already in use to screen people. Body scanners are good at identifying things outside the body but not inside.

  • Study shows TSA security screeners are methodical, not slow

    A study by Duke University, partially funded by DHS, found that TSA screeners may be slower than amateur screeners when it comes to performing visual searches, but the TSA screeners are better at detecting contraband.

  • Airport baggage scanning: slow, steady pace yields better results

    Next time you are doing a slow burn in security screening at the airport, calm yourself with the assurance that a more deliberate baggage scanner may do a better job. Researchers find that systematic searching frees up memory to do a better job at scanning.

  • Detecting explosives, not toothpaste

    Researchers want airports, border checkpoints, and others to detect homemade explosives made with hydrogen peroxide without nabbing people whose toothpaste happens to contain peroxide. This is part of the challenge faced in developing a portable sensor to detect a common homemade explosive called a FOx (fuel/oxidizer) mixture, made by mixing hydrogen peroxide with fuels.

  • Highly sensitive polymer detects IEDs

    A chemical which is often the key ingredient in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) can be quickly and safely detected in trace amounts by a new polymer created by a team of Cornell University chemists. The polymer, which potentially could be used in low-cost, handheld explosive detectors and could supplement or replace bomb-sniffing dogs.

  • DHS debars scanner maker from government contracts

    The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has sent OSI Systems, the manufacturer of airport body scanners, a debarment notice which would prevent the company from receiving government contacts in the future. The notice was sent to the company after TSA determined that the company had failed to address security concerns about its scanners.

  • Terahertz technology helps to see more with less

    Terahertz technology is an emerging field which promises to improve a host of useful applications, ranging from passenger scanning at airports to huge digital data transfers. Terahertz radiation sits between the frequency bands of microwaves and infrared radiation, and it can easily penetrate many materials, including biological tissue. The energy carried by terahertz radiation is low enough to pose no risk to the subject or object under investigation.

  • Kenya police: (fake) bomb detectors work, making Kenyans safer

    A British businessman was convicted of selling Iraq and Afghanistan fake bomb detectors – the two countries used millions of dollars in U.S. aid money to purchase the sham devices (the devices were, in fact, $20 golf ball finders which the businessman sold for $40,000 each). The police in Kenya purchased twenty-six of the sham detectors, but Nairobi police chief says the devices work, and that Kenya is safer for them.

  • U.K. businessman convicted of selling fake explosives detectors

    James McCormick, a British businessman, was convicted of having made millions in profits from selling fake bomb detectors to Iraq, Georgia, and several other countries. McCormick bought $20 golf ball finders in the United States, then sold the devices, which had no working electronics, for $40,000 each. The Iraqi government used more than $40 million in U.S. aid money to buy 6,000 of the devices, despite being warned by the U.S. military that the devices were a sham. The Iraqi military used the fake detectors at check-points, leading to scores of soldiers and civilians being killed by suicide trucks which went through the check points undetected. The police in Kenya says it will continue to use the devices.

  • New fertilizer can be used to grow food – but not build bombs

    Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is used in agriculture, but when mixed with a fuel such as diesel, it is highly explosive. It was used in about 65 percent of the 16,300 homemade IEDs in Afghanistan in 2012.About 1,900 troops were killed or wounded in IED attacks in 2012, 60 percent of American combat casualties. There have been more than 17,000 global IED incidents in 123 countries in the past two years. Timothy McVeigh used ammonium nitrate in Oklahoma City in 1995. Scientists have developed a fertilizer that helps plants grow but cannot detonate a bomb.

  • A more powerful terahertz imaging system developed

    Low-energy terahertz radiation could potentially enable doctors to see deep into tissues without the damaging effects of X-rays, or allow security guards to identify chemicals in a package without opening it. An electrical engineering research team has developed a laser-powered terahertz source and detector system which transmits with fifty times more power and receives with thirty times more sensitivity than existing technologies. This offers 1,500 times more powerful systems for imaging and sensing applications.

  • Lawmakers call on TSA to reverse knife rule

    Two leading lawmakers have called on TSA to reverse its ruling which would allow passengers to bring some types of knives with them on board. “The attacks on September 11, 2001, demonstrated that in the confined environment of an airplane, even a small blade in the hands of a terrorist can lead to disaster,” Rep. Ed Markey (S-Mass.) — who is running for the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by John Kerry – wrote TSA director John Pistole.

  • June workshop on approaches to CBRNE incidents

    NIST-organized workshop will explore ways to improve an all-of-government approach that increases resilience to international chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) incidents.

  • New explosives vapor detection technology

    Novel explosives detection method focuses on direct, real-time vapor detection rather than collection of explosives particles. It could change paradigm for explosives screening.