Boobs, Butts, And Rectal Foreign Bodies: Who’s Packing?
What do these things have to do with homeland security, you ask? They are all potential person-borne improvised explosive devices. Suicide bombing attacks have become a staple of asymmetric conflict around the world. They have increased in number and lethality during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the evolution of technology, tactics and procedures (TTPs) in their deployment makes them a constantly evolving threat. Suicide attacks been used in attacks on civilians, military and government targets, and in close-range assassination attempts of political elites. We have been fortunate in the United States, not to have seen these types of attacks, however every day is a new day…
Person-borne explosive devices
Suicide attacks have a longer history than in just the current conflicts. Terrorism’s tuxedo, the suicide vest, is attributed to Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who made the suicide vest chic in their bloody struggle for nationalism against the Sinhalese.
Since the vests were debuted on the terrorism runway in Sri Lanka, the terrorism fashion world has adopted and adapted the style, and diversified. Terrorists have refined TTPs not only in the fashionable explosive garment market (they even have their own line of underwear- “al-Asiri’s Secret”), but also the clandestine “do it yourself in flight” composite explosive market, and a line of office supplies that includes explosive printer cartridges.
Like many in the world of high fashion, today’s terrorists are looking at the options for body augmentation, including enhancements to breasts and buttocks, and “tummy tucks.” The enhancements they have in mind, however, are not merely to look better in an evening gown or on the beach, but are ways to conceal explosives inside the body, making it extremely difficult to discover them.
Airport X-Ray Screening
The game of “catch me if you can,” that has resulted from the cycle of evolution of TTPs in both the terrorism and security worlds leaves us with the unenviable task of trying not to “fail to imagine” what might be the next move. While it may seem logical that the x-ray screening you undergo to board commercial airline flights would catch implanted explosives, it would be an incorrect assumption. Airport body scanners, “backscatter devices,” use low-energy x-rays. In contrast to medium-energy diagnostic x-rays that penetrate the body to create an image on film, low energy x-rays penetrate clothing, but bounce back from the skin and adipose (fat) tissue.
They will detect an underwear bomb, but not a butt or breast implant, or a vaginal, rectal or surgically inserted abdominal cavity bomb.
Body Cavity Bombs
In the months after the foiled Abdulmutallab Christmas underwear bombing plot, there were rumors of a U.S. intelligence report about the threat from body cavity bombs. Devices like these had been used in 2010 in an assassination attempt on Saudi counterterrorism chief Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (which the Saudis later believed was an underwear bomb) and on Asadullah Khalid, head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security in December of 2012, with a rectal cavity bomb. In both cases, the intended victim survived- bin Nayef escaping with minor injuries and Khalid being much more seriously injured.
While it is likely that a body cavity bomb on an airplane would make a big mess and injure people, it is less likely that it would disrupt the plane’s integrity and bring it down. This, however, depends on the amount of explosives secreted inside of the body in question. Because bombs like these have no metal parts, typically using one liquid explosive as an initiator for another, they could easily escape metal detectors and body scanners. Besides the potential for access to aircraft, these tactics could introduce explosives into secured areas with protectees or other high-profile people who might be targets, by bypassing security measures.
There exists copious medical literature on rectal and vaginal foreign bodies. While typically inserted into the anus or vagina for sexual stimulation, these adventures can land people in emergency departments, where data can be captured.
The layperson may find the sizes ,and varieties of these items to be remarkable, and they are, when one considers the equivalent amount of explosives that each might represent. One author estimates that based on the relative sizes of body cavities, that a person could carry around five pounds of explosives inserted physically or surgically.
Were these items explosives, and connected to a remote detonator such as a mobile phone (which is what the Afghans believe the attempt on Khalid involved), a device could be detonated by either the bomber him or herself, or remotely, with another phone.
Breast and buttock implants are common cosmetic surgeries these days. Both of these present potential avenues for clandestine explosive implantation. Some enhancements, obviously, may produce greater opportunities than others. Results may vary…
It is fairly easy to see the nefarious potential for the use of implants, even those much less extreme than these, as a route of introduction of explosive materials, particularly in the case of a committed enemy.
Even without implanting shrapnel along with the explosives to maximize damage, as is typically done with suicide vests, the damage could be considerable, especially to those in close proximity. In the aftermath of the London train bombings on July 7, 2005, victims were found with shards of bone and other tissues from the suicide bombers, as well as pieces of clothing and jewelry imbedded in their bodies. Not the types of implants anyone wants.
What a Bombshell!
As the United States and allied nations continue to refine TTPs to counter potential suicide bombings, our enemies are refining theirs to bypass our detection and security measures. Soliciting the assistance of an engaged and aware public, if there is such a thing, might be the answer. I’d imagine that people, men and women alike, would pay attention to buttock implants like Kim Kardashian’s if they walked by. They just might not be thinking about what a real bombshell she might be.