According to the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security has warned airports to be on the watch for passengers trying to smuggle items that could be part of improvised explosive devices:
Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft, based on four curious seizures at airports since last September...
The bulletin said the passengers carrying the suspicious items seized since September included men and women and that initial investigation had not linked them with criminal or terrorist organizations. But it added that most of their explanations for carrying the items were suspicious and some were still under investigation.
The four seizures were described this way:
- San Diego, July 7. A U.S. person — either a citizen or a foreigner legally here — checked baggage containing two ice packs covered in duct tape. The ice packs had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel.
- Milwaukee, June 4. A U.S. person's carryon baggage contained wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese. The bulletin said block cheese has a consistency similar to some explosives.
- Houston, Nov. 8, 2006. A U.S. person's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, a block of brown clay-like minerals and pipes.
- Baltimore, Sept. 16, 2006. A couple's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger.
First off, I would argue for a one-way ticket to Guantanamo for each of these passengers.
Second, it's really starting to seem as if all the elements are there for a new terror attack in the US: a high level of chatter, reports of an Al Qaeda cell being smuggled into the US, a public perception that Al Qaeda is no longer able to mount 'spectacular attacks' in the US and a failed round of attacks in Great Britain.
Given the extraordinary partisan atmosphere today, the Bush administration ought to be bringing in Reid, Pelosi, Rockefeller, Reyes, and anyone else interested in intelligence, to let them know exactly what our intelligence knows.
After all, if no attack occurs (or one is defused before fruition), Democrats will ratchet up their complaints about the Bush White House's fear-mongering and 'Big Brother' tactics. And if an attack succeeds, Democrats will instantly switch to accusing them of failing to 'connect the dots.' In fact, I suspect that Keith Olbermann already has both attacks in the can.
The DHS document is here.
Update: If nothing else, it looks like House Republicans have protected your right to blow the whistle on the passenger carrying the block of cheese.