Postal Bombs
The modern threat

Text by Renful
 
The 'cookbooks' have been abound for years, filling pages of Internet space and library shelves. The ingredients can be easily purchased and explosives prepared in the back garden. In case one lacks a motive, access some hate pages online, or simply share in the communal excitement of inflicting mutilation.
 
There is growing concern over the production of home made improvised explosive devices (IEDs). This is not restricted to people with malicious intent to detonate themselves but those who can anonymously drop their IED in to a post box. The nature of a postal device makes it an appealing option to a wide variety of perpetrators. It offers a depersonalisation of the sender, gives them anonymity and the ability to orchestrate their act from afar.
 
The wealth of information and commercially available products for production of home made explosives has broadened the range of people who can make these weapons. Rather than devices lying in reach of groups with the financial means to purchase relevant ingredients and the 'know how' to construct them, creators of IED's may now be resourceful individuals or misguided school pupils.
 
There was a recent case from a high school in a rural district of the U.S., where a student was discovered to have constructed a hoax device and drawings showing the schools security features layout. The student admitted to having planned to use a  real device and place it in evacuation areas before calling a bomb threat. Detailed drawings and mock up explosives were found at the student's address.
 
This meticulous planning and creativity is common to violent extremist groups and is becoming an increasing concern on school campuses. The increase has been attributed to the internet as a source of information and inspiration via websites promoting hatred and bigotry. The website www.skepticfiles.org
Concocting these devices is not just a preserve of the serious fanatic or mentally unstable individual but has become almost a hobby for disturbed and restless teenagers. For those less computer literate, there exists much printed material. Books for  small scale commercial production of explosives can be rented from a library..
In addition to the wide user base for postal devices, criminologists have experienced further difficultly capturing these perpetrators. The range of motives encountered defy conventional categorisation and established criminal patterns. Realising the perpetrators motives is key in the challenge to capture and prevent. The motives are as broad as the range of people attracted to this crime. They can be grouped in to three bands; Political, Financial, and Personal. Within political, the motives can range from domestic and international terrorism to single issues like those of the 'Uni-bomber' who orchestrated an 18 year campaign. He targeted people in the technical field with the expressed motive of the 'destruction of the world wide system'. Within financial, extortion is the main act associated and can be targeted at wealthy individuals or companies. Perpetrators can attack from inside or outside the company, due the nature of their approach. Within personal, revenge or relationship breakdowns are also common motives. Prisoners due for release have also been known to send out devices, in order to remain in prison.
 
If the thermite didn't blow up, it would at least burn the f**k out of your enemy (it does wonders on human flesh!).
HAVE FUN!! -Jolly Roger-
 
Are all organisations fully equipped to handle threats posed by the range of people able to terrorise, maim or kill? Should companies now be more concerned about the danger they pose, or high profile individuals be more alert to the risk? Whilst the U.S. Postal Service has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in biohazard detection systems, has enough been done in the detection of the conventional explosive.? Should schools be training their staff and pupils in greater awareness of these threats coming from pupils?
A strength in the detection of the perpetrators and further prevention is to consider the ease of making these devices. There have been documented incidents of postal bombs since the 1800s. Since the 2001 non explosive attacks, discovery of almost any kind of powder in the mail or postal facilities has generated fear. But the conventional explosive remains a tested, affordable and attractive option. If it can be successfully ignited, a popular and easily made explosive (internet search engine returns multiple recipes) is thermite. It is made by heating powdered iron-oxide (rust) and mixing it with aluminium fillings (from cans, paint base, sweeping a work shop). It is an effective product, if magnesium powder can be acquired (commercial fireworks) providing the initial high temperatures needed to ignite the thermite. A touch explosive can be made from iodine crystals (water purification products) and ammonia (strong in bleach) and must be placed correctly, for ignition upon opening - not before!
For some disturbed minds, the explosive is a more 'exciting' device to experiment with. These quotes are taken from many documents listed by the 'Jolly Roger' on skepticfiles.org or found using popular search engines:
 
If the thermite didn't blow up, it would at least burn the f**k out of your enemy (it does wonders on human flesh!).
NOW that is REVENGE!
HAVE FUN!! -Jolly Roger-
 
Also, listed in the Jolly Rogers 'cook book' index are: Touch Explosives, Under water igniters, Home-brew blast cannon, Hotwiring cars, Ways to send a car to HELL, Highway police radar jamming … the list is long. The Jolly Roger may be an individual with much time on their hands or a community of people sharing an interest in antinomianism, anything that is disapproved of in society or disobeying the law. One of the links , 'Do ya hate school?', and it's content suggest much about the intended audience and distributor of this teaching material. It could shed light on their motives (or lack of) for performing this anarchy. The text listed on the Jolly Rogers page, suggests the mind of an intelligent and creative yet restless and misguided teenager or young adult. They have no specific motive or target for exhibiting the unpleasant creations. The appeal of doing this is to gain a certain 'cool factor'. Restless teenagers across the globe can access promotional material for these creations and be attracted simply because they sound cool. When investigating crimes from these perpetrators, a clear motive from the  perpetrator may not form the base of an investigation.
 
In addition to professional criminal investigation, there are actions that anyone with good functioning eyes can perform. Being attentive to all common details of mail items, and their characteristics may identify something that does not conform. The item can then be reported. This preventative approach can always be used before incidents happen. Observation of abnormalities in packaging by postal workers and mail recipients is as important as the professional investigative work. Visual signs may also be more obvious in items coming from an inexperienced and young perpetrator. Renful has designed and produced a multimedia program for organisations to train for the detection of these signs.
 
The S.T.O.P. Postal devices CD-rom puts the rich medium of interactive visuals to effective use, in its detailed recordings of all elements to an item of mail. The program features interactive and illustrated lists of signs to look for in the detection of an explosive. This strong visual and interactive addition was Renful's main reason for using an interactive, multimedia platform. The program includes video descriptions of past events, lists and illustrates the components of improvised explosive devices and explains procedures to take upon detection.


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