An “Unclassified/For Official Use Only” Federal Bureau of Investigation WMD Intelligence Analysis Section Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center intelligence bulletin issued Tuesday “assesses with high confidence recreationally used exploding targets (ETs), commonly referred to as tannerite, or reactive targets, can be used as an explosive for illicit purposes by criminals and extremists and explosive precursor chemicals (EPCs) present in ETs can be combined with other materials to manufacture explosives for use in improvised explosive devices (IEDs).”
Tannerite is a registered trademark for a legal, patented ammonium nitrate/aluminum powder used in exploding firearms targets. It’s a stable compound that even withstands hammer blows, and has military, law enforcement and recreational applications, the latter perhaps best exemplified in the popular Boomershoot! event in North Central Idaho. (Update: Or perhaps not--event organizer Joe Huffman advises while they do use an ammonium nitrate compound, the mixture is different from Tannerite.)
“The FBI further assesses with medium confidence as the regulations and restrictions on ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers continue to increase, motivated criminals and extremists seeking ammonium nitrate for illicit use will be more likely to seek alternative sources, such as ETs,” the bulletin continues. “The FBI assesses with high confidence criminals and extremists in the United States and overseas have access to information about exploding targets due to the wide availability of such information on the Internet.
“The term extremists,” the bulletin explains in a footnote, “includes international terrorists, homegrown violent extremists, domestic terrorists, and lone wolf offenders operating in the United States or abroad.” Previous Gun Rights Examiner reports have demonstrated the federal government applies those terms liberally to include groups as innocuous as “preppers” and “Constitutionalists,” among others.
As such, the FBI has listed some “indicators [that] should be seen as suspicious and reported accordingly,” including:
- Payments in cash or using someone else’s credit card;
- Requests to ship ETs to a Post Office box;
- Reluctance or unwillingness to produce valid identification;
- Request to purchase only one of the ET components, such as ammonium nitrate;
- Unusually large bulk purchases inconsistent with stated reason;
- Multiple, large-quantity purchases within a short timeframe;
- Lack of knowledge regarding firearms or target shooting;
- Hints at illegal or misuse of explosives; and
- New or unknown customers, especially with an out-of-town driver’s license or license plates.
“The individual components of ETs are not regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) because they do not meet the definition of “explosives” outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations,” the bulletin cautions. “Persons manufacturing explosives for their own personal, nonbusiness use only (e.g., personal target practice) are not required to have a federal explosives license (FEL) or permit [and] currently, anyone can purchase ETs without an FEL and have them shipped without expensive hazardous materials shipping fees or placards.”
And the threat this poses to the Homeland?
They tell us the mass killer in Norway rented farmland to legally purchase fertilizer. People are attempting to acquire ammonium nitrate by removing it from cold packs. Aside from explosives, ammonium nitrate can be used to make meth, and someone tried to buy some from a farm supply company to do that. Someone in Nevada threatened to blow himself up in a mayor’s driveway. Someone in Arkansas asked if ETs could blow up cars and people. A vandal in Connecticut blew up a portable toilet, a road sign, a vacant building, an abandoned gas station and a school door. And “in preparation for a standoff with federal officials pending an arrest on outstanding charges, individuals associated with a militia/sovereign citizen group in New Hampshire hung containers of ETs around the perimeter of their property.”
In other words, in attempting to justify their concern, numerous non-ET examples, including one outside-of-country, and accumulated over years, had to be given to pad their list, not one death has been cited, and the wholly manufactured “threat” is actually and statistically nonexistent. But it's scary to the uninformed, and thus exploitable in the insatiable demand for more federal law enforcement resources and controls.
Gun Rights Examiner has obtained a copy of the bulletin, along with an “Unclassified/For Official Use Only/Law Enforcement Sensitive” report from 2005, where someone blew up an abandoned car in a field in Wisconsin by using “a rifle at a distance” to detonate a jug filled with a tannerite mixture. No one was hurt, there is no indication in the report that this was in any way associated with any domestic terror activity, but the headline “Tannerite IED” leaves no doubt as to the connotation readers are being guided to make.
Additionally, an FBI Atlanta Division Criminal Tradecraft Alert/Situational Information Report titled “Potentially Dangerous Shock-Sensitive Explosive Observed on Central Georgia Firing Range,” reported on a firearms enthusiast in Georgia “who is not tied to any militia or terrorist group” shooting targets at a rural public firing range -- and that he bought “Tannerite via the internet.” Nonetheless, the report maintains, “the surfacing of this type of explosive in Georgia may indicate an emerging trend that could pose a potential danger to law enforcement,” and to prove it, lists two cases where no one was hurt, and one where a 20-year-old who didn’t know what he was doing injured himself.
All three reports have been combined into one file, posted at the Scribd document archive website. It’s actually a series of screenshots of the report pages rather than the original files, done at the request of the source, due in no small part to this warning:
This information is the property of the FBI and may be distributed to state, tribal, or local government law enforcement officials with a need-to-know. Further distribution without FBI authorization is prohibited. Precautions should be taken to ensure this information is stored and/or destroyed in a manner that precludes unauthorized access.
Whether the government will now take action against its posting and require its removal by Scribed website administrators (or against this correspondent, who posted it) remains to be seen, but those interested in obtaining a copy ought to grab one now, just in case. Perhaps with enough activist gun owners aware of this, further efforts on the government’s part to conflate peaceable recreational shooters with terrorists, and to manufacture a crisis and then not let it go to waste, can be blown apart before they become a threat.
My latest GUNS Magazine "Rights Watch" column is now online. Click here to read "A Shotgun Approach," starring noted defensive gun use expert Joe Biden.
If you're a regular Gun Rights Examiner reader and believe it provides news and perspectives you won't find in the mainstream media, please subscribe to this column and help spread the word by sharing links, promoting it on social media like Facebook (David Codrea) and Twitter (@dcodrea), and telling your like-minded friends about it. And for more commentary, be sure to visit "The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance."