If it was a dry run it worked well enough to get United States law enforcement officials scrambling and showing their hand to the terrorists who planted two would be bombs on cargo planes headed to the US. There were explosives in the devices according to preliminary reports of the Fed Ex and UPS cargo flights from the Middle East with targeted packages going to Jewish organizations in Chicago.
“The preliminary indication is the device had explosives,” President Obama told reporters gathered for a brief statement at the White House. “This is a credible terrorist threat” and the events “underscore the necessity of remaining vigilante against terrorism.”
The president got the word from his top intelligence officials the night before and put the proper teams in motion. He went about his normal duties so as to not arouse suspicion. It seems the potential bombs were easily seen with wires sticking out of them. One included explosive powder. Most experts told news organizations it seemed like a dry run.
The packages came from the same address in Yemen onto a pair of flights with Chicago destinations. One flight was inspected in the United Kingdom; the other had the unusual incidence of being escorted by US fighter jets from the Canadian border to New York.
Others questioned the dry run theory wondering what could be achieved with the wires visible seen sticking out of what appeared to be toner cartridges. It was as if the perpetrators wanted them to be seen. This could be exactly the case.
By testing the waters and making sure the “bombs” were found Al-Qaida officials could watch exactly what happens, who would be doing what and taking notes on procedures as they actually took place. In addition, new information could be gleaned from news reports as investigative reporters do their best to uncover exactly what happened and why. The amount of intelligence gained by terrorist operatives might give them an edge when they actually plant the real thing.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan later told reporters the explosives "were in a form that was designed to try to carry out some type of attack." He would not speculate further. "The forensic analysis is under way and clearly from the initial observation, the initial analysis that was done, the materials that were found in the device that was uncovered was intended to do harm."
Everyone has been extra careful in dealing with passenger planes but cargo planes are another story. Thousands, if not millions of packages, get shipped everyday from places such as Yemen, Moscow, Milan, and Tokyo and to and from every destination in the world. There is no way every package can be screened. Nor should it be.
“There have been discussions about these screenings because of the various cargos such as exotic animals,” one reporter pointed out. “There are concerns about having tropical fish and snakes sitting in cargo holders on a hot tarmac waiting to be screened.”
The cost of the very expensive screening machines and of course the time involved using ground personnel is disruptive. You can bet after this incident however, a second and even third look will be taken to make screening of cargo flights a priority.