by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
August 10, 2006
'VERY SOPHISTICATED' PLOT TO BLOW UP U.S. - U.K. FLIGHTS EXPOSED
BRADENTON, Fla., 8:58 a.m., Aug. 10, 2006 -- A "very sophisticated plot" to blow up passenger jets using liquids carried aboard in hand luggage was disrupted by British authorities with 21 arrests of conspirators in England, homeland security officials revealed in an extraordinary press conference this morning.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the plot to mix explosive liquids in innocuous-seeming bottles and tubes was "in its final stages" and was aimed at blowing up an unknown number of flights at roughly the same time.
Authorities said that such liquids will henceforth be banned from all flights between Britain to the United States and in all domestic U.S. flights.
Chertoff said the plot had all the signs of an Al-Qaeda operation and was of "global dimension."
No suspects were apprehended in the United States, and none were believed to have come from here or to have been U.S. residents, he indicated.
[Later news reports say the would-be bombers aimed at flights of U.S.-based carriers United, American Airlines and Continental, and that the group hoped to explode 10 jets simultaneously over the mid-Atlantic. The reports said a "dry run" of the plot was scheduled for Aug. 12. None of that information could be independently confirmed. A Pakistani employee of Heathrow Airport with an "all-areas" pass was one of those arrested, reports said. Some reports say three more men were arrested in additional to the original 21. Several reports also said a number of the plotters had traveled recently to Pakistan for training.]
The press conference with Transportation Security Administration officials, Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales and Chertoff was carried live on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and C-SPAN 1. The news made headlines around the globe.
As the threat assessment level for domestic travel was raised to orange, or High, for the first time ever, it was raised to the highest level, red, or Severe, for planes arriving from Britain.
Officials said travelers could ease the implementation of the new policy prohibiting carry-on liquids by leaving hair gels, lotions, toothpaste and the like at home or putting it in luggage to be stored in the hold. Only baby formula and medicines were exempted from the blanket ban on liquids and gels.
The Transportation Security Administration implemented the rule change - which officials said usually takes four weeks - in four hours, alerting all airports throughout the United States to the ban on carry-on liquids with posters at every check-in station and other announcements.
Plotters apparently planned to board the planes with a "bomb kit" that would permit them to combine various chemicals from carry-on bags into explosive substances.
They had already acquired the "capabilities" to set the plot on motion, Chertoff said. He said U.S. authorities were tipped to the conspiracy in the last two weeks or sooner.
Television footage from U.S. airports showed passengers surrendering their hand and face creams, deodorants and other liquids and gels without complaint. The bins being filled up with discarded items seemed to be filled chiefly with plastic water bottles.