Terrorist explosive device analytical center.
A suicide bomber walks into a crowded marketplace in Kabul, Afghanistan, and detonates a bomb that is concealed beneath his clothing. He kills 10 people, and dozens more are seriously wounded. The bomber dies in the attack.
In Mosul, Iraq, a U.S. military convoy is ambushed after a bomb that had been buried underground along the convoy's route explodes. Marines in the disabled tank are attacked by terrorists with rocket-propelled grenades. A firefight ensues between the Marines and the terrorists. Four Marines lose their lives, and 10 terrorists are killed during the fighting.
These fictitious scenarios are based on real events that occur every day as the United States and its allies fight against terrorism overseas. At the FBI Laboratory, the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC) provides critical intelligence needed to protect and defend innocent lives against the threat of terrorism.
The mission of the TEDAC is to coordinate and manage the unified efforts of law enforcement, intelligence, and military assets to forensically and technically exploit improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of interest to the U.S. government worldwide, in an effort to provide actionable intelligence to the offensive missions against terrorism and to the force protection mission.
Intelligence reports and TEDAC bulletins are disseminated directly to local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. military, and U.S. international partners in the war on terror. The TEDAC provides vital information to the U.S. intelligence community and especially to U.S. military forces fighting in Iraq and other overseas operations. Through forensic examinations, the TEDAC has successfully linked various IEDs to one another and to suspected terrorists.
IED evidence is submitted to the TEDAC directly from the scenes of terrorist attacks. TEDAC examinations consist of firearms and fingerprint processing in addition to the analysis of trace evidence (hairs, fibers, metals, and other material), electronic components, and mitochondrial DNA.
Since its inception in 2003, the TEDAC has received more than 24,000 IED submissions, all of which are in some form of processing at the FBI Laboratory. In 2007, the TEDAC received more than 9,000 IED submissions from Iraq and Afghanistan. The TEDAC identified more than 30 individuals by name as potential bomb makers based on latent fingerprints recovered from the IEDs. Trace evidence examinations resulted in the linkage of several IEDs to one another and to suspected terrorists. Nearly 100 terrorist associations were made as a result of electronic trend-analysis examinations. More than 50 associations of IEDs were made as a result of firearms examinations, and two terrorist suspects were identified as bomb makers as a result of mitochondrial DNA testing.
The following images depict examples of tools and components received by the TEDAC that can be used in making IEDs.
Since 1972, the Explosives Unit has supported the FBI's mission to investigate and prevent bombing incidents. The unit's staff of special agents, chemists, device physical scientists, device examiners, and information specialists work together to identify improvised explosive and incendiary devices; determine the types of explosives used; identify suspects; and provide support, liaison, and training to FBI field offices and other agencies and laboratories working bombing matters. The Explosives Reference Tool (EXPeRT), which is accessible to law enforcement via the FBI's Bomb Data Center Special Interest Group on Law Enforcement Online (LEO), contains FBI Laboratory reports and evidentiary photographs, making it a key resource in forensic bombing examinations. By analyzing tactics, techniques, and procedures used by terrorist bombers, the EU can develop cutting-edge solutions to combat these emerging threats and ensure the continued leadership role the FBI Laboratory has come to play in terrorist bombing matters.
The FBI's Hydrogen Peroxide Liquid Explosive Research Program
On March 15, 2004, a vehicle bomb was delivered to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. The bomb was successfully disarmed by local authorities, and subsequent explosives chemical analysis by FBI Explosives Unit personnel determined that the explosive was composed of hydrogen peroxide. It was the first time that FBI Explosives Unit personnel had encountered a large bomb based on a potential liquid explosive composed of hydrogen peroxide. On April 10, 2004, authorities in Amman, Jordan, thwarted a terrorist attack and recovered a large quantity of chemicals, including a large quantity of hydrogen peroxide, presumably to be used to manufacture liquid explosives.
In August 2006, British authorities interrupted a terrorist plot to bring down multiple trans-Atlantic passenger flights originating in the United Kingdom and traveling to the United States. The plan involved smuggling hydrogen peroxide-based liquid explosives onto the airplanes and detonating them in flight. In early September 2007, German authorities foiled a major terrorist attack against U.S. and German interests. This plot also involved using hydrogen peroxide to manufacture bombs. These events highlight the substantial threat posed by hydrogen peroxide-based liquid explosives.
Since October 2005, scientists in the FBI Laboratory's Explosives Unit and Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit have been conducting research to better understand the threat posed by these liquid explosives. The joint study consists of a comprehensive, detailed study of the safety hazards of these mixtures, their feasibility of manufacture, and their explosive performance at explosive weights ranging from 5 to 2000 pounds. Such a cradle-to-grave counterterrorist study of liquid peroxide-based explosives had never been initiated by the U.S. government before.
To date, more than 300 tests have been performed on various hydrogen peroxide-based liquid explosives. Explosives Unit personnel are often contacted by other domestic and international law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, research laboratories, and other federal agencies for the results of their research program. Less than one day after the foiled British terrorist plot was disclosed to the public, the FBI research program generated results detailing the nature of the threat and communicated the results to the FBI Director. The data assisted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in developing restrictions on the amounts of liquids that the public could carry onboard an aircraft. Results from this research program also directly assisted the German authorities with the technical evaluation of their terrorist plot.
The foresight of the Explosives Unit and the Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit, coupled with rapid response and testing, directly contributed to the safety of the flying public and the arrest of the individuals involved in the German terrorist plot. The success of the Laboratory's research program also has prompted other federal agencies to begin their own research initiatives.