In wake of the recent horrific events in Boston during the running of the Boston Marathon and the resulting carnage to all those innocent victims, I decided to investigate the cause of all this damage.  I found that the U.S. Homeland Security knew as far back as nine years ago that terrorists could and were using metal pressure cookers to cause deadly results to bystanders.  This common kitchen cooking implement, found in countless American homes, was a key component in the horrific bombings that killed three people and injured more than 170.

An innocuous metal pressure cooker can be adapted to create a deadly bomb by packing it, in this case, with nails and ball bearing.  The pressure cooker was then placed in a black nylon bag or backpack.  Investigators also found pieces of an electronic circuit board  indicating that a possible timer was used in the detonation of the bomb.Two documents – a U.S. Department of Homeland Security memo issued in 2004 and a joint Homeland Security and FBI pamphlet released in 2010 – warned about the dangers of bombs made from pressure cookers.  This Homeland Security Department pamphlet, from July 2010, distributed to police, firefighters, EMS and security personnel shows a diagram of an improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using pressure cookers.  It also shows different types of switches, timers, and explosive components.  In 2004 a memo titled “Potential terrorist use of pressure cookers” alerted border inspectors, agents, law enforcement officers and other first-responders that the seemingly innocuous items could be used to create improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  This memo says that this type of bomb-making techniques is commonly taught in Afghan terrorist training camps, and has already led to bombing casualties.

Typically, these bombs are made by placing TNT or other explosives in a pressure cooker and attaching a blasting cap at the top of the pressure cooker. The size of the blast depends on the size of the pressure cooker and the amount of explosive placed inside.  The memo goes on to detail how pressure cooker bombs are made with readily available materials and can be as simple or as complex as the bomber decides.  These types of devices can be initiated using basic electronics such as digital watches, garage door openers, cell phones or pagers.

The memo warns that given the commonality of appearance of the pressure cooker it is “often overlooked when searching vehicles, residences or merchandise crossing the U.S. Borders.”  The Homeland Security memo offers advice to security personnel, if they spot a suspicious-looking pressure cooker, to not attempt to pick it up or move it.  It also advises that it is not safe to transmit radio signals within 50 feet of the item and recommends people within 50 feet should turn off cell phones and pagers.  If a suspicious pressure cooker is inside a building, Homeland Security recommends people be evacuated to a distance of 150 feet.  If the suspicious pressure cooker is outside a building, the evacuation distance is 1,850 feet.

Pressure cookers have been involved in numerous terror plans prior to the Boston Marathon bombings.  One of the three devices used in the 1 May 2010 attack in Times Square incorporated a pressure cooker containing approximately 120 firecrackers.  In March 2010, terrorists used a remotely detonated pressure cooker bomb in an attack in Pakistan.  A planned attack in Jammu, India in September 2003 was foiled after security officers seizing 88 pounds of explosives in two large pressure cookers.  In March 2003, four Algerians were convicted of plotting to bomb a French Christmas market using pressure cookers packed with explosives.  In February 2002, two pressure cooker bombs were used in an attack at the foot of Mount Everest and in February 2001 four policemen died instantly, when Maoist Rebels used two pressure cooker bombs in an attack on a convoy containing judges in Nepal.

The scary part of this, for me, is where is this type of bomb going to be detonated next time?  The pure size of a pressure cooker makes it easily portable and you have to ask yourself, how many people walk our busy streets with back packs or gym bags?  Now, I would not know how to make an electronic switch, but this type of knowledge is probably readily available somewhere.  The blasting caps, I would think, would be harder to come by, but who knows.  But, like these two dumb-asses, fireworks and the gun-powder contained within them, is readily available to purchase.  I can also purchase gun-powder from gun shops and sporting goods stores.  Any hardware store has numerous items that could be used as projectiles and, as mentioned before, the electronic components used as switches can be purchased in any electronics store.  If they can be set off to detonate with the use of a cellphone, just think, who does not carry a cell phone, and I could even possibly detonate one, unknowingly, just by using my cellphone within close proximity.

It is a damn scary world we live in and most people, including myself, would never think of harming innocent people or making some kind of bomb, but the world is full of radical nut-cases, who are bent on creating destruction.  So much for background checks.  This type of people who has no regard for killing innocent people, including children; will not be stopped by any gun laws.  To stay safe, we may have to give up some of our freedoms that American citizens have always enjoyed.

Before I started writing this blog, I read a short news clip about parents, that were upset with their local junior high principle, over the school banning strapless dresses from being worn at this junior high prom in a town in New Jersey.  I have some advice to those parents, get your priorities straight…maybe you should hug your child and be glad that they are safe, because none of us know what tomorrow may bring.  There was an eight year old victim of the bombing in Boston, who is never coming home, can no longer be hugged by his parents, and will never attend any junior high prom…that’s the real tragedy.