Finding the "DNA" of Terrorist Bombs
Preventing Terrorist Attacks
Finding the "DNA" of Terrorist Bombs...And USING It
On the morning of July 28, a suicide bomber drove a car loaded with explosives into a crowd of job applicants outside a police station in Baqubah, Iraq. Sixty-eight people were killed and 60 more were injured. Also on July 28, a bomb exploded in a Kabul mosque, where Afghans were registering for upcoming elections. On July 30, three coordinated bombs exploded in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. On August 7, a bomb was detonated in Baghdad near the Jordanian Embassy.
It seems like every time you pick up a newspaper, you read about a terrorist bomb going off somewhere in the world. Why? Because for terrorists intent on destruction, bombs are pretty easy and cheap to make...and so horribly lethal.
But bombs are also unique—custom made in a particular way, usually with an explosive charge, a fuse, and a trigger. Which means they leave clues—possibly real DNA, fingerprints, identifiable trace elements, but also a special "signature" of design that can help us identify the bomb maker and his organization. How, then, do we maximize those clues...and turn that information into intelligence that might even prevent future incidents?
Global terrorist bombings require a global response: thus TEDAC was born. TEDAC—or the Terrorist Explosives Device Analytical Center—is an FBI-led initiative, created in December 2003, that is committed to establishing that global response by creating a single federal program responsible for the worldwide collection, complete forensic and technical analysis and timely dissemination of intelligence regarding terrorist bombs. Every bit of information gleaned from TEDAC's analysis is shared throughout the law enforcement, intelligence and military communities.
Drawing linkages between terrorist devices and their makers—sometimes even continents away—can add information to a case that could keep the next bomb from going off. The intelligence is also used to develop new countermeasures and to train first responders on improvised explosive devices actually being used by the terrorists.
Who's on the team? Top electronics specialists, explosives experts, engineers, and counterterrorism agents and analysts from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Air Marshal Service, as well as assets from the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense.
What's the volume of their work? To date, many hundreds of devices have been received—and similarities uncovered in many of them suggest many terrorists are using the same bomb-making instructions.
And in the days ahead? Expand, expand, expand—increasing the number of agencies directly involved; the number of devices, post-blast debris, and bomb-making materials it examines; and the amount of analysis TEDAC conducts on each device. Its goal, however, will remain the same: to save lives.