DENVER — Denver International Airport ranked fifth in the nation for confiscating firearms in 2014, with 70 guns recovered. But one security researcher says you don’t have to sneak anything past security to get a small bomb on board a plane.
Evan Booth of Greensboro, North Carolina claims airport gift shops sell everything a terrorist would need to make an explosive device.
The computer programmer has created a series of online videos to demonstrate how easy it is to build weapons and explosives from various items like batteries, body spray, a snow globe and a travel mug once someone has passed an airport security checkpoint.
We traveled to North Carolina to observe Booth’s ability to create weapons using delayed fuses from items bought at an airport gift shop.
Booth has shared his findings with the Transportation Security Administration but says they haven’t responded. “The FBI came to my house in an unscheduled friendly visit I guess,” said Booth.
But he says federal agents didn’t seem overly concerned with what he shared. “Okay, I could make weapons that if I tried to get these past TSA security I would get arrested and thrown in jail but what sense does it make that I could just build them easily on the other side and since the TSA knows that what conclusions can one draw?” Booth asked.
Metro State University Aviation Professor Jeff Price says he suspects the TSA and the FBI aren’t concerned because he’s confident they’ve already tested similar tactics.
“Their job is to do stuff like this, behind the scenes, see if it`s feasible and then see what kind of explosive device they can yield from it,” explained Price.
The long-time professor admits Booth can probably do what his videos suggest but adds a few thermos bombs are not going to bring down a plane. “Can you blow the top of a piece of luggage? Probably, but are we really concerned about blowing up your luggage or are we concerned whether that device can blow a hole in the side of a plane?” asked Price, who adds, “I think the problem is the practicality of actually pulling it off.”
Booth argues it would be easy to lock himself into a family restroom for the ten minutes he would need to build a device small enough for a carry-on bag.
He admits he’s not going to penetrate a cockpit door or bring down a plane but says a terrorist doesn’t have to. “Any given thing that I`ve built thus far is more than capable of inciting a lot of panic.”
Booth believes the TSA spends too much money, $7 billion a year on security checkpoints, and not nearly enough on intelligence. “If someone gets to the airport with a bomb, you`ve failed at that point.”
In a statement the TSA downplayed the concerns Booth raised.
Here is the agency’s statement:
TSA is aware of the site.
TSA was created to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems and ensure the freedom of movement for people and commerce. The mission of TSA is dedicated to keeping individuals and items that can cause catastrophic damage off planes. Transportation Security Officers continue to focus their efforts on finding high threat items such as explosives and/or improvised explosive device (IED) components. TSA employs multiple layers of security to protect the traveling public. On board aircraft, these layers include reinforced cockpit doors, federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers and a vigilant traveling public.
TSA uses layers of security as part of a risk-based approach to protecting passengers and our nation’s transportation systems. Each layer alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack, but in combination, defenses compound to create a much stronger system. Although checkpoint operations are the most visible layer, they represent just one part of 20 different layers.
Metro State Professor Jeff Price added, “If the bad guys have already known how to do this, I guess the big question is why haven`t they done it yet?”