Sunday, August 13, 2006

bomb school

People have been wondering why terrorists would need so many cell phones. Police have nabbed two groups with a total of over a thousand phones and you have to figure that police probably haven't even caught the majority. The theory is that the phones could be used for detonators for bombs, but that's an awful lot of bombs, isn't it? Outside of the Middle East, that's enough detonators for years of terrorist bombs. Could they really be planning that kind of escalation? I doubt it.

On the other hand, the innocent explanations of the cell phones don't really wash. The men who bought the cell phones were throwing away the chargers. That makes it extremely unlikely that the phones were really going to be used as cell phones. Whether they were reselling to some sort of cell phone black market (as the men claimed) or planning to use the phones as throw-aways for communication, why would they throw away the chargers? It doesn't make sense.

Most likely, the cell-phone are intended primarily for use as detonators in Iraq. In Iraq, terrorists and Coalition soldiers are in an arms race over radio-controlled bombs with Coalition forces finding counter measures to the bombs and the terrorists finding counter measures to the counter measures. The cell phones would be another step in this arms race. If so, then they would need a lot of them, not only for bombs, but for training. If you want to use thousands of cell-phone-detonated bombs in ambushes, you need to train a lot of people to use them, and you need the cell phones for the training.

As long as they are teaching a course on killing infidels by the use of cell phones, they may as well make it a large course. The primary use may be in Iraq, but it would obviously be useful in other places. Cell phones have a lot of advantages for detonating bombs. Like all radio-controlled detonators, cell phones give the bomber complete control over when the bomb goes off, but cell phones are much less likely to go off on false signals than most other improvised radio detonators.

But for terrorism in the developed world, there is another huge advantage of cell phones over other radio detonators: no range limit. You can plant a bomb in San Francisco, get on a plane to Jersey, and let your confederate in Nigeria actually set off the bomb. If anything, the terrorists are behind the technology curve if they are just now catching on to the advantages of cell phone detonators and they probably have a lot of training to do.

Furthermore, I have never believed that the tactic of suicide-bombing could continue to be effective over the long term. There just aren't that many people who are both reliable enough to carry out an attack and crazy/dedicated enough to blow themselves up. And if you do have someone like that, he is a probably valuable asset --too valuable to expend in a single attack. So I don't believe that the number of suicide bombers can be increased very much if at all, and that probably the pool of good suicide-bomber candidates will be exhausted soon and the Islamists will have to find another tactic. If so, the terrorists would know this by falling returns from their recruiters, and cell-phone bombs would look like a good alternative.

I wouldn't be surprised that many of these phones were actually on their way to a terrorist university somewhere in Pakistan.

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