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Thu, Jul 26, 2007

TSA Warns Of 'Dry Runs' For Potential Terrorist Attacks

Memo Indicates Recent Incidents Might Be "Pre-Attack Security Probes"

Law enforcement officials nationwide are being advised by the Transportation Safety Administration to watch out for what has been termed "dry runs" for a terrorist attack, in apparent response to several recent suspicious incidents that have occurred at several US airports.

CNN reports it obtained, from a government source, a July 20 unclassified advisory from the TSA that stated recent activity might be "pre-attack security probes." Entitled "Incidents at US Airports May Suggest Possible Pre-Attack Probing" the memo is labeled "For Official Use Only."

The TSA is quick to downplay the significance of the memo, saying it was merely one of more than 90 such bulletins recently issued "with the intent to provide as much information as possible to our front line officers," according to CNN.

"There is no intelligence that indicates a specific or credible threat to the homeland," the agency said.

The bulletin says terrorists could be testing the US airport security system, or performing repeated little tasks designed to desensitize security personnel.

"The unusual nature and increase in number of these improvised items raise concern, and TSA personnel should continue vigilance for groupings of ordinary items that look like IED (Improvised Explosive Device) components," reads the bulletin.

The advisory then gives details of four specific incidents during the past 11 months where unusual items were discovered by screeners that could mimic bomb components in luggage.

Some of the unusual goings-on include an incident in San Diego earlier this month when a bag with two ice packs bound with duct tape was found in a checked bag. The ice packs contained clay. In another incident in Baltimore, MD in September, a plastic bag was found with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag that contained a charger for a cell phone.

In November, a bag was checked in Houston that contained a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, pipes, and block of a clay-like material. Last month in Milwaukee, a carry-on bag had a wire coil wrapped around a possible detonator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese inside, all possible IED components.

The bulletin said at least three of these incidents involved US citizens, however "initial investigations do not link them with criminal or terrorist organizations." The bulletin also advises "most passengers' explanations for carrying the suspicious items were questionable, and some investigations are still ongoing."

"We constantly feed intelligence and training information to our officers and the law enforcement community and this is one example of such information sharing," said the TSA.

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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