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Mother of Suckers
The mainstream media swallow the TATP myth

21 August 2006

Peter Costello was gibbering on about the War on Terror stretching out for the next 50 years when I switched off the radio. I went down to the Brushtail Café for dinner and found Alex, from the pharmacy around the corner, propped up at the bar chuckling over a back issue of the Daily Terror.

“What’s tickled your funny bone?” I asked, as Joadja handed me a cider.

“Just this garbage about the Great Airline Bomb Scare”, he said. “Obviously the journalists haven’t a clue about basic chemistry”.

“Or they aren’t willing to risk their cushy little jobs by asking difficult questions or phoning a scientific professional”, I replied.

“They’d rather ring some fuckwit ‘terrorism consultant’. You’re the expert. Is it really credible at all? Is it really as easy as carrying a couple of bottles of different chemicals onto the plane and mixing it in the toilet?”

He took another swig of his drink. “They’re talking about TATP – Triacetone Triperoxide. Somewhere along the line some journalist wrote somewhere that the jihadis call it ‘Mother of Satan’. Who knows if they do, but it makes a great headline, so it’s been endlessly repeated. What is correct is that it’s a dangerously unstable brew with a use-by date the day before you mixed it. And you need to keep it nicely chilled or you’ll go to meet Allah earlier than you counted on”.

“So, imagining for a moment that you’re a jihadi and you’re actually going to try to cook up TATP on an airliner, what would you have to do?” I asked.

“Well, firstly you’ve got to understand that TATP isn’t a liquid, it’s a white crystalline powder. Looks like sugar and it makes nitroglycerine look safe. I read in one breathless story that the alleged bombers got the recipe from an ‘al-Qaeda website’. Why would al-Qaeda bother? Everyone who studied chemistry knows the recipe. And it’s on Wikipedia.

“The three ingredients are acetone, sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. The acetone and sulphuric you can buy at the hardware store without attracting suspicion, but the hydrogen peroxide has got to be virtually full strength. You can’t use the stuff you buy over the counter at the pharmacy because it’s 97 per cent water. Well, you could, but you’d have to buy a lot of little bottles of peroxide and boil off the water, which is very risky. One false move and you’ve burned your house down.

“Anyway, you can premix the peroxide with the acetone – a couple of litres might make a useful amount of TATP – and carry that onto the plane in a single container but you’ve got to keep it cool and the only way I can think of to do that is to carry it in a Styrofoam container with some of those cold bricks from the supermarket. Plus, in your kit you’ll need to have a stirrer and a thermometer and a glass beaker or a stainless steel bowl to mix it in.”

“Hang on a sec”, Joadja said. “You mean you’ve got to get a cooler box and all that stuff on as hand luggage? That’d raise a few eyebrows!”

“Sure would, but let’s pretend you use your Jedi force on the security folks and get it on board. Next, you’ve got to get all your gear into the toilet. So you get the cooler down from the overhead luggage and lug it up the aisle. And then you’ll need to take out a mortgage on the toilet, ’cos you’re gonna be in there for a long time.

“First you’ll need to fill your cooler box with water and wait till it the cold bricks cool it below 10 degrees C. Next step: take your mixing bowl, float it in the cold water, pour in the peroxide/acetone mix and then add the sulphuric acid, a drop at a time, stirring carefully. You’d need to check the temperature constantly. If it gets a little too hot you’ll get a piss-weak batch; if it gets way too hot you’ll get a weak batch that spontaneous detonates. I’d probably kill you and nobody else.

“Let’s assume that takes twenty minutes or so. You still aren’t finished. You’ll end up with damp crystals. You’ll have to carefully, very carefully, decant them onto a paper towel to soak up surplus liquid and then leave them to dry for an hour or so. Hey presto! Mother of Satan.”

“So you’re gonna be in the toilet for an hour and a half!” I said. “That’s ridiculous. Somebody would call the flight attendants, even if only to check that you hadn’t had a heart attack!”

“Isn’t TATP the explosive the cops reckon was used in the 7/7 London bombings?” Joadja asked.

“Yeah. At first the mainstream media said it was most likely a high-grade military explosive called C4 but when nobody could point to a credible connection to al-Qaeda, or some other source of C4, they started to run with the yarn that the kids had brewed up some TATP themselves.”

“Hang on … if that were the case they should have found cooler boxes in the abandoned cars at Luton Station. And nobody has ever said that they did.”

“Right. The whole official story of 7/7, like the whole of this current 'thwarted' airline TATP plot is just rubbish. And the mainstream media have swallowed it … hook line and sinker.”