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TSA warns of possible airline threat involving implanted bombs

July 06, 2011|By Christi Parsons
  • A traveler is inspected at a TSA checkpoint at LAX this year.
A traveler is inspected at a TSA checkpoint at LAX this year. (Mark Boster )

The government has warned airlines that terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into people in an attempt to circumvent screening procedures, according to U.S. officials.

There is no indication of an immediate plot, but the new information could lead to additional screening procedures at the nation’s airports. Existing scanners would not necessarily detect bombs implanted under a person’s skin, experts said.

While the information suggests such a threat would come from overseas rather than domestic groups, federal officials are ordering precautions both in the U.S. and abroad, the official said.

The idea of surgically implanting bombs has been examined by intelligence agencies in the past, but new information has suggested that terrorist groups are seriously considering the technique, officials said.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, Nicholas Kimball, said that passengers flying to the United States are likely to face additional screening measures.

"These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same activity at every international airport," Kimball said. "Measures may include interaction with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies."

Existing scanners cannot detect certain explosive materials like PETN under the skin. They would have to rely on explosive trace detection swabs to detect bombs under the skin, and those are only conducted on a fraction of the passengers.

Brian Bennett of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

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