By now it's all over the media:
Man Attempts to Set Off Explosives on Detroit-Bound Airplane
The man said he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over U.S. soil.
The device went off as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, an Airbus 330 carrying 278 passengers and operated by Delta, was arriving in Detroit from Amsterdam.
The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who according to federal documents is an engineering student at University College of London.
Federal law enforcement authorities are trying to determine the credibility of Abdulmutallab's story; i.e. IS he an Al Qaeda operative, or is this another episode of what I have coined 'Self-Induced Jihad Syndrome'?
Abdulmutallab certainly fits the 'Self-Induced Jihadi' profile - he is young, intelligent, educated, AND "inspired" - according to his entry visa he was flying from Nigeria to the United States for a "religious seminar".
The suspect had been in a law enforcement-intelligence database but was not on the government's no-fly list. According to a federal situational awareness bulletin: "The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used."
BRILLIANT - we have apparently returned to the pre-9/11 mindset. There's your Federal government taking care of you.
I am a Special Forces engineer - I have extensive training and experience in what we refer to as 'field expedients'.
The suspect told authorities that he had explosive powder taped to his leg and used a syringe of chemicals to mix with the powder that was to cause explosion. This is of concern because it is a method of mixing that is consistent with terror techniques.
The trouble with this sort of improvised explosives is that they are not reliable, and are very difficult to initiate. Factors such as temperature, ambient pressure and relative humidity affect chemical reactions. A chemical mixture that may have initiated perfectly well in a hot, dry desert climate like Yemen obviously failed to produce results in a jetliner at altitude, thankfully.
The popular television show Mythbusters put these 'MacGyver'-type energetics to the test: in one episode, they tried to replicate how MacGyver once blew a man-sized hole in a wall with one gram of sodium reacting with water. The MythBusters placed sodium in a gel capsule, placed it in a bottle full of warm water, placed the bottle against a cinder block wall, and tamped it with sand. One gram of sodium was not powerful enough to damage the wall (or even the bottle it was in), and 100 grams of sodium was also not enough. The MythBusters then used 500 grams of more-reactive potassium placed inside a cannon-like contraption to direct all the force onto the wall, but still failed to cause any damage. The MythBusters finally resorted to using C4 high explosive to demolish the wall.