Fruit of the Boom

undiebomber2.jpg ABC News has published an "exclusive" series of photographs identified as the customized undergarments of a fellow who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane over the holidays with the explosive PETN. Above, an image identified on as "UNDERWEAR WITH EXPLOSIVE PACKET." I wonder how they obtained these images, and from whom?

The photo series also includes separate detail shots of explosive powder packet, and the syringe which, according to reports, contained some sort of acid that was to aid in the detonation process—thankfully, it failed. A quick YouTube search yields several videos of questionable origin with titles like "PETN 40" and "PETN 50 UNDERWATER," presumably X grams of the explosive being detonated. If the videos and quantities are legit, it really is frightening to imagine what 80 grams in the dude's drawers could have done if he'd succeeded.

This is the creepiest wide-distribution media image I can remember seeing for many years. What distasteful internet parodies and fetish riffs may yet come?

What better way to round out this scorched and shitty decade than to gaze thoughtfully into the charred, soiled underpants of a stranger. A troubled young man who seems to have hated America only as much as he hated his own junk.

EXCLUSIVE: Photos of the Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Bomb (ABC NEWS)


  1. Who’s idea was this? Blowing yourself up is one thing, but doing it with a bomb in your CROTCH activated by a SYRINGE of ACID is just too much. That kid really must have hated his life. And his junk.
    Perfect ending to a perfect decade.

  2. Exclusive my ass; MSNBC ran similar video of these dirty drawers which was “obtained by NBC News” this morning. Anywho, @#1/johnhazard is on to something about the kid really hating his junk.

  3. What I am waiting for is the new war on underwear from the TSA. Or will it be the war on powder? How long until we have to fly naked and blindfolded?

  4. Let’s just sync up our vacation plans with our proctology exams. Problem solved! Level of pride unchanged!

  5. I’ve been predicting this day would come since Richard Reid tried to ignite his Reeboks.

    The TSA’s new PSA campaign to replace 3-1-1:

    “Commando — It’s the *only* way to fly.”

  6. That’s the clever part. By instilling fear for underpants terrists have scored the ultimate dada-esque victory over sanity.

  7. It’s an interesting war. Billions of dollars worth of airstrikes and covert operations VS. exploding jock straps.

  8. I was pondering the entire situation over breakfast at home… I had the unique opportunity to meet some of the folks of the URI Energetic Materials lab (a DHS Center of Excellence) and I have very little doubt that within a few years the technology will be widespread enough to detect PETN with most likely air-jets and/or hair tests. So imagine you could check for PETN, RDX, TNT, blah blah on every passenger boarding in the US and/or World…

    Then you would have (guesstimating) something like 1000 false positives for every terrorist (if not 100,000 or more) … why… because at that same meeting where I met the energetics materials people, it was made clear that anyone working with explosives (such as researchers) are covered with explosive residue… so hence we’d have hundreds of miners, demo people, fireworks makers, etc. etc. slowed and possibly detained through such measures.

    Even though it takes a permit to buy PETN in the US, I’m sure that to come in contact with it at work doesn’t take a permit. So then, how would you protect all of the innocents from false positives?

    Body scanners are stupid and obviously ineffective… it’s as if they forgot terrorists have rectums.

    1. Detectors are simple enough to thwart. Throw a handful of fertilizer (which will almost certainly contain nitrates such as ammonium nitrate) onto the ground in the parking lot at the airport, where everyone walks through it. After the 600th false alarm, the detector is shut down as it’s obviously defective. Once that happens, THEN you smuggle in your device.

      The detector-happy people are nuts with no sense of reality.

      1. Indeed this would thwart them, but something so blatant would literally raise alarms in an airport to search everyone. Very good point, though. I believe the hair tests could perhaps tell the difference to a greater degree, but clearly since none of this is foolproof, it’s hard to imagine a point to any of this security dance.

        People can’t bring guns onto airplanes, checked bags are checked for explosives, passengers are all passenger 57s now, and the aircraft cockpit doors are locked. Besides bomb proof luggage compartments… what else can be done within the realm of reason?

  9. I hope we’ve noticed by now that one of the “terrorists” goals is to limit personal freedom by way of governmental reactionism. *That* irrational reactionism is all the weaponry a terrorist needs. #justsayin

  10. So is the story that drug smugglers swallow condoms full of heroin false?

    Cause if it’s true, non-detectable two-part explosives in terrorist bellies is the win for the determined. Almost impossible to detect or prevent.

    If false, where did it come from? I know Americans fear movie-terrorist plots more than real threats — is there a particular cinematic example?

  11. Expanded security measures won’t stop everything.
    Eliminating security measures won’t stop anything.
    If Virgin America were allowed to waive all TSA screenings, would that be your airline of choice from now on?

    1. If Virgin America were allowed to waive all TSA screenings, would that be your airline of choice from now on?

      If any airline stops all screenings, I will start traveling by airplane again.

      And even if the ultra-right blows a few planes out of the sky to keep the fear alive, I will still only use airlines that do not screen.

      Because I don’t enjoy being ritually humiliated by underpaid TSA drones, and like any sane person, I’m not afraid of terrorists. Terrorists kill fewer people than workplace accidents, and I’m not afraid to go to work. Auto accidents kill more people than terrorists, but I’m not afraid to drive across the country. Hell, whisky kills more people than terrorists, but I don’t see everyone giving up drinking all at once.

      Fear is the mind-killer. Don’t fear the terrorists, kick them in their explosive gonads if they get in your face and otherwise ignore them.

      1. If any airline stops all screenings, I will start traveling by airplane again.

        And we should leave our cars unlocked and use push-button starters, since auto thefts are relatively rare as well.

        Do you really think that if all screenings stopped, we wouldn’t have a bunch of downed airliners? That would be a very low-cost ticket to fame and martyrdom. The motive is already there, and we would be providing the opportunity.

        1. In response to my comment “If any airline stops all screenings, I will start traveling by airplane again” another anonym replied: And we should leave our cars unlocked and use push-button starters, since auto thefts are relatively rare as well.

          First off, you don’t seem to understand the difference between me saying I’d like to be permitted to judge risks and run my life on my own terms, and you saying everyone else must be forced to cater to your fears. I’m preaching freedom and individual choice, you are preaching authoritarianism and collectivism.

          Secondly, I know several people who leave their keys in their ignition at all times. None of them have ever had their cars stolen. I asked one of them why she has done this all her life (she’s nearly 90 years old now) and she replied “because someone might need my car”. I submit that this woman has lived a rich and full life in no small part because she is not a sniveling coward who places fear above all other considerations.

          Do you really think that if all screenings stopped, we wouldn’t have a bunch of downed airliners? That would be a very low-cost ticket to fame and martyrdom. The motive is already there, and we would be providing the opportunity.

          I think I already mentioned that. But to recap, yes I expect that the authoritarian fear mongers might well take action. And I’d fly the no-screening flights anyway, even if it cost more.

          I fully support your right to fly in whatever dehumanizing and undignified fashion you choose, but I will not cater to others’ infantile fear of death. I prefer to travel in company with other grown-ups. If you want to stop terrorism, stop being afraid.

  12. I’m going to call shenanigans on the whole thing. Someone in a cubical in Langley is laughing like crazy.

  13. Also.. is it weird that the Underpants of Doom resemble the Dove of Peace (but in an autopsy pose)?

  14. “is also used as a medical drug to treat heart conditions.” HaHahaaa maybe he had a Heart after all….

  15. There has been an intriguing shift in bomber policy this year. The London bombers and others wore groin protection. Maybe they did not fancy going before their god without their full kit. Maybe the angels might mistake you for a woman. Or maybe they were worried about meeting the virgins they were promised. Now, it seems holy writ has changed: the toilet bits are just the place to hide your plastique, and if you get your meat + 2 veg blasted to kingdom come, they will be replaced. Perhaps improved, and not weeny at all.

    Did the guy hate his junk? Maybe he did. However, we can probably beat this trend if we try circulating the following well-known web facts..:

    Afterlife virgins can always recognize a replacement set of genitalia, a bit like a botched boob job. Then, they always tell all their friends.

    My brother knew someone who was a bomber, and apparently a second set of genitals never really feel right. They can’t give you the sensitivity of the original set.

    Everyone is 50% bigger all round in heaven, so if you stick to the replacement figures, you are actually downsizing.

    They get the replacement genitals from dead gay people. You have no idea where that thing may have been.

  16. CNN was great this morning: “And here are images of the underwear. You can see the burns from where he attempted to detonate the package.

  17. I think the most remarkable thing here is the lack of evident underwear skid marks. If I was going to detonate a bomb on a plane at 35,000 feet you can bet that I would have made a mess of my drawers. Kudos to you Mr. Abdulmatullab!

  18. How convienient, after all the opposition to full body scanners (think, airport scanner operators seeing under your childs clothes). They are now able to push for full body scanners, privacy be damned. No wonder this is getting huge media attention.

    Maybe my tinfoil hat is a little tight these days, can you blame me?

  19. Considering the delivery method, wasn’t this attempt doomed from the start? In my limited experience playing with fireworks and explosives when I was younger, a simple fabric pouch is not enough to compress the explosive to create the desired explosion. Similar to how lighting a pile of black powder on a table, doesn’t result in an explosion, but a fire.

  20. They look like Walter Sobchak’s– the ones he used in the ringer! “Fuck it, Dude… let’s go bowlin’.”

  21. I was going to drive to Texas for my cousin’s wedding but I hear Northwest has roasted nuts in coach now, so I might fly.

  22. So what should we be doing about this? I remember Xmas day, one of the mods from BB saying something about potentially losing civil liberties because someone lit off fireworks on the plane, but the rhetoric didn’t stop once it was known that there was an actual danger.

    Flying through the stratosphere, especially if you have to go through thunder clouds, has far more radiation than an XRay…are we sooo worried about someone seeing our undies…or gasp…more…that we are willing to let something like this go?

    Personally, I’d take the xray if I could get back to having actual confort on a plane. I’ll send the TSA a photo of my nuts right now to have a baseline if they want one. Heck, they probably have one from some drunken escapade I probably don’t remember that someone posted to Facebook already…just have to contact and coordinate with NSA for this.

    I’d rather someone take naughty photos of me than to take away actual important civil liberties.

  23. I have nothing meaningful to add to this conversation except +1 points for the following comments:

    *From Leslie “new war on underwear” (WOU – sounds like WOOOOOO!)
    *From hallpass “Commando — It’s the *only* way to fly.”
    *Richard Kirk’s entire post
    *ninjasuperspy’s entire post

    Excellent jokes all around. Let the internet memes start here.

  24. Seems to me there is a free market solution to the security vs. civil liberties issue. Why not make security an option when you fly. Perhaps you would be given the choice between a secured, semi-secured, and non-secured flight. Folks like Xeni could take the non-secured flight with no infringement on her civil liberties, others might feel more comfortable “paying the price” of more severe security and could take the secured flights. Of course the pilots and staff of the unsecured flights would have to be payed at a higher rate to account for the added risk, but some people might want to take that risk.

    1. That only works when you can’t use the hijacked/terrorized plane as a weapon, e.g., crashing it into a building.

      I think the proper approach is better HUMINT rather than on-site security, but there is no 100% solution.

  25. An underwater explosion is different to one in the air, same goes for one in a brick wall – air is much more compressible than water, so the explosions are much less impressive. Just check out the Mythbusters episode where they wrapped a christmas tree in det cord.

  26. His actions don’t make sense. If he really wanted to bring the aircraft down he would’ve tried to set off the explosive next to the bulkhead instead of shielding the aircraft from the explosion with his seat and legs.

  27. In a recent local Miami interview with the guy that jumped on top of the terrorist in the plane, stopping the incident and capturing the guy. He described the explosive device as a 6″ long banana shaped tube, sewn into his underwear or strapped to his inner thighs. If that description is truly correct then how are we going to screen for this kind of “Penile” explosive in the near future? Will we ever allow a TSA employee to just fondle and jiggle our privates to see if they explode in their hands… God, I hope so. But until that day comes, I’m sticking to driving cross country and truck stop showers.

  28. fr n, wld lk t s ths “trbld yng mn” trtrd t dth n lv tv vr th crs f wk r s. Ths wld b prtl cmpnstn fr th msry h s gng t cs m n th 3-5 flghts mnth m frcd t tk fr wrk.

    1. Don’t you think 2nd to 3rd degree burns on your penis is punishment enough? I don’t know the true extent of his injuries, but depending on how hot PETN burns he could have burned his penis and balls off all together.

  29. I just flew Northwest/Delta from Salt Lake City to San Francisco and I am happy to report that there were no over reactive security measures from the airlines or the TSA. And I was looking fairly dissheveled from a day of skiing.

  30. We’re down to explosives planted in crotches and asses (see the recent failed attempt on the Saudi official’s life).

    So we’ve reached the point where the humiliation the terrorists have to endure when undertaking their plot is at least equal to that of air passengers. If we’re not winning at least we’re spreading the pain.

    Though it’s kind of…odd to me that matters of international security and safety would all become so laser focused on crotches and asses, but sometimes the world is just plain weirder than even I can imagine.

  31. This screening must be stopped.

    As others have pointed out, there are lots more risky behaviors, working, driving, having a drink… The dehumanization is not worth whatever safety issues they pretend.

    I post a conspiracy theory where the rich elite want to exterminate their highest paid slaves, USA people, because they don’t need them anymore with all the outsourcing and since government bails them out, they don’t even need their dollars. So the “Security Measures” especially at the airport are a test to see how far they can push people when the REAL extermination begins and they push us into gas chambers.

    But even that is flattering them undeservedly. The sad reality is probably that there’s no one running the show, good or bad, though plenty of profiteers running off with bits of the stage to sell for a pittance. The “Officials” are pathetic, whiny bureaucrats who over-react to every scare, not to prevent the next scare, but so that they can whine to keep their jobs that they “Did everything they could.”

    Although one thing that makes me believe the “Conspiracy” angle is just how ineffective these attacks are, how much of the social damage is done by the media and government over-reacting versus any ka-booming incident. Case in point, remember that 2003 blackout? Anyone who cared knew the country’s electrical grid was stretched that thin due to all the “Privatization” that is letting private companies get in charge of utilities, but the bills they raise go to the CEO’s tenth mansion or fifth yacht, not re-investing in transformers and such. Imagine if, on 9/11, when night fell the lights went out all over most of the country…?

  32. Empathy is harder than easy vengeance and a more satisfying path to it, I’d think.
    @moderator the 0’s were miserable in some ways… but we kept our baby, the internet together. We still are keeping the hope for world social equality alive. We’re starting to apply the right technique to salvage the world with capitalism intact.
    I know politics means polarities, but fifty years ago a man with a nice cappuccino colored skin in the oval office would have been considered irreligious.
    Now, irreligion is shifting to other things. Our watch is going better than it might.

  33. Hmm last post disemvowled. I shall try to make my point in a more politically correct fashion…

    I believe that we often too quickly jump to the conclusion that anyone that would carry out or attempt mass murder must be “troubled” or “sick”. Isn’t it possible that many terrorists know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it? How do we know this is a “troubled young man” and not just an evil zealot who wants to kill anyone who does not subscribe to his religion?

    The worst punishment we can expect this man to receive is likely to be life in solitary confinement. Is this severe enough for someone who attempted to kill hundreds of innocent men, women and children?

    I don’t think so.

  34. I shall try to make my point in a more politically correct fashion…

    You do know that’s one of the squares on the Troll Bingo card, right?

    A discussion about the death penalty is OT here (it’s one of the Black Holes of Conversation), but advocating that someone be put to death is a far cry from what you advocated in your now-disemvowelled post. The difference is not “political correctness” or a matter of phrasing. Many here, including me, might disagree with you on the death penalty, but your previous suggestion is nothing short of psychopathic.

    1. Yes, I am a psychopath for making a glib comment here but the man caught trying to blow up an airliner is a “troubled young man”

      Makes sense to me. Poor Mr Abdulmutallab probably just has low self esteem. Lets get him a therapist and put him in a half way house.

      1. I said you were a psychopath IF you meant your suggestion seriously. I don’t actually think you are a psychopath.

        No, I think you’re a troll. Subtle difference there.

    1. Replying to myself. Kinky …

      But you know, I think I’ll use this strategy when unterhosen searches become mandatory:

      1). Big spicy Mexican meal the night before travel.

      2). Laxative at bedtime.

      3). Adult diaper in the morning.

      4). TSA employees thinking, “They don’t pay me enough for this.”

      You’d best think the endgame through thoroughly, Meester Gubmint.

  35. Full marks to Xeni for the fruit of the boom gag. It’s a glimmer of funny even though the attempt was a distasteful act – further exacerbated by a distasteful garment.

    A small point about language. Use of the phrase ‘junk’ in American English might scan well out in the colonies but an English gentleman might refer to said content as.. “meat and two veg”.

  36. If we had more bomb-sniffing dogs, this guy might have been caught because they’re not shy about sniffing crotches.
    Dogs are cheaper and quicker to implement. Instead we’ll spend $1 billion on some contractor for some machines that will fail or won’t be installed until 2025.

    1. I think we need TSA agents who aren’t shy about sniffing crotches! “I got your suspicious package right here, goon!”

      Seriously, I think that’s an excellent idea. But the dogs shouldn’t be Dobies or Shepherds, since though they’re both really nice dogs they can be intimidating to some people. The last thing we need is MORE intimidation of passengers!

      I heard on the plane the other day that there’s some small, “silly” breed of dog that’s actually really excellent at sniffing things out. Was it Chihuahuas? I can’t remember.

  37. How long until a copy of those go on sale? (sans explosives, but something to replace it) Another 3 days? A week? Will wearing them be unamerican (and thus unlawful)?

    Will the mainstream media *finally* see the light and become aware of and admit to even one tenth of their foolishness?

    2010 is going to be an interesting year.

  38. @65 That would be a lot more sensible; I’ve been wondering for a while now why they don’t target the security lines.

    But yeah, this is why I take the train instead whenever I can. That, and I always get sick from breathing the under-oxygenated, recirculated air.

    And, as my recaptcha points out, “to layover” is not so great either.

  39. heh, got this text from my girlfriend who just got screened at the airport:

    Me: Is this lip gloss ok?
    Security lady (handing me a baggy): No, it’s a balm.

  40. Xeni, the last paragraph of this post won’t get out of my head since I read it early today. Way to sum up a decade; that was an admirable turn of phrase.

  41. My hypothesis is even if the thing had exploded, it wouldn’t have been big enough to bring down the plane. And he knew it. He only wanted the TSA to search your underwear before you board the plane.

  42. What better way to round out this scorched and shitty decade

    By many accounts this really was a pretty shitty last 10 years. Between Bush and the Obama afterglow fading to black (no pun intended)… I’m just going to hope for a better next decade and offer a good riddance to this last one. I never thought I’d look back on the 90’s so fondly until I went through the 00’s.

    I’m just glad the crotch-cannon didn’t succeed or we’d all be in for even more fear mongering than there already is… if that’s possible.

    I’m still wondering why they are still trying to attack us if invading all these countries was to make us safer? They seem more determined than ever… how strange..

  43. Angel, not dove.
    And I think his masters only *told* him that the bomb was going to blow the plane. Their real intent was to double security and kill the airline industry; which seems to have succeeded beautifully. Score one for the bad guys.

  44. Don’t you guys see? The TSA prevented a disaster by tricking the Taliban into thinking you could make a bomb out 5 oz or more of any liquid. This is the first real victory in the War on Fluids!

  45. well, it’s nice that he used his best pair of drawers. those tighties are no longer whities. personally, i blame the parents.

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