Toothpaste Terror Threatens Winter Olympics, Warns DHS

ToothpastePublic DomainWhen I fly, I've taken to swapping toothpaste for baking soda to minimize the hassles at airport security, where "liquids, aerosols and gels" have to be bagged and x-rayed separately from everything else. Because, really, what's more innocuous than a sandwich bag full of white powder stuffed in my toiletry kit? How prescient I've been! The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is warning airlines to beware lest toothpaste tubes packed with explosives make their way onto Sochi-bound airplanes in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.

Reports CNN:

The United States is advising airlines with direct flights serving Russia to be aware of the possibility that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Wednesday night.

Rep. Michael McCaul said the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to airlines flying into Russia warning of the potential threat.

The bulletin, the Texas Republican said, indicated that officials believed the explosives might be used during flights or smuggled into the city of Sochi, where competition at the Winter Olympics begins Thursday. The opening ceremony is Friday.

These malevolent 3.4 ounce (presumably) tubes of dentrifice won't just blast the tartar from your teeth, says the DHS, but the Tartars right out of the Rodina.

Maybe it's true. Who knows? Explosives, frankly, aren't that hard to make or conceal. Plastic explosives developed by many countries are moldable into a variety of forms and could probably be squeezed into toothpaste tubes if somebody really wanted to. It's hard to see getting an effective quantity into a little container of Crest, however. Security researcher Evan Booth has improvised weapons, including explosives, from off-shelf-commodities purchased in airport stores after passing through security. And do I really have to point out that explosive powders predate the squeezable stuff by a good, long time? (Crap. There goes my baking soda.) The most dangerous weapon is the ingenuity of the human mind, not its specific products.

But we're on Colgate alert as the world prepares for the Sochi winter olympics, never mind that the plumbing at the event may pose a much greater threat than any deliberately malicious creation of mankind (at least a few hotel faucets appear to have been linked to sewage lines rather than fresh water).

And get ready for the toothpaste terror to continue.

A former airline security chief anticipated that the threat will prompt authorities in the United States and Europe to clamp down on toothpaste and cosmetics.

"My prediction is that they will give a direct order that they'll be removing toothpaste from passengers' hand-carried items" and possibly from checked luggage as well, said Glen Winn, a former security director at United and Continental airlines.

Because, if we're going to react, we might as well oveerreact. Nothing else will keep us safe from the...whoever.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Smiling terrorists will blind pilots with pearly white choppers.

  • playa manhattan||

    Can someone explain to me what was going on on The Independents last night. I was out late and missed it. If I understand the comments in the thread from last night, they were reading Hit & Run commenters' hate mail on the air?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    They read "hate" mail from various sources, including social media and, yes, Hit & Run comments. Two commenters last night made it to air, I believe. It appears to be a regular segment on the show.

  • Jon Lester||

    Have they mentioned Tony or BP by name yet?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No. Welch claims to have no input in what is chosen, and the segment isn't focused on reason commenting.

  • Jon Lester||

    That's good. Can't have those two elevated to undue fame ahead of the rest of us.

  • Will Nonya||

    because that just wouldn't be fair...

  • playa manhattan||

    It looked like Episiarch had one of them. Did they have to censor his comment?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    As you can see, Welch posted video of last night's.

  • playa manhattan||

    Thanks, just watched. Francisco is a hero.

  • SugarFree||

    Epi had two comments on air a week or so ago. I smell blackmail.

  • Jon Lester||

    I brush my teeth with baking soda, but I guess I'd get that confiscated, too.

    Could it be, someone on the inside is invested in toothpaste sold at the Moscow and Sochi airports?

  • Snark Plissken||

    Baking soda really cleans the teeth, although some claim it's too abrasive (the toothpaste lobby!). I'm not crazy about the salty taste, though.

  • Jon Lester||

    I wash my hair with it, too. Works great.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Really? I rinse with vinegar, which cured my dandruff, it's anti-fungal.

  • playa manhattan||

    Doesn't it bleach your hair like lemon juice?

  • Jon Lester||

    No, I have that light brown/dark ('sandy') blonde natural hair color that easily bleaches in sunlight, but it hasn't changed any from washing.

  • Jon Lester||

    I guess you were asking about vinegar. I haven't tried that.

  • Will Nonya||

    What in the hell has happened to this group.

    We're exchanging hair care tips now?

  • Jon Lester||

    Listen and learn. You've been lied to by Big Shampoo.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Don't hate us 'cause we are beautiful.

  • Snark Plissken||

    You would think so, but I've not noticed and I use it almost daily.

    Isn't it more in combination with sunlight? Don't have to worry about that too much here in Prague.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Lemon juice is probably more acidic, I imagine, I mean which would you rather get in your eye?

  • playa manhattan||

    Depends on what kind of vinegar.

    I would say neither.

  • Snark Plissken||

    That's actually a problem, be very careful, or dilute it. I use it straight and am careful but there's been a few incidents.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Don't rinse with vinegar daily. Maybe once a week.

    Source: My wife who is obsessed with hair care.

  • Snark Plissken||

    My soft and shiny, bouncy and manageable hair begs to differ.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I wasn't referring to your pubes, I was referring to your scalp.

  • Snark Plissken||

    I always assume you are referring to my pubes.

    MY FACE IS UP HERE!!!

  • Don Mynack||

    Yeah, but your hair smells like the salad bar at Pizza Hut.

  • Snark Plissken||

    Duh, thin women love salad, it's like a super-pheromone for hot chicks.

  • playa manhattan||

    I have bad dandruff, so I might need it more often than that.

  • Snark Plissken||

    It stings like hell at the beginning because the scalp is hyper-sensitive. As scalp heals it stops. Go a couple weeks without and it will start stinging again.

  • playa manhattan||

    Pretty much like aftershave.

    I have a "custom" blended shampoo containing Ketoconazole, but I don't like to use it too often.

  • Almanian!||

    BIG TOOTHPASTE

  • Almanian!||

    Also:

    I'm not crazy about the salty taste, though

    THAT'S WHAT SHEEEEEEEE SAID!!!

  • Almanian!||

    I'd respect the Terrorists sense of humor more if they'd put the explosive ingredients in hemorrhoid-medicine tubes.

    "Up your ass, infidel!" HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Those wacky terrorists!

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    British Prime Minister: "You won't find any of *our* people carrying toothpaste!"

  • sarcasmic||

    Never mind that plastic explosives can't be set off by sticking a fuse of the tube and lighting it. They need blasting caps. Hmmm. I wonder if the security goons are trained to look for blasting caps. Probably not. It's easier to steal travelers' toothpaste.

  • Sugarsail||

    FYI Modern binary explosives work much like a two-part epoxy and when mixed together become highly sensitized and are VERY powerful and can be initiated by a fuse or impact. Two toothpaste tubes one with part A and the other with part B would be devastating and safe to carry.

  • Adam330||

    "The most dangerous weapon is the ingenuity of the human mind, not its specific products."

    Time to ban people from bringing their brains with them on airplanes. They've already successfully done this for TSA workers.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    +1

  • John||

    I would be curious to hear the exact amount of kinetic energy it would take to bring down an airliner even if perfectly placed with in the cabin. I would imagine it is fairly high. A tube of toothpaste doesn't have a lot of mass. You would have to have some pretty high yield explosives to get the energy necessary to even blow a hole in a fuselage much less take down an airliner from that small amount of mass. And if the theory is that they will mix the explosives on board to get more mass, no way would anything that could be mixed up in a airplane bathroom have anything approaching the kind of yield required.

    I call shenanigans on this. Is it possible? Maybe. But it is highly unlikely. So unlikely it should not be considered a threat. And if it is a threat, maybe the answer is to look at reinforces a few key spots around the cabin of airliners. Just blowing a hole in the fuselage won't bring one down. You would have to hit something vital or ignite the fuel to bring it down.

  • Jon Lester||

    I'm sure you remember the airliner that lost part of its roof in flight, but still managed to land.

  • John||

    Yes. That has happened numerous times. This whole thing is such transparent horseshit.

  • RBS||

  • Jon Lester||

    That's it. I thought I remembered it being Hawaiian.

  • playa manhattan||

  • John||

    That is significantly larger than a tube of tooth paste. And it also contained high yield explosives of a type that would be difficult to mix up in the bathroom.

    Clearly it is possible to bomb an airliner. It has been done before. But bombing one from the cabin with something as small as a tube of toothpaste seems unlikely.

  • playa manhattan||

    Maybe on a really old aircraft with mechanical linkages.

    All the underwear bomber accomplished was burning his own nut sack off.

  • John||

    Exactly. Both him and the shoe bomber had the same problem; getting the explosives on board is only half the battle, you still have to detonate them. Detonation is harder than you would think. If you don't have the explosives mixed properly or have a good detonator, you get a fizzle like the underwear bomber had.

    It is not like the movies where a single spark sets off a huge explosion.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah. A lot of high explosives you can throw into a fire and they won't explode.

  • UnCivilServant||

    The strategm has been to try to rupture the center fuel tank (the only one in the main fuselage of the modern airliner) and get it to ignite. The yield needed - I don't know.

  • John||

    I would think the solution would be to reinforce the area between the cabin and the fuel tank making it harder to pierce with explosives rather than banning toothpaste. No ban or system is going to be 100% effective. But re-enforcing the fuel tank would be close.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Chechnya is at the other end of the Caucuses from Sochi, and that's gotta be your main threat.

    No need for Chechen separatists to fly anywhere. They can walk to the Olympics.

  • DJF||

    Or they can move to Boston as refugees.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Then they should be on the No-Walk list. Do I need to think of *everything?*

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, but since we can't enforce a No-Walk List in Russia, the TSA can't really use that to help justify their budget existence.

    So, they pretend that the real threat is Chechen terrorists flying to the United States and then flying back to Sochi?

    This reminds me of watching Christiane Amanpour wearing a bullet proof vest as she was reporting on the outbreak of the Iraq War--from the top of her hotel in Istanbul.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Babylon - Constantinople, the ignorant American masses can't tell the difference.

  • Zeb||

    Just an easy stroll across a major mountain range.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Along a mountain range. The Caucuses run long ways from Grozny to Sochi. It looks to be about 250 miles as the crow flies--along the Caucuses. ...maybe only 200 miles to the border of Chechnya.

    Anyway, the point was that there's no need for them to fly to the United States in order to get to Sochi. The point wasn't that they were limited to walking.

    P.S. And just in case you don't get it? I wasn't trying to imply that they should actually fly on crows to get there, either.

  • Zeb||

    Relax, dude.

  • exchef100||

    Wait. Are we supposed to be frightened because someone COULD put explosive material into a tube of toothpaste, or because they found evidence that groups WILL BE putting explosive material in tubes of toothpaste? Is there evidence that this is a terrorist plot or just more fear mongering?

  • wareagle||

    all of the above. You act like the overlords need a decisive reason for their actions.

  • MamaCass||

    The DHS needs to stop this toothpaste terrorism at the source. Obviously toothpaste manufacturers are in collusion with Chechen terrorists and are lacing our toothpaste with explosives. Stop harassing Gibson and go after Colgate! We must stop using toothpaste immediately; does this mean we'll be British again?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is warning airlines to beware lest toothpaste tubes packed with explosives make their way onto Sochi-bound airplanes in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.

    Can't we go back to being terrified by things which make sense, like witches?

  • SForza||

    Burn the toothpaste!

  • Will Nonya||

    Let's worry about American's toothpaste because explosives would be so difficult to come by in Russia...

  • Will Nonya||

    According to Putin only fags use toothpaste.

  • NL_||

    How do Russians even recognize closeted gay people? Their president is pictured more with his shirt off than on and he's never pictured with a woman in a romantic context. Their president is apparently just some shirtless guy out with a bunch of other shirtless guys, just chopping wood, riding horses, and enjoying some Mediterranean-style wrestling.

  • NL_||

    So terrorists spend time and resources to get hidden agents and saboteurs into the US... only to have them fly back to the Caucacus to blow up an Olympic event? Once you get a US-based asset, seems like it's a waste to the jihad to send him somewhere else.

  • Westmiller||

    NSA never passes on an opportunity to create a crisis.
    What next? Exploding lipstick?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement