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28 December 2005 @ 05:05 pm
Update on 400 pounds of stolen explosives, probably old news  
Remember the enormous quantity of explosives that were stolen last week? They have been recovered by a joint ATF/FBI/local law enforcement team within days [EDIT: Not 48 hours. Oops]. And our sensationalistic media has said very little about it, the poor dears.

How could this incident have been avoided? Well, it couldn't, because no law enforcement agency has jurisdiction regarding explosives storage security. They have this:

US Code TITLE 18, Part I, Ch. 40, §842:

(j) It shall be unlawful for any person to store any explosive material in a manner not in conformity with regulations promulgated by the Attorney General. In promulgating such regulations, the Attorney General shall take into consideration the class, type, and quantity of explosive materials to be stored, as well as the standards of safety and security recognized in the explosives industry.[Source]


The ATF is the chief enforcement agency responsible (in typical bureaucratically mangled fashion) for the oversight of explosives transactions and storage in the United States that are not subject to interstate commerce (that's the FBI) or are sent by mail (that's the United Postal Inspector's Office). But they can only do their jobs according to what regulations the Attorney General's office promotes. If Anthony Gonzalez gets his ducks in a row, then the ATF could start securing explosives storage facilities in America that house weapons of mass destruction. The GAO published a report two months ago called "Thefts of Explosives from State and Local Government Storage Facilities Are Few but May Be Underreported". The report itself is really quite good - I encourage you to read it.
 
 
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lyght on December 29th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
Gods. At least *someone* was able to do something.

Not that anything should have gone missing in the first f'n place. Yeesh.

Oh, also? Book I tentatively recommend (looks cool but haven't read it, just seen stuff about it): The Impossible Will Take a Little While.
a certain brand of escape: fuji's lunar eclipseatelierlune on December 29th, 2005 01:32 am (UTC)
Simply
Wow.
Hoc Est Qui Sumusdiscoflamingo on December 29th, 2005 07:12 am (UTC)
Re: Simply
I was going to ask "which part", but then I realized the nature of the question. Still commenting though :-)
a certain brand of escapeatelierlune on December 29th, 2005 03:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Simply
Yay!
rocketgeekrocketgeek on January 9th, 2006 04:48 am (UTC)
What weapons of mass destruction? I see no mention in any of the linked stuff of any nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

In any case, the quoted section gives the ATF statutory authority to promulgate regulation on the storage of explosives both in magazines and in transit, which they do. The Department of Transportation has a co-regulatory authority over explosives in transit, due to its public safety responsibility. The FBI has jurisdiction once a theft or other mishandling has already occurred -- they have no regulatory authority, since they aren't a regulatory agency. The ATF security and bookkeeping regs are fairly stringent; I don't have them in hand, but they aren't trivial to comply with.

The report you linked to deals only with state and local government storage of explosives, not private storage. The only disconnect appears to be in the reporting of thefts; local and state facilities are still required to comply with all of the applicable regulations, although they are not required to kill the number of trees private explosive storage facilities are. At any rate, the number of thefts reported each year (205 incidents, 6700 lbs of material missing) is very small, considering the size of the trade in explosives within the US.

BATFE (the correct acronym since the Safe Explosives Act was sneaked into law) is in a neck and neck race with the DEA to see which can be the most mendacious and arbitrary federal agency. A couple of years back, the BATFE decided to prove that hobby rocket motors (which, incidentally, aren't even explosives -- they're propellant actuated devices, and don't fall under the BATFE's jurisdiction, as provided by statute) represented a critical danger to national security and therefore needed to be regulated as heavily as dynamite. In order to do this, they strong-armed one of the major suppliers of such motors (Aerotech) into supplying them with several dozen. They then took these out and tried to shoot down target drones with them. The only thing they damaged was the van they were firing them out of... when they managed to set their entire store of motors on fire with the exhaust from one of their test shots.
Hoc Est Qui Sumusdiscoflamingo on January 9th, 2006 06:26 am (UTC)
I was referring to rhetorical weapons of mass destruction, which seem to be the only ones anybody cares about anymore. Our local newspapers have a tendency to consider anything that could kill more than 50 people at once a weapon of mass destruction, yet this story didn't make either paper. A number of my coworkers have bitched to me about how difficult it is to get rocket motors. They are not as well-versed on the situation as you are, so thank you for the detailed information.