Stratfor and Ava Gardner

Friday, June 01, 2012
Somebody in Phoenix, Arizona has been rigging flashlights as explosive devices. They're abandoned in public locations, and when somebody tries to turn them on they explode. The charges have been small, so injuries have been minor so far.

In this Stratfor article Scott Stewart uses the Phoenix bombings as in introduction to a discussion of solitary, serial bombers such as George Metesky, Theodore Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph.

The beginning of the article is excerpted below, with a link to the full article at the end of the excerpt.

By tradition, when articles deal with bomb-making, I look to Hollywood/cinema bombshells for the article's Hot Strafor Babe. After a careful and thorough investigation I've selected the pre-Marylon bombshell Ava Gardner for the honor of representing this article.

Ms Gardner's started to achieve leading lady status in the late 1940s and early 1950s, an era when the studio system breaking up as well as film under the threat of the new medium of television. During this period Hollywood was in a bit of a doldrums so, although her film credits are solid, many of the movies she made in her prime aren't that interesting today. She finished her film career in disaster movies, and moved on to do some TV after that.

What she is primarily remembered for is her string of husbands/lovers that included Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughs, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

A Serial Bomber in Phoenix
By Scott Stewart, May 31, 2012

A small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at a Salvation Army distribution center in Phoenix, Ariz., on the afternoon of May 24. Two Salvation Army employees discovered the explosive device, which was concealed inside a yellow, hand-held 6-volt flashlight, as they were sorting through a box of donated items. The IED exploded when one of the employees picked up the flashlight and attempted to turn it on. The blast was not very powerful, and the two employees suffered only minor injuries.

This was the third incident in the Greater Phoenix area in recent weeks involving an IED concealed in a flashlight. Two explosive devices very similar to the May 24 IED exploded May 13 and May 14 in Glendale, Ariz., a city in the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Both devices were abandoned in public places. In the May 13 incident, a woman discovered a yellow, hand-held 6-volt flashlight next to a tree outside a Glendale business. When the woman picked up the flashlight and attempted to turn it on, it exploded, causing minor scratches and bruises to her face and hands. It also inflicted minor wounds to a woman beside her. The next day, a man found an identical flashlight in a ditch where he was working in another part of Glendale. He was lightly injured when the flashlight exploded as he attempted to turn it on.

So far, the explosive devices have failed to cause significant injury or death, but they do seem to indicate that there is a serial bombmaker operating in the Phoenix area. While it is not yet clear what the bombmaker's motives are, past cases of serial bombers suggest that the publicity he has received and the fear he has invoked will likely influence him to continue manufacturing explosive devices until he is captured. (Based on earlier cases involving serial bombers, it is also safe to assume that the culprit in the Phoenix area is a man.) The bombmaker's method of concealing his explosive devices may also change after gaining publicity for this wave of attacks. Finally, there is a chance that the destructive effect of the bombmaker's devices will increase as he becomes more proficient at building IEDs.

Serial Bombers

Serial bombmakers vary greatly in skill, motivation and affiliation. Most bombmakers involved with militant groups are, in effect, serial bombers, especially when they are exceptional bombmakers such as those we discussed in the May 17 Security Weekly. These include individuals such as Abu Ibrahim of the Black September Organization, Yahya Ayyash of Hamas or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Ibrahim Hassan Tali al-Asiri. Such individuals typically create hundreds, if not thousands, of innovative explosive devices for their groups' terrorist operations over a span of many years.

However, not all serial bombmakers are associated with a militant group. There is a long history of individuals who have operated as serial bombers. From 1940 to 1956, George Metesky, who was known in the media as "The Mad Bomber," deployed 33 IEDs, 22 of which detonated, and injured 15 people. Metesky was angry after being denied disability pay following an injury he sustained while working for Consolidated Edison, Inc. After planting two explosive devices in 1940, Metesky observed a self-imposed moratorium on bombing attacks during World War II. He deployed the bulk of his devices -- pipe bombs -- from 1951 to 1956. He attacked not only Consolidated Edison, but also theaters, the New York subway system, the New York Public Library, Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Station and other targets. Metesky was arrested after Consolidated Edison personnel managers identified him based on details he provided in threatening letters.

One of the most famous serial bombers in recent years was Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the "Unabomber." UNABomb was an FBI case name that stood for "University and Airline Bomber" -- Kaczynski's first targets. From May 1978 until April 1995, Kaczynski deployed 16 IEDs that killed a total of three people and injured 23 more. Like the Metesky case, it was Kaczynski's writings that allowed him to be identified, though it was Kaczynski's brother who identified him for authorities. As demonstrated in his manifesto, titled Industrial Society and Its Future (1995), Kaczynski was motivated by a fear of technology. He called for a revolution against modern society's "industrial-technological system."

Eric Rudolph first came onto the scene in July 1996 when a bomb he planted in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park detonated during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Rudolph also conducted IED attacks against abortion clinics in Atlanta in 1997 and in Birmingham, Ala., in 1998 and against a gay bar in Atlanta in 1997. Rudolph's IED attacks killed two and wounded more than 100. Rudolph was motivated by his extreme anti-abortion and anti-homosexual convictions.

Not all serial bombers have intended to kill their targets. From 1994 to 2006, an unidentified bombmaker known by the media as the "Italian Unabomber" planted dozens of small IEDs in various locations in Italy. While many of the IEDs were pipe bombs, the Italian bombmaker also concealed IEDs in cans of tomato paste, cigarette lighters, church votive candles and in items intended to target children, such as bottles of soap bubbles, colored markers and Kinder Eggs. The size of many of these devices suggests that the bombmaker hoped to maim and terrorize his victims but not kill them. A suspect was arrested in the Italian case but was later acquitted, and the case has never been officially solved. Since many serial bombmakers, such as Metesky and Kaczynski, go through periods when they suspend bombmaking activity, it is possible that the Italian bombmaker is still at large and will attack again.

The Learning Curve

Of these historical examples, Rudolph stands out because from the beginning of his campaign he used relatively powerful devices that were constructed with a main charge of commercial dynamite and that contained nails as added shrapnel. From the outset, Rudolph appeared to have been bent on killing. This is different from the case of the Italian Unabomber. Rudolph's explosive devices also functioned as designed, and his first device proved deadly, an accomplishment aided by the fact that he was constructing them from stolen commercial explosive components rather than dealing with homemade bomb components and explosive mixtures.

Read more: A Serial Bomber in Phoenix | Stratfor


OMMAG said...

I'd bet it is either a kid or a crank.

Making bombs that actually work takes very little technical know how.

This Arizona flashlight booby trap maker will be caught in short order and then we will see.

ambisinistral said...

Hopefully he'll get caught. Unfortunately mad bombers, if the flashlight stuff is the work of a mad bomber, seem to be smarter than the average criminal so they sometimes are hard to find.