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December 5, 2004
Pardonnez-Moi, Mon Bombe Est Dans Votre Valise

In a rare moment of levity in the war on terror, the AP reports that French police lost track of explosives they planted in travelers' suitcases in order to train their bomb-sniffing dogs. Their actions caused 90 planes to get delayed around the world:

Police at Paris' top airport lost track of a passenger's bag in which plastic explosives were placed to train bomb-sniffing dogs, police said Saturday. Warned that the bag may have gotten on any of nearly 90 flights from Charles de Gaulle, authorities searched planes upon arrival in Los Angeles and New York. ...

French police at Charles de Gaulle deliberately placed up to five ounces of plastic explosives into a passenger's luggage Friday evening, police spokesman Pierre Bouquin said.

But a "momentary lack of surveillance" led to the bag being lost on a conveyor belt carrying luggage from check-in to planes, he said.

Authorities immediately alerted the relevant airlines that one of between 80 and 90 planes that left the French capital from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday could be carrying the explosives, Bouquin said.

I understand the need to use real explosives in order to train the dogs, and without detonators the plastique should be harmless. However, why the French police feel the need to practice with live explosives in a civilian airport escapes me as completely as that five ounces of plastique escaped the French. In an era when we're trying to keep this stuff off of civilian airplanes, the French decide to start sticking into the suitcases of travelers. Couldn't they just as easily have tested this in a more controlled setting -- like a military air base?

The AP report laughingly speculates what some lucky traveler might think when the suitcase is opened. The problem with laughing at it is that security at the destination might be more competent than it was at the departure, and that lucky tourist may well wind up in a jail until this gets unraveled.

UPDATE: The French have ended this particular training program:

French police on Sunday ended their practice of hiding plastic explosives in air passengers' luggage to train bomb-sniffing dogs after one such bag got lost, possibly ending up on a flight out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport. ...

Police say there was no chance the explosives could go off since they were not connected to detonators. Still, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was critical of the mistake.

"The fight against terrorism and insecurity is a priority for the government," a statement by his office said. "But (Raffarin) made clear his concern in the face of the way the training for explosives searches was conducted at Roissy Charles de Gaulle."

Hiding explosives in passenger luggage without adequately ensuring that they can be retrieved -- a matter of concern? Mon dieu! Perhaps there's hope for the French yet...

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 5, 2004 8:13 PM

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» Rip & Read Blog Podcast for December 5, 2004 from Rip & Read Blogger Podcast
Hear Charlie read the blogosphere: Warned that the bag may have gotten on any of nearly 90 flights from Charles de Gaulle, authorities searched planes upon arrival in Los Angeles and New York. Captain Ed at the Captains Quarters has more. Go a... [Read More]

Tracked on December 5, 2004 11:14 AM

» French Lose Explosives In Airport Test from Vista On Current Events
Somehow the bag with the hidden explosives ended up on one of 90 flights leaving the airport. [Read More]

Tracked on December 5, 2004 2:19 PM

» French Lose Plastic Explosives from Powerpundit
A French sniffer dog failed to detect a bag of plastic explosives, and now the French cannot find the bag:French police say they will ban their technique for training dogs after a bag with plastic explosives was lost at a Paris airport during an exerci... [Read More]

Tracked on December 6, 2004 5:05 AM

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