Greater Access Leads To Dangerous Explosives

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ATLANTA — "The chances that there are improvised explosives in your neighborhood, made by somebody that you know, are much more likely now because of the availability of information," said Steve Lazarus of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In January 2009, Chad Wells showed up at a Georgia hospital missing one finger and most of two others as a result of his experimentation with improvised explosives -- similar to ones used overseas by terrorists. Wells, however, was certainly not a terrorist. He is "an experimenter," said Jeff Haverty an FBI bomb technician.

FBI bomb technicians said that experimenters like Wells share something in common with many terrorists: greater access than ever to information about how to make explosives, mainly because of the Internet. Technicians said that poses a greater risk to us all.

An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Forensic chemist, Steve Linehan, analyzed evidence in the Wells case. He said, "Just reading a recipe that you found on the Internet really isn't sufficient to safely handle explosives." Lazarus told Channel 2 Action News that years ago serial bomber Eric Rudolph, the man convicted of the Olympic Park bombing, stole explosives to make bombs.

"Nowadays you can make the explosives to put in your bombs if you are willing to accept the risk you may very well kill or injure yourself in doing so," said Lazarus.

Bomb technicians said that many of the explosive recipes involve very easily obtained raw materials.

WEB EXTRA: More Explosion Video

"The Internet coupled with training camps have really kind of revolutionized how this knowledge is proliferated.... Al Qaeda changed the game," said Haverty in a recent training exercise for Georgia First Responders on the Richmond County Bomb Range.

There the FBI demonstrated both conventional and improvised explosives and detailed for attendees what to look out for when responding to a scene.

"Even in small amounts, sometimes liquids when combined can form a potentially deadly substance and can be detonated and cause an explosion," said Lazarus. That is part of the reason why you cannot carry a water bottle on an airplane, he said. There were demonstrations of just such types of explosions to illustrate the power of homemade explosions.

"It opens your eyes to what people can get their hands on and how easy it is," said Fred Hammett of MARTA Police.

Russell Baldwin of the Georgia Capitol Police said, "I think it's a good eye opener for everybody, especially for law enforcement."

Part of the demonstration involved detonating an explosive that was recovered from Iraq. Don Sachleben, an FBI consultant, explained that the material "was taken from a terrorist safe house or storage place."

Channel 2 Action News reporter Mark Winne asked Captain Curtis Clark of the Fulton County Sheriff's Department if they have considered the possibility of improvised explosives showing up in Fulton County. He responded, "Yeah, we've given it a lot of thought."