Improvised bombs ‘tricky’ to handle, Arkansas congressman says

Improvised bombs ‘tricky’ to handle, Arkansas congressman says

Written by: Frank Lockwood
Published by: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., knows a thing or two about bombs and the harm they can do.

Decades ago, he served as an explosive ordnance disposal technician in the Army.

“I’m a second-generation bomb tech. My dad was a bomb tech, too,” the Republican from Jonesboro said.

From 1985-88 he was assigned to the 56th Ordnance Detachment in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. In that role, he dealt with his share of suspicious packages.

“I’ve responded to banks, abortion clinics. You name it,” he said. “It’s not uncommon. Even back then, it wasn’t uncommon, unfortunately.”

He was called on several times to assist the U.S. Secret Service, he said, and was once dispatched to Pakistan to help Afghans during their war with the Soviet Union.

There’s little room for error, he said.

“Anytime you’re messing with explosives, even in a controlled environment, it’s dangerous,” he said. “But when you’re dealing with improvised explosive devices, that’s the real tricky part.”

Government-made explosives are at least predictable.

“Typically you know how military ordnance is going to function. It’s used a certain way, it’s designed to function a certain way and we know in advance how a piece of military ordnance is going to act. Whereas an IED, you’re only limited [by] the designer’s imagination,” he said.

The explosive device that was mailed to CNN in New York “looked pretty rudimentary,” he said. “At first glance, this one looked pretty basic and looked pretty simple.”

Because of the Internet, the recipe for an explosive device is readily available, he noted. The components also are easy to come by, he said.

The same technology that enables perpetrators to build bombs makes it easier for law enforcement officials to track them down, he noted.

Many members of public safety bomb squads are military veterans, and they know what they’re doing, he said.

“You don’t see a lot of cases where bomb techs are getting blown up,” he said. “It’s because they’re very well-trained, and they’re highly safe. They have a very strictly regimented safety protocol that they follow and very sophisticated equipment.”


“I can tell you our 21st-century bomb techs are stellar,” he said.

When Crawford was a bomb tech, the focus was on rendering an explosive device harmless — sometimes detonating them in a controlled environment.

These days, bomb technicians go to great lengths to disarm an explosive device without destroying it.

That preserves DNA and other material that can help solve the crime.

The bomb-maker who targeted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, CNN and others probably left an evidence trail that law enforcement officials will be able to follow, Crawford said.

“I think the chances are really good that they’ll be able to determine who the perp is,” he added.

The bomb-maker must be stopped, he said.

“This is not Afghanistan or Iraq or Lebanon or whatever. This is the United States of America, and we don’t do these kinds of things,” he said. “This is a highly condemnable act. I think anyone who is found using these tactics to make political points should suffer the full … consequences for their actions.”

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