In 2018, pipe bomb threats were sent to well-known politicians such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, setting off an intense investigation to find out the person behind them. From Washington to Florida, New York, and Los Angeles, authorities scrambled to intercept these small bombs inside envelopes.
But how does Investigators Australia go about investigating serious threats such as these?
First of all, we closely examine the envelope that the bomb was stored in to look for biological evidence. Of course, we also inspect the bomb itself. We look for fingerprints and other evidence. The authorities will also consider examining the address sticker of the envelope and the stamps affixed to it, which may have fingerprints that can be checked through DNA testing.
But since so many people may have handled the envelope, it can be a challenge to connect the fingerprints to one single person. If biological evidence like fingerprints and DNA is established, investigators have to cross-reference these against the database of law enforcers to look for a possible match. But if the perpetrator is extremely careful, the package won’t show any fingerprints or DNA evidence.
If investigators can’t find any biological evidence, they will closely examine the bomb itself. It’s entirely possible that the chemical or physical appearance of the device is unique. Some of the chemicals used may have some identifiable source that will allow investigators to trace the suppliers and gather relevant data from them. This can help to narrow down the suspects and include everyone who bought the components used in making the bomb.
When inquiring with the suppliers, the investigators will ask them to provide details of credit card transactions, bank transfers, cheques, etc. They can also focus their investigation on the postal markings, stamps, and envelopes. The investigator will identify from what region these pipe bomb threats were sent and they can do the tracing.
Next, the investigators will check the address stickers on the envelope to look for the Machine Identification Code (MIC). This comes in the form of a tiny code or digital watermark that copiers and laser printers will automatically print into the document. Usually, the average person won’t know about this. So, if the sticker happens to have that MIC, the investigator will locate the printer used which will eventually lead them to the perpetrator.
Another way to investigate a pipe bomb threat is to study how the bomb was assembled. Investigators will closely examine how the bomb was made. They will try to discover if the bomb was made based on a specific model that was found on the Internet. Now if the investigators are able to establish that the bomb was indeed uniquely made and was made based on a particular model online, they will immediately identify all the visitors who have visited the website recently. They will come up with a list of suspects based on the visitors to that site.
Somehow, it will be an advantage to the investigators if the bomb used was real and not fake. This will give them the idea that the person responsible is indeed an expert in making bombs, which can further narrow down the list of the possible perpetrators. If the person spent a lot of time researching online while making the bomb, then that would somehow make the process of investigation easier.
US government agencies are very serious about online surveillance. So, if the perpetrator talks about the attack online, then that will be even easier for the investigators to locate the person behind this malicious threat.
After going through the above process of investigations, the investigators will now have a long list of possible suspects. The next thing they will do is to do a background check of each of these people. They might have to conduct surveillance, either in the form of digital surveillance, physical surveillance, and other means.
Sometimes, they will try to intercept the mobile devices of the suspects and conduct GPS monitoring. Doing these things will allow the investigators to verify whether any of these suspects might be responsible for the threat.
During their surveillance, they will also try to find out if any of these people may have been involved in recent terrorist threats. They will also investigative if the person is preparing for a future attack.
One important thing to keep in mind during the process of investigation is that the people behind this threat are not really as smart as they think they are. The majority of those who have made these kinds of threats before have been caught.
But if the culprit behind the pipe bomb threats that were sent to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was indeed smart, then that can be a problem for the investigators. If that person is really good at what he does, then he may have taken into account the investigative processes mentioned above before committing the crime.
What is a Pipe Bomb?
Pipe bombs are explosive devices in the form of a pipe and are improvised by placing explosive materials in the pipe’s tightly sealed section.
How Do Pipe Bombs Work?
Pipe bombs should not be taken lightly because this device can be lethal even when a low-level explosive is used. Basically, this device is a bomb that’s encased in a pipe. It works by placing explosives into the pipe and is then sealed with caps made of either brass or steel.
A fuse is usually placed into the pipe. Then a lead wire will come out of the capped end or into a drilled hole. The fuse is attached to a battery or timer and when the explosive material detonates, the pressure will trigger the pipe to break into fragments, producing shrapnel.
How Powerful Can Pipe Bombs Be?
Depending on the way a bomb is made, it can be really powerful. The explosive material that’s placed in the pipe is exposed to extreme pressure.
Sometimes, the bomb is made with some other materials such as glasses and nails that can make it even more dangerous.