• Insufficiency of data on bombings. For technical evaluations, cost-benefit analyses, and formulation of a technically detailed rational response strategy, the data available today on illegal use of explosive materials in the United States do not constitute a suitable basis for a complete scientific analysis.1 For example, the annual bombing statistics reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms differ somewhat. In addition, neither agency maintains complete records on the frequency of illegal use of common explosive chemicals, and neither was in a position to supply for this study definitive, statistically sound information on sources of stolen commercial explosives used in bombings.

    It is important that the Congress be kept well informed on changing patterns and trends in illegal use of explosives so that appropriate actions can be taken in accord with a planned national strategy. Clearly, a single national data bank for incidents involving stolen explosives and criminal bombings—requiring uniform and detailed reporting from local, state, and federal investigators and organized so that interpretive correlations and trends in criminal activity could be readily extracted—would be of much value in developing a rational, broad-based approach to containing illegal bombing attacks in the United States. Such a data bank would emphasize significant bombing incidents but might also track nuisance bombings.

  • Need for ongoing rigorous testing of additives proposed for use with explosives. Although some of the concepts now being proposed for altering explosives are technically feasible, none has been satisfactorily proven to have practical efficacy for broad use as a means to control illegal bombings. More research and development are necessary to find new approaches and to improve those that currently hold the most promise for future use. Also needed are extensive research and testing to address complex questions of safety, industrial practicality, affordability, and environmental impacts before implementation of any of the proposed concepts could be advised. Moreover, because of the risks associated with manufacturing, transporting, and using explosives, industries that produce or rely on these materials would have to be assured that any changes in their standard procedures represent modifications validated by vigorous testing.


 The overall lack of sufficient, relevant, statistically valid data has persisted for two decades. In 1980, when it was engaged in examining the use of taggants in explosives, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) found that, despite the availability of computerized data banks, it was not possible to retrieve and analyze the data in a meaningful way. Furthermore, "the files did not contain all the data needed for the OTA analysis" (OTA, 1980, p. 233).

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