E Presentations by Stakeholder Groups
The following presentations were made to the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder during open sessions of meetings on January 14–16, 1998, and March 5–6, 1998.
Law Enforcement Presentations
Hubert E. Wilson, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF),1 spoke briefly as a representative of the sponsor of this study. He noted that the ATF was funding the production of this report by congressional mandate, and the ATF did not have an official position on the use of taggants in smokeless or black powders. He also reported that the ATF was in the process of producing its own study on various issues related to the illegal use of explosives, including marking and tagging.
Gregory A. Carl, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),2 is a hazardous-device examiner and coordinator of postblast investigations. He spoke about the bombing statistics gathered by the FBI, the protocols for evidence gathering, and the jurisdiction of various federal agencies over different types of bombing incidents.
The published summary of bombing incidents in 1995 was provided, and the committee heard about how information was gathered through voluntary reporting by local law enforcement personnel. Special Agent Carl noted that smokeless and black powders were used in a significant percentage of the reported improvised explosive devices (roughly one-third), and therefore it was reasonable to consider tagging such powders. He wondered how specific the information from taggants would be, as more specific information is more helpful for obtaining convictions. He said that, without taggants, technicians already are able to identify the brand of powder used in an incident based on unburned powder found at the scene. Currently, the FBI does not have an official position on the use of taggants or on how much information such taggants should contain. Special Agent Carl also expressed concerns about cross-contamination and difficulties in taggant retrieval, as often data collection at bombing scenes is performed by local law enforcement personnel, who do not have access to expensive equipment or extensive training in trace-evidence preservation. The FBI would prefer improved detection technology, as finding and disarming devices before they explode prevents injuries, deaths, and property damage, and preserves evidence. However, bomb squads would always err on the side of caution, so positive or negative signals from markers would not necessarily change the response protocols.
Roger E. Broadbent, Virginia State Police,3 works with bomb squads and crime scene technicians. The state police support local and federal agencies as needed in both preblast and postblast investigations. He indicated that, as he understood it, taggants could only provide information about the manufacturer of the powder or the date it was produced. Such information would provide limited circumstantial evidence; more useful data could be collected from other parts of the explosive device, such as the pipe, packaging, wires, and so forth. If more detailed information about the powder were to be available, an extensive record-keeping system would be needed, and the last piece of information would depend on the purchaser's willingness to identify himself honestly at the point of sale. Mr. Broadbent expressed concerns about contamination, as a great deal of ammunition is fired legally and would introduce taggants into the environment. He also was worried that if taggants were excluded from certain types of ammunition, such as those used by the police, a black market would develop. Currently, based on his experience with bombing investigations, he believes that most perpetrators purchase commercial powders off the shelf; they do not steal the powders, and they do not make their own.
Anthony Cantu and John Hudson, U.S. Secret Service,4 spoke about the surveying of buildings for explosive devices in order to ensure the safety of the Presi-
dent of the United States. Canines are currently the most successful tool in detecting explosive materials. The U.S. Secret Service has used technical equipment, but they have not found any machines to be as effective as dogs and human searchers. The main concern of the U.S. Secret Service about taggants or markers would be how these additives would affect the scent of the powders. The variety of explosive materials that canines can be trained on and the degree of sensitivity of these dogs were also discussed.
Lyle O. Malotky, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),5 spoke on the detection of explosive materials. He talked about the focus of the FAA on detection of concealed devices within a checkpoint scenario. He described various detection technologies that were split into two types: bulk detection and trace detection. He indicated that the FAA was more concerned with new technologies for the detection of high explosives than for powders, as devices that use powders need containers, which are relatively easy to detect.
Richard A. Strobel, ATF Forensic Science Laboratory,6 spoke about the variety of roles that the ATF plays in regulating explosive material and investigating incidents involving illegal use of such materials. The ATF runs training sessions for local and state police as well as providing special response teams with bomb scene expertise when requested. ATF trains dogs and keeps statistics on reported bombing incidents. He discussed the protocols for gathering evidence at bomb scenes and the methods used to identify what sort of explosive material was used. In the case of powders, ATF is almost always able to identify the type of propellant and the manufacturing process employed and, in a large number of cases, identify the brand and product line. Such information is used by investigators when they canvass retailers in the area near a bombing to ask about recent sales or to match the type found in a suspect's possession or property. The ATF's current efforts to build a database containing chemical and morphological information on commercially available powders were also described; currently information about roughly 170 powders has been entered.
Presentations by Stakeholders
John A. Miller, National Muzzle-loading Rifle Association (NMRA),7 spoke on the use of black powder by muzzle loaders nationwide and on their concerns about
the addition of foreign substances to the powder. The NMRA members are involved with hunting, shooting competitions, preservation and use of antique firearms, and historical reenactments. They use authentic black powder, as well as black powder substitutes. Mr. Miller discussed concerns about the absence of detailed studies on the safety of introducing taggants into powders, and questions about the effect on the long-term stability of the powders. He also brought up environmental and health issues related to the fact that when a black powder weapon is discharged, a cloud of smoke from the powder is emitted. Finally, he expressed concern that the costs of implementing a record-keeping system to track which taggants are in which cans of powder would be prohibitive and that the actual deterrent effect on criminal activities would be negligible, as potential bombers would obtain the powder by illegal means.
Tanya K. Metaksa, National Rifle Association (NRA),8 spoke about the legitimate users of smokeless and black powders and the goals and concerns of the NRA related to detecting and identifying explosive materials. She talked about the value of detection technologies and their ability to prevent incidents when deployed widely and effectively. She expressed concerns about the lack of information about taggants' effect on the burning properties of smokeless and black powders (both for reasons of safety and for performance) and mentioned the 1979 explosion of a Goex cast booster plant. She emphasized that the value of taggants as a deterrent was minimal, and the amount of information needed to assist in catching and prosecuting criminals would require a very expensive and complicated record-keeping system. The inclusion of taggants would make the manufacturing, distribution, and use of smokeless and black powders more expensive. She also spoke of the unknown environmental impacts and the potential for countermeasures by those using powders for illegal activities.
James J. Baker and Kenneth D. Green, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI),9 spoke about the production and use of smokeless powders. Topics discussed included the role of SAAMI in providing standards for ammunition and arms, the size of the domestic market, government regulations about the importation and purchase of powders, stability and performance testing of powders by manufacturers, the amount of powder used in the reloading of ammunition, distribution of powder to commercial customers, and the production of ammunition by large commercial manufacturers.
Mick Fahringer, Goex, Inc.,10 spoke about the manufacture and distribution of black powder. Goex's customers include the pyrotechnics industry, private users (muzzle loading, civil reenactments, competitions), safety fuses (as for model rockets), and the military. Several black powder substitutes are available; these are attractive because they are noncorrosive and burn more cleanly than authentic black powder. He described the various steps for manufacturing black powder. The key characteristics of the finished black powder are the very low moisture content, the specific gravity or hardness, the grain size, and the burn rate. His concerns about introducing taggants into black powder included potential countermeasures, such as removal of the taggants with a magnet or production of homemade black powder, the wide range of granulations of powders that are produced, and the large amount of recycling that occurs in the manufacturing process.
Antonio F. Gonzalez, PRIMEX Technologies,11 spoke about the manufacture and distribution of smokeless ball powders. PRIMEX produces roughly 120 types of ball powders. He also discussed that PRIMEX occasionally receives requests from the forensic community about identifying a particular sample. PRIMEX is capable of determining which product line it is, but not when it was manufactured. PRIMEX expressed concern regarding the use of taggants for smokeless propellants, particularly with regard to safety of incorporation and handling. The effect of taggants on product performance was also of concern.12
James Scheld, Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center,13 spoke about a variety of uses for propellants by the military, specifically about cartridge-actuated devices and propellant-actuated devices. Some examples include ejection seat systems, fire extinguisher systems, and weapons systems. These systems are required to perform with very high reliability and very accurate timing in extreme environments, such as high temperatures and large vibrations. The energetic materials used include pyrotechnic compositions, black powder, single-base and double-base smokeless powders, composite propellants, and high explosives. He also spoke about the military's product specifications for safety, hazard classification, and aging behavior that must be met before any new formulation of propellant may be used in a military device. He described potential
Presentation by Mick Fahringer, Goex, Inc., March 5, 1998, and materials distributed to the committee.
Presentation by Antonio F. Gonzalez, PRIMEX Technologies, March 5, 1998, and materials distributed to the committee.
PRIMEX concerns with taggants were expressed during a subcommittee site visit; see Appendix F.
Presentation by James Scheld, Naval Surface Warfare Center, March 5, 1998, and materials distributed to the committee.
impacts of introducing taggants into powders, such as altered performance, altered compatibility with other energetic materials, altered aging characteristics, and increased maintenance and cleaning for multiuse systems, and noted that any changes in powders would require that the military requalify both the powders and the products that use them.
Richard G. Livesay, Consultant,14 is the inventor of the Microtrace taggant, and he spoke about its history and its use in explosive materials. He described the motivation for its invention and use, and touched on the explosion at the Goex cast booster manufacturing plant in 1979.
In addition to the presentations listed above, the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder also received information from those stakeholder groups that made presentations or sent materials to the NRC Committee on Marking, Rendering Inert, and Licensing of Explosive Materials. These stakeholders are listed below, and summaries of their presentations can be found in National Research Council (1998):
- Agricultural Retailers Association,
- American Civil Liberties Union,
- American Iron Ore Association,
- American Portland Cement Alliance,
- American Pyrotechnics Association,
- American Road and Transportation Builders Association,
- Associated Builders and Contractors,
- Austin Powder Company,
- Chemical Manufacturers Association,
- Dyno Nobel, Inc.,
- El Dorado Chemical,
- Glass Packaging Institute,
- Handgun Control, Inc.,
- ICI Explosives,
- Indiana Limestone Institute,
- Institute of Makers of Explosives,
- Intel Corporation,
- International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators,
- International Fertilizer Development Center,
- International Society of Explosives Engineers,
- Johnson Matthey Electronics,
- La Roche Industries,
- Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department,
- National Industrial Sand Association,
- National Lime Association,
- National Mining Association,
- National Stone Association,
- National Utility Contractors Association,
- The Associated General Contractors of America,
- The Fertilizer Institute,
- The Gypsum Association, and
- Wiley, Rein & Fielding (representing UNIMIN, a supplier of high-quality silica used in semiconductor manufacturing).