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EU Considering Sensors In Sewers To Detect Bomb-Makers

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the who-does-number-one-work-for? dept.

Crime 219

Nerval's Lobster writes "Security agencies in Europe have found a whole new way to identify and approach bombmakers and other potentially dangerous radicals. The only problem with the approach is that it stinks. Literally. Researchers in a European-Union funded project called Emphasis are developing chemical sensors that can be embedded in networks of underground sewage tunnels to sniff the air and phone home at the first hint of chemical residue from the manufacture of bombs. Using remote sensors might be effective because the liquid- and gas byproducts of bomb production – and manufacture of many drugs as well – leak, seep or are poured into sinks and toilets to get rid of the evidence, according to Hans Onnerud, an analytical chemist with the Swedish Defense Research Agency. With such a catchall underneath the city streets, and the chemical wherewithal to identify which smells belong to bombs or drugs and which belong to other things, it should be possible to keep a close watch on development of dangerous materials in a city without invading the homes of residents, Onnerud added. In fact, if sewer-sniffing technology had been in place in 2005, British authorities might have had a much easier time tracing the location of the bombers, or even detecting them ahead of time and stopping the London subway bomb attack that killed 54 people. Fumes from the bombs used in those attacks, which were assembled in a house in Leeds that had been turned into a compact bomb factory, were strong enough to kill plants in the garden. It's extremely likely they would have been detectable from the sewer as well, Onnerud said in a statement announcing Emphasis. The sensors developed for Emphasis are designed to detect chemical reagents produced by the breakdown of chemicals in bombs. Each sensor is a 10-centimeter-long electrode that can be submersed in sewer wastewater to look for ions of the right configuration."

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219 comments

Happy Saturday from The Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314465)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Unimaginable wasting of money (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314473)

Bomb attacks are so rare, wouldnâ(TM)t it be cheaper to compensate bomb victims after the fact than include expensive bomb-sniffing equipment in infrastructure upgrades up and down the land?

You can't compensate the dead (0)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 months ago | (#45314505)

It's hard to compensate you when you're dead, or one of your loved ones is crippled and you're going to need special care for them for the rest of their life.

Whether the cost is justified for a project like this is something you'd have to weigh up in light of both what that cost would actually be and how effectively it could detect real threats.

Still, at least this seems like an idea that might have some genuine merit in protecting people from these kinds of attacks and with minimal intrusion into everyone's daily lives under normal conditions. For that alone, it seems like an improvement on many previous ideas.

Re:You can't compensate the dead (2)

sI4shd0rk (3402769) | about 5 months ago | (#45314705)

You can't compensate the dead

Because there's no one to compensate.

and with minimal intrusion into everyone's daily lives

Minimal? It still exists, then.

For that alone, it seems like an improvement on many previous ideas.

An idea has to sound good to me before I'll consider it. The fact that something is better than other ideas put forth rarely does anything for me.

Re:You can't compensate the dead (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 months ago | (#45314845)

Because there's no one to compensate.

Well spotted. I'm glad we cleared that up.

Minimal? It still exists, then.

Almost no-one in the first world truly lives in isolation. The rest of us are all part of a society, and the interesting questions are about the extent to which we want to integrate with that society and to which society should be able to compel people to integrate even against their will.

Intrusion into someone's daily life is an inevitable consequence of society existing at all, so again, the interesting questions are the degree to which that intrusion is desirable or acceptable. That in turn is only something we can sensibly consider in context, knowing what the potential benefits and risks of any given intrusion might be.

In this case, it is certainly possible that the costs financially and/or in loss of privacy may not be justified. But "It's cheaper to pay off the dead" isn't much of a counter-argument.

Re:You can't compensate the dead (1)

sI4shd0rk (3402769) | about 5 months ago | (#45314881)

Almost no-one in the first world truly lives in isolation.

That has little to do with violating people's rights/privacy, which is what I was referring to. I'm not sure what that tangent was about.

It's always about privacy, but what *is* privacy? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 months ago | (#45314931)

That has little to do with violating people's rights/privacy

Of course it does. For society to function at all, some degree of invasion of privacy is necessary. You can't hold fair elections without knowing who's allowed to vote. You can't raise taxes according to some objective standards without knowing enough about people's personal finances to establish how much tax they will be charged. More vaguely, but certainly no less practically, you can't plan civil functions like transportation and healthcare without surprisingly detailed data about what real people do in their lives.

Trying to preserve absolute privacy, in the sense that no-one knows anything about you, is a futile battle. It can't work, and even if it did, you'd hate the results.

What we should be doing is looking firstly at the extent to which any given data about someone is useful for some other specific person/organisation to have for some legitimate purpose -- if not, that person/organisation doesn't need to have the data at all. If so, we need reasonable safeguards to prevent data that was collected for the use of one party for one legitimate purpose then being redirected for use by other parties and/or for other purposes.

I personally believe that this will be one of the defining challenges of the next 10-20 years. Our understanding of why privacy is important and of what constitutes privacy need to evolve. Modern technology allows an unprecedented degree of data collection and processing that has enormous potential to affect all our lives, for better or for worse. But that technology is ethically neutral, as all technology is. What matters is how we use it, and that is a matter of what is socially acceptable, and that is an area that could benefit from a lot more healthy and informed debate than it seems to be getting so far.

Re:It's always about privacy, but what *is* privac (1)

sI4shd0rk (3402769) | about 5 months ago | (#45314959)

Of course it does.

Stop going off on long, irrelevant tangents about things I never even said. I'm not going to read that.

Re:It's always about privacy, but what *is* privac (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 5 months ago | (#45314967)

Disagree. You're using your hypothesis to prove your conclusion. It's a common logical fallacy: all known societies engage in invasion of privacy, ergo, society must engage in invasion of privacy, or it is not a society.

Re:It's always about privacy, but what *is* privac (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 months ago | (#45315025)

How were my specific examples (knowing who can vote so you can hold elections and knowing enough about financial status to apply taxation objectively) using a hypothesis to prove a conclusion? What alternative do you propose in those cases that does not necessarily imply some degree of invasion of privacy? Or are you suggesting that we don't really need fair elections or any taxation at all? If so, that's a very different debate to the one I think we're having here.

Re:It's always about privacy, but what *is* privac (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about 5 months ago | (#45315045)

It does rise the question, imo, of whether or not a society can be a society without that invasion of privacy. But, of course, we would be going beyond the scope of this story.

Re:You can't compensate the dead (5, Insightful)

geoskd (321194) | about 5 months ago | (#45314747)

It's hard to compensate you when you're dead, or one of your loved ones is crippled and you're going to need special care for them for the rest of their life.

No, but there are far better ways to spend the money. Free mammograms for every woman in America this year would cost about $5 Billion, and would save approximately 50,000 lives. This stupid thing would cost the same, and save 50 lives... Sounds to me like this thing is a criminal waste of money, as is most security theatre...

Re:You can't compensate the dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314873)

Does that include the cost of handling the false positives large-scale testing would produce?

Serious question because I think the cost-benefit of mammograms are disputed for this reason.

Re:You can't compensate the dead (2)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 months ago | (#45314875)

I entirely agree. The amount of time, money and public attention squandered on Wars on Abstract Nouns is appalling, and it demonstrates a lamentable lack of vision/spine/leadership in our political classes.

Nevertheless, the idea that buying people off instead of protecting them is a good plan is ethically dubious to say the least. We can certainly debate the level of threat that exists from terrorist attacks, and as you rightly point out we can contrast it with the level of danger from other risks we know about. Still, to the extent that the threat is real at all, it's reasonable to ask what we could do to avoid any loss of human life in the future rather than just assigning everyone a dollar value and being done with it.

Re:You can't compensate the dead (3, Interesting)

lightknight (213164) | about 5 months ago | (#45314989)

Indeed. In the choice between retiring the military early with golf-course careers and spending the money on healthcare, or rolling with a super police state, I favor the former.

Re:You can't compensate the dead (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314777)

Uh-huh. You know, most Slashdotters don't live in Israel or Somalia. Your crude appeal to emotion not only sounds alarmist, but retarded.

It's a way to scare you idiots so you'll justify throwing more money at...shit, Lockheed-Martin? Boeing? Somebody's company where somebody knows a congressman? Israel uber alles.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | about 5 months ago | (#45314625)

Bomb attacks are so rare, wouldnâ(TM)t it be cheaper to compensate bomb victims after the fact than include expensive bomb-sniffing equipment in infrastructure upgrades up and down the land?

This, but not for reasons of financial cost. The price of living in a free society is that occasionally someone is going to get pissed off at the world and blow up spectators at a marathon or take a gun to a classroom of kiddies. It would be great if we could stop this, but if the only way of stopping it is to take away your freedom and allow the government to spy on its people then maybe the price is too high. And from a financial point of view, maybe the money would be better spent on education and help for people who need it.

That said, this sounds like a cool idea from a technical point of view. I'm conflicted.

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 5 months ago | (#45314753)

Is it really that hard to imagine there exists some middle ground?

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314915)

Indeed it is. You can't compromise on fundamental freedoms.

Freedoms sometimes conflict (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 months ago | (#45314985)

Indeed it is. You can't compromise on fundamental freedoms.

Of course you can. Basic rights and freedoms, things we would consider well worth defending in isolation, come into conflict all the time. The difficult questions, whether in ethics or as practical matters of law, are very often difficult precisely because there is no answer that does not diminish some right or freedom we value even as it defends something else we choose to value more. And not everyone agrees with which rights and freedoms are the most valuable.

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (1)

jamesh (87723) | about 5 months ago | (#45315229)

Is it really that hard to imagine there exists some middle ground?

Of course there is a middle ground. You decide how much of your freedom you are willing to give up to secure some temporary safety and then vote accordingly.

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (2)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 5 months ago | (#45314835)

I don't see this as invasive, if it is used to monitor the quality of the sewage (yeah, that sounds funny) where pipes join together. If there was an indication of bomb or drug making activity, then more pooper snoopers could be temporarily installed upstream. At some point there would be a need for search warrants or something like that, but on the whole, the natural blending of waste products is going to be an adequate protection against invasion of privacy.

Nobody is really going to know that you pigged out on burritos.

I would think this would be an excellent way to identify meth houses, etc. While I would rather see all drugs made legal so they could be taxed and the profits would go out of the illicit drug trade, until that happens I would kind of like to see every damn meth factory on the left coast raided.

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 5 months ago | (#45315143)

I don't see this as invasive, if it is used to monitor the quality of the sewage (yeah, that sounds funny) where pipes join together. If there was an indication of bomb or drug making activity, then more pooper snoopers could be temporarily installed upstream. At some point there would be a need for search warrants or something like that, but on the whole, the natural blending of waste products is going to be an adequate protection against invasion of privacy.

Nobody is really going to know that you pigged out on burritos.

I would think this would be an excellent way to identify meth houses, etc. While I would rather see all drugs made legal so they could be taxed and the profits would go out of the illicit drug trade, until that happens I would kind of like to see every damn meth factory on the left coast raided.

Exactly. This isn't a targeted system, but its a good sieve for "something weird might be going on in this neighborhood".

As the article notes, the London bombers killed all the plants in their garden from from the fumes of the manufacturing process. The problem is, no one had any additional evidence to think "hmm that's weird" and take a closer look.

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (5, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#45314717)

It has been my experience that often governments do things because of something specific when all along they wanted to do it anyways.

In other words, "bombs" probably is just a justification the public needs in order to allow this to happen. There are probably other reasons which wouldn't sound so acceptable if officially declared. Think about all the laws that get rammed through in the name of stopping terrorism but primarily end up being used to harass and prosecute drug users/dealers or something along other lines.

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (5, Insightful)

geoskd (321194) | about 5 months ago | (#45314765)

It has been my experience that often governments do things because of something specific when all along they wanted to do it anyways.

In other words, "bombs" probably is just a justification the public needs in order to allow this to happen. There are probably other reasons which wouldn't sound so acceptable if officially declared. Think about all the laws that get rammed through in the name of stopping terrorism but primarily end up being used to harass and prosecute drug users/dealers or something along other lines.

If you read between the lines, the real reason was spelled out in the summary. These things can be used to detect narcotics manufacturing as well as bomb making. The real reason is the wish to escalate the war on drugs, which has been the real guiding principle behind, and primary use of, all anti-terrorism laws.

Re:Unimaginable wasting of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315321)

Bomb attacks are so rare, wouldnâ(TM)t it be cheaper to compensate bomb victims after the fact than include expensive bomb-sniffing equipment in infrastructure upgrades up and down the land?

And once they've deployed that equipment, who knows what else they might sniff for with it. They might be able to tell if someone is a cocaine user or on a particular form of birth control or drinking french wine (or all three!)... The government already sniffs enough of my internet traffic, they should keep their nose out of my sewer.

A surprising turn of events (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314487)

Oh look, a noninvasive and effective approach to preventing bombings; It's almost as someone competent got hired.

Re:A surprising turn of events (2)

felrom (2923513) | about 5 months ago | (#45314573)

Are they going to install these in EVERY sewer in all of Europe? How much will that cost?

What is the price that the innocent populace will pay in violation of their civil liberties from false positives? You do know that virtually every common explosive is made from ingredients available at hardware stores, pharmacies, and groceries, right? Are you okay with the police raiding your house because you and your neighbors happened to innocently wash the wrong combination of common ingredients down the drain at the same time?

What will they do about bombs made in the country-side in places with no sewer system?

Re:A surprising turn of events (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314649)

You do know that virtually every common explosive is made from ingredients available at hardware stores, pharmacies, and groceries, right?

No I don't know. You care to post one or two detailed examples here?

Re:A surprising turn of events (5, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | about 5 months ago | (#45314905)

In the case, for example of the 7/7 bombings, these were made of organic peroxides.

Nail varnish remover, hair bleach, limescale remover, and you're pretty much done.

(you can't make a bomb from these chemicals simply in the concentrations they are normally used at - but you can't tell from traces if peroxides are part of hair dye, or a bomb.)

The reagents used to make ricin are similarly problematic.

Also - it's important to note that once in solution, you can't go back to the original compound.

If you put Calcium hydroxide and Sodium chloride into the drain - you get a mix of ions.
You can't tell if what went into a drain was Calcium Chloride or Calcium Hydroxide.
This is clearly important if one is innocuous.

In practice, it seems likely that most of the 'unique' signatures will come from illicit drug use - NOT manufacture of drugs or explosives.
http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2008-02/your-sewer-drugs [popsci.com]

Re:A surprising turn of events (3, Insightful)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 5 months ago | (#45315169)

There's a whole field of chemometrics dedicated to the problem of how to deconvolute mixed chemical signatures from background noise. It's been used to identify heroin being warehoused offshore, since they were able to pick out the chemical signatures of several different types being mixed together against the background.

I would be very surprised if you couldn't apply a similar approach to explosives detection in sewerage - at the very least, a raised background would tell you to deploy some more upstream sensors to see if it's benign or localized to 1 property. Then you take a drive around and see if there's anywhere suspicious, then simply wander up to the door and see who answers.

The home bombmaker's going to have problems answering, and if you know it's them all you have to do is wait for them to try and move it.

Re:A surprising turn of events (4, Interesting)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 5 months ago | (#45315343)

Good chemical debunk, this is a physically (laughably) impractical as well.

The sewer network for our city of 23,000 with some heavy industry, generates around two miliion gallons of flow a day. There are ~1100 manholes, but thirty main branches where one would definitely want $ensors, that would narrow it down to several hundred houses. Flow takes from 15 minutes to 10 hours to travel down these branches. In this hostile environment of liquid and floating and suspended solid it is difficult to keep even mechanical flow monitors operational (we don't bother), the thought of a sensor that requires immersion and direct contact cracks me up. The thought that these subterranean sensors need 24x7 radio links makes me hoot 'n holler.

Okay... (wiping eyes)... so branch number five sounds an alarm. What do you do now?? You need to systematically place MORE sensors at all upstream branch points and wait for another positive. Then finally after several of these iterations you are down to one city block and have to stick a sensor on a camera in the upstream manhole and roll it slowly down the line until you hit a positive again. Then try to figure out which house the tap is for, it's not always obvious and we often need to pour dye to be sure.

So the perps would need to be really cooperative and pour lots of it out at regular intervals for days to assist this tracing process as city workers slowly and visibly converge on their neighborhood.

BUT HOLD ON. If some really clever roboticist could make an autonomous sewer walking spider that could crawl through 6 inch pipes (with roots and other obstructions) and maintain radio contact, which is a real bitch down there, then we'd have the beginnings of something.

Sometimes it takes an infinite amount of money and time to implement a Clever Idea. But it's worth the wait.

Re:A surprising turn of events (1)

felrom (2923513) | about 5 months ago | (#45314923)

You can get a copy of the Army's Improvised Munitions Handbook with free 2-day shipping from Amazon Prime. I have a copy on my bookshelf, and yeah, it's pretty much every common explosive, producible in the home, with ingredients and equipment you're passing in the store aisles every day already.

Re:A surprising turn of events (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 5 months ago | (#45314663)

Oh look, a noninvasive and effective approach to preventing bombings; It's almost as someone competent got hired.

If the objective is to catch idiots who do not do their research, it is a great approach. A shade better than catching them after they blow themselves up. Is not going to catch anybody serious who collects his waste and disposes it elsewhere, like down the drain of a rival.

Re:A surprising turn of events (2)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 5 months ago | (#45315185)

Oh look, a noninvasive and effective approach to preventing bombings; It's almost as someone competent got hired.

If the objective is to catch idiots who do not do their research, it is a great approach. A shade better than catching them after they blow themselves up. Is not going to catch anybody serious who collects his waste and disposes it elsewhere, like down the drain of a rival.

Except that nobody's getting arrested on the basis of their drains. They're getting arrested on the basis of the all the drugs and the bags full of unexplained non-sequential bills. And frankly, who cares if we end up arresting their rivals. Because they're rivals in the drug/bomb trade are still drugmaker/bombmakers.

And later (4, Funny)

moteyalpha (1228680) | about 5 months ago | (#45314493)

Dear Sir, We were monitoring the sewer and it seems your daughter is pregnant. We checked the DNA and it is that kid you don't like. We only know you don't like him because the NSA shares information with us. On the side are ads for abortion clinics, diaper services, gun shops, and obstetricians provided by WalMart. BTW you need to check your cholesterol.

Re:And later (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 5 months ago | (#45314527)

I suspect you're exaggerating the risk of intrusive surveillance dramatically here. Of course it's always good to keep an eye on possible future uses of such technology and any danger of scope creep. However, there's just a small difference between the kind of sensor network that can tell you someone within a few hundred metres of this city centre location is working with a surprising amount of fertilizer and the kind of sensor network that can do a full chemical breakdown complete with DNA analysis on all foul waste from each house in every street.

Re:And later (4, Interesting)

moteyalpha (1228680) | about 5 months ago | (#45314833)

I realized this could be done decades ago. I am surprised that it has taken this long to be implemented. I work in robotics and recently in molecular genetics. It is a complete source of DNA for every person. It is a wealth of "raw" information and since analysis is getting cheaper every day it could become a new data base that can be collected and sold. It is creepy and that is why it creeps.
GATTACA. BTW, we checked your DNA and you have too many SNP's and will not be allowed to procreate as it would be a burden on the state. Also it would be the obvious creep of scope. Cold Cases with DNA and no match. It will happen.

Re:And later (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | about 5 months ago | (#45314531)

Dear Sir, We were monitoring the sewer and it seems your daughter is pregnant. We checked the DNA and it is that kid you don't like. We only know you don't like him because the NSA shares information with us. On the side are ads for abortion clinics, diaper services, gun shops, and obstetricians provided by WalMart. BTW you need to check your cholesterol.

That might be a bit of a stretch, but OTOH detecting traces of THC or other drugs like that might not be outside the scope of this sort of project, and may not correlate with the average persons idea of a free society.

Thai Food... (3, Funny)

flyneye (84093) | about 5 months ago | (#45314509)

I'll give you bomb ingredients; Thai food, Mexican food,Barbeque, habanero sauce and IPA. I'll melt your damn sensors and curl your nails back. Stay the hell outa' th' sewer. Figures this is a "governmental" bright idea....

Big brother (4, Insightful)

giorgist (1208992) | about 5 months ago | (#45314523)

Well with smart meters accurate enough to tell when you are watching TV and what, Now with these sensors knowing what you are flushing down the toilet How about some environment monitors so they know what we exhale ... Its getting pretty creepy

Re:Big brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314619)

They already walk around in my piss and poop, I don't care if they want to write down the smells too. Sometimes it seems like people just want to jump on the privacy bandwagon for the sake of it, without actually thinking about whether or not it actually matters what's being recorded in a sewer. It's not private down there anyway.

Re:Big brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315189)

You watch tv?

How odd...

Sorry (2)

Entropy98 (1340659) | about 5 months ago | (#45314537)

Very sorry we killed your child and your dog during our raid sir, false positives are a tragedy but we can't let the terrorists and drug dealers win can we? Next time don't flush that expired cough syrup and prescription drugs, call our chemical disposal unit for the proper forms first, and if you have anymore kids be sure to teach them to lay face down on the floor and pray when unknown people break in in the middle of the night instead of screaming and crying!

Re:Sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314591)

Dunno about US but in my country you can (and should) return expired medicines to a pharmacy. And please don't tell me you dumped antibiotics in the sewers...

Re:Sorry (4, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about 5 months ago | (#45314841)

Sorry. The terrorists WON already.

We're now LESS free than we were, and the fucking morons claiming to "run" the country (insert your country's name here), are no closer to eradicating or even MITIGATING terrorism.
Oh yes. And they, and a bunch of their friends, are now MUCH richer.

What they say vs what they do (5, Insightful)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 5 months ago | (#45314547)

What they say it will be used for: sniffing for bomb materials

What it will be used for: sniffing for illegal drugs

First they'll put a probe in each neighborhood. Then they'll put a probe in the sewer for each street. Then they'll put a probe in the individual drains from every house. Then when they detect cocaine, you'll get a ticket in the mail.

You know, this brave new world is a lot less Brave New World than we thought it would be...

Re:What they say vs what they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314595)

ticket in the mail

You misspelled "paramilitary raid of your house and summary execution of your beloved pets".

Re:What they say vs what they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314641)

That's in the US. In the EU it may just be a ticket.

Re:What they say vs what they do (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314709)

There's lots of psychopathy that's strangely missing in the EU.

Re:What they say vs what they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314755)

Various places in the EU compensate for it by other means. It is a problem of limited duration anyway since most European nations are headed towards big trouble with their current birth rates being so far below replacement rate. 512, 256, 128, 64, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 0

Re:What they say vs what they do (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45314793)

It's very individual over here. In some parts of the EU you probably get a letter informing you of the impending raid and that you're asked to leave the door unlocked to avoid troubles for law enforcement and the hassle of getting a new door lock.

In some other areas you probably wouldn't get a letter, but your relatives get one asking where to mail your ashes.

Re:What they say vs what they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314691)

You noticed this is in the EU, not some 3rd world police state, right?

Re:What they say vs what they do (1, Informative)

Chas (5144) | about 5 months ago | (#45314851)

You noticed this is in the EU, not some 3rd world police state, right?

I fail to see the difference...

Re: What they say vs what they do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315151)

The two are rapidly converging if you ask me...

Re:What they say vs what they do (2)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 5 months ago | (#45315235)

What they say it will be used for: sniffing for bomb materials

What it will be used for: sniffing for illegal drugs

First they'll put a probe in each neighborhood. Then they'll put a probe in the sewer for each street. Then they'll put a probe in the individual drains from every house. Then when they detect cocaine, you'll get a ticket in the mail.

You know, this brave new world is a lot less Brave New World than we thought it would be...

Seriously? Why is everybody getting worked up over this? I remember watching a documentary about US American narco cops less than a year ago and one of the things they showed was police officers cooperating with environmental inspectors systematically sampling sewer water to track down meth-labs. It's just a logical progression of what environmental agencies are already doing on a regular basis to monitor pollution and to track down businesses trying to cut costs by pouring toxic chemicals down the sewers. Nobody blew up in a firestorm of outrage over EPAs monitoring pollution levels, even wing nuts on the far right hand fringe of politics like to have unpolluted drinking water (well... at least here in Europe they do).

Re:What they say vs what they do (2)

jamesh (87723) | about 5 months ago | (#45315263)

Seriously? Why is everybody getting worked up over this?

I can't speak for anyone else but i'm just mostly trolling for mod points. Slashdotters can't mod up a "big brother is coming to get you" post fast enough.

Re:What they say vs what they do (2)

jamesh (87723) | about 5 months ago | (#45315253)

Then when they detect cocaine, you'll get a ticket in the mail.

The mail? They are already in your sewers, they can simply deliver the ticket that way, and maybe probe you when you are on the can just for good measure. "Please remain still, citizen. You may feel a small amount of discomfort, but struggling will just make it worse. If you haven't done anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about".

The problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314555)

...each home already has products which can form a bomb.

Re:The problem is... (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45314909)

That's actually true. Now, I have quite a bit of unusual (though in its current form and for its actual use harmless) chemistry at home for PCB creation, some of which can certainly be given a different purpose with some chemistry knowledge. I sincerely hope that it takes our paranoid polidroids a while to catch on, it's getting harder and harder to gain access to some key chemicals.

But even with the average household it's far from impossible to create bombs. You almost invariably have powerful solvents, oxidizing agents and various material that could be listed under "fuel" available, i.e. pretty much everything you need for a binary kaboom.

Sliding Upwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314565)

A year later: No one wants to move around the sewer system install sensors and those sensors only give general info. It would be cheaper and less of a hassle for you (no need to search an entire block, just one house) if we moved the sensors to the connection between your house and the sewer system.

A year later: It's cost prohibitive to get at all those underground house connections. All new drains will be required to have the sensors embedded within them. Don't worry, expected battery life is 5 years. Results shows people replace their drains every 5 years anyway. Also the tech has gotten smaller, so we're adding carbon monoxide and gas sensors. For your safety, police/fireman will be notified if those sensors are triggered.

A few months later: The carbon monoxide sensor saved a bunch of school kids. All drains will be required to have these sensors. You must add them to your home.

That old business partner I want to get back at... (4, Insightful)

theNAM666 (179776) | about 5 months ago | (#45314585)

This is just great! Pour a few bags of fertilizer down the drain by his house... next stop, my local IT competitor's shop...

Re:That old business partner I want to get back at (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314735)

Shoot! I came in here to say something just like that.

Re:That old business partner I want to get back at (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45314919)

So when your ex wants to go to the bathroom one last time before she leaves... kick her out immediately!

so... (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314589)

These bomb and drug makers will just use a bucket and dump it down the sewer across town. What a waste of time and money.

Re:so... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45314921)

*gasp* You don't say. Those sneaky, clever bastards, nobody could have predicted that!

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315073)

Until they start having CCTV with facial recognition monitoring said storm drains.

What they say (-1, Flamebait)

nashoa (3418777) | about 5 months ago | (#45314601)

What they say it testament be old for: sniffing for dud materials What it present be victimised for: sniffing for felonious drugs The YouTube Cash Blueprints Program [youtube.com] Opening they'll put a examine in apiece neighborhood. Then they'll put a examine in the drain for each street. Then they'll put a research in the individual drains from every accommodation. Then when they detect cocaine, you'll get a ticket in the communication. You cognize, this stouthearted new class is a lot little Gamey New Group than we content it would be

False Positives, False Negatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314607)

Explosives are largely made of the same shit that occurs naturally. Ammonia, nitrates, oils, peroxides. This stuff is everywhere. It's gonna be false alarms like a mofo.

And yet, at the same time, there are plenty of non-standard oxidizers that no reasonable detector would expect...
And then there's non-redox explosives, which are all pretty much unique and have about nothing in common by which to detect them.

So the whole idea of an explosives-detector is pretty much asinine.

Re: False Positives, False Negatives (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314813)

You forgot chlorate which i recall is the oxidizer of choice for European terrorist bombs and which is readily manufactured from a common (beyond any means of restriction; table salt) ingredient but with a byproduct of lots of chlorine gas, which can probably be detected by robust sensors. Drugs cannot be so readily detected in bulk sewage as an abundance of oxidizing potential / free chlorine. This is actually a pretty straightforward good idea.

Re:False Positives, False Negatives (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45315011)

Worse, yes, quite a bit thereof is actually part of your ... let's say it tastefully, "bodily waste".

No, I kid you not, you piss bomb material [wikipedia.org].

Dissonance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314653)

Seems the market for "things that theoretically could have happened to you but we maybe spent enough to have stopped" is unlimited.

I don't know about the UK, but where in the supposedly religious U.S. are all the people who should be saying, "Actually, we -aren't- afraid to die, even if the odds of dying from terrorists -were- higher than from slipping in the bathtub, so stop billing us for the protection racket"?

How very enlightened... (5, Insightful)

pev (2186) | about 5 months ago | (#45314671)

So, the bomb makers just conduct their business in a house in the countryside that uses a septic tank instead of connecting to a sewer system. That's a lot of money and effort and false confidence that can be circumnavigated with great ease. Now, if they'd done this without telling anyone then they might have had an edge... Idiots.

Re:How very enlightened... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314895)

Or one high-rise apartment building. They going to raid them all? (Actually, they might...)

AC

Re:How very enlightened... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45315035)

That's asymmetric warfare for you. We have a lot of money, so we have to spend a lot of money to come up with solutions those with little money can circumvent with little money.

Think for a moment, we can't let yet another enemy just disappear because he can't afford to play pretend war with us anymore.

Re:How very enlightened... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315069)

well, that gets them out of the city, where they are less apt to blow up their neighbors when they blow themselves up.... which might just be more likely if they're mixing chemicals, unknowingly, in that septic tank.

my captcha of the year award nominee: defecate

Re:How very enlightened... (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about 5 months ago | (#45315075)

I was thinking very much this. You don't even need to use a septic tank: all you need is that it never reaches the sewer system. Just get it into some kind of barrel or tank, bury it if you so desire (at your house or somewhere else) and continue as planned. If it leaks or somebody manages to see it, it'll too late or they were already suspecting you were making a bomb and were actively looking at you.

misleading title (2)

davydagger (2566757) | about 5 months ago | (#45314689)

> Using remote sensors might be effective because the liquid- and gas byproducts of bomb production â" and manufacture of many drugs as well

lets be frank about what this is really about

HOW ABOUT ... !! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314695)

Spending it on ROAD SAFETY !! Better BANG !! for the pound !!

Re:HOW ABOUT ... !! (1)

prefec2 (875483) | about 5 months ago | (#45314839)

They already do that by not maintaining the roads, resulting in slower velocities reducing accidents or at least the severity of accidents.

Re:HOW ABOUT ... !! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 5 months ago | (#45315041)

And how exactly is that supposed to line the pockets of that guy making those detectors who spent a fortune buying politicians?

Oh noes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45314763)

will my grandma's chilli set the detectors of?

False positives. (5, Interesting)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 5 months ago | (#45314827)

Ammonium nitrate. Common fertilizer. Weapon of choice for terrorists, as it is easily available in large quantities and can be easily processed into a form suitable for use as an explosive. Whenever you read about a car bomb, it was probably this stuff.

So every time you fertilize your garden and some rain falls, it'll set off the alarm.

People undergoing radiotherapy also excrete high enough levels of radiation to pose some hazard to other people. So their toilets will be detected as dirty bomb factories.

Re:False positives. (1)

garompeta (1068578) | about 5 months ago | (#45315117)

exactly this! I am baffled at the level of idiocy, probably it is a politician trying to look cool. Even a high school chemistry student would know this.

Re:False positives. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315355)

Ammonium nitrate. Common fertilizer. Weapon of choice for terrorists, as it is easily available in large quantities and can be easily processed into a form suitable for use as an explosive. Whenever you read about a car bomb, it was probably this stuff.

So every time you fertilize your garden and some rain falls, it'll set off the alarm.

People undergoing radiotherapy also excrete high enough levels of radiation to pose some hazard to other people. So their toilets will be detected as dirty bomb factories.

That won't be a problem because a lookup of recent activity in HEALTHINT will show who, upstream of the sensor, was undergoing radiation treatment. They really do want to record and store absolutely everything, including the smell of our shit.

All In (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315003)

I hate to be rude, but what makes you thing they will stop in the sewers? Soon, the "smart sewer meters" will get smaller, more numerous, and closer and closer to your point connection. A bit more, and the probes could get more "personal". For your own good, of course. And your family's. While the intestinator tech is straightened out. Until then, they'll use those probes they ordered from the Aliens, recently delivered, who were all this time just doing field testing for their marketing and product development department.

The EU should think ahead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315103)

Can't wait for the new mandatory toilet seat belts, it will surely save many lives. If not well, some got richer with/through another political scam.

Sorry but it will not work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315207)

Right... where will the money come from?

I though so...

Fago8z (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315285)

Whatever path is BitTorrent) Second, Creek, abysmal the BSD license, a BSD over other then disappeared WWW.ANTI-SLASH.ORG aacording tothis will recall that it

What about transh analysis robots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45315301)

Why dont we build trash cans which analyze all the trashes thrown in there? Then we could catch terrorist based on their shop receipts, old books they dont want to read, maybe what kind of food they eat and so on.

Idiotic (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about 5 months ago | (#45315351)

This is idiotic, what bomb maker is going to dump anything down a drain the second they even suspect that a few areas are going to have these kinds of sensors installed. They'll simply dump it out in the countryside or bury it in the back yard. On top of that with all of the crap people dump down drains I have to imagine that false positives are going to be commonplace. And as others have mentioned while "bomb detection" is the claimed objective drugs/alcohol/pharmaceuticals are going to be the actual target of any such sensor net with a healthy profit margin for the defense contractor subsidiaries designing/installing said net.

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