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RC Plane Attack 'Foiled,' Say German Authorities 233

Posted by timothy
from the they've-got-bruce-schneier-in-the-batcave dept.
garymortimer writes with this excerpt from Sky News as carried by Yahoo UK: "German authorities are holding two men of Tunisian origin who they say are facing possible charges for the 'preparation of a serious, state-threatening act of violence.' Prosecutors say the men are suspected of 'procuring information and objects to commit Islamic extremist explosive attacks with remote-controlled model airplanes,' prosecutors added. Police investigating the terror plot on Tuesday launched a series of raids in Stuttgart and Munich in southern Germany and Saxony in the east. They also carried out one raid in Belgium. No-one was arrested. The suspects had been under surveillance for more than a year and authorities had recently detected 'an increased interest in explosives and model aircraft,' according to an unnamed security source quoted by a German news agency."
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RC Plane Attack 'Foiled,' Say German Authorities

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  • i always wonder... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kennethmci (1472923) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @08:51AM (#44121043)
    if i read the article, could i be accused of ''procuring information to commit Islamic extremist explosive attacks with remote-controlled model airplanes,' - i mean, if they go into detail about what was planned..... oh oh! they could even say "ive downloaded it onto my computer" with the cunning use of a cache.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've come to the conclusion the authorities don't need any evidence to accuse you of terrorism.

  • I wonder if the German government stores a database of every one of their citizens phone? If they do, was that database used to catch these guys? Why can the Germans catch Islamic extremists using remote control planes, but the American government cannot catch Islamic extremists using pressure cookers?

    • by Tom (822) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:41AM (#44121363) Homepage Journal

      I wonder if the German government stores a database of every one of their citizens phone?

      They don't need to. If you have a court order, the ISPs (which do have such databases) will provide the details you need.

      Why can the Germans catch Islamic extremists using remote control planes, but the American government cannot catch Islamic extremists using pressure cookers?

      Because, if you read TFA, these guys had been under observation for a year already. Basically, one of two things happened:

      Either, the police decided that they won't learn anything new by further observation, or discover any more parts of the network, so to wrap things up and close the case, they arrested the guys and called it a day.

      Or, politicians in charge needed something to distract. You see, they always keep stuff in store for that purpose. Pispers says it very nicely (on a different topic):
      http://youtu.be/qRWAyM26YV8?t=5m42s [youtu.be] (english subs)

      • >Because, if you read TFA, these guys had been under observation for a year already.

        Which begs the question.... Why were the Tsarnaev brothers NOT under observation?

      • by vux984 (928602)

        Because, if you read TFA, these guys had been under observation for a year already. Basically, one of two things happened:

        To be fair, that loses some meaning when the NSA has us all under surveillance all the time now.

      • There's also the big difference that the Germans make a much clearer cut between criminal investigations (that have to obey the niceties of law) and counter terrorism activities (which are under a special internal security service and has much greater leeway). That wouldn't work in the US due to the fruit-of-the-poisoned-tree doctrine which throws out most evidence that is collected with a "dark spot" somewhere in the chain of acquisition. German law doesn't operate that way, and can still prosecute using
    • by egamma (572162)

      I wonder if the German government stores a database of every one of their citizens phone? If they do, was that database used to catch these guys? Why can the Germans catch Islamic extremists using remote control planes, but the American government cannot catch Islamic extremists using pressure cookers?

      Because ordinary people buy pressure cookers all the time. It's not a purchase that will be flagged; pressure cookers are not inherently dangerous, or typically used for dangerous purchases. On the other hand, buying explosives WILL get you flagged. I wouldn't be surprised if buying $200 worth of ammunition or $50 worth of gunpowder would get your other recent purchases reviewed. And if someone see's "remote control" anything on that list of purchases, they're gonna come after you.

      • I wouldn't be surprised if buying $200 worth of ammunition or $50 worth of gunpowder

        You just described millions of people in the US.

        • You just described why PRISM exists.

          • Tell me more about how PRISM is useful to track American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights? Does PRISM track people who use the 1st, 4th, or 5th Amendment? Is PRISM tracking all those IRS officials who pleaded to 5th to cover for their felonious actions?

        • by Richy_T (111409)

          He just described millions of people in the US up until the beginning of this year...

        • by egamma (572162)

          I wouldn't be surprised if buying $200 worth of ammunition or $50 worth of gunpowder

          You just described millions of people in the US.

          And your point is...? We're talking about the government that was interested in the phone records of every Verizon customer for 3 months.

      • by dietdew7 (1171613)
        When my wife and I were really into shooting, we used to spend $200 a month on ammunition. In low quantities some rounds are almost a dollar each.
      • by heypete (60671)

        I wouldn't be surprised if buying $200 worth of ammunition or $50 worth of gunpowder would get your other recent purchases reviewed.

        A case of 1,000 rounds of 5.56mm ammo (an extremely common caliber) usually costs about $300 or so (though prices vary with demand). That's a fairly common amount of ammo to buy for sporting/recreation/competition purposes (hunters use much less ammo). In my personal experience, a trip to the range would usually involve firing ~200 rounds or so, so a case would last a few months at most depending on how often I'd shoot. Several of my friends report similar consumption of ammo. Anecdotal, yes, but I'd ventur

    • I wonder how the German government can catch terrorists like this without a PRISM-like system, and yet even with this overreaching boondoggle we in the US can't stop a pair of foreigners from blowing up a city street during a huge event or a guy from smuggling explosives onto a plane in his shoes or underwear.

      'Murica.

      • My point exactly.

      • by gtall (79522)

        Apples and Oranges. All it takes is for one informant to squeal. And how do you know the German government doesn't have a PRISM-like system. And if the U.S. had such good intelligence that they could stop every lone wolf, people like you would be screaming you've lost your freedom.

  • Hyperbole, anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @08:57AM (#44121073) Homepage

    ...state-threatening act of violence.

    Unless the model plane is the size of a 747 or the explosive is anit-matter, how is that a "... state-threatening act of violence." Is Germany in such dire straits that a single model aircraft can topple a whole country?

    • by MSojka (83577)

      ...state-threatening act of violence.

      Unless the model plane is the size of a 747 or the explosive is anit-matter, how is that a "... state-threatening act of violence." Is Germany in such dire straits that a single model aircraft can topple a whole country?

      They could shut down the BILD [wikipedia.org] HQ for a day or two. Imagine that: Millions (no hyperbole, they sell about 2.5 million copies daily) of dumb people not being able to read the "truth" on the front page of their favourite tabloid and having to think for them

    • by Shavano (2541114) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:06AM (#44121131)

      They could attack government people and do significant harm to infrastructure.

      But here's the real question: they raided some homes and --- arrested nobody. So that makes me think that when they raided the homes, they found no real evidence and maybe there was no real plot. A bunch of Islamic guys who met at the mosque, send each other email and discovered a common interest in say, pylon racing and who also read e-news about bombings in their homelands does not constitute a plot against the government.

      • by Tom (822)

        They could attack government people and do significant harm to infrastructure.

        Which infrastructure can you harm with an RC plane and the tiny amount of explosives it can carry? A wooden footbridge in the Black Forest?

        As for the government people, given the current government we have (which is much like that of any other western country these days), any attack on pretty much any of them would be a benefit to the country.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Which infrastructure can you harm with an RC plane and the tiny amount of explosives it can carry? A wooden footbridge in the Black Forest?

          These days, an RC plane can carry quite a bit of payload. And if you actually knew explosives and could construct a shaped charge then you could reasonably damage a fairly hard target with one. That is, after all, what a cruise missile is; an RC plane with autonomous capabilities.

          • by Sperbels (1008585) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @10:28AM (#44121757)

            These days, an RC plane can carry quite a bit of payload. And if you actually knew explosives and could construct a shaped charge then you could reasonably damage a fairly hard target with one. That is, after all, what a cruise missile is; an RC plane with autonomous capabilities.

            Maybe if you could manufacture something like C4 and pack it into a large RC plane you could cause some minor infrastructure damage. But your average common-man's explosives (pipe bombs, pressure cookers, etc) would do little more than spray people with shrapnel and break windows. Yeah, you could hurt some people, even kill some, but this is hardly a threat to the state. An individual or small group could do far more damage with a little arson...starting a building or a forest on fire for example.

          • And if you actually knew explosives and could construct a shaped charge then you could reasonably damage a fairly hard target with one.

            Or perhaps an even cooler thing: what about an explosively formed penetrator?

        • Don't underestimate RC planes. There are some fancier models that could easily carry enough explosives to cause serious damage in a small area.
          Hell, get three or four and rig something so that they can drop their payload and you suddenly have quite a problem on your hands if you can't spot where they go afterwards.

          • Nobody is saying that an RC plane, suitably equipped, can't cause damage. It's the claim that such damage can cause 'harm to the state' that's just a bit hyperbolic.

          • by Wookact (2804191)
            At the point that an RC plane can carry enough explosives to harm something it is more akin to a drone.

            Shoot some small drones don't even have the payload capacity to carry weapons.
    • ...state-threatening act of violence.

      Unless the model plane is the size of a 747 or the explosive is anit-matter, how is that a "... state-threatening act of violence." Is Germany in such dire straits that a single model aircraft can topple a whole country?

      First of all: here is a difference between the "state" and a country.

      Second: http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_stgb/englisch_stgb.html [gesetze-im-internet.de] (Translation of the German Criminal Code provided by Prof. Dr. Michael Bohlander)

      Section 89a

      Preparation of a serious violent offence endangering the state

      (1) Whosoever prepares a serious offence endangering the state shall be liable to imprisonment from six months to ten years. A serious violent offence endangering the state shall mean an offence against life under sections 211 or 212 or against personal freedom under sections 239a or 239b, which under the circumstances is intended to impair and capable of impairing the existence or security of a state or of an international organisation, or to abolish, rob of legal effect or undermine constitutional principles of the Federal Republic of Germany.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        That's just legal weaseling. The state is not endangered. Period. Its at best mildly irritated.

        If an RC plane with explosives can

        "impair and capable of impairing the existence or security of a state or of an international organisation, or to abolish, rob of legal effect or undermine constitutional principles of the Federal Republic of Germany.

        Then so can a common mugger with a knife. (He could mug someone important and stab them... oh noes endangering the state! The Fatherland itself is under attack. Round

      • by no-body (127863)
        Those laws have historic reasons when 1977 the German attorney general Siegfried Buback (and others) were murdered in a car by a RAF motorcycle driveby shooting.

        - "harming/endangering a state"

        A model airplane with explosives can very well kill targeted individuals in the open or in vehicles
    • by Issarlk (1429361)
      Didn't you get the memo? Pressure cooker sized explosives used for terror means are now "weapons of mass destruction" so these tiny RC plane are just one step bellow at state-threatening. To find the usual "bombing" term you'll have to step down all the way to the use of firecrackers.
    • by dubdays (410710) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:07AM (#44121141)

      ...state-threatening act of violence.

      Unless the model plane is the size of a 747 or the explosive is anit-matter, how is that a "... state-threatening act of violence." Is Germany in such dire straits that a single model aircraft can topple a whole country?

      Exactly what I though when I first read TFS. I mean seriously, a bomb-laden RC plane couldn't take out a random balcony. They'd be better off strapping C-4 to a bunch of swallows (European, of course).

      • Held under the dorsal guiding feathers or something of the sort?

        Seriously, though. A big RC plane can carry enough explosives to cause chaos in a crowd, perhaps even severe injuries.

        • by dubdays (410710)

          Seriously, though. A big RC plane can carry enough explosives to cause chaos in a crowd, perhaps even severe injuries.

          I don't deny that (it'd have to be a fairly big RC plane, though). It's the "state-threatening" part I take issue with.

        • by fnj (64210)

          Not unusually big, and the injuries and fatalities would be practically guaranteed.

          Admittedly, "state threatening" is a joke unless you are talking about hundreds or thousands of model planes in a coordinated campaign, but a single model plane of average size could easily carry a couple of hand grenades or the equivalent, and a couple of hand grenade set off at optimal height above the ground in a crowd is easily capable of killing as many people as the Marathon Bombers did.

          Ever heard of a German Bouncing B

      • How do you know they are tiny? Giant Scale RC Aircraft have wingspans of 84 inches (2.1 m) or larger. I've seen some planes that were physicaly large enough tp carry a person, like a Monster Scale: 87% Pitts Python [modelairplanenews.com] weighing over 300 lbs (136kg) and powered by a 650cc engine. It's not unusual for giant Scale models of bombers to have operational bombays and drop model bombs durring flights.
        With the history of Germany, it's easy to imagine some bad-actors getting their hands on a case of hand grenades, or d

        • You know, the easier way to do this is as follows:

          - Germany has significant infrastructure along navigable waterways.
          - Boats, even boats available to the lay public, can be quite large and capable of carrying building leveling quantities of ANFO (diesel / ammonium nitrate explosive, also nominally available to the lay public).
          - It's a trivial exercise to add automatic piloting to your boat. Add a nice GPS system with routing capabilities and you have a self guided munition that can cause hundreds of casual

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      Gavrilo Princip rearranged the map of Europe with two pistol shots.

      • Two pistol shots, and the entire Eurasian continent with itchy trigger fingers just looking for an excuse.

        Don't confuse the trigger for massive change with the actual causes. Sometimes the trigger is just a convenient excuse to execute already laid plans.

      • by Tom (822) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:22AM (#44121229) Homepage Journal

        No, he did not.

        The most important thing you can learn in history is the difference between causation and occasion. Several of the european powers were already looking for war and would have taken any other excuse to start it. Against any other backdrop of politics, the assassination would've been headlines for two days and then forgotten.

        Saying that Princip started WW1 is like saying that Caesar conquered Britain: A useful shortcut but as "Caesar" really only led the army that did the actual conquering so did Princip only provide the spark that ignited the fire others had been busy building up for many years.

    • by Xest (935314)

      They were planning on flying a plane with a small amount of explosive into a US base on German soil that secretly stockpiles now poorly maintained and unstable cold-war era nukes to detonate them and trigger a nuclear explosion, which the US would respond to by nuking Russia believing it was an attack by them and Russia would then nuke Germany to complete destruction.

      Yeah, okay I made all that up and might have been slightly inspired by The Sum of all Fears which just happened to be on again the other day.

      A

    • ...state-threatening act of violence.

      Subtly incorrect translation.

      In German, they tend to use word concatenations, and a proper translation into English would pull these words apart. This one didn't. So it was a threat against the state, not state-threatening.

      • We'll have none of that nonsense here. We've already made hundreds of posts using the inflammatory headline. The last thing we want now is rational behavior.

        I am so not inviting you to my Christmas party.

    • by MrNemesis (587188)

      Given that a butterfly flapping its wings in the right or wrong way can cause a hurricane on the other side of the planet, logic dictates that a model plane loaded with 250g of gunpowder (having hundreds of times more kinetic and potential energy than a butterfly) would cause repercussions on the scale of a global thermonuclear war if handled incorrectly.

      So the authorities shouldn't just be cracking down on RC planes loaded with what some so-called experts call "small" amounts of explosive, they should also

    • Which infrastructure can you harm with an RC plane and the tiny amount of explosives it can carry?

      [Devil's Advocate]

      Let's say you fly your radio controlled plane into a bridge with a small explosive, in plain view by many people. The charge goes off, leaving a dark sooty mark on some concrete.

      What happens after that?

      The bridge is closed. It's not damaged, but it's closed, while people both irrationally over-react and maybe rationally "just check to make sure."

      And there's a traffic jam. And the UPS dr

  • by TimO_Florida (2894381) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:01AM (#44121091)
    Yeah, I've only flown r/c planes for 40 years. They can NOT carry a big enough payload to do any substantial damage. Even full-sized Cessna's have been ruled out as not being able to carry enough explosives to be a real threat.
    • What about balloons?
      1. Attach bomb to weather balloon.
      2. Release upwind of target.
      3. Wait until over, send 'drop' signal.

      Added bonus: Inflate with hydrox and blow the balloon. It'll be loud enough to shatter windows and terrify an entire city.

    • by Tom (822)

      hush. Don't bring facts into politics, it only makes things messy and complicated.

      Evil technology, bombs, terrorists, the police keeps us safe - what else do you need to know, citizen?

    • by Skapare (16644)

      A Cessna packed with the best explosives won't level a city. But don't forget, this isn't about the total damage being done. Terrorists only need to do enough to make people fear. Crashing it into the side of a skyscraper and exploding probably won't take it down, but it will kill people and have financial impacts. There are worse scenarios I'm thinking of, but won't say so as not to give them any ideas.

    • Yeah, I've only flown r/c planes for 40 years. They can NOT carry a big enough payload to do any substantial damage.

      To what? A building? No, they really can't. A crowd? They could really fuck up a crowd. And if you had a particular person/car/window office that you wanted to take out, RC planes with a brick of C-4 strapped to it would certainly do the trick.

      But the state? An RC controlled aircraft of any shape or size from less-than 1lbs toys, to gas-powered FOV enthusiast wet-dreams, to military grade UAV with hellfires will not be a threat to the state of Germany. Germany will prevail. A UAV might blow up a couple thi

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      The threat from R/C planes is actually due to their small size. An R/C plane could fly unhindered through city streets, over security checkpoints, to explode a small bomb in front of the door to a government building. It can deliver the terrorist message of "we can harm you anywhere, at any time" quite clearly.

      The point of terror isn't to cause actual damage with a large payload. As I recall, bin Laden said the destruction of the World Trade Center was unexpected at the time. Terrorism exploits the human bi

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      your RC planes can't carry a 1lb block of simtex or c4?

    • Ye,s the RC plane will not take out an Autobahn bridge. But you start dropping bomb-loaded RC planes into a crowd in a confined area, lets say a Bundesliga game or a rock concert, and the resulting stampede will give you a huge damage multiplier. Or you start dropping it onto the speaker podium at some campaign event. Not every politician travels with his own personal flak battery. The idea of terror attacks is to create disruption, not affect war-like destruction.
  • What's coming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:04AM (#44121111)

    Say goodbye to RC as a hobby.

  • So now the Germans are in favour of government surveillance?

    • by SirGarlon (845873)
      The German government is in favor of government surveillance. (It is hardly unique in that regard.) I can't speak for the German people, but I doubt they were consulted before the surveillance was put in place.
  • by mrpacmanjel (38218) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:30AM (#44121277)

    "..became radicalised by watching jihadist propaganda on the internet..."

    Became "radicalised"??!! WTF?

    You'd have to be mentally unstable in the first place to believe that kind of thing.

    The only "propaganda" is blaming the internet in the first place.

    Mind you I've seen Iron-man 3 so hey you never know.

  • by pla (258480) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @09:40AM (#44121359) Journal
    The suspects had been under surveillance for more than a year and authorities had recently detected 'an increased interest in explosives and model aircraft,' according to an unnamed security source quoted by a German news agency."

    Whoah there, fellas! So basically you've admitted to spying on innocent people for years, in who-knows-how-big of a trolling operation, and you finally caught two small fish who so far have done nothing more than "shown an interest" in something that might count as illegal?

    I realize the FP doesn't involve the US, but I also thought Germany had gotten rid of the whole Stasi thing back when the wall came down.
    Evidently not.
    • by Animats (122034) on Thursday June 27, 2013 @01:02PM (#44123475) Homepage

      So basically you've admitted to spying on innocent people for years, in who-knows-how-big of a trolling operation, and you finally caught two small fish who so far have done nothing more than "shown an interest" in something that might count as illegal?

      Right. Most FBI-reported "terrorist plots" [motherjones.com] are like that, especially the ones that involve informers. They get a report of some loser mouthing off about blowing up something, and they investigate. They get some informer close to the jerk and encourage the wannabe to push their plan forward, often providing resources to help. Then they arrest the loser and announce they've foiled a "terrorist plot".

      The most notable example of this kind of FBI activity was the "terrorist plot to blow up the Sears Tower" [nytimes.com] in 2006. Even the FBI Director said it was "more aspirational than operational".

      When Al-Queda set up the 9/11 attacks, they had good operational security. Nobody talked in public about the plan, and many of the participants didn't know the details until hours before takeoff. What the FBI is doing wouldn't stop a real terrorist organization.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday June 27, 2013 @10:56AM (#44122037) Homepage

    Oh yeah, the terrorist thing too, but the actual story here is that people were under surveillance for more than a year without giving cause for their arrest. Particularly since the raid didn't result in an arrest, and the conclusion that the "terror plot" is at best a flimsy excuse to justify the surveillance is almost inevitable.

    As a citizen in Germany, I honestly feel more threatened by that than by someone allegedly planning to put explosives onto a toy plane.

  • select name,address from PRISM.maildata where body like '%plane%' and body like '%explosive%' and header like '%.tn%';

  • However, public broadcaster SWF quoted unnamed sources as saying that the two were studying aeronautics in Stuttgart and were suspected of trying to develop techniques for remotely piloting model planes using GPS technology.

    What, they couldn't find DIY Drones?

  • public broadcaster SWF quoted unnamed sources as saying that the two were studying aeronautics in Stuttgart and were suspected of trying to develop techniques for remotely piloting model planes using GPS technology.

    Wow, who would ever guessed someone studying aeronautics could have an interest in that [/sarcasm]

    I also don't see anything spectacular in their supposed interest in explosives. Watching things blow up spectacularly is lots of fun as is proven by the success of Mythbusters a success that at least in part can be attributed to this. Crap! Grant Imahara better stay out of Germany.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      who doesnt have an interest in explosives and rc planes?
      im interested in nuclear physics and DIY drones...does that mean I'm going to make my only nuclear drone delivery system?

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