Last week, the CIA held a training exercise in Loudoun County, Virginia. Part of the exercise that the CIA was exercising included using bomb-sniffing dogs to locate explosives. When the exercise was over, the CIA forgot that they had left explosive material under the hood of a Loudoun County school bus. Unaware of what was under the hood of the bus, children were transported to and from school on Monday and Tuesday.
The explosive material was not discovered on the bus until Wednesday, when the bus was inspected as part of a routine maintenance program. Before the explosive material was discovered, the bus traveled for 145 miles with school children on board. Usually, bus drivers inspect their engine on a daily basis. It was thought that the explosive material was not discovered right away due to it being stuck deep inside the engine. Wayde Byard, Loudoun County Schools spokesman, spoke with the Washington Post about the potentially dangerous situation created by the CIA.
“We’re all very upset by what happened, but we’re going to review everything that did happen. Obviously we’re concerned. The CIA really expressed its deep concern and regret today, and it was sincere.”
The routine exercise by the CIA was conducted over spring break. Besides the Loudoun school bus, explosive material was placed inside of a school. The CIA stated that no danger existed with the explosive material stuck in the school bus engine. The explosive material being used was a “putty-type” material. By itself, putty-type explosives are considered to be very stable. In order for detonation to occur, a special type of detonator would have to be used. The CIA did not need to put a detonator on the explosives since the goal was to see how well the bomb-sniffing dogs completed their task.
The dogs are trained to indicate explosives are present based on what they smell in the material. Joshua Levine, writer for the Smithsonian Magazine, explained how the dogs find bombs and the materials associated with them.
“Strictly speaking, the dog doesn’t smell the bomb. It deconstructs an odor into its components, picking out just the culprit chemicals it has been trained to detect. When you walk into a kitchen where someone is cooking spaghetti sauce, your nose says aha, spaghetti sauce. A dog’s nose doesn’t say that. Instinctively, it says tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, onion, oregano. It’s the handler who says tomato sauce, or, as it happens, bomb.”
Even though the CIA said that no children were in danger, the CIA released a statement about the incident and how they intend to make sure it does not happen in the future.
“On Wednesday, March 30, CIA was notified that the explosive training material was found when the bus was undergoing routine maintenance. CIA coordinated closely with local authorities and recovered the training material. According to Loudoun County officials, the bus transported students on March 28 and 29. CIA and Loudoun County explosives experts have confirmed that the training material did not pose a danger to passengers on the bus. To prevent such incidents from happening again, CIA has taken immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program. CIA will also conduct a thorough and independent review of CIA’s K-9 training program. CIA performed a full inventory this morning and accounted for all the explosive training material used in the K-9 training program.”
Military training exercises are not immune to mistakes being made. A training exercise in Nevada in 2013 saw seven people lose their lives when live ammunition was being used during the training. Luckily, no children were hurt by the explosive material being lodged in the bus engine.
What are your thoughts on the CIA’s mistake on the Loudoun County bus?
[Image Via Getty Images/Win McNamee]