FBI Catalogs Possible Terrorist Weapons

The FBI (search) is warning security personnel about dozens of everyday items -- from belt buckles to keys to a deadly deck of cards -- that can conceal knives or other weapons terrorists could use to hijack an airliner.

Many items cost less than $20 and can be difficult to detect using airport screening devices, according to an FBI statement accompanying the 89-page catalog obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The catalog has been converted into a CD and circulated to airport screeners and law enforcement around the country amid heightened vigilance aimed at preventing another suicide hijacking by Al Qaeda (search).

"It was designed to raise security awareness for law enforcement and airline security," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.

U.S. law enforcement officials previously have warned that Al Qaeda might use improvised or easily obtained substances to mount attacks, especially chemicals that are dangerous when mixed. What makes the FBI weapons list unusual is that most of the concealable knives, pepper spray devices and other items are inexpensive and can be purchased from manufacturers in the United States, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, Sweden, China and elsewhere.

Knives are concealed in belt buckles, hairbrushes and combs, working cigarette lighters, crucifixes, lipstick cases, canes, umbrellas, keychains, pens, mock credit cards and money clips. While many of the blades are small, others are at least four inches long and some are sword-length.

Among the more exotic items is a deck of fake playing cards made of metal, with sharp edges, that can be thrown with deadly results. One fake key made in Japan conceals a knife and a smaller key that could be used to escape from handcuffs.

One device, called a "shuckra," is a metal tube containing a wire that, when locked into place, becomes a hardened spike that could be used as a dagger.

There are false name-brand soup, hairspray, shaving cream and cleanser cans with hidden compartments -- the FBI calls them "can safes" -- where weapons or dangerous substances could be placed. Fake books with hollowed centers are used as safes.

Each item in the catalog is shown with a ruler to give security personnel a sense of scale and an X-ray image of how it might appear when viewed in an airport screening device.

The FBI's collection was purchased through catalogs, at knife shows and through other commercial outlets. Officials said none of the items were confiscated from passengers.

The 19 men who hijacked four jetliners on Sept. 11, 2001, used common boxcutters as weapons, and the FBI catalog is circulating at a time of increased security at airports based on intelligence collected from captured Al Qaeda operatives and Al Qaeda safe houses about plans for another attack using the nation's air travel system.

The Transportation Security Administration (search) forbids air travelers from carrying sharp objects into an aircraft cabin. The agency bans such items as boxcutters, metal scissors with pointed tips, meat cleavers, swords and ice picks.

But the FBI catalog notes there are many other razor knives and penknives that are used in construction and other businesses that could be just as deadly in the hands of a terrorist. Even plastic knives are included.

"Each of these tools was designed to cut and is fully functional in that respect," the FBI statement says. "Whether used to cut paper, cardboard or other material, these knives should be treated as potentially dangerous weapons."

The Homeland Security Department on Tuesday warned travelers to expect greater scrutiny of cameras, cell phones and other electronics because of evidence Al Qaeda had experimented with using cameras to house stun guns or explosives.

The government also recently tightened visa rules for international travelers passing through U.S. airports after warnings in late July that Al Qaeda teams might try to hijack international flights.

The FBI concealed weapons catalog is unrelated to these latest warnings. Officials say a worker at the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., began the catalog shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks so that security personnel would be aware of the vast array of dangerous items that can be legally purchased and might be difficult to detect.