Terrorism is a major concern for law enforcement officials around the world, and as technology progresses they must adapt so that they are prepared to protect those whom they are responsible for. Will 3D printers ultimately become an indirect weapon of terrorism via the fabrication of firearms, bomb shells, or other lethal devices? This is a question that undoubtedly is being discussed and debated in counter-terrorism meetings around the world.
As of yet, there are no known violent crimes or injuries caused by perpetrators utilizing desktop 3D printers. Certainly such acts are bound to occur, but so too are violent crimes which use weapons created on milling machines and table saws.
Earlier this month, there was a major arrest of a group of nine individuals on charges of conspiracy to manufacture explosives in Hong Kong. The group included a total of five men and four women between the ages of 21-34 who were allegedly planning to attack Hong Kong government buildings ahead of a historic vote which would change the voting rights of the administrative region.
Among the items recovered in a raid of an abandoned warehouse, around the middle of this month, were explosives such as triacetone triperoxide, syringes, masks, several airsoft rifles, paraphernalia from government opposition groups, and a lone desktop 3D printer. Authorities are now investigating whether or not the group had intended to modify the airsoft rifles, perhaps using components fabricated on the 3D printer, to make them lethal.
Authorities have stated that all nine suspects were members of an anti-China nativist group that were advocates of Hong Kong’s independence from the country, and they were under surveillance for months, following tips that the warehouse had been being used as a staging ground for the attacks.
For those unaware of what’s currently going on in Hong Kong, the former British colony was returned to China in 1997, with their promise to rule it under the principles of ‘one country, two systems’. The leader of Hong Kong (the Chief Executive) is currently elected by a 1,200 member committee, of which many are loyal to China. China’s government ruled, however, that Hong Kong citizens would be allowed to elect their own Chief Executive starting in 2017. Last year, China added a stipulation to their plans, announcing that voters would be able to choose between two to three candidates which are selected by the nominating committee. The opposition sees this as China continuing to influence the region, and obviously many are upset.
While there is nothing yet pointing to a the group’s intended plans to use the 3D printer for terrorism, it certainly seems like that may have been the case, especially considering the other items that the printer was found with. Either way, these nine individuals are now off of the streets and in custody, likely for good.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this story and what it may mean for future counter-terrorism operations. Discuss in the 3D Printing and Terrorism forum thread on 3DPB.com