Watch that Watch

Monday, January 3, 2005
New domestic security concern: watch-lighters
U.S. agency advisory warns of interest in devices by al-Qaida
By Pete Williams
NBC News

An advisory issued Monday by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI urges the Transportation Security Administration to have airport screeners keep an eye out for wristwatches containing cigarette lighters or altimeters. The notice says ?recent intelligence suggests al-Qaida has expressed interest in obtaining wristwatches with a hidden butane-lighter function and Casio watches with an altimeter function. Casio watches have been extensively used by al-Qaida and associated organizations as timers for improvised explosive devices. The Casio brand is likely chosen due to its worldwide availability and inexpensive price.?

The advisory notes that there is no specific information indicating any terrorist plans to use the devices, but it urges screeners to watch for them.

There is currently no law against carrying an altimeter or a lighter onto an airplane. The items cannot be confiscated, but one official said Monday that if the watches are spotted, screeners likely would engage in further checking of the passenger.

A check of the Internet revealed different styles of the watches, which sell through different online stores and auction sites for anywhere from $3 to $10. Pressing a button on the side of the watch produces a flame from a small hole on the watch face at the 12 o’clock position.