During a routine training session, the CIA left explosives on a school bus designed to transport special needs students to and from Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Northern Virginia.
According to the agency, the high-school was a perfect training ground for at least two reasons. First, it is located very close to CIA’s headquarters in the region. Second, its numerous polished floors can affect the focus of bomb-sniffing dogs as the floors can be very slippery.
During the exercise, the dogs were expected to detect hidden bombs on the school’s grounds. Somehow, the elite spy agency forgot some explosives in a school bus, which has even carried children to school for two days this week. Last week, when the exercise took place, the students were on spring break.
On Wednesday, a mechanic found the explosives behind the engine compartment during a routine check. The agency identified the missing explosive as a demolition explosive C-4.
Though parents and school managers panicked when they heard the news, the agency reassured everyone that the device was highly stable and ”insensitive to physical shocks.” In fact, plastic explosives can go off only if somebody uses a special detonator.
Dean Boyd of the CIA said Wednesday that the ‘explosive material’ was a common training device for bomb-sniffing canines. The explosive is used by all types of state and federal agencies to train the animals in detecting hidden explosives.
The agency also said that it has taken ‘immediate steps’ to prevent similar mishaps from reoccurring. Boyd added that no other explosives used in the exercise are currently missing as an exhaustive inventory shows.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said that it is the second time this year such exercise takes place at Briar Woods High School. A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office explained that it is critical to train dogs in locations that they may encounter again in real-life situations. Last year, four county schools were training grounds for the dogs.
Law enforcement agencies resort to such training programs to prevent mass-killings, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies. Authorities need to train in these locations beforehand so they can actively mitigate any threat to the schools’ students and staff.
Darrel Stephens of the Major Cities Chiefs Association noted that the CIA and other agencies don’t usually use live explosives during training. Plus, they run such training sessions in the summer months when everyone is at home. But leaving live explosives behind in a school during one such session was ‘highly unusual’ for the CIA, experts commented.
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