May 3, 2010

Killing New York: What It Would Take, A Simple Scenario


A car bomb is parked in Times Square but fails to go off. Result: Preening and "It's no big deal. Amateur stuff. Not to worry. Move along. Nothing to see here." Others take it seriously. Very seriously. As they should.

There's an old Beyond the Fringe routine concerning the end of the world. The Fringers climb to the top of the mountain to observe the end of the world, but when the appointed moment comes, the world goes on -- nothing happens. The last stinging line of the routine is, "No matter. We'll come back tomorrow. We're sure to get a winner one of these days."

Neoneocon cites Steve Coll whistling through his New Yorker graveyard with Think Tank: Terrorism : The New Yorker

There will be more of this sort of low-level terrorism in the United States in the years ahead, not only from self-styled jihadis but possibly also from the extreme right.
Never any shortage of fools at The New Yorker, yes, The New Yorker. I especially love how he conflates "extreme right" with Islamic terrorism. Seems he's forgotten who exactly killed 3,000 of his fellow New Yorkers. Fine. If he sticks around New York long enough, he'll get his lesson again. A fool and his head are sooner or later parted.

Back in 2004, I wrote the following "scenario" of what it would take to kill New York. I've updated it once or twice since, but it still works. I see that currently terrorists are thinking a bit smaller and simpler. And if they miss, they all think:

"No matter. We'll come back tomorrow. We're sure to get a winner one of these days."

cloverfield1.jpgTHIS JUST IN:

SEPTEMBER 16, 2009: FBI agents with bomb-sniffing dogs Wednesday raided the Colorado apartment of an Afghan national linked to Al Qaeda and a plot to attack the New York City subway system.... In the past three days, the NYPD increased its attention to the subway system and its 5.2 million daily riders. Officers were warned to keep an eye out for vans near transportation hubs such as Grand Central, police sources said. The safety zone around subway and commuter stations also was expanded by two blocks, the sources said.

-- FBI unit set for more anti-terror raids in Queens; Colorado home raided

LEADS TO THIS:From the AD Archives, Written March 13, 2004

In the wake of the Spanish outrage, [11 March 2004] an email asks what it would take for the Islamic terrorists to take the next step in the United States.

It turns out that, as in Spain, it wouldn't take much at all. Here's what you'd need and how it could be done. But it is just one way. There are many.

The Elements:

One City: New York

Three Locations: The Brooklyn Bridge, Union Square, Penn Station

Terrorists: 4


Plastique explosives (15 pounds)
Backpacks: 2
Ten penny nails and ball bearings: 4 pounds
Anthrax: 2 Liters
Machine Guns: 4 (Small) with 2 extra clips each

Time: Late September to Early November when the weather makes wearing coats common.

Intellectual Equipment: An understanding of the New York subway and bridge system, an understanding of symbolism in America, a willingness to die.

The Method:

For over a year after the Eleventh, I used to think about the nature of the Brooklyn Bridge, and how easy it would be to damage this 19th century structure every time I walked across it -- which was often.

On the 11th I stood at the Brooklyn end of the bridge handing out water to the ash covered ghosts that came walking across it in endless droves.

After the 11th it was closed except for emergency vehicles for weeks on end. After that the bridge was guarded and vehicles vetted on a random schedule for months. For all I know this goes on today.

The Bridge and what it represents and, more importantly, what it controls in the way of access to and from NYC, makes for an exquisite lynchpin for a memorable workday morning in New York City. The way to work this little terrorist scenario is as follows:

Four dedicated homicide terrorists decide on a date certain to carry out something they have only rehearsed before. (Surely we've still got four sleeping somewhere near the Brooklyn mosque on Atlantic avenue about a half a mile from the bridge. After all, this is America where we hold all forms of religious expression sacred.) Because they are religious in nature and not given to alcohol or drug abuse, they've all held jobs in Manhattan for years and their morning ritual is nothing unusual. If there are any guards or surveillance people at any of the points these men pass through they've been seen thousands of times already. Always at about the same time. They are 'routine.'

One gets up and takes the A train to Penn Station at about six in the morning on, say, a Tuesday. Gets there and pops out of the entrance at 7th avenue and 31st street, turns right and walks about a half a block to the Starbucks, orders a latte and sits down to read the Times. Backpack/bookbag on the chair beside him. As usual.

The second one takes an express under the river and gets off at 14th Street/Union Square on the East Side with his off-brand little naughahyde attache. It usually contains his lunch and a selection of papers. Today it contains a couple of modified fire extinguishers -- the kind you can pick up at the local hardware store or, say, the Costco along the Brooklyn waterfront about three miles from the Atlantic Avenue mosque. Just a little something he's bringing to the office 'in case of fire.' You'd have to look carefully to note the seals have been broken.

He comes out of the subway and bides his time at the McDonalds on Union Square with a fine little Egg McMuffin.

The third man stops by an apartment building along Atlantic avenue to hook-up with his friend. They always walk together to work across the Brooklyn Bridge. They have for years. His backpack usually has some workout clothes for the gym. Today it contains a small Uzi and extra clips. The fourth has a similar backpack that usually also has some workout clothes. Today, before he leaves the apartment, the fourth man places a sequence of shaped plastique charges with either a cell phone detonator or a dead-man switch into his backpack He's probably armed as well.

All four have cell phones. All four have set up the speed dial numbers long ago.

When the last two have reached the stairs that lead up to the pedestrian walkway on the Brooklyn side of the Bridge at, say 7:30, the 3rd man phones the first two and gives them the 10 minute warning.

The man at Union Square goes down into the Union Square station and stands in the crowds on the platform near the uptown / downtown platforms. The trains have to stop on a curve here and the loading and unloading is always slower. If you stand to the end of the platform you can cover two lines at once. You tend to fade into the crowds coming and going as the morning rush begins to build.

The man at the 7th Avenue Starbucks goes into the bathroom stall upstairs and, opening his backpack, inserts the detonators into his explosive vest packed with a couple of layers of nails and ball bearings. Checking to make sure it is armed and good to go, he makes his way back to Penn Station. He gets in the back of the long lines waiting to buy rail tickers or subway passes in the midst of hundreds of people milling about.

The two on the bridge stroll past the security folks that may or may not be at the pedestrian entrance of the bridge. They walk about 150 yards out onto the span to where the cable is just a short little walk across the metal struts from the walkway. Pausing, one takes out his cell phone and gets the other two conferenced in while the other takes the shaped plastique charges from his backpack.

Now are, at about 7:40 Tuesday morning, all dressed up and with a lot of things to do in a very small amount of time.

The two listen in on the cell phone as the man on the bridge goes to work while the other stands ready.

Step one: Remove automatic weapon from backpack and empty a clip or two into the pedestrians, the bike riders and also into the cars below.

The resulting dead bodies and carnage from the accidents in the cars below essentially bring the bridge to a halt and give his partner some working room.

Step two: Walk across metal struts to cable with the plastique explosive belt from backpack and sort of loop it around the cable. If your explosives technicians know what they are doing, this is a shaped charge that will, at the very least, damage a main cable if not sever it.

Step three: Say your prayers to Allah and trigger the device.

When the cell phone connection to the men on the bridge goes dead, the fellow at 14th Street probably shoots a few people near him to give him some working room, takes the modified fire extinguishers out of his case and unloads a large cloud of anthrax or some other chemical or biological agent into the uptown and downtown tunnels at Union Square. The vast amounts of air pushed by the trains will disperse it quite nicely up and down the line.

The third man at Penn Station decides he doesn't need a subway pass for the next few instances of eternity, puts the cell phone away, gets to the center of the crowd and triggers his explosive vest. At about quarter to eight in the morning the immediate result is hundreds of shredded, dead, and wounded New Yorkers who never saw it coming.

Four men. Four cell phones. Maybe about 15 pounds of plastique and a couple of liters of anthrax. That's all it would take. It is, as Sherlock Holmes would say, "Simplicity itself." New York would, in a moment, come to a complete halt and stay that way for some time.

Political result? Hard to say, but it would create a political climate in the United States where the nuclear option would become very, very real. New targeting instructions would be passed to the submarines and the land based missiles within three hours if they were not already there. Muslim round-ups would ramp up into the stratosphere. Voices urging restraint and respect for individual freedoms will be steamrolled into silence.

So, as you can see, the understanding of American symbolism is not lost on our enemies. They love this sort of thing. One might even say "They're just dying to do it."

Then again, since our security is now first rate, the best that billions can buy, it can't happen here. Can it?

Posted by Vanderleun at May 3, 2010 2:41 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Good plan very much like the Bombay attack last year. Problem is, that BO is a gutless weenie who will cry instead of retaliating.

Posted by: Fat Man at September 16, 2009 11:19 PM

Dear Fat Man: Nope. Let nothing get between The One and his image in the mirror. Anything that does gets thrown overboard quick. Note how the renditions and eavesdropping continue and are even expanded from Geo. W's days. Should something like this bridge/subway attack happen, look for a reign of terror. What seems likely though is that this will be an excuse for some heavy hitting at the Right. Look for this blog's proprietor to take some heat from the Justice Department. He'll be in good company, but that's dam cold comfort.

The One's gutlessness only extends to others. Is the country heading for a trade war with China? So what, no skin off my rump, pay off the unions etcetcetc. But a subway attack is clearly his fault, so there the action will be swift, ruthless, and a great cover for action against the real enemy: anyone who disagrees with The One.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Posted by: Gregory Koster at September 17, 2009 12:28 AM

In the best spirit of Trutherism, heh, it would be more than Obama's fault, it would be his own planned crisis. Next domino to fall. It would hand to him the need for the National Civilian Security Force and a reason to ramp up military contracts,thus stimulating the economy.

Boy, that was almost too easy. Must be true!



Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at September 17, 2009 3:31 AM

We already have a "National Civilian Security Force" and it's in the Constitution (Article 1 Section 8) and in federal law (10 USC 311). It's called the "militia." States are supposed to run it most of the time, train and officer the corps, then turn the units over to the Feds when the Congress and the President call for them. The Militia Act of 1792 formalized the concept, and defined membership in said militia pretty much the same as now, all able-bodied males ages 17-45. At the time you had to be white. Not now. Under 10 USC 311 (last revised in 1956) males (and a few females) aged 17-45 are ALREADY members of the "National Civilian Security Force." Didn't know that did ya? Can't let a crisis go to waste, can you?

Posted by: RKV at September 17, 2009 7:55 AM

"Problem is, that BO is a gutless weenie who will cry instead of retaliating." On the contrary, the president would retaliate swiftly and aggressively. America would be his target, though. Come to think of it, that would be business as usual for this administration. I suspect there are some folks secreted in basement rooms in the White House game-planning how to not let a terrorist-attack crisis go to waste.

Posted by: ELC at September 17, 2009 8:58 AM

The leftist mindset is that if you are not prepared to defend yourself, you will not be attacked. Obama is signaling our surrender in every way possible so it may be understood that it is NOT in the interest of our enemies to attack at this time. If OBL is in fact reading jimmy carter's new book, there is really a fair chance the message will get through.
But if it doesn't, Obama will not respond coherently or effectively to a disaster, and that will get him removed from office, one way or another. This entire Congress could be removed under those circumstances. Never let a good crisis go to waste.

Posted by: james wilson at September 17, 2009 9:28 AM

An effective nuclear terrorist attack would provide Obama the necessary pretext to declare Martial Law...nationally.

Should Wash.DC be hit while Congress is in session but the President and his staff out of town...then you have a potential scenario for an attempted takeover by Obama.

Under Obama, nuclear proliferation is now certain with the announcement by Chavez that Venezuela will now pursue nuclear development with the 'assistance' of Putin's Russia.

The Russians are pushing Iran's acquisition of nukes and they are blocking in the UN Security Council any effective sanctions against rogue nations.

It's a geopolitical stratagem designed to ensure that the US will be attacked at some future point by nuclear terrorist attack(s).

Posted by: Geoffrey Britain at September 17, 2009 1:17 PM

What American soldiers, what town and county police forces will align itself against friends and family?
This is not the Soviet Union or Cuba. Barry is delusional like any good Marxist. And Marxism has failed everywhere.

Posted by: Kate Rafferty at September 17, 2009 3:17 PM

Where does one get a few liters of anthax?

Posted by: deb at September 17, 2009 4:03 PM

"What American soldiers, what town and county police forces will align itself against friends and family?
This is not the Soviet Union or Cuba. Barry is delusional like any good Marxist. And Marxism has failed everywhere." Kate

The National Guard would be primarily responsible for order during Martial Law imposed nationwide after a terrorist nuclear attack. It would be a relatively simple matter to ensure that Guard divisions were assigned 'out of area' so that they weren't facing friends & family.

Additionally, it could be done gradually with the suspension of habeus corpus, news censorship, etc. during a time of national emergency. "National Security' can be used to justify much.

Marxism has failed everywhere. Certainly it would fail here as well. Which in no way deters those who believe that it won't fail if only it is imposed 'properly'.

"Where does one get a few liters of anthax?"deb

Smuggle it in over our porous borders?

None of this is to say that this will happen. Just that it is not as impossible as might seem so at first glance.

Posted by: Geoffrey Britain at September 17, 2009 4:30 PM

Geoffrey, "family and friends" shouldn't be taken literally. Think in terms of "These people are just like me. They could be my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, my neighbors, my friends." Clearer? I have a very hard time believing those sworn to uphold the Constitution would fire on those demanding the government hold to the Constitution.

If they would, we don't have a country to begin with and the hell with us.

Posted by: Kate Rafferty at September 17, 2009 5:24 PM

"Where does one get a few liters of anthrax?"

Well, given the right lab situation you can make it. That's where it comes from in the first place.

Or, if it is available pre-made on the black market, you buy it.

How do you get it into the country if it is outside the country?

Lots of way. You could, for example, just walk it across the Rio Grande or drive it through a gateway at El Paso.

Not impossible. Not even all that difficult given the money, the hate, and most importantly, the will.

Posted by: vanderleun at September 17, 2009 5:33 PM

"I have a very hard time believing those sworn to uphold the Constitution would fire on those demanding the government hold to the Constitution."

Yes, it is hard to believe that US troops would fire upon US citizens. Remember though that it did happen at Kent State. "The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis." Not exactly an analogous situation but it does demonstrate that under the right conditions, US troops may well fire upon their fellow Americans.

As for constitutional matters, in the event of a successful terrorist nuclear attack upon one or even more major US would be entirely within a US President's constitutional authority to declare nationwide martial law. And as long as the threat existed, he could maintain it.

Lincoln during the civil war suspended habeus corpus (the unlawful detention of him or herself, or of another person.)so there is precedent and with one or more US cities lying in smoking ruins, no one will initially oppose any and all measures the President deems necessary. Especially if Congress, the Supreme Court, the Pentagon and the headquarters and personnel of every major Federal agency is gone, the chaos will be inconceivable and Martial law will be unavoidable.

'National Security' would be invoked and that would allow the President to do almost anything.

The economic chaos, the migrational patterns away from the cities, the riots and psychological trauma would be horrendous.

In such a situation, security sufficiently threatened, trumps freedoms every time. People will give up almost anything to survive.

Posted by: Geoffrey Britain at September 17, 2009 7:17 PM

People will not have to give up many things to survive, Geoffrey Britian, they will have to regain many things.

Posted by: james wilson at September 17, 2009 8:00 PM

"People will not have to give up many things to survive, Geoffrey Britian, they will have to regain many things."

Indeed. To survive with honor, one must, if necessary, be willing to die.

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." Benjamin Franklin

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

Posted by: Geoffrey Britain at September 17, 2009 8:18 PM

This is not only plausible, it's probable. Brooklyn Heights, with it's Mosques, huge Middle Eastern population and close proximity to Manhattan, is the perfect base for this kind of attack. Trains, ferries, bridges and heliports are all there or nearby. It's also a very liberal area with a lot of people who probably think it would be intolerant to drop a dime if they saw something. I have either gone to school or worked in the area since 1972 and am surprised it hasn't happened yet.

Posted by: Bill at September 18, 2009 12:47 PM

I doubt they would want to use Uzis.... Those are Jewish weapons. But you never know.

I see something similar for the SF Bay area.

Posted by: Stuart Clark at September 22, 2009 3:20 PM











Posted by: reliapundit at May 3, 2010 3:48 PM

You get used to this shit after about 76 years, guys. That's how long I've lived in my native land - the once Great Britain. It's part of the bag of being the World's benefactor. We've now relinquished that role to you, but the memory lingers on in the minds of the once conquered or liberated (even more resentful) and we're still a target. But you've now shown them the whites of your eyes on your home turf. There is no defence to this franchise of violence other than assimilating it into your daily lives, particularly if you vote into power a POTUS who has sympathy with the people of his forefathers who hate the West. Weakness gives off a odour. The enemy has the scent of Obama skitters.

Posted by: Frank P at May 3, 2010 6:00 PM

Here is the bullet we dodged. Aptly described by Michael Yon in his dispatch: "The Greedy Ones"
June 16, 2006

During detonation of high explosives, the shock front can move through the explosives at more than five miles per second. When the shock front finds air, the air becomes a giant hammer: a giant hypersonic hammer. But this is much more than hypersonic. Hypersonic is a mere five times the speed of sound. This hammer starts at closer to twenty-five times the speed of sound, making it hyper-hypersonic. Even if a nearby person is untouched by shrapnel the concussion from the air is more than lethal.

When the hypersonic hammer hits a person, their clothes are first to go. The person is stripped naked. All the clothes are gone, but the victims never know that they are naked for a millisecond before being ripped to pieces.

The shock front becomes a violent sphere of annihilation. Birds overhead are blown apart in flight. On the ground, walls become as shotguns. When the blast wave finds glass and shatters through it, the shards and shrapnel from disintegrated window frames are drawn into the current, adding a gruesome dimension of lethality. For those people far enough away from the seat of the blast to escape the deadly blows of the naked hammer, the bomb-makers leave plenty of work for the surgeons, who must dig out the hidden glass and whatever other debris, including bits of dead victims, that are shot into the living.

The blast wave speeds down the road, tearing up anything in its path and using it like bullets and cannonballs. Even the naked hammer knocks people flat. Some die without being struck by solids. They are found afterward without apparent injuries, dead from internal wounds, from blunt trauma by air. But most victims are hit with solid objects. At the edge of the blast wave, windows continue to shatter further down the road; more bodies are lacerated, punctured, and shot by glass and stone as the wall of air knocks them off their feet and heaves them into the rubble.

Further down the road, the hammer weakens, the hurtling objects lose energy as the wave releases its hold on the cloud of debris. The shock front quickly lessens, rattling walls but unable to rend them from their foundations, plates fall and shatter while ripened fruit drops from the shaken trees, and the front slows down to the speed of sound and rumbles harmlessly off into the night, delivering only the message that something big happened. Then comes the brief silence. Darkness.

Now they come. The thuds. Always the thuds. Thump…bmmp, brakkk, thudd. Some of the objects come down like meteorites, crashing through roofs, while others fall in a steady downpour, like the baseball-sized hailstorms in Tornado Alley. Large projectiles continue to rain down, some a kilometer away.

Back at the blast seat, the fireball has long gathered and mushroomed and there is only the smoke and crackling of fires and the screams of the wounded and gurgles of the dying. The sirens begin. And then the second blast and a new hammer is unleashed, and some victims are swept away while others fall naked and tangled

Posted by: Jewel at May 3, 2010 7:33 PM

I find it interesting that the would-be bombers apparently had Viacom in mind. Instead of going after the people who created the "insulting" cartoons (for now), they went after the business that already went dhimmi by bending over backwards to censor their programming. Regardless of whether the explosive worked, a message was sent, and I'll bet it was heard by every major news and communication network in the country.

Posted by: Julie at May 3, 2010 9:18 PM

Although the media seemed to want this to be a "white male" in the worst way, it appears to be a friend of Muhammad. Don't worry, Eric (there's not an anti-American terrorist I don't love) Holder is on the case.

Posted by: JD at May 4, 2010 2:58 AM

The one defense against Islamic terrorism that we appear to have is their obsession with symbolism, coupled with generally poor technical education.

Consider the effects of a shaped charge on the wall of a tunnel under a river; most big cities that have underground rail systems have at least one such tunnel. Or the effect of breaching an aqueduct passing over a city district. Or the mayhem that would ensue if a relatively small charge was placed on one of the tanks in an LPG or gasoline tank farm. I am quite sure that there are many other scenarios, involving poorly-defended areas with huge amounts of pent-up energy of one sort or another.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at May 4, 2010 5:59 AM

But...but Mayor Mike said it was somebody who hates Obamacare? Do these pesky splodeydopes really hate Obamacare? Really? For true? Then they're a bunch of Teabagging Racists! Shake some salt on their tails, Mayor Mike. That'll fix 'em.

Posted by: Cato the Elder at May 4, 2010 9:55 AM

I get so confused. Those eco-terrorists, ELF? Are they right wing or extreme left?

Posted by: Kate Rafferty at May 4, 2010 10:52 AM

Killing people shouldn't be the objective here. Disruption should be. That same SUV thru the Holland Tunnel and/or the Lincoln with suicide bombers would tie up NJ to Manhattan for weeks. There are only 3 ways to drive into Manhattan from NJ. 2 tunnels and the GWB. Checking every car is impossible.
Then a few months later, do it again.
I can't believe the Mooselimbs are unaware of that!

Posted by: Shootert1001 at May 4, 2010 11:13 AM

I have a fun game for everyone to play, guess how many people die of terrorist attacks each year in the U.S., then guess how many people die of car accidents each year...

Roughly 37,000 per year on the road in the U.S.

versus 2 deaths in 2009...

One cause we spend billions of defense dollars on as well as two costly foreign wars that are crippling this country financially, the other cause receives much less attention.

Posted by: at May 16, 2010 7:38 PM

Where does one get a few liters of anthax?

Posted by: Victorohn at March 11, 2013 11:54 AM