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The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Missed me again (again)

So I'm back from Chicago, and now the target du jour is the PATH Trains, or possibly the Holland Tunnel. As per usual, we count on the terrorists to be just a little bit dumb:

New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly said the men believed that bombing the train tunnels under the Hudson River would unleash massive flooding in lower Manhattan, home to Wall Street and the World Trade Center site.

Now, I'm no engineer, but correct me if I'm wrong here: both of the above mentioned tunnels are built under the bedrock beneath the Hudson river. If a bomb were to explode in either of them, the odds are pretty good we wouldn't even have water in the tunnel. But even if the bomb were powerful enough to penetrate the bedrock and flood the tunnel, how exactly does the water rise above its current level to flood lower Manhattan? If I'm thinking about this correctly, the only water Manhattan gets on it is from the (considerable) splash.

Not to make light of this, of course. Thousands could be killed (depending on the time of day, etc.) As for disruption, knocking out the PATH trains would just make the NJTransit commuter trains more crowded (as was the case in the weeks just after 9/11). Knocking out the Holland tunnel would be worse - the commuter trains would be more crowded, the ferries would come back into use (as was also the case after 9/11), but traffic through the Lincoln tunnel (the other tunnel going from NJ to Manhattan) would be prohibitive. They'd probably reinstitute the "two or more people per car in the tunnel" rules they had after 9/11 as well. This is just whining at this point, but man - am I glad those days were over...

Some other thoughts:

-- The FBI seems to be on a roll, no?
A sudden rash of plot foilings right before the midterm elections? The cynical mind would suggest that these are minor incidents that are being trumped up as major threats to make the administration look good. I take a slightly different view (but only slightly different). My guess is these are serious threats, but the FBI and/or the administration is getting just a little sick of hearing that all of their warnings are nothing more than fear mongering, so they decided to publicize a few of their successes.

-- Both this plot and the Sears Tower plot were "aspirational" but not "operational."
This makes them less of a threat, but also harder to find. I also think it's important to note that while neither had access to weapons, both believed they were in contact with Al Qaeda about procuring the necessary funding/weapons. One wonders how efficient Al Qaeda is about finding these people, and if they're more efficient than our network of informants are...

-- You'll notice that no one is complaining about our pre-emptive actions against folks who were not (yet) a national security threat.

-- The Tunnels plot was foiled by decoding messages found in Internet Chat Rooms.
This isn't one of those data mining programs we've been reading about, but it does highlight the importance of electronic surveillance.

-- You'll also notice that no one is complaining about the government secretly lurking in those chat rooms and listening in on the conversations of people who haven't done enough to justify a search warrant.

-- If someone bombs the PATH tunnels tomorrow, will they accuse Bush of knowing about it & doing nothing? Probably. The administration would point to the arrests reported yesterday, the critics would point to the fact that security is not being beefed up in these areas, the NYPD would point to all the efforts already under way (plainclothes cops, the toll-free "TIPS" line for commuters to call, additional security cameras, national guard in the major stations, etc.). I forget who said it, but I think it's true: if there is another attack, we won't have the several month "grace period" of nationalism before the political bickering starts like we did last time. Just goes to show, absolutely anything can become normal.

posted by Brian at 12:02 PM


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