Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Freeway-Collapse "Terrorism"

THAT FIRE AND FREEWAY COLLAPSE COULD BE A LOT WORSE—PSYCHOLOGICALLY.


All that separates the Oakland freeway collapse from terrorism is a claim of responsibility.

If some far-sighted aide had reached Osama bin Laden in his Peshawar apartment and successfully urged him to release a statement about how the tanker-truck fire was part of his Master Plan to bleed the U.S.—direct economic losses from freeway closings are at $6 million/day, never mind the repair costs—the entire United States would be on red alert right now: cops and dogs everywhere, National Guardsmen at the airports, air passengers being fluroscoped.

Better yet: The freeway fire/collapse was an accident, but imagine for a moment that the next such incident is intentional. Create a poisonous cloud by driving a second tanker-truck full of chlorine or anhydrous hydrogen flouride into the fire, add an Osama bin Laden claim of responsibility, and you combine big economic punch with a high body count and extreme terror—all at extremely low cost and risk to al-Qa'ida leadership.

I've previously written about On the Edge of Disaster and want to recommend it again. Stephen Flynn's book gets you thinking about how fragile U.S. infrastructure is, and how terrorists can use that fragility to magnify the effects of system disruptions. And it's got some pretty terrifying scenarios. ...

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