Republicans have argued that torture was worthwhile in the aftermath of 9/11 because, among other things, it led to the capture of "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla. (The just-released Senate report says torture "played no role" in Padilla's capture; as FBI interrogator Ali Soufan has noted, Padilla was captured in 2002, before "enhanced interrogation" began. Republicans dispute this conclusion.)
But never mind the circumstances of Padilla's capture -- his plot to detonate a nuclear "dirty bomb" was utterly absurd, as Mike the Mad Biologist notes:
... From the Senate CIA torture report (pp. 251-252; boldface mine):Yes, the plot was from The Journal of Irreproducible Results -- a science humor magazine.
Padilla and his associate, Binyam Mohammed, conceived the "Dirty Bomb Plot" after locating information, derived from what the CIA described as "a satirical internet article" entitled "How to Make an H-bomb," on a computer at a Pakistani safe house in early 2002. The article instructed would-be bomb makers to enrich uranium by placing it "in a bucket, attaching it to a six foot rope, and swinging it around your head as fast as possible for 45 minutes....But the dumbitude is mighty, so mighty (footnote 1301, p252; boldface mine):
…According to the email: "Padilla and Binyam/Zouaoui had pulled an article off a satirical web site called 'How to make an H-bomb' which is based on a 1979 Journal of Irreproducible Results article..."
But Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah encouraged Padilla to concentrate on a different plot, known as "the Tall Buildings Plot." The problem is, that one was only somewhat more realistic.
When the plot was made public, in 2004, The New York Times reported:
[Padilla] and an accomplice were to enter the United States from Mexico or Puerto Rico, identify three high-rise apartment buildings that used natural gas, rent two apartments in each building, seal all the openings, turn on the gas and set timers to detonate the buildings simultaneously.As I wrote at the time:
"Selection of the target city in the United States was left up to Padilla," the document said. He indicated to interrogators that New York City was the primary target ....
Yeah, right -- as if you could just walk into a building in New York City, examine large numbers of vacant apartments, and say, "I'll take that one and that one." And then do it again. And again.The Senate report (page 253, footnote 1306) says than the plot was actually to topple a high-rise building in Chicago -- but in Chicago, as I understand it, the apartment vacancy rate is almost as low as it is in New York.
Do you know how hard it is to find a vacant apartment in New York, much less be the one person lucky enough to get it? Rentals are scarce and there's a lot of vetting of potential tenants. And the vetting in co-op buildings is worse...
According to another 2004 New York Times article, this plot wouldn't have worked particularly well, either:
...several experts contacted yesterday said that from an engineering perspective, it would be almost impossible for a terrorist to bring a building down that way.As Mike says:
..."We would expect maybe a wall blown out, maybe a bad fire, but not a building collapse," said Jonathan Barnett, a professor at the Center for Fire Safety Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. "This is actually much ado about nothing."
Even if every apartment in a high-rise building were filled with gas, and the gas ignited simultaneously, the resulting explosion would not achieve that goal.
"I think it's a nutty idea, frankly, an act of desperation," said Matthys Levy, a consultant who is a co-author of "Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail" (W. W. Norton & Company, 1994)....
As a result of this devastating intel, we tortured this idiot half-wit [Padilla] to the point where he is now mentally ill. Worse, according to the report, the torture, as so many predicted, provided no actionable or additional information.Yup.
Monsters, the whole damn bunch of them.