Friday, October 07, 2005

Just a reminder that the list of ten terror plots the Bush administration says it's foiled includes one that couldn't possibly have worked:

Jose Padilla
In May 2002, the US disrupted a plot that involved blowing up apartment buildings in the United States....

A 2004 New York Times article explained the alleged plan:

...[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.

"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 ....

As I wrote at the time:

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.

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 -- even Madonna, at the peak of her fame, got turned down by one co-op board.

And as another Times story made clear, such a plan would have been scientifically absurd:

...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.

..."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)....

Kudos if the plot was foiled, but Padilla and his pals apparently were the gang that couldn't terrorize straight....

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