The JFK terrorist plot: Capitalizing on fear and hysteria

One of my favorite comedy shows, FamilyGuy, had a recent segment where one of the characters runs for mayor, and realizes the power of using terrorism to get elected. Very, very funny — and a bit sad.

In that vein, there is a very good post this morning over at Schneier about the recent “plot” to blow up JFK fuel tanks:

The alleged plan, to blow up JFK's fuel tanks and a small segment of the 40-mile petroleum pipeline that supplies the airport, was ridiculous. The fuel tanks are thick-walled, making them hard to damage. The airport tanks are separated from the pipelines by cutoff valves, so even if a fire broke out at the tanks, it would not back up into the pipelines. And the pipeline couldn't blow up in any case, since there's no oxygen to aid combustion. Not that the terrorists ever got to the stage -- or demonstrated that they could get there -- where they actually obtained explosives. Or even a current map of the airport's infrastructure.

But read what Russell Defreitas, the lead terrorist, had to say: "Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow.... They love JFK -- he's like the man. If you hit that, the whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."

If these are the terrorists we're fighting, we've got a pretty incompetent enemy.

You couldn't tell that from the press reports, though. "The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable." Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) added, "It had the potential to be another 9/11."

These people are just as deluded as Defreitas.

The only voice of reason out there seemed to be New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said: "There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life.... You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist."

And he was widely excoriated for it.

Link here.

Now, to all those commenters who invariably accuse me of some ridiculous thing like not understanding the “real problem”, that’s nonsense. I don’t want to see terrorists any more than the next person.

But what really concerns me is the silly security theater, political grandstanding and other nonsense that we’re doing in this country at the expense of our civil liberties and practical considerations. It seems the voice of reason is being lost admidst a sea of hysteria, and anyone who talks out about it gets accused of being some commie pinko leftie (which I’m decidedly not).