If I were a terrorist... part 2
I only notice them because I once worked in a factory winding the interior coils for them. There are only a few factories in the entire midwest that do this, and every summer there is a lot of overtime put in as transformers fail due to heat stress.
Now a funny story. Years ago a redneck bud of mine told me how as a teenager, he and some friends went out shooting their .22s outside of town and like the young a**holes they were, started taking pot shots at a transformer. When they got back to town, they found that a fair-sized part of their small town had had a power outage for a short while. Oops!
Now imagine a group of disaffected youths recruited and financed to drive around the country and take pot shots at as many transformers as they could, wherever they could do it without getting caught. (A silencer on the .22 makes it easier to operate in urban areas. That same bud of mine and I made one once, out of a beer can, window screen and cheesecloth just to see if we could.)
Of course not all transformers are at strategic areas serving large populations, power companies know how to route around damage, and county and municipal services have spares on hand.
Doesn't matter. Damage enough of them and the capacity to replace them will be stressed quite soon. They could also try for the larger transformer installations as opportunity presents. And every time anyone experiences even a brief power outage, they'll know how close terrorism came to them.
In the comments on part 1, a reader directed me to a site where a contest was held to suggest plots for a terrorist novel. Fun, but not serious. The suggestions ranged from the overly complex to the science-fictional (I'll get science-fictional myself later.) Most required resources and planning that made the notions impractical.
Now notice the essentials of this plan:
1) It does not require highly trained terrorists for the operation, only for the initial recruitment and financing which can be done by as few as one. The operations are carried out by local talent with minimal training, knowing little of the organization, who can be insulated from the foreign terrorist by several layers of cutouts if neccessary. Technical directions can be posted on the Internet.
2) It does not require any suspicious equipment to be smuggled into the country, only money. Nor for anything to be bought that would arouse suspicion or leave a paper trail.
3) It does not require that the agents die in the operation. If caught, it is unlikely that they could be convicted of anything that would get them serious time. (Except perhaps that silencer.) They'd be heroes in their set and compensation could be arranged for their time, as compensation is paid to the families of suicide murderers in Israel.
4) It could serve as the gateway/initiation for terrorists, providing a pool from which terrorists for more serious operations could be recruited in the future.
5) The targets cannot be "hardened". No security could ever monitor all of these things across the country.
Now lets consider another horrid plan: caltrops.
Huh? OK, before you go any further, have a look at this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caltrop it'll make this a lot simpler.
OK, back now? Now you know a caltrop is a device formerly used against cavalry, and in modern times against wheeled vehicles. As you see, they can be made by twisting wire together, bending small sheet metal plates, or made with nails welded together with a "buzz box" portable welder from any large hardware store. You throw them on the road and however they land, there's a sharp point sticking upwards.
Now what do you suppose would happen if, during the time of the heaviest traffic on the freeway that is still going the speed limit, someone threw a bunch of these across the road, or drove along merrily dropping them behind? Pileup would you say? How much anxiety could you cause across the country if people constantly wondered if they were going to drive over these things on the way home from work?
And again, it's a job for punks, not operatives trained in remote camps in Afghanistan. Nor do you need elaborate and expensive equipment and preparations.
Now we've gone from the sub-lethal to the potentially-lethal while conforming to the criteria listed. Now we come to the level of mass murder, and the plan that gives me nightmares.
I thought long and hard about publishing this, and refrained until I read that it had been done by Maoist terrorists in Nepal, and the M. Night Shaylaman film Unbreakable introduced the idea to the movie-going public.
A lot of passenger trafic goes by train every day on the East coast, and quite a bit of toxic material such as anhydrous amonia is shipped by train. You can heighten security to prevent anyone from smuggling weapons or bombs aboard an airplane, but how can you guard thousands of miles of track?
You could get a bit elaborate and use a small bomb under a rail, detonated by a pressure switch. This would have the advantage of allowing someone to plant it fairly quickly, which is a consideration in an urban area. But all you really need is a big wrench.
(About thirty years ago I remember reading about a series of train wrecks in the south that ended when someone the FBI considered a "person of interest" was killed by toxic gas released in a wreck he happened to be watching.)
This also conforms to the 5 criteria of a cheap and effective terrorist plan, except that if caught they might get the needle.
The purpose of this little exercise is to examine how one might go about seriously disrupting everyday life in an advanced industrial society with only some comparatively modest funds, a very few highly trained agents and a pool of youth disaffected from the host society, enough of whom think that terrorism is "sometimes justified" and that jihadists are heroes.
Yes of course I'm talking about a lot of the immigrant Muslim population of both the U.S. and Europe - but I'm also thinking of young, white, middle-class Hard Leftists that loathe America and support jihadism. The kind that take Ward "the-little-Eichmann's-had-it-coming" Churchill seriously.
Beyond the material damage done, what would we eventually be willing to accept in the way of security measures?
Now you know why they call me "Cheerful Steve".
In part 3 it's my turn to do science-fictional speculation.