As an Engineer and scientist, I’m irritated by the intentionally misleading statements of the government regarding the JFK Terror Plot.
Federal authorities announced Saturday they had broken up a suspected Muslim terrorist cell planning a “chilling” attack to destroy John F. Kennedy International Airport, kill thousands of people and trigger an economic catastrophe by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through populous residential neighborhoods.
Really!?! Blowing up a jet fuel line would “destroy the airport” and “kill thousands”?!?
Turns out, below the fold, the answer is “No, not really…”:
Expert: Damage would have been isolated
Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline expert and president of Accufacts Inc., an energy consulting firm that focuses on pipelines and tank farms, said the force of explosion would depend on the amount of fuel under pressure, but it would not travel up and down the line.
“That doesn’t mean wackos out there can’t do damage and cause a fire, but those explosions and fires are going to be fairly restricted,” he said.
In other words, they won’t destroy the airport, they wouldn’t kill anyone, and they’d be fairly easy to repair quickly.
It’s the same as the railroad threat announced shortly after 9/11 that led to the arrest of several railfans (one, a police officer) after taking pictures of trains.
The fact is that our safely engineered infrastructure is, from time to time, destroyed by accidents. This is frequent enough that we have become experienced in dealing with these problems quickly. The California freeway that was completely collapsed after a tanker fire was replaced in 30 days. The CSX rail line completely destroyed by Katrina was back in operation after 30 days as well, and the Norfolk Southern derailment north of Delaware a few weeks ago was repaired and replaced in just two days.
During the last presidential election cycle, John Edwards made a claim in a debate that terrorists releasing industrial chemicals would “kill millions”. The fact is that industrial accidents are far more likely and common than terrorist acts and the worst ever killed thousands – not millions.
The problem here is the same as the problem with anti-gun crackpots. They put hysteria before reason and ignore science when it conflicts with their pre-conceived notions. Pro-gun folks also want to see an end to senseless gun violence and accidents. The difference is that the anti’s are willing to go to absurd ends to justify their means – even when science and rational thought have proven their solutions to be fruitless and immensely wasteful.
The anti-gunners aren’t the only ones who suffer from this though. People who insist on pressing forward with our irrational, wasteful, and crime causing war on drugs suffer from the same affliction – as do people who support the trampling of civil liberties to facilitate the “war on terror”.
Terror attacks are most effective in places where the citizens’ rights have been curtailed in the name of safety. Places like jetliners where citizens have been disarmed to the point that mere boxcutters and chemical sprays are sufficient to hijack planes.
I just wish people would take a moment to think about whether or not blowing up a fuel line would *really* kill thousands or destroy an entire airport. Maybe it would happen in the movies, but not in a world where industrial accidents and liability insurance keep dangerous designs in check and ensure our safety even against murderous extremists.