A Low-Tech Plot in a High-Tech World

Aug 11, 2006 5:06am

Roll this over in your mind for a minute: a plane with 300 or more people on board…able to travel at eighty percent of the speed of sound…flying higher than eighty percent of the earth’s atmosphere.  Such a symbol of modern technology–and the plan was to destroy nine or ten of them with a sports drink…. Richard Esposito and Len Tepper of our staff, along with many others, have learned myriad details; if you haven’t checked lately, some of the latest is on our Home Page or The Blotter.  The second scariest part of this story–after one has pondered the potential carnage–is how simple the alleged terrorists’ tools were apparently going to be.  "We’re probably referring to homemade explosives once again, and Middle Eastern nations are noted for using peroxide-based explosives," said Kevin Barry of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators.  It wouldn’t have taken much of an explosion to cripple a plane, if it happened in the right place.  "There are some critical junctures in the plane that cause the hydraulics, the flaps and so forth to work," said Bill Vorlicek of Kroll consultants, which, among many other things, provides security services.  How does a post-industrial society protect itself?  With Gatorade detectors?  Mass spectrometers as you enter Concourse C?  Not very likely.  Instead, the 25 airports in the U.S. that have flights leaving for Britain will have secondary security checks.  After 9/11, there was a lot of talk of "low-tech, high-concept" as a modus operandi for terrorists.  The people we’ve reached say we need to answer with the same. "People need to understand," Vorlicek told me, "This is what’s going on, this is what you need to look for.  Don’t go to the cops and say, ‘That person looks creepy.’  They’ll answer, ‘Everyone looks creepy.’ What’s suspicious is not the person, it’s the behavior, what are they doing that doesn’t make sense?"  In other words, old-fashioned pat-downs and a little paranoia are the best weapons in this "asymettrical warfare."  And they may not always be enough.  "Is there a threat out there?  Absolutely," said Vorlicek.  "You can use just about anything as a weapon.  We need to think about things in a different way."  (Picture: A Boeing 747 in a 1974 stability test.  Courtesy NASA.)

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus