Straphangers in New York City became a mass of unwitting guinea pigs Tuesday in a system-wide test by the New York Police Department and the Brookhaven Lab to determine how successful a terrorist organization could be at poisoning the city’s underground commuters with toxic gas.
According to reports in the local media like the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the test, funded by a $3.4-million grant from the US Department of Homeland Security, involved releasing small amounts of allegedly “harmless” gas into the subway at various places in Manhattan south of 59th Street, and then testing to see how widely and quickly it dispersed through the five boroughs through subway tunnels and in subway cars.
The gas used, called a perfluorocarbon, besides posing a serious threat to the ozone layer that has led to its being largely banned from industrial use, is suspected of causing tumors in animals, and of impacting immune systems and liver and endocrine systems. The odorless chemical is also very long-lasting once absorbed by the body, and while the dispersed gas would in very low and surely harmless concentrations, that might not be the case in the 21 stations where it was being released initially–especially as citizens were not told where the actuall releases were taking place “for security reasons.”
Several such tests are planned over the summer. Tuesday was just test number one.
The real question is why the NYPD, Brookhaven Lab, and the Department of Homeland Security would run such a test in the first place. It’s pretty much a no-brainer that if some terrorist outfit decided to disperse sarin gas into the Times Square subway station at rush hour it would spread mayhem north, south and cross-town in no time. No need for a perfluorocarbon gas test to figure that out. The best I can figure is that Homeland Security, a super-agency created in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, is always looking for ways to boost its budget by spending whatever it can, and by further terrorizing the public into supporting politicians who will keep allocating more money to to the agency year after year.
But when you really look at this particular “test,” you have to ask WTF were they thinking? I mean, why do a dry run of a poison gas attack on the New York subway system? Isn’t that just inviting some terrorist organization to follow the script and do it themselves with a gas that, instead of possibly causing some tumors and immune disorders, actually kills people in droves?
This is after all kind of like having Homeland Security write a chapter of the Terrorist Cookbook at taxpayer expense.
Why don’t they close the Lincoln Tunnel next, and then fill it with scrapped cars and trucks and set off a big paint bomb in the middle somewhere to see how far the paint spreads? After all, that’s an act of terror that some fanatic might attempt someday, right? The Port Authority cops never stop and search cars for explosives; only the occasional truck.
Or why don’t they taint the mustard at the regional supply center for the Nathan’s hotdog chain — maybe with some kind of product that makes it astringent–just to see how many people in the city would affected if some heinous terrorist thought to do the same thing only with a deadly salmonella or botulin strain?
The possibilities for such tests are endless, and would keep Homeland Security and the NYPD busy for years.
Is it just me, or does anyone else think this is sheer madness?
Josh Holland, in an article on Alternet, writes that Trevor Aaronson, in his new book The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism, finds that only 1% of the supposed terror attacks that the FBI has “exposed” or “disrupted” since September 2001 have been real plots. All the rest were actually given critically important assistance or even initiated by the FBI, and would never have even gotten past the imagination of some inept wacko with nothing better to do than fantasize without the benevolent hand of the Bureau. (You can even include the 9-11 attacks in that category, since, for starters, we know the FBI had two of the hijackers holed up in its own agency safe house in Los Angeles.)
As Aaronson told Holland, the average American has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than of being the victim of a terrorist here in the US. Another study last year came up with the conclusion that more people historically have died of bee stings in the US than of terrorism, and even that was skewed because it counted as acts of terrorism US deaths caused by the Taliban, which are actually war casualties. (I guess Monsanto is helping on that score by working hard to wipe out honeybees and bumble bees with its ubiquitous Roundup toxic herbicide spray.)
I would guess that people who ride the subway are facing a vastly greater risk of contracting the flu or some other contagious disease than of getting struck down by a terrorist’s gas or germ attack.
It’s time for Homeland Security, which over its one decade of existence has done basically nothing to make this country safer, while encouraging a dangerous police state mentality among our law enforcement organizations, to be scrapped, and for the New York Police Department, and other police departments around the country, to go back to walking the beat and acting like cops.
That $3.4-million grant could be put to better use building some working rest rooms in the subway. The improved hygiene from that project alone would reduce the risk of unwanted infections among the straphangers more than the gas dispersion testing ever could.