We've been implicated in a terrorist plot! OK, so it was a theoretical plot, but we were embroiled nonetheless. According to an article published in Tuesday's newspapers, Operation Kaboom was hatched two years ago by six NYC counter-terrorist detectives who rented a Brooklyn mailbox and a storage unit in the Bronx to see if they could amass enough ammonium nitrate and fuel oil to build a truck bomb.
Did they succeed? You bet your 1.3-ton bottom dollar they did. Their aim was to demonstrate how simple it would be—in the years after 9/11—for a terrorist to build a homemade explosive like the one used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Apparently, they encountered no resistance. I'm sure that'll help you sleep at night.
Before I proceed, a little background: More than a decade ago, militia movement activists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols detonated a rented cargo truck packed with 4,800 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 and injuring more than 800. This week, during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, it came to light that the ingredients necessary to produce this sort of explosive can still be purchased with ease and without any significant security hurdles.
The Operation Kaboom detectives had no formal training in the use of explosives. They used easily accessible information online and in books to determine what to buy and how to proceed. Then they went to agricultural suppliers in upstate New York and Pennsylvania to buy 2,450 pounds of ammonium nitrate, claiming they had recently bought an apple orchard. All they had to show was a driver's license, and their purchase was never even reported as suspicious.
Afterward, the crew built their weapon in a white plastic water tank and loaded it into the back of a rented van. PD technicians tested the mixture and successfully detonated it. The whole plan took four months to execute—September through December 2004—and only cost $7,000, including $700 for the fertilizer, $170 per month to rent the storage unit, $731 to rent the van, and $813 for a 360-gallon tank.
The role of self-storage in this scheme may have been minimal and arbitrary, but the consequences hold: We shall remain under greater government and public scrutiny. It's sad to see that when it comes to Homeland Security, the more things change ... Let's just hope this plot doesn't thicken. Meanwhile, are all of you operators out there reporting any and all suspicious activity that occurs on your sites? Any tales from the trenches?
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