Friday, May 7, 2010

The Times Square Bomber Wasn’t an Amateur...

News reports that paint Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad (photo above) as an incompetent amateur are probably not very accurate.

What the jihadists have run into is how modern urban logistics make such attacks very difficult in such areas.

Shahzad did combine a number of easily obtainable “household” items to create what could have been a devastating incendiary. He had a number of propane tanks and gasoline (both fuels), fertilizer (an oxidizer), although he seemed to be unaware that the fertilizer purchased in urban areas is generally “pearled” – you’d have to pulverize the solid beads of fertilizer for it to be useful as an oxidizer for an explosive device and was going to use fireworks as the triggering device for the incindiary. He even did a dry run ( before the event to figure out the best place to leave the vehicle.

This is a challenge for jihadists and other terrorists, as they’re unable to get many of the components more easily purchased and used in more rural areas. Terrorists in more rural locales are able to actually purchase premixed ANFO, as people in such areas use that to blow tree stumps out of the ground.

What Shahzad was apparently trying to do was to set up a device that could generate enough heat to quickly BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding vapor Explosion) the propane tanks. Those tanks could have very easily done tremendous damage on a city street. A single 5-gallon propane B-B-Q tank can take out the wall of an apartment building or warehouse.

The expansion ratio for liquefied propane is 270 to 1, which means when a gas it occupies 270X as much space as it does as a liquid, which gives you an idea of its explosive power.

Propane is a gas above -44 degrees Fahrenheit, that is, it BOILS at NEGATIVE forty-four degrees Fahrenheit. Propane is a compressed natural gas (C3H8) and is a member of the single bonded alkane family of hydrocarbons. It is stored under pressure as a liquid.

Because of its low boiling point, propane tanks are set up with spring loaded pressure relief valves that can allow some of the product to escape whenever pressure builds.

What Shahzad was faced with was either disabling that device, which would’ve made those tanks bombs as he transported them, trying to disable them on-scene, which would’ve ate up a lot of time and perhaps drawn even more unwanted attention, or generating enough heat quickly enough to overwhelm the pressure relief devices and BLEVE the tanks via heat transfer.

He apparently chose the latter...and failed.

But that failure doesn’t make him “an incompetent.”

He was able to put together a potentially damaging incendiary device out of products readily available and usable in an urban setting, bring it into the city and actually attempt to set it off.

How many ways did our system fail us this time?

Faisal Shahzad was on a “No Fly List” but the airline used an outdated list and missed him.

The U.S. granted him citizenship a year ago.

He’d attended a terror training camp in Pakistan THREE years ago.

Feeling any safer?


Roadhouse said...

When I was younger (and single), my friends and I used to blow things up for fun at parties out in the woods or corn fields. We would fill old tires with acetolene and oxygen from welding tanks and roll them into the camp fire. Or we would fill pvc pipes with gun powder, light the fuse and run like hell.

The terrorists have taken all the fun out of explosives.

JMK said...

Yes indeed, bad intentions do tend to take all the fun out of almost anything.

But my problem with THIS particular incident is more about our apparent incompetence; an airline with an outdated "No Fly List," an immigration system that granted citizenship a year ago to a guy who attended a terrorist training camp three years ago...and an asinine "American media" (which has become a part and parcel of the political class) that opines about poor Faisal Shahzad being "unable to realize his American dream, after he QUIT his job, made 13 trips to Pakistan (that could put a crimp in your mortgage budget) and probably never had "an American dream"....more like "a jihadist's dream," and that one ALMOST came true for this silver spooned jihadist.

If you weren't paying attention you might think we've gotten a LOT less safe with the current crew running things....of course that can't be, after all, the mainstream media keeps telling us it's just not so.

WomanHonorThyself said...

maddening Joe! HAPPY MOTHERS DAY! to the moms in your family..(hugs)

JMK said...

HAPPY MOTHER'S Day to you and all the Mom's in your family as well Angel!

It IS far there have been 3 successful attacks in the first fifteen months of this administration: (1) the Fort Hood Massacre, (2) the Christmas Eve airliner over Detroit (that WASN'T stopped by the authorities) and the Times Square bombing (also NOT stopped by the authorities - Shahzad DID deliver the device AND set it off)

To paraphrase the previous POTUS; "Heck of a job Barry!"

Skunkfeathers said...

Barry will preside over the next 9/11, and then will blame Bush for it. Morons in the media will give vent to it.

Hopefully, reawakened voters will see through the ruse, and throw this marxist's allies out in '10, and follow up throwing his sorry ass out in '12.

JMK said...

That's very possible SF. The current administration's anti-terror policy seems to amount to, "Let's hope their bombs don't work."

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