Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 26, 2014

Alternative reality: what if Ramzi Yousef had accomplished his goals?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on February 26, 2014

Today marks the anniversary of the Ramzi Yousef’s attempt to topple one World Trade Center tower into the other.  Some believe that he came very close to his goal.

Not to diminish the value of the lives lost that day, I’d just like to ask what would our world look like if he had been successful?

Tens of thousands may have perished.

Many pundits often talk about the “post-9/11” world, as if reality changed that day.  Personally, what I think is that the nation woke up to reality.  In the previous decade the nation was not only attacked at the World Trade Center, but two of our embassies in Africa were bombed simultaneously and a Navy warship almost sunk.

When compared to today’s news (Al Qaeda is everywhere!), I sense a lack of strategic threat and more of a search for an overarching, global enemy.

But what about the 1990’s where Yousef had been successful?

Post-Desert Storm would the nation have blamed Iraq and invaded a decade earlier?

Pre-Aum Shinrikyo would something similar to Nunn-Lugar-Domenici been implemented sooner?

At the height of our “unipolar moment,” would the U.S. have acted even more aggressively than it did post 9/11?

Drones, NSA surveillance, and enhanced interrogation techniques.  All topics not only addressed but settled by now?

Focus on terrorism – would it have ended by this century or would it simply be a confirmation on the seemingly never ending nature of this conflict?

What questions am I missing?

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 27, 2014 @ 2:18 am

Arnold all good questions. IMO the GWOT started at the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972 [and note Double E’s comments on airline hijack statistics from late 60’s and early 70’s]but leadership circles in the US failed to connect dots.

Should we be surprised? Not IMO because look at the fact that both during and since the Reagan Administration the DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY FOLKS have led America. And the economic predators stalk the US then and now while Presidents advise GO SHOPPING AND ALL WILL BE WELL!

And today’s WSJ reports the world’s insurers stating THERE WILL BE A SOLAR CATASTROPHE!

The water slowly gets warmer in the pot for the frog [US]!

Comment by John Comiskey

February 27, 2014 @ 6:23 am

Homeland security was produced by events that initiated and sustained by what Thomas Birkland referred to as focusing events.

Focusing events are sudden and unpredictable events that can reasonably be defined as harmful or potentially harmful, are limited to a particular geographical area or community of interest, and gain the attention of policy makers and the public simultaneously. The events, arguably, drive national policy more so than other policy areas. See:

At least six major terrorist attacks followed the 1993 World Trade Center bombing:

1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City
1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks
1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta
1996 U.S. Embassy bombing in Saudi Arabia
1998 East African embassy bombings
2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen

The attacks singularly and cumulatively evolved multiple attention cycles. Commissions were launched, legislation was passed, and enhanced security measures were implemented. None, however, was the Pearl Harbor that 9/11 was.

Had Ramzi Yousef been successful, 911 might just be an emergency phone number and 2/26 a call to action.

Comment by E. Earhart

February 27, 2014 @ 6:46 am

Mr. Cumming and J.H. Comiskey

If not Munich, than 1979 and the Iranian Revolution.

What would WJC have done? I think that is an interesting question? IMO not the military response
of GWB. But had he, two years later would we still have had a “Contract with America” and the end of 40 years of the Democratic majority in the House? IMO probably not while a nation engaged in military conflict. Would we have still seen welfare reform, capital gains tax cut, and the first balanced budget since 1969? Probably not.

If the attacks had been totally successful, (whose to say they were not) with the treasure trove of “how to information” released during RY prosecution, would we have learned how to better protect critical information during trial?

Comment by E. Earhart

February 27, 2014 @ 6:49 am

The chopper took off at 8:55p.m., circled the field and then headed off towards Manhattan. Bill Gavin, the head of the FBI in New York, sat opposite Yousef, watching his blindfolded young charge. The Sikorsky followed the Hudson River towards the southern tip of Manhattan, and rounded the proud towers of the World Trade Center at a height of 600ft. Gavin leant forward and eased Yousef’s blindfold away from his eyes. ‘Look down there,’ he said to Yousef, gesturing towards the twin towers. ‘They’re still standing.’ Yousef squinted and looked out of the window. ‘They wouldn’t be, if I had had enough money and explosives,’ he replied defiantly.

(Reeve, 1999, p. 109)Reeve, S. (1999). The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

Comment by E. Earhart

February 27, 2014 @ 6:51 am

It is now known that the 1993 World Trade Center attack cost approximately $31,000; this money paid for bomb components, apartment rental, locker rental to store explosives, phone calls, plane fare, and cab and drivers license fees.

Windrem, R., & Haake, G. (2008, November 14). Al-Qaida’s budget slips through cracks: U.S. clamps down on banking transactions; terror group finds new funding. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27644191

Comment by E. Earhart

February 27, 2014 @ 6:53 am

During the prosecution of Ramzi Yousef, direct testimony of Secret Service agent Brian Parr revealed that Yousef had told him that with more money, he would have put sodium cyanide into the bomb, thereby creating a chemical weapon. Yousef also informed agent Parr that the specific date of the attack resulted from the fact that they had run out of money and had to act.

Parachini, J. V. (2000). The World Trade Center Bombers (1993). In J. B. Tucker (Ed.), Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons Cambridge: MIT Press and Belfer Center For Science and International Affairs.

Comment by E. Earhart

February 27, 2014 @ 7:01 am

Trying to recall info that you might have. One of the reasons for the failure of the attack was that the driver of the Ryder van did not know how to drive (literally, he did not know how to drive)very well. As a result, on his approach drive into the target, he was stopped by police for erratic driving.

Again, the local cop, just doing his job?

The other interesting case braking fact was that the attackers were tracked b/c in all the rubble and destruction, the vin # of the vehicle was located on an axel of the detonated Ryder truck?

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 27, 2014 @ 8:43 am

The February 1993 attack produced intel about AQ at trial but SCOTUS ruled that federal grand jury testimony was inviolate and could not be released to DoJ Civil Division attornys. I believe the case was Exxon v. US but not sure of date perhaps 1991.
After 9/11/01 much was made of the wall between intelligence and law enforcement. Apparently FBI counsel had prohibited examination of the Moussauri [sic] on this basis. Most scholars seem to agree the PATRIOT Act removed this wall. I disagree!

Comment by E.Earhart

February 27, 2014 @ 10:30 am

What if Ray Kelly had implemented his global intelligence network program in 1993?

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 27, 2014 @ 11:06 am

We now know there is a Ray Kelly like system in place.

The FBI and DoJ could have placed CIA experts at the trial with permission of the Court. Might have been challenged but who knows.

And the redacted portions of the 9/11 Commission report IMO show Saudi Royal family and officials resident in the USA had foreknowledge of both WTC attacks. The State Department had liberally granted Saudi royal family visas and visa waivers.

I understand that records of Saudis leaving US immediate post 9/11 destroyed!

Comment by John Comiskey

February 27, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

E. Earhart,

NYPD has been fighting terrorism for a long time. See NPR coverage of Dark Invasion, the story of a WWI era NYPD Inspector who saw terrorism as future threat: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/25/282439233/during-world-war-i-germany-unleashed-terrorist-cell-in-america

Fast forward to 1991 when then NYPD Lt. Ed Norris, said of the Meir Kahane homicide, the FBI fumbled.
Norris went on to be NYPD Deputy Commissioner, Baltimore PD Commissioner, Maryland State Police Chief, and Maryland correctional inmate after conviction for $ shenanigans. Now he is a talk show host.

Kahane murder suspect El Sayed Al Nosair, was tried and convicted for his role in the 1993 WTC case.

“It was the same big lie,” recalls Norris, who oversaw the Kahane inquiry. FBI said “‘You guys stay away from our case!'”

Asked if NYPD would have translated documents recovered from Kahane’ apartment that hinted at 1993 attack?

“Of course we would have ….we had a murder investigation under way.” Besides, Norris said, you didn’t even need to translate the files to know they were suspicious-the cabinets contained photos of New York City landmarks and terrorist manuals. See: http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_4_keeping_new_york.html

Comment by John Comiskey

April 4, 2014 @ 8:03 am


Continued from http://www.hlswatch.com/2014/03/28/friday-free-forum-48/

For a number of Fridays this blogger has been arguing that NYPD’s Intelligence Enterprise is a “smart practice.” The impetus for this thread and now a series of posts on this blog’s Friday Free Forum is a developing journal article of the above title and HLS Watch blogger E. Earhart’s question:

What if then NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had implemented the post-9/11 NYPD Intelligence Enterprise after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing? See: http://www.hlswatch.com/2014/02/26/alternative-reality-what-if-ramzi-yousef-had-accomplished-his-goals/

Previous posts have chronicled NYC and the NYPD’s HLS-like activities during the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Thus far, the NYPD/NYC involved itself in protecting an American president from assassination; dealt with Civil War confederates and draft dodgers en masse; arrested war saboteurs; helped lead the nation’s Civil Defense efforts during World War II, and prepared for an atomic/enemy attack during the Cold War.

The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1945 and the Berlin Wall in 1989 mark for most the beginning and end of the Cold War. During that time the U.S was mostly concerned with nation state threats. Terrorism was a secondary concern. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed that paradigm for both the U.S. and NYC.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the National Homeland Security Strategy (2002) recognized that non-state actors were as much a priority if not more as compared to nation state threats.

NYC, already a hot bed of nation state threats, assumed a unique role in securing the homeland.

The history of the Cold War is especially relevant to the emergence of the current NYPD Intelligence Enterprise, so much so that this blogger has decided to organize NYC and the NYPD’s Cold War development involvement into four time periods, the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Each will be explored/examined in the forthcoming weeks beginning with this weeks’ time period, the 50s.

Comment by John Comiskey

April 4, 2014 @ 8:06 am

THE 50s

The Fifties, best explained by David Halberstram, helped define who the United States is today. It was both a time of national pride and a time to reexamine who we were as a people.

The Cold War went hot in Korea. The threat of atomic and hydrogen bombs produced a climate that engendered McCarthyism and more importantly submission to McCarthyism.

A rising civil rights movement and multiple challenges of the status quo were amplified by the advent of television.

Beatniks, Elvis, McDonalds, and the Kinsey Report said something about who we were or wanted to be.
See: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0449909336/ref=rdr_ext_tmb


Since the American Revolution, New York City has been a hotbed of espionage. The UN affords countless spies
diplomatic and trade cover. Added to the fray is the number of demonstrations connected to the UN and its missions and consulates that NYPD must police. See http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0465003109/ref=tmm_hrd_new_olp_0?
ie=UTF8&condition=new&sr=&qid= AND http://www.amazon.com/Spy-Sites-New-York-City/dp/1603802614


In 1946, NYPD formed the Bureau of Special Services (BOSS) from the former Red Squad. The unit earned high standing in the national intelligence community. BOSS operatives traveled outside the city to exchange information with agents of other urban agencies. BOSS was known to transmit to outside agencies three times as much information as it used for its own operations.






Beginning in March 1951, a series of bombs exploded in commuter rail facilities, public libraries, public theaters, storage lockers and utility facilities in and around NYC. The explosions were the work of the Mad Bomber, George Metesky an insane and disgruntled utility worker. Between 1940 and 1956, Metesky planted at least 33 bombs that injured at least 15 peopled. Notably and for reasons of patriotism, Metesky suspended his bombing during World War

People were terrified. Venturing out into public places meant possibly crossing paths with a madman.

NYPD created the Bomb Investigation Unit to follow bomber leads; employed one of the first uses of criminal profiling; and engaged in one of its largest and longest manhunts.
See: http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Bomber-New-York-Extraordinary/dp/1402774346/ref=sr_1_1?

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