Bringing you insightful information first:
In March of 2003 al Qaeda had planned to launch a deadly gas attack in NYC's subway system, according to a recent book
by Ron Suskind and related news reports
. In days leading up to the Coalition's invasion of Iraq, the gas attack was called off by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, himself: why would AQ want to give an invasion force greater will to win (by slaying 3,000 subway riders) beforehand? Obviously, they would not. Their original plan was set aside and, after the invasion, AQ wanted to demonstrate for the world its ability to attack the U.S. with even more casualties than 9-11.
Certainly, we recall reports of suspicious middle eastern types photographing NYC's subways in the months after 9-11. Many were detained and questioned, some were arrested and a few even convicted. We heard, in years after our invasion of Iraq, threats by AQ
that they were 90-95% prepared (in 2004
) to launch a new attack in the U.S. of even greater proprtions than 9-11. (meaning at least 10-50,000 deaths). Never happened. Why not?
AQ's hallmark, refuting any notion that jihadists lack sophistication, is mass lethality through multiple, simultaneous attacks. Imagine how imponderable the various subway line schedules must have appeared to AQ planners. Arrivals and departures rarely follow the published schedule as operation of the overall system is choreographed for best overall performance in the face of the odd power disruption, pesky track problem, emergency repair, and other daily interferences. Overlay all of this with organized labor rules. Then, consider that the schedule itself changes based upon current ridership needs. In all probability, this is why AQ's subway attack preparations, unlike Madrid's railway, never got to 100%.
Certainly, security professionals and terror experts are attempting to envision AQ's plot. How did AQ intend to trap and gas at least 50,000 riders? They could hardly do that, nor could they deliver deadly gas to crowded stations by subway on reliable schedule. Obviously, power outages would be the least suspicious method (compare to murdered bodies on the tracks) of stopping trains during rush hour. But, where to hide gas canisters at the stations?
Simultaneous detonation is not beyond AQ's remote controlled IED's, right? Wrong! Infrared and radio signals are difficult to use in NYC's subway architecture. Timers would work, but remember the trains really keep to no schedule with German-like reliability. AQ would have been embarrassed to gas just-emptied stations.
Infiltration of the transit workers was another possibility AQ no doubt considered. Not all of the subway system is below ground, and very few people know the system intimately. Pity the terrorist apprentice trying to glean insider information from the Transit Workers Union.
NYC's subway was a very poor choice of target to couple with usual AQ methods. Let's hope it remains so, and AQ continues to distract itself with more projects it can never master. - Vigilis