Thursday, August 05, 2004

 

The Latest Threats

Rather interesting to see that some key names were left off the attendees list for the special briefing for financial institutions, I thought of three major investment bank / sell-side players who should've been on that list, plus at least two huge buy-side players.

About ten years ago I was working at one of the invitees facilities in Manhattan, and commented once to a co-worker on the unusual lobby arrangement in the building (the ground floor only had a man trap entrance/exit, and primary access to the building was on a mezzanine level that was only accessed by escalators). My friend, who knew a bit of the history of that building, casually mentioned that the purpose of the escalators was such that in the event of the building being stormed for any reason, the escalators would be run in reverse to slow down any attackers. While sounding a tiny bit far-fetched then, for some reason it resonates now....

Lower Manhattan is probably a bit better off than Midtown as far as threat from truck bombs goes. It would be difficult to get a truck past the layered defenses of the NYSE from the Broadway side (although nothing could particularly stop them from blowing up at the corner of Wall and Broadway), and Broad Street only runs down to Water Street, which would probably be used as a check/chokepoint for trucks heading anywhere below the Brooklyn Bridge Likewise, Broadway could probably be choked at the intersection with Park Row, and the NYPD would probably be able to eliminate or control turns into the downtown area from West Street. Considering the cross streets are so congested with traffic it would be a fairly easy matter for any foot or mounted patrol to check on crosstown truck traffic it might give a fair chance of catching Ahmed. The question is whether any potential bomber will try a lunatic driving assault instead of calmly trying to get close to the target, a chilling thought nonetheless. A car bomb of course is much is much harder to defend against, but of course there's the potentially mitigating (oh brother, what an ironic statement) consideration of a lower, ahem payload.

Of course, I'm making an assumption here that nasties haven't been staged in Manhattan (not necessarily a prudent assumption). If they've been staged in Manhattan in trucks that have a reason to be in close proximity to the financials, trouble isn't very far away.

Midtown's a bit scarier thought, since it's probably very impractical to cut off trucks from both the Lincoln and Midtown Tunnels (the legitimate truckers will howl at having to detour up to the GWB or the 59th Street Bridge, or worse, the Triborough Bridge; in combination with the other tunnels closure to commercial traffic as well as the Williamsburg Bridge it could prove crippling to commercial traffic into Manhattan ), and there are fewer choke points coming from other parts of the island that could identify or intercept trouble on its way. Trouble could also potentially come down from the Harlem River bridges (although pretty unlikely in that the only realistic way down to the East Side is via the 3rd Avenue Bridge, currently under heavy reconstruction, and probably an easy checkpoint; the other Harlem River bridges would force traffic to the West Side, which could be checked at the major cross streets or at places like Columbus Circle).

I don't pretend to have any easy answers here, and this weighs pretty heavily on me because a lot of the firms mentioned in the news reports have been or are clients of my firm. I can only be thankful for a lot of good, smart people trying to stop the bad guys. The bad guys are casing the joint.

And if trouble does occur, I pray there's a swift, sure, stern reaction to those people and governments who facilitate these things. The time for negotiations and diplo-speak has passed (hear that Foggy Bottom?).

Formido delenda est!

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