NYT blogger to readers: Post your best terrorist ideas in the comments

posted at 1:32 pm on August 9, 2007 by Allahpundit

I started a post on this but got sidetracked with the Fred/Klan story so the boss beat me to it. Like any good capitalist, I dig the open source/”wisdom of crowds” approach to counterterrorism. I think Levitt’s right too, hypothetically, about the nightmare scenario. Nuts with guns are the most efficient means of terror, a point lost on the left while they were busy laughing about the Fort Dix Six plot. What Levitt doesn’t account for is the fact that AQ seems more interested in potency than efficiency. Big explosions, ostentatious acts of fanatic commitment — all much more viscerally impressive than guys firing into crowds and geared at projecting the vaunted “strong horse” image. If you define terrorism literally, as Levitt does, then you start from a different premise than AQ and so end up with a different result. Levitt’s thinking up ways to inflict maximum terror; Osama’s thinking up ways to maximize his own prestige. The former is aimed at Americans, the latter is aimed at Arabs.

All that said, MM is right that Levitt’s “do it for the public interest” afterthought at the end rings false. You’re conducting a thought experiment, dude, mostly for sh*ts and giggles; it’s not a crime, but if you’re going to do it, own it. If he was that concerned about the public interest, he’d have asked readers to e-mail him their suggestions and forwarded the lot of them to DHS.

Since we’re on the subject of building a better miscreant, here’s what’s creeping up the charts on the viral video sites. Anyone here got enough bread rolling in that they can afford to harvest parts from spare DVD burners? If so, you can probably afford to buy a laser weapon right off the shelf.


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Meh, that NYT thing is stupid… and kinda old news now.

But that laser thing has me worried that kids will be torturing cats with it.

RightWinged on August 9, 2007 at 1:40 PM

Can I make a lightsaber with it?

omnipotent on August 9, 2007 at 1:40 PM

Heck the NY times dont even make good terrorists. They are too busy hiding under their bed.

Collaborators yes but they arent saave enough to be actual terrorists

William Amos on August 9, 2007 at 1:41 PM

My husband has enough spare parts hanging around the house to make anything…hmmm…better not show him this, then.

ScoopPC11 on August 9, 2007 at 1:46 PM

NYT: All the terrorists plots that are fit to print.

terryannonline on August 9, 2007 at 1:47 PM

I wish I had laser spare parts.

Esthier on August 9, 2007 at 1:50 PM

Hillary wins!

Journalistic terror.

The Race Card on August 9, 2007 at 1:51 PM

Writes Mr Levitt,

Hearing about these rules got me thinking about what I would do to maximize terror if I were a terrorist with limited resources. I’d start by thinking about what really inspires fear. One thing that scares people is the thought that they could be a victim of an attack. With that in mind, I’d want to do something that everybody thinks might be directed at them, even if the individual probability of harm is very low. Humans tend to overestimate small probabilities, so the fear generated by an act of terrorism is greatly disproportionate to the actual risk (…)

My general view of the world is that simpler is better. My guess is that this thinking applies to terrorism as well. In that spirit, the best terrorist plan I have heard is one that my father thought up after the D.C. snipers created havoc in 2002. The basic idea is to arm 20 terrorists with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting randomly at pre-set times all across the country. Big cities, little cities, suburbs, etc. Have them move around a lot. No one will know when and where the next attack will be.

Well …

Reading about that Times article got me thinking about what I would do to maximize terror against Mr Levitt if I were a “terrorist” with limited resources. I’d start by thinking about what really inspires fear. One thing that scares Times journos is the thought that they could be a victim of an attack. With that in mind, I’d want to do something that everybody thinks might be directed at them, even if the individual probability of harm is very low. Journos tend to overestimate small probabilities, so the fear generated by an act of terrorism is greatly disproportionate to the actual risk (…)

My general view of the world is that simpler is better. My guess is that this thinking applies to “terrorism” as well. In that spirit, the best “terrorist” plan I have heard is one that my father thought up after the D.C. snipers created havoc in 2002. The basic idea is to arm 20 “terrorists” with rifles and cars, and arrange to have them begin shooting at the Times offices at pre-set times. Editors, fact-checkers, journalists, etc. Have them move around a lot. No one will know when and where the next attack will be.

Niko on August 9, 2007 at 1:52 PM

Or for those with some money you can just go here

AZPatriot on August 9, 2007 at 1:53 PM

P.S. I’m sure many readers have far better ideas about what to do with Mr Levitt. I would love to hear them. Consider that posting them could be a form of public service.

Niko on August 9, 2007 at 1:54 PM

Potential terrorists are sleeping better already:

“Today, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, delivered a roll out address at the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute.

…Another step I have taken to assure that oversight is done properly is to realign the Committee’s subcommittees. Each subcommittee needs focus and the ability to dig down into the issues that plague the Department. The revised structure, along with some outstanding chairs, should make sure that happens. The six subcommittees are as follows:

Border, Maritime & Global Counterterrorism, led by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez;

Transportation Security & Infrastructure Protection led by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee;

From
http://homeland.house.gov/about/subcommittees.asp?ID=157&SubSection=0&Issue=0&DocumentType=0&PublishDate=2007&subcommittee=13

fred5678 on August 9, 2007 at 1:54 PM

I know how to increase the amount of terrorism in the world: Vote Democrat!

BKennedy on August 9, 2007 at 1:54 PM

…is the fact that AQ seems more interested in potency than efficiency[...]Osama’s thinking up ways to maximize his own prestige. The former is aimed at Americans, the latter is aimed at Arabs…

I agree with assessment, it’s right on the money. I hope it stays this way too, because the margin of error is smaller for them – in my opinion, largely why we’ve been able to thwart those on the mainland and/or they have had trouble executing their plans.

Spirit of 1776 on August 9, 2007 at 1:55 PM

I’d never engage in terrorist tactics, but if I did I could think of a worse target than the NYT building…

Hollowpoint on August 9, 2007 at 1:59 PM

Niko on August 9, 2007 at 1:54 PM

Not helpful.

DrSteve on August 9, 2007 at 2:01 PM

Didn’t Niven suggest the ARM would have schizophrenics they could take off their meds whenever they needed to dream up stuff like this?

DrSteve on August 9, 2007 at 2:07 PM

P.S. I’m sure many readers have far better ideas about what to do with Mr Levitt. I would love to hear them. Consider that posting them could be a form of public service.

Niko on August 9, 2007 at 1:54 PM

I suggest we hold an abortion ceremony for his column. After all, he did argue abortion reduces crime (and was thoroughly debunked), and I’d say that column was a crime against humanity.

BKennedy on August 9, 2007 at 2:07 PM

Niko, if journalists can’t publish their fantasies about killing innocent civilians then the terrorists have won.

pedestrian on August 9, 2007 at 2:08 PM

This guy has gone off the deep end. What bothers me more is the amount a comments he got from people playing his sick game, and not complaining about the content of the blog.

Is the NYT owned by that saudi banker who likes to burn books by any chance?

Masscon on August 9, 2007 at 2:36 PM

LOL… whats funny about this whole thing is that we went through this whole thought process quite awhile back… interesing he took so many years to contemplate this…

Key here is that we gave our list, done by a group of profesional bad a$$e$, straight to the people who were PROTECTING us, not those who wish to harm us. Really interesting to see what happens when you get the Retired Spec Ops guys, from different dispiplines, together…

This writer needs to shut the Hell up! This is called Aiding and abetting, as no one knows the vulnerabilities as well as someone who lives and works there.

Romeo13 on August 9, 2007 at 2:43 PM

Here is an idea that terrorist could use to erode American resolve. Now I know this is more of a psychological measure. The terrorist could garner the support of a major newspaper, let’s say a rag like the NY Times. They could get the anti-American journalist to write articles that help the jihadist position and try to discredit the President.

That would be pretty effective, I would think.

TheSitRep on August 9, 2007 at 2:43 PM

Actually, DVD burners go for 20-30 bucks these days. Not too expensive. Try Newegg.

Guy talked way too fast in that video.

MadisonConservative on August 9, 2007 at 3:29 PM

NYT went through the whole publishing controversy, pretty much detailing a how-to on the NY subway too didn’t they? They had to find a way to make up for printing the positive story about the military progress in Iraq. Comments over there, not all but some, seemed a little too eager shall we say for me.

PowWow on August 9, 2007 at 3:30 PM

I don’t know if I would agree that “nuts with guns” is less effective… during that couple of weeks of “Beltway Sniper” hysteria, pretty much the entire I-95 corridor was terrified to by gas.

DaveS on August 9, 2007 at 3:32 PM

When Koppel was running Nightline, he did a story about setting off poison gas in NYC’s subways and how that would cripple a major city like New York, going so far as to even describing how it could be accomplished and what type of chemicals to use.

I immediately sent an email to Nightline questioning their mental abilities. I.e., I called them morons for giving terrorists not only the idea, but a blueprint on how to commit mass murder of Americans in America’s most populous city.

About a year and a half later, they ran a follow up piece. Koppel paid homage to me (not by name) by referring to a letter writer who equated them with being morons for giving potential terrorists ideas. But, he noted, the story was newsworthy, and that was more important.

In other words, public safety be damned.

Just like it was more “important” for the New York Times to expose *2* highly secret, highly effective, terrorist tracking and surveillance programs in order to try to bring down the Bush administration. Public safety be damned.

THAT is what is involved here, at best, and public safety be damned. At worst, Levitt is inviting terrorists to strike, and telling them how best to do it.

I firmly believe that we, as a nation, should NOT be telling the enemy HOW to strike us. We should NOT be telling the enemy WHAT would hurt us the most. It is never wise to directly communicate to our enemies our battle plans, our contingency plans, and our vulnerabilities. In fact, that’s called Treason. It’s exactly what Benedict Arnold did during the Revolution.

georgej on August 9, 2007 at 3:45 PM

How about taking the entire NYT staff along with Alan Colmes and Joe Biden back to the caves in Pakistan and doing the mystery dance with them?

I’m sure they would all enjoy it.

Hening on August 9, 2007 at 5:05 PM

Oh please. The fact is that terrorists pursue nothing more than chaos, which is always quite easy (as the 2nd law states) while we are fighting to preserve order, which is always quite hard.

People could come up with millions of ideas about creating chaos, and they would still not have covered a tenth of the possibilities. That is the nature of this fight and that is why we have to go after them (far more than a couple of little romps in Afghanistan and Iraq).

The “terrorist thought experiment” is a useless pursuit, since it is the sheer number of possibilities of attack that must be addressed – a number far beyond any “wisdom of crowds” utility. Otherwise, such experiments would lead us to bleed ourselves dry defending against every possibility.

The answer is simple, though most just refuse to entertain it for reasons of weak personalities.

progressoverpeace on August 9, 2007 at 6:40 PM

The New York Times is so full of it. They say they want to help our country fight terrorism, but these are the same people who plastered classified terrorism fighting programs on there front page.

SoulGlo on August 9, 2007 at 7:26 PM

This probably might not have happened if the NY Slimes press cards were pulled immediately after they published information on the electronic communications interception months ago.

Press cards, as I understand it, are issued as a courtesy, not as a legal requirement.

Pull all NY Slimes press cards now!!!!!!

The False Dervish on August 9, 2007 at 9:49 PM

I live in a small town in a must issue state. If someone were to open fire at random here, there is a very good chance they wouldn’t live past firing the first couple of rounds. Lots of people around here have quick access to firearms and know how to use them. Not all of the country has caved in to gun control nuts.

Buford on August 9, 2007 at 10:29 PM

Levitt posted a second article here. I was surprised how many thought that you would not notice the kind of attack he imagined because of everyday gun crime. In the second post he suggests that Iraq/Palestine is creating more terrorists as well. Although he fails to mention that this would be the preferred market for them to operate in as the greatest incentive for islamic terror groups right now is to defeat the Great Satan. He further suggests that Americans would just learn to live with low tech terror, but I think he underestimates us, and the righteous anger such attacks would ignite. As to Levitt’s terror scenario, I think he is right. The DC sniper attacks were far more frightening than 9/11. Sept 11th only succeeded in arousing America’s anger, while DC sniper cause honest fear.

I worry that they will figure us out a little more. I have plenty of nightmare scenarios (I am involved in airport security), but I would prefer to keep them to myself.

hulbstar on August 9, 2007 at 10:49 PM

In case common sense has failed you, that laser is dangerous.
Do not try that at home.
It can blind you in less than a second.

“This product contains a Class 2 laser. Do not power on without enclosure.”
This has the potential for causing serious bodily harm, including but not limited to permanent blindness!
- slashdot comment

brewt on August 10, 2007 at 1:15 AM

I think its good to know, I could see some kid bringing something like that to a classroom and doing some damage to someone.

Or worse yet someone doing that randomly in public thinking its funny.

Irenaeus on August 10, 2007 at 10:52 AM