Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Oklahoma City, 1000 Times Over?

Um, whoa:

Federal authorities searched Wednesday for a man using a Middle Eastern
name and possible bogus construction credentials to try to purchase large
quantities of the same explosive used by Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said there is no
indication yet that terrorism is involved, but the agency is still checking
information that came from a company in Canada that reported the attempted
purchase as suspicious. ATF is asking the fertilizer and explosives industries
to help locate the man and to report any suspicious inquiries for the fertilizer
chemical ammonium nitrate, which is used to make so-called fertilizer bombs.

The suspect also made several Internet email inquiries to vendors seeking
to buy between 500 to 1,000 metric tons of the explosive a
quantity larger than McVeigh used to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building in
April 1995 but smaller than amounts companies typically might buy in bulk for
construction, explosives or farm work.

Bold emphasis mine.

OK, let's examine this more closely. Assuming that someone didn't get mis-quoted, or a decimal point didn't get moved or omitted, we're talking about at least 20+ loads in an average semi-truck, or a few hundred trips in a heavy-duty light truck, or several hundred times what was used in the OK City blast (McVeigh having used somewhere in the neighborhood of three tons of "energetic materials", including the initiating compounds). At a density of 50 lbs/ft^3 or less for explosive-grade AN (fertilizer-grade material is less porous and therefore more dense), that's at least 20,000 ft^3, which is a cube roughty 27 ft on each side.

If indeed these numbers are correct, than we're dealing with terrorists that are either blatantly stupid, or have far more ambition than I would have expected.

On the topic of OK City and McVeigh, was there a connection to the Middle East? I don't know, but it at least makes for interesting conversation. I think it's also yet another indictment against the practice of racial profiling, for what sort of racial profile covers this mix of participants? Seems like "activity profiling" perhaps is a better method, but then again that's not quite so easy as it is to put someone under suspecion for the color of their skin.

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