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Homeland Security Discovers Pipelines – And Misses the Point

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AirportHomeland Security Is Shocked! Shocked!

JFK Pipeline Threat – Big Surprise To TSA

The press conferences were peppered with terms like “unimagined destruction” and “as big as 9/11” and a whole lot of other superlatives regarding the attempt on the fuel systems at JFK International. Local police, the FBI, politicians were all there, expressing shock and awe.

We’re Still Reacting. Not Anticipating. The really scary part was not the plot itself. What was scary was the fact that all of these officials expressed surprise regarding the plot.

And that, friends, is yet another irrefutable proof that our aviation security is a negligent disgrace. See, the whole objective of security is to NOT get surprised. The idea is to think ahead of terrorists. An attempt to blow up fuel facilities is not something that takes a rich imagination or a doctorate in criminal science to anticipate.

But since 9/11, terrorists have delighted in giving us surprises. When it comes to aviation security, the folks in the Bush Administration are like kids in a circus – there’s no end to the amount of wonder and surprise they experience. Of course, the Democrat leaders in Congress are “surprised” too, and at every photo op are today trumpeting how they’re going to look into this pipeline thing with, yes! – hearings. Great, after the event, they’re going to take action by doing a C-SPAN show. This from the party that doesn’t really care how bad airport screening is, just as long as it’s unionized bad screening.

It’s been trumpeted that various law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies are now scouring the fuel pipeline system in the New York area to make sure it’s secure. Nice they thought about it only after they caught a bunch of Islamic terrorists (yes, it needs to be said, Islamic terrorists) in the planning process.

Missing The Real Damage Threat. This is not to discount the hard work of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in stopping this event, but there are some very disturbing points here. One was the implication that one bomb and the entire miles of pipeline would explode, taking whole neighborhoods with it. Not accurate. This means there was a lack of understanding – and underestimation – of the nature and the vulnerability of pipeline facilities.

That also indicates that little or no hard, anticipative security planning has been done at all regarding the value of these types of infrastructure as a terrorist target. This time, the suspects appear to be what one reporter at the Newark Star-Ledger described as “armchair jihadists.” Next time, it could be professionally trained individuals on a suicide mission who have a firm understanding of the economic damage that could be inflicted.

Pipelines – particularly those carrying jet fuel – are not necessarily one long potential bomb. Unless the entire system was booby-trapped with probably dozens of explosives along its entire length, the blast damage would have been mostly confined to the area where the explosion took place. If it were a fuel storage tank it might have been a huge fire and explosion, but it would have remained relatively localized. But the most disturbing point is that it’s only now, years after 9/11, and apparently only after an informant tip, that pipelines are seen as a target. The blast damage is the least of what would be inflicted.

Jet fuel pipelines are the supply arteries to the air transportation system. Cut any substantial part of it, and air transport goes into a tail spin. It’s not rocket science. Any comprehensive, professional airport vulnerability analysis would illuminate it. But that’s miles from anything done by Homeland Security, an organization run at the top by W’s buddies and other political appointees. Planning comprehensive, aggressive, and anticipative security programs is light years beyond their ability. The reaction to this latest plot proves it.

For the benefit and edification of DHS and the TSA, such a program would
include things like the following:


This schematic gives an idea of the scope of what a comprehensive, anticipative security approach needs to address. Note, this includes fuel farms and fuel pipelines. Protecting these is just common sense – sort of Security 101, a class that the Bush Administration and Congress have not bothered to attend. Chertoff and Hawley are too busy to pay attention, what with PR stunts like “registered traveler” schemes and making sure nobody has more than 3 ounces (or, again, is it 3.4 ounces?)
of toothpaste in the coach cabin.

We would point out that unlike most of the grave comments being made this week by Homeland Security and last-minute “experts” about “total airport security” (a concept which they just discovered), this schematic isn’t something we just now put together. It’s part of a presentation from over four years ago, and which has been on this website since then. A link at the bottom of the page can take you there.

It’s Not The Explosion That Does The Real Damage. It’s been noted here, and by others since 9/11, that the system that supplies fuel to our major airports is not only vulnerable, but also fragile beyond belief. One reason is that jet fuel has become somewhat of a pariah among petroleum products when it comes to pipelines. For a variety of reasons, it’s more profitable for pipeline companies to ship gasoline, diesel fuel, and other products through a system that has not had any real capacity increases in three decades. That gives a whole new meaning to the term “highest and best use.”

Toss in other issues like the potential for jet fuel to leave in the pipelines what are now considered to be contaminants to the new low-sulfur diesel fuels, and the result is that jet-A isn’t real welcome as a pipeline customer. So there aren’t many alternatives for jet fuel distribution should the current system get zapped by a terrorist attack. Or, even more locally, by the idiot with a backhoe installing a cable line.

So if the existing jet fuel pipelines are destroyed – say, in a plot to attack five or six major hubsite airports – the air transportation system could literally begin to shut down within days. That’s because, again, there is no adequate alternative system that can deliver fuel to these major airports in the event the pipelines are damaged or destroyed. Tanker trucks? Nope – there’s nowhere near any such excess truck capacity at major cities to funnel, say, one million gallons of jet-A, every day to a mid-size hub airport. Even if the existing inventory of tanker rolling stock could be immediately diverted and converted to supplying jet fuel to airports, it would leave gas stations high and dry, not to mention, if it’s winter, nobody to deliver heating oil. Even then, the costs of establishing an alternative emergency supply system would substantially increase the price of jet fuel.

Like the above schematic, The Boyd Group has covered these points at its various conferences over the past five years. These are not new concepts. Except maybe to the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s The New Cause Celebre. So, this week will be showtime. The issue of airports’ “back doors” will suddenly be a hot topic. Every pandering clown running for the White House will have an opinion, and will carefully find some cogent reason why it’s their opponent’s fault. A lot of the media will carefully edit stories to cut out any use of the word “Islamic” (we must be politically correct), and there will be a flood of media interviews with apartment dwellers who live near a pipeline, scared out of their wits that one late night they may instantly become crispy critters when the thing blows up. But, rest easy. Normalcy will reign. Nothing substantive will be done. That’s because there’s nobody substantive running Homeland Security.

Before 9/11, Red Team reports of airport security failures were doctored or suppressed by FAA Administrators, so they never became public knowledge. Today, we don’t have that excuse. Time and again, we are shown massive gaps in our security systems, such as this pipeline event, and the people in charge simply get away with it. Worse, virtually everyone in positions of power within the air transportation industry know the truth, but most say nothing.

On 9/11, we were caught unaware. Next time, we’re just going to be deer in the terrorist’s headlights.

Click here to connect to the 2002 Presentation on what needed to be done then to secure our airports, but hasn’t been done yet.

(c) 2007, The Boyd Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved