Original article available here
It's interesting (or maybe just kind of sad) that various government agencies see possible terrorists everywhere but rarely, if ever, catch one. Despite the large number of personnel being thrown at the problem (along with lots of money), actual terrorists seem to be in limited supply.
But these agencies haven't let their lack of success temper their vision of a nation under constant imminent attack. Public Intelligence recently posted a Powerpoint presentation from the NYC fire department (FDNY) discussing the unique safety issues mobile food trucks present. Along with some actual concerns (many food trucks use propane and/or gasoline-powered generators to cook; some *gasp* aren't properly licensed food vendors), the presenter decided to toss in some DHS speculation on yet another way terrorists might be killing us in the near future.
That's right. Instead of serving up a quick hot meal, these food trucks will be serving up death, and lots of it! Under the heading "Terrorist Implications," the FDNY lists the exact reasons we should be concerned, most of which begin with the word "high."
While any terrorist organization worth its twisted ideology would do well to nail down as much of this list as possible, so would any vendor who wished to stay in business. The question is: how do you differentiate between the two? One answer might be to sort through the data collected by all the food truck terrorism incidents up to this point. (American's fusion centers would like to remind you that zero incidents only means we're due, rather than indicating a terrorist-free trend.)
But there's more! The next slide continues to lay out the "Terrorism Implications," this time reminding first responders that food trucks have large quantities of deadly liquids (propane, gasoline) and are "easily concealed" (which I assume refers to the potential explosives, rather than the truck itself... but you can never be TOO sure). Also, food bombers will usually be in the proximity of "crowds" (gasp!) and "sidewalks" (wha...?).
Dammit, now the terrorists have gone too far! It's one thing to blow up our crowds. It's quite another to ruthlessly attack our infrastructure, the very thing that keeps our precious crowds from milling about on the lawn and/or street!
But (dear lord) there's even more! According to the DHS, food carts make "excellent surveillance platforms" because of all the "high" stuff they can park next to for long periods of time. (Has anyone considered knocking on the door and having a quick look around, especially during business hours?) And I'm pretty sure they're not allowed to just park wherever they want for indefinite periods of time, at least not in New York City. There are 8 million laws in the Naked City, none of which are accommodating to the small businessman/woman "stealing" customers away from established restaurants paying exorbitant amounts per square foot every month.
But beyond that, why go through the expense of constructing a food truck when you can just rent a U-Haul, fill it full of explosives and ram it into the nearest high-rise/government building? Unless the DHS figures these terrorists are in it for the long haul, suckering people in with weeks or months of delicious ethnic food before parking across the nearest heavily-trafficked sidewalk and blowing everything up in an explosion of propane and proprietary blends of herbs and spices. Also, does it not occur to them that if you want to keep your terrorist activities hidden, it's probably not the smartest thing to set yourself up as a vehicle that people line up to look inside?
The DHS' unfocused "terrorvision" continues to see a threat in every situation and the department seems to be busying itself crafting a response to every conceivable "threat." The problem with this "method" is that it turns any slight variation of "everyday activity" into something suspicious. The number of "terrorist implications" grows exponentially while the number of solutions remains the same. This Powerpoint is another example of good, old-fashioned fear mongering, utilizing public servants to spread the message.
At no point does this presentation offer anything resembling preemptive action or deterrents. All it does is paint a picture of food trucks as potential threats before concluding with, of all things, common sense safety tips aimed at dealing with food truck fires. The final slide paints the picture in the clearest terms, letting the viewer know exactly whose agenda is being pushed:
Prepared by Lt. Timothy Carroll
FDNY Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness
The priorities are all screwed up. Terrorism is the first concern. Everything else is secondary. Considering this is an FDNY presentation, you'd think that "Disaster Preparedness" would be the priority. After all, they are the first response. But instead that honor goes to the vague menace of terrorism, a constant battle with no winners and, for the most part, no combatants. Every day without a terrorist act is a "win" that perpetuates the "need" for more counter-terrorist "efforts."