Gas…and lots of it, pumped into the crowded New York City Subway system.
Relax. We’re not talking about another terrorist attack – at least not yet.
But the NYPD wants to be prepared, which is why the department plans to conduct a controlled release of harmless gas into the underground tubes and stations this summer…to learn how a poison gas would spread through the transit system in a real attack.
“What the public will see is perhaps as many as 200 detection devices. It’ll be done on three nonconsecutive days in July. Those days will be determined by weather conditions”, said NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Nick Casale is a former NYPD Detective and former deputy director of Counter-Terrorism at the MTA.
His assessment of law enforcement’s ability to prevent a terrorist attack in the subway system…is not encouraging.
“The subway system is a porous system. It can never be completely defended. The subways, the marathons – or any large gathering, will still occur. However we can’t take draconian measures. We can place undercover officers in the crowd, we could look at people. We could search packages.”
But none of those precautions provide a blueprint for preventing this kind of terrorist attack.
In fact, police in Tokyo were caught off guard in 1995, when a group of suspects released toxic sarin gas on several lines of the subway system. 13-people died…and some fifty others were injured.
A 2012 federally funded report by the Mineta Transportation Institute explored more than a dozen attacks on public transportation.
Like the Boston Marathon…underground rail stations are indeed soft targets.
The report acknowledges the obvious: “The enclosed subway system would have provided an ideal venue for a chemical attack.”
“The ability of a terrorist to discharge some kind of contaminant in eh system is very easy”, said Casale.