California Governor Announced
November 1, 2001 3:03 PM   Subscribe

California Governor Announced that there is a credible threat against the bridges of the state of California. Including the Golden Gate Bridge. The attacks are likely to take place between the second and ninth of November, during rush hour.
posted by yevge (57 comments total)

 
Davis said it would be up to commuters to decide whether or not they wanted to cross the bridges during the period in question.

So forcing people to use the bridge is off the table, then?
posted by rschram at 3:12 PM on November 1, 2001


The best preparation is to let the terrorists know we know what you're up to, we're ready, it's not going to succeed,'' Davis said

How on EARTH does that help? Ohhh...they'll be scared off now.
posted by aacheson at 3:21 PM on November 1, 2001


Yeah, so if something hasn't happened by the 10th then we sound the all-clear?
posted by barkingmoose at 3:22 PM on November 1, 2001


Now you folks in the North and East Bay can add "possible death by explosion" to your list for convincing your boss to let you telecommute.
posted by bradlauster at 3:23 PM on November 1, 2001


Would you try to blow up a california bridge now that every resource available to law enforcement is being used to stop you, aacheson?
posted by Doug at 3:24 PM on November 1, 2001


if the authorities were totally focused on the bridges, might you have an opportunity to blow up something else?
posted by rebeccablood at 3:27 PM on November 1, 2001


Doug, how exactly are they going to stop a terrorist? Check every car on the bridge...oh..just a few hundred thousand a day over the bay bridge alone.
Maybe it's a sham to divert the cops there while they do something else.
Yes, it's better that we know, but what can they do about it?
posted by aacheson at 3:28 PM on November 1, 2001


Let's hope elsewhere vigilance reigns as well.

I picture a semi-truck on the lower level of Seattle's ship canal bridge slamming on its brakes and detonating.

What does society do to thwart that? Inspections before any large truck crosses a bridge (massive traffic tie-ups)? What can be done?
posted by crasspastor at 3:28 PM on November 1, 2001


can everyone simply accept that despite all of the warnings and security and knowledge that there is going to be more terrorism and there's probably nothing we can do about it? there's only a certain level of security you can achieve w/o living in a police state and not leaving your home. it's sad but true. i'm going to live my life and try to be as aware of my surroundings as possible but i'm not going to stop living. now if i can use this as an excuse to stay home from work then maybe i'll do that. =)
posted by suprfli at 3:34 PM on November 1, 2001


All our bridge belong to them.
posted by hellinskira at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2001


Since 9.11, I've been saying that sea of cars totally stopped on the 405 (in LA) at rush hour every day is a sitting duck.
posted by owillis at 3:36 PM on November 1, 2001


Well, rschram, he's really saying that forcing people off the bridges wouldn't be feasible. I'm guessing they're going to be searching anything larger than a camper, and perhaps even banning semi-trucks and RVs ... a la GW Bridge and Hoover Dam precautions. It won't be very secret either way, aacheson.

Additionally, Doug, this means the eyes and ears of citizens will be looking out for related activity.

In the end this may just be another CYA announcement, as was said: damned if you do, damned if you don't.

My biggest worry is that this is an operational disclosure of disinformation, which would tell the Taliban cells how they're being monitored or another way to poke us and see how we react: left hand, right hand, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and all that. al-Qaeda has clearly learned a lot about cell-based networks, but I'm unsure how good they are at that level of gamesmanship.
posted by dhartung at 3:36 PM on November 1, 2001


Rebecca: Sure, but I hope they don't ignore the rest of the state and only look at bridges.
Aacheson: There may be thousands of vehicles on each bridge every day, but only a small percentage of those vehicles would be able to carry an explosive large enough to significantly damage a bridge. Basically, all I'm saying is that having the spotlight put on a target like this probably does drastically decrease the chances of a successful attack. Not eliminate, mind you, but I'd be more worried about the places we don't know are going to be attacked.
posted by Doug at 3:47 PM on November 1, 2001


Yeah, I suppose you're right, Doug. Good point.
dhartung, you also bring up a VERY good point. I'm sure our "sources" are getting very nervous.
posted by aacheson at 3:51 PM on November 1, 2001


But what about Todd,Beau, and Jeff Bridges?

Good God, has anyone even thought about protecting them?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:02 PM on November 1, 2001


Dhartung's point is taken, and my conspiracy weary brain remembers a scene in the movie Heat, when Al Pacino and his "gang of goodguys" were standing in a vacant lot, wondering what sort of bank heist was going to go on for many minutes, until Pacino realized "the heist was our identities, they've been tracking us, and they now understand how we operate."

Of course, any good FBI man would have watched a movie with both Bob and Al in it, even if it wasn't Godfather material. So saying, don't you think that people like the FBI would double think themselves, announce that we're protecting the bridges while stealthily protecting other areas, and capturing terrorists?

I want to get every single FBI, CIA, NSA, BATF &c man a neclace that says "WWID" (What would israel do?) and have them start thinking like Israeli's. They're not %100 effective at stopping terror, but they're still standing after all this time.
posted by swerdloff at 4:19 PM on November 1, 2001


But what about Todd,Beau, and Jeff Bridges?

The Bridges are in a secret, secured location along with the Veep...
posted by owillis at 4:30 PM on November 1, 2001


... what about Todd, Beau, and Jeff Bridges?

Nash will protect them... naturally
posted by tsarfan at 4:34 PM on November 1, 2001


I have to say it genuinely pleases me that we're taking this stuff in stride. My respect for our country has actually increased considerably since this unfortunate business started.

And nice segue on the Bridges brothers. :)
posted by donkeyschlong at 4:42 PM on November 1, 2001


It's true that many other nations (and not just those commonly considered "third world") live under the threat of terrorism, and survive. We will, too.

I'm not so sure I want our FBI emulating the Israelis, however. Frankly that makes me rather nervous. I think they'll do fine just being Americans - decent, thoughtful, hardworking ones, I hope.

As for the Bridge Brothers Three, I fear they may already have succumbed... to something... I mean, has anyone seen Beau at all lately? He's a goner for sure.
posted by mjane at 4:51 PM on November 1, 2001


what about boats going under the bridges?
posted by rebeccablood at 5:48 PM on November 1, 2001


rebeccablood: The bridges are pretty damn tall. You'd need a rather large bomb to damage them from the surface of the water. And the Coast Guard can feasibly use lots of drastic measures like making all large ships be under tugboat control while passing underneath them.

I don't see how they can hope to stop someone from renting a truck in Idaho, packing it full of explosives, driving it down here in the middle of the night, and blowing it up on the bridge.

Or rather, I can see how they can hope to stop someone (reporting of anyone buying lots of explosives, intercepting communications during the planning phase), but none of those methods are made any more effective by warning the public. I'm suprised to see this announcement.

I'm also glad I don't have to drive around San Francisco any time next week, as traffic is likely to be hellish.
posted by jaek at 6:04 PM on November 1, 2001


Regarding boats going under the bridge: This video segment from CNN answers a bit of that question.

Basically the report states that armed coast marshals board large ships (cargo, etc.) 12 miles off the coast and guard the captain/pilot as they enter the bay.
posted by mgtrott at 6:04 PM on November 1, 2001


Regarding my last post: This measure, of course seems to curtail captains (or hijakers) from ramming the actual ship into the bridge (rather than a bomb).
posted by mgtrott at 6:07 PM on November 1, 2001


ive been wondering - what this is all about - ....
much of the reason we are nation on the brink is due to our dependence on oil..... what do you think about boycotting oil from countries that have any support whatsoever to whatever form of terrorism... ???

start by walking the corner store - using public transport - shopping and living in your nieghborhood...

its our dollars that we spend at the pump... that are paying for what happened on sept. 11 and what is happening now...

if i lived in the bay - id get on my bike - take the ferry or the BART - the bay area so much sweeter on two wheels than four

thoughts?


thanks matt! :)


*lets start with boycotting oil that may fund terrorism... and then boycott oil from places like anwar
posted by specialk420 at 6:07 PM on November 1, 2001


well, we take public transport everywhere, but I'm still worried about travelling by BART under the bay during the designated time.
posted by rebeccablood at 6:18 PM on November 1, 2001


Fear not (or less, at least), because according to the video that Mena linked to, the threat was specific to suspension bridges. If you're concerned that a falling bridge could damage the tunnel, this map shows that the eastern portion of the tunnel is not underneath the bridge....though I don't know about the western portion. I imagine it must cross under the western span of the Bay Bridge at some point.
posted by bradlauster at 6:57 PM on November 1, 2001


only a small percentage of those vehicles would be able to carry an explosive large enough to significantly damage a bridge

I'm not sure this is accurate. With some care, wouldn't the quantity and type of explosives Ahmed Ressam tried to bring in from Canada (in a sedan trunk, to blow up LAX) be sufficient to cripple a bridge and possibly cause a lot of deaths?
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:02 PM on November 1, 2001


I guess I'm worried that the the terrorists will either change their target, or that the bridge thing was designed to attract everyone's attention to the wrong target.

what a world.
posted by rebeccablood at 7:14 PM on November 1, 2001


Zurishaddai, I actually have no idea how much explosives it would take to destroy a bridge. So, really, I dunno, I could be wrong. But I gotta believe it'll take more than a sedan trunk full.
Rebecca, if they're attracting attention away from a different target, I'm sure law enforcement would be just as likely to stop that attack even if they are paying extra attention to the bridges. They aren't going to send every FBI agent, and every cop in California to the Golden Gate Bridge.
And I think they want the terrorists to change targets. Destroying a bridge would kill thousands of people, and would devistate certain economies. If we make the highest profile targets the hardest to hit, we're limiting the terrorists to smaller targets.
posted by Doug at 7:50 PM on November 1, 2001


Destroying the Golden Gate bridge wouldn't be done to end a lot of lives. Destroying a bridge wouldn't kill thousands. It would totally disrupt that area, be extremely costly, and I can't imagine what the people in the city would do. It would totally disconnect the city, and the opening credits to Full House would never be the same.
posted by Mark at 7:59 PM on November 1, 2001


ive been wondering - what this is all about - ....
much of the reason we are nation on the brink is due to our dependence on oil..... what do you think about boycotting oil from countries that have any support whatsoever to whatever form of terrorism... ???
start by walking the corner store - using public transport - shopping and living in your nieghborhood...
if i lived in the bay - id get on my bike - take the ferry or the BART - the bay area so much sweeter on two wheels than four thoughts?


Then they're targetting the wrong city. I have a car (for now) but only move it for street sweeping. Many many many people I know don't have cars or rarely use them, utilizing SF's stellar public transportation instead.

That gives a bit more credence to the threats to the Vincent-St Thomas and Coronado where people drive their cars to the end of their driveway to get the paper.
posted by fooljay at 8:21 PM on November 1, 2001


Exactly, fooljay. The public transport system down here in La-La Land ranks somewhere between "ass" and "crap". Especially on the west side where the hoity-toitys NIMBYed the (already sorry) subway system. I fanyone attacks LA, I'm certain it would be car-based.
posted by owillis at 8:28 PM on November 1, 2001


Al Quaeda has thus far proved quite adept in its planning, and there's no reason to think they'll stop now.

On 9/11 Osama wanted to cause significant symbolic and economic damage. He did. He wanted to provoke an American war in Afghanistan. He did. (I agree with the war, by the way, but that doesn't mean I can't see that it was also something sought by the Al Quaeda strategy).

What would be the virtue of an attack on a big bridge? It would have relatively few casualties, would contribute nothing in terms of new symbolic victory, would cause a relatively minor direct economic effects (compared to the 9/11 effects), would not have any larger second-order effects (people are still going to keep communiting around their metro areas, since they simply cannot avoid doing so), and would be unlikely to change the military approach of the US in the mideast.

I think that the smart move is for the next attack to be either (a) significantly different in approach and target from, and hopefully attaining far larger casualties than, 9/11 -- to show that nothing and no one is safe or (b) as close as possible to a carbon copy of 9/11 -- to show that we are incapable of defending ourselves against even known threats.

As for the former, imagine what would happen if he could simultaneously blow up two major shopping malls on opposite sides of the country on the day after Thanksgiving? As for the latter, imagine what would happen if he could fly fully fueled 747s into the Sears Tower and the White House?

Bottom line: Osama needs America to look weak and also to be so newly outraged as to increase the scope and tempo of its attacks. Both of these things will encourage rebellion against pro-Western and/or pro-secular Arab and Muslim regimes, which is what Osama really wants in the end.
posted by MattD at 8:56 PM on November 1, 2001


It would have relatively few casualties, would contribute nothing in terms of new symbolic victory, would cause a relatively minor direct economic effects

Perhaps because I live in the North Bay and the GG Bridge is our lifeline to work and play, I can honestly say that destroying the bridge would be way more psychologically devastating than I could handle.

I hate to say it, but for me -- if the bridge was destroyed, I'd probably head for the hills. (Though some would say that Sonoma County already is the hills)

Sure, you don't want the terrorists to win, but at some point you just can't pretend to be brave when you're finally aware that America isn't as untouchable as you always thought.
posted by mgtrott at 9:10 PM on November 1, 2001


> utilizing SF's stellar public transportation instead.

Fooljay, I'm going to let this one slide, since I'm assuming you're using the expression "stellar" in comparison to LA or San Diego. I'd be hard pressed to call our pathetic excuse for a subway stellar in nearly any other context.

> What would be the virtue of an attack on a big bridge?
> It...would contribute nothing in terms of new symbolic
> victory

I totally disagree, but perhaps that's because I live in San Francisco. If the Golden Gate Bridge were destroyed by terrorists it would be a *huge* symbolic victory. It would be a slap in the face of this whole "war." It would show Americans that bombing Afghanistan has done nothing to prevent terror attacks on our soil.

Most importantly (from a terrorist perspective) it would inflict tremendous psychological damage on a very large portion of the US that "escaped" (by virtue of our distance from the initial attacks) the tangible horror of September 11.

As for it "would not have any larger second-order effects (people are still going to keep commuting around their metro areas, since they simply cannot avoid doing so)," perhaps you're not familiar with the geography of the Bay Area but damage to either of those bridges would be disastrous to the traffic flow. As it is, the Bay and GG bridges are packed during rush hour. Both serve different geographic areas, so using another bridge is not a simple option. Basically commuters would be more screwed than ever. Those bridges are the life-lines of the cities out here.

As for economic impact, while perhaps the toll wouldn't be as great as September 11, the destruction of a even a single bridge would be a blow to an area that's already suffering economically more than nearly any other area of the United States.

Though I hope that such a thing doesn't happen, I'm not sure how we could even prevent it short of closing the bridges, and if we do so, we effectively achieve the terrorists' goals.
posted by megnut at 9:28 PM on November 1, 2001


I lived in Berkeley for 5 years so I know my way around, and I know that damaging the Golden Gate Bridge would be a significant symbolic defeat and very annoying to people living in Marin. (The OBB's destruction would have a bigger economic effect because it is a critical commerce and transport link for all of Northern California; the GBB is not.)

My suggestion is that this would not have the MAGNITUDE effect of either repeating an airliner-big target attack, or of attacking a large population concentration of a mundane -- as opposed to conspicuous -- character.

The GBB or other big bridges are of a class with the WTC and the Pentagon -- landmarks, sui generis, obvious targets, places we can feel safe if we can avoid them. Hitting the Stanford Mall and the Mall at Short Hills on the same day -- that would truly hit all Americans where we live. Bringing the attack to the mundane makes the terror a part of our lives -- and makes the average American start to say, "what the hell, let's just nuke Mecca."
posted by MattD at 9:39 PM on November 1, 2001


Rebeccablood may be on to something. A 40' Swan loaded with explosives detonated at the base of the one of the towers of the Golden Gate could cause some serious damage. Maybe not so much on the Bay Bridge, but I hope the coast guard stops sail boats from going under the spans for a while.
posted by culberjo at 9:42 PM on November 1, 2001


I live in Marin and take the GGB almost every day. I can see the Richmond-San Rafael bridge out my front window. There are Coast Guard (and SFPD) boats all over the bay. Any ship larger than a rowboat is getting attention from them when it approaches one of the bridges. I was also worried about this, and the very next day (about 2 weeks ago) the SF Chronicle ran a major article on security on the water. I was reassured that they had thought of things that didn't even occur to me. Besides which, only pureblood capitalists sail Swans. Terrorists sail J-Boats.
posted by JParker at 10:17 PM on November 1, 2001


If they do strike any particular suspension bridge in the West (and, while I hope beyond hope that it doesn't happen, after the many false alarms I'm pretty damned reluctant to capitulate my life to this "real and credible information" horse puckey that only serves to pour gasoline upon a fiery aftermath of our own making), it would be the Golden Gate. When you consider the 21 years it took to build the thing, amidst harsh ocean currents and gales and the determination of architect Joseph Strauss to continue with the project come hell or high water, you're dealing with a pretty salable commodity for destruction. It would be the southpaw knocking down the heavyweight with the surprise jab: taking down a pair of skyscrapers, followed, just as we're getting back on our feet, by one of the 20th century's engineering miracles, completely disrupting one of the main jugulars in an impacted and flagrantly outmoded highway system.

If the "unbuildable bridge" is taken out, it will be a major transportation, economic and logistical nightmare. After a few weeks of trying to find a quick and efficient way to hustle cars moving south and City-working passengers onto ferries again (the ultimate pre-1937 throwback, with more impact than we can possibly imagine) for those who won't be able to migrate their way through the Maze or backtrack their way over to I-5, and with the economy slowed down to something beyond inoperable, this hypothetically deranged victory will be considerably more than "symbolic."

I'm also surprised that Fort Point, designed to protect the Bay from any hostile fleet during the 19th century, hasn't been mentioned. That aquatic opening has had a lot of history, much of it governed by humankind against Nature. When you consider the rugged individual spirit within America, the pigheaded elan that got us to the West, wouldn't the Golden Gate be the ultimate way to punch us in the gonads?
posted by ed at 2:00 AM on November 2, 2001


Maybe they'll have to build a real Golden Gate Tunnel.
posted by brownpau at 2:33 AM on November 2, 2001


Maybe they'll have to build a real Golden Gate Tunnel.

Right.

Because tunnels are indestructible. (Granted, the link isn't exactly to an authoritative source. But he did win an Oscar once!)
posted by Sinner at 5:29 AM on November 2, 2001


destroying the bridge would be way more psychologically devastating than I could handle. I hate to say it, but for me -- if the bridge was destroyed, I'd probably head for the hills.

*LOL*.. it's just a bridge. Arnt you worried about Earthquakes?
posted by stbalbach at 5:51 AM on November 2, 2001


What does society do to thwart that? Inspections before any large truck crosses a bridge (massive traffic tie-ups)? What can be done?

How about seeking out and killing the leadership of such a barbarous operation hiding in Afghanistan? And hunting down and killing those operatives already inside this country. Oh, no. Can't do that. Might miss and hit an Afghan civillian. Oh well. Bye Bye Golden Gate.
posted by darren at 6:00 AM on November 2, 2001


Blowing up a shopping mall would be pretty tough. A suicide bomber could certainly take out a few people but malls cover a large area. "blowing one up" would take quite a large amount of explosives.

A bridge, on the other hand, would just take a relativly small amount of explosives in the RIGHT place to bring the whole thing down.

Bottom line is, there's nothing we can do. Any one of us can sit back and think of a number of scenarios where a terrorist could take out a large number of people.
posted by bondcliff at 7:50 AM on November 2, 2001


Rebeccablood may be on to something. A 40' Swan loaded with explosives detonated at the base of the one of the towers of the Golden Gate could cause some serious damage. Maybe not so much on the Bay Bridge, but I hope the coast guard stops sail boats from going under the spans for a while.

I saw this on the news last night that the Coast Guard is patrolling, making sure that boats that go under the bridges are identified, and that the bridge (the boat's "bridge", that is) is under control.

Scary shit. On 9/11 I said something about this, that they may attack a bridge (I travel across the Ben Franklin every day in Philly and am scared shitless as it is...I admit it, I am a...pussy? scrot? whatever...). I hope they don't say "well, now that SF is guarded, howzabout Philly? Or anywhere, for that matter.
posted by adampsyche at 7:58 AM on November 2, 2001


I just think any attack anywhere would really screw up America. Everyone would just get that hopeless feeling of there is nothing we can do. We have thousands of agents out there, we're bombing their camps, yet they still struck again.
posted by Mark at 8:15 AM on November 2, 2001


There is something we can do but it will take another attack or two before we get tough enough to do it.

The only way to assure our safety is to put political correctness aside. We know the profile of the people we're looking for. We need to thoroughly question any non-citizen who fits that profile.

I don't like it either, but it needs to be done.
posted by bondcliff at 8:19 AM on November 2, 2001


Righto, Darren, we better tell W to hurry up! He's gotta do all of that by next week I guess.

bondcliff: What are you talking about, man? Thoroughly question?
"Are you a terrorist?"
"No."
You're not going to blow up the bridge?"
"No."
"You swear?"
posted by Doug at 8:32 AM on November 2, 2001


We know the profile of the people we're looking for. We need to thoroughly question any non-citizen who fits that profile.

Do we? What is this profile?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2001


Something like that, Doug.

More like: "You're a non US citizen of middle eastern origin. You're a male between the ages of 18 and 40. You've been in this country less than 10 years. Meet Mr. Man in Black. He's going to do a background check on you and if everything turns out ok, you can be on your way. If everythign doesn't turn out ok, we're going to send you off to summer camp. We're sorry it has to come to this but people are crashing airplanes into buildings and threatening to blow up bridges. We've decided that the safety of the majority of US Citizens is far more important than being polite to you. Have a nice day."

Sucks, doesn't it? Yep. So does being afraid to drive over a bridge.
posted by bondcliff at 8:39 AM on November 2, 2001


*LOL*.. it's just a bridge. Arnt you worried about Earthquakes?

There is a slight difference between a group of individuals destroying the bridge and a natural occurence.

Besides, if an earthquake of that magnitiude struck, I'm sure I'd have a lot of other things to worry about.
posted by mgtrott at 9:28 AM on November 2, 2001


jaek: I'm also glad I don't have to drive around San Francisco any time next week, as traffic is likely to be hellish.

*ahem*
posted by pudders at 9:38 AM on November 2, 2001


Drive. You know, four wheels, seatbelt, traffic laws.
posted by jaek at 11:20 AM on November 2, 2001


I see. As opposed to ride. Splitting lanes, running lights, shrieking into your helmet. Looking forward to it.
posted by pudders at 11:35 AM on November 2, 2001


Fooljay, I'm going to let this one slide, since I'm assuming you're using the expression "stellar" in comparison to LA or San Diego. I'd be hard pressed to call our pathetic excuse for a subway stellar in nearly any other context.

Yep, it's all relative. SF has the best public transportation of any place that I've ever lived (New Orleans, Austin, Houston, Santa Barbara, Long Beach)

YMMOfCourseV

So if one of the bridges gets destroyed and commuters are stranded on the other side, would it be easier to find a job for those of us who live in the city?
posted by fooljay at 3:22 PM on November 2, 2001


bondcliff -

no one wants to say or think this - but i think this approach is in the back of many of our minds.... and at the bar last night was expressed nearly verbatim by my usually very liberal gang of friends. if/when more bad stuff goes down - im betting we see something like this happen -

if north cal gets to be too much - id suggest southern chile
posted by specialk420 at 8:25 AM on November 3, 2001


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