Announcing: Movie-Plot Threat Contest

NOTE: If you have a blog, please spread the word.

For a while now, I have been writing about our penchant for “movie-plot threats“: terrorist fears based on very specific attack scenarios. Terrorists with crop dusters, terrorists exploding baby carriages in subways, terrorists filling school buses with explosives—these are all movie-plot threats. They’re good for scaring people, but it’s just silly to build national security policy around them.

But if we’re going to worry about unlikely attacks, why can’t they be exciting and innovative ones? If Americans are going to be scared, shouldn’t they be scared of things that are really scary? “Blowing up the Super Bowl” is a movie plot to be sure, but it’s not a very good movie. Let’s kick this up a notch.

It is in this spirit I announce the (possibly First) Movie-Plot Threat Contest. Entrants are invited to submit the most unlikely, yet still plausible, terrorist attack scenarios they can come up with.

Your goal: cause terror. Make the American people notice. Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy. Change the political landscape, or the culture. The more grandiose the goal, the better.

Assume an attacker profile on the order of 9/11: 20 to 30 unskilled people, and about $500,000 with which to buy skills, equipment, etc.

Post your movie plots here on this blog.

Judging will be by me, swayed by popular acclaim in the blog comments section. The prize will be an autographed copy of Beyond Fear. And if I can swing it, a phone call with a real live movie producer.

Entries close at the end of the month—April 30—so Crypto-Gram readers can also play.

This is not an April Fool’s joke, although it’s in the spirit of the season. The purpose of this contest is absurd humor, but I hope it also makes a point. Terrorism is a real threat, but we’re not any safer through security measures that require us to correctly guess what the terrorists are going to do next.

Good luck.

EDITED TO ADD (4/4): There are hundreds of ideas here.

EDITED TO ADD (4/22): Update here.

Posted on April 1, 2006 at 9:35 AM972 Comments


Juergen Nieveler April 1, 2006 10:28 AM

Nobody can beat that decade-old plot: Set your 20-30 terrorists loose with plastic syringes filled with salmonellea – infecting the salad bars at restaurants all over the US. The resulting epidemic won’t kill that many people – but think about a few million people all flushing their toilet at the same time due to diarrhea… the amount of water shifted will cause untold damage to the sewers, and send seismic shockwaves that will topple the statue of liberty 😉

Pete Sears April 1, 2006 11:13 AM

The Premise: soviet era physicist are going missing and so is nuclear material. Naturally it must be those pesky A-rabs!

The Gaff: Captain Nemo’s Grandson is ready to wreak horrible vengeance on the surface world. He’s acquired enough weapons grade material to create a series of nuclear weapons which he will link in a circular chain beneath the arctic ice.
The detonation of which would cause massive flooding and environmental damage of an unprecedented scale.

Naturally, Nemo and his handpicked society of geniuses would be safely ensconced in their undersea society beneath the Bermuda Triangle.

Who can stop this Madness!

(Get Cameron to direct, he’s got the experience.)

jepler April 1, 2006 11:16 AM

Movie plot 1: Terrorists wait for an unusually dry season, then set as many brush and forest fires as they can, not only causing the deaths of many people in the parks, but over the following years claiming 100 times as many lives in additional respiratiory complications.

Movie plot 2: Terrorists develop a tiny RF device that will disable computer avionics systems on commercial aircraft. Easily concealed, they plant them in over 100 planes during normal flights, as well as in fedex “next daiy air” packages to an additional 100 destinations. They activate all the devices and bring down these 200 planes, many of them as they pass over major population centers.

Movie plot 3: Terrorists use unsolicited bulk e-mail (“spam”) which contain messages urging the recipient to kill everyone around them. While most people will realize the email is not genuine, a small fraction will simply take the message at face value, and go on shooting rampages.

Move plot 4: Terrorists train as engineers, and get jobs in the automobile industry designing the braking hardware and software systems of all major world automakers. They include a date-based “logic bomb” which will deactivate the brakes in all post-2003 cars and small trucks at 1AM local time, Janary 1, 2007 when everyone’s driving drunk already.

John Moore April 1, 2006 11:29 AM

Terrorists hire on a Liquid Propane Tanker as crewmen. Hijack vessel as it nears the offshore offloading station. Sail tanker into major port and detonate the LPG onboard. Causes massive damage provided they can get near port facilities like refineries and such. Since just attacking a refinery in Saudi Arabia caused the price of gas to go up. Such an attack should also cause panic on the commodities market even if unsuccessful.

astronut April 1, 2006 11:33 AM

Terrorists use MySpace and other websites to get in touch with misguided teens. They help supply them with weapons and supplies and organize dozens of school shootings simultaniously.

Eugene Ciurana April 1, 2006 11:35 AM

Hi Bruce!

I actually have a plot in this vein. The story is ‘high concept’: One of Nikola Tesla’s inventions was this “weapon to end war”, early in the 20th century. The stuff that in real life the FBI confiscated upon his death. In my plot, some bad guys manage to obtain the plans, build the weapon, and plan to do Very Bad Things with it.

This applies to this posting because in my story, like in real life, the bad guys use innocuous technology to build something very dangerous and lethal. In real life, there is tremendous oversight of exotic things like nuclear materials… some guys building a weapon with 100-year-old tech aren’t going to raise any eyebrows. A similar thing could happen where the bad guys use bio weapons, or off-the-shelf industrial equipment to build lethal devices. Cyberwarfare has a relatively low cost of entry, etc.

So… here’s my plot description:

The deadliest weapon ever was invented over a century ago by a genius equal to Einstein. It’s more powerful than a nuclear blast and more lethal than all biochemical weapons… so dangerous that the U.S. government seized its plans and buried them in a vault in 1943.

Until now.

The most sinister organization in history has stolen the plans to rebuild it.

The Rebirth Alliance will use the weapon to defeat the free world. Francis Montagnet, a former undercover agent, and doctor Varenka Ulyanova, race to stop the Rebirth Alliance across two continents before this destructive device becomes operational.

Will the daring Francis Montagnet and the brilliant doctor Varenka stop the Rebirth Alliance from firing the weapon and annihilating millions of people?

At your local bookstore on 10.Oct.2006 – Thanks and cheers!


Mr. Diarhetic April 1, 2006 11:37 AM

Terrorists discover the musical note that will make all listeners release their bowels. Taking over the production of American Idol by use of sleeper agents planted in Hollywood to lend it a liberal bias and make people sympathic to [Nazi|Soviet|Islamofascist] (delete as appropriate).

Through this, they engineer that the final edition finishing song incorporates the note, thereby sending the entire American populace rushing to their toilets and flushing at the same time. This depletes the resevoirs to such an extent that millions suffer from dehydration and its’ associated illnesses. In the ensuing madness, the Terrorists take over the white house.

The only people who can save America are the hippie tree huggers in Oregon who don’t own televisions and have routed rainwater collectors to their toilet cisterns. But! Will they have the moral fortitude to stand up for their country and defend it when the SUV owning consumerist Americans they hate need them so badly?

Mr. Diarhetic April 1, 2006 11:41 AM

Actually, further to my previous post (diarrhea brought about by American Idol: not too unlikely now I think about it), to prevent it the gubmint would need to crush all indy music channels and only allow music provided by government approved entities, so that the dreaded note doesn’t get heard. It’s for your own safety, people. So, here’s the latest from Britney Aguilera, folks, it’s government approved!

roy April 1, 2006 11:58 AM

Exploding nuns: A bunch of adults (clean-shaven males wearing makeup, or females) dress up as nuns to hide their super-sized suicide vests. Without credentials and without being searched, they can walk into any school, parochial or public, or any religious building, or any other public place, and move to the center of a crowd to detonate. After the initial shock, the public will be terrified of nuns.

Exploding clowns: See ‘Exploding nuns’

SWAT Surprise: A team of men decked out in SWAT gear, heavily armed, have a truck painted appropriately but carrying a truck bomb. The team can penetrate anything anywhere without credentials or searches, machine-gunning people trying to escape the carnage of the truck bomb. A couple dozen of these striking across the nation will make the public fear SWAT, and be wary of any police.

Bomb Scare with a Twist: At the target building, preferably holding thousands of people, a dummy bomb is planted and a bomb threat called in. The object is to see where the evacuated people concentrate. The actual attack starts days later with a bomb threat, followed by an exploding squib, forcing evacuation out to the concentration areas, where, subsequently, half the car bombs are detonated. When emergency services arrive, the other half of the car bombs are detonated.

The Trouble with Air Freight: The terrorists ship to themselves by air freight innocuous packages that will log altitude against time, teaching them the day of week and time of day at each shipping point to get the package in the air for a preset weekday and time. Then, for Trouble Day, they ship hundreds of bombs by air freight, timed to go off about the same time. Most will be in the air when they go, taking out hundreds of airliners and air freighters.

Gasoline Glut: A gasoline tanker holds about 25 tons of fuel. No one would pay much attention to and extra 100 such trucks moving onto Manhattan Island one morning. At the preset time, the drivers would stop their trucks, start pumping fuel onto the streets and into sewers, set off igniters, and run. FDNY would be overwhelmed by 100 such fires, so most fires would burn freely, causing building fires, which in turn would cause collapses, adding fuel to the fires, and within days Manhattan would burn to the ground.

Ubiquitous Forties: Forty-foot shipping containers abound in New York City and few are ever inspected. A hundred of these could each hold 20 tons of explosives and a timer. On Detonation Day, at about the same time, they all detonate. The neighboring buildings will come apart and catch fire. FDNY will be overwhelmed, and most fires will spread unchecked, collapsing more buildings, exposing more fuel, and over days Manhattan will burn to the ground.

Burning Los Angeles: Unless there’s rain in the forecast, any day will be a good day for brushfires. Early in the morning on D-Day, start a hundred brush fires, helped by morning breezes, which will pull most firefighting resources away from the heavily populated areas. Midday, start hundreds of fires in the populated areas, too many for the firefighters to get to. Evening breezes will help spread these. Evacuees will jam the freeways, further impeding everything.

dml April 1, 2006 12:15 PM

In a time of peace, no one expects the unexpected. A nation’s children at risk from the ones they trust the most. Tiny cartons of doom await them in our finest institutions. The enemy knows no bounds, unburdened by the (hair)nets the government tries to throw around them.

Coming this summer: The Lunchlady.

Beware the tots.

Andy April 1, 2006 1:04 PM

Does it really matter what the actual threat is? All you have to do is write into the plot that people panic and feel threatened (thus adding the drama).

Terrorists break into water treatment plants and taint the water with the chemical sodium cloride, causing the boiling point to the raised. Everyone’s coffee, tea, and pasta takes longer to make, thereby slowing down the economy.

Andre Merzky April 1, 2006 1:06 PM

“Assume an attacker profile on the order of 9/11: 20 to 30 unskilled people, and about $500,000 with which to buy skills, equipment, etc.”

Well, I can make it cheaper: One Terrorists impersonates a son of a former US president, after some cosmetic surgery ($100.000).

Hmm, I could stop here – the rest is clear, isn’t it?

Anyway, for the fun of it…

The rest of money and a lot of influence get him ‘elected’, and he implements a foreign ‘politics’ which, with the moderate cost of x0.000++ lives from an al-Qaeda unfriendly muslim country (!),
– puts the US into war which cannot be won
– berefts the US of many international alliances
– costs HUGE amounts of money, human lives, misery, …

Well, the plot ignores Afghanistan, I know.

Also, the huge amount of money: did you ever think about where that money is going to, literally? Consider what is payed with that money: its mostly bombs and airplanes and ships and bullets and rockets and and and. So, the money goes to the producers of these. Your war is so fucking expensive, since you move your tax money into your upper-10.000’s bank accounts. Doh, I have no clue why americans actually think thats a good idea…

I am getting distracted from the plot. Actually, please don’t make a movie out of it, its to close to fu…ing reality 🙁

Peace, Andre.

PS.: Kudos to this blog (incl. its commentors) – I learn a lot here…

Evan April 1, 2006 1:10 PM

I’ve always wondered why they always go after high-profile targets. Remember the whole country freaking out when that sniper was just targeting random people? Imagine if terrorists just started parking bombs outside of random, middle-class suburban houses…

On a more humourous note, I also like an idea I saw on Crooked Timber a while back ( “Look to the man’s own site: ‘Hugh Hewitt is the Jack Bauer of talk radio and the blogosphere.’ This is actually a good idea for a show. ‘In the next 24 hours, terrorists will make a major strike against an American city. The only thing between all of us, and just a few of them … is a complacent, partisan hack.’”

JR April 1, 2006 1:26 PM

plot 1: Nail fields on highway during a rush hour. Terrorists with a car spraying nails all around.
Attacks repeated daily for a few moths.
Massive disruptions due to traffic collapse.

plot 2: A massive saw placed across a highway.
A cutting chain would be spanning across the whole highway moving at a high speed and cutting all cars at bout head height. The whole saw apparatus would be autonomous and traveling around leaving behind path of destruction.

plot 3: Terrorists cyberattack a government infrastructure and send all money from military budget towards Education an health care while framing few politicians. Economy is disrupted as there is enormous amount of many spent. A military coup ensues, because soldiers are not paid. A civil war starts.

Carlo Graziani April 1, 2006 1:34 PM

Terrorist team posing as tour group takes over the Radio Astronomy Facility at Arecibo. They hook up the Megawatt transmitter to the dish, put it in Interplanetary Radar mode (which can deliver 24 TW Equivalent Radiated Power in a narrow beam), and start frying communication satellites. They take some pot shots at GPS satellites as well. For extra credit, they black out the International Space Station, and maybe a Shuttle as well, assuming it has returned to flight and not crashed of its own accord. The U.S. economy collapses, as advertisers can no longer peddle wares in proximity to “American Idol”.


Terrorists posing as labor organizers foment a strike at UPS, and keep it going for months, taking tens of G$ out of the U.S. economy, which collapses on cue.

Chris April 1, 2006 1:41 PM

Geez, what’s everybody thinking? Take 30 suicide bombers, have them go into 30 Walmarts around the country on a Saturday morning around Christmas, and blow up at the checkout lines.

Now that’s a terror plot – it’s personal because there a Walmart in every town, and it would affect the economy because people would be afraid to go shopping.

I don’t now how great a movie it would be – and wouldn’t be great product placement for Walmart.

Michael Higgins April 1, 2006 1:43 PM

So, supposedly, one of these days the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma will erupt, dropping a huge chunk of the island into the ocean. This will, the theory goes, cause a mega tsunami that will engulf the east coast of the U.S., with predictable movie disaster results.

You can read all about it here.

Anyway, why wait? Spend your $500k on a lot of explosive and place a charge in just the right spot to trigger the island ahead of schedule. Now, depending on the subgenre of the movie, you might try to actually trigger the volcano (kind of sci-fi), or maybe you’d try to buy an old Soviet warhead and smuggle it to the island (more James Bond), or maybe you’d just use a lot of high power conventional explosives.

Of course, I’m fairly certain that in real life you can’t buy enough explosive to create a big enough bang to make this work for only $500k. But what do I know?

Matt Wagner April 1, 2006 2:00 PM

Cleverly disguised explosive devices smuggled into the Indy 500 stands, to be detonated while the race is underway. Lots of VIPs, lots of people, and an attack at one of the most “American” events in the world, and one with a lot of love in the american cultural psyche.

Matt Wagner April 1, 2006 2:03 PM

And before someone asks about the economic affects…ask someone how much Indianapolis is geared around the race? It’s a pretty scary amount. Plus the VIPs of various corporations being smoked.

moz April 1, 2006 2:15 PM

come on… “geeks” we may be, but let’s at least try.

Byword: we thought we would get mars, all we got was death.

The year is 2027; President bush the 3rd is near the end of her first term in office; the completion of the base on Mars is due just in time to help the election. At the same time a Gonzales comet is due to pass close to earth, being slightly deflected to demonstrate the American ability to do it.

Terrorists manage to get on the American mission to Mars. They stick with the mission until a month into space (on the far side of the sun). They kill the other members of the mission and then redirect the rocket slightly. They blame the loss of crew and deflection on an explosion when the get back into radio contact.

To save the missin they agree they need fuel from the deflector rocket, so the arrange to meet up with it and take control of it.

By setting the deflector rocket off course; instead of directing the comet away from earth, the terrorists direct it towards Yellowstone. The combined effects of the comet and the super-eruption of the magma under Yellowstone it causes totally destroy America; 90% of the population of the Northern hemisphere and 70% of the population of the rest of the world.

Taking advantage of the disruption, the terrorists co-conspiritors, who have previously set up a base with nuclear and biological weapons in the remote southern jungles of New-Zealand, manage to impose a reign of terror on the world which lasts for a thousand years.

If this entry gets the prize, it and the copyright of the idea, may be claimed by the first person who can generate a file with a length between 25000 and 25200 bytes and with the SHA1 sum:


moz April 1, 2006 2:22 PM

Further comment to my idea.. The terrorists are, of course fanatics brought up in America, who have used their money to further their education so that they can become astronauts and use NASA’s resources to attack the civilised world.

honk April 1, 2006 2:38 PM

Sleeper magicians from Chile planted in cities all over America start doing their magical rain dances. Rain won’t stop for several weeks causing horrible floods. Thousands drown. Epidemic strikes and hundreds of thousands die. Millions lose their home.

After the magicians have been identified and arrested, the president signs a law requiring every city to be covered by a roof. Dancing is outlawed.

moz April 1, 2006 2:56 PM

A team of 5 terrorists manage to infiltrate the SETI @Home project. There actually is an alien civilisation which is trying to communicate with us, but they manage to intercept the message, so nobody else realises.

The aliens turn out to actually be related to humans and are transmitting their advanced science and technology in their message. Included in this are instructions mind control. The terrorists use the mind control technology to take over the Chinese and American military and start world war III. (large scale destruction ensues)

Alternatively the terrorists use a computer virus to spread their mind control technology and mass convert most of the population to their fanatical religion. Western civilisation completely ceases to be. Everybody resisting conversion is massacred.

same claim rules as first moz post.

fishbane April 1, 2006 2:57 PM

C’mon people, most of these are lame.

Think about trust boundaries, fear, and economic harm. Then add humor. Political flavor-of-the-month helps.

How about 30 illegal immigrants roam through the south as temporary farm hands, intentionally infecting cows with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. After a season of doing so, the announce that fact via a massive spam campaign.

Terry Browning April 1, 2006 3:11 PM

Trained lab rats are dropped in foam rubber balls from a low-flying Army Surplus UAV, eat their way out and roam the streets of Hollywood looking for A-list stars. When a rat attacks, it bites the ankle of the star, breaking a false tooth and releasing ricin into the blood of the victim.

A civil-rights vigilante prints a million leaflets with instructions on how to pass a lie-detector test and distributes them from a rented light aircraft over Washington DC, thus rendering the CIA helpless against infiltration by terrorists. Acting on verified instructions from Langley, a CIA Special Operative kills the President, believing him to be a terrorist in disguise. Damn those America-hating Liberals!

An Al-Qaeda h4xx0r breaks into the TSA computer system and puts the entire New York telephone directory on the No-Fly list.

A hospital gamma-radiation machine is stolen and a limpet-mine attached to the radio-isotope chamber. An hour before the timer detonates the mine, the device is dropped from the back of a boat into a major water supply reservoir. Boom – and the reservoir is contaminated. Later, the terrorists announce that they contaminated two reservoirs, revealing the real one to show they aren’t bluffing.

You do realise that the TLAs have powerful search engines, but no sense of humour. See you in Guantanamo, Bruce.

Kieran April 1, 2006 3:14 PM

Terrorists buy ice-cream trucks, and poison the ice cream with something particularly slow-acting and nasty, maybe a heavy metal. Each truck is also rigged as a bomb and at the first sign of investigation into the poisonings, they all find themselves crowds of children to blow up in a suicide finale. This happens across America in both large cities and fairly small towns.

dan April 1, 2006 3:24 PM

Two dozen dedicated religious fundementalist terrorists use half a million to set up a small research institute and lobbying organisation, and apply for funding from national and international bodies. They spend their time producing reports on issues like energy, security, and social policy, based upon bad science, paranoia, and bad taste which they know will have terrible consequences, but which are in accord with business and petty pork-barrel political interests at the time of publication, ensuring continued cash-flow. Based upon their success they destabilize the US economy and the entirity of western civilization on a hundred to two hundred year year timescale.

Ben W. April 1, 2006 3:32 PM

Terrorists around the world start robbing, hacking and then blowing up foreign banks that buy USA bonds. Soon, no banks will buy our debt. Without a balanced budget, the US government collapses. Chaos ensues. Without their pay coming in, firefighters and policemen join in the rioting. The Armed Forces have no supplies to enforce martial law.

The moral of the story? We have to start fighting terrorism all over the world, even within the borders of our closest allies. We have to station troops anywhere the US does business.

Switch April 1, 2006 3:33 PM

Inside Job – George Bush III decides to seize power by nuking San Francisco, blaming muslims, suspending the constitution and imprisoning all Democrat voters.

The unlikely bit of the plot is that Usama Bin Laden converts to christianity and saves the day by diverting the bomb to blow up Mecca.

Living it April 1, 2006 3:49 PM

Terrorists buy their way into key official roles in oil producing countries and keep prices artificially low. Americans continue to consume increasing amounts of fossil fuels compounding global warming. The polar ice caps melt as sea levels rise, flooding coastal cities. Unable to cope with massive natural disasters, the government fails to respond, instead claiming that no one could have expected the sea levels to rise. Millions of displaced Americans petition the government to impeach the entire line of succession from President on down and call for new elections.

Separately a second terrorist group has created a company that develops electronic voting machines, now widely deployed. During the election, all the machines cast votes for fundamentalist groups who have been raising American born religious fanatics the past 40 years. The government is taken over by religious fundamentalists who foster mass fear, slowly take away civil rights and creating a totalitarian regime.

Nick Lancaster April 1, 2006 3:52 PM

After a shocking and bold attack by terrorists, Congress approves unprecedented emergency powers for President Bush, who declares himself Emperor and renews construction of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, the burrowing bunker-buster bomb. Unfortunately, since the contract is in the hands of Halliburton, it bankrupts the American economy, even after a desperate measure to outsource development to India. Members of the media are exposed as traitors, having failed to report the real facts of Halliburton’s malfeasance and the shadowy link to a prominent member of the administration.

We can save millions on casting by having the current batch of inept blockheads portray themselves – Bush, Condi, Rumsfeld, et al. Forget hiring Dale Dye as a consultant, because We All Know Bush is being advised by military experts.


Alternatively, terrorists take a long-term view and patiently infiltrate cell members into the personnel of nuclear and chemical plants.

Then, in a coordinated masterstroke, precisely timed, they all spill their Diet Cokes on the control consoles.

Ten Staples April 1, 2006 3:53 PM

Terrorists mint and distribute a batch of slightly radioactive ‘dirty’ coins. Despite experts’ assurances that the only danger is a minute chance of health problems in people who constantly carry a large number of these coins in their pockets, and despite that nearly all of them are removed from circulation almost immediately, the public panics. Many citizens and businesses refuse to use or accept change for anything, causing widespread economic disruption. Billions are spent equipping banks with detectors which report millions of false positives. Suspicious looking people are detained for questioning for using vending machines. Homeless people are arrested for collecting change (just because.)

FP April 1, 2006 4:13 PM

Plot 1: Terrorists buy some Smallpox from a russian scientist working at Vector in need of cash. The virus is smuggled into the US by some infected terrorists. In an ad-hoc but adequate level 3 lab in some mid-western basement, the virus is harvested from the dying martyrs, multiplied and stockpiled. Eventually, terrorists infect themselves and travel across the US, attending sporting events, museums, and republican fund-raisers, sometimes for added effect spraying concentrated virus onto toilet seats. (Loosely adapted from Tom Clancy’s “Executive Orders”.)

Plot 2: Small teams of terrorists travel across the country, and cut into electrical transmission towers — just so that they don’t topple immediately. This allows the teams to continue unnoticed over weeks, weakening thousands of towers. They will tip over during the next storm, creating massive power outages. Parts of the country will be crippled for months, thanks to careful research into the weak points of the national grid, e.g., cutting off all power flowing into the Denver metropolitan area. Each team only needs a four-wheel drive pickup truck, a generator, and a grinder — and they’ll be long gone before anyone notices.

Mark Denovich April 1, 2006 4:16 PM

Terrorists sneak a bottle of VX gas (or sarin if it’s on sale) in with the helium used to fill the Goodyear (or Metlife’s Snoopy 1) blimp.

They then hijack said blimp and crash it into a unsuspecting football stadium killing thousands.

roy April 1, 2006 4:22 PM

During tax season, put anthrax inside blank tax forms sent to state tax agencies and the IRS. When tax people are afraid to handle mail and banks balk at processing checks, revenue flow stalls.

Titus Adux April 1, 2006 4:23 PM

I think Dan Brown should win this for “Digital Fortress”.

Best laugh I’ve had for ages…

Matthew X. Economou April 1, 2006 4:31 PM

The one I always worry about is a suicide bomber in the sometimes crowded lines leading to the security screeners in an airport. I’m certain that with proper planning, someone could even drop off a largish bomb and leave, with no one the wiser. To spice it up, a bomber could steal the explosives from some poorly guarded construction sites. You know, a rash of thefts at construction sites around a city – or, better yet, cover up the thefts with explosions that most people would think were caused by arsonists.

(Shouts out to my peeps in domestic surveillance!)

Don Marti April 1, 2006 4:33 PM

  1. Terrorists get publicly-available maps of all major fiber optic lines.
  2. All phone companies merge back into one big phone company.
  3. Phone company settles harassment suit against fiber optic repair supervisor; sends all fiber repair and installation crews to Mandatory Sensitivity Training.
  4. Terrorist Team A plants small explosives in manholes.
  5. Terrorist Team B invades the conference center where Mandatory Sensitivity Training is being held, puts vest bombs on all the fiber repair people, tells them that if the phones and the Internet come back up the bombs will go off, turns them loose to “fix” the damage caused by Team A.

The hero is a repair guy who is also a ham radio operator and uses “old school” technology that the terrorists aren’t monitoring. And Kung Fu.

MoonShadow April 1, 2006 4:33 PM

Terrorists acquire a few class IIIb lasers ( They leave vans parked around public places set up to turn on the lasers and swing them around, at eye level, at a preset time; alternatively, they actively drive them through places that lots of people are going to be looking at – Golden Gates bridge near sunset, etc. Alternatively, they buy things like and sell them on for a few dollars each in popular nightclubs.

Russ April 1, 2006 4:47 PM

Well, for effectiveness, phased suicide attacks against soft targets intermixed with some ‘hoax’ attacks would be undefendable and would cause mass panic.

That’s not sufficiently unlikely, though. So… the terroists contaminate condoms with ricin. Sporadic, random deaths. A significant decrease in condom sales – leading to a significant increase in both venereal diseases and pregnancies, first damaging abstinence programs but eventually strengthening them as people start to fear sex. The population starts to decline, taking the economy with it, but the Boomers refuse to compromise their retirement benefits and the country goes bankrupt.

Steven McDougall April 1, 2006 4:53 PM

Attacking the Super Bowl may not make a good movie, but it makes a
fine terrorist attack. You just have to do it right.

I read a scenario where terrorists use crop dusters to spray mustard
gas over the stadium. The problem with that is that mustard gas isn’t
very telegenic. It’s just this liquid, and symptoms don’t appear for
hours. You’ll shut down the Super Bowl, and you may get some panic in
the stands, but all the victims will be off camera in emergency rooms
before it gets gruesome.

I’m a terrorist.
I want some terror.
On television.
I want…NAPALM.

Napalm is easy to make. Just mix gasoline and liquid soap. (Like those
two fools in the UK last year

Gasoline and soap are cheap, readily available, and no one pays any
attention to how much you buy, unlike, say, pseudoephedrine.

You do need the wits to mix the ingredients without setting yourself
on fire, but once it is mixed, you can store the stuff safely in sealed
plastic or metal containers (like the gas can in your shed out back).

Ignition isn’t a problem. You just spray the stuff and the first lit
cigarette sets it all off.

Could an attack like this work? Well…maybe. The first question is
how much napalm are we talking about here?

A big stadium seats something like 70K people. If you could deliver 1
liter of napalm per person, you’d kill everyone in the stadium, and
the fire would probably melt the stadium down to its foundations.

But 70K liters is 20K gallons. Big 18-wheel tanker trucks hold 8000
gallons. So we’re talking 2 or 3 tanker trucks here. And you can’t
drive the stuff into the stadium: you have to fly it in.

The biggest aerial firefighting planes hold 7000 gallons. You’d need
three of those. There are only two currently in service, and they are
both in British Columbia, which is an unlikely venue for the Super

A C-130 cargo plane can carry 32,000 Kg, so you could do it with two
of those. (1 liter ~ 1 Kg). But really, only in the movies do people
steal something the size of a C-130 off of a military base. Even if
you can find some that are privately owned, and unattended during the
Super Bowl, unskilled terrorists aren’t going to get a 4-engine
turboprop fueled, readied, loaded with 8000 gallons of napalm, and
into the air. Not even with some flight training.

The biggest crop dusters carry 800 gallons. Doing it that way would
take 25 planes. A terrorist with some flight training might get a crop
duster into the air. (
suggests that they might not.) But 25 terrorists and 25 airplanes?
Each fueled, loaded, and piloted by a single terrorist? Without
attracting attention? Without the whole plot collapsing from its own

But maybe we don’t need 1 liter/person. In fact, maybe this is a case
of less is more. If you incinerate 70,000 people, it is a tragedy, to
be sure, but the rest of us just pick and get on with life. We don’t
even incur any burial costs.

But suppose we only deliver 100 mL napalm/person. We’re not going to
kill everyone, or obliterate the stadium. We may only kill a few
thousand people (For all their destruction, the 9/11 attacks killed
fewer than 3000 people.)

Be we are going to create utter panic in the stands, and tens of
thousands of casualties, mostly 3rd degree burns. Some of these people
will eventually die, many will be permanently disabled or disfigured,
all will have long, painful recoveries.

Emergency and medical services will be completely overwhelmed. Total
health care costs will be in the billions. The victims will be on
television–news, interviews, talk shows–for months, possibly years.

And 100 mL/person is only 2000 gallons. So now we only need 4 crop
dusters. Go with 4, and hope that 3 reach the target (same success
ratio as the 9/11 attacks). Each plane gets a crew of 4 to 7 people:
one to pilot, one to fuel the plane, one to load the napalm, one to
coordinate. The 4 teams are mostly independent, so the whole operation
doesn’t get too complex.

You might not want to use actual crop dusters: they are set up to
deliver pesticides and fertilizer, not incendiaries. Also, the
government has been watching crop dusters since 9/11. (In fact, crop
dusters were grounded in the months following 9/11.)

Instead, you could get a cargo plane of similar capacity and load the
napalm tanks into it just before takeoff. You’d have to design and
build your own nozzles to disperse the napalm.

Doing this in a stolen plane would be tough, because you wouldn’t get
a good look at the plane until the operation was underway. It might be
better to just buy some planes. $500K isn’t enough to buy 4 cargo
planes, but it might be enough to lease them, or buy them on credit.
You’d need to establish a business front to do that, but the necessary
fraud shouldn’t be a problem for an international terrorist
organization. If you schedule things right, you should be able to
complete the entire operation before the first monthly payment comes

With planes under your physical control, you can design, build and
install the delivery system in your own time. You can even do trial
runs (with soap, no gasoline) over the desert. (The 9/11 attackers did
trial runs–boarding planes and sitting in 1st class.)

On the other hand, maybe we don’t want to build a delivery system.
Tanks, hoses, valves, nozzles–it gets complicated. Maybe…maybe we
just put the napalm into one-quart plastic milk containers, with screw
tops. 8000 containers, 2000 per plane. Fly over the stadium and push
them out the back. The containers burst on impact and badness ensues.

Now we need two terrorists in each plane: one to fly and one to bomb.
But the whole thing is simple enough that doing it with stolen planes
becomes feasible again. (Although it is still more complicated than
the 9/11 attacks were.)

Other issues
+ The pilots don’t have to believe that they are on a suicide mission,
which presumably makes it easier to recruit them.
– Doesn’t work on a covered stadium. Super Bowl XL was in a covered
stadium. Super Bowl XXXIX was in an open stadium.
– Does the air force provide air cover for the Super Bowl?
– The networks got Janet Jackson’s tit off the air in about 2 seconds.
Presumably they’d have the wits to cut away from an incendiary
attack on the Super Bowl. So it might not really be live on
+ But the cameras would keep rolling and the footage would come out

Scorecard (points out of 5)

  • Cause terror: 3/5
    Most people never attend a Super Bowl, so they won’t feel personally
    at risk from this.

  • Make the American people notice: 5/5
    No question: everyone will know about this.

  • Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy: 2/5
    Sports, broadcasting and advertising will take a hit.
    Medical costs will be huge.
    Doesn’t affect basic infrastructure, military, or economic capacity.
    Although the effects could be magnified if it stampedes the country
    off another cliff, like the Iraq war.

  • Change the political landscape: 4/5
    Very likely, but hard to say how.
    Could unite everyone behind Bush again; could turn everyone against

  • Or the culture ???
    Your guess as good as mine.

Khoth April 1, 2006 5:05 PM

Terrorists plant small bombs in cats and dogs, and release them in major cities, detonating at scattered times. People will then come to fear each other’s pets, and tension will mount when people’s pets are shot (from a distance) by people who suspect them to be explosive.

Too scared to say April 1, 2006 5:10 PM

Well-known security commentator announces “Movie-Plot Threat Contest” on his blog.

Ideas flood in.

&lt insert your favorite terrorist group &gt picks the best one and implements it.

Ah thank you!

Too scared to say April 1, 2006 5:14 PM

P.S. Said security commentator gets arrested and dumped in g’tmo for helping said terrorist group.

procyon April 1, 2006 5:17 PM

Why should terrorist even try to enter the heavily guarded USA, when we all [sarcasm]know[/sarcasm] how much damage can be caused by messing with climate (ahem … dayaftertomorrow…ahem…).
Better to equip all those terrorists with flamethrowers and send them to mighty rainforest of Amazon.
No Department of Rainforest Security there, AFAIK.
And think of all those mighty armies of USA freezing to death.
Now if I was a terrorist leader then I would be salivating by now 😀

fishbane April 1, 2006 5:22 PM

My second one:

Step one: a slow acting poison in the pizza at a first responder gathering.

Step two: later, an appropriate attack that targets the lack of the given first responder. The opportunities write themselves: knock out the firefighters in Oakland and Berkeley in the summer, and start lots of fires; knock out the abulances in L.A. and poison the incoming cocaine supply, etc.

Oooh: that made me think of a program of soaking currency in a toxic substance. Anyone know of a long lasting contact poison?

sam April 1, 2006 6:00 PM

Terrorists pay mad doctor to remove one of their lungs and replace it with explosives. As it is in them, it can’t be readily detected. They go the shake the hand of politician/pope/famous person at public appearance and boom. Also good for planes, subways, busses, shopping malls.

Ernie Blofeld April 1, 2006 6:00 PM

Re Steven McDougall’s discussion of napalm attack on the super bowl. I claim copyright infringement: this is nothing but a reworking of the plot of my friend Auric Goldfinger. Blast that James Bond! We will meet again!

HJT April 1, 2006 7:29 PM

Plot 1: Terrorists hijack trucks carrying highly flammable materials (gas, propane, liquid oxygen, etc.). They break into the (largely unguarded AFAIK) warehouses that are used to store low radioactive nuclear waste. Blow them up. Hijacking some number of trucks should be easy, but might be harder to coordinate many suitably close to targets. Not sure how many storage areas like that exist and how close to cities. I think I saw mention of such a site in the Bay Area, though. Probably cause more panic than real radiation damage.

Plot 2: Break into a few oil refineries in the US, blow up as much as you can. There aren’t that many large refineries, and it would seem it is reasonably easy to break in. They are big, though, so not sure how much damage could be caused in the time it takes for the military to respond. If even a couple of refineries were taken out of production for a few months should raise gasoline prices quite a bit. Not much panic value, but could be reasonably big economic impact.

Cassandra April 1, 2006 7:49 PM

The bad guys genetically engineer a virus such that it combines the properties of Ebola, H5N1, HIV, and only infects Caucasians. A sample is sent to the CDC, with the note that Hawaii is liberally spread with radio-controlled dispersal devices, and if they don’t get what they want, Hawaii gets it. Due to flawed testing in the CDC, it is believed to be a hoax. Hawaii gets it. The next note points out that the lower 48 have radio-controlled dispersal devices.

It’s a movie plot. Genetic engineering isn’t that good. Yet.

Oh, and by the way, the neat thing about the radio controlled devices is that (a) they are on automatic timers that only turn them on after the first note is sent and (b) automatically scan the local radio and television airwaves and only trigger when they hear a certain tune. This means that after the note is received, no-one can play any song or piece of music on the airwaves for fear it might be the trigger.


thebear April 1, 2006 8:30 PM

Terrorists infiltrate the electoral process in Florida and rig the US presidential elections so that a genetically modified chimpanzee get’s elected as president. They then control the chimp by feeding it pretzels laced with different forms of LSD.

Nikolai April 1, 2006 9:38 PM

Terrorists take those puffing room deodorizers and fill them with chemical and biological agents and put them on an intermittent timer. The drop these around areas expected to have sensors. Probably in DC and New York, maybe LA. Intel picks up hints of an attack from overseas sources. The dispersers start setting off alarms repeatedly. Forcing localized evacuations. The cities get tense. Eventually, DHS is forced to call for shelter in place just in case the attack is real. For those who don’t know, shelter in place is where you seal off a room with plastic and hole up. Hopefully, coming out before the heat and humidity overwhelm you. You could run out of air but the heat stress will affect you first.

People batten down the hatches and wait. Many old and weak succumb to the heat stress and fear. There are a lot of casualties but none due chemical or biological agents. Hundreds die using personal shelter in place kits that consist of a dry cleaning bag and a rubber band. Several parents are gunned down by police while trying to force their way into locked down schools to get their kids. There is mass confusion causing deaths as everyone tries to evacuate the cities.

Activity in the cities is disrupted for days. The government is blamed for unnecessary deaths due to shelter in place. Faith in homeland security is destroyed. People spend billions on a new housing bubble for bubble housing.

Neighbor April 1, 2006 9:50 PM

1) Teams of terrorists deploy thoughout big cities in the US (20 – 30 as per spec)
2) Using the knowledge gained in a research paper, break into the homes of innocent Americans (10 a night: total of 2000 – 3000 homes for a 10 day operation)
3) Install malicious software onto home computers of said innocent Americans that will:
a) Perform illegal acts (threaten the president, create a bot network)
b) Perform illogical monetary decisions (sell profitable stocks at a loss, participate in a Nigerian email scam)
c) Encourage people in their address book to do the same, promising no ill effects
4) Watch the breakdown in trust once people are no longer able to trust their machines or their neighbors.

UnseriousReader April 1, 2006 10:26 PM

As part of a dastardly terrorist plot for world domination , middle eastern terrorist masterminds steal aborted human fetuses and embryos from dumpsters behind abortion clinics and through the miracle of dna manipulation and tissue engineering (and special effects coupled with technobabble) manage to grow them into an army of angst-ridden anti-social soldiers who are then brainwashed by forcing them to watch pirated movies downloaded from the internet and play violent videogames.

They are indoctrinated that society has judged them worthless and fit only to be thrown away as garbage, and the only way to achieve a sense of purpose is by aiming for the destruction of western civilization.

Rob April 1, 2006 11:24 PM

I haven’t read everything above as the list is getting very long, but if it already posted above, my apologizes to the writer. My idea is a simple one and it has already been proven to work.
Start in Mexico with a car filled with virtually anything. Dirty-bomb, Nuclear Bomb, bio-hazards, whatever or even several cars. Drive them across the unprotected borders that has allowed 12 million illegals aliens to enter our country and drive the car to virtually any point in the US and use the weapon they have. As I said this has already been proven to be capable of being done although the testers only had a marked suitcase labeled as “bio-hazard”, with no real bio-hazard, it was only for testing purposes.

myrryr April 2, 2006 12:27 AM

Some people rent a bunch of warehouses and builds some big emp bombs in the warehouses (see explosively pumped flux compression generator, a mouthful, but good technobabble that even works!). They are wired to use the national grid as an aerial.

After triggering them all at the same time, a cascade effect nails most of the US power grid, sending out a emp wave that trashes any eletronics not hooked to the grid (which is fried anyway).

Follow on from there as any disaster movie that deals with no power.

Its good, since you can splash out on special effects of power arcing off all sorts of improbable surfaces, people being fried in nasty ways, lots of shots of people at nuke power stations after the computer running things have shut down…

Plenty of chances for heroics. All good as move fodder goes…

— Blair

Andrew April 2, 2006 1:29 AM

1) The Contest: A leading security expert holds a contest to identify unlikely security scenarios that could devastate the nation. The answers are publicly viewable. Terrorists visit the Web site and start implementing his plans, one by one, causing mass chaos and destruction (and for the silly ones, confusion) until a plucky but determined cast of Hollywood heroes catches on.

2) Security Strikes: Thanks to Department of Homeland Security counter-terrorist training, hundreds of thousands of security guards have been trained in counter-terrorist techniques. They are also poorly paid and poorly treated. A team of guards at several high-rise accounts decide that turning their hands to terrorism is their only hope of getting a pay raise . . . with shades of Ocean’s 11 meets the Andy Rooney Show.

3) Mall Rats: why are all the kids doing their shootings at high schools, when adults are the enemy and the body count is higher at the shopping malls? Not to mention that the security is much poorer, and the resulting chaos will devastate the economy as people are afraid to shop. Kids in trenchcoats are tackled by terrified shoppers . . .

4) Supermarket Suicide: what could be more American than the American supermarket? And the stereotypical 7-11 is run by a recent immigrant. A recent Middle Eastern immigrant. In an effort to boost convenience store sales, owners linked in a terrorist / good distribution network start bombing their arch-rivals, the American supermarket. It is up to Hollywood’s leading heroes to save the grocery aisle from world domination. (Special Bonus: explosive charges packaged as Halal meats.)

5) Internet Denied: a massive denial of service attack is planned over a major holiday such as Christmas, when network rooms are at their slowest. On December 26th, when everyone goes to log on, their Access Is Denied and chaos ensues. No one can get along without the Internet. Especially not UPS and FedEx. Combining physical destruction of network points with rogue domain name servers (such as “” for any search of Santa Claus), faith in the invincibility Internet is destroyed.

6) Iran Insertion: a team of terrorists pretend to be Iranian and carry out a nuclear attack on a U.S. military base (such as North Island Naval Air Station across the harbor from San Diego, during the Republican National Convention). Their goal: get the U.S. bogged down in another expensive, fruitless war in the Middle East so that we will collapse at home and abroad. On the eve of the Iranian invasion, our heroes discover that the nuke was . . . American. With valid Positive Action Codes, that can only come from one man. Codename: The Shrub.

7) Death By Press Release: a terrorist cell claims to have released highly radioactive plutonium dust into the city of Los Angeles water supply. The Dept. of Water and Power issues denials which nobody believes. Then people really start dying, and the terrorists swear up and down that it was a real hoax, honest, and they have no idea what is really killing Angelinos in their water, their swimming pools and in watering their gardens and grass lawns. The answer: a group that wants Americans and Islamists to kill each other so they can get on with ruling the world, who laid hands on large amounts of old nukes and ground them up for poison.

procyon April 2, 2006 1:54 AM

Tanker trucks and liquid propane tankers have already been sugested here as tools for terrror, but why not use oil tankers ?
I am no expert on oil tanker design, but I have a hunch that blowing up a full load oil tanker in a major port would cause major damage to port facilities and ships.
And since it is a movie plot threat, then why not consider burning oil from explosions flying miles away from the tanker igniting everything in this radius.
And also since oil will stay on water surface we would soon have the whole port area burning like hell.
If such attacks could be done in several major ports in fast succession, then it would have big economical impact, as oil prices would probably rise quite a lot.

John April 2, 2006 4:49 AM

P r e p a r a t i o n :

One terrorist (the brightest of them) learns how to synthesise certain chemical substances. This should be more easy than leaning how to fly a jet (were talking about simple substances here).

The terrorists found a small company with a suitable name, like “ABDUL research” or the like, as a cover to buy a larger amount of chemicals and processing equipment from various vendors.

Then they synthesise a suitable drug. LSD might be suitable, because you can shoot a person away into nirvana with a very small dosis of about 500+ micrograms. Or they could synthesise DOM (2,5-Dimethoxy-4-Methylamphetamin), which would be suitable because it takes a long time before the effect sets in (2 to 3 hours) and the effect lasts long (24 to 72 hours) and its hallucinogene effect is much stronger that the effect of LSD. Sadly, here you need about 50+ _milli_grams. The recipies are commonly available. (A warning for potential users: The mentioned dosis is for terrorists who want to inflict harm. For normal use a smaller dosis would be very much advisable).

A d m i s s i o n :

Now they need to bring the drug into people. There are a lot of possibilities.

  • They could sneak into plantages at night and inject the drug into aplles, peaches or other food. It takes time until it gets to the consumer
  • They could accept jobs at food factories. Just pour it into the yogurt mixing bowl when no one is watching. This has the advantage that you can prepare whole charges at once. If neccessary, they can arrange a need for new employees by arranging accidents. This can be done with a lot of food: canned food, milk products, chocolate, anything.
  • The most suited product to put the drug into is – of course – baby food. Suddenly the baby behaves strange. Babies behave strange all the time – it would take time until one finds out that a hallucinogen is the cause. And an attack on babies is what the people fear the most.
  • Preparation of expensive food would be desirable, to target a greater number of people in key positions of economy and politics.

T e r r o r :

Well, taking hallucinogenes is not as much dangerous as everyone thinks. If you know how to deal with it. If it grabs someone hard and unprepared, fear, terror and panic will be the result. The drugs may start their effect in the most unconvenient moments. We can have a lot of fun with this:
– Effect sets in while driving a car
– Aiplane pilot starts seeing (hostile?) UFOs
– Man (with gun at hand) is at home and his wife and children come home. All he sees are people taken over by aliens
– doctor is doing an operation and suddenly sees large number of small insects crawling inside the patients body, having a nest in the stomach
– Children at school start imprisoning (or even torturing?) teachers
– Effect on soldiers in a military base. They might be in a drill and guns might be ready.

Once the source of the strangly behaving people is known, there exists a problem. You can not test food for 240M people for drugs. What to do? Might take a while until every last one of 20 terrorists is found. The terror goes on. What will people do if they can’t trust their food?

bah26 April 2, 2006 5:15 AM

Should stop being lazy….

Plant bomb in underground tunnel below thames.
Floods underground network (all of it – there’s a lot of water in the thames)
Kills all commuters.
Business in the UK is dead – tubes out of action for weeks
Stock market crashes
Rioting starts world wide

yitz April 2, 2006 5:34 AM

i vaguely recall some article about taking down a large portion of the US power-grid with a bunch of strategically placed magnets.. (i think i heard about it from a friend who read it in 2600/l0pht)

what about subtly releasing new species into the american wild with no natural north-american predators.. something that would go mostly unnoticed until it was too large to stop.

purpleslog April 2, 2006 5:40 AM

Idea: Concurrent Truck-bomb attacks at Friday night high school football games.

They have light security, and the psych damage across the US would be great.

Guillaume April 2, 2006 7:07 AM

So here is mine: just spread the 20-30 terrorists in planes and tourists places. They will be suicide bombers. But here is the catch: they won’t have any explosive on them. They will have explosive implanted in them by a rogue surgeon one or two months in advance (think boob job, liposuccion, …). Now for the movie scenario: the trigger could be some medicine: you take it, half an hour later you blow yourself. More realistic you use some sort of piercing, body-mod, plus some random electronic gear cell phone, mp3 player to act as detonator.

So you can get this people anywhere you want, they do not look suspicious, they have nothing to hide, dogs cannot find any sort of explosives. For targets you have to choose random places with a lot of people. The first series of bombing should be in location where there will be maximum publicity: plane, tourist spot, “secure” location like a court room, a political meeting. Then move on to the normal civilian targets like schools, supermarket, hospitals and so on. Going from the TV to the street so that people will start to suspect the guy sitting next to them. For maximum effect, the bombing should take place over several weeks.

Nice alternative for a movie: you get a rogue surgeon doing the same thing to unwilling and unknowing citizens.

Anonymous April 2, 2006 8:53 AM

30 clones of the DC sniper(s) what do a pretty good job on the country. By the time they were rounded up we would have no 4th admentment protection left.

30 guys would probably be enough to take out 3 power plants. That would probably be enough to overpower the guards and then they could use explosives to blow up the generators. If they took out three in the same region it would be very difficult to get enough power back to that region for a very long time. Long range transmission lines and generators take a logn time to build.

Grant Gould April 2, 2006 9:05 AM

Okay, this is just too tempting a topic. Call this suggestion “Tickle-Me Elmo.”

Terrorists obtain jobs working for major toy retailers, insert bombs into this season’s new must-have toy. At 4 PM on Christmas Day ten thousand small bombs kill kids nationwide.

Constraints: The toy must have some extra internal space to hide the bomb, and must be something kids are likely to be holding on to. Video game controllers spring to mind. The toy must be on sale for only a short time before Christmas (to minimize the risk of detection), but many must be sold from each individual store (to maximize the effect of a small number of terrorists) — again, video game systems meet this requirement. Easy-to-remove external screws or seams a plus.

Cost: A dozen terrorists with rudimentary screwdriver skills, a few thousand small bombs, and a lot of late nights building the rig. Still, fairly cheap. Double-bonus if you can find one store or warehouse owned by a sympathizer; do all the work there, and just swap normal for tampered units. Triple-bonus if you can do this by subverting truck drivers.

Terror impact: Huge. Nothing like targeting children to piss off Americans.

Economic impact: Mega-huge. Childrens’ entertainment is a vast part of the economy, and would be decimated overnight.

Bonuses: This would work wonderfully with “dirty” bombs. The big problem with a radiological weapon is that it only contaminates a small area, which can be evacuated and cleaned up. These could contaminate thousands of houses across the US.

lowkey April 2, 2006 9:33 AM

OK, we start with a simple premise. Several teams of 3-6 members in multiple cities. Each team is equiped with a van, full body armor, ak47s, and grenades. They pick local targets of interest in their particular cities like airports, malls, mass transit, any place people gather in crowds outside the security check points.

Attacks are staged like the California bank robby that turned into a walking gun battle or the Columbine High School attack. Atackers enter the target at one set of doors and just try to walk to another exit, meet the van and escape. Shooting everything that moves in between.

Repeated attacks over several days/weeks.

Movie covers the teams planning and trying to avoid detection. As the movie progresses, we learn more and more about one of the men near the top providing equipment, money and intel.

This man will provide the warnings that allow some of the teams to escape arrest or early detection. As each warning is given and happens, the viewer comes to realize that this man is actually a government plant.

Then as the teams usefulness lessens, the man sets them up one after another for final “suicide” missions.

he last team being taken down in a huge gun battle and the scene jumps to a government office where the inside man is being thanked for his service to the country by a man whose face we never see but sounds like the president.

Nile April 2, 2006 9:38 AM

OK, here’s the plot:

1 – Buy some factory space with a garage big enough for thirty trucks;
2 – Buy thirty 7.5-tonnne box trucks;
3 – Replace the roof of the cargo compartment in every truck with removable canvas;
4 – Instal home-made mortars in each truck (if you can import 120 military-issue belt-fed mortars instead, so much the better);
5 – Drive to 30 oil refineries or – better still – identify 30 depots, transfer sites and pumping nodes that serve a region of the USA;
6 – Light the blue touch-paper;
7 – Boom!
8 – A large region of the USA grinds to a day or so later.
9 – And stays shut down, a year or so later.

No, you won’t truck in replacement supplies – strategic bulk commodities like petroleum are way out of the reach of your highway network (and its limited tanker fleet capacity), they have dedicated transport infrastructure that terminates at the target sites. Or rather, terminated at the sites before the sites were terminated.

For extra effect, install motorbikes in the trucks and give the driver an escape route for the next campaign… Or a machine gun and enough grenades to disrupt the firefighting effort. He won’t last long, but paradise awaits and the fire trucks (and the trained fire crews who can deal with a refinery fire) are irreplaceable, and in very short supply. Time is also in very short supply; without immediate intervention, refinery fires can rapidly overwhelm the local safety systems and engulf the entire installation. Assuming that the attack, with its multiple sources of ignition, didn’t do exactly that.

Actually, you could get the attack to work with ten light trucks, each containing three men and a full load of RPG-7 rocket grenade launchers: two men to fire the things through the perimeter fence and one to hold off the security guards and their ceremonial handguns with a tripod-mounted heavy machine gun. Factor-40 sunburn cream and/or fire-resistant overalls will prolong the mission by several seconds, assuming the Jundi lack the brainpower to fire at max range and drive around the plant starting several separate concentrations of fire.

You might’ve guessed from the spelling that I’m from England: if you follow the international news, or you’ve tried to get a connecting flight at Heathrow, you’ll know that we had a major oil distribution depots shut down by a fire recently. It turns out that we don’t have very many of these installations; I should be glad that the IRA took so long to figure out that economic targets are effective targets, and that Her Majesty’s Government caved in to their demands so quickly when the terrorists worked it out.

walterzuey April 2, 2006 9:41 AM

“what about subtly releasing new species into the american wild with no natural north-american predators.. something that would go mostly unnoticed until it was too large to stop.”

This one’s a known winner. About 500 years late, though.

Grant Gould April 2, 2006 9:44 AM

There are two things that are key to a mass-casualty attack. The first is fairly close synchronization. If the attack unfolds over even as much as hours, information begins to propagate. The Sept. 11 attacks ended up short a plane because of information flow, and that was only a delay of an hour or so. To kill more than a few hundred people, you need synchronization or people will begin to respond and minimize the damage.

The second is to cross a boundary into a “safe zone” — the safer the better. The best places to cross into are the private sphere (people’s own homes), and security responses themselves (blowing up the security screening line, for instance).

One boundary-crossing idea I’ve wondered about from time to time is truck-mounted mortars. The IRA tried this a couple of times but couldn’t make it work, but I think the principle is sound. A mortar is easily constructed from simple materials, and can be scaled up almost arbitrarily. It defeats ground-based security perimeters, but is not really susceptible to anti-aircraft defenses. Modern GPS tracking should make it possible to make one self-aiming. And you can load a mortar round with anything you like; Washington, DC is awfully full of flammable historic buildings.

A dozen terrorist trucks with self-aiming automatic mortars pounding downtown DC. Now that is a movie plot. For instance, it would contain car chases. Every movie plot needs a car chase. And the cars would explode!

Adam Shostack April 2, 2006 10:25 AM

2 guys, one sniper rifle, one car. They drive around a major metropolitan area each morning, shooting someone in rush hour traffic. They then move to another city, and do it again.

If you want to be really aggressive, have 4 or 6 guys in 2 or 3 cities, so that some shootings happen at the same time.

Oh, and LSD in the water supply, to help this qualify as movie plot.

Saxon April 2, 2006 10:41 AM

Here’s your plot:

Buy topographic maps of the US. Plot out the main lines of the US power grid (the big high-tension lines). Send out teams to the bottleneck points, preferrably across the country, but a large region would probably be enough. If possible, target cities like Atlanta, LA, Miami, Detroit, or any other city with large pockets of nonassimilated immigrants (secondary effects from cultural animosity would be a bonus). Each team has one or two gas saws (like a chainsaw, but with a cutting disk instead of a chain and bar). The teams pick the most inaccessible powerline tower for their assigned area, hike in, and at a designated time, cut it down. The resulting blackout would plunge large areas into chaos and riots. You’d likely take out a couple of the generating stations as well due to the wildly fluctuating electrical load as whole sections of the grid (hundreds of thousands of users go offline simultaneously). It would probably take weeks or more to restore power.

The best part is, the powerlines are so exposed that you could never guard the whole network. The “bottlenecks” stretch for miles, so you could take the grid down over and over for some time before the authorities found a way to patrol the whole thing.

John April 2, 2006 11:04 AM

“Your goal: cause terror. Make the American people notice. Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy. Change the political landscape, or the culture. The more grandiose the goal, the better.”

It’s been done! Dubya was annointed in 2000. Lasting damage to the economy, changed political landscape, culture ruined – NEA emasculated (poor Dana Gioia) among others. Nothing could be more grandiose than foisting Dubya on America. Terror ever since.

John April 2, 2006 11:15 AM

Khoth says:
“Terrorists plant small bombs in cats and dogs, and release them in major cities, detonating at scattered times. People will then come to fear each other’s pets, and tension will mount when people’s pets are shot (from a distance) by people who suspect them to be explosive.”

That was a CIA study back in the 60s. Inspired by an incident in the Ramayana, the Hindu holy book, the CIA planted eavesdropping devices surgically in cats, and tried to train them to approach targets for eavesdropping purposes. In the field test, the cat was supposed to get close to the target in a public park. However the cat was run over, and the project abandoned. See for the FOIA response that revealed this project.

It is only a step from eavesdropping devices to bombs.

In the Ramayana, the Monkey King, Hanuman, assumes the form of a cat to scout out the Demon King’s fortress, because a cat can slip over walls and go anywhere without notice.


nate April 2, 2006 11:15 AM

@Bruce —

What’s the positive social outcome that you are hoping for from this contest? I can see a lot of bad outcomes (bad ideas banned by new laws, good ideas actually implemented, more people spending more time plotting how to destroy civilization) but I’m not seeing where the good comes of this. What am I missing?


J.D. Abolins April 2, 2006 12:32 PM

I’ll ponder on a movie plot for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, how ’bout borrowing from Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Douglas Adam’s Volgon poetry, and an old Monty Python skit:

A hitherto unknown nihilistic terror group scours humour lists, blogs, and comedy clubs for the worst joke writers. The idea is to distill the worst of the worst to create a neural meme toxin. Something akin to the deadly joke in the Monty Python skit, but this one is not so much to kill as to fry the brains of the audience. This would send the economy of a country spiraling down. Those not affected would be left handling the drooling, vacant eyed casualties.

The government learns of the plot and recruits a team of professional combat comedians, philosophers, psychologists, and several humourless & unimaginative commandos….

Alby April 2, 2006 1:10 PM

Terrorists with truck bombs following petrol and liquid oxygen tankers around the roads – wait until they’re passing something important: bridge, tunnel, etc and then detonate.

Alternatively, use the same set-up to create massive craters at important bottleneck positions.

fin April 2, 2006 2:13 PM

terrorists buy 20 – 50 plots of land along fault lines, bores are drilled and rigged with pumps to pump water into the fractures to cause massive slippage…good wildcatter footage, buldging biceps, sweat, soundtrack – lots of Johnny Cask……because the terrorists couldn’t do all their own drilling they’d be hiring drill companies with the possibility of discovery…huge multiple earthquakes planned to follow…tension is built by not knowing when the earthquakes will actually fire. Lots of good first responder footage

Re: Tesla…
I’ve always thought about his oscillator, esp when crossing the Verazzano Narrows bridge… that is reported to have caused earthquakes in lower manhattan… (good community policing – any thing weird happened…the cops went right to his lab). Tesla said he could bring anything down in time. Not ALL of his documents went to the FBI a lot of them were returned to his in Serbia/Croatia, Srebinicia?…so naturally the KGB/GRU also had access to them. This is now topical as the Melosivic and his ilk.
There could be good research moments as our heros uncover the information in the patents and who accessed the information from the Tesla patents at the US Patent Office website web logs. Maybe a websearch montage to “Staying Alive” or The Archies.

Andrew April 2, 2006 2:16 PM

Uncontrolled Chaos: the target is control centers of all kinds, from 911 dispatch to mass transit to Internet network operations centers . Bombs, mortars, armed assault — all in the same city during commute hours. Responders rush to help the control center victims but are snarled in the mass of accidents – and the public is on its own.

Evan April 2, 2006 3:02 PM

Plenty of dig’s at Dubya so I’ll even the playing field a bit…

Borrowing from the Harrison Ford “thriller” Firewall, Terrorists kidnap Al Gore’s family and hold them hostage, forcing Al Gore to devise a way to shut down the Internet he so painstakeningly invented or watch as his family is mercilessly killed before his eyes.

Lots of screen shots of Al furiously typing away while fabricated old-school Macintosh screens wiz by. Eventually Al might have to virtualize himself and battle the Internet in 3d hand to hand combat. Once Al subdues the Internet he could shed a tear as he powers it down, morning like a master having to shoot their pet.

Of course after multiple screenings the studio would force the director to change the ending because sad endings aren’t allowed. So in the new cut, we find out that a large underground network of smut peddlers and cigar shop owners band together under former President Clinton to reconstruct the Internet using millions of 3.5″ floppy disks which had been used to store a backup of the Internet. A smiling virtual Internet hugs Al and Bill as we fade to black.

Nog April 2, 2006 3:17 PM

In a coordinated attack, terrorists send “next day air” packages via the USPS and each of the major private carriers (FedEx, UPS, Airborne, DHL, etc) from each major city. Each of the hundreds of packages contain a) enough explosives to bring down the plane, and b) a poor-man’s inertial navigation device capable of determining the package’s air speed. Each device activates after the package reaches a speed of at least 300 KTS, then detonates 15 minutes later.

Not many people are killed (mostly flight crew on the cargo planes) but the resulting economic damage is huge as “next day air” grinds to a halt.

Anonymous April 2, 2006 3:19 PM

Fill bulk carriers with high explosive. Drive them into some major ports and simultaneously set off near-nuclear sized explosions, shutting down sea trade for an entire nation. Possible cover the decks with steel structures that’ll rain down out of the sky, assuming they aren’t just vaporized. Perhaps follow up with a second wave to take out any Coast Guard or rescuers that respond.

jmr April 2, 2006 3:20 PM

I’m going with the Mad Cow disease plot. Historically, attacks on food supplies or other supplies necessary for human existence create large amounts of anxiety. Consider the Chilean grapes, current reports of mad cow, and the two teenagers arrested in MA for trespassing on a public water supply.

Anonymous April 2, 2006 3:20 PM

Suicide speedboats could rupture oil tankers in big ports. Have a backup boat to start the oil on fire it it doesn’t ignite with the explosion.

KF April 2, 2006 3:21 PM

Terrorists load cars with explosives. At a pre-arranged time, each team heads for a bridge or tunnel to Manhattan, two vehicles for each (one heading into Manhattan, one heading out).

Then they explode, isolating Manhattan from all vehicular traffic. If they can arrange to destroy the rail lines from NY and NJ as well, so much the better.

Stephen Bridges April 2, 2006 3:30 PM

One of the more terrifying what-ifs that I have seen the American defence experts work themselves into a frenzy about is the follow concept:

There is such a thing as a mobile steriliser. It is a very hard radiation source that can used for rapid high-scale sterilisation of things, and can be drawn by an articulated lorry (or truck, whatever you call them in the US). It is normally heavily shielded, but a threat conceived by NBC experts is the shielding being removed from the sides of the steriliser, and the truck being driven around a city for several hours.

Everybody the truck drove past would sicken and probably die. The truck could also conceivably leave the city and find a new one and drive around that etc.

Another reason why this one is so bad is because the radiation is so hard, it will actually penetrate the concrete to a depth of up to 30cm, permanently contaminating it. Essentially the city has to be destroyed and rebuilt.

I found this threat in a PPT set of slides on the net, offering training to other experts on nuclear IEDs. Scary enough for ya?

Anonymous April 2, 2006 3:39 PM

Empty big anhydrous ammonia trucks in the middle of big cities on mostly windless days.

Stephen April 2, 2006 3:50 PM

“How about 30 illegal immigrants roam through the south as temporary farm hands, intentionally infecting cows with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.”

Already been done. Unfortunately, the symptoms don’t show up in cows until they’re about 4 or 5, and most cattle in the US are slaughtered before age 4, so are asymptomatic, and the US Beef industry is quite resistant to testing “healthy” cows for it. (Or to the idea of ceasing to feed ground up cows to other cattle)

A friend who was working in a microbiology lab mentioned they use cow blood plasma from New Zealand for certain human related uses because they know the US herd is not well, and they trust the NZ Ag monitoring and reporting much more. He also said there were some suggestions that CJD was being misdiagnosed as Alzheimers …

Sean April 2, 2006 4:18 PM

Park vans filled with fertilizer bombs in the car parks of shopping malls nation wide. Set to detonate simultaneously. Target the suburbs. Make people feel they can not even go out to buy milk without possibly dieing in the car park. The goal is to make people feel anywhere, no matter how anonymous, how suburban , is a potential target.

Scout April 2, 2006 4:24 PM

Terrorists place special remotely-engaged derail devices on railroad tracks passing through major metropolitan areas. When the derail device is engaged, and a train crosses the derail (and comes off the track), two sets of explosives are triggered. The first set of explosives destroys the locomotive–or at least has a good chance of incapacitating the crew and/or their radio equipment. The second set of explosives are laid along the track (either directly on the right-of-way or nearby–nearby has a better chance of avoiding detection) and are designed to rip the cars of the train open. Granted, this is a lot of work for a mile-long train, but it’d be possible.

Before setting up the explosive derail devices, the terrorists watch for regular shipments of highly toxic chemicals…say, chlorine gas or something. On a given day, the terrorists engage the derail device as the chemical-carrying trains come close to the derail devices. Soon, Chicago, Atlanta, NYC, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Houston, Seattle, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Phoenix are choked under poision gas. (Los Angeles was rejected as a target, because residents would just assume it was a smoggier-than-usual day, and suffer no particular ill effects.) The most effective attacks happen in the middle of rush-hour traffic.

Miles of railroad track near major hubs are destroyed. Freeways and streets are blocked by cars with poisoned drivers. People are scared to go outside. There’s a run on gas masks, respirators, and Ionic Breeze air purifiers.

(The terrorists could make their jobs easier by getting jobs as track or signal maintainers with the railroad, but impersonation or work under the cover of darkness would work just fine, too.)

Roddy April 2, 2006 4:45 PM

You just need a big air compressor (hire from local machinery supply place or just ‘borrow’ one from a construction site overnight.) Then tap into a gas pipeline leading into a city, and pump in enough air to give a stochiometric mixture. Some data on gas flows might help here. Run the thing for a few hours, then ignite it with a sparkplug tapped in through the pipeline wall. Boom. The ultimate fuel air bomb, with a readymade city distribution system.

Doug April 2, 2006 4:53 PM

Someone asked why the teens who do school shooting don’t do it at malls where there are more people. Two reasons. Their enemies are at the school, handy. The other reason is that at the mall, there are plenty of people legally carrying their own weapons, and the body count would actually be lots less, about like robbing a gun store or police station. Even teens know this, it’s just some messed up adults who don’t understand the equation involved.

Roddy April 2, 2006 5:11 PM

Following up from the earlier post, we are tapping the gas pipeline (hot tapping is a well established technology) so we can incorporate a flow transducer as well and use that to adjust the air flow to ensure a near stoichiometric mixture. For methane (natural gas) we need about 10:1 air to fuel.

Now take a biggish air compressor – 3000 cubic meters per hour. Enough to stoichiometrically charge 300 cubic meters of gas per hour. Pipeline flows will vary depending on time of day, choose a time when flows are of this order and start charging. A cubic meter of gas has energy of 30MJ, about 8kg of TNT, so an hour of charging at this rate would be equivalent to 2.5 tons of TNT.

Use bigger/more compressors for more spectacular results.

Vikram April 2, 2006 7:33 PM

$500,000 seems enough to hack into all the oil wells all over the world, and burn down all of them. With no more gasoline in the world, the most oil-hungry country (no prizes for guessing which country) comes to a standstill. With most of the research on alternative fuels in Europe, their economy will now top the list.

paul April 2, 2006 7:33 PM

I fall back on a High Altitude EM Pulse. If someone were to lob a nuclear warhead and detonate it, the entire electromagnetic grid/fabric of a continent would be disrupted.

The pulse can easily span continent-sized areas, and this radiation can affect systems on land, sea, and air. The first recorded EMP incident accompanied a high-altitude nuclear test over the South Pacific and resulted in power system failures as far away as Hawaii. A large device detonated at 400–500 km over Kansas would affect all of CONUS. The signal from such an event extends to the visual horizon as seen from the burst point.

The higher the better, so a low altitude burst would not be a failure.

Wikipedia has more.

jon April 2, 2006 7:44 PM

“Plant bomb in underground tunnel below thames.”

Sorry, but the London Underground is equipped with huge flood doors at strategic points. Has been ever since before the Second World War, for reasons of bombing and sabotage, and also because of the threat of natural flooding before the Thames Barrier was built.

A smart terrorist would know that.

A'kos April 2, 2006 7:52 PM

This one needs a lot of time, but this is THE plot.
The american born terrorist goes into politics, fights his way up until he gets elected to be the president of the US.
Then he hijacks air-force one with a nailclipper (he could smuggle it onto the plane in his untarpants because he was not searched), and crashes it into the white house.
There are several alternative endings:
1) the new president declares war to the US (it can’t be a democratic country whose president was a terrorist), invades it until democracy is restored (to do this he has to call home the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, but to restore the headcounts died in friendly fire he has to hire “freedom fighters” from al-quaida.
2) the new president introduces underpant searches on the airports which causes enough chaos to stale international and domestic air-trafic. Also anybody found without underpants is arrested on terrorist charges (no underpant to search -> they have something to hide)
3) in fear of their life nobody wants to be president any more, and a country without president is not a democratic country, so China has every right to attack it and bring democracy and freedom tho the american people (or to the people left alive after the inva^H^H^H^H friendly help).

Tammy April 2, 2006 8:32 PM

nate asks:
“What’s the positive social outcome that you are hoping for from this contest? I can see a lot of bad outcomes (bad ideas banned by new laws, good ideas actually implemented, more people spending more time plotting how to destroy civilization) but I’m not seeing where the good comes of this. What am I missing?”

I think Bruce is trying to make obvious the point that there’s an infinite number of specific threats, so we can’t rely on defending against them all, or guessing which one is going to be used.

gslender April 2, 2006 9:46 PM

The year is 2032 and all business is fully online with very few people using hard cash to actually buy anything. All transactions are real-time online provided by Microsoft’s dot.Fund technology – terroist setup a fake government office design to trick a brilliant student at MIT who is paid to build the mother-of-all-virus designed to spread to every computer, handheld, mobile phone and system that runs dot.Fund – the student thinks he is working for a security research company but it fooled into writing exploit code that is used for bad instead of good. The effect to the global ecconomy is huge and millions of people are unable to buy food as there is no way to transfer money or trade. The 3rd world ecconomies become super powers as the USA, UK and other 1st world powers crumble back to the early 1900’s….


Luke April 2, 2006 10:21 PM

Terrorists drop bags of white powder in crowded malls during peak shopping times. In the ensuing panic, looting and mob violence people are trampled and killed.

Given the quality of mall security, the perpetrators escape by being part of the stampede, pushing as many children and elderly under the crowd’s feet as they can.

As the attacks continue, copycats take up the theme, and the violence gets worse as people start carrying guns to the mall to protect themselves from the next stampede.

Emergency legislation is brought in banning citizens from buying flour or talc.

Andrew April 2, 2006 10:34 PM

Dam The Speedboat! Pick several dams whose collapse would threaten a major metro area, canal locks, power plant intakes, etc. Any dam which trucks are forbidden on, for example. Pack explosive into a speedboat’s V-hull, creating the effect of a shaped charge. Design the boat with several large scuttling holes to flood rapidly and to orient appropriately while sinking.

Drive the boat up to the target, open the seacocks, neatly delivering a ton or more of high explosive right next to the target. Detonation on timer. For a bonus, simply tow the boat over the target, unhitch the trailer and run away, detonation on a timer with an anti-tamper detonator if someone tries to play hero and disarm it.

Leaf Blower Armageddon: take your favorite finely divided lethal powder (anthrax, plutonium, bacilli, etc.) Reverse a gasoline-powered leaf blower. Spray contents into air intake system of shopping mall, large public building, mass transit station etc. or in large public places. Repeat until terrorist’s own exposure renders him ineffective.

And for a Real Movie Plot: a leading security expert puts up a Web site requesting contest entries for mass destruction techniques. Someone points Hollywood producers at the list. Neat ideas, no need to pay anyone, and several blockbuster films are made showing the best of these. The American public is too terrified to go anywhere BUT the theater . . . causing the economy to collapse, at least until supermarkets are installed in movie theaters. On the other hand, theater security improves dramatically.


The other reason is that at the mall, there are plenty of people legally carrying their own weapons, and the body count would actually be lots less, about like robbing a gun store or police station.

Your mileage may vary in New York, Washington DC or all of California, where concealed weapons permits are very hard to come by and firearms are illegal in public by default.

Even teens know this, it’s just some messed up adults who don’t understand the equation involved.

Such as many legislators.

Henry Philips April 2, 2006 10:42 PM

How about one where a government installs fear in its own people to gain and maintain its own political power.

Paul Harrison April 2, 2006 11:42 PM

TERRORISTS set up an operation smuggling ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS into America in shipping containers. Little do the immigrants know that while in the containers they have been exposed to DEADLY ANTHRAX. The doomed immigrants find jobs as menial labourers and servants of the rich, SPREADING DEATH whereever they go.

If only we had SECURED OUR BORDERS against the FOREIGN MENACE. If only we had a NATION BIOMETRIC ID REGISTRY and omnipresent SURVEILLANCE SYSTEMS with FACE RECOGNITION to detect illegal immigrants.


Witchdoctor Ugh April 2, 2006 11:57 PM

If this entry gets the prize, it and
the copyright of the idea…”

You can’t copyright an idea.
Posted by: Jim Hyslop at April 2, 2006 04:52 PM

Someone needs to tell WIPO…

Luke April 3, 2006 12:52 AM

Terrorists are disappointed to discover that America’s drinking water supplies come from hundreds of disjoint reservoirs and distribution systems. A plot based on water contamination would need to be done on a city by city basis.

Their dismay is short lived though when they discover that the average American does not drink tap water anyway, but does drink more than a gallon of soft drink a week.

By placing a handful of minimum wage employees on factory floors at major cola manufacturing plants, they are able to contaminate millions of gallons and tap into a highly organised, efficient distribution network that connects to every city, town, military base and government building, delivering their deadly payload into the hands of millions.

Simon Ellis April 3, 2006 2:12 AM

Movie plot scenario:

A team of Saudi Arabian students gain employment at farms across Vietnam under the pretense of researching the origins of the bird-flu virus. With excited villagers gladly leading the students to infected farms, the team quickly gains samples of infected birds. Unbeknown to all, the team works nights with more experienced researchers based in Saudi Arabia to study the virus and its ability to propagate amongst humans. In fact, the small team are actually found to be injecting themselves with the virus and synthetic strains they have made in order to study the effects and the ability to pass it amongst each other.

Once the test subjects of the team start dying and other members who have not been directly injected with the virus fall ill, it becomes clear that the researched virus strains can successfully infect and propagates amongst humans. At this time the ‘students’ board different planes heading for America. Being Saudi Arabian and facing some suspicion by the authorities, the students are given a thorough screening at the airport, yet no weapons are found so they freely board the planes. However, the goal of the terrorists at this stage is not to kill with weapons, but rather to have the airplane air-conditioning units efficiently pass the virus they are infected with to other people on the plane. Once in America, the terrorist continue to catch flights to various capital cities, with the intention to spread the virus until it overcomes their own body and they die.

It is not until several days later that some tourists from Vietnam start showing signs of illness and ultimately die. Panic spreads as all travellers start fearing that they were also infected. The airline industry is hit hard as people stop flying. The airline also faces the difficult task of allowing people to fly without the ability to detect whether they are free of disease. Fear also kills the bird trade, especially when foreign countries stop buying exported American chickens. Terrorists with links to AlJazeera and other such media start spreading rumors of detected Mad Cow disease in American beef, which is easily picked up as fact due to the bird flu virus in the US, thus further affecting the export of American food. Ultimately many people die until a cure for the virus is found and the American economy loses its position as strongest in the world.

Neil K April 3, 2006 2:39 AM

1) Al-Qaeda recruits African islamists to blow up three of the largest megachurches in the South, leaving behind evidence it was the work of a revived cell of the Black Panthers. Meanwhile, light-skinned Persians destroy numerous black churches and the Apollo Theatre, leaving the impression it was done in retaliation, by white militias.

Then real members of these groups begin killing each other in the cities and countryside. Al Qaeda stokes the flames of conflict whenever it seems that it may subside.

Local governments assert “states’ rights” to suspend the constitution, and persecute and intern black americans. Inner-city gangs with access to high-powered weaponry assert themselves as defenders of the black community.

Civil War II follows.

2) Terrorists attack and shut down some of the major drug-smuggling cartels in Colombia. The price of drugs skyrockets, fuelling intense gang warfare. An epidemic of ever-more ambitious petty crime by the addicted also results.

3) With a rented crop duster, terrorists douse airports with a cloud of very dilute explosive chemicals. This renders any chemical sniffers and bomb-sniffing dogs useless and shuts down flights for weeks, if not months.

Guillaume April 3, 2006 3:42 AM


Hi Bruce.

Can french people also play the game but “scaring” their own country ?

I mean : what’s the point : unlikely yet plausible scenario even if outside of US ? Or “just” making American people scared ?

Tom Geiger April 3, 2006 4:32 AM

Plot: If I remember correctly, US Officers have to stand and salute to the flag when the US official hymn is played, and are bound to this by regulation. Terrorists could just get some Boomboxes (big ones) and a couple of US flags, enter some critical buildings, display the flags in the windows and roundrobin play the song 24/2. Forces would have to stand and salute, unable to sleep, eat, move forward to remove the threat or respond to any other threats. Even more forces are required to feed the already present, also binding them “to the flag”, effectively crippling US Law Enforcement. Terrorists, not bound by (and not caring about) this regulation would be free to roam around the country within days, wrecking havoc and effectively bringing down all critical systems in the US.

Sorry for the silly one, but I couldn’t resist while reading some of the comments, and I think id would make a good comedy movie 😉

John April 3, 2006 5:20 AM

Start a chain of fast food franchises, which offer supersize deals. over the course of a couple of generations, the body mass of the average citizen heads towards dangerously obese, and children start dying of heart disease and diabetes.

John April 3, 2006 5:23 AM

My favourite, (from a novel by Christopher Brookmyre), Get on a train heading for a major city terminus with two large suitcases, get off a stop early, but leave the cases on. The cases are bombs, with timer or gps triggers.

Chris King April 3, 2006 6:12 AM

Terrorists posing as geologists set up drilling rigs on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. By injecting water, and setting off carefully placed explosives, they cause a huge landslide, resulting in a mega-tsunami that destroys the east coast of the US.

Think I’m kidding? Its happened before (but not in recorded history).

Related (but harder to do)- set off the supervolcano under Yellowstone park.


Flaphead April 3, 2006 6:25 AM

1) Something bad in the water supply – hoover dam or something
2) Just take this season of 24 and make it into a film
3) Something on a bigger scale, put enough dust in the athmostphere to cause a nucelar winter
4) Has someone not already started this with bird flu?

The real problem is that whatever film you have, the baddies never ever win, so everyone is happy that the world ends up a safer place. I think the key and a REAL shocker would be where the baddies actually win! That alone would put the message across!

Matti Kinnunen April 3, 2006 6:49 AM

The terrorists recruit a Yale-grad. Using some sinister tricks, the grad become the president of the USA.

The president then starts a few wars and otherwise destroys the economy.

The destroyed economy makes it impossible for USA to cure the sick and fee the hungry. Thus, millions die.

Lefty April 3, 2006 6:51 AM

Evil Plot that is actually possible to execute: A combination of different attacks on random civil targets.

15 snipers, placed all over the country. Some of them are sleepers for a few months/years. They are working alone taking out 5 random targets then going back to sleeping mode. This will paralyze the whole country as it did with the Washington snipers.

5 Terrorsist placing small bombs in public on 5 random targets that are not protected as subway, busses etc. Then back in sleeping mode.

10 remaining terrorists works on assassination on non-protected but quite important persons in finacial business.

Why this would work:

  • 1 sniper i Washington kept the whole area i fear.

  • Bombs in London last year is still keeping people from using the subway

  • Currently anything extra ordinary that is happening to US market is affecting the stock exchange instantly If people that works for department of finances and stock brokers on Wall Street are being assassinated it WILL affect the stock exchange and eventually cause the already fragile economy to crash.

Chris King April 3, 2006 7:00 AM


As someone who lives and works in Lndon, I can vouch for the fact that people are NOT staying away from the Undergound. It was quiet for a dew days after, and people were nervous for longer, but now you wouldn’t know that anything bad had occurred.


Martin April 3, 2006 7:50 AM

The city once used fire hydrants for bringing our drinking water to our neighborhood.
Having enough high potency poison (ricin?), open up a fire hydrant top lid, drop in there the poison, close the lid, open the lower valve, and voila, water contamination for a neighborhood.
Not too cinematographic, but effective. No need to subvert a whole water treatment plant.

StockCrash April 3, 2006 8:26 AM

You guys are making these all violent.. What are you being taught 😉

The greatest fear for America: Loosing Money. The biggest thing to hit america: Individual invenstments.. Come on, Peter Lynch, Warren Buffet, Cramer all help individual investors by telling them to invest in the market.

So, What do you do? You don’t go after the big boys (that have heavy investor accts related).. You go after a lot of others..

$500K, 20-30 people.. Easy to set up a fake investment analyst firm, start printing false news of fraud on on random companies in random sectors. Buy short options on these companies in bulk. By the time the “law suits” start, the terrorists have made more money, can create new companies, and investors will lose faith.

Let the “entitlement” of justice run rampant as the anger spreads..

Oh yeah: the terrorist — they just trippled their money and now can do even more damage by buying larger stakes in those major companies and doing hostile take overs.

William April 3, 2006 9:00 AM

Here’s mine: Terrorists acquire/produce large quantities of vCJD prions []. They infect cattle throughout the US, or get jobs at/sneak into meat packing plants. Large quantities of infected meat pass into the food supply before anyone notices due to practically non-existant FDA monitoring. Years later, pretty much every American who has ever eaten a hamburger (i.e., almost all of them) begins rapidly progressing into dementia and death. Let the zombie plague begin…

albatross April 3, 2006 9:30 AM

The accellerated Marching Morons:

A terrorist mastermind reads The Bell Curve, and finds out about the heritability of intelligence. He spends his money setting up free vasectomy / tube tying clinics on all the Ivy League campuses, free for students only. The smartest people in the country start getting cut out of the future genepool. Fifty years later, UPN is the intellectual network on TV, and most citizens find old Baywatch reruns too intellectual and dry to follow.

Sam April 3, 2006 9:38 AM

Unfortunately, I didn’t write this, but the ecologists will finish us off:

From the end of the article:

Dangerous Times

Let me now remove my reporter’s hat for a moment and tell you what I think. We live in dangerous times. The national security of many countries is at risk. Science has become tainted by highly publicized cases of misconduct and fraud.

Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping former student might someday become a professional biologist or physician with access to the most deadly strains of viruses and bacteria? I believe that airborne Ebola is unlikely to threaten the world outside of Central Africa. But scientists have regenerated the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed 50 million people. There is concern that small pox might someday return. And what other terrible plagues are waiting out there in the natural world to cross the species barrier and to which scientists will one day have access?

Dooferlad April 3, 2006 9:38 AM

If you want to strike fear into the hearts of people you need to think of the children. How about exploding / poisoned dolls? Exploding is a little too far-fetched because the evil villain would have to make his own dolls and market them, but it should be relatively easy to get a job packing dolls into boxes and get some anthrax in there. Of course, in real life nobody would get away with putting powder into the boxes, but if filmed with sufficiently dramatic lighting I am sure you could sell the idea. Our hero would then be in a race against time before the bad batch was put on sale… at Christmas! Of course you could have a false sense of hope in the third act that all the dolls were recovered unopened, but while driving back to the police station, snow falling from the sky and congratulatory voices on the radio, he would see a child pointing at one of the dolls through a shop window – a second van had got out! The film ends with maybe one doll not found on Christmas day. OK, maybe the second batch was only a car boot full to allow our hero to track them down in the remaining 25 minutes of the film.

Not only an advert for producing our toys at home, not in a sweat-shop, but also an advert for the benefits of RFID tags in everything, because we would have been able to find that last doll if it had an RFID tag in it. Of course, the person bought it with a credit card, but the card company wouldn’t allow personal details to be given out to a police officer without a court order.

Buckyball April 3, 2006 9:50 AM

Here it goes:

20-30 terrorists with $500,000 could paralyze the East Coast by blowing themselves up with Oklahoma City style explosives. They target every bridge and tunnel on I-95 in Baltimore, Washington DC & the bridges over the Potomac river. This cuts the North – South economic pipeline and the evening news shows 50 mile traffic backups in our nations capital. A CSX train caught fire in a tunnel in Baltimore back in ’01 – caused much damage. This seems to me fairly easy to pull off and it would take Years to fix the infrastructure. Throw in some swarthy foreigners to make it ‘Hollywood’.

Ed T. April 3, 2006 10:21 AM

“Movie plot 3: Terrorists use unsolicited bulk e-mail (“spam”) which contain messages urging the recipient to kill everyone around them. While most people will realize the email is not genuine, a small fraction will simply take the message at face value, and go on shooting rampages.”

ROTFLMAO! I vote for this one!


Nog April 3, 2006 10:45 AM

How about a “denial of service” attack against major airports?

You don’t need suicide bombers, you don’t need specialized training. All you need is an army of volunteers willing to get arrested.

You need one volunteer per hour for each gate at each major airport in the country. Like clockwork, every hour the volunteers run through security areas at the gates and “disappear into the crowd” on the secure side. The airports are forced to evacuate the gates and re-screen the passengers.

Do this every hour at every gate at ever major airport, and airline travel will grind to a halt.

Portico April 3, 2006 10:56 AM

Terrorists plan on tainting the oil of several super tankers rending the oil on board useless or creates a nerve gas when used. Make the substance impossible to detect. The taint can be a mystery chemical or bacteria. Keep the science low, but wordy. I can see a shootout or two, maybe an explosion, perhaps a brave crew takes a stand to defend the oil. Tack on a romantic interest and a chase scene with coast guard cutters. Words to use in the script: “Enron”, “school bus”, “freedom”, “Mwa ha ha ha”, and “peace”. It pretty much writes itself.

Rhett April 3, 2006 12:50 PM

Push a cities emergency response to its limit. The idea is to do lots of ‘little’ things that would typically be swarmed with firefighters, police, ambulances, but when done in mass quickly exhaust our ability to respond.

Rent 20-30 apartments in a major city (one for each of your terrorists fake ids)
Take a cluster of apartments on one side of the city, and a distribution of apartments thorughout the rest of the city. Light up cluster 1 at 5:30 pm on a weekday. Use something fancy like ‘gasoline’ and ‘matresses’.

At 6:00 pm, light up the other apartments throughout the rest of the city.

Oh and I forgot to mention, do include low-tech explosives to attempt to take out as many first responders as possible. Trip wires, road side bombs, whatever.

Now, while your firefighters and ambulances are busy (and 911 is pretty swamped), use your suicidal terrorists to visit all the popular donut shops in the area and shoot in the stomach at least one police officer. Shoot to wound.

Now that the city is panic, at 7:00 pm, the evil mastermind who funded these religious fanatics is free to pull of is federal reserve heist. Hopefully CTU and Jack Bauer don’t figure it out first.

paul April 3, 2006 12:59 PM

A fair number of people have talked about the UPS/Fedex scenario, but to make a really good movie plot threat you need telling details. How about terrorists who put the persistent microbe of choice into computer equipment being shipped through package hubs, set to blow up while in the hub so that all package processing is shut down during the holiday season. All the terrorists have to do is get seasonal jobs in the shipping departments of a major computer retailer or three (and the electronics for the detonators will be hidden among the rest of the circuitry). Or if you want to replay the burning-down-New-York scenario, have the terrorists blow up or block all the roads, bridges and tunnels into Manhattan (might take more than 30 people) and watch the carnage that ensues as food runs out, until some intrepid hero has the idea of bringing supplies in by water…

I’m surprised that no one has considered a good dambusting threat — if terrorists (having overpowered their tour guides) planted explosives to blow up Hoover Dam, for example, you’d deprive the dry West (and particularly Las Vegas, symbol of decadent capitalist villainy if ever there was one) of water and power. (It seems that some of the powers that be actually have thought rather seriously about this possibility, since dam security has been tightened in recent years.)

Ipstenu April 3, 2006 1:20 PM

Think of this as Cocoon meets The Crew on an airplane:

A group of older terrorists, all have to use canes and walkers, sneak the components of a bomb onto a plane, masqurading as vacationers headed from NYC to Florida. Their goal? Blow up the plane over a theme park. By storing the majority of the components in other electronic devices (i.e. ‘Isn’t it a nice camera? My son the doctor bought it for me!’) and in the tubing of the walkers and canes themselves, they’re able to sneak the weapons on board and reassemble them in the bathroom.

After all, who’s going to be suspicious of a bunch of octogenarians who have to pee a lot?

1915bond April 3, 2006 1:25 PM

Domestically owned and operated gas station/convenience stores begin blowing up (by some terrorist group). In retaliation, rednecks believe the culprits are of middle eastern descent, and begin blowing up gas station/convenience stores operated by foreigners. While there are only mild casualties from the bombings, soon everyone is afraid to go to any gas station, public transportation becomes overloaded and crime rises, and the economic impact causes a stock market crash. Not well thought out, but it just popped into my head.

Brian April 3, 2006 1:33 PM

Terrorists fill several boats full of explosives and set out for the La Palma islands. Once there, they use large amounts of explosives to trigger a massive landslide at the Cumbre Vieja volcano. The resulting mega tsunami wipes out the East coast of the US, including Washington DC, and New York city. The US economy tanks worse than in the great depression.

Simultaneously a second group detonates explosives that are strategically placed at the San Andreas fault line, causing the big earthquake that sends California to the bottom of the ocean. The terrorists have used the majority of their funds to purchase real estate in Nevda, which is now beach front property.

The terrorists use the money the made from their Nevada real estate to buy Diebold. They then proceed to rig the elections (most politicians died in the Mega Tsunami), and install their own puppet regime. Literally — the muppets are elected. Sure, there are rumors that the elections were rigged, but those rumors are quickly squashed thanks to provisions in the 3rd version of the Patriot Act.

Obviously the only reason the terrorists are able to pull this off is because of the ninjas that they hired to keep Chuck Norris busy. There are some really cool kung-fu scenes in the movie. Oh, a couple cars blow up, and there’s lots of broken glass.

Pat Cahalan April 3, 2006 1:56 PM

So far my favorites are Andrew’s “The Contest” and Scott’s “Napalm”. It’s going to take me some time to work up a good entry.

Say, Bruce, if we already own Beyond Fear, can we pick another Schneier-authored book for the prize?

Some of these are drifting way out of the spirit of the contest -> remember, it has to be plausible (but unlikely), cost under $500,000, and require 20-30 untrained people.

Random Guy April 3, 2006 1:57 PM

I’m surprised that no one has considered a good dambusting threat — if terrorists (having overpowered their tour guides) planted explosives to blow up Hoover Dam

Better to blow up Glen Canyon Dam; probably easier to do, and the resulting flood would take out Hoover (and the others) as well, and cause huge changes to life in the region. But dams are big and hard to blow up.

DanT April 3, 2006 2:29 PM

Operation Freedman
Take money and throw it out of helicopters (ala Milton Freedman).

On Wednesday March 7, 2007 at 5PM, spam goes out stating an eccentric .com millionaire died with no heirs and wanted to give $50M back to the people by dropping money from helicopters.

The first $1M drop is Thursday March 8, 2007 in New York, NY (Times Square) at 5 PM.
Watch mahem while people fight to collect free cash while traffic jams.
The first drop is only to guarantee crowds for the second round.

The second round of drops are Friday March 9, 2007: $1M at every US city over 500,000 people at 5PM, specific locations are provided.

Only drop money at 9 more locations (see list below).
Hollywood, CA (on the site of the Oscars)
Washington, DC (Lincoln Park across from White House)
Las Vegas, NV (Intersection between Excalibar, NY NY, MGM Grand)
Philadelphia, PA (Liberty Hall)
San Diego, CA (at the airport)
Seattle, WA (street next to Pike Place Market)
Columbus, OH (outside city hall)
Chicago, IL (outside Mercantile Exchange)
St. Louis, MO (at the arch)

Spam e-mail sent a few minutes after 5PM apologizes and explains that “Government agents wearing dark suits seized the cash” at other locations.
Watch mahem while anyone in dark suits gets beaten by crowds.
Anti-government sentiments at an all-time high in non-drop cities.

The cash injection (and threatened cash drops) temporarily causes fear of inflation which throws the economy into turmoil. Massive amounts of money moved to inflation havens. Millions are made by shrewd traders.

Follow-up spam e-mails with news of other drops. Congress passes law to outlaw dropping cash from helicopters. None of the subsequent drops occur, this is blamed upon the dark-suited government agents. The Department of Homeland Security denies seizing cash.

Only it turns out the money is counterfeit!
Companies start refusing cash payments, causing poor economic outlook. Congress amends prior law to outlaw dropping counterfeit cash from helicopters. The Department of Homeland Security issues no-fly order to all helicopters in the US.

Only it turns out the money is not only counterfeit, but also tainted with anthrax!
US government (Center for Disease Control) first to break this news. This is decried as part of the government plot to stop the cash drops. Once non-government sources confirm government reports, massive fear breaks out.

The resulting anthrax epidemic causes hospital overload. Insurance companies deny claims. Personal bankrupcy hits an all-time high. Health care providers begin to go bankrupt. Congress passes law to outlaw health care provider bankrupcy.

Foreign governments refuse to allow US cash, or US goods, into their countries. Trade imbalance grows.

People, unable to use cash, burn it; causing fear of deflation as cash is destroyed. Massive amounts of money move into deflation havens. Millions are made by shrewd traders.

The Department of Homeland Security issues instructions on how to properly destroy anthrax-infected cash.

Congress moves out of DC to a remote location in the Shenandoah mountains, further fueling anti-government sentiments.

People are afraid to leave their homes. Schools close. Businesses close. Towns and cities set up road-blocks. The country descends into warlord fiefdoms.

Jack C Lipton April 3, 2006 2:36 PM

A biological weapon which acts as more of a symbiote than a toxin negates all hormonal birth control techniques, instead producing hormones that increase fertility in women and causing the mucosa to produce materials that break down latex very quickly.

A weapon of “Miss” destruction, eh?

Having to deal with a sudden rise in the birth rate places pressure on the economy and people over a long period of time.

antibozo April 3, 2006 2:49 PM


This is a great idea! You also were wise to put the caveat on “First”. There have already been five of these contests. Each one has resulted in one season of “24”. :^)

Of course, the accumulated storyline of “24” makes its own meta-movie plot. Just think, somehow the President is always in California. And terrorists never bother working in other large cities because they don’t have enough Hollywood actors living in them. And naturally we would put our primary counter-terrorism capability in L.A.–otherwise how could we hire so many attractive women to work there? Unfortunately the California power distribution problems still exist there so the facility is cursed with poor lighting. Maybe in the future the L.A. CTU will become a regional facility and we’ll have wondrous new shows like “24: Fort Meade” or “24: New Orleans”, and the three facilities will spend all their time “opening sockets” to one another.

All in jest, dear people… after all, I keep watching the damned show. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion; I just can’t take my eyes off it. In fact, I think season 4 started with a slow-motion train wreck…

Mike April 3, 2006 2:54 PM

Terrorists steal several fuel tankers from rig drivers. Use several driving in parallel very slowly to back up traffic solidly in a mountain pass (or better yet a tunnel). Set off fuel (or explosives in the tunnel), collapse the entire thing, massive loss of life. People become afraid to drive, new and “improved” trucker security shred transportation system and cripple economy.

Jack C Lipton April 3, 2006 2:58 PM

Alternatively, make use of streets as the weapons themselves.

Dump huge quantities of Liquid Oxygen onto asphalt, converting it into a contact explosive, just before rush hour.

When you can’t even trust the pavement you’re driving over…

Realize that terrorism is really just a “product tampering” scheme attempting to poison the largest product of all: civilization. It’s a matter of undermining trust to the point where it’s a game of “every man for himself”.

Consider James Burke”s series “Connections”, ep1, “The Trigger Effect”, and David Brin’s “The Postman”, where civilization is the product of faith and trust in everyone around us. Undermine that… kind of how the current administration has been going about it… and all of civilization teeters on the brink.

Also, don’t forget the force multiplier provided by the news organizations who salivate over bringing us all the latest gems that will bump up their ratings and bring them lots of money.

Heck, why do any real damage when all you need is some greedy news people? In Security, PEOPLE are the problem anyway!

Additionally, you don’t need a large target, you just need a visible target. The reason the Statue of Liberty wasn’t targetted was that there’s only one of them and so there wouldn’t be any cameras positioned to catch a second plane arriving.

Mithrandir April 3, 2006 3:04 PM

Use a suitcase nuke, or some well-placed conventional explosives, to cause the Canary Island Mega Tsunami, thus destroying the entire east coast of the United States, as well as disrupting all of NATO.

Variant: No landslide, but suitcase nukes detonated under water at strategically chosen points within the Atlantic cause tightly-focused coastal destruction, as their wave fronts constructively interfere at a focal points on the Atlantic coast.

Variant: Use said nuke(s) to set off the Yellowstone Supervolcano. Perhaps a bit more of a strech.

Natural disasters are and will always be a much bigger threat than terrorism. The 9-11 attacks only killed about 3000 people. Katrina killed 1400. The earthquake-tsunami off of Indonesia killed 230,000. An earthquake in Pakistan recently killed 80,000.

Hijack a petrolium supertanker, and use it to ram dykes in the Netherlands, then blow it up with conventional explosives.

Junior Justice April 3, 2006 3:07 PM

Easily done. You have your 20+ people, train them in how to use a sniper rifle. Then have them snipe out public officals. Not your President or Governor, but your small-town mayors, your sheriffs. You have them take out different small-town leaders across the country. The fact that they are low-priority targets is enough to be able to get away with possibly hundreds of targets before any patterns are discovered. You have each “cell” working in a different set of states. Keep the towns totally random. This will panic America to have people stop serving in their Public Office’s and slowly the Governments will begin to crumble. After a few months of random and slow headshots, they suddenly go quiet. No one is murdered, no one is harmed. They a few months later, each of the terrorist will alternate and each take out one target a month. Enough to keep anyone going after them on their toes as to how many people are left and how many copycats are out there.

Neal Lester April 3, 2006 3:19 PM

Park the 20-30 folks in central Africa where they can live for next to nothing indefinitely. When the next outbreak of Ebola occurs they go get themselves infected. Ebola has an incubation period of 2-21 days so they have time to get to the U.S. or Europe. They could fly to Mexico using fake U.S. passports (no Visa required) and then enter the U.S. illegally by hiring coyotes. Once in the U.S. they go to public events and infect as many people as possible before dying themselves.

The only difficulty I see is this mission would require a lot more courage then a regular suicide bombing mission. That could be handled by giving them shots and (falsely) telling them that the shots will allow them to get sick enough to infect others but will keep them from getting too sick themselves.

antibozo April 3, 2006 3:30 PM

Mithrandir> Use a suitcase nuke, or some well-placed conventional explosives, to cause the Canary Island Mega Tsunami, thus destroying the entire east coast of the United States, as well as disrupting all of NATO.

Sorry, something like that was already done (with bioengineering instead of nukes) in ABC’s series “Surface” last season. :^)

Balloon Man April 3, 2006 4:23 PM

Balloon attack in the warn terr.
Take 30 terrorists; organize as 15 teams of 2 terrs each.

Each team is equipped with
2 man-portable cylinders of helium, with regulators
120 largish, clear balloons
10 1000′ spools of 28-gauge copper wire
2 roll of kite string
2 box cutters

Total cost much less than $500,000. Use the balance for rent, food, cars, gas money, pet dogs (see below), and lap dances.

Deploy terr teams around the country, 5 to NYC metro, 5 to LA metro, 5 to Chicago Metro. Or any other cities you don’t like.

Have each terr team scout out the corridors underneath major high voltage transmission lines. Find the major corridors with 3-7 transmission lines crammed into one narrow path. They are easy to spot, use G**gle Earth, USGS maps, or working eyesight to spot large metal towers. Walk the dog in the corridors underneath the lines. Find secluded spots.

On T-day, all 15 teams go their chosen spots, with or without dogs.

Check the wind by blowing up a few balloons and releasing them. Unroll 200′ of copper wire, perpendicular to the chosen power line, and directly beneath it, or as required to compensate for wind. Each terr blows up a balloon with helium, ties it to the ground with 5-10′ of kite string, then attaches the copper wire to the string, just under the balloon. The tethered balloons holds the wire just above the well trimmed vegetation underneath each line so it won’t be snagged.

Repeat 6 -10 times for 1 power line, moving at least 50 yards down the line for each balloon pair and wire. Then repeat for the adjacent high voltage line. Lay out 50 wires in all.

Now the terr pair ditches their heavy helium bottles and get out their box cutters. Using hand signals, they simultaneously cut the kite strings holding down one wire with a balloon on each end. They quickly move down the line to the next, and repeat.

As the wire is lifted up to the high-voltage transmission line, it causes an electrical arc. Power flows from one high-voltage wire to the next until circuit breakers open. A few seconds after they open, the circuit breakers automatically reclose. The second balloon-borne wire causes a second arc. The circuit breaker opens, closes again. The third breaker causes still another arc. The circuit breaker opens, and this time is locks open.

The attack is repeated for all the transmission lines in each corridor. In a matter of minutes, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago have blackouts. When the utilities try to manually close the circuit breakers, the additional balloon-wires are already in place across the lines. They arc and the breakers trip right away.

The attackers leave the area, assembly a second kit, get in their cars, and go to the areas around the next 3 big cities they don’t like.

1) Use 30 each 1-terr teams, tether one end of each wire, and cause a line-to-ground arc instead of going for the more spectacular line-to-line. Attack 6 cities at once instead of 3. Leave lots of clear balloons and skinny wires floating near power lines, waiting for the right gust of wind to push them into the wires and cause a short circuit.

2) Ditch the balloons, the helium, the wire, the rent, and the lap dances. Buy explosives and timers and train the terrs to use them. Scout out the corridors as before. Find towers where the line takes a sharp bend, and cut the outer leg on that tower with the explosive and timer. Each terr is expected to cut one or more legs from at least 12 high-voltage towers. Extra points for getting one tower to fall across an adjacent line. Now the power systems to the targeted cities are shut down for weeks or months.

Results: Major metropolitan areas in blackout. Blackouts repeated many times as other disgruntled groups recruit terrs and repeat the attack along the 150,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines.

Voters turn out in mass and throw all the bums out of office. They’ll stand for murder, they’ll sit still for groping at airports, they’ll accept ruinous taxes and deficits, but when the power goes out, the politicians follow. Ask Gray Davis.

American culture is forever changed when the new group of politicians realizes that they don’t have long to line their wallets unless they can keep the power flowing. They can’t recruit enough guards for 150,000 miles of line. They have to stop the attacks at the source. They offer peace terms to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the rest of the world. All the troops are brought home, all the foreign bases closed. The Southerners, the rednecks, the ranchers, the rich, the businessmen, and even the gun nuts are made to feel welcome in American culture and politics. The Bill of Rights is restored and politicians who don’t enforce the letter and spirit of the Constitution as originally written are rapidly and firmly replaced. Government is drastically reduced and the economy prospers. World peace is upon us.

Well, you asked for a grandiose goal!

Anonymous April 3, 2006 4:30 PM

Here’s an idea: multiple, coordinated attacks on polling places. Most US polls are located in public schools, libraries, and other extremely soft locations. Even just two or three attacks would be a major blow; five to ten well-planned attacks, either shootings or car/truck bombings, would be catastrophic.

Strike early in the day – 10-noon. True, there will be significantly less casualties than right before closing time, when everyone lines up, but the effect will be to deter people from coming out and voting later in the day. For maximum effect, choose inner city polling places: not only have we seen that these polling places tend to develop very long queues, but also an attack selectively targeting the already-disenfranchised will inflict maximal societal damage.

Furthermore, if no extra-constitutional steps are taken to nullify the ensuing election returns, this will generate not only a flood of conspiracy theories, but some well-grounded voting rights lawsuits. Plenty of scenarios are capable of creating a human and economic crisis; how many can produce a full-blown constitutional crisis?

Martin Budden April 3, 2006 4:31 PM


in your judging, I think you should award extra points for a movie plot that exploits any of the stupid countermeasures you often point out in your blog. And extra points if the terrorist threat is averted by sensible countermeasures (ie the kind that protect against broad threats). And a goold plot has to have a human interest – how about an old-school cop who notices something hinky and has to work around his superiors who are only interested in protecting against specific threats. And, of course, extra points for any movie plot that involves squid, especially giant ones.

Jess Austin April 3, 2006 4:33 PM

This is inspired by a puzzling new policy that law enforcement in L.A. seems to have adopted. Any yahoo sitting in his old car by the side of the freeway, who “may have a gun” and “seems unstable” prompts a complete closure of all 6 lanes of traffic in both directions, for an indefinite amount of time, most often during the evening rush hour. This achieves fantastic traffic density, which our movie’s environmentalist radical group could use to destroy a large number of evil polluting vehicles at once.

The group could call in 3 separate “weirdo in his car” incidents in a single afternoon, with the designated weirdos setting up far from available offramps on the busiest freeways, perhaps in mountain passes with high winds. Simultaneously others in the group could hijack 15 gas tanker trucks and circulate them through the areas due to be closed, while the demolition experts could strategically set up orange traffic barrels full of explosives. In real life such a plan might only kill dozens in sporadic fires, but in the movie you could imagine firestorms and mushroom clouds.

Of course this would inspire fear, and even worse… travel by train. The movie could end with some moron commenting how ironic it is that an environmental group would cause large explosions. The lone surviving terrorist could then explain the actual meaning of the word “irony” before beheading the moron with a samurai sword.

ecurve April 3, 2006 4:39 PM

A friend of mine ( is a complete roadgeek, and he told me once that the national freeway infrastructure has a surprising number of bottlenecks. The terrorists demolish maybe three or four tunnels/mountain passes, country-wide, and watch as the means of transporting anything tangible gets hopelessly snarled! Pretty soon, Angelenos are desperate for their BoTox shipments, while Las Vegans are desperate for… well, food. People across the country are dropping like flies for want of prescription medication… perhaps even an adorable moppet somewhere in rural America…

Taneli Huuskonen April 3, 2006 4:55 PM

The terrorists hire an ex-Soviet expert on thermobaric weapons (fuel-air explosives) to do some calculations. They rent some office space in a skyscraper and start bringing large water jugs really filled with methanol into the office, a few at a time not to raise suspicions. They also smuggle some small but powerful explosives past the security guards. When they’re ready, they go to the top floor, spray the methanol into the stairwells, wait a suitable time to let it mix well with air, and detonate it. At the same time, electricity is cut and sprinklers are rendered ineffective by blasting the water pipes. People are trapped in a burning tower.

This is the plan, but the heroine discovers it in the nick of time. She reaches the villains just as they’ve successfully sabotaged the sprinkler system and there’s a terrorist at each stairwell preparing the explosive mixture. Martial arts scenes, struggles for lighters, terrorists falling down the stairs…

Kristopher April 3, 2006 5:15 PM

Terrorists cause massive amounts of the dangerous substance Di-Hidrogen Monoxide to fill low lying areas around the planet, often to depths greater then human height, making it difficult to excape these traps without special training.

Hundreds of thousands of people die each year when they accidentally become immersed in the substance, cannot extricate themselves, and die of Di-Hydrogen Monoxide-caused asphyxiation.

Truck Driver April 3, 2006 5:29 PM

Terrorists fill 3 18-wheelers with ANFO and/or whatever else they can buy on their budget. They drive into Boston on I-93 N, I-93 S, and I-90 E. Once they are all in the tunnels, they park their rigs, get out of the tunnel, and set off the truck bombs. The tunnels are destroyed, the drivers in the tunnels all drowned in their cars, and Boston’s population begins to riot as adequate food and fuel can no longer get into the city.

the_fiend April 3, 2006 5:50 PM

common movie ploy? dupes.

so, you have 20-30 people who want to make a change to the world and have enough money for explosives and a few other things. a major operation that they wanna plan might take many vehicles.

say, for example, stopping traffic in the major ports, bringing shipping to a halt.

how do you do this? sink/blow up an oil tanker in the waters of the various ports you want to shut down. san diego, new york, l.a., oakland, baltimore and gavelston. navel ports like san diego and baltimore, in particular would beach sections of the defense force.

so you need an awful lot of boats to zip about and take care of these things, as well as, somehow, get close enough to oil tankers (or, i dunno…. nuclear vessels.)

if only there was already a group of people who tend to zoom about on little rubber dingy boats, getting in the way of big ships that people might suspect of going that one step too far, to throw off suspicion while you make the break for it?

some, i dunno… environmental organisation. that espouses green ideals with some violent/matyr actions from time to time, in the name of some kind of peace, so that an infiltration by others with a similar but vastly larger scope of view would not be too surprising.

hell, you could even have the terrorists being p.e.t.a. operatitives, who are doing it just to disrupt the import/export of animal meat, to “save lives” of their animal friends.

20-30 individuals joining different cells that are already set-up and organising a “global day of action” with their new friends, to show their enthusiasm.

i thought of this, checked the web to research a few ports and found out how unoriginal i am…..


the fiend
not all fanatics are religious.

qsmith April 3, 2006 7:19 PM

Versions of this scenario have been mentioned a few times above, but I’ve wondered for a long time if this has been planned for. Anyway, terrorists board an oil supertanker by helicopter, disguised as the Coast Guard (they have helicopters don’t they??). Take control of the helm and ramp the tanker up to maximum speed (it takes a half hour to bring one of these monsters to a full stop). Ram the tanker into a vulnerable low lying U.S. East Coast port. The tanker bow may well end up on a downtown street. Then for the fireworks, detonate a dirty bomb in the bow area of the tanker, blowing open a floodgate of crude oil drowning us “infidels” in oil.

ReluctantPeninsulan April 3, 2006 7:34 PM

All good movies need kung fu. Muslim radicals shave their beards, join the local Republican party, and get nominated as delegates to the Republican National Convention. It’s particularly convincing if they’re Bosnians or something, because who will notice white guys at the RNC? They use kung fu to wipe out the top 5 candidates, leaving hundreds of unpledged delegates. Not having anyone to tell them what to do, they nominate some guy from the back of the room, who happens to be…one of the terrorists! Dum dum DUM! Only the VP can save the day, preferably with kung fu as well.

Starring that guy from the Transporter, Jackie Chan, and probably some Turkish dudes.

ReluctantPeninsulan April 3, 2006 7:36 PM

On a more realistic note, every time some moron calls in a bomb threat to a subway, airport, or whatever, the place gets shut down and paralyzed. Who needs a bomb when threats are just as effective? Just have your unskilled terrorists call in dozens of different threats a day from different cell phones. Cost: 25 cents x 20 people x 30 days. An entire city would be shut down for a month.

FIlias Cupio April 3, 2006 7:39 PM

Martin has posted a less elaborate version of this, but:

July 4th, small town. Big public gathering, bands etc. One of the attractions is the volunteer fire brigade sqiurting hoses at targets, extinguishing a demo fire, and generally spraying water all around in a mist which blows over the spectators (who are thankful for it, July being a hot time of the year in your part of the world.) But the fire hydrant has been doctored to add a (slow acting) chemical or biological warfare agent. Next day, people start dying hideously. This is done simulatiously in several towns. The connection to a patriotic holiday, and that children will be disproportionatly affected add to the terror factor.

Plot 2: Terrorists secretly introduce steroids into the food of top athletes. The athletes fail drug tests, protesting their innocence but being disbelieved. Trust in rolemodels is undermined, country goes to hell in a hand basket. (I think this one is already underway.)

A minor tweak to the air-fuel explosive plot above by Taneli Huuskonen: Use the sprinkler system to deliver the fuel simultaniously throughout the skyscraper. (I doubt this would work in practice – premature ignition, inexact dose – but this won’t stop Hollywood.)

jon April 3, 2006 8:04 PM

Reading these suggestions is making me wonder why something really nasty has not happened in the US since 9/11.

Madrid and London prove that there are still highly motivated terrorists around, and I think they also prove that it is extremely difficult to guard against them. In fact, I think that the US is behind European countries in internal security.

The fact that people claim that there are something like 12 million illegals in the US suggest to me that securing the borders of the US is not currently feasible.

ETA and SF/IRA terrorism continued for decades, always producing a new outrage when people thought the security services were finally on top of the problem, which was a smart strategy, of course, and would be a smart strategy for el Quaida.

So why does 9/11 appear to have been a one-off?

Tim April 3, 2006 10:56 PM

The group: 30 terrorists. Twenty of these get maintenance jobs at various venues–the Indy 500, the Rose Bowl stadium, the stadium where the next Super Bowl is going to be, and some county and state highway departments (joining their bridge repair teams). The remaining ten start collecting mercury and creating a mercury paste.

Once the paste is made en masse, the group of 10 start to distribute the paste to their comrades.

For the sporting events (the Indy 500, the Rose Bowl, etc.), the maintenance terrorists coat the aluminum support beams (holding the seats up) with the paste. Within a few hours, the support beams become too weak to support the fans–the stadium seats collapse.

To instill fear, the group leader calls in a semi-believable threat (“we will cause death and damage at the next sporting event” – do not specify which, but could be guessed).

After a couple of “attacks” at various big sporting events, people stop attending, damaging various local economies.

As extra credit, the terrorists can put the paste on various bridge supports and wait. The similarities to the sporting events will point to the same terrorist group.

To avoid getting caught, these terrorists will be like Timothy McVeigh, not a Mid-Eastern person (not all terrorists grow up outside of the USA).

I thought of this after reviewing some of the above posts and reading this article:

Mike April 3, 2006 11:32 PM

RFID land-mine. With the advent of RFID chips in the passports US citizens, manufacture and scatter RFID triggered mines outside the US as well as inside. The most likely areas would be throroughly soon enough, so they would want to plant them in unusual locations. Like motel clock radios.

Andrew van der Stock April 4, 2006 12:32 AM

I think it’s time to update Timon of Athens, one of Shakespear’s lesser known plays, but substitute someone like a Paris Hilton for the main character, and mix in a bit of Ghost in the Shell for good measure.

Act 1. Powerful bimbo lives the high life, but can’t afford to do so. Act ends with her in bankruptcy. We are introduced to her stalker, an agent from a nameless government agency who desires her, but she doesn’t even know he exists.

Act 2. Her “friends” abandon her as she can’t afford to party on so hard. The only person to show her kindness is Agent Stalker, but pathetically. The act ends when she is in the gutter, homeless. Stalker watches from across the road.

Act 3. She convinces a neurosurgeon to give her a dose of experimental brainy nanobots. These mutate her DNA and cause her to become a reclusive hermit with serious OCD issues. Despite this, she still has good bazoongas, so pulling the strings of the mighty and powerful is not hard whilst still pretending to be dumb. Agent Stalker becomes aware of her activities and starts to seriously stalk her … for his day job rather than just a good time. At this stage, we’re not sure if he is a stalker or a good guy.

Act 4. The nanobots take over her puny mind, and she organizes for the brainy evil nanobots treatment to get widespread use as a therapy for ADHD. A world of evil nanobot enhanced kids take over the Earth, despite the best efforts of Agent Stalker to convince his covert agency of the danger. Lots of pensioners are subjected to hip hop and rap, and an upper age limit is imposed on society.

Act 5. Unable to take any more rap music, Stalker kills bimbo in a frenzy of gunfire and explosions as the oldies strike back at the hyper out of control teenagers. He is devastated with the loss of his unrequited love. Evil kids are freed from a life of slavery to the nanobots when their mistress is killed.


Alternative Hollywood ending:

Hollywood sign is blown up in a huge big explosion, with Bruce Willis tied upside down on the Y. Audience cheers.

Alternative Manga ending:

Evil nanobots from dead girl brain juices oozing from her brain mix with disgusting mucky ground water. They ooze into the drain… Evil NanoBots 2 anyone?

Frank McCoy April 4, 2006 1:18 AM

Hmmm … I had an idea … But it’s too damned good. Don’t want to be giving anybody such ideas. It’s relatively easy, yet causes horrific damage.

Still, reading some suggestions here gives me an idea that’s about the same level as 9/11, causes even more damage; yet doesn’t require anything nearly as complicated as hijacking an airliner.

Instead, hijack a gasoline tanker-truck, and several fire-engines of the kind that have their own tanks for fighting fires out in the country where there’s no hydrants.

Fill the tanks with gasoline instead of water; drive into the middle of a city and start the thing going with a “mist” spray of gasoline going straight up, with the direction and all controls welded on, the engine-compartment welded shut, so that once started it cannot be stopped. About the time the fuel is about to be all pumped-out, set off a spark.

****>>>> WHOOOM <<<<<****
Air-bomb, or “Bunker-Buster”. About the closest thing you can get to a nuclear explosion with chemicals.

And, like an airliner, who is going to suspect somebody of using a fire-engine as a bomb?

About the only defense against the thing is like the airliners: Set it off BEFORE the terrorist does … like immediately. THEN you only get a large and dangerous fire; as gasoline in a tank or even a ruptured tank, just does not explode like you see in the movies. I just BURNS, rather fast and rather hot. Examples happen all the time around the world when large tanks of it catch fire. Not very often; but a few each year around the world.

It DOES however explode nastily, if finely mixed with air beforehand, like described above. The military have special bombs based on such tactics.

Cheap, easy to get, and large results.
What more could a terrorist want?

(Well … The idea I decided not to post; but that’s just too wicked.)

If you want to make a movie-plot of it: Have the terrorists try it out first … say in some relatively small town or even uninhabited area. They’ll be “working the bugs out of the system”; but your hero manages to figure out what the idea is when the wreckage of the truck is found; and people can’t figure out why the fire-truck (supposedly there to put out the fire) has the controls all locked and the hood to the engine welded shut.

Lurkie April 4, 2006 3:00 AM

My scenario:

Get the 20-30 bombers to join a few preferrably large Christian churches, 4-5 bombers per church. At Christmas, go to the service in thick padded clothes with an explosive belt underneath.

Bonus points for those who join churches that do live video feeds.

tod April 4, 2006 3:42 AM

this is so easy. the terrorist plot that would cripple the united states both politically and economically is suicide bombings at border crossings with mexico, bombings at oil refiniries (as was attempted in Saudi Arabia recently) and slaughtering oil workers on offshore drilling platforms in the gulf.

think about it. this hits every political point that make americans queasy. Oil addiction, immigration (notably immigration of brown people, not white people), and Arab/Islamic terrorism.

This is the plot. December ’08: From inside Mexico, ten of the twenty get handguns and suicide vests, buy a few Mexican beaters and drive up to the border crossings at Tijuana, Nogales, Laredo, etc. They load the cars with bombs using training they got in Iraq (natch) and set them off as soon as they get to the American side of the crossing. Before setting them off they indiscriminately shoot Americans in uniform, because they’re soliders of the crusading/zionist American/Jewish whatever.

Why do this? Force American politicians to get tuff on border/immigration control, which from what I’ve been hearing lately from the Big Business wing of the GOP, would cripple the American economy. So, no cheap labor and no cheap imports from Mexico.

The other ten buy a fishing boat or two and raid offshore drilling platforms. They slaughter the oil workers and set off bombs, destroying the platfom. This causes mass panic for offshore oil workers and they all refuse to work. Oil prices shoot through the roof, making the Katrina spike look like a Labor Day weekend.

Why do this? Obviously, to brutalize the American economy by making energy prices too exorbitant to do anything. News reports of Alaskans and North Dakotans freezing in their homes because they can’t afford energy prices, etc etc. Very Day After Tomorrow.

Here’s your David Mamet/Oliver Stone twist: It was the Nigerians! They needed the oil revenue increase to buy arms from the US to bolster their brutal regime, so the US could buy cheap oil from them! Oh everything’s connected, and we’re addicted to oil, only photo voltaics will save us now.

Anton April 4, 2006 3:55 AM

About a year ago in the Swiss Alps a tree fell on a power line and took out the power in half of Italy for at least a day.

High voltage power transmission lines are not well protected. Simultaneously take out about three or four dozen strategically located power poles around the North American Continent and all of the US will be without power for over a week. If a power out extends over more than a week, chances are it will cascade into further problems as the supply chain will be interrupted, people will not be able to fill up with gas etc.

Mika Boström April 4, 2006 5:37 AM

Since the goal is to cause terror and disrupt general morale…

Employ 5-6 locals as city repair crew. Have them gradually plant plastic explosive inside children’s playground items that have plastic or metal piping supports. Swings, small merry-go-rounds, climbing racks, …

Do this in at least two or three largish cities, but not the largest as they would be the best guarded targets.

The amounts do not need to be large, just big enough to cause a large explosion and throw piping shrapnel around. When enough play-grounds are armed like this, explode them all almost simultaneously during a clear day.

Use the allotted funds to buy explosives and detonators from black market in small quantities.

Efficient, unexpected, and utterly destructive. What would be more devastating than an attack against families and children?

Foon April 4, 2006 7:16 AM

Fabricate convincing evidence that Bill Gates secretly converted to an apolcalyptic sect about 5 years ago.

Roxanne April 4, 2006 7:36 AM

I like the WalMart one. The terrorists could actually collect most of what they need at WalMart; very little would have to be smuggled in.

Ever since that contractor poked the hole in the Chicago River, causing the flood, I have thought that terrorists were missing a worldwide opportunity. Simultaneous bombings in subway tunnels could wreak havoc worldwide. Dress as a homeless person, proceed on foot to a point under a major river (not too far down; you do want it to flood), BOOM The other option is to do it from the top, with scuba gear, or just small boats and anchors.

Imagine the kid’s story, where the prince’s friend steals dozens and dozens of little red wagons. Only this time, the fisherman/terrorist drops one small bomb a day for a year, then they all go boom together. Right over, say, the Holland Tunnel.

Small, innocuous, built up over time, then detonated. That’s the way to go.

Irv Imagine April 4, 2006 8:50 AM

A group of recent retirees from a major energy utility band together to perform a coordinated attack on their former employer. Their impetus for doing this is that a recent merger has reduced their pensions & medical benefits almost down to nothing. Some of them have been forced to return to work just to keep from losing their homes and some have had to watch while their spouse and children have sickened & died due to their current inability to pay for medical costs that used to be provided to them by their former employer.

They are very patient, methodical and diligent in their planning and they wait for the exact weather conditions that will cause the most damage. They are all still very sharp, they know exactly when & where to hit the flow of energy to do the most damage. They start off by attacking a major site at a time of day when it will get the most media attention as it is planned to occur during the morning rush hour and this also causes major traffic problems.

Their demands are the immediate restoration of all retired employees’ pensions and benefits but of course these are denied and they then proceed with the rest of their plan to shut down the entire energy network at the worst possible time due to the current weather conditions. SWAT teams show up and kill some of the retirees but most of their plan goes off resulting in terrible damage to an entire urban area. The movie ends with a blurb that even though what they did was wrong they brought attention to this problem and Congress passes legislation to help all retirees of all companies so that this never happens again. Yadda, yadda, yadda… 🙂

Michael Clark April 4, 2006 10:03 AM

Schedule all this for a regular day in our nation’s capitol, starting around 2-3pm, just before people start going home after a long day at work. Congress and Supreme Court need to be in session. President in White House. Get a few of the guys trained and licensed to drive 18 wheelers. Fill the trailers with gas, or get a hazardous cargo. Get them to cause a few traffic accidents on the Beltway around DC. Near I-66 (East in VA), I-270 (NW in Maryland), I-95 (N in Maryland), Baltimore-Washington Parkway (NE in Maryland), I-295 (E in Maryland), and I-95 (South in Virginia). Stagger the accidents by a few minutes each, although traffic will back up quickly. Get a few of the volunteers to jump in front a metro train at Rosslyn station, Metro Center, Lenfant Plaza, and Stadium Armory. The volunteers could even leave an unattended suitcase on the platform (or an another train) before jumping. Another agent pilots his small plane over DC. Cause a few explosions (maybe in suitcases left in a taxi?) around downtown DC. Plant an employee in the newsrooom at one of the local TV stations; he/she reports that the explosions were “dirty.” That news flies across all local and national news reports. Widespread panic sweeps through official DC as no one knows what to do. If you have more people do this in New York, Chicago and LA as well.

another_bruce April 4, 2006 11:33 AM

to kill the united states, you need only kill its one critical agency – the one that did not have a soviet counterpart during the cold war – the one that collects the means by which our government operates – the internal revenue service.
you do this by flooding the mails with fake tax returns over the next two weeks. use as many real names and social security numbers as you have access to, then start making them up. claim large income on some, random refunds on others. 10 fake returns in the system for every real one and they will have to shut down until they figure out what’s happening.
my other movie-plot scenario involved a terrorist pretending to be a republican campaign contributor who summons congressional candidates to his office for meetings, where he surreptitiously irradiates their genitals with cobalt 60 so that they will sire freakazoid babies. five or six of these babies in a row and some prophet can stand up and sway the superstitious that the hand of satan is now manifestly laid on congress. never forget that only a thin veneer separates a modern, usually civilized church service from the rampant burning of witches and heretics.
perhaps these scenarios could be combined into one movie (working title: tax the witch!).
has homeland security contacted the napalm guy yet?

ML April 4, 2006 12:19 PM

At my local subway stop, every few weeks or so there’s a local church group handing out free “no strings attached” granola bars I say “no strings attached” because they also hand you this little card saying that there are no strings attached but giving a little info about their church.

So what if the granola bars are all poisoned with some terrible super-virus? I’m not saying the church folks are involved, but what if terrorists secretly gained control of the church’s granola bar supplier and infect scores of commuters?

Pat Cahalan April 4, 2006 1:48 PM

Lost Angels: Gridlock (made for TV, of course).

30 guys, $500,000 dollars, hm? Okay.

There are several main traffic arteries in Los Angeles. The ones that would cause the most chaos: the East LA Interchange (the 101/5/10), the Orange Crush (the 22/5/57/55), the 405/101 Interchange, the 405/10 Interchange, the 405/105 interchange, the 110/10 Interchange, and the 110/5 Interchange. Throw in the 91/605 Interchange for good measure. You’ll need 2 attackers for the first two, the others can be handled with 1. That’s 8 total, throw in a pair of roamers/backups for good measure.

10 guys need 18-wheeler training, say that costs about $500 a head (they don’t need to drive very far), for $5K. Maybe another $5K each to get them in country with suitable identification. $55K. They arrive close to target day. That’s group 1.

Group 2 consists of three deep cover guys who have been here for years (5+) and who have small aircraft licenses operating out of Santa Monica Airport. They’ve been mostly self supporting, but they probably needed some seed money to get started (say, $15K each), that’s $45K, and we’re at $100K and 13 guys.

Group 3 consists of 10 suicide bombers with low-grade IEDs (let’s use the napalm, since napalm looks great on film) and rental cars, that’s a couple hundred for each IED and car (say $300) and maybe another $5K each to get them in the country, or $53K for that lot. $153K so far, and 23 guys.

Last group is two groups of 3 guys with fake Southwestern Bell vans and the requisite orange cones and equipment, plus some big bombs. They’re expensive (say each team requires $150K worth of training and equipment) Now we’re at $453K. Assume cost overruns of 40K or so and we’re still under budget.

Movie starts with the Rose Parade. Suitable shots of kids on shoulders and marching bands of high school kids from South Dakota (you can get a good 20 minutes of good human interest in here). After the first two-thirds of the floats have gone the midpoint of the parade route, group 3 kicks into action, driving cars at high speed into the parade at multiple points, driving through crowds and blowing up in a burst of napalm. You can have Stephanie get away but let Bob get caught in the blast, the parade insiders will think that’s great. You give the city a couple of days to settle – this is just an appetizer. After all, part II works best on a non-holiday.

Part II begins with the two vans of SBC guys setting up outside one of the refineries out by the airport (Chevron, for the sake of argument), right by the security gate. It’s not just one truck, so it looks really legit. Before the morning trucks roll out to deliver gas to all the stations across LA (I’m assuming this takes place before rush hour, but even if I’m wrong, well, it’s just a movie plot), one of the phone guys does a good looking accidental highdive off of a telephone pole. Chaos erupts by the gate, two of the employees run over to the gate, then whip out guns and break in. Telephone pole is chopped down, cell phone jammer activated in one of the vans, blocking cell phone calls. Big bus arrives and guys spill out everywhere hijacking the gas trucks. The 10 truck drivers head out, and the SBC guys wait 10 minutes and then spread out through the refinery, shooting people and setting explosives. Lots of “Phoom”ing. Explosions are big and close to the airport, so attract immediate attention from the news helicopters.

Trucks split up, head for the major traffic arteries. They have CBs, so they can get in touch with each other if they have to. They’ll want to delay for at least an hour to give everybody time to get into place. Meanwhile the three pilots arrive and take off from SM Airport.

Trucks jackknife intentionally on freeways, spilling full loads of gasoline across rows of traffic. Drivers blow themselves up, huge fireballs engulf commuters. You can have the guy assigned to the 105/405 interchange take the 105 overpass and stop midway, then open the valves on the truck and rain gas down on the 405 below, then blow the whole shebang up. Everything grinds to a halt, people get out of their cars and flee on foot, emergency vehicles are halted.

One plane from SM flies over to the refinery and does a header into KCLA’s NewsCopter at this same time. This looks great on film, and immediately makes the rest of the news guys think about landing. Reports start coming about freeways blowing up everywhere.

Second plane buzzes the news helicopters, everybody panics (someone crashes for good effect). Plane continues on merry way to LAX and does a chicken fight with a 747 coming in for a landing, losing on purpose (get lucky on the timing, and the debris can rain down on the 405 people fleeing from the burning cars just south of the airport).

Last plane reaches downtown, buzzes Union Station, and does another header into the southbound Gold Line (don’t want to forget those people who opt-out of the automobile culture in LA!). If you’re really lucky here, this derails the train.

And there’s really only a few failure spots. The driver/Rose Parade teams only need to know the proper time and section of the parade to hit, so they don’t need to communicate with each other. If one or more of the tanker trucks gets stopped before target, it’s not that big of a deal since you’re still hitting several major arteries at once. Of course, the SBC team could screw up, but you’d still get the refinery (plane 1 hits a tank instead of a copter, which still draws the news choppers), the airport, and the gold line.

J B April 4, 2006 2:05 PM

Probably not filmatic enough but quite possibly realistic, though with too low body count to interest blood-thirsty terrorists …

Buy a stock of “oil-eater” bacteria from a company that cleans upp oil-spills. Cook up a reasonable amount at a simple home lab (remember, these are bacteria made to exist in sea-water). Perhaps play around with the DNA of some batches using some simple exposure to low level chemicals/radiation/other bacteria. Hey, what can you loose …

Buy up a dozen cheap cars and weld some simple “drip-tanks” on their underside. Have some people drive around Los Angeles with the cars every warm and rainy night for a year. Try to cover as much of the roads as possible, with certain attention to heavily trafficed roads with a lot of fissures.

Asphalt contains oil. Oil+”oil-eaters”+warmth+water+LotsLotsLots of Cars = Bye Bye Los Angeles road system = Californian Economy going down = US Economy going down (especially if the little buggers breed true and go walkabout on car tires) …

Can’t really see it in a top-of-the-line Hollywood production, but I can see environment activists giggle with glee.

jon April 4, 2006 2:21 PM

“Because pulling one of these off is harder than it might appear.”

I’m not sure I buy that. The bombings in Madrid and London required the delivery or local manufacture of bombs, plus volunteers to carry them. No hijacking, and no rocket science required. What’s more, the London attack took place despite the previous attack in Madrid serving as a warning to security.

ETA and IRA operations went on for decades, despite the best efforts of the security services.

Many things are difficult. Getting illegal immigrants across the border is difficult, but it’s a thriving business. Importing illegal drugs is difficult, but it’s another thriving business.

I’m not minimizing the difficulty of an attack, but I don’t think difficulty by itself is a convincing reason for the absence of attacks in the US since 9/11.

blueMagoo April 4, 2006 2:35 PM

I wonder if any of these plots will leak out into the mainsteam? If so then we will see some so called security experts start using them to fan their continuing FUD claims.

Nylarthotep April 4, 2006 4:59 PM

I didn’t see it mentioned but how about a St. Patrick Day or Rose parade float that spews Radioactive powder onto the crowd. Could mix it with really nice confetti or something as silly.

That would require the outlawing of parades or floats.

Bruce Schneier April 4, 2006 5:47 PM

“I didn’t see it mentioned but how about a St. Patrick Day or Rose parade float that spews Radioactive powder onto the crowd. Could mix it with really nice confetti or something as silly.”

Didn’t the Joker do that in one of the Batman movies?

W April 4, 2006 7:41 PM

When he discovers, on the eve of the 2008 US Presidential Election, that tursts have impregnated all the ballot papers with some dreadful chemical/biological agent, it’s up to Diebold CEO (Bruce Willis, presumably, although I also like Jackie Chan for the role, stolen from ReluctantPeninsulan) to Save America by replacing all the polling equipment with machines that leave no paper trail.

Yeah, we need some plausible reason why they can’t replace the ballot papers, or postpone the election. Or failing that a car chase and some explosions to distract the audience’s attention.

Steverinokofolot April 4, 2006 9:17 PM

Brokeback Bridge

1) Terrorists sneak accross the Mexican border by posing as American vigilantes trying to stop Mexicans.

2) By posing as Mexicans, they immediately obtain jobs with a highway construction contractor.

3) One day they all skip work, and using their hardhats, orange vests, and some stolen road signs, they erect a barricade in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

4) They direct traffic around their barrier, onto an “alternate route,” which sends all traffic directly into a gaping hole which they have deftly opened up in the bridge using stolen jackhammers from their jobsite.

5) Hundreds of cars plummet into San Fransisco Bay while their innocent occupants scream bloody murder.

6) The terrorists videotape the carnage and broadcast it live, world-wide through a sattelite uplink.

7) Meanwhile, the unsuspecting motorists cannot be warned because the terrorists used stolen signs to warn the approaching traffic, “Blasting in area–Turn off all radios.”

8) One teenage girl disobeys her father’s order to turn off her walkman, and she screams to her father to stop, but he won’t listen. She rolls out of the car, just before he plunges into the hole.

9) She runs back along the road, warning oncoming traffic. As a terrorist kills her, a quick thinking trucker realizes what is happening and jack-knifes his rig to block traffic and prevent more deaths.

10) A handsome, northern California redneck pulls his .306 out of his pickup and goes to town on the terrorists, shooting them as they flee in their orange road vests.

11) A police sniper in a helicopter mistakes the heroic redneck for a terrorist sniper, and kills him.

Jeff April 4, 2006 10:44 PM

Okay, so I’m thinking like I’m trying to ruin another of Jack Bauer’s days, but here’s my plot. I’ll keep it brief, as it seems most others have.

There are a total of three targets involved, and it does take some “movie style??? coincidences that might not happen in real life, but that’s how it goes, right? The events would take place on December 30-31st. The first attack is the destruction of the Hoover Dam. This should be relatively cheap assuming the terrorists have “inside men??? and at least one person who has a good enough understanding of where to place the explosives.

When the dam blows, it’ll cause absolute chaos in that part of Nevada. This will draw both all active police and most of the available military into action to confront the catastrophe.

In our little movie, there’s also a nuclear weapons test occurring in the Nevada desert. Because of the dam’s destruction, the test is put on hold and all the personnel who aren’t essential are deployed to help with disaster relief. At this point, a strike team of 12 (armed to the teeth, trained in how to use their weapons, driving Hummers or similar all-terrain vehicles) attack the testing area and steal the weapon. In terms of ironic plot twists, one could be that the weapon is a “dud,??? but for now, we’ll assume it’ll work. Once the weapon is secured, the vehicles should all spread, taking off to the east, west, north and south (so that any attempt to track the weapon will be that much more difficult).

The weapon then needs to be moved to NYC (via airplane, I suppose– I can visualize two operatives sneaking onto a FedEx flight or something similar). Once it arrives in NYC, there will be a cell of 10 or so operatives embedded in the security/tech staff for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Through their network of connections, their plan will be to place the weapon inside the crystal ball, rigged so that the action of the ball dropping detonates the weapon.

At this point, of course, our hero—whoever he might be—would finally catch on and save the day. Right?

Barlennan April 4, 2006 11:00 PM

The location most people feel safe isn’t their own living room, it’s the other side of their television screen. There’s comfort in the knowledge that you can tune into your favourite soap opera or sitcom every week and see the same plot, repeated over and over.

Terrorists infiltrate the script-writing teams for these shows (easy enough, since most are written by one monkey at one typewriter). The “stupid comic relief” characters on each show discuss quantum electrodynamics and deconstruct James Joyce. Viewers are terrified as their home refuge of ignorance disappears. They stop watching television, so are no longer exposed to the advertisments. Mindless consumerism ends, and the US economy collapses.

Jack C Lipton April 4, 2006 11:15 PM

Here’s one that affects NYC’s “Goldin-Gaeta” (Verrazano-Narrows) Bridge and perhaps even the Golden Gate…

Assuming a willingness of the drivers to be dead, two (or four) trucks with shaped charges drive onto the bridge and fire at just the right moment to sever the main cables at the anchor points. The shaped charge, obviously, is designed to generate a sheet of plasma that will cut the main cables.

Even if the bridge doesn’t collapse, it is unusable and may even require “starting over” to re-build. If it does collapse, even though the Narrows is over 100 feet deep, the debris will certainly narrow the channel.

Granted, there will be people on Staten Island who will be very, very pleased having Brooklyn cut off from them, but, hey, maybe the plowing equipment stored on Staten Island will actually get used there instead if the Islanders having to wait for the snow to melt.

Yes, I am a former native Staten Islander (born there and family moved to the Island before “the Bridge” was built) so the V-Z is not on my list of favorite landmarks.

Note: I suspect the DHS had turn off their “bridgecam” and now I miss the view of snow/rain/traffic to know what my family still living there is going through. I’ve noticed other webcams with other “interesting” landscape views have gone dark.

Terry April 5, 2006 8:50 AM

Terrorists drive around the bypass shooting holes in the fuel tanks of big trucks. They do this quietly and undetected, creating small leaks that aren’t very noticable. The roads soon become too slippery to drive on. Most all big trucks have exposed fuel tanks.

milo April 5, 2006 9:53 AM

20 to 30 T’s over the span of a year visit several large gun shows in small groups and alone and acquire an arsenal of high powered rifles, hand guns, and semi-automatic guns along with ammunition, body armor, and kits to turn semi-auto into full-auto. They periodically take target practice at local ranges. On the given day they assemble into 5, 6-man squads each with their own van. At the designated time each van arrives at an entrance to a large, well populated venue: school, mall, arena, convention, casino, cruise, etc. Each squad enters the venue and begins killing indiscriminately. When police arrive they do not wait and do not take hostages. Instead they immediately attack the police with overwhelming firepower. Ideally, they then move into neighboring neighborhoods, other businesses, etc. not stopping until out of ammo or dead.

Remember the 2 bank robbers in L.A. and how long they held off 30 to 40 police. Now imagine 30 of those guys whose goal is not to rob and escape, but whose goal is to kill, kill, kill.

Totally real. Totally doable.

Kris Alexander April 5, 2006 10:58 AM

Spring Break Nightmare

Every year 130,000 spring-breakers flock to South Padre Island, Texas. Wet t-shirt contests, Girls Gone Wild video crews, and drunken debauchery take over the island for the entire month of March. At night, many of the college kid make the trek to nearby Matamoros, Mexico, a border-town famous for catering to drunk Americans. This is higher education at its best, and usually, all the kids take back with them are sunburns, hangovers, and maybe some incriminating pictures. This year will be different.

Several teams of young men have slipped into Mexico disguised as students and business travelers. They are Al Qaeda operatives specially trained and selected because they don’t look Middle Eastern. These men have been recruited from all over the Muslim world. Some are Asian, some Bosnian, others are disaffected North Africans from the Paris ghettoes. Most of them do not look distinctly “Arab???, and they do not hold passports from any Middle Eastern Countries. Some have been in terrorist camps in both the Philippines and Malaysia. Others have actually attended college in the US. They all speak English and are conversant in the college lingo of “facebook??? and “myspace???. They blend.

By twos and threes, the teams make their way to the border. They rent a hotel room in Matamoros and don college t-shirts and flip-flops. . They are ready to be martyred, and they won’t even have to cross into the US to do it.

They have carried with them several small aerosol containers of weaponized smallpox acquired on the Russian black-market. One afternoon, just a spring break in beginning to heat up, they face Mecca and pray. Next, they inhale a mist of virus from one of the containers and spray it on their clothes. Then they hit the clubs, human smart bombs on the attack.

For the next two weeks, as the disease incubates in their bodies, they act like all the other drunken college kids. They do tequila shots and keg stands. Some freak dance with some hotties from Texas Tech. Others get lucky with some girls from Arizona State. All the while they are spreading smallpox both through physical contact and by spraying more of the containers in crowed areas.

After two weeks, the terrorists begin to get a rash. The disease is now as its most contagious stage. Next comes the white pustules, and then a painful death or at least permanent disfigurement. It’s time for Phase II of their plan. Attack North.

That night, the teams split up make their way individually to the international bridge with all the other kids headed back to Padre Island. This is the moment that all your tax dollars have been building up to. Will these two men get caught at the border?

For once, everything goes right, but it’s too late to matter. Acting on information collected by the CIA and passed to the Department of Homeland Security, the customs agents on the border detain several of the terrorists. Some slip past, but it’s a coup for homeland security as they have seemingly disrupted an attempt at terrorist infiltration. The terrorist who are caught are detained in the Cameron County jail while the feds decide what to do with them. They come in contact with guards and other prisoners—more targets courtesy of the US government.

The terrorists are sick, but nobody notices. The next day the FBI takes custody of the suspects and begins to question them. Two days later the suspects develop white pustules all over their bodies. A doctor is rushed the holding facility.

Within the hour panicked alerts begin to flash across the country. Smallpox. The nightmare is here. Simultaneously, clinics at college campuses throughout the country begin seeing students with flu-like symptoms. Some of them have rashes. In Mexico, the same thing is happening.

The US has now been under biological attack for two weeks. On the way home from spring break, the infected college students have passed through every major airport and traveled along every major highway in the US. Mexico is now collateral damage in the global war on terror. The clock is ticking on a biological time bomb. Now what?

Benefits: You can cast young, good looking people as the spring breakers. You can have the Jack Bauer-type who “saves??? the day by figuring out that the infiltrators are trying to cross the borders. Then you get a lot of cool doomsday “hotzone??? stuff with smallpox outbreaks across the country.

Drawback: Bringing in the attack under the $500K price would be hard. You could get the teams trained and in place with that amount of money, but acquiring the smallpox would be tough. We would have to assume that the smallpox was acquired on a separate budget line item.

Mycroft April 5, 2006 11:04 AM

Just a few off the top of my head:

Cut every power line leading into a major Southern city during the summer (and let the heat create the casualties you’re looking for). Requirements: a utilities map, a couple of pickup trucks, and some explosives.

Conduct a massacre at a convention for a critical, but rarely possessed, skill set, like, say, any specific sort of engineers. Cost: a couple of goons with guns.

Conduct a massacre at a significant local ceremony, such as a college graduation. Cost: goons with guns.

Do the Terminator phone book thing with some sort of specialist people really need. Like surgeons.

Blow up an emergency room. Or two or three. Most cities don’t have that many hospitals. Loss of emergency medical services will cause serious secondary effects — as will a propensity on the part of people not to go to the hospital out of fear.

Christoph Zurnieden April 5, 2006 11:53 AM

Some posters here have mentioned TV already, but in a very unrealistic way: exchange dumb with intellectual programing and get an adult and intelligent public automaticly. That’s not realistic, not even for a hollywood-movie.
But the keywords “TV”, “dumb programing” and “exchange” are reusable and, as we all know to our disgust, reusability is a big point for any hollywood-movie.
I’m not quite familiar with the TV-program of the USA, but I think that “Fox-News” might be passable for two of the keywords above, so what to do with the remainding “exchange”?
One of the official taboos seems to be a publicly visible image of naked people full or in parts down to small parts of the secondary genitals (“Nipplegate”), moreso if illustrating the act of making more people to make more people act and worse if children (I found no definition for “children”, but I think I’m on the safe side with “a homo sapiens before puberty”) can see these images.
So, my suggestion is to:
– “hack” into the central computer of the Fox-News-Central
– replace any 1.000th or so frame with a picture of one ore more naked people.
– make it public
Yupp, that’s the hard one: how do you make something public when the single available channel able to do so is attacked itself? Uh, I would propose to do it the hollywood writers way: ignore the logic and go on with the car chases, explosions and CGI lengthened legs of the heroine.

Oh, and don’t forget to let the girl twist her ankle when the monster^Wterrorist is directly behind her, that’s vital for such types of movies!


Turambar April 5, 2006 12:22 PM

Wicked Arab suicide team discovers long-thought-lost funniest joke in the world. Trained and disguised as standup comics, they appear on The Tonight Show and David Letterman at the same time, murdering millions of late-night viewers inside 30 seconds.

Clive Robinson April 5, 2006 12:24 PM


“Cut every power line leading into a major Southern city during the summer (and let the heat create the casualties you’re looking for).”

Why the power, how about the water supply, that is likley to have a better effect even more quickly ;0

Clive Robinson April 5, 2006 12:31 PM

Here’s one for you it’s a bit boaring I’m afraid.

Iran contacts the E.U. and negociates selling all it’s oil in future in Euro’s not Dollars.

The result would be rapid devaluation of the Dollar down to about half it’s present value.

Then your average Southerner could not afford his Far Eastern AirCon or any other domestic appliance, or other foriegn manufactured item. Likewise US industry which is very hevily dependent on imports would also have significant problems…

Read Issac Azimov’s “Foundation Trilogy” for his take on this, in his story it was the shortage of small energy cells (batteries if you will) that brought an intersteller war to a halt.

Squirmingsushi April 5, 2006 12:37 PM

500,000 dollars?

(1)Have the 20 to 30 unskilled people go to different cities throughout the country, and in each city put a bounty on an ethnic group such as African Americans. Every confirmed “public” kill equals 20,000 dollars. To make the terror more horrific put the bounty on children.

(2)Have them hijack school buses and blow them up… no security on school buses.

(3)Have those 20 people attack crime families in the guise of police. Have them use the money to put contracts out on the heads of local governments.

Chris April 5, 2006 1:29 PM


There’s already a widespread distrust of genetically-modified foods in the world, particularly in Europe. Here in the U.S. a growing number of people see “organic” foods as more healthy than foods produced through more modern cultivating techniques.

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) decides to seize upon this fear of genetically-modified food (“frankenfood”) to cause widespread panic and distrust of large multi-national corporations that engage in GM food production. Thinking if they can only discredit these companies and their claims of safety, they launch a propaganda campaign…

The ELF employs several groups to produce and spread their message.

The first group infiltrate the production crew for the Superbowl. Their job is to substitute the program produced by ELF for one actually scheduled to air. Cue shots of technicians place devices with flashing LEDs into the crannies of production trucks. Thirty seconds before the airtime of the add being replaced, out come automatic weapons and the team takes control of the production van. They swap out a tape and air the following, produced earlier by a second team, using actors who think they’re auditioning for a movie (cue flashbacks of the production):

“Hi. My name is John Smith, and I’m the CEO of the Sonmanto corporation.

We here at Sonmanto have been working hard for more than 100 years helping farmers here in the U.S. and abroad feed the world’s hungry people. Our scientists have spent decades researching how to make the most of the world’s croplands and the best of the world’s cattle.

The fruits of our labors can be found in the cornflakes on the world’s breakfast tables, the sweeteners in our drinks, the barley used to make the world’s finest beers, and the beef on our dinner tables. Chemists at Sonmanto have found ways to make the world’s crops more resistent to disease and insects. The hormones we produce make cattle produce more of the milk consumed each day by the world’s children.

Today, the over 100,000 people who work for Sonmanto make sure the world’s growing population is fed daily.

Allow me to introduce you to just one of our products, Triticum Aestivum; you know it as a common wheat used to make breads and cereals. This is just one of the many grains our scientists have been modifying and manipulating to help feed the world.

But that’s not all our chemists have been up to since I took over control of the Sonmanto corporation almost ten years ago. You see, the crops and hormones produced by Sonmanto do not resist disease, they harbor it. For the last two years, you have been eating and drinking the toxins we have been placing in your food.

Take this wheat for instance. Embedded into the genetic code of this wheat is a slow acting toxin that builds up in the fatty tissues of humans and animals. After eating this wheat for a year or two, the body becomes saturated and organs begin to fail. Early effects resemble a mild cold, but soon cancers, lesions, and crippling pain result until the person dies. Cattle harboring the toxin do not suffer these effects but pass them on to anyone consuming them.

All of the grains genetically modified by Sonmanto have been changed to corrupt other plant species through their pollens and seeds. Wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, every major crop is now corrupt. And with each day, the wind spreads our corruption to every field near our products.

For years mankind has been raping Mother Earth of her bounty, poisoning her streams and her air. Mankind causes the extinction of thousands of species with each acre of forest he cuts down. You disrupt her delicate balance only so you can drive a larger SUV, alone, to work each day.

Well starting with today, mankind’s blight on this planet is ending. Gaia shall be pure once again.

Judgement day is upon you all.”

Immediately after the ad finishes, the team destroys the production and transmission equipment and the Superbowl feed goes dark.

A third group has planted some explosives at a small, inconspicuous laboratory owned by Sonmanto. The lab has been chosen at random, but has been seeded with doctored “research” papers that will be found in the remains of the building after it has been destroyed. The blast has been devised so as to appear as an almost successful attempt by Sonmanto to cover up their research and deprive the world of a “cure”.

Immediately, panic sets in as people assume they are all about to die. Everyone becomes a hypocondriac, assuming each sniffle and cough will be their last. It’s the reaction to the SARS scare times 100,000. People reject the food in their supermarkets around the world and the pitiful stocks of “organic” foods are fought over in riots and quickly run out. Hundreds of thousands die of starvation, violence, and anarchy that results. Foodstocks with even a hint of coming from Sonmanto are burned.

The fear spreads to other large agricultural companies. Assuming they must have a cure, anyone working for one a large agricultural companies, even secretaries, is mobbed and killed.

No one listens to the scientists that inform the world there is nothing wrong with their food. (The food is fine, ELF doesn’t actually have the resources to pull this off) Other scientists struggle to search for a toxin and develop a cure for something that doesn’t exist. Charlatans sell phony potions to the gullible and desperate.

By the time the truth comes out, millions have died in the panic. In the aftermath, all aspects of food production are strictly regulated, monitored, and controlled. Television and radio studios become fortified bunkers and anyone working with the media, both print and broadcast, requires an extensive background check and government license. The First, Second, Forth, and eventually Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are repealed so the government can make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Bon Appetit!

racerx April 5, 2006 1:31 PM

  1. Terrorists armed with only with supplies purchased at the Home Depot break into Disneyland and convert it to a theme park of death.

  2. Terrorists kidnap three grad students working their dissertations in temporal physics at CalTech, force them to build a time-machine, and travel back in time to Mary and Joseph before they can reach Bethleham. (Added bonus, the grad students learn important lessons about Christmas, God, and not playing God on Christmas.)

  3. Terrorists buy a minor league baseball team and transform it from a group of washed up losers into washed up losers who kill fans between innings; now baseball’s only hope is an umpire with an attitude.

  4. Terrorists break into a cryo-storage facility and revive Ted Williams. He goes on an unstoppable hitting spree, leading the Boston Red Sox to the ACLS. Now the Yankees only hope is the ghost of Joe DiMaggio.

  5. Terrorists break into sperm banks across the country and leave unsolicited “donations.??? Sperm bankers learn valuable lessons about racial stereotypes and sperm.

  6. In a daring attempt to rig the next presidential election, terrorists kidnap themselves and threaten to do nothing unless voters stop electing morons to run the country. Voters learn a valuable lesson about the constitution.

Vance April 5, 2006 1:37 PM

This is a simple one…..George W.Bush is given a third term as president. Meets all the goals you outlined. Be afraid, be VERY afraid!

DumbLeftists April 5, 2006 1:57 PM

Interesting ideas, except for the brain-dead leftists repeating their stupid mantra over and over again. BDS is a powerful affliction.

Tony April 5, 2006 2:19 PM

Here is one that is unfortunately a little too realistic:
Terrorists convert a frustrated lonely arab worker in a nuclear power plant to Islam and convince him to aid them in their cause. They then hire on as construction workers just prior to an outage, when nuclear plants hire tons of temporary skilled and unskilled laborers. With the help of their trained leader, he is an Engineer at the plant, they systematically set up explosives around the plant to disable safety systems that shutdown the reactor and systems to fill the reactor in the event of an emergency. They perform this on a weekend night after getting badged in when the fewest people are there. They explode the devices all at once while taking over the security force, who has less than half of their number on site at the time. They permanently prevent the reactor from being cooled and a plume is generated from burning the spent fuel in the spent fuel pool. The wind carries the cloud to New York which is only 30 miles away where all of New York City is contaminated for 900 years because of this. Imagine the economic impact of having to desert everything in New York City. Everyone is afraid of radioactivity as well so it is the perfect terror weapon.

Lee April 5, 2006 3:00 PM

This is similar to an earlier comment about “nail beds” across freeways, but I’ve had it in mind for the plot of a novel for at least a decade. (I just can’t get past the part where I actually have to write the novel).

Terrorist teams of 2 – 10 men assemble in several large cities in the US which are dependent on busy freeways (Say, Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, etc.).

Each target city gets several squads of terrorists, so that several main freeway interchanges may be targeted. Each squad of 2 terrorists (one driver, one bombardier) takes a nondescript delivery van onto to a crucial stretch of freeway directly BEFORE evening rush hour, so that travel speeds are still high. While driving down the outbound lanes of the freeway, the bombardier tosses out metal caltrops (think large, sharp metal “jacks”) behind the van, puncturing the tires of all of the cars and trucks traveling behind, causing massive traffic accidents/jams. For added psychological effect, the bombardier may want to toss some hand grenades or firebombs out the back of the van.

Once traffic is at a stand still on the major freeways (In Houston, for instance, IH 10 West at the 610 West Loop, Highway 59 South at the 610 Loop, IH 45 at the South Loop and at the North Loop, Highway 59 at the North Loop), the squads can possibly snipe at any tanker trucks stuck in the Uber Jam with incendiary/explosive bullets from .50 caliber rifles. They could also shoot at any first responders who are dispatched to the wrecks.

End result is a city(s) in chaos. Any one in LA, Houston or Phoenix can tell you what they city would be like if ALL the freeways were paralyzed at 3:00 p.m. on a weekday.

Cost is minimal and the squads will probably get away to cause further mischief.


daddyx April 5, 2006 10:19 PM

A group of terrorists start kidnapping people for ransom in Los Angeles.

However this is a merely a ruse to throw the happless FBI agents off of their true intent, which is to get terrorist agents into security and IT positions within insurance companies like USAA and the like. Their real goal is to destroy the medical insurance databases, alter medical records, and wreak general havok upon the American populace.

However their plans are put at risk when they kidnap, and then accidentally kill the granddaughter of a gruff martial arts trainer for the Special Forces named Sergeant Major William Samson (who will be played by none other than Chuck Norris).

How can you go wrong with that?

Will April 6, 2006 1:24 AM

Step 1: Disburse around the country. Recruit sexual predators, pedophiles, and others that have to register where they live.
Step 2: Prepare literature for distribution.
Step 3: Schedule a night for the attacks to begin. Dress in police uniforms. Invade an unprotected home, hotel room or apartment. Kill everyone (use silent methods when possible). Steal nothing. Leave literature. Go next door. Repeat.
Step 4: At the last house, bring in the recruit (dressed in same police clothing) with promises to allow him to do what he does. Tell recruit you will hold the family hostage in the other room (kill them, too). Leave recruit and literature there, with the object of his fixation.
Step 5 (optional): Stage a showdown with police. Eventually surrender (activating suicide vest).

The literature would proclaim that 1) nobody is safe in America, no matter where they are, 2) you can’t trust anybody, even Americans since Americans were involved in the planning and execution of the attacks, 3) fear the police, and 4) DHS can’t save you.

David Sentelle April 6, 2006 5:23 AM

One plot would be for terrorists at a giant textile producer in China to start ‘dusting’ textiles destined for the US with biohazardous material. A little lead dust would be enough that over time the whole country would just go bonkers and fall. Anthrax would probably be a bad thing, too.

David Sentelle April 6, 2006 5:28 AM

Another movie plot scenario would be for the terrorists to start diverting medical nuclear waste to facilities they operate. (Wouldn’t American’s be eager to give the job of incinerating garbage to a new immigrant) Over a long time the effects might be the same as a dirty bomb.

David G April 6, 2006 7:11 AM

Heroine from Afghanistan mixed in with powdered baby milk.

Alternatively – if you’re a film producer, baby milk mixed in with your heroine. 🙂

Zike McNasty! April 6, 2006 9:13 AM

Alright here we go. These 30 unskilled workers Would all be Informed
to Steal Social Security numbers much the way illegal immigrants do
then they would have to get jobs one each at the 30 largest soda
production factories mainly coke and pepsi products you know how our
society is addicted to soda. Then begins the hard core spending of
the 500k the first step would be to lace the sodas with poisons,
then printed on the bottom of each can Death to the Infidels!! Now
the kicker to all this is through out the movie you get the
impression that these Terrorists are not Al Qaida at all. By the end
of the movie you find out the truth that they are mexicans brought
through ( Now with the geust worker program we could switch them to
legal immigrants instead of SS number stealing bad guys) by the
president of the united states to spread wide spread fear and panic
so that the president could encroach on civil liberties. Man could
you imagiane the sodas being poisoned? an Entire two or three
generations would be wiped out but fast! I am not saying the
president in the movie has to be Bush, just who ever ya want it to
be make it a fictitious charecter the movie will not be an attack on
our president it will just be fiction! =P

OldMan April 6, 2006 2:05 PM

With patience and forethought the enemy has infiltrated Aramark and Sodexo, two major contract caterers. The food industry is known for employing undocumented workers, so this is very easy. These two companies happen to operate many government departments lunchrooms, such as the FBI, CIA and DOD, as well as many or our most prestigious colleges and universities.

They introduce a synthetic prozac like drug into the food stream, not enough to make anyone ill, but enough to slowly dumb down everyone. In a few years there are no really bright folks there.

This only comes to light when a predictable and common event happens, and no one seems to be able to deal with it anymore, something like a hurricane in the southern coast shall we say…

Jack C Lipton April 6, 2006 3:03 PM

OK, let’s go out into left field, for a moment, OK? This little scenario makes it harder to trust technology…

How’s about a means to evaporate enough LOX in a tunnel, forming a large pocket of pure O2 for cars/trucks to travel through?

A pure O2 atmosphere at 1atm is harmless, directly, to human beings. No one would be the wiser…

Excepting that all of the oil on the engine blocks and any fuel exposed to the high concentration of O2 will ignite instantly. Instant fire without any added (or detectable) accelerants. Who needs fuel when people are carrying it all with them, all you need provide is the oxidizer to get the fire started. Once started, those fires then become the real threat to the people in the tunnel…

The hell of it is that it’s invisible and otherwise indetectable, though you could figure that the vehicle(s) delivering the O2 cloud would be the last 10-20 coming out of the tunnel. Additionally, unless the gasifier for the LOX is especially good at pumping up the temps from the cryogenic liquid, there’ll be an apparent fog coming off the delivery vehicle.

OK, so it sounds silly and too limited for widespread threats, but there’s a sh!tload of tunnels that we’re dependant upon.

Josh Peters April 6, 2006 3:56 PM

The plot: economic chaos!

Nearly simulataneous terror attacks elminate the entire board of the Federal Reserve, the central Wal-Mart headquarters in Arkansas, and the central office of the FDIC a few hours before the market opens on a Friday morning. The days trading becomes chaotic and companies all around the country crumble as their stocks are liquidated for fear of another market crash (which in an ironic twist, the traders themselves cause). Mass hysteria reigns as citizens realize how easy it is to attack and kill many small-but-influential groups of people throughout the country.

Andrew Wade April 6, 2006 4:02 PM

Not that novel, but a dirty bomb made from the Americurium in smoke detectors.

I also had an idea vaguely similar to CZ:
(1) Rent a botnet (I don’t know the going rate, but $500,000 ought to be able to get you something).
(2) Use it to distribute Child Pornography to all and sundry. (e-mail. website defacement. whatever)
(3) A generation of American children is instantly corrupted, turns to Satan, etc. (I’ll grant you that Child Pornography is probably pretty darn horrific).

And now for something less silly. Pins. With human blood on them. Stick them through scotch tape, tape them on the inside of handles, the bottom of desks, to movie theatre seats, inside mailboxes. Stick them in fruit. Leave them in gumball machines. If possible use blood from people with AIDs or hepatitis, but if not simply have each terrorist use his own blood. Have each terrorist target a different city.

As a method of actually spreading infection, this is pretty much useless. But terror of infection, ah now that might be a different story. But it’s not a good movie-plot threat: it’s not very flashy or grandiose. Ah well.

Charliehorse April 7, 2006 2:27 AM

A terrorist cell made up of 20 individuals form 5 teams. Each team hijacks a fuel truck in a different city and contaminates the gasoline in the trucks with Radiological material. They use the tankers manifests to distribute the tainted gasoline. People pump the fuel into their vehicles and unknowingly distribute the radioactive particles across the united states through their exhaust. When the source of this is found out by the general public, the transportation system basically shuts down, the economy starts to collapse, people get extremely jumpy and all out chaos breaks fre in the United States.

Katie April 7, 2006 3:15 AM

30 terrorists each located in a different city have all been trained in Hollywood style makeup FX. They use these abilities to blend in and assume different races and genders.
In the wintertime, wearing big coats, they smuggle in automatic weaponry and gun down hordes of innocent people at malls all around the US. They then flee in the confusion, discarding the disguise, and move on to the next mall in town. This results in economic crisis, as folks fear leaving their houses for any reason, and stop buying anything but necessities. Also results in food riots in grocery stores as people stock up on ridiculous amounts of canned and dry goods. After targeting malls for a few days, move on to grocery stores (which are already full of people as per the above.) Schools and colleges follow as targets.

Once the American public, grieving, terrified and furious, is brought to a boil, utilize American Islamic extremists to carry out retaliation killings in the Middle East. Dressed in burqas, they carry out similar killings, and when caught, tell everyone that they did it as revenge for the events in the U.S. Framing the U.S. for these killings ignites righteous furor and leads to all-out war with the U.S.- perhaps even a nuclear conflagration.

Grey Bird April 7, 2006 10:46 AM

I haven’t read all of the plots above, so if this has already been written I apologize. First let me say that I believe that my understanding of a terrorist act is not how many people are killed, but how many are scared. 9-11 would have been considered a success by the terrorists who organized the attack, even if most of the people had escaped the buildings. Anyway, here is the movie plot:

Terrorists in different areas of the country, most in or near large cities, buy inexpensive old junker cars. (Out of the paper or ones they see at the side of the road for sale to minimize paperwork.) They rig these cars with a bomb and timer that will cause an explosion several days after it is started. Make sure that the cars have the optimal amount of gas for the maximum explosion, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of a tank. Have a prearranged time for most of the cars to explode, with some going off hours or days later. Abandon these cars on major thoroughfares and have the majority of explosions set to rush hour. Terror will cross the country with the time zones. The fact that random cars explode hours or days later will keep it going.

The reason this would work is simple. We’ve all seen cars abandoned for days at a time by the side of the road. I’ve even seen them inside a supposedly secure area within sight of the gate. This turns the commonplace into something to make people afraid.

Anonymous April 7, 2006 12:21 PM

@Jack C Lipton

“A pure O2 atmosphere at 1atm is harmless, directly, to human beings.”

Elevated oxygen levels may result in cough and other pulmonary changes. High concentrations of oxygen (greater than 75%) causes symptoms of hyperoxia which included cramps, nausea, dizziness, hypothermia, ambylopia, respiration difficulties, bradycardia, fainting spells and convulsions capable of leading to death.

In other words pure oxygen even at one atmospher has “toxilogical disadvantages”.

mike April 8, 2006 12:29 AM

  1. I’ve never been in the vicinity, but would it be hard to truck-bomb the Today show? They always have a big crowd, it’s partially outside, and televised (almost?) live. Alternately, just get 30 guys with guns converging at the point, overwhelming whatever security exists. Oh, and we know it would be effective (see the current Katie Couric controversy 😉

  2. Locate some important pipelines, and go about digging them up under the cover of darkness in rural areas, then set off some explosives. There seems to be a lot of experience out there in this area (numerous pipeline bombings have occurred in Iraq).

  3. Recreate the smiley-face bomber scenario: Place small bombs in rural mailboxes around the country in a pattern that creates something significant when locations are plotted on a map. The bombs themselves kill or maim dozens of people.

  4. I’d echo Scout’s scenario where chemical-laden trains are derailed in urban areas.

Ren April 8, 2006 3:12 PM

Terrorists using spam to communicate and organise, attempting to hide the links between cells. Our hero, Jack Ryan, has to discover the terrorists, from the 30 million email address that the spam reaches.

rod mcguire April 8, 2006 3:18 PM

pump a lot of gasoline into the sewer system of a residential neighborhood.

Ignight. Flames shoot out of toilets setting all of the houses on fire. This scheme might need some downstream blowers to keep the toilets flaming for a while.

Daniel April 8, 2006 3:44 PM

1: Use the 500k to buy small arms and explosive. Using the guns, hijack gas tanker trucks, then blow them up during rush hour or at truck stops, so that splash damage takes out other trucks. By keeping targets specifically to gas tankers, searches are intensified, thus delaying gas shipments. Blow up five or six tankers in this fashion, then switch to something more innocuous; say, food trucks or hazmat. Watch as rail lines are clogged due to the large number of shipments that can no longer be transferred on the highway.

2: Issue statements to the press stating that members of your organization have contaminated bottled water and soda production plants with quantities of heavy water. In order to cover their tracks, they set off explosives at a heavy-water nuclear plant somewhere in the world.

As heavy water is undetectable by nearly every means known to man, there exists no way for enforcement agencies to determine whether or not their supplies have been contaminated.

nibaq April 8, 2006 3:48 PM

Wall of Feathers

Get a couple 18 wheelers with birds (pigeons, sea gull etc). Have them just down the run way from where Air Force One will be taking off. Then releasing them at take off so that they will create a wall of feathers that will smash into the windscreen, and get stuck in the engine causing the plan to crash.

Simple effective, but trucks may get messy afterwards…

nibaq April 8, 2006 3:56 PM

Just a little addition to Wall of Feathers.

Having it during a G8 summit or World Economic Summit, thus able to get more world leaders.

Drastic April 8, 2006 4:18 PM

Holiday travel season, a good median time picked during peak hours at the major/hub airports around the country–JFK, O’Hare, Seatac, so forth. Some agitprop has been released beforehand to warn of attacks, causing DHS to bump the security rainbow up to Terror Alert Sienna Pumpkin, so security checkpoints have been beefed up all around–causing the security checkpoints to the gates to really clog full of tired cranky travelers.

At decided X time, suicide bombers detonate their bulging carry-on package full of explosives right before the security point, where the human traffic is most heavily bottled up.

Also, the extra recruits who didn’t make the airport martyr lists do the same thing, only with carbombs right at identified bottlenecked points on major highway clogs in several cities–each city has at least one section of highway that always chokes up at rush hours.

Drastic April 8, 2006 4:25 PM

For a flashier thriller with a higher budget:

A terrorist group gets their hand on a nuclear weapon from Formersovietstatesplintersstan. The twist: they don’t even try getting it into the US.

There’s a small attack directed against us, to be sure. Perhaps even my first idea! The day after that, the terrorists detonate the nuclear device.

At Mecca.

They then flood the muslim world with screaming propaganda that the United States unilaterally launched a nuclear strike against Islam’s most holy of sites, finally threatening to ignite the massive Islamic uprising they’ve been after unsuccessfully for decades. Denials fall on deaf ears.

Obviously, it’ll take some rogue CIA agent who doesn’t play by the rules to save us all.

Snapshot April 8, 2006 4:35 PM

A lunatic geologist (Think Michael Biehn, around the time of K2), mountain climber with a knowledge of demolition goes to the Kola Peninsula. Ostensibly to aid in the building of a hydro electric dam, that’s being built near an old secret nuclear facility. The facility is the same model and type as Chernobyl.

But in reality he’s there to sabotage the dam and cause two catastrophic events to take place. First, he places shaped charges in the dam itself. Second he places charges in key positions along the river being dammed.

Then he detonates the charges along the river, these are detonated in order starting with the furthest from the dam, ending with the one closest to the dam.

At this point the hero, whoever the hell that’s going to be. Probably Kevin Costner, “No Way Out” stylee. Has to cotton on to what he’s up to.

Here’s the plan. The dam is burst (think X-Men 2). the river races along it’s new course towards the secret soviet nuclear installation. The flood hits the reactor room which of course with the extra coolant / h2o causes an immediate reaction of the carbon cooling rods. Just like Chernobyl.

This causes a massive blast. But of course this far North the blast cloud and fallout do not travel South. They follow the Northerly winds and go North to the Pole and great glaciers. There it will fall. The dirty fallout rain will cause the reflectivity in the glacial snow to increase the temperature up North causing spontaneous melting of the Ice Cap. Massive flooding and Worldwide Tidal Waves / Tsunami.

The villain then issues his demands. One Beeellion Dollars and all that sort of thing.

The hero of course try’s saving the day, eventually digging out the shaped charge, strapping it to the bad guy and pushing him off the dam. The bad guy detonates it on the way down at the right moment and causes the dam to crack and break.

Then the money shot…

shipofthesun April 8, 2006 6:17 PM

Terrorists need to spread terror, not shut down systems. 30 followers, wearing bomb vests, walk into the food court in the 30 largest malls in the country scream, “Allah-u Ekber” and detonate. It’s noon, the day after Thanksgiving, and the hero (Denzel? Willis?)and sidekick(Chan?) are running out of time before more bombs go off. Local news is going insane, and the networks have set up a local offices to cover it all.

cheap and doable. part of the terror is that suicide bombers are so alien, so un-american.

Big plot

use the money to finance a larger crime: robbing a Whateverstan nuclear site of it’s fuel rods. Transform and transport said fuel rods into U.S. through Mexico. Move into Yellowstone in modified campers. find geological low point, preferably in back woods. Time your arrival to not arouse suspicion. When you have assembled your team, combine the materiel into a critical mass, and let it runaway. The unsuing meltdown would eat through the crust of the earth and possibly set off the Yellowstone Supervolcano, which would certainly do damage to the populace, government, and the economy, as well as the enviroment. A total scourge on ones enemy, indeed.

Platypus3333 April 8, 2006 8:08 PM

Terrorists gain access to an extremely potent airborne biological weapon, which they then use to fill thousands and thousands of rolls of bubble wrap (both small and large sized bubbles). These rolls are then sent all over the country and used for various shipping purposes. Along the way, the bubbles gradually burst as people cannot help popping them and playing with the wrap, releasing the agent and causing mass death as the virus spreads. Those large plastic sacks of air they use to ship fragile things nowadays would also work perfectly, as they are airtight and kind of tempting to play with.

More chaos ensues as people, though unaware precisely what is causing this epidemic, see shipped packages as a common factor; internet orders go down, wreaking havoc with the economy as people refuse to purchase or have anything to do with mail order.

Lizardo April 9, 2006 12:53 AM

Shoot voters on election day.

20 people could cause a lot of chaos & the budget is really only needed to get them arrayed around the East coast and Midwest, “sleeping” until the hit date.

Driving from one polling place to the next, shooting a few people either with a snipers rifle as they enter, or simply walk in with a pistol, shoot the workers & early bird voters & move on.

The trick is to hit random targets in the East, then some in the Midwest to cause a panic by the time California wakes up.

The potential for a movie plot is not so much the actual terrorist event but the aftermath. On Election Day (not a bad name for the movie), will West coast voters show up and will elections be called off?

Then everyone calls results in to question and argues whether to hold new elections (Bush/Gore 2k). Good opportunity for a “Burning of the Reichstag” seize of power.

Best time for this is probably a mid-term election so things are completely screwed up by the next Presidential (esp. for a lame-duck president who’d like to stick around).

newt April 9, 2006 2:05 AM

Creating mass panic or major disruption (along with a lot of publicity) would be goals they might be interested in.

Mass panic:
The whole nation was in a panic when one guy in one town put poison medicine into a store. They could poison a few critical food items (peanut butter, milk, bread) and place them in about 100 stores all around the country on the same day. The next day, when the handful of deaths occured, the country would be frozen with panic.

Mass disruption:
Several major cities rely on bridges. Simply drive two trucks filled with explosives across several of the country’s major bridges and explode them at each end at the same time.

Javier April 9, 2006 2:47 AM

Wow, a lot of interesting ideas here..

Mine is this. Two small thermonuclear bombs smuggled through the mexican border. A team comes with them,
assault teams. five to ten well trained
for each. They overtake the security
forces at two innocuous sites. Glen
Canyon and Hoover dams. They set
the bombs in the service ducts about
halfway down in the dams. The resulting detonations obliterate the
dams and release not only radioactive
air particles (Steam and moisture from
the blast itself into the atmosphere),
they also release the power of the water
downstream. The water will be contaminated with radioactivity and will
be more than enough to take out
the Parker, Davis, Palo verde and Imperial dams downstream. This will
effectivly cut off water supplies to
Las Vegas, Pheonix and Tucson. Power
will be all but lost in Vegas. The resulting wave of refugees will overtake surrounding states and the now evicerated FEMA will have neither the rescources or ability to respond in a timely fashion. Many Americans will die
by heat and dehydration. All agriculture and farming in the area will be destroyed.

Riots will become commonplace and
“old folks” homes will be raided in Pheonix. The rest of America, and the
world, will watch. The border security
problem will become purely military.
A vain attempt. There have been many nuclear devices smuggled into the US.

And therein lies the story. Can the US
get it’s act together? Can the failings of homeland security be overcome? Will they be able to stop the next detonation?

Crazy man April 9, 2006 4:55 AM

Give every terrorist a 5 lb bag of nails and let them throw them out the window, in any major American city with a rush hour. Atlanta rush hour, with cars going 90 miles an hour, would result in horrible crashes. People would be afraid to drive in rush hour. The city would collapse.

Just do this in every major city, and commerce would come to a halt.

They could probably track the nails.

But ….really….who tracks nails?

Everyone has nails.

I read something a long time ago, that said you would be insane to drive on the highway, if you couldn’t trust 99.9 percent of the people to drive right.

The nails could seriously ruin your day.

Felch April 9, 2006 8:00 AM

Terrorists have swamped the country with asbestos contaminated cocaine, triggering the greatest stockmarket collapse in history that dwarfs the Great Depression. Marketing droids have to get real jobs, politicians commit suicide as lobbyist junkets evaporate, etc. you get the picture

Andrew Wade April 9, 2006 11:43 AM

“…The unsuing meltdown would eat through the crust of the earth and possibly set off the Yellowstone Supervolcano, …”
Oooh, I like this one. Of course meltdowns don’t actually work that way (the material spreads out, stopping the reaction), but as a movie-plot, w00t.

Martin April 9, 2006 12:55 PM

It’s interesting…I just blogged on this question. If I have 500,000 & 30 people I’d send teams of two out to the best yield freeway targets in a bunch of urban centers & the understanding that the “strike” would happen on a specific day. I’d spend the extra cash on more magazines for my weapons & better/more napalm for the teams.

Pretend you have $10,000. Pretend you’re cracked in some fundamental way. Do you honestly believe that the Department of Homeland Security, or the FBI, or the NSA, or who-fucking-ever could actually prevent you from killing twenty or a hundred people if you’re willing to sacrifice your own life?

Here in Seattle we’ve just had a vivid reminder of how stone cold simple it is to assemble assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, & other tools of terrorist mayhem. Play the game in your head for a few minutes. My personal favorite involves the I90 floating bridge.

Shopping List
Semi-automatic rifle – $800 – $2,000
(I’d likely spring for one of the AK-47 knock offs. They’re not as accurate as some rifles, but they’re legendary for reliability. Plus the large capacity banana clips are easy to find).
Assault pistol – $800 – $1,500
(I’d go with a semi-automatic version of the classic 9mm Uzi & then buy all the 32 round magazines I could lay hands on. I’m thinking I could carry at least ten.)
Personal body armor – $500 – $1,000
(There are some excellent performance reviews as a result of troop fatalities in Iraq. The point isn’t to survive…just make it harder, hence longer, before they can take me out.)
Caltrops – $0 – $250
(You can buy car caltrops on ebay, or make them yourself. They’ve been in use for a very long time.)
Binoculars – $50 – $500
(I’d spend extra on flare resistant coated optics.)
Optional DIY napalm

If you’re wondering how easy it would be to dig up the goodies on my list, take a look at (I’m thinking mail order is the way to go if you’re brown & ESL).

Now that we have all the tools needed, you’ll need to cauterize your sense of right & wrong (or amp yourself up on a religious zealot trip). Pick an end of the bridge during rush hour (I’d go with the one closer to the city). If you check out the satellite pictures on Google you can see that there are some nice shrubs etc. for you to nestle into. Watch with the binocs until you see two relatively full buses are on the bridge at one time. Throw handfuls of caltrops onto the lanes entering the tunnel. Go to work with the AK-47. Given that the cars are only likely to be doing about 3 miles per hour it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel. Once the tunnel has been fully blocked by immobilized vehicles throw as many one-gallon glass bottles of homemade napalm as you can onto the cars below (this doesn’t really serve a significant function other than to make it more dramatic for the news. Which is really what terror is all about). You could do something flashy like rappelling down (or you could do something simple like following the little ramp down to the side walk that runs along the side of the bridge). Unlimber the Uzi & start firing into the vehicles that are trapped in the traffic jam you’ve created on the bridge (well, I guess you didn’t create it. You just made it really, really bad). The individual cars aren’t really your targets. You just want to create chaos & make sure everyone keeps their head down. The buses are where you’re going to get the numbers you need to make it a significant attack. Keep trying to kill people until they kill you.

Adam Brown April 9, 2006 2:39 PM

I always thought that one of the most effective attacks would be to damage the pipes and aquaducts that feed Las Vegas with it’s water.

the water supply is already stretched thin with a 5 billion dollar project underway to add another pipeline. the disruption of a handful of pipelines, pump stations, etc would cause water rationing. if water was cut off totally, all drinking water would have to be trucked in.

Gill April 9, 2006 4:53 PM

The year is 2012. The US government has completely closed off the border to Mexico and passed laws making life difficult for the 11 million lowly-paid illegal aliens.

A group of these illegal aliens unite, telling the world that they have been involved in a massive conspiracy for decades – swapping children randomly at birth to dilute the genetic bonds of the American nuclear family. Cleaners, nurses and technicians in hospitals around the country have been changing the name-tags of babies for an entire generation.

Panic ensues, the nation grinds to a halt as parents rush their children to get genetically tested to confirm their identity. The panic is exacerbated by sensationalist news media who do all the work of whipping up hysteria without any logical examination of the facts.

Larry Colen April 9, 2006 8:11 PM

With more budget and tech, this could be done with timed incendiaries and fewer operatives in more towns. However, significant effect could be caused with gasoline, matches and operatives willing to work until they got caught.

If you have timed incendieries, start things at 5:15PM on a week day, when the streets are the most crowded and emergency response vehicles are the most impeded. Doing it by hand, do it at night when it is easiest to get around. With a budget of $500,000, and going for maximum effect, lets have one or two operatives in each metropolitan area, so that we can hit more areas.

At 5:15 PM start fires in several places in major metropolitan areas. These initial targets should be very flammable, multi-staion response targets. Libaries might be a good combination of a lot of flammable material, and high symbolic value. It may be necessary to jimmy the sprinkler systems to gain maximum effect. However various industrial locations could likely be torched to spectacular effect.

At 5:45, when all of the stations that are going to respond have, blow up as much of the emergency response communication infrastructure as possible. Take out radio towers and cell sites near the initial targets.
Also take out local TV and radio station transmitters, and if possible cable service providers.

At 5:50 set incendiary devices off at the fire stations that are likely to be responding to the events.

At 6:00 PM, start hitting the “terror targets”. Emergency response capability should be seriously impaired at this point. For maximum loss of life, hit apartments and tenements in the worse parts of towns. There will be more people per apartment, fewer at work, and fewer of the apartments will have alarms, and sprinkler systems.

Hitting the poorer districts will also have the benefit of throwing down the “race” card, to cause further provocation of incidents

Barlennan April 9, 2006 8:50 PM

There’s a riddle: “What form of transport in New York [or some other major city] carries people the farthest distance each day?”

It’s the elevator system. If you scare people out of using it, people will… er… lose 20 minutes of their working day as they climb the stairs instead.

I’m imagining little packages of thermite, placed to melt through the roof and drip on the occupants.

Explosives might well be easier, but, if you manage to cause terror with thermite, the authorities have to secure all the rusted scrap metal in the country, and prevent any more being imported. (“Your car is too poorly maintained to cross the border.”)

Responsible citizens should also report all children gathering discarded aluminium cans for the recycling rebate. They could be collecting for the terrorists.

Jack C Lipton April 10, 2006 9:50 AM

About Nibaq’s “Wall of Feathers”…

I’m not sure whether that would inspire terror or adulation.

Likewise, if the terrorists went after spammers then there’d be a LOT more adulation that someone was “doing something” about the problem. Terrorists turn the corner and go from an invader to a liberator.

We believe many things which are untrue. We call it “History”.

Jay April 12, 2006 7:17 PM

Here’s my entry for the contest:

A feisty webmaster with terrorist sympathies hits on a great idea. He doesn’t have the background
to come up with good attacks on america because he’s not very familiar with it. Who is? Americans! So how can he trick Americans into telling him their own vulnerabilities? He starts a TERRORIST MOVIE PLOT CONTEST ON THE WEB! Those stupid
Americans will tell him all the best vulnerabilities themselves! He recruits his army of slavering jihadists and he hits America with every single one
of the plots from the contest!

But wait! You might ask “How will he fund his terrorist attacks?” PORN!

He starts a web site where female Jihadists can make their contribution to the war! They call it “Suicide Girls!” The girls do their part by doing
their first “World Tour”. They enter the U.S. as russian hotties looking for geek husbands!

I look forward to reading the rest of the contest entries. 😉

Gray Ghost April 13, 2006 12:05 AM

Some great ideas already posted.

Target Times Square at Midnight New Years Eve. Start with some obnoxious smelling gas released from several points in the area that would could be interpreted as a Chemical Attack at 11:55PM. Send in several teams of 3-5 suicide bombers wearing Chemical Hazard Suits the middle of the crowd telling people to evaculate. At exactly midnight have the team blow themselves up. At 12:15 go after the subway system with more faux gas attacks then target the electrical grid to take power down to the entire city and the rest of the Northeast (Think of the blackout a couple of years ago). Add a few incindiary bombs in the area and you have mass drunken panic.

The story is the implementation of the attack, the response of the real first responders and the mass panic. Lots of good film footage of Times Square during the attack. Cost is almost nothing for the attackers as they would not need even real chemical weapons. The damage is caused by the panic and the followup fear in NYC. Alternatively, use the same plot in Las Vegas as this would have good film footage as well.


Water Balloon April 15, 2006 3:12 AM

Using the 150,000 mom-and-pop Windows machines captured by the IDA Code Red Worm, the following eMail is sent to everyone on-line:

“We have placed a suitcase nuclear weapon at the bottom of Lake Ontario. Unless the United States withdraws all of its military forces from all foreign soil by midnight ending this Friday, it will be detonated. The resulting fireball will turn the waters at the bottom of the lake into steam, causing the rest of the lake to cascade through the entire Great Lakes region, flooding lakeside cities and eradicating hydroelectric plants, water treatment plants, and all shipping on the Great Lakes.”

Paul Tergeist April 15, 2006 3:39 AM

You guys aren’t very good terrorists. 30 guys. Each hijacks a gasoline tanker truck in NYC, parks it in front of a subway entrance at rush hour and locks the dump valve open. 450,000 gallons of gasoline pours down the grates or steps into the subway.

You don’t even have to worry about a spark. If the men are expendable, they can start tossing grenades at the people in the street until someone shoots them. Want to make it more fun? Have a couple of the guys hijack LP gas tankers and pour that in as well. The entire subway will become a contained fuel-air device and will go off automatically when the mixture is lean enough. Want to make it even MORE fun? Recruit a few more guys, have them get jobs as drivers for an armored car company. On the day of the attack, kill the guy in the back, load the car full of ammo and drive up and down the streets during the attack firing machine guns out of each side of the armored car.

F12 April 15, 2006 4:03 AM

Three phases:

Phase one. Terrorists in 30 major cities poison green groceries in supermarkets which are open. Pick a vegetable that doesn’t fare well if wrapped in plastic. Do this is as secretively as possible. They might pose as exterminators or shoppers merely sampling groceries.

Phase two. Terrorists use the same attacks on a second set of supermarkets in the same day, this time leaving a specific calling card: A dollar bill with a black square drawn in #2 pencil over the portrait and the top right corner cut off.

Phase three. Within a week, these same calling cards are dropped in various food distribution centers, notably those for public school districts. No poisoning is necessary.

Everyone is affected. Fresh vegetables will never be sold in the open again.

Doctor Evil April 15, 2006 4:31 AM

There are a number of ways to create national panic with a small number of people and $500,000 or so.

[1] A simultaneous attack to destroy key distribution centres for the main supermarket chains and make them unusable for a few weeks. These places are easy for an impostor to enter. He or she could bring in a truckload of explosives masquerading as a delivery. These distribution places don’t have warehouses: they don’t keep stocks of food. Supermarkets don’t have stock rooms any more and rely on just-in-time logistics. Within a couple of days of the attack the supermarket shelves will be empty, helped along by panic buying. The economic and social impact of that would be non-trivial.

[2] Attacks against oil refineries: for instance the sort of home-made mortars that the IRA used to attack Downing Street and Heathrow airport in the 1990s. These weapons would be inaccurate and indiscriminate. Though perhaps 10-12 per refinery would be enough to make each refinery inoperative. Watch society collapse into anarchy as people can’t get fuel for their cars. Deploying snipers near the refineries and distribution centres against tanker trucks could have the same impact: drivers stay at home to avoid being shot. In a matter of days, the petrol stations will be empty.

[3] Production and distribution of basic foodstuffs is highly centralised and is often done by a poorly-paid, casual contract workforce. [Read the chapters on meat-packing plants in Fast Food Nation.] It would be straightforward for a terrorist group to infiltrate these places and introduce contaminants into the food: E.coli or salmonella into meat, ricin into grain, etc, etc. If this was done well, it wouldn’t even look like a terrorist attack. It would appear to be an accident or processing error at the plant. For extra impact this would be done in several places at the same time. Come to think of it, destroying these places would also cause terror because of the immediate and long term impact that would have on the food supply chain.

Motis April 15, 2006 4:38 AM


A team of terrorists develops a tuned EMP-based device that permanently disables television equipment. When this fearsome weapon is deployed, every TV set in every home in America is suddenly and silently reduced to useless junk.

Within days, the American economy has taken a sharp downturn. Confusion and life-threatening boredom reign supreme as the average citizen finds himself cut off from both his primary source of entertainment and his primary source of information about the outside world.

Without television, Americans are forced to interact with their families and neighbors, read newspapers, and use the Internet. Outrage at the terrorists’ actions quickly turns to outrage at our own government’s policies as people across the nation begin to wake from their comfortable, responsibility-free American dream.

A year later, the terrorists have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams: American military forces have pulled out of Iraq, a forcible regime change has taken place in Washington, D.C., and the bulk of American tax dollars are being spent on education, improving our quality of life, and conducting basic research on things like renewable energy sources instead of pissing off foreigners and stealing their oil.

captan marvel April 15, 2006 5:02 AM

  1. Terrorists make hundreds of incendiary devices using windup kitchen timers and bundles of wooden matches. At highpoint of western states fire season two man teams drive across mountain ranges (sierra nevada, rockies, etc.) at 2am , wind timer and throw them out the passenger window every mile of so. Result: Massive forest fires burning out of control destroying bulk of forests and leaving everyone scared. When winter comes massive mudslides do more damage.
  2. Ten or so trucks filled with anthrax bacillus. A spreader under the trucks disperses the anthrax as the trucks drive through cities, small towns, highways. Result: Widespread anthrax outbreaks over wide areas of country, lasting damage to social networks, etc.
  3. They plant bombs in the BART tunnel under San Francisco bay. Resulting blast of shapped charges rips open tunnel, water and mud flood tunnel.Result: Economic damage to SF bay area, huge cost to rebuild.
  4. Procure a medium sized cargo jet. Fill with explosives. Fly to LLNL, crash into the Plutonium building and blow up building, dispersing Plutonium. Result: LLNL is permanently contaminated, shut down, billions of dollars in economic damage, weapon’s work delayed or stopped.
  5. Take over a small town in a rural area. round up 250 citizens, hold in school auditorium. Contact news agencies and put satelite feed out to live program. Soak building with gsoline and burn prisoners to death on live television. Result: Shock value traumatizes millions.
    5b. As terrorists escape from town they leave anthrax behind to sicken responders.
  6. Terrorists set off bombs in public gathering places, movie theaters, schools, colleges, ice skating rinks, zoos, churches. Bombs go off randomly in various cities. Result: Thousands injured. Social disruption is immense. Bombs go off all at once or slowly over weeks. Public becomes afraid to go out, economy is damages.
  7. Terrorists disguised aas policemen harrass blacks in inner city, create insidents, then kill blacks. shouting racist slogans. Result: Minorities riot in multiple cities, furthering destabilizing race relations and demoralizing country.
  8. Several 727 cargo jets are painted to look like DSL. UPS, etc. Fitted with air to air rockets. Shoot down real cargo jets over atlantic and pacific oceans. Fly into states. Jets loaded with explosives divert at the last minute, fly into Wall Street, white house, pentagon, superdome, whatever. Result: Terrorizes public, leaves clllear message that ‘we’ can strike ‘you’ anytime anywhere and you cannot stop ‘us’.
  9. Fly jets into ten cruise ships in caribean and atlantic. Jets loaded with jellied gasoline an explosives. REsult: Terroizes the publiv, destroys cruise ship economy, destabilzes economy.
  10. Coordinated attacks on the NYSE, NASDAQ etc. Killing dozen’s of brokers, blowing up the computer centers employed therein (probably located elsewhere.) Result: Stock exchanges put out of business. Economy may collapse. further destabilization of economy.
  11. US Army, Air Force soldiers who are moslem are recruited to attack Moslem Holy sites, Mecca bombed, Dome of the Rock in Jeruselum bombed. US Soldiers and heliocopters positively identified. REsult: Holy war begans against the US.

kt1023 April 15, 2006 5:14 AM

“Your goal: cause terror. Make the American people notice. Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy. Change the political landscape, or the culture. The more grandiose the goal, the better.

Assume an attacker profile on the order of 9/11: 20 to 30 unskilled people, and about $500,000 with which to buy skills, equipment, etc.”

Well, unskilled people are difficult to employ in a sophisticated plot to take over the country, but maybe we can go and buy some skilled labor.

I just lately read an article about bio hackers and having a biolab bought from ebay in your garage:,306,p1.html

This is promising, especially since it declares:

“This vision of subtle bioweapons that modified behavior by targeting the nervous system — inducing effects like temporary schizophrenia, memory loss, heightened aggression, immobilizing depression, or fear — was irresistibly attractive to Biopreparat’s senior military scientists. After Popov’s defection, the research continued.”

This opens up the possiblity to do economic damage and change the culture all at once.

Similar research has been done before:

“Thought versus feeling”, David Jones, Nature 386, 770-770 (24 Apr 1997).

When I left the US I was much disappointed about the drop in my salary, but I was also relieved that some of the excesses of consumerism didn’t follow me here. Some of these things made me think sometimes the US economy thrives entirely on bullshit, mail in rebates come to mind or the internet bubble.

Now if we assume that the US economy thrives entirely on bullshit (it doesn’t but movies needn’t be accurate), removing the ability in people to spread bullshit should certainly hurt the economy, also it would change the culture I guess.

Now you have a bunch of terrorists go ahead bribe a russian (we need stereotypes too) scientist into cooking up some virus to prevent people from bullshitting others. Those terrorists could be foreigners, if they are comming from some poor country they don’t have to worry about the virus spreading since they won’t have an economy to destroy anyway.

Well there should be some opportunity to squeeze some comedy out of the virus spreading, used car salesmen who tell their customers that this car is a hunk of junk, new car salesmen who have to tell their customers that their new car was specifically engineered to have its first defects right after the warranty period ends, politicians who have to tell the truth, well you can think of more.

If you want to add an extra twist you could describe how some guy in a basement discovers that a vaccine could be derived from a bacterium which lives on cow dung (how obvious). He could be some 15 year old geek whose parents have some particular dishonest job and who now eyes the character change in his parents with suspicion, and wants his old parents back or something like this.

The problem is the the whole thing was meant to be scary and now became a comedy. I would prescribe some very deadpan humor, and maybe do it as a black and white movie, and it must start out in a bathroom.

-dsr- April 15, 2006 5:26 AM

It’s not the mechanics that’s important so much as the target. You need something that will have maximum media exposure — and in the West, that means movie stars. Target the Academy Awards presentation.

How you do it is relatively unimportant. Pipe bombs under the seats? Claymore mines in the ceilings? Acid in the fire sprinkler system? Two dozen true believers with AK47s and motorcycles? Doesn’t matter, as long as you kill or injure enough famous people. All-out attack with lethal force will certainly succeed — security is aimed at keeping out overzealous fans and random lone lunatics, not teams of soldiers. Bonus points accrue for leaving the television crews for last.

As a movie plot, the real flaw is that there’s no opportunity for a single action hero to bravely save the day.

Paul Dixon April 15, 2006 5:29 AM

Terrorists buy large numbers of iPods, then remove their hard drives, replacing them will smaller drives and a quantity of high explosive and anthrax for good measure.

The iPods are distributed over eBay, maybe inserted into regular retail channels, but slowly, surely, they spread throughout the nation.

Each iPod is set to explode at a random time after a specific date, and to explode if tampered with.

After the first few go off, anyone carrying an electronic device will be viewed with suspicion. Technology shares nosedive. More freedoms are eroded through new laws. The populace begins to revolt against the administration. Mayhem results.

The movie ends with Steve Jobs on knees in front of a burning Statue of Liberty, iPod in his fist, screaming “Damn you! Damn you all to hell!!”

James B. Hickok April 15, 2006 5:46 AM

Some ideas are so dumb they don’t deserve further dissemination. The best responses are (1) deafening silence, or (2) indifference (“Oh, I hadn’t heard,” accompanied by the rolling of eyes.).

Giving the perps more publicity just encourages them. After all, terrorists are not interested in just killing people, they really want the attention. Same with people expounding movie-plot threats.

Suggestion: let future contests focus on things advancing the cause of freedom or communications security. Trying to cure stupidity is a fruitless task.

You continually advance interesting ideas and concepts, particularly in the realm of how to think about security. You might want to continue focusing on that.

Michael Conlen April 15, 2006 6:45 AM

Terrorists recruit disaffected middle class kids (mostly white, but they’ll take whoever) to Islam through MySpace, train them to be terrorists a-la Syriana, and start using them as suicide bombers in the US.

One of them is the son of a high profile person (government official, well known corporate leader) which the story could revolve around.

Now we don’t know who to “look out for”.

JT April 15, 2006 6:51 AM

Alright this might take a few more than 30 guys but still think it is notable. Basically what happens is after years of giving foreigners our hotels, gas stations, and cab business the sleeper cells awake to cause havoc. First off the some owners of hotels and gas stations start poisoning their supplies of drinks and food. Then when people start flocking some of the other hotels they are rigged to explode and do when occupancy is at a filled state. Then the cab drivers rig all their cabs to explode and set off thousands of car bombs all over. Then as a last task the rest of the gas station owners close up and destroy gas tanks so no gas can be supplied.

PG April 15, 2006 7:07 AM

I have an actual movie plot, not from an existing movie but rather from a screenplay I wrote nearly 10 years ago. So yes, it’s copyrighted but also available for any producer who’s interested! Here it is in a nutshell…

Foreign terrorists — frustrated at not being able to infiltrate American soil and launch a large-scale terrorist attack — hire a domestic militia to do their bidding for a price. The militia has their own reasons for wanting to topple the American government, so they are only too eager to assist by becoming “terrorists-for-hire”.

The terrorists have learned to breed a highly concentrated and deadly form of Ricin (a poisonous protein derived from castor beans). They fill dozens of remote-controlled bombs with huge quantities of the genetically altered Ricin, then attach these bombs to weather balloons and launch them into the atmosphere.

The jet stream is headed directly over Washington, D.C., and the terrorists begin making their demands or else they’ll detonate the bombs remotely via an encrypted cell phone. If the Air Force should attempt to shoot down the balloons, built-in altimeters will cause them to detonate during free-fall. In either event, a cloud of invisible, deadly poison will be disseminated on the wind and kill anyone who inhales even an invisibly microscopic amount.

The heros board a cargo plane and catch up to one of the balloons in order to capture it in flight. They reel it into the cargo hold of the plane and seal it into a hyperbaric chamber that will artificially maintain a constant level of air pressure inside. The bomb is then safely taken to a facility on the ground where they attempt to learn how to disarm it.

They of course fail miserably at this task, with various tragedies occurring along the way. Ultimately, their only hope is to obtain the encrypted cell phone that the head terrorist plans to use to detonate the bombs. This leads to a dramatic show-down between our hero and the head terrorist, and, well, you can probably figure out how it all ends.

Should you want to read the completed screenplay, I’d be happy to send you a copy Bruce! 🙂

Oyvind Fredstie April 15, 2006 7:24 AM

Movie title: “P for Paranoia”.

Cool graphics flashing by.. accompanied by cool music, Conspiracy Dub
by Salmonella Dub.. a short flash of a person in a Muhammed mask..
with the letter “P” (in red) on his chest.. very scary guy.. more cool graphics…
Directed by Donald Rumsfeld.. Produced by Fox/Disney/Time Warner..

Blow up every home in Queens 1am Christmas Day.. “Christmas gifts”
full of ammonium nitrate with time fuse sent to every address in Queens.
The reason of this awful act.. we will never know..

First Act:
Space.. satellites flying by.. NASA.. AOL.. NSA.. Fox.. zooming in.. earth..
zooming more in.. America.. more.. USA.. even more.. New York City.. the
Queens borough.. happy people smiling.. snow.. a white Christmas.. a little
bird flies by.. following the bird.. what a nice bird.. still following the bird.. flies
between some buildings.. over a tree.. under a small bridge.. BANG! A cloud
of feathers.. nice bird fall to the ground.. bloody kids with BB guns.. Remington..

Second Act:
Camera zooming out again.. earth.. west.. south.. New Zealand.. zooming in..
South Island.. zooming further in.. West Coast.. a bit more.. Haast.. middle
of nowhere.. only a few people live there.. scary people.. helicopter-mounted
camera create cool flyby effect.. heading south.. following a small road.. think
forest.. dark.. old rusty pickup up ahead.. driving south.. fast.. camera moving
close.. following car.. Toyota.. between the thick forest.. camera mounted on
the back of the pickup.. can only see the back of the driver.. tattoo on the
neck.. a “P”.. ohh..

Middle of nowhere.. old farm.. very scary place.. muddy place.. car stops..
camera focusing on the door.. opens up.. P is wearing old gumboots..
camera follow the boot.. Nike.. splash.. mud all over the place.. P walks over
to the farmhouse.. opens the door.. dark inside.. gumboots of.. Homer
Simpson socks.. nice.. poster hanging on the wall.. Green Peace.. picture
of Pamela Anderson.. Save the New Zealand Whitebait (tiny fish).. red big “P”
painted over the poster.. back to the guy.. eating Whitebait substitute..
soya-based.. in a corner piles of Christmas wrapping can be seen.. the text
on the wrapping says “Happy Holidays”.. very political correct.. P is preparing
some food.. toast.. with Vegemite (yeast extract) and soya-based Whitebait
on top.. P walk over to a door.. searching his pockets.. probably for the key..
thinks.. ahh.. in the jacket.. gets the key.. walk back to the door.. camera
follows the key.. camera on the other side of the door.. “looking” through the
keyhole.. key inserted.. door is unlocked.. lights turned on.. P walk down to
the stairway.. to the basement.. dirt walls.. a rat run over the floor.. in a corner
a person.. a woman.. blond.. full of dirt.. obviously haven’t had a shower in
weeks.. she turns.. Pamela Anderson.. P give her the toast.. and she actually
eats it.. P goes back up.. camera stay with Pamela.. she is wearing old rags..
Hooters Air.. keeps her warm.. she find a “letter”.. written on toilet paper..
written by another woman.. Brigitte Bardot.. we see Brigitte.. eating toast with
Vegemite.. in the same basement.. writing the “letter”. Blah blah blah.. French
Super Model.. blah blah blah.. baby seals.. blah blah blah.. dirty Inuits killing
the seals.. blah blah blah.. eating the meat.. so forth and so on.

P connect to Internet.. fancy new Dell laptop.. Windows Vista.. satellites linking
up in outer space.. P start hitting the keyboard.. W.. W.. W.. (dot).. G.. O.. O..
G.. L.. E.. (dot) C.. O.. M..
Enter the text “New York Queens Address” and click on a button with the name
“I’m Feeling Lucky”.. A list of everyone living in Queens appear.. P hit a link
saying “printer friendly version” and hit the “Print” button in Internet Explorer..
Annoying pop-ups appear suggesting that P should buy some Viagra and a new
Motorola cellphone.. a new Canon colour printer start printing out 666 pages..
in gray scale of course.. first page.. first name.. Arthur Andersen..

P in shed.. filled with white bags.. ammonium nitrate.. he is smoking.. mixing
ammonium nitrate with some special liquid.. type unknown.. filling bags with
the mix.. wrapping the boxes in “Happy Holidays” Christmas wrapping..

Third Act:
Some random love story.

Fourth Act:
Random people start singing and dancing. I guess the purpose of this is to.. no..
I do not know.. for the kids watching the movie?? Who knows?

Fifth Act:
The plot.. truckloads of “Happy Holidays” packages arrive in Queens.. delivered
by UPS.. 22nd December.. couriers.. DHL.. driving in new GM cars.. bring them
to the innocent people.. who happily accept it.. 24th December.. again people
are smiling.. eating the Christmas turkey.. drinking Coca Cola.. and Bud Light..
camera turn.. the Christmas tree.. zoom in on the pile of Christmas packets
under the tree.. and focus on the “Happy Holiday” packet.. x-ray vision.. zoom
in on the timer.. 3:00:00.. 2:59:59.. 2:59:58..

Streets are quiet.. pure white snow as far as the eye can see.. camera zoom in
a local church tower.. the time is 00:59.. bells ring.. camera zooms out..
explosions everywhere.. the sky is lit up.. more explosions..

Final Act:
Fox’s News are covering the attack.. more than 5000 people dead.. awful.. awful
pictures displayed on TV.. burning suburbs.. then.. Sport.. UK Soccer..
Manchester United beat Chelsea.. Drink Gatorade..

Everyone smiling.. living happily ever after.. Bush is planning to attack Iran
because they probably had something to do with it..

Credits and music by Tomoyasu Hotei.

Daniel April 15, 2006 8:15 AM

Attacks that scare people are attacks that go after what is dear to one’s heart. Seen from this angle, it’s of course easy to absolutely TERRORIZE an American:
– Conspire with that northern Chinese sweat shop which is producing TV sets for Walmart to turn out TV’s that blow up on a pre-arranged signal (eg. ten minutes into the last episode of, how ironic, the sixteenth installment of “Survivor”)
– Found a mafia-like muslim organization that mobs restaurants into no longer serving bacon (“You cook pig, I cook your shop!”, spoken, of course, by some bearded man with that movie-plot saudi accent)
– Issue sublimal phallic messages that make Americans buy cars that are both three times as big as necessary AND only “paid for” with debt. Then, raise gas prices. (Ooh. Wicked!)

Paul Reinheimer April 15, 2006 8:33 AM

  • Disperse the 20-30 terrorists around the United States, equipped with some sort of poison. They then visit Super Wal-Mart’s and other grocery stores spraying poison on produce. A nation that can no longer trust it’s food supply is in bad shape.
  • Start blowing up power stepping stations all across the country. They’re un-defended, and not quickly replaced. Sure the grid can deal with losing one, but take out 2 or 3 per terrorist in the north east and the grid’s screwed.
  • Hit the water supply in NYC during a heatwave. Nothing fancy like a biological agent, just blow up all the pipes leading into Manhatten and Brooklyn. The city will fix the Manhatten pipes first, the angry/thirsty people in Brooklyn will claim the fix was racially motivited and start their own civil unrest.
  • Blow up the hoover dam. Using a plane would probably be best as it might finally convince the populace that all of the extra security measures are pointless. Taking out the dam will screw over water & electricity supply in that region, both items very much in need.

It’s not very movie plot-y but the poisining food plan is my favourite. Low risk to those carrying out the actions (especially if they get like a 48-72 hour head start before anyone figgures out that food is being poisoned) so they can repeat again and again. Then possibly progress to hitting the power stepping stations.

shanks April 15, 2006 8:38 AM

Lots of people check out THE book from the public library. The data mining tool detects a pattern and compares it with the 9/11 incident.

FBI is alerted, the tool ties all the lending to one trace, one phone number.

The author!

Book author’s name is unique, not found very easily in the telephone directory.

knowledge & expertise of the author is unique too and he becomes a ‘subject of interest’. The title of his book is ominous. Portentious of the ultimate sacrifice, of the biggest price to be paid, a harbinger of final freedom from mortal coils.

Beyond Fear.

Securacharge April 15, 2006 8:39 AM

This is my contribution to the Contest.

Dear Bruce,

Having read the scary plots I miss something as they are all about the same – physical violence.

There are worse issues to face.

It’s not too far fetched that we’re sent 70 years back in time to the 1929 Depression where people starved and desperately started to listen to dangerous “political religions” creating WW2. The successful mantras in Germany were related to the WW1 Piece in Versailles 1918 and subsequently a heavy attack against the monetary system – ruled by Taikoon Ivar Kreuger 1929-1932.

This is not very difficult to repeat. Let’s look into it:

The terrorists don’t hate common people but the System. Their attacks are made to scare people to stop their politicians in turn to open up for malicious religious take overs.

If those fanatics, ( with or without scientific support by economical org. crime which wants to buy real estate and industries cheap when people no longer have access to cash ), use spywares – of the undetectable/non-ereaseable kinds of rootkits – and when using botnet automated man-in-the-middle scenarios, the fanatics would be able to destroy our monetary system within six months.

Firstly, Alice would NEVER again use her InternetBank if she got a popup frame telling her: “ Thank you Alice for using your bank account 123456 in your Online X-bank. Account is now empty. Welcome back after refill???.

Irrespectively of full banking coverage of the loss, she would not use it again. It’s a Disgrace of Privacy to have an enemy in our computer. It’s scary and ID-thefts can never be covered by the bank

Secondly, Bob would never again use his credit card on the Internet if the similar message was popping up ???Hi Bob. Thanks for giving us your VISA card 9876 5432 1012 3456 and other data. It’s now for sale to $60 on the Internet and we will do our very best to open some new nice credits. We look fwd to see you soon again in e-commerce???. Bob would never return to e-comm.

Thirdly, regarding the InternetBank Security boxes.

Those are manufactured by poor and easy bribed people in the Third World quite able to install some hidden “helpers??? into the algoritm for botnets and rootkits to match names and pwds to stolen keys.
This can be made and it will cause a huge drainage of the Internetbanks.

It’s no Uthopia that the world InternetBanks could loose hundreds of mlns of dollars around the clock and if closing the bank – the customers well flee to bank offices with depraved service.
And the banks cannot simply leave Online services any longer. Turning point is passed. They are caught in their own development.

Who of the terrorists wouldn’t like a catch of some extra $bln / week ?

The crypto keys of those “security boxes???are presently put into the std. algoritms outside the InternetBanks and probably not so very hard to steal either. I’m quite sure there are lists of the batches somewhere to steal.

Somebody was able to hack and steal the ultimately protected database of CardSystems AZ for 30 mln credit card no:s in 2005. In this view it would not be very hard for them to steal some batch lists at those subcontractors processing the individual crypto keys automated into the certain numbered security boxes to be sent to the bank.

Of course there are lists of this.

However, I would be the very first guy to queue outside my bank to withdraw all possible cash of my assets in case this happens – or if a fraction of it happens meaning the threat grows – and so will millions of us do as well.

The borderline between demand and supply of cash will soon become a critical mass and we will see the equal situation as in Hong Kong in the 50-ties when bank of China more or less saved the enclave. The globalization of economy will care for the impact, the DOW will fall like a stone in water and when passing 4,000 pts the Derivate Bomb will ignite.

The top 3 US banks, sole, have committed themselves in dangerous derivate undertakings presently exceeding +1.5 of TOTAL world economy (GNP).

How big the global derivates’ commitment I don’t dare to think of. No state or globally assembled Reserves can cover more than a fraction of this when time comes and we will have a new 1929 with scumbags purchasing highly valuable assets to a bargain.

The criminal overload of sought after cash will even more reduce prices and the “Glorious” terrorists’ promises will once more attract families with starving children.

We are sitting ducks all of us!
Perhaps you shouldn’t publish this tip, Bruce.

Sent by Securacharge

ZanyScum April 15, 2006 9:14 AM

1) Cheap
2) Terror
3) long lasting (no one time hit)
4) Damage the USA

Send your 20/30 people across the world. Into any country they can enter easily.
Let them live and work normally.
When they have free time, they search for persons who are lone.
And kill him/her. Leave behind a note “For what the USA did to our country”. They do not mention the country.
And go back to work.
They prefer to kill not in the cities they work/live.
That is all.
It will last a long time.
The hints of observers (there will be sometimes) will not point to one single person.

RichieLibertarian April 15, 2006 9:29 AM

The most terrifying thing I can think of is electing Dick Cheney as President; who would have Don Rumsfeld as VP and then appoint Paul Wolfowitz as Secretary of Defense followed by George W. Bush as Secretary of State.

BJW April 15, 2006 9:32 AM

Call this plot “Tank Men”.

Strategically located around the country are fuel terminals. These terminals are owned and operated by various oil companies. The terminals contain tanks of all sizes that contain aviation fuel, gasoline, diesel, and other specialty fuels. These terminals are surronded by chain link fences and are generally in the countryside near big cities. Sometimes, they are right in the cities proper. Generally, the security at these terminals is very low or non-existent

A group of terrorists buy an oil industry reference map an locate each of the main terminals. Then an agent is assigned to each one. Each agent is given travel money, and a list of supplies to buy at a hardware store. The first is a pair of bolt cutters, the second is a pipe wrench, and the third is a box of roadside emergency flares.

On the date of the attack, the agents cut the fence, approach each tank and lossen the bolts on the pipe flanges on the piping attaced to each tank at ground level so that fuel leaks into the dike surrounding each tank. After letting the dikes fill sufficiently, the agent strikes the flares and tosses them into the dikes. The resulting fires severely damage or destroy most of the tanks.

No one is killed and the agents exit stage left.

Since it takes about a year to rebuild each tank, all transportation in the country comes to a halt. The economy is severely disrupted and marshall law is enacted to keep the peace.

logic11 April 15, 2006 9:37 AM

This on is perhaps a little closer to reality than most of the above.
If the terrorists really want to cause mass panic, they need to make the people of middle america feel unsafe. Take a town of a thousand or so somewhere in the heartland. Make sure it has a limited number of access points (say two, one for the highway coming in, one for the highway going out) and block them with semi’s first thing in the morning. Wander through town just killing anyone you can get to, using conventional weapons. As soon as you are discovered, kill yourself with high explosives in the town hall.
That would pretty much cause the US to tear itself apart in a matter of days, because it can’t be guarded against.

Of course, if you want to make it a movie and not a real terrorist attack you can mod it like this:

The terrorist do kill a few people out of the gate, but herd most of them into the local high school (with the plan to blow them up at the end of all this). The local football hero and the science nerd (who is of course an incredibly beautiful girl that wears glasses and is unfashionable so she is picked on by everyone – probably played by Julia Styles…) manage to elude the terrorists. They manage to eliminate the terrorists one by one, but the main guy manages to trigger the timer on the bomb that is going to blow up the high school. Science nerd girl gets shot (not fatally) and football boy needs to disarm the bomb, using instructions from science nerd girl. He manages it with one second to spare. Science nerd girl manages to kill the main terrorist with a handgun that was lying next to her the whole time, just as he is about to shoot her/several small children. Football Boy and Science Nerd Girl kiss as she is loaded into the ambulance. Freedom, God and Apple Pie are saved for future generations, providing all Americans learn to use guns…

Nick Rothwell April 15, 2006 9:59 AM

Terrorist electrical engineers devise a small electronic device which can be surreptitiously installed inside traffic light control systems. On a secret, synchronised, signal, all the traffic lights, in all directions, at busy junctions in major cities change to green.

Esther Dyson April 15, 2006 10:02 AM

My idea is somewhat different and would make a good movie only if you had good leads for a human story, but if you want to create total chaos and paralysis, try the following:

Get Katie Couric and whoever the other anchors are to get onto the evening news (or get Cheney to do it) and announce:

“The FBI and the CIA have determined that one third of all car accidents are caused by terrorist sabotage.”

That would probably suffice, because enough people would refuse to drive for fear of being the victim of a terrorist attack (far worse than an equivalently damaging accident). But for good measure you could create the “Automobile Security Authority” to monitor the operations of gas stations and repair shops across the country….

As you keep saying, it’s not the damage; it’s people’s reaction to the damage…..

Steve April 15, 2006 10:03 AM

Suggestion: let future contests focus
on things advancing the cause of

From above:

I think Bruce is trying to make
obvious the point that there’s an
infinite number of specific threats,
so we can’t rely on defending
against them all, or guessing
which one is going to be used.

To that extent, this contest does advance the cause of freedom.

The best ideas are the ones about setting the western states afire at the height of fire season, and attacks on the power grid. Taking out power lines is not good because they can be easily fixed. Taking out power plants is too hard. Instead, take the high-powered rifle snipers and point them at as many bulk power transformers as possible, preferably all within one of the half-dozen or so regional transmission systems in the US, and watch the repercussions last for many months.

I’m surprised nobody mentioned bringing is some H5N1-infected bird carcasses to scatter about.

Gromek April 15, 2006 10:27 AM

Terrorists invent a “lower gastrointestinal” suppository bomb and blow up yet more passenger airliners. Guess how TSA reacts! If you think the airport security check is a pain in the arse now, just you wait!!!!!

Ferris April 15, 2006 11:08 AM

buy or steal an orbital capable rocket or modify an existing intermediate range rocket. (Korea and USSR surpluses abound K1, Dong1, R12, R27, SS-20)
Use said rocket to carry a payload of bbs into a synchronous or counter-sync orbit. hundred of kilos of bbs could be disperesed into various orbits, creating lethal clouds of projectiles interfering with satelites. Thow in some mylar or aluminum strips for added fun.

Philoking April 15, 2006 11:18 AM

Snakes On A Plane already got mentioned and the Bush Administration will be in office through 2008. Can’t get more frightening than that.

Anonymous April 15, 2006 12:17 PM

This one’s easy. We used to discuss this scenario at Bell Communications Research all the time. It’s “obvious” and the impact will dwarf those from any conventional terrorist attack. In fact, we often wondered why terrorists never attempted it.

If a terrorist wanted to do lasting and significant damage to the US, all they need to do is target a series of telecom Central Offices in the financial district of New York (though targeting a number of COs in the Beltway might also have a chaotic effect on the entire nation).

Basically, all of the commerce in the world passes through the stock exchanges. These exchanges in lower Manhattan (along with the Wall Street firms that funnel dollars into the exchanges) are connected to the outside world through no more than perhaps half a dozen COs.

These COs are only minimally gaurded, with an officer at a desk. The SONET rings that collect the traffic can be taken down by destroying both COs on any working and protect path.

The COs are obvious and not hide-able and publically documented.

For added benefit, numerous cell towers could be destroyed as well, making even marginal backup very difficult.

Actually, the biggest lasting impact from 911 was due to the destruction of a CO that existed in 4 WTC along with bringingthe big Verizon CO offline on West street. This CO was “rebooted” several days after 911, thus allowing the exchanges to return to the world, but a targeted approach could pull Wall Street offline for many weeks or months.

Nothing else compares in terms of real, lasting damage to Western economies, and this is fairly easily possible right now.

DavidR194 April 15, 2006 12:26 PM

15 small groups of two man teams simultaneously hijack helicopters, fly over the largest prisons in a single state and dump boxes of knives, wire cutters, and zip guns. Inmate riots ensue requiring the National Guard to respond. While the Guards, police, and National Guard are dealing with that, the teams start randomly kidnapping individuals one at a time all over town, forcing them to dress in bright orange prison jumpsuits, and releasing them in front of banks with instructions to run inside and demand money…or be shot. In the midst of that, the team members themselves dress in the orange jumsuits and actually do start robbing banks.

Sun Wu Kong April 15, 2006 12:37 PM

BREAD & CIRCUSES: seriously impair either one and you’ll pit the people against the authorities/government/leaders/etc.

*** BREAD: Two main current vulnerabilities …

  1. People’s (disinterested) reliance on opaque and technical inspection regimes for food safety, and
  2. Poor and self-interested water management.

Either singly or as a combination of efforts …

a) Infiltrate the chain of inspection for a major food industry (e.g., beef and BSE, poultry and H5N1, etc.) from the lowest most hands-on and up to the level of authority where there’s no personal inspection of product.When possible, coordinate efforts to falsify records, introduce or allow pathogens, poor hygiene, and foreign substances. If the manpower is available, infiltrate the animal services community to look out for (and acquire) “wild” samples of big-name bugs like BSE or H5N1 when they land onshore or pop-up on their own. Once covertly acquired, introduce into the food chain.
b) Again, this involves inflitrating the upstream inspection chain for the water supply. The communities (note plural) targeted should be small (preferably much smaller than a city) but affluent and/or tourist destinations near major population centres. The key is that several all over the country must be targeted simultaneously. Contamination must focus on lax/sabotaged inspection standards that do not prohibit industrial use or color the water but pose a long term (decades) threat to human health. Certain heavy metals (e.g., lead, mercury) in low concentrations have an especially profound effect over a long term. The devastation to such prominent communities should enhance the publicity of the problem and hopefully cause an over-reaction from government. As a bonus side effect, the lack of effect on industrial use should introduce some public/private sector tension as well.

Finally, the key to BREAD is NEVER TO CALL ATTENTION TO THE PROBLEMS. A naturally defensive bureaucracy will try to hide and surreptitiously solve the problems, plus a public prone to gossip will spread the anxiety (terror) fast enough. The combination will maintain an environment for the terrorists to work as long as possible.

*** CIRCUSES: Sports and television …

c) Pick any of the large popular sports (e.g., little league baseball, kids soccer, etc.) that have a low barrier (cost, access, etc.) for child participation (and parent fanaticism). Infiltrate a small, mid-to-upper middle class community completely, i.e., start businesses, have families, etc. Concentrate on building a winning team in that sport and highly publicize (and covertly arrange) corporate sponsorship, including “importing” (i.e., moving the family) ringers. Make sure as much publicity and marketing of the team and, especially, the sponsorship angle, is done as an example to follow, i.e., make it as much as possible to the pro version. If the model catches on in other affluent communities, let it grow until the poorer people start to grumble about cost of access and equipment. Then arrange accidents and the commensurate lawsuits to ratchet up insurance costs to completely freeze out the poor. Example: minor hockey.

d) More Janet Jackson. Well not really but more of the same. Infiltrate both sides of the media morality issue. Ratchet up the extremism in the debate by arranging more high profile “nip slips” type incidences and the outraged over-reaction to it. Try and stick to previously innocuous forms like kids shows (especially anything educational) and nature programs (to undermine science). Make sure to call in to AM radio, write letters to government (elected and non-elected), write letters to the editor, post to blogs, email talk shows, etc., from both sides of the issue. Ignore logic and play on emotionalism, morality (not ethics), (mythical) tradition and security (think of the children). From the other side emphasize money: size of the industry as a part of GDP, number of employees, and revenue. Hopefully (from the terrorist standpoint) this result in overtly biased legislation and lawsuits galore. Side effects should be technical controls over social behaviour (V-chip) and corporate skittishness in advertising.

The key to CIRCUSES is to undermine the confidence or access to the activity but NOT THE INTEREST IN IT. People still want it, but can’t have it.

Sun Wu Kong April 15, 2006 12:45 PM

Here’s a relatively “easy one”: sell cheap guns at dirt prices to illegal border crossers at both the Mexican and Canadian borders to the USA. Make sure the reasons given are for things like safety against vigilantes, bandits, etc.

Alobar April 15, 2006 12:50 PM

Seems to me targeting Walmarts all over the country on the Saturday before Christmas would certainly terrroize people. One terrorist per Walmart, using a rental car with the driver having a fake ID. The terrorist need not even die. He (or she) parks the car early in the day so as to be able to park it near the main entrance, leaves it there all day, then sets off the explosives in late afternoon using a detonator attached to a cell phone, which he calls from miles away. In the interim between parking the exlosive car and detonating it, the terrorist sends photos of children killed or severly wounded by US troops to the local newspaper, along with an appropriate press release.

The same set of terrorists could repeat this act again and again until all cars were routinely searched for explosives. And stopping all cars to seach for explosives all over the country would make commuter traffic and shopping trips crawl to a halt.

Sun Wu Kong April 15, 2006 1:02 PM

First, the terrorists need to establish themselves as members of the community in population centres all over the country. As they are running their lives and businesses, a portion of the legal tender they receive and use should be modified in subtle ways as to either remove or add a false security device. For example, security threads could be obscured or removed. Watermarks could be altered. The key is to change legitimate currency into something that is doubtful though not on casual observation obviously false. After a large amount is distributed and in circulation, make sure it gets detected in a publically noisy way.

Anonymous April 15, 2006 1:13 PM

Movie plot threat

Five plotting young scientists take on other identities, attend junior colleges to mask their trail, then transfer to universities to study civil engineering. After receiving bachelor’s degrees, they get jobs working at municipal water treatment plants in the Washington D.C. area, where they continuously add truth serum to the D.C. water supplies feeding the White House, House, Senate and local government agencies.

This results in pandemonium and widespread rioting across all 50 states as citizens realize what chumps they’ve been after government corruption explodes to the surface like a thousand exploding boils.

NASDAQ stocks of tar and feather manufacturers and distributors rise dramatically, making the 5 plotters billionaires through option purchases. This proves to be their undoing as the SEC has the five held without bail in a D.C. jail, where they end up drinking the water they themselves had previously tainted with truth serum. They confess openly under its influence.

The new President, after the impeachment and resignation of the entire executive branch, pardons the most serious charges against the five. They serve the remainder of their sentences in community service picking up trash along the entire length of route 66.

generatech April 15, 2006 1:15 PM

whoops. After previewing my post about the truth serum in DC water supplies, the post action left out my name (and probably email address).

Lewis Powell April 15, 2006 2:02 PM

This is in the dead of winter. Send one man as a decoy to the Sears tower in chicago with some explosives and a something that will look enough like anthrax to be worth checking. Make sure that there are intercepted communications hinting at this plan.

Meanwhile, in New York, after researching which hospitals will be busiest at various times, and the routes that first responders would take to get to various landmarks, one is chosen based on proximity to the busy hospitals. For now, pretend that’s the Statue of Liberty.

A couple of well placed explosions up by Niagara recreate the Niagara-Mohawk blackout, while causing enough damage to stop it from getting fixed right away.

A team of men with explosives head towards the statue of liberty. They have enough to cause problems/do damage, but they too are a decoy.

In Buffalo, NY, or another town of comparable size in the blackout zone, a poison is being added to the water system. Something that will cause problems but maybe take a while to do so, so that more people are effected.

And finally, at the same time, in another town of comparable size to Buffalo, in the blackout zone, the rest of the men literally wander the streets shooting anyone they see. Starting with the maternity ward of the largest hospital.

Jim K April 15, 2006 2:21 PM

Movie Plot threat:

Over a period of a year or two many, many thousands of over-the-counter fertility tests (vaginally inserted to test for ovulation) are contaminated with tiny, encapsulated, freeze-dried, concentrated semen. The semen may be from:
1. Osama Bin Laden and/or associates.
2. Donors with severe congenital/genetic defects.
3. Racially unexpected Aborigine, pygmy from Equatorial Africa or Southeast Asia, Danikil, etc.

The “attack” is against easy targets (women trying to become pregnant) and would not be noticed until far too late after a threshold is reached of unexplained birth anomalies. – Jim

Michael B April 15, 2006 2:36 PM

Ahmed is a disaffected youth living in Afghanistan. He comes in contact with an al Qaeda cell that teaches him everything he needs to know to carry out a devastating attack on American soil. At the behest of his supportive parents and the financing/connections of the terror cell, Ahmed sneaks into the United States undetected.

Since his target lies in New York City, he looks for an apartment on Craigslist and settles for moving in with two other people, a quirky, easy going Hasidic Jewish early 20s NYU student with a penchant for country music, and an up tight lapsed Catholic ibanker with a heart of gold.

Ahmed has to go to great lengths to keep his AK-47 and stock of C4 hidden from his roomates for months, and in that time he’s forced to absorb Amercan culture. He watches American Idol, eats chili dogs, drinks smoothies, sees Phantom, and flirts with girls at the Remote Lounge with his roomates. To maintain cover, he even expresses interest in taking up a job with his ibanker friend.

Anyway, all of his work and patience comes to fruition, he discovers the perfect opportunity to cause terror on a subway train and unleash an explosion where it would cause untold deaths in the hundreds, destroy critical transportation infrastructure, and make Americans fear going to work for years.

He hatches the plan, he’s on the subway, he’s ready to do the grim task set before him, his finger’s on the trigger, he grits his teeth and… and…


[fast forward six months]

Ahmed’s cruising down Wall Street in his Mercedes SL55 AMG, sporting a $200 hair cut and a pair of Raybans talking to his mom in Afghanistan, assuring her that he’ll carry out his plans, and that there’ve just been a series of setbacks. He finally says goodbye to his mother, looks to his right, and grins.

The supermodel in the passenger seat smiles back. Ahmed looking at the camera says “Oh Allah How I Love America!”

Roll credits.

Look forward to other hillarious episodes in the series:

  • Ahmed’s lapsed Catholic roomate becomes
    a born again, his roomates can’t stand the new him.

  • His Hasidic jewish roomate gets signed to a country music record label, drives his roomates crazy.

  • Ahmed’s mom comes to visit! Ahmed convinces his supermodel girlfriend to wear a burka and sit down to dinner while his incompetent roomates charged with making dinner cause calamity in the kitchen!

  • And other exciting hijinks!

Dennis F April 15, 2006 3:41 PM


Terrorists recruit one or more guest mission specialists from a third world country.

Once in orbit, they take over the shuttle, cannibalize the fuel from a satellite booster rocket in the payload bay and use the fuel to maneuver the shuttle into high earth orbit. There they de-orbit several large communications satellites, sending them crashing into American cities.

Finally, they crash the Space Shuttle into the White House.

Andrew April 15, 2006 3:49 PM

Spread 30 suicide terrorists around Manhattan, LA, DC and London on an international holiday (e.g. 20th December). Give each of them rucksacks filled with anthrax and some kind of simple (silent) “blower” to distribute it locally. They just walk around, visit all the main stores and landmarks, and let the anthrax out.

After three days of doing this they walk into a police station and give themselves up, explaining what they have done. They simulataneously release a statement to the same effect.

Result? Widespread panic, overloading of the medical system, victimization of anyone who was known to have been in the cities on those dates, etc. However, the critical impact would be that those cities would become instant ghost-towns. Major financial and political centers suddenly become desolate wastelands. Who’d risk going in?

The US and UK governments would be forced to institute costly and time-consuming clean up operations to restore confidence.

The movie could follow the impact of the attack on different types of people. Or it could also follow a “conspriacy theory” whereby a foreign government takes the opportunity to capitalize on the chaos.

Simple, low-tech attack that uses our culture and systems against us.

Road Warrior April 15, 2006 3:53 PM

My plot is to shut down a major airport hub. Let’s say DFW International Airport.

I seriously doubt I would need more than 20-30 people to halt operations at DFW, and thus shut the US air system down (and put a crimp in world traffic).

This will be a suicide mission, but we will not penetrate terminal security.

I would send a few people through security at Terminal A or C at peak traffic time with the goal of backing up security. At the same time my suicide bombers will start getting in line. At a predetermined time they will initiate their detonations, inflicting serious damage to the exterior portion of the terminal.

Unless I get lucky, I would doubt much damage would occur to the interior of the terminal (secure zone). The resulting chaos would cause operations to be halted at DFW, and would cause major disruptions to the national air system if not its outright shutdown.

The point of this scenario is that feel-good measures, like removing shoes don’t create security. Security is created by interdicting operations sooner. The mere fact my team gets in to the terminal, even if they are interdicted before they detonate shows that airport security in this country is a joke.

JD April 15, 2006 4:51 PM

“Your goal: cause terror. Make the American people notice. Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy. Change the political landscape, or the culture. The more grandiose the goal, the better.”

The objective is to neutralize the U.S. as a world power by causing nationwide uncontrollable panic and hysteria, not mere localized murder and demolition. This can be achieved with one nuclear bomb that will not even be used to blow up a valuable target.

Terrorists smuggle a nuke into the U.S. (easy). They announce a “demonstration” explosion will be set off somewhere in the U.S. in 36 hours (about the right amount of time to get 280 million people’s nerves maximally on edge). The bomb goes off on schedule, but somewhere like rural Nebraska, not in a city. Now they have everyone’s attention, the terrorists announce that additional bombs have been planted in one large, one medium, and one small American city (no one is safe). They will be set off if the following demands are not met….

The additional bombs can just as well be bluff as real. No one would imagine the terrorists would actually waste their only bomb on Nebraska.

It is not the attack that terrorizes, it is the threat. If anyone doubts the ability of people to mass panic at even a remote threat, remember how a couple of snipers terrorized 10 million residents of Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. a few years ago.

JD April 15, 2006 4:57 PM

One additional point — the terrorists specify that Washington DC will NOT be a target. Too many people around the country would not consider it a loss…..

Morten Gulbrandsen April 15, 2006 5:11 PM

1) Hijacking the president of the united states.
2) humiliating and torturing him live on a web cam from a hidden place. (if possible)
3) forcing the president to issue orders to withraw from Iraq.
4) the presidents issues the orders but the soldiers refuse to obey.
5) instead they hunt for all they think can be a terrorist.

A situation is created like orson wells radio play
War of the Worlds, Orson Welles,
And The Invasion from Mars

instead the governments starts investigation
with the same brutality as the factorial of (gestapo * KGB)

The invaders from mars are the government,
the ordinary citizens are those surviving or witnessing the investigation.

6) finally the soldiers stops killing their own and refuse to hunt in a sensless and blind way.

It will come out that the terrorists are only faking the torture,
the president is in good condition.

The government is proven to be much more brutal than any terrorist would ever be.

This will rise a civil information demonstration. Pro US against pro Iraq.

and on the Independence Day (United States) fourth of july
people will carry the iraq banner in US.

People in the opinion starts to be like during the vietnam war
and symbolizes sympathy with the Iraq people by carrying the iraq banner.

Just like in the vietnam war.

I have read books by forsythe

The Odessa File (1972)
The Dogs of War (1974)
The Devil’s Alternative (1979)

and of course, the best author of all
Alistair maclean. HMS Ulysses. # the very best one.

The basic idea is that kidnapping the president can force the soldiers to
suspect every one to be a terrorist. Since the president lives in the US he cannot be
held far away from home and work building

the visual statement of the film is this:
the hunt for an invisible enemy is impossible.

IRAQ will be even as fatal as vietnam,

the real enemy is the humiliating and stronger one.

Morten Gulbrandsen

dev/null April 15, 2006 5:24 PM

A dedicated group of extremist zealots — numbering in the millions — have co-opted the religion of Islam to further their goal of the restoration of the Caliphate. Predominant in their goals: killing or converting infidels (Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, and Jews) wherever they may be found.

After attacking many targets throughout the world –including a devastating attack on the United States that killed thousands of civilians — the violence escalates even further. The country of Iran, led by a group of extremists, has developed nuclear weapons while the world community watched, hemmed, hawed and generally ignored the rise of a new Third Reich.

The president of the country believes himself to be the Twelfth Imam, a mystical entity capable of restoring the Caliphate to its former glory. He promises — publicly — to destroy the U.K., U.S., and Israel (not necessarily in that order) using his newly developed military technology.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Democratic Party has been infiltrated by Leftists who portray the current administration as the epitome of evil. They set in motion a plan to obstruct, delay and demoralize the country’s efforts to defend itself from a new and horrible despotic regime. Controlling much of the media, they portray any military action as disastrously flawed and any progress towards a long-term solution to a Middle East, left festering for centuries, as pointless.

Once the Democratic leadership has succeeded in delaying preemptive military action against the new Hitler, all hell breaks loose. A nuclear device detonates in Tel Aviv, killing over one million, and the government of Iran begins levying demands on both Israel, France, the U.K., and the U.S. First, all surviving Jews have sixty days to evacuate Israel before another device is detonated. Second, France must adopt a new legal system based upon Sharia (religious) law. Third, the U.S. must leave Iraq and cede it to Iran.

Coin April 15, 2006 5:45 PM

  • Death from above, DIY UAV.

This would take one unskilled person ‘project leader’ in on the evil plan.

The project leader assumes the persona of an entreprenuer, looking to increase the security of the country with a low budget UAV, to be used to protect small areas.

He hires a (couple of?) competent coder(s) and engineer. Their task is to create an on-board controller for a model helicopter, capable of taking off, moving through waypoints at set times and landing (lets not arise suspicion and it’ll be useful for testing). Also the helicopter should be able to drop small relief packages. Sell it as proof of concept, once generated you’ll take it to venture capitalists to raise money for further dev and look into selling to miltary or anyone wishing to monitor an area.

Lets be generous and set aside $250k for them for pay and parts and a small studio.

Some knowledge of explosives will be needed, as the next stage is to create a nail-bomb, or ball-bearing bomb. The explosives could be as simple as the mortar type fireworks, or something with more punch. I’m sure there’s enough info on the web to find a good middle ground.

These explosives need to be rigged to be detonated upon impact. The engineer hired should be able to help, a detonation is only an electric impulse, so could easily be explained as a shock-recovery module to be added to the helicopter (if the helicopter crashes it’ll send a signal to whatever connected device). Simply use the module on the explosive drop instead.

Kill the coder(s) and engineer.

Cost wise, a model helicopter capable of picking up 10-15kg will come in at about $6k, with all modifications and boards, lets estimate $10k per UAV. For the terrorist event, lets hook up 10 UAV’s for a total cost of $100k + a van to move them about. Clearly mark the van as entertainment surveillance.

The final part is simple, plot waypoints around any open-air mass populated event. Set the UAV’s to drop their bombs at planned areas, use fire-evacuation programs to best plan for denseness of population.

For a touch of finess get the helicopters to land perfectly aligned at some point. Paint them with patriotic colours.

Wander off into the sunset counting the remaining ~150k or if you had another sleeper agent, just hook up another 15 UAV’s for absolute mayhem.

Rinse, repeat.

SH April 15, 2006 6:51 PM

Grain crops are genetically modified to be inconsumable by humans and animals. The grains spread through large farms, as a team of terrorists tour the country quietly planting their “killer grains” amongst the season’s crops. By the time people notice, the new crops will have spread and proliferated that it will be too late and difficult to undo, much like our inability to isolate GMO’s from natural and organic crops. Since a significant part of the economy depends on the viability of our crops, the economic impact of “killer grains” can be staggering.

stupidlittleme April 15, 2006 7:26 PM

Besides some plots totally ignoring the rules (nuclear weapon for 500k?) or reality (Oil tankers or pipelines carrying REAL oil to refineries just don’t explode. It’s even difficult to inflame that stuff!)
there seem to be some common patterns.

Terrorists should be of groups not known for terrorist tendencies. Some people from Irak would just be boring, some Canadians would be cool.

Contributers like attacking power-lines which are hard to defend but easy to attack. But I fear they might be easy to repair, too. Last winter in Germany heavy snowfall destroyed some power-lines (ice on the line, line getting heavy, poles collapsing) but those issues were resolved with acceptable delays… difficult to create lasting effects.

Attacking currency of financial instituions (Wall Street, etc.) seems to be very promising, but quite impossible with a budget of a mere 500k.

Small teams of snipers etc. are quite popular.

Some kind of distraction for emergency-responce-services has been propsed several times, so the real target/fire/explosion/etc can develop freely.

My conclusion so far:

  • terrorists have to be unsuspicious to succeed and should add to the crowd we have to be afraid of. No more muslims, ok? Better some christians from Switzerland, dressed as nuns….
  • small teams, it should not matter wheter one group fails early
  • (ab)use emergency response. Attacking it directly is quite promising, for example by overloading the system. Not necessarily as a decoy, but perhaps even as the “real” target. Poor mother won’t get an ambulance for sick child, as every one is already busy. Horror. Or call ambulances to fake-emergencies, killing the teams upon arival. Two terrorists should be able to handle an ambulance easly. Ambulances are afraid of going to emergencies, normal people fear that they won’t get an ambulance in case of an emergency. Or use an ambulance to get to your target. Remember “Eraser”? One attacker is in the building and collapses. Ambulance is in a hurry, guards don’t check and bingo, terrorist-team is inside secure area, and lot’s of bad cargo, too.
  • There are so many small vilages. Or even just a number of houses close together…. dark night, 30 armed and trained terrorists….. might even take some days till someone realises that some hicktown went missing. Of course, that violates the “small teams”-rule.

Movie-plot: terrorists attack hicktown. Middle of a dark night, they expect everyone to be sleeping. But the onyl computer-nerd is still awake, fighting with just tow lines of code… wouldn’t hear anything, of course, but just in the right moment fetches a fresh coffee, thus hearing the sound when some terrorist steps on the dead branch next to the kitchen…..

Getting tired, sory, more thoughts tomorrow.

Tomas April 15, 2006 7:32 PM

Spies,Ninjas and Terrorists. Theyre goals: unknown. Theyre method: deceivement. A discret person is hired by NSA. He founds out all people say about NSA are lies. He spreads it on the net. Day after, internet, nsa, defense is bombed with internet attacks. Same time, x military, x defense bases are invaded. Robberies in heart places. Azores is taken out.. Just one person.. A world event..

Tomas April 15, 2006 7:42 PM

real threat, cheap too.. i hope terrorists dont read this..i know it may be crap.. but…REAL IDEAS should not be posted here. i posted one and im already sad of doing it..if regrets could kill…
So…want to make chaos huh? a cheapy way? do what security ppl only dream..
Get little teams of spec ops snipers in each country, not retired or active. Just ppl who abandoned courses.. get unnoticed ppl and target trusty leaders. Economical chaos, lack of trust, call to armys, mass fleeing….just 4 beginning..

GeoInBne April 15, 2006 8:25 PM

I read most of the submissions and although some of them are very innovative and witty, in my opinion, none of them will inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy or change the political landscape, or the culture. Sorry guys. There is one way how to achieve this though, and I do not take credit for inventing it.

Terrorists will infiltrate Gay & Lesbian Movement, legal fraternity and bank world. They will promote homosexuality. Firstly as an alternative, later as desirable and towards the end as compulsory. The last remains of heterosexual families will be broken up by infiltrated legal bodies, parents will be prevented from educating their children and at the schools children will be taught how to divorce their parents.

The banks will abolish gold equity in US currency, so they can print money and lend it at high interest to the government whenever it runs of funds. This way they will control economy and also make sure, that they never run out of needed cash.

The end result: We will be all gay and lesbians, and unless science develops some other ways of reproduction, our civilization will disappear within a few generations.

OK, it is not a short-time solution, and would not make a good movie-plot. What’s more, this scenario is not very original and I believe, that it has already started. But it is one which works.

Tom Caudron April 15, 2006 8:50 PM

The year is 2007 and Russia is still selling seats on their orbital craft to wealthy playboys willing to pay the handsome $250k ticket price. A Saudi man with ties to Middle East royalty books passage for the “ride of his life”, but he has other plans.

Unbeknowst to the crew of the rocket, the Saudi man has managed to smuggle a small nuclear device on the ship with himself. Additionally, he stows away a weapon.

As the ship reaches orbit, the Saudi man attacks and kills the crew and transmits a short message back to Russian ground control:

“Shanti Shanti Shanti”

Coming to peace with his decision, he takes the controls and sends the ship plummeting down toward the North American continent. As his reckless decent comes into focus on screen it becomes apparent that his ship will hit ground in Norfolk, VA—home to the bulk of the U.S. Naval fleet.

The U.S. government has T minus 8 minutes to find a way to avoid another Pearl Harbor.

Complicating matters, other terrorists, working in conjunction with the space-bound Saudi, have meticulously positions themselves around the country and as the event sets into motion, the others play their predetermined part. Each walks into a military base and/or government facility and blows themselves up. In the confusion of the situation, the military’s attention is divided.

Will our heroes find a way out? Will the unnamed Saudi man have a Damascus experience en route to his destruction and veer the craft at the last minute? Will the rest of the world still care?

For answers to those questions, you’ll have to wait for the theatrical release. 😉

Mr Speed April 15, 2006 9:35 PM

After breaking into the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, a team of thirty martyrs is infected with Marburg, E-bola, or whichever hantavirus is deemed most deadly (e-bola kills over 90% of infected victims). They are then given airline, train, and bus itenieries in cities major and minor in a spiraling and never redundant pattern. they will be instructed to be as unsanitary as possible and to refuse medical care as long as possible. Authorities will eventually realize that shutting down all modes of travel and tracking the alpha cases is both necessary and futile as the criminals will all be dead and the plague too widespread to contain. If state-sponsored, a clandestine quarantine of travelers from the target country could be hidden for the 11 to 15 days before the whole world would not accept travelers.

Wocius Clumdig April 15, 2006 10:00 PM

Close Walmart.

American Civilisation (such that it is) ends.

Of course, walmart is a terrorist organisation already, look at the damage to the infrastructure they are capable of.

batkung April 15, 2006 10:15 PM

multiple large explosive devices are buried underwater on known fault lines in the gran canarias islands.

When detonated in sequence, the resulting shockwave triggers a submarine landslide which scientists have been debating could be possible for the past 10 years.

As a result of this subterranean landslide, a tsunami is generated which affects the whole of the eastern seaboard of the USA, with waves over 30M high travelling at over 200mph.

the faultlines in the canary islands and the hypothesis about a large tsunami if an undersea landslide occurs are actually real.

Chris Ryan April 15, 2006 11:14 PM

Convergence convergence convergence! Everything small and electronic can do anything and everything.
Time: the near future two or three decades from now.
Surveillance insect technology grows by leaps and bounds as they are the reason the war on terror was won in “Operation Busy Buzz Buzz???. As a result America has a nee ner nee ner nee ner attitude towards all. especially its own citizens.
“some years ago” government implements rfid chips for all. rfid chips monitor health of citizens and report illnesses to centrally controlled health distribution centers. Rfid chips in a variety of places in the human body for various reasons: near heart, bowels, wrists, spine, eyes. you name it. Remember convergence is used.
also multi-functions lull citizens into the necessity of it all. Florida is the first state to have near 100 percent voter turnout.
Dna programing is a mastered but doesn’t seem to be used.
A student at Mitnick University blogs about possibility of hacker proof defense insects being hacked. terrorists nabs student makes him talk. brains behind terrorists has kurtzwelian vision. they reverse engineer some insects with open source software giving them a Borg/Agent Smith hive like conscience. Did I mention the bugs have convergence?
Terrorist hackers write trojan cancer program for dna. “test subject” can’t fight cancer, dies horribly ( use cgi ). “Insects must be used with discipline???, terrorist is killed when he gets insect to play mp8s. Insects are ready for Minnesota town experiment. Under direct control of the head terrorist insects are released in town and seek all with an rfid chip that is connected to people with functional cells until all are cancerous lumps. locals and media think its mosquitoes with diseases.
Media frenzy headlines: Killer Mosquitoes Cause Cancer. Minnesota being the last state to use the original Bill of Rights; Console-Evangelist, Garrison Clark declares gods wrath. Haliburton
gets contract to rebuild Minnesota town.
Scene: panic buying of insecticide, citronella candles, mosquito nets, duct tape, even bee keeper suits
have also dragged out of antique shops ( all bees have been extinct for years ).
Terrorist announces plans and make demands. The government can’t figure out what to do
President says we can’t find him.
Air Force brass guy says ” launch a strike against enemies “.
Security Adviser gives honest sensible advice, is then ignored.
Press Secretary urges calm.
A careless terrorist plays with switch for terrorists special rfid chips which the insects won’t attack.
oops! head terrorist: “You fool! What have you done? AIIIEEEE!” insects run amok, replicate, take over a defense depot with stockpiled insects and convert them. Mankind is doomed. Garrison Clark says told ya so. Security adviser is turned to to create a team. team consists of:
An elite hacker or two
a John Walker lite type——-he may know how the terrorists think
an old guy who plays with radio control helicopters including ” some special ones”
a spammer—————can distribute code quickly
a driver—————-drives away in nick of time ( tires,wind shield washer kills some too )
a tough lady————clobbers assorted goons, clods, soldiers in way
a Luddite nut————describes preachy relationship of man and machine
Together they figure out that they can’t hack the bugs but they can hack the rfid chips.
They make an ad-on program call for the insects to remove the chips, incorporate them to themselves and continue with program. New hack is to be broadcasted to rfid chips from location insects control. team manages to create diversion and infiltrate media center a couple people die on way. signal is sent
( also replicates self ) insects begin to annihilate each other. lots of cgi
Fate would have it the amount of insects were an odd number. One survives. The end?

Jason Reusch April 16, 2006 12:25 AM

Take your 20 or 30 willing martyrs and distribute them to the largest 10 or 15 metropolitan areas in the US. Fly them randomly over the course of a week or two, use round trip tickets to reduce suspicion (why not use profiling to your advantage?).

Each martyr rents a car, or even better, a van, on arrival. Over the course of a few days, the martyrs make trips to different farm supply stores and stock up on the ingredients for homemade explosives. Pack the car with explosives, maybe some shrapnel, and a full tank of gas.

On a chosen day and time all the martyrs head out into the morning rush hour of their assigned metro area and detonate their cars in traffic at five or ten minute intervals.

This would result in moderate casualties, a few hundred at best. However, the lingering terror factor is high. Multiple locations are hit, bringing the event closer to more people. Even better, people are forced to face the threat constantly; Americans love their cars and will think twice every time they drive. Finally, the threat is hard to defend against. Americans could drive less, drive scared, or drive through x-ray machines.

GullibillyOleJake April 16, 2006 12:55 AM

Terrorists focus all their funding on U.S. southern warlord preachers, causing them to attract even more blithering idiots with promises of laziness, a gold Saturday Night Special, and an afterlife that includes 72 virgin cable channels, 72 helpings of greasy freedom fries, size 72″ pants, 72 rutting livestock and 72 incestuous cousins — for eternity!

The rest of the country will panic into mass hysteria then break from the Union. People in San Francisco will hold a mass séance with civil war General Sherman for advice.

Paul F. April 16, 2006 2:23 AM

The Twin Towers are being re-built. The Terrorists vow amongst themselves that the towers will never be rebuilt, because of course “They Hate Our Freedom” [tm]. Cue a country music song that brings the movie audience to tears, lyrics like “Hey Mr. A-rab, why do you hate Freedom? Did you know that Freedom don’t hate you back? (Chorus) Freedom loves us all, Freedom wants to give us hugs, just remember kids, don’t do drugs.” (This message sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy; the artist has received financial support in exchange for parroting our message.)

The terrorists learn to speak Spanish, and infiltrate the USA as foreign exchange students from [insert friendly A-rab country here]. One gets questioned by INS, but he barely gets away with it. Once inside the USA, they begin to act like Mexican immigrants, and take jobs as construction workers. Forged documents, stolen SSN’s, the works. They’ve even practiced running away whenever they hear someone shout “La Migra!”

Rather than try to prevent completion, the group plans to let the towers be finished and then blow them up again, to punish the Americans’ arrogance. One of them carries a picture of his little sister, who was killed during the Iraq war as his family held out in Fallujah.

The terrorists pack explosives around the main beams just before covering them with drywall, plaster and lathe, whatever they use in big construction. Repeat for multiple floors. Wires run the length of the beams, into the basement, to enable detonation.

Going back to la migra, have this happen at least once during the movie, where INS comes to the job site, and the terrorists play the part, running away. But it almost scuttles the entire operation as one guy leaves wires hanging in plain view. The operation is saved because the entire crew ran when the INS showed up, so nobody was left to see the wires. When the crew returns, Mohammed (the leader) beats the living s*** out of Abdullah for leaving the wires exposed.

Fast forward. The towers are finished, and there’s a huge ceremony with the President, a bunch of millionaries, and lots of balloons, mom, and apple pie. People in the audience at the ceremony stand and spontaneously sing “God Bless America.” The sun comes out from behind the clouds, and the glint off the newly finished buildings almost blinds the crowd.

As people go to work on the first day in the new towers, the terrorists prepare the detonators. Working in the basement of the building, they connect the hundred or so wires for all the charges in the building. The security guard at the front desk thinks it’s strange the a bunch of construction workers are coming into the building, after all, it’s finished. He checks it out, sees what’s happening, and the plot is stopped. Yay, hero.

The bombs are defused, and the government starts instituting mandatory background checks for all construction workers. By the end of the movie, every construction worker has a barcode tattooed on his arm, plus an implanted RFID chip. To enter or exit the job site, the RFID is scanned, the barcode is scanned, the worker puts his thumb on a fingerprint reader, and he puts his eye up to an iris scanner. The movie closes with a construction worker getting scanned on the way out of the job site, hopping into his car, and as soon as the car door is closed, he says “Allah akbar.”

On screen:

“The End”

Fade to:


Anonymous April 16, 2006 8:05 AM

This is not a US one, but I see great CG action: a nuke in the Channel Tunnel. Think of what underground nuke testing at mururoa atol looked like, add to that several thousand people under ground/water with the bomb. Cars flying out each end for miles. Ahhhhhhh… chaos.

Seriously, 500K. This is best spent carefully purifying ricin ( from castor oil production waste for several months. This liquid is then distributed to sleeper terrorists who deposit it in the water supply of various cities. Even if 9/10 terrorists are caught and 9/10th of the toxin is filtered or diverted, it would cause huge loss of life and with that and then the visible vulnerability of all water supplies, there would be extreme panic. No one could get more planes after 9/11, but anyone can get castor beans when they want them.

Thank you for this interesting and entertaining exercise. I hope this stimulates some sort of regular competition.


Zefram April 16, 2006 8:30 AM

Plot premise: on a random Saturday afternoon, a single suicide bomber explodes emself in a crowded shopping centre in Albuquerque. The next Saturday, same thing in a movie theatre in Boston. The next Saturday, a restaurant in Claremont. The next Saturday panic ensues as the public evacuates from Daly City, Denver, Dover, Daytona Beach, etc., and then a bomber explodes emself on a train full of people evacuating from Detroit. Iterate. Every Saturday panic ensues in 4% of the towns and cities in the US, and ten or twenty people get blown up somewhere in the affected area. Disruption caused is massively disproportionate to the effort expended. The methodology is good until the public figure out that they’re better off taking their chances (yeah, right).

Plot twist: in week 5 police following links from earlier bombers foil a lone bomber targeting Elmira, only for another one to hit El Paso. The following week there are attacks in Fredericksburg, Flint, and Fort Worth. The coordination required on the part of the terrorists is so minimal that copycats can keep the pattern going without any direct communication with the original instigators: all the coordination necessary was supplied by the news reporting of the first three attacks (which established the pattern).

I think it’d be an effective terrorist tactic, and also a good premise for a movie. It’s not such a good example of the movie-plot-threat syndrome though: the pattern has to get established before people have the vague threat to respond to.

Asem April 16, 2006 8:44 AM


This plot is designed to inflict the maximum damage to the US economy and causing almost zero human causalities in the US.

It is well known that the core material (syrup concentrate ) that makes up PEPSI/Coke are not manfactured in foreign countries (to keep them secret), instead, they are manfactured in the US then exported.

The 20/30 unskilled men are divided into 2-men teams and assigned to 10-15 key PEPSI/Coke export facilities. Note that they won’t need to sneak into the actual production plants (which are highly secured of course) but to the places where the materials are prepared to be shipped world-wide.

Then they add to the materials a highly toxic substance, may be some rat poison or anything that can be easily obtained and that causes instant human death.

This means, that millions of PEPSI/Coke products that will be manufactured in foreign countries will be deadly. This will cause millions of deaths world-wide leading to mass-boycotting of everything American and possibly a military reaction from some country.

Just think about it, an American flagship good like Coke causing few millions of your people to die…what will be your reaction even if you knew that it was a mistake?

Erwan April 16, 2006 9:26 AM

BIRD FLU. Recombining H5N1 with standard human flu.

Step 1) Get one member of your suicide team to catch a big nasty flu (easy to do in wintertime, you just have to ride the NYC, or any major city’s subway at peak hours.

Step 2) Once he’s infected, take half his blood and store in cold room, to have a large amount of infected blood with normal human flu.

Step 3) Find a place where bird flu is rampant and uncontrolled (Chinese or Turkish countryside, sub-saharian Africa). Send a couple of members of your suicide team to play with dead birds and chew their excrements until they’ve caught the bird flu. Repeat blood collecting procedure.

Step 4) inocculate half of your team with BOTH strands of flu. You goal is to get the two strands of flu to recombine inside the sick men’s bodies in order to get a mutated virus that is as deadly as the H5N1, and can spread from human to human as easily as a standard cold.

Step 5) For each infected subject, as soon as his flu starts, collect blood, label the sample, and send him in some large citie with a subway anywhere in the world (or just in America, depending on your prefences). Have your bio-terrorists ride the subway all day long, and breathe in people’s faces as much as possible (the Tokyo subway in particular is a great place for that !)

Step 6) Watch where a bird flu epidemic breaks out. You know the guy you sent there was carrying a re-combined Human-Bird Flu strand. Infect all of your remaining team with his infected blood and scatter them on subways all over the free world.
(If you don’t get any of your bearers to produce a recombined flu, hire a new team and start the process again from step 4 and/or try with a different strand of human flu.)

Once the recombined Human-contagious bird flu is out, you’ve done it ! Get enough people on subways and in airplanes, and pretty soon the whole western world will be sneezing to death.

Voila ! Now record your little video, send it to Al-Jazeera and CNN, inoculate yourself, and go on your final road-trip across the USA, kissing as many people as you can along the way, and finally die a glorious flu !

Everyone will stay home, terrified of the virus. You’ve basically frozen the whole western economy for at least a whole winter season, and if you’re lucky you get to cause approximately 250 million casualties worldwide.

Osama will be proud of you !

PS : instead of a team of human virus incubators, you can go for pigs. Once your pigs develop a contagious strand of the bird flu, use their blood to infect your human bio-bombs. Human and pigs share a great number of diseases, including the flu, so the scheme should work just as well, and it will definitely be easier to hire large teams of pigs rather than humans to inoculate with H5N1 infected blood. The one proviso is : if you’re an Al-Qaeda terrorist, you might feel religiously uncomfortable with injecting yourslf with pig blood. Ah, Shucks ! Success does demand some sacrifices, don’t it ?

Larry April 16, 2006 9:35 AM

I’ve always thought that a big attack on large buildings and football stadiums isn’t REALLY scarey because most of us don’t go to pro football games or work in, say, the twin towers. I think that the real way to spread terror is to bomb high schools, high school athletic events, shopping malls, McDonalds, Burger Kings, etc. These should be randomly distributed, not all in big cities, but small cities, small towns, and rural areas. DHS can’t possibly watch all of the local restuarants, high schools, community colleges, and stores in towns of, say, 2000 or so population. These are all soft targets and would make people believe that they are not safe anywhere.

Another variation on the syringes with salmonellea being used to infect salad bars would be to use the syringes in the produce sections of supermarkets, or even in growers’ fields before the fruit or vegetables are harvested, where security is nearly zero.

BobG April 16, 2006 9:40 AM

Bruce, thanks for the interesting read. This site now has lots of ideas, some of which are possible.

– Cause terror
– Make Americans notice
– Inflict lasting economic damage on US
– Change the political landscape, or the culture.

How’s this:
– The simplicity of napalm production is (as has been pointed out earlier) fairly simple.
– Target: 10-15 Shopping malls
– When: Day after Thanksgiving
– Specifics: have each “team” produce as many “napalm canisters” (something on the order of a soda can in size, with either a timer, or a radio controlled detonation).
– Detectability? Well, there are very few detectors for parking lots.

Scenario: The teams distribute the canisters under as many vehicles in the parking lot as possible. Set to explode in waves. The second wave of explosions is set to go off in 20-30 minutes after the first, so the safety teams – police and firemen and such, have had time to show up.

Intent: the primary explosions will cause panic, the secondary explosions will cause further panic, the long term economic impact will be multi-faceted
1. People will be afraid to shop in malls,
2. The insurance rejections (“oh, I’m so sorry, this was due to a terrorist act, and is therefor not covered”.) The fact that everyone who’s transportation is now ruined, and yet still be responsible for paying off the existing loans should be huge.
3. The enormous impact to the safety infrastructure by the terror, and loss of life by first responders.

FredZ April 16, 2006 11:26 AM

Some of the ideas I read here are good terrorism or good movie plots, but not really good movie plot threats. Some requirements are (imho):
1) The threat itself should already cause a scare, not really needing execution of the plan.
2) A good movie plot threat can be defended against in some cumbersome or costly way.
3) Politicians should be demanding that this defense be put in place at any cost, after hearing of the threat.

Mr. Schneier hasn’t supplied a definition of “movie plot threats”, but that is what I understand from his use of the phrase.

So here’s an example that could do the above (though I don’t think it’s good enough myself):
Simultaneous destruction of multiple branches of the big californian aqueducts, with the goal of cutting off the water supply to eg. LA.
Now a politician, hearing of this, might want to jump on the anti-terror bandwagon (again) and clamor for camera surveillance on the aqueduct, with one camera every 100 yds to protect the californian way of life. He could call his motion the Act Protecting Our Californian Aqueducts Leaving Innocent People Safe (APOCALIPS). Next a group of citizens might form the Volunteer Aqueduct Patrol On Rollerblades (VAPOR) making sure the bad guys don’t simply ignore the cameras. ( You need a good acronym to get anywhere, hence the rollerblades 😛 )
Well, that cynical little plot sort of covers what I said above. Anyway, a movie plot threat really needs only fear and imagination to thrive, not any sort of terrorist to execute it.

Steffen April 16, 2006 12:07 PM

I’m not sure if it would be easy to produce a movie about but if I ever find someone to provide an idea that is worth to be bombed into reality I would proceed as follows:
Go around in the country and determine places where local telephone switches are located (or mobile phone transmitters). Best spots are sites with major companies near to the place. Then start blowing them up day-by-day (movie version) or blow some hundred at the same time (by radio-controlled mini-bombs – terrorist version). After a significant number of places is back to the Stone Age you might get anything you want.
Big advantage: No violence against people needed, so its suitable for peace-fighters, too.

shudde April 16, 2006 12:22 PM

Scenario: Terrorists concoct a subtle and fiendish scheme to cease all terrorist activity and allow America’s increasingly insane foreign policy to alienate the rest of the world and bolster their ranks a thousand-fold.

Positives: Requires no effort. Allows time for terrorists to spam forums asking for more episodes of Arrested Development.

Drawbacks: Hard to resist the urge to smite the Great American Satan. Terrorists may gain weight through inactivity.

p0 April 16, 2006 12:23 PM

terrorists detonate very powerful explosives in Greenland, Iceland and Antarctica during summer… the explosions are done so that glaciers will loose their grip due to shock and heat and the feedback effect would cause catastrophic climate effects. Cheap, easy and effective.

avantgame April 16, 2006 12:29 PM

Movie Title: Who Is That Man Sitting Behind You?

Premise: Terrorists conduct nationwide suicide-bombings in both cities and suburbs. The bombings take place in movie theaters during popular new-release films.

Why this works as terrorism:
Terrorism is about metaphorical destruction as much as it is about literal destruction. Hollywood films are the face of the U.S. to much of the world. Striking against the film industry would be a powerful economic blow; it would also be a powerful iconic blow.

Why this works as a movie plot:
Imagine the meta-horror of watching people in a movie theater just like you, unsuspecting, getting blown up by terrorists. Wiat a minute. Who is that guy in the row behind you? What is he fidgeting with in his jacket?

Chris April 16, 2006 12:30 PM

Well everybody wants to protect their children, and a threat against them is sure to be one of the most demoralizing for a nation. My idea is that the terrorists infiltrate the prosessing plant of milk, and poison all the milk being delivered to elementary schools with risin(it’s easy to make, and really lethal). This would kill a lot of children, and terrify a nation(which is their ultimate goal)

Cribbage King April 16, 2006 12:43 PM

Hi Bruce:

I haven’t read all your scenarios but it’s clear there one that stands out in todays’ world – energy – the lifeline of all G7 nations

So, 20-30 terrorists target the largest oil refineries, nuclear and coal fired power plants in the US….blows them to “bits” – this of course occurs in the dead of winter – the entire United States falls into anarchy – lawlessness abounds – people return to their native instincts and employ “survival of the fittest mentality” – many small violent “armies” evolve looking to conquer the other – without the US as “the world’s guardian” violence becomes the order of the day for many countries – no one can be trusted – kill or be killed -World War 4 breaks out – what makes this war special is that all sides battle each other – everyone is everyone elses enemy – finally, as battle after battle rages on, the earth becomes a wasteland – and civilization starts with a new world order…

  • think this couldn’ t happen…..think again !!!!!

Brad Templeton April 16, 2006 12:56 PM

A true “movie” plot would be to attack and kill most people at the Academy Awards ceremony. Only a few thousand, but a very particular few thousand, as they are all movie stars. Americans, and to some extent the world, imagine they know these people personally, and do know a lot about their lives. We do front page obituaries any time one of them dies.

As such, it would be like the World Trade Center, except you knew most of the victims personally.

And like the WTC, people would watch them all die on live TV, which was the real terror multiplier.

Of course, it seems unlikely Hollywood would want to make such a movie!

spiegs April 16, 2006 1:06 PM

A groups of terrorists travel to multiple locations across the U.S. at the same time. Major cities like New York, L.A., Miami, Chicago, etc. carrying bioweapons in the form of a disease that is similar to ebola. something that is airborne and doesn’t effect people until a few days after the fact. the terrorists ‘denonate’ these weapons in various public places of each city (water supply, restaurants, theme parks, whereever people gather). in any event, people start getting sick a few days after the fact and it becomes a huge media event (“sickness sweeps the nation” “mystery illness” etc). people start dying and cities and quarantined. a military/martial law state is established in effected cities. out of this comes our heroes, a pair of science experts (one male, one female – to thicken the plot with a love story) who discover the origin of the disease and are working on a cure. the only problem about this is that they are trapped in one of the quarantined cities and discover the last element they need to complete their cure lies outside the city. the plot then shifts to them trying to escape the city and running into problems with the police and other authorities trying to stop them from leaving. it also becomes a race against time when one of them becomes infected with the disease (which adds to the love story of the plot, our hero wants to save his/her dying mate… could be a dramatic scene where the mate is on his/her last breath and either dies or survives depending).

not sure if this idea has been posted yet… it’s kind of like an outbreak/12 monkeys type thing with a terrorist twist. there could also be political implications thrown into the movie. there would be a lot of room to work with multiple themes to tie it all together to make not only an exciting film but one that makes you think as well.

The Baron April 16, 2006 1:51 PM

The end of the Big Apple

This is an outline for a radiological attack on NYC, you can imagine what drama you want associated with each step.

1) Get assault weapons for the gang, don’t skimp and spend some time training in marksmanship, no screw ups with the easy things. A note is that boarder security is much tighter in general than actual internal security, everything should be acquired within the states, and legally if possible (such as, get a license for your weapons, and if at the time they make assault weapons illegal then you can deal with semi auto rifles just the same. Don’t jeopardize the operations before you need to). The idea of the terrorists having weapons legally within the US and then using them to attack us should be a good one.

2) Ammonium Nitrate, better known as our favorite component of fertilizer bombs. Acquire it in quantity. The method here is varied and not too difficult, it has been done before. Once again follow the guidelines lain out above.

3) Nuclear waste is not as guarded as some people would think, one of the large points to its safety is the fact that the route is not something people know, and if you don’t know where it is you can’t steal it. A little snooping and a little cash will allow you to find out who plans the routes for the trucks, as well as information on the truck itself such as any trackers on it.

4) You now need the man who plans the routes in the palm of your hand. Kidnap his family, if he doesn’t give you the route / if he tells the authorities his family dies, if he does what you say he gets to see them again and $75,000 for is help. After he gives the route have him reunited with his family in some remote place, kill them all so that they can’t talk. While the informer is being taken care of 15-20 heavily armed terrorists jack the truck, disable any tracking devices, and make off with it.

5) There need to be two-four small trucks waiting, fertilizer bombs already placed inside. Fill the rest with your nuclear waste (Cs-137, I-131 are the best). The bomb should be at the bottom of the truck and the waste placed above it, so as to blow the material upward. Lining the top of the truck with lead might be a prudent move, especially in a movie setting showing that for all of our technology we can’t see everything (a decent layer of lead will not allow the satellites to detect the radiation). Have another four to six cars with fertilizer bombs in them but no nuclear waste.

6) Drive the trucks into NYC, evenly spaced through the metropolis. Put your car bombs on bridges/tunnels leading out of NYC. You don’t need to hit every one, but just enough to create a bottleneck of terrific proportions, of course hitting every one would be the optimum. Five minutes after blowing the bridges and the tunnels the trucks blow. Millions are trapped in NYC being contaminated by radioactive materials which will be absorbed into their bones and thyroid gland, as well as be spread through the entire city proper. The inhabitants are seriously ill/dead and NYC is uninhabitable. Game Over.

This plan would make a good movie – lots of action and drama. Additionally it would be terrifying to see that an entire city could be laid to waste with the materials acquirable within the United States, bypassing our boarder patrols and airport security. The economic impact would be nearly indescribable as NYC would be out of commission for years, and depending on the dispersion and type of waste that is used segments might be unrecoverable. Politically there would be none who are spared the wrath of the people, the internal security repercussions would be dire as people would offer their personal freedoms up on a silver platter for a little more of a promise that this would not happen again, the very definition of a successful terrorist attack.

Young Freud April 16, 2006 1:54 PM

1) Attach large, homemade, flux compression devices/e-bombs to hot-air or weather balloons. Since the e-bomb is like a glorified pipe bomb with a broadcasting short circuit, they would be relatively cheap to make, while the elevation of the balloon allows for the enhancement of the EMP effect.

2) Following Bruce Simpson’s lead, terrorists produce a DIY cruise missile for $5,000 using off-the-shelf components for GPS and avionics and a pulse jet engine similar to a V1 buzz bomb. While the Simpson missile design has an payload 10-15kg (enough for bioweapon dispersal), well say a sizable explosive version can be produced for $10,000. Either way, with the $500k limit, this produces around 50-100 cruise missiles. Unleash these things during rush hour on the major throughfares and highways of major cities, especially places that gridlock easily. The first wave will be low flying and the composite airframe would be technically invisible to radar, so this would come without warning. This would produce a sizable amount of casualties and panic, especially as reports flow into other time zones. A second wave on traffic caused by the first wave would be even more effective at inducing panic and causing casualties, although would be more detectable and less likely to succeed if the military turns off civie GPS. Bonus points for structure hitting elevated freeways and collapsing them.

3) Spread news about a military dissatisfaction with the President, Congress, and the civilian leadership at the Pentagon. With $500k, buy American uniforms and weapons to supply at least two companies of soldiers (you might even get battalion strength with that price). Infiltrate and replace the Marine Honor Guard in the White House (if this an actual coup, easy enough). Deploy your two companies on the capitol grounds and the White House. Send a smaller detachment to handle the vice president and any other in line for succession, under the guise of “protection”. By now, the media is already seeing this and, knowing the rumors of a coup de’tat, believe these manuevers are THE coup. It doesn’t matter if your group are terrorists or American soldiers, you’ve just started a civil war.

Martin Roy April 16, 2006 1:55 PM


If you want to:
1) Cause terror.
2) Make the American people notice.
3) Inflict lasting damage on the U.S. economy.
4) Change the political landscape, or the culture.

With only:
20 to 30 unskilled people, and about $500,000.

Here’s how you do…

Step 1: Know some high-ranked politicians (family members, good friends, …) and ask them to put in a good word for you. Bribes = Friends.

Step 2: Find a cheap news channel and bribe the owner/president so the employees (newsanchor, journalists, …) always take your side and make you look like a god.

Step 3: Finally, bribe the person responsible for counting the votes.

In the end, you get elected (Objective 4) and have all the money in the world (Objective 3) and the biggest army to terrorize whoever you want. So by going to fight a useless war oversea, you neglect your own people, making them feel unsafe at home (Objective 1). Although people are unsatisfied by your actions (Objective 2), you are going to cheat your way into the White House four years later.

Hum… sounds familliar. Might have been done before.

Dean April 16, 2006 2:13 PM

Scorpions on a Train
“There are motherfucking scorpions on the motherfucking train.”

Jordon April 16, 2006 2:16 PM

Five terrorists train some sea turtles and dolphins so they can infiltrate a nuclear submarine undetected. Once aboard the submarine, their judo and kung-fu (of which there is no defense) obliterates everyone on board. They then hijack the submarine and launch a nuclear weapon at a major United States port.

Young Freud April 16, 2006 2:19 PM

Might have to revise my #2 in a previous post. It’s still doable with 20-30 people, but it might also require outsourcing skills to various homeless people skilled in using laminates, woodmaking, and metalwork, and maybe an out-of-work engineer or so. It would also require me to get box trucks, probably 10 or so, and the like to carry these cruise missiles around (which would be a lot per city, about 5 to 10 per city). Still, the price would still be around $500k limit.

Others I’ve came up with:

3) Take you 20-30 guys, rent some Wildcats with the $500k and cut just about every major internet backbone they can reach (best place would be the midwest and southwest, lots of open area). Then hide out with rifles and kill anyone who tries to repair them. Eventually, the financial strain from decreasing necessary traffic, not to mention lag and lost connections amongst consumers, causes things to snap.

4) Roadside IEDs and car bombs in the highways of major cities. It would cause most people to stop driving altogether if something like that occurred.

Mr. Excellent April 16, 2006 2:22 PM

The road to hell … is paved with security checkpoints:

Just have suicide bombers hitting the lines at airports waiting to go through the checkpoints – or any line in front of a checkpoint, really. Simple – but by hitting the lines of people waiting to go into secured areas, rather than the secure areas themselves, you totally destroy a basic security methodology. How do we screen people for airplanes, Federal buildings, etc, when the very act of entering a line – which is not secure – places them in mortal danger?

Frank April 16, 2006 2:25 PM

Blow up some children daycare centres.

Create fear by attacking the poor little children. Nobody is able to trust others to take care of their kids anymore.

Let’s get 20-30 Jewish/Utah persons to surprise the analists with a new dimension in terror.

One person can easily attack about 50 daycare centres without being detected. One attacker per city, so now not only Washington or NY are a target, but Seattle, Dallas or Miami are interesting too.

PS: not supporting this idea though

Mark April 16, 2006 2:48 PM

Easy – plant bombs in most if not all of the largest software company in the world’s campus buildings.

Think about the impact that would actually have on the economy both of the US internationally. People are sure to joke about this posting, but many people make their living based on said software.

BTW: Why are we all here giving terrorists ideas?

ruxxell April 16, 2006 2:48 PM

ok. the CPI is the index used to gauge inflation and whatnot. the way the CPI is computed is that 40 or so people who work for the people who compute the CPI go out and purchase a bunch of items. they compile all of their data, and then based on their findings, they compute the consumer price index.
so terrorists get a list of the people who compute the CPI, and they attack JUST THOSE INDIVIDUALS. they coerce each one of them to submit false findings, thus throwing the whole economy into a complete and total tailspin. one man, preferably with karate skills and a ponytail, finds out about this plot and takes them out one by one.

Randall April 16, 2006 3:08 PM

The Capitol is built on the ruins of Civil Wars buildings that contain miles of tunnels that, for security reasons, only a select few highly trained specialists are allowed to enter. The whole operation of keeping these tunnels safe is only a side note of a much larger security responsibility for a low level Security Chief. His team is made up of Police proffesionals who have been reprimanded for various disciplinary reasons and landed with this job as a punishment.

The team of angst cops meet a susposed bank robber (terrorist mastermind) who convinves them that their unique job places them in a great position to rob a Capitol Bank filled with gold. For various personal reasons each member of the team decides to rob the bank but they need the help of the Mastermind/Terrorist.

While the robbery is in full swing the Team discovers that their operation is part of a diversion to set off a combination of attacks on the City’s water supply, electrical stations, public buildings and libraries all using very primitive tactics that were easily carried out due to the availability of common supplies such as industrial chemicals, earth moving equipment and ingenuity.

Now this team of misfits must decide to abandon their bank scheme and stop the terrorists. In order to get this done the entire team must work together better than they ever have in order to stop the threats all over the city.

bishophicks April 16, 2006 3:10 PM

Two ideas. No nukes, anthrax, or nerve gas required.

Cheap and Easy: Remember a couple of years ago a fireman started a bunch of fires? That was one guy traveling along one road. What if we multiply that by thirty and add in some basic route planning? Split the team up among 4 or 5 states and have them travel their routes, setting fires along the way. Just have them keep going until they get caught. If you plan things well, the fires will overlap and reinforce each other. Even if most of the fires don’t amount to much even 4 or 5 really big fires will disrupt lives, businesses, cause a lot of property damage and cost a lot of money. This is the “Blair Witch” concept – a huge return for a minimal investment. You could probably pull this off for well under 100k.

Expensive and Difficult: Break your 30 people into 7 teams. Each is sent to different cities across the country: LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and Boston. Each team selects 2 targets. Each team spend the bulk of their time building 2 Oklahoma City style truck bombs. Near the appointed date, each team acquires a small RV and a large white cargo van. The van is outfitted with flashing lights and painted to look like an ambulance (doesn’t have to be perfect). On the appointed date and time, all vehicles are loaded with explosives. The RV is driven to each team’s targe #1 – a large hotel (7-10 stories, hundreds of rooms). The RV can be driven right up to the building and detonated. Imagine 7 large hotels full of guests suddenly looking like the Murrah building.

Ten minutes later, the “ambulance” rolls against target #2 – a major hospital. You want to time this so the “ambulance” arrives after the attack is public but before the real emergency vehicles start showing up. Same plan – use the vehicle’s camouflage to allow it to drive right up to the building and take out the emergency room. Result – in each city, you’ve killed dozens, injured hundreds and seriously compromised the medical community’s ability to respond to the disaster. Plus, by targeting hotels in major cities, you cripple travel and tourism.

There, I hope that fits the bill. I got tired of reading scenarios that started out with, “first acquire 2 thermonuclear weapons.”

Pete Wolf April 16, 2006 3:11 PM

Christmas Crash


A small group of hardened eco-terrorists develop a plan to crash the american economy. 30 or so infiltrate companies supplying shopping malls with goods all over america. At the beginning of the intense shopping period leading up to Christmas, they plant multiple timed explosives in different stores all over America (the non-localised attacks are important).

At the beginning of the shopping period, they detinate several of these, killing dozens of shoppers in different parts of the country, as they purchase their christmas gifts. Targets include toy stores, and electronics retailers, as well as other locations with intensive turnover during the christmas period.


This causes nationwide panic, and consumption drops as consumers shy away from shopping malls and high streets. This is further bolstered by more explosions, further detering those still taking the risk to get their kids action figures.

Neither the government, nor the retail industry knows how to cope, there being no way of screening products on a nationwide scale. Although they have some success finding and defusing some devices, and even capture a few of the terrorist cell, the whole christmas consumption machine comes to a halt. Sales plummet, and the lowest turnover of any christmas in decades hits the economy like a sledge hammer, revealing its dependence on the yearly orgy of consumption. By the time the authorities figure out the plan it is too late. Calls for consumers to go out and shop (echoing post-911) are viewed as callous and greedy, and greeted as hostile. Nor can the authorities plead with the public on the basis of how essential christmas consumption is to the economy, for the more this appears in the media, the worse overall investor confidence becomes.


In mid december, despite the headway being made by the investigation into the terrorist cell, the penny begins to drop, and investors start dumping stock like its going out of fashion. The economy collapses as confidence, along with share prices, goes through the floor.

The leaders of the terrorist cell are apprehended on christmas day, in a major raid, but it is already too late. China and Japan begin dumping dollars, as they see that propping up the already huge (US$ 8 trillion) US national debt is no longer viable, as the country will not be buying exports at a worthwhile rate.


Between chrismas day and new year, the biggest recession since the 1929 crash unfolds, and with burgeoning consumer debt, and an already large wealth divide, chaos ensues.

This story should be told from several angles, firstly, the terrorist cell, giving their motivations and showing how they prepare and execute the operation, and then their attempts to avoid capture; secondly, from the point of view of the government and those reponsible for dealing with the crisis and trying to track down the terrorists (Homeland Security/FBI and probably some reference to the President and so on); thirdly, from the point of view of an economics professor and his family, trying to get by over the christmas period (Should probably begin with him trying to buy gifts, and slowly develop with him realizing the consequences of the attacks before they happen, thus having the moral dilemma of whether to warn others, or get in as good a position for recession as he can).

Hopefully this should be a (thoroughly frightening) morality tale about the problems of a debt based economy, reflecting also on our huge consumption of resources (hence the eco-terror, rather than islamic terror), but also on other moral issues, and how individual action builds up into global effects.

JcmS April 16, 2006 3:14 PM

Similar to (and maybe coordinated with?)
the suggestion from Michael Higgins at April 1, 2006 01:43 PM.

They use mining equipment and explosives to try to start the Yosemite supervolcano erupting…

Daniel Mick April 16, 2006 3:15 PM


This is actually something I talk about often now, specifically the relation between ineffective anti-terrorism/security “precautions” and actual methods to induce true terror.

True terrorism must tap the latent fear in every individual that their common daily life is threatened. This does NOT involve grandiose plans like Super Bowl bombs or even WTC attacks. (While moved, how many people in rural America truly feared for the lives after 9/11? None.)

TRUE terror must be indiscriminate and universal.

The method for this (one which I can’t believe terrorists haven’t implemented yet in America) is a similar model to the DC snipings yet involving numerous more snipers.

The effect of a single sniper almost crippled DC. Save your $500,000 in supplies and use it to recruit more snipers. Imagine the paralyzation of America if 100 random killings a day peppered across the US were suddenly reported.

It’s a simple plan:

Dispatch roving snipers throughout America with orders to make random kills at gas stations, parks, Wal-Marts, churches, schools, etc. Equipped with even normal hunting rifles, these inconspicuous mobile units could leisurely make multiple hits within a town/city in a single day before moving on.

As with the DC sniper, the method of attack (silent and distant) increases their potency and prolongs their “career.” Someone crumpling to the ground at a gas station doesn’t attrack attention to the unmarked car silently driving the other direction.

These independent units have no complex needs or orders and don’t even require training. If captured, no information beyond the obvious (snipers are randomly killing common people throughout America) could be extracted from them.

THIS would truly change the landscape of America. It would be impossible to stop. Every common man, common woman, and common child would fear for their lives outside their houses, and hopefully within too.

THAT would be TRUE terror.

JcmS April 16, 2006 3:17 PM

…or just impersonate members of the police/national guard/homeland security etc and shoot people at random.

Avi April 16, 2006 3:38 PM

Step 1: Terrorists obtain US SPAM email database. Forge email from everyone in US threatening President Bush. CC to Secret Service. SS is tied up for next 37.5 years investigating each incident. Cost: 1-2 hours work, $500 used laptop w/WiFi, $10,000 for SPAM email list, plus approx $23 in Starbucks Moccachinos while using free Wifi.

Step 2: Create contest for best picture of a Cop, Bridge, CIA agent, or Secret Government Installation. Prize: $250,000 and $23 in Starbucks Moccachinos. Entire population of US, already angered by Secret Service, gets involved and ties up local NYC police force confiscating cameras and photos for next 1-2 years. Cost: $450,000 with advertising. Invest remaining cash in Kodak, Sony, and Minolta.

Step 3: Kidnap President Bush’s dog. All news stations will now be tied up covering the on-going saga for the next two years. No other news will air. Cost: one 20oz t-bone steak and a rope.

Step 4: With all authorities and news outlets otherwise occupied, paint giant “Ha Ha! We got you!” in big red letters on side of White House.

Step 5: Wait two weeks. Return dog unharmed. Announce contest and emails are fake. America realizes that terrorists managed to tag the white house for 2 whole weeks with no one noticing and everyone is truly scared.

Don.mac April 16, 2006 3:43 PM

Movie plot scenario: The terrorists study the California and US Department of Reclaimation aquaducts supplying water to Southern California. They release a water-borne toxin contained in time-release capsules so that they reach water storage facilities in Southern California.

Shortly thereafter they release submarine bombs (mines) that detonate at all critical pumping sites and the piping that carries the water over the Tehachapi and San Jacinto Mountains thus depriving Southern California of any water to replace that which has become tainted.

Without water all of Southern California becomes uninhabitable overnight. The people try to leave but die by the millions on the freeways and highways. The loss of Southern California cripples the US economy to the point of total economic collapse.

Allah Akbar!


pseudonymous in nc April 16, 2006 3:44 PM

Here’s yer plot:

A dozen people, a dozen hand grenades bought from clandestine military stock, a dozen hub airports that have yet to upgrade their architecture to post-9/11 security requirements. The lead-in is the preparation.

A dozen explosions in security lines before screening. The hub and branch system goes haywire. Airlines go bust.

Nicholas weaver April 16, 2006 3:58 PM

My Movie Plot Terrorism Threat: The Rumble in Ikea.

    It begins on a lovely Saturday at Ikea, where a big sale is going on.  The parking lot is full, and crawling with people and yellow Ryder trucks (the choice of terrorists everywhere).

    (For those who've never been in an Ikea, the main showroom area is on the second story, with one main enterance/exit area and a few emergency exits on the side of the building.)

    But three of these trucks harbor a deadly secret, the Belgium Terrorist organization the BLF, dedicated to liberating the world from cheap Sweedish flat-pack furniture.

    The first team runs to the emergency exits, planting small explosive charges.  The second team moves up the stairs, while the third team smashes one of the Ryder trucks into the enterance area, where the team blows up the stairs just when the first team blows the emergency exit stairs behind them (after breaking in through the emergency exits.

    Now with a large group of people trapped in the showroom, they proceed to round everyone up and hold them hostage...

    Fortunatly, Jackie, a Hong Kong policeman on vacation, is shopping in the store with his friends, where he proceeds to dispatch the terrorists using his martial arts skills combined with the intreguing possibilities of using Furni shelving units, Kronk reclining chairs, and Stoof childrens stuffed animals as hand-to-hand


Anonymous April 16, 2006 4:31 PM

Here’s an easy way to take out an entire brigade in Iraq without ever having to set foot in the desert….

Well, here’s one that actually scared the bejesus out of a former military commander I once worked with.
Basically, you don’t go after a target in America.

You go after the poorly guarded Army installations in Europe (USAREUR). For years all these bases were open to the general public to drive right onto until 1995-1996. So by now they have ALL been “mapped” by every single intelligence organization on the planet.

Every single installation has one weak point: communications. Only ONE building on every installation houses the computer network backbone and telephone switch for that installation and the surrounding area.

All it would take is a dedicated team of 5-10 people to easily sneak in to one that houses a brigade headquarters and plant a series of bombs. Since Germany has a large Turkish population, no one notices “swarthy” individuals anymore. The first one to take out would be the central communications building which is usually NEVER heavily guarded and pretty easy to get into with a crowbar. Take out communications and the military response dies or at least slows to a crawl. That then leaves the terrorists free to attack the poorly guarded housing areas since all attention would be on the bombs on the main post, not the housing areas surrounding it. You can take out a couple out housing areas killing mostly women and children that way.

Since the majority of soliders are in Iraq, you can do this at will to almost every single installation since they would have to spend money they don’t have to hire on extra guards that will just be poorly trained civilians anyway.

Panic would ensue. Soldiers deployed downrange would be instantly demoralized and fighting with their first sergeants and commanders to go back to Europe. And with all the deaths, the soldiers would have to come back to arrange funereals, etc.

The manpower issues resulting from the lack of soldiers would make the entire brigade ineffective.

I have others, but they scare even me so I never repeat them to anyone. Basically, you take the years of training the Army gave you and apply it against itself. We used to do this all the time in S2 and G2 shops to test our local defenses.

The OPFOR teams won everytime, defeating the defenses easily. But the SEAL teams that would come in to test our defenses were much, much weaker in their attacks than we ourselves were.

cy April 16, 2006 4:50 PM

Heres the best terrorist plot.
First, they randomly kidnap 50 blond hair and blue eye’d children. They do genetic tests.
Next, they concoct a virus that will only kill/wound blond haired and blue eyed people.
After that, they ransom the children, and once they finally return, they have been infected by the virus, in all 50 states of america.

Now, that the united states has been infected by a virus that is purely racist, we try to find the antidote.

Since the children are/were the couriers, and they themselves are fine, they become the subjects of experiments. As more people die, they have to find a cure.

At the same time as trying to find the cure, other people in government are trying to find the suspects/terrorists. This virus spreads slowly, and is nearly undectable, and releases months/years down the line.

So the government is faced with a short budget, and the president has to decide whether it’s more important to find a cure or to find those guilty parties for inflicting the genocide.

Ultimately, the question of revenge versus self presevation is asked.

carteroon April 16, 2006 4:55 PM

School buses are the target, but not the goal. The goal is to disrupt the US economy and social system.

Hit a few school buses every month or so with IEDs. Move it around the country so no area is safe.

Parents will need to make personal transportation plans for their children. Many of these will require one parent to give up a job or constrain his/her work hours. Billions of dollars lost; constant anxiety; possible cultural battles over male-female roles; increased distrust of government and public schools.

David April 16, 2006 5:05 PM

There are two aspects of this: the “massive publicity angle” and the “maximum disruption angle”.

For maximum disruption, it wouldn’t take more than a few mylar balloons, perhaps in a net of thing-guage copper wire released in a synchronized fashion, into some of the major transmission lines, to take out power over large chunks of the US. The movie would, of course, focus on a lone employee of some power company, who argues just this vulnerability, as we see the terrorists setting up exactly for just this occassion. And then it’s a race to repair the lines, while patrolling the others.

In cinematic fashion, the repair teams would come under fire from terrorists there just for that purpose.

Now, for maximum publicity, for cinematic purposes, it’s hard to imagine a better symbol of America than Disneyland. The first bombing happens at EuroDisney. The next happens at DisneyTokyo. But when suicide bombers go after Disneyland, taking out “Small World”, “The Matterhorn” and other rides, and then issue their demands, the plot focuses on Disney World, showing how the terrorists plan on getting in, just in case, and showing the civil reaction to just such a thing. In the meantime, it’s likely that Disneyworld is shut down for a period of time, causing a great deal of disruption to the Orlando area economy, and various ripple effects, not just to Disney, but to the market in general. In fact, much of the Disneyland scenario doesn’t even need to take place inside the park; a car bomb in the parking lot would be enough. But it’s just not cinematic enough for my tastes.

Frankly, amusement parks are a highly underutilized background for terrorism and hostage movies.

cy April 16, 2006 6:02 PM

Let me ammend mine:
50 children are abducted through out the US over the course of a week.

The US realizes this terror plot, and begins to systematicly target all known terrorist hang outs, going around abusing every nation, to find these children.

Eventually, 6 months later, the children are found somewhere in russia. They only remember being held in the same room, and being drugged.

The children are returned to their families, whom happen to be leading scientists and politicians. Soon, these family members begin to die, the only connection being the children, and their blond hair and blue eyes.

Suddenly more people start dying, the only connections being blond hair and blue eyes. They eventually realize that a virus has been fused to the children’s dna, and have to put them into isolation.

By now however, it is to late, the virus the children are carrying has spread, and begins killing the most skilled workers of both europe and america, and it’s source is hard to diagnose. Blond haired, blue eye’d people are quartined in mass numbers.

The US government suddenly is faced with a work shortage, and because of their 6 month abuse of other countries sovreignty, find themselves with no charity. Because the virus only kills blond hair and blue eye’d children, most of the world figures themselves safe, and demand money for replacing the science and technology that is needed to find a cure.

This begins the battle of philosophy within the US. With limited resources, they have to choose carefully on whether it is worth more to them to find a cure, or whether it will be better to find those responsible and punish them, in the hopes that they had created a cure.

A deeper conspircy runs through the entire episode, as we find evidence that certain pharmaceutical companies had been donating money to off shore research in genetic manipulation. Further, they had been amassing offshore labs of every virus known to affect humans, and patenting all know cures to them. Through the long and ambigious chain of command, it is discovered that their money and research had gone into using the children as research subjects, and to consequently using one of the viruses in those storehouse.
We find out later that some of the unscrupulous people in big pharma had decided they needed another viral epidemic, but unwittingly allowed the terrorists to create one beyond their means to cure, and with the specificity of attacking only blond hair and blue eyes.

Facing a shortage of cash, and people willing outside the US to help us find a cure, they have to decide whether it would be better to punish the perpetrators on down the line, or to find a cure for their own selves. Billions of dollars would need to be poured into both efforts, and denying one effort money will likely cause its goal to be unfinished.

So the people left in charge, of mixed race and descents, have to decide if it would be better to punish those that have created this racist virus, or whether they should try to find a cure for it.

Ultimately, it was created/funded by the same racist characteristics that it attacks, specificly white people. Now that few white people are in power, now that the paradigm of race has shifted drasticly, what do we do?

We give up on trying to find the hands that perverted the mind, and we search for a cure, accepting that regardless of the power structure before, we must accept that a cure to an illness is better than the revenge that might never bring that cure. That guns are created long before bullet proof vests. Simply because they created the virus does not mean they created a cure, or that it even has an easy to find cure.

As for the stipulations about 500k and a few untrained people, those are rather ignoble stipulations. We know the terrorists are skilled, and we know they’re funded by alot more money than simply 500k. A viral attack, on specific genetics is coming closer to reality, and the tools to experiment with such a thing.

Alternately, it might make sense to kill several of the children who are never found, and save of course the parents that brought them in this world. The hero/scientist would be this person, trying to persuade the commanders/president, to fund more research, rather than military expenditures and black ops to find the perpetrators.

Ultimately, the terrorists are never caught, big pharma is found to have funded all the equipment, lab and so forth that the terrorists had access to. The virus itself was not created by man, but big pharma kept it to itself. The terrorists used the children to inflict them, and the children could of course die, it doesn’t matter depending on how the plot flows.

So the guilty party could be said to be big pharma, but they did not specificly do the deed, but they created the incubator for the misdeeds of others, so thats why you could concievably only need 500000 to do all this. This is the ultimate parallel between viruses, and terrorists, people and the incubation of hate and terrorist. That the symptoms of the diease is not the disease itself, represented by the racist aspect of the disease.

buckminster April 16, 2006 6:22 PM

Starting July 4th 2007, at height of summer tourist season.

Scenario #1: Tactical nuclear weapon detonated 100 ft. underground at the epicenter of the Yellowstone Caldera triggers a megavolcano that causes half the nation to flee in panic.

Leads to

Scenario #2: Distribution of smallpox virus by aerosol mist that sprays a short blast every half hour for 2 days from fake climate control boxes placed at 50 major transportation hubs. (I heard a famous epidemiologist talk about this, chillingly possible).

Leads to

Scenario #3: Just as things are settling down, dozens of random explosions occur across the country at major shopping centers on the day after Thanksgiving. Trashing the important holiday season.

Leads to

Scenario #4: Christmas Day in the dead of the following winter, dozens of RPG attacks against key points in the energy distribution network (gas pipelines, oil refineries, power generation stations). Millions of people are unable to heat their homes or travel.

Leads to

Scenario #5: America is so pissed off at the Islamic terrorists who have been pulling all this off and hungry for energy that we elect an ultra conservative messianic president who invades the Arabian Penninsula, triggering a global jihad. The conflict rages for the next generation resulting in a world wide “big brother” government that outlaws all forms of religious expression.

Jens Stark April 16, 2006 7:11 PM

Block the main sewers – using concrete (cheap, readily available) or tar.

Ignite a truck full of thermite in an underwater road tunnel.

Flood a major city subway system with copier toner.

Trigger every reachable sprinkler system in an inner city until the authorities give up 🙂 THEN, light a fire.

maniak April 16, 2006 7:25 PM

  1. Most of the oil used in US arrives through 2 or 3 ports (with facilited for supertankers). Instead of trying to blow up watched facilities, all the terrorists need to do is to sink the tanker or two at the port entrance, blocking traffic. Fuel shortages would set in within days and cause economic havoc. There was a movie about similar scenarion on Discovery.

  2. Blow up half dozen of main backbone routers. An angry nation of WoW junkies and MP3 downloaders is born 15 minutes later 😉

  3. Infiltrate popular soft drink factories and put some LSD into outgoing product. Low concentration needed and it’s not a typical poison so probably quality check won’t catch it.

  4. Bomb main networks’ transmitters. Fear fueled by lack of information…

  5. Take over Clear Channel HQ and play Celine Dion all the time, on all channels. The horror, the horror!

Coldbladed April 16, 2006 7:29 PM

30 people, $497,000 in quarters, $3,000 airfare. Thats 103 rolls of quarters per person. Each man flies from a different city with his quarters posing as a collector. Once they approach their destination city they throw open the side door and spill the quarters in their perforated rolling papers. The quarters fall thousands of feet into the heads of the unsuspecting populous. Ouch.

Josh Smith April 16, 2006 7:57 PM

Terrorists pinpoint and travel to the location of every coffee plantation in the world. Either through coercion, or acts of terrorism, they cut off the US’s coffee supply and bomb the major coffee factories.

The US loses billions of dollars from lack of productivity over the ensuing months as they try to re-establish their coffee contacts. Tea comes back in fashion, only to end the movie with implications that the Chinese will do the same thing….

Geoff April 16, 2006 8:11 PM

Not sure if something similar has been posted yet but: 20 terrorists obtain and infect themselves with a highly infectious and deadly virus/bacteria/disease such as yellow fever, ebola, or better yet necrotizing fasciitis the “flesh eating bacteria”, in 10 different foreign countries/cities. In pairs, but traveling separately, they board flights destined for 10 major US cities. Having connections through some of the busier EU airports like Schipol, Heathrow, Frankfurt, etc. will ensure maximum effect. Aboard their flights they take every opportunity to spread the disease. Coughing as much as possible, leaving as much bodily fluid and excretion in as many high contact areas as possible. On each flight, one would be seated in coach while the other would be in business class. This will ensure that the disease is spread across multiple classes and social strata. From street corner to boardroom, no one is safe. The intent would be that each terrorist would be able to complete their travel and enter their destination city making use of as much public transit as possible and visiting as many high traffic, inclosed areas as possible. At the point where they succomb to the disease they will have immersed themselves in the local homeless culture. Possibly dying in a homeless shelter or shanty. As the terrorist will not be of any immediate concequence, it will likely take days to determine the cause of death. Meanwhile, the disease is allowed to fester and has been transmitted to untold numbers of unsuspecting people.

The LSDTP caper April 16, 2006 8:24 PM

20 terrorists attain janitorial jobs, each in major political and business related sectors around the globe, the UN, the White House, the Pentagon, Wall Street, Scotland Yard.
They soak the toilet paper with Acid.
Little ammounts of acid are necessaryu to cause hallucination and furthermore little ammounts of paper to skin contact can create very intense trips, furthermore, the anus boasts some of the most sensetive skin on the body.
(if you wipe like me, the phrase “wipe till its white” needs to be switched to “wipe till its white with red streaks”) Everyone who drinks coffee would start tripping, and even detectives who came on the scene to investigate wouldn’t look in the wrong places first, and likely, use the scene of the crime if their bowels started calling.
Hilarious Global disater ensues.

Vlad April 16, 2006 8:35 PM

A sleeper cell of terrorists infiltrate the nation’s facilities for the production of DVDs, then contaminate all the most patriotic (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Rocky”, etc.) with a homemade biological agent, thus inflicting terrible damage upon the most vital demographic slice of the nation.

P. Scurr April 16, 2006 9:12 PM

This scenario requires only one or two people and a minimum outlay of funds (access to explosives)

First you need a remotely accessible detonation mechanism. A remote vehicle assistance service would work nicely since it is tied to a GPS locator system and has the capability to unlock the doors of a car remotely. As this capability is rarely used the chance of a premature detonation is limited but if it happens it still meets the requirement of infusion of terror.

Second you need an explosive device that can be remotely triggered. Air bags are readily available and if repacked with an explosive charge would provide an excellent mechanism for mobile destruction.

The doctored airbags are installed either by a factory worker or even better at several service locations that have access to many different makes and models.

The remote door-unlock mechanism from the remote assistance module is cross-wired into the airbag.

The car license/serial number information is made available to an operator inside the dispatcher’s office and when the car is driven to an appropriate location, monitored by the GPS, it can be detonated remotely by the operator. If there is no inside operator in collusion then the person who installed the airbag they can call in the door unlock request using the credentials found in the car during the airbag repair.

These cars could be dormant for months before activation.

Four or five cars could be detonated before the information was corroborated or a pattern was noticed. Even so it could be very difficult to identify where the remaining explosives were located and they would also detonate in the event of an impact. The terror factor and financial costs of tracing down the remaining airbags would be significant. Who would want to drive their car to the dealer to have it checked once it was known that there was a possibility of the car exploding?

For a very low cost option why not just install explosive airbags in random cars and wait for a few to explode then make it known that there are more. Again the terror comes from wondering if you have one. Enough randomness in the deployment and make of car would require the on-site inspection of every new and used car in North America.

Car interiors do get hot so possibly a winter activity if the explosive compound is heat sensitive then again as long as it makes it past the deployment timeline it doesn’t matter.

Artonio April 16, 2006 10:36 PM

Terrorists Target Wal-mart-like Stores

Nothing is more representative of decadent American materialism than big-box retail super stores. Add in a healthy does of Christian bias to finance and there’s an easy target for terrorism.

In order to create a sense of terror and hurt the economy, terrorists would have to hit a random sampling of key stores across the country over the course of a week or two. The attack would have to employ something with potential to strike without warning (the threat of blowing up isn’t going to work like it might with a plane). Possible solutions could include biological warfare agents, poisoned items, or — dare I suggest it — poisoned creatures randomly released.

The scenario needs to work out so that after hearing about the large scale attack, you worry that it’s at least possible that the same thing might happen to you if you are at this place.

Scenario 1: Random high-demand consumable items throughout the stores are poisoned — aspirin, ice cream, gum, baby formula. As items are purchased and consumed people start dying over the course of the month — no one item can be isolated and recalled and to complicate matters — different stores have different target items making quarantine impossible. The stores have to shut down and begin a major investigation — while more deaths occur.

This could be pulled off with unskilled workers with very little startup (they are working there already). 30 men get entry level jobs at Wal-mart doing any variety of stocking jobs which put them in unsupervised contact to a large variety of consumables. The plants lace the items with poison and position the goods on shelves.

logicalmind April 16, 2006 10:45 PM

  1. Either kidnap or hire a handful of the best nanotechnology scientists in the world.
  2. Instruct them to create a form of nanotechnology that is dormant in oil. This nanotech would be able to survive the refining process to allow it to work its way into the gasoline. Upon reaching the temperatures of the typical combustion chamber in an engine, the nanotechnology pieces self-assemble forming larger structures that attack metal.
  3. The attacking of the metal would cause engines to seize and become unworkable.

This would cause widespread problems. Imagine everything that uses fuel in the country seizing up. This could cause plane crashes, car crashes, etc. This would also effectively seize the entire transportation system of the US which would grind the country and the economy to a halt. People could not go to work. And food, clothing, medicine, etc could not be transported easily around the country.

Lemmy Caution April 16, 2006 11:03 PM

So I give you my movie ideas- For free? Ha!
Who are you? Jerry Bruckheimer?
Seriously now-
20-30 people with 500,000 bucks could wreck the economy by selling/ buying crap on the stock market or even ebay.
It may take years, though…

Jabberwalken April 16, 2006 11:05 PM

Fifty hardened terrorists are going to split $500,000 equally and use the money to buy American identities. Once they’ve set themselves up as citizens they’ll take jobs with all the water companies and sewage processing centers in a city (New York, Chicago, or LA), low level factory work.

After months of interviews and training they’ll finally have near-total control over our treatment centers, at which point they’ll poo and pee and spit in the clean water basins/tanks/whatevers, poisoning hundreds of thousands of Americans!

Diseases ravage the city, everything from dysentary to influenza to herpes starts cropping up on every single person!

The working titles are Brown Plaguetropolis and The Perfect Shitstorm.

Geo Roam April 16, 2006 11:07 PM

Terrorists infiltrate Bill Gates’ compound, take his family hostage, steal all his money. They now have approx. $50 billion to create whatever havoc they want.

Alexandre April 16, 2006 11:13 PM

Hate killing people. Here is a strike on finance/terror:

Two versions, both work by breaking electric grid for all the major banks simultaneously. Nobody looks twice at the electrician and they always carry really strange tools.

version 1) Blow up the grid lines that supply bank equipment to cut the power. Not as effective, as there might be generators.

version 2) Shorten the grid lines together to feed 10x spike voltage into the computer electric grids. The circuits always have cutoffs, but all cutoffs have limits after which they pass the voltage through and/or melt.

Either method does not have to attack all the bank, just those centers that are connected to the internet. Usually, there would be only 2 or 3 facilities per bank where all the network/dial-in traffic will be handled. With those down, every ATM, every POS, every international transaction will be dead. Live the TV’s stations grids on.

For extra movie credit, allow Arab bank to stay on air, that might cause extra confusion and moral angst for the customers on whether to switch over while the other systems are dead…..

Alex Krupp April 16, 2006 11:20 PM

Thirteen countercultural American born 50s somethings equip bicycles with pirate radio broadcasting equipment. They then bike around major cities while broadcasting messages which encourage high school students to drop out of school. Over 125 kids drop out of the New York City school system in the first month alone, and band together with thousands of other high school dropouts on secret Internet mailing lists. It hits a tipping point with thousands of kids leaving schools all. They use the Internet to organize and form communes in the midwest, where they download illegal music and protest American imperialism.

Alexandre April 16, 2006 11:26 PM

All the big organisations have by now outsources part of their operations to external parties. However, often for logistics reason they have to have access to the same internal network.

An attack would involve infiltrating as an entry level worker into each outsourcer. Not too difficult considering the jobs are low-paying and have high churn rate. Once inside, the passwords to the networks are usually not kept secret enough and even when they are, they often can be cracked/hacked/sniffed or exchanged for sandwiches.

With the network access, send a quick spreading, bios wiping worm from inside the firewall. A malicious variation of the Morris worm would be just the ticket. Very small number of companies still use air-gap; usually somewhere there is an ftp connection with the password conviniently saved as reversable hash.

And the funds can be spent on paying the worm writers. That’s a lot of funds for that purpose.

As a twist, the terrorists in training would actually be making money since they are employed as part of the infiltration.

Jeremy Firth April 16, 2006 11:55 PM

I searched the page and only found a couple of references to the sewer system, but most of those were far-fetched ideas to somehow overload the sewer system. Why not bomb the sewer mains coming into a water treatment plant in a few major metropolises? Sewer backup leads to very toxic environments in a very short amount of time. Panic ensues. Cleanup would be a disaster. Evacuating communities, then cleaning them up. Strep and tetanus would spread like crazy, as well as a bunch of other really nasty bacteria.

Normally, sewer treatment plants treat the sewer for a very large population. Many of them are located next to rivers, so an explosion has the double effect of contaminating the river next to it, thus contaminating the drinking water supply as well. For that matter, the entire city of Salt Lake is fed by two water mains coming from the mountains that are totally exposed. This is the case for many cities. So, hit the sewer and water main on the same day.

The opening scene of the movie is a series of big explosions, then watching raw sewage spreading over the landscape surrounding the sewage treatment plants of several large cities. Panic. News media. Announcements on TV. Movie focuses on chaos afterwards. Follow a couple of different families as they flee. Government moves in. Insufficient cleanup supplies. Cities destroyed. Hundreds of thousands sick. Tens of thousands die. Disease spreads.

Plot resolution? Still working on that. Some capital investment in the idea would help immensely.

Anonymous April 17, 2006 12:06 AM

A female terrorist fills her padded bra with explosives and tapes more to here inner thihgs, then attends a $10,000/plate fund raising dinner. She blows up the head table with the president, three senators, five representatives, and the postmaster general.

bubb bigdick April 17, 2006 12:34 AM

Terrorists move to the U.S., where they assimilate, adapt to the American consumer-oriented lifestyle, and have lots of kids. Their polluting ways help to speed up the ecological holocaust already in progress.

greenman April 17, 2006 1:09 AM

The thought that always scares me would be to find an area with lots-o-bridges (say for example any port city), and to start bombing them. All it would take is some plastic explosive with a waterproof timer and some diving suits. The people involved wouldn’t even have to attempt to suicide, because the timer could be set to explode several days in the future. Set the timers to go off during the early part of the morning rush hour for maximal effect.

Variation: Blow up freeway overpasses during peak traffic times. Pick random, heavily used overpasses.

Either of these could be amplified by splitting the 20-30 people into 2 or 3 man teams, each one targeting a different city… start with one city, choose a random one for the day after that, then wait a day, and then the day after hit another city. Continue until all teams are captured or killed. Make the timing of attacks be quasi-predictable, but the location completely unpredicitable.

Isabelle April 17, 2006 1:19 AM

The intelligence learns that over a period of many years(may even be more than a generation), terrorists have been quitely taking charge of hospitals by getting its own people to work as doctors, nurses and hospital attendants. The network is huge, its members aren’t necessarily Muslim, are from different nations including America, do not have strange accents and they are well qualified for their jobs. They went to school in America and have an all American lifestyle. There is no way to distinguish them from doctors with honourable intensions.

While the intelligence has knowledge of the network, it has knowledge about how the terrorism is going to be executed. It could be in any of the following ways.

  1. More than half the doctors, nurses and attendants aren’t genuine and one fine day stop working. Hospitals come to a stop, critical patients are left to die and all this could be made to coincide with a strange disease spreading amidst the population, again an overt work of terrorist.
  2. The doctors slowly poison the population over the years, causing irreversible health damage to the people of America that could continue for generations just like the atomic bomb’s effect on generations of Japanese people.
  3. Doctors and nurses could simply kill all patients in their control one fine day.

Panic spreads. But there is nothing the intelligence can do except to dig out the history of every doctor, nurse and hospital attendant and try to trace their roots for what may be more than a generation. It may consume precious time. The American people cannot be prevented from going to hospitals. They cannot go to a different country for treatment even for the common cold. And there is no way of knowing if doctors in other countries are clean.

The intelligence quitely works on what seems like the only way out right now.

  1. They start spying madly on every single hospital related person. The FBI starts training its own people to work in hospitals for the purpose of spying.

  2. They slowly start contacting doctors from places like Siberia, Somalia, switzerland and hire them to be in attendance if there is an emergency.

Sex bomb April 17, 2006 1:35 AM

Sex warfare: infect 30 cute Islamic martyrs with HIV, then send them as exchange students in the US. Here, they go on a rampage in bars and hotels, picking up 10-20 males a day. After all, who would refuse free sex, even without a condom? I know I wouldn’t, nor would most high-school boys.
If they keep at it for a year they can infect about 150.000 males, plus a similar number of collateral victims such as wifes, girlfriends etc.

Since the costs for maintaining an AIDS patient is about 30.000$, this amounts to about 9 bln $/year, sending the social security system into chaos.

jens April 17, 2006 1:56 AM

Gasoline tank truck plots:

1) Steal a gasoline tank truck. Drive to a subway undergrund station in the rush hour. Pump all the gasoline down the stairs as quickly as possible. Light the gasoline with a match.

2) Same as above, but instead of a underground station, find a small disco, party, school, kindergarden, etc. in the coutryside.

Jordan April 17, 2006 2:24 AM

The year is 2021. Ten years have elapsed since the last terrorist attack on US soil. The fervor that the 2001 attacks left in their wake has all but vanished. The only memory of the post 9/11 corrective actions are a massive government beaurocracy, costing billions, employing thousands, accomplishing nothing, and complicating life unneccesarily for everybody.

The public, having lost interest in the once-popular “Arabic” terrorist threat, has barely noticed the shift in anti-American sentiment to Chinese extremists, who oppose the inevitable globalization and democratization of their homeland, attributed to US influence alone. And these staggeringly young, tech-savy Chinese extremists are, inexplicably, comparable to trained commandos. And they all drive cars that look like they are from the movie “The Fast and the Furious.” And they party all the time.

They have kidnapped a team of NSA cryptographers. The team, all of them young, beautiful, and brilliant, was recently granted accolades from the president himself for developing the world’s first-ever unbreakable encryption scheme.

The members of the team, being played against each other in a complex web of love and friendship, are forced to “hack into the NSA database.” The Chinese terrorists now have access to this nano-quantum-organic crypto scheme, and of course, the whole of the US military arsenal.

Submarines, now operated remotely, are directed to lob missiles into various key sites: the Lincoln memorial, the World Trade Center memorial, the Superbowl, and the Coca-Cola museum to name a few camera shots.

The nation is shocked and shamed, realizing that had they only remembered the lessons of 2001, this horrible tragedy could have been prevented.

Of course, the NSA cryptographers, all of them also world-class athletes and excellent shots, save the country by beating up all the Chinese terrorists, and shooting their way out of and then blowing up the compound.

The president sheepishly thanks the young team in a sobering oval office scene, reminding the audience that we cannot let our guard down, not even for a second.

John Reha April 17, 2006 3:08 AM

Terrorists infiltrate the Hollywood studios as interns and low-level PAs, then detonate dirty bombs and regular bombs, destroying and irradiating many sets and offices, and killing or poisoning actors, directors, producers, writers, and production staff. The United States is thrown into chaos as the entertainment industry grinds to a halt, and LA becomes a dangerous place as most of those not killed are out of work, and a higher cost of living forces people to desperate measures.

Adrian von Bidder April 17, 2006 3:20 AM

Movie plot: Laser printer toner cartridges that will explode at a set date approx. 6 months in the future. Totally eliminates the need to distribute the bombs – sold on the grey market, people will take care about shipping these cartridges all over. Use cartridges for a relatively low priced printer, because home users are most likely to not stock the cartridges but only buy them when they need them – so we don’t blow up storerooms but actual homes. Modern cartridges have some electronics in them anyway, so it should be quite safe even if somebody looks quite closely.

I first thought about triggering on the page counter, but (i) blowing up 250 homes within a few seconds gets more media coverage and (ii) cartridges as bombs would be discovered after the first few. OTOH if we speak about movie plot, triggering on the page counter creates more new plot possibilities in a movie – timebombs are somewhat old-fashioned and boring. And having the low grade fear that somewhere some of these cartridges are still circulating is another effect timebombs won’t create.

Stuff and Nonsense April 17, 2006 3:28 AM

1) Terrorists buy a mailing list of low-income individuals with bad credit ratings. To each they mail an envelope full of forged $20 and $50 banknotes; the envelopes are labelled as being some kind of government grant or subsidy. Financial chaos ensues.

2) Terrorists use explosives to disable arterial interstate highways, preferrably just before a major holiday. If they can do a good enough job of severing road and rail links, food shortages could cause rioting – especially if they accompany the attacks with a spam email program encouraging people to stock up on food.

3) Terrorists use home-made mortars to attack crowds on New Year’s Eve in New York City. Partygoers are unable to escape due to crowding, and many more lives are lost due to trampling.

galt April 17, 2006 3:42 AM

plot details. there are nine IRS processing centers around the US. on the working day after April 15, blow up/set fire to/otherwise destroy all papers at each one. added points if the timing coincides with the first mail delivery of the day. extra bonus points if the method of destruction also involved making the incoming tax forms for the next week unusable

JustMe April 17, 2006 3:59 AM

WARNING: This could scare the SHIT out of you!

Causing meyham in USA is easy. Lawyers are already stressed enough, so it just needs another push…

Plan a simultaneous attack on EVERY county recorders office– where the land record titles are kept. If all the information in all these buildings is destroyed, no one will know who owns what land! The land tenure system, of which America is based, will be devestated. Lawyers will have instant heart attacks. Mortgages would become invalid. People would forge deeds and there would be no way to know who is owner and who is forger. The value of real property would become nil, everyone will be forced to pay their 4th refinance sooner, homes would be foreclosed everywhere.

JustMe April 17, 2006 4:09 AM

Of course, the goal of such an attack is to set the foundation for what is the inevitable revolution…

Revolucion de Socialista


p0 April 17, 2006 4:53 AM

carry out a carefully engineered detonation in La Palma island, the resulting landslide will cause a catastrophic tsunami

Daz April 17, 2006 5:39 AM

A grass roots movement to put a terrorist into the whiteouse as president.
A sleeper, who simply plays the political game, being a good ol boy, until he reaches power, then, wham, disbands the US military overnight.
I’d like to write a better one than this, however, being Australia, and under the Australian anti-terrorism laws, even talking about a plot, let alone writing about one, is illegal.

Garrett April 17, 2006 6:30 AM

I’ve always envisioned blowing up sewage treatment plants as being a true act of terrorism. Take NYC. If you could manage to destroy the treatment plants, and block up the sewers, you would have millions of people wallowing in their own feces. It would be a health nightmare and make the city unlivable for weeks (everyone has to go every day, and it comes up in the streets when you flush? who is going to live there?).
Cheap and easy! And would probably make a real gross-out movie too…

daniel 'mobius' sieradski April 17, 2006 7:30 AM

an explosion rocks a shopping mall in nowheresville, usa. evidence points to several pipe bombs being placed in trash receptacles. several are dead, dozens wounded. the right wing media screams and police begin an immediate investigation of all local muslim citizens, and intern several in lock-up without access to legal representation.

an attack follows — a bombing of the local chief of police’s car. the fbi comes to town.

all signs point to one interned, firey muslim — the imam of the town’s makeshift mosque (located in a commercial district on a highway near the mall) — who they presume is being aided by his 16 year old son. the son has not been incarcerated because they can’t legally intern a 16 year old without evidence of a crime and they’re being given a hard enough time about the current detentions by the national press.

the feds put a shadow on the kid and they discover he is getting picked on and abused by his fellow classmates. they see he has an extreme rivalry with one of his fellow classmates who is white bread all-american.

white bread’s father is a prominent local businessman and the president of a prominent local hunting group.

however a dinner scene in the family’s home soon reveals the dirty secret that they are white separatists, and the hunting group gives them a cover for and access to munitions.

they planted the bomb in the mall in hopes to destroy the imam who is working the local politicos to make the town more inviting to muslim families.

the separatists see this as a threat — they believe the muslims are trying to populate areas all over the u.s. so that they can conquer the u.s. and establish islamic rule.

the feds use the local synagogue as bait, getting reports of jewish right-wing outrage aired on the news. they see white bread’s pops casing the joint one afternoon, but they think nothing of it, since they’re looking for a muslim, and he’s a prominent local businessman. “he must be looking for someone.”

a couple of nights later the synagogue is torched and swastikas are painted on it. but the feds were watching the imam’s son the entire time and know he didn’t do it.

a few days later the imam’s son is given afterschool dentention because, under extreme pressure from the kids in his class, he mouthed off at a teacher. another of his classmates had detention too.

white bread tells him friend to text him if and when the imam’s son goes to the bathroom.

he does, the friend texts, and white bread blows up the principal’s office. both he and the imam’s son are taken by authorities, and a hidden camera in the principal’s office reveals it was white bread, bringing down the whole white separatist group and vindicating the imam.

Anony_mouser April 17, 2006 7:36 AM

Now, I’ve read all the posts, and I’m surprised. Aside from a few asides, none of you folk (who are presumably interested mainly in crypto, since you’re on Bruce’s site) have considered information as a viable terror target.

MP1: for $500k, steal the recipe for Coke, in a way that makes it easy to prove it is the real recipe (hence the huge cost involved). Chaos ensues, as grey-market factories around the world flood the market with cheap Coke clones. One of the mainstays of the american way is destroyed.

MP2: Wait for huge-a$$ natural disaster, while training and funding a network of disgruntled out of work programmers and engineers whose jobs got outsourced. When the catastrophe ensues, crapflood 911 lines nationwide, DDoS the servers of local and state authorities, jam all radio frequencies in the affected area, fsck with comms satellites if possible, cut a few phone wires and blow up exchanges if you’re feeling feisty. Document the whole operation and feed it live on the interweb as the humanitarian catastrophe unfolds. Erm. no… wait… this is not useful, as the FEMA has already been proved ineffective by Katrina. No need to kick a dead horse.

MP3: Steal/buy the source code to all Microsoft products, distribute, watch in glee as microsoft stock crumbles, taking the stock market with it.

Ok, now on to the hardline threats:

MP5: Buy an unemployed ex-Biopreparat scientist for 300k, a moderate lab for 50-80k. Not top-notch, but enough to create a species of yeast which does not excrete ethyl alcohol, but methyl, while carrying and spreading around the very retrovirus which effected the mutation. Use the rest of the money to infect the stocks of the main yeast producers. The nation’s supply of cheap beer dwindles and social chaos ensues as importing yeast is not an option under quarantine, the prices of chipwood, beet and grain skyrocket as the demand for chemically-produced alcohol soars.

MP6: Use your money to help a couple sleeper agents get jobs as air traffic controllers in a metro area, train one pilot and 3-4 goons. Create a convincing threat of a new 9-11 by hijacking an empty but fueled plane on a runway somewhere and spreading FUD, then, when the order to ground all aircraft comes, truly re-enact 9-11 by mis-directing ALL of the dozens of aircraft assigned to each agent.

MP7: Scariest of all, and hence best kept for last. On a really hot summer, break into a low-grade radioactive waste storage facility and steal stuff, or else hijack a truckful. Build a dirty bomb using this low-grade waste and ammonia. Plant bomb in a large, flammable forest, just off the coast. Launch a rocket (high and bigh enough for it to be tracked on the defense radar net) from a decomissioned oil rig towards said forest and the awaiting dirty bomb. Detonate bomb when rocket falls under radar altitude, thus igniting a massive, slightly radioactive firestorm. Use the rest of your budget to sell the incident to the media as “an attack with a theater-range tactical nuclear missile against the US soil, perpetrated by an Iranian Kilo-class submarine operating from the cover of a decomissioned oilrig”. Pin the conspicuous lack of casualties on bad targeting and wrong detonating altitude, inflame the public opinion in the immediate aftermath so much that the only option for the president to remain in power is to nuke Iran.

For bonus points, this scenario could be performed by members of a “splinter-cell” type organisation, possibly disgruntled CIA operatives, aghast at continuing budget cuts and regretful of the “good old days when you-know-who was running the Agency”.

GoFigure April 17, 2006 7:36 AM

30 middle eastern terrorists carrying explosives in backpacks such as worn by many university students visit 15 college campuses in pairs of two. One plants his backpack, by conveniently leaving it under a table in the student union building at lunch while the other leaves his outside under a table, bench or by a tree. All explosives inside the student union buildings are detonated at 12:30, during the lunch rush. The explosives outside are remotely detonated 10 minutes later. Loss of life is horrific. The beauty of the plan is our college campuses are wide open and attended by many middle eastern students so a couple more with backpacks are totally unremarkable as is the fact that students leave their backpacks lying around while getting food, etc. And there is no way to defend against this attack since colleges won’t create closed campuses and no one is searched upon entering.

Anonymous April 17, 2006 7:45 AM

MOVIE PLOT #1: Terrorists sail a boat loaded with radioactive waste and a bomb through Puget Sound and into Lake Washington and detonate it, contaminating both the Lake and much of Seattle. This cripples much of the U.S. computer industry.

MOVIE PLOT #2: Terrorists perform a cooridinated attack on all bridges crossing the Mississippi river, halting all vehicle and train traffic crossing the river, as well as blocking marine navigation on the river.

BAM SKRAM April 17, 2006 8:11 AM

Movie Plot: Burning trains of MIC.

Evil doers track a shipment of Methyl-Iso-Cyanate (the chemical which brought you Bhopal). The train is derailed in a major high population town in a tunnel. Fuel oil next to the train is leaked and set off, the MIC boils; meanwhile bridges, traffic lights and large vehicles are blown up to make evacuation impossible; millions die.

Bruce Schneier April 17, 2006 8:21 AM

“I do hope real terrorists are not reading all these suggestions and taking notes…”

Why? Because terrorists never come up with any good ideas on their own?

One of the morals of this contest is that ideas are the easy part; planning and execution is the hard part.

Dave April 17, 2006 8:47 AM

Terrorists, release Estrogen into the water supply. Over time this decreases male fertility and leads to more female babies being born, so over time there ends up being fewer and fewer men meaning that there aren’t enough to go around which makes the population fall.

c a b April 17, 2006 8:47 AM

A large quantity of conventional explosives (or a very large fertilizer bomb, OK City style, only larger) is driven into the center of one or more small towns throughout the United States, population less than 100, and detonated, effectively erasing the town from the map.

Effect: Terrorism is no longer perceived as a problem of large, densely populated cities. Can the government effectively protect every person in every town across the country?

Roy April 17, 2006 9:08 AM

A variation on the Walmart ideas: Place a sniper outside select Walmarts around the country, take out as many people as you can, wait a week or two and do it again. Start shooting people at Walmart on a regular basis and people will be afaid to go. You can even stay away from the large metro areas. A lot of people think that because they live in more rural area they are immune to attacks. Take Walmart away from them and a very large part of their existance goes away.

Simple Nomad April 17, 2006 9:08 AM

I didn’t read the entire thread (too long), although I do have two. First one, terrorists using RPGs knock down 4 airplanes in different cities during landing at a predetermined time. They are standing just off the airport property. At each location the terrorists have a terrorist buddy film it, and they mail the videotape to a local news affiliate. This is followed by a released statement that if all the prisoners being held in (fill in the blank with a prison with lots of terrorists) are released, they’ll quit shooting down planes. No need to shoot down another plane though. The best time would be the day before Thanksgiving, stranding thousands and thousands of passengers. All planes are grounded, and no one wants to fly. As many items are shipped via mail (like the US Mail) this creates massive problems, especially at the beginning of the Holiday shopping season. The phones are overloaded as businesses start calling instead of flying for business meetings. Tourism to theme parks/vacation areas drops off, transit locations tied to airports suffer, conferences go under, the hotel industry is hit hard. Other industries such as auto rental, rail, bus, are at such capacity they can’t keep up with demand. BTW this one is so familiar I may have heard it before.

Second one, security guy announces terrorist contest, blog is flooded with ideas, NSA so busy analyzing the ideas, tracking down who is viewing the blog, and analyzing the feeds from AT&T they miss another terrorist attack even worse than 9/11.

bifurcation April 17, 2006 9:11 AM


I think you’re being far too generous in your requirements. In order to inspire real fear in Americans, I think it suffices to demonstrate the number and diversity of very soft targets, throughout the US. Here’s how I would use my staff and money to do it:

— Scatter the 20-30 personnel widely across the country: 1-5 in several major metropolitan areas, but mostly in smaller and more rural communities.

— Arm each operative with both automatic weaponry and a reasonably large explosive device. (These can be mostly procured within the U.S., but the explosives in particular may need to be smuggled in through Mexico)

— Allow each operative a week or so to survey targets: Schools, popular shopping venues (Walmart is particularly symbolic), local government buildings.

— Begin operations: Over the course of a few weeks or months, operatives carry out attacks on their selected targets.
— ** These need not be sophisticated attacks: A single attacker could likely kill many people just by arriving at a target and opening fire (especially in rural areas, where police are farther away).
— ** The attacks should be spread over time so that every “sigh of relief” is followed by another wave of attacks.
— ** The attacks should appear coordinated; e.g. two schools are attacked at the same time, on the same day.

This operation wouldn’t cause the mass casualties envisioned by some other posters, but over the weeks or months it would be in progress, it would create tremendous and thorough fear throughout the American populace: People would be afraid to go to school, to the mall, or to the post office. And it would be pretty cheap: Unskilled operative can live cheaply until they attack, and plenty of armaments can be procured with the remaining cash. The only remaining expense is for communication, which can be had virtually for free using secretive techniques on the Internet.

Joe Nasal April 17, 2006 9:29 AM

Hi Bruce:

I’ve been reading cryptogram for years. You are always thoughtful and informative. This is a great idea for a contest – here’s my entry:

Terrorists lace some twenty thousand $20 bills with a “time-released biotoxin”. In a dastardly point of story development it is noted that only the new twenties have been tainted, thereby ensuring that our citizens natural fascination with currency design turns deadly!

The “Big Island” of Hawaii is identified as the target for the dispersal of the deadly dollars, the evil theory being that the money will mostly stay within the boundaries of the island through normal trade and commerce.

So, the poison paper starts flowing into the island in manners undetected – shipped to PO boxes, old and abandoned houses; placed between the pages of the bible carried by overseas “missionaries”, stuffed into a crate-load of children’s birthday pinatas, etc.

After identifying some “chatter” indicating that a terrorist incident is to happen in the South Pacific, the Feds decide that they need to bring in an expert. So, Tom Selleck reprises his role as Magnum, this time in consultation with the FBI, CIA, and Department of Homeland Security. Magnum receives vague but helpful information from his colorful local contacts on the street: “something big from overseas”, “many people will die”, “Yuppie Meal Ticket” (slang for a $20 bill).

People begin to perish – an old woman collapses after passing a donation to the receiving basket at her church; an ice cream truck driver is found slumped over face-first in a tub of orange sherbet; a teller at a race-track betting cage suffocates after inhaling her own tongue.

At command central, pinpoints on a map indicate the seemingly random nature of these deaths. But something seems to bind these people together in their doom…. But what? What!!????

Oh, for the love of all that is holy. It’s the money, the money!!!!!!

A joint coalition of retired presidents is formed to come up with a plan. The “Dead Presidents Society” draws on it’s influence in politics, business, and industry. But what can be done?

When all seems lost and the island is on the brink of catastrophe executives at WalMart step forward with a plan so crazy that it just might work. Sterile, controlled trading posts are created so that people can dump their tainted cash for goods. “Take all the cash you’ve got, every cent, and spend, spend, spend like your life depends on it, because indeed it does…”, the retired Surgeon General C. Everett Koop emplores the populace on television, radio, and from leaflets dropped from the sky.

And spend they do. In a moment of patriotism and American gumpsion the people of Hawaii come together and drain their wallets. The heavily fortified PX’s provide them with wide-screen TV’s, cleaning products, underwear, and most of all, peace of mind.

In the end it is capitalism and consumerism which are the destroyers of evil, confirming a deep truth that all Americans share within their souls. Once again, all is right in the world. For now…

NaN3 April 17, 2006 9:55 AM

This one would take time to build up but would be very cost-effective in terms of political power gained for your 500K dollars.

A team of operatives obtains a large amount of Sodium Azide, an aggressively toxic chemical mainly used in car airbags but also airplane escape chutes and other explosive devices. It is evil stuff, water-soluble, and a couple of grams is easily fatal. If possible the collection of this material could be done by interception of shipments to legitimate users such as car manufacturers but in the extreme a usable quantity could be gathered from junkyards etc.

A signed message is then broadcast, probably into an internet medium such as Usenet. It doesn’t matter that not many people will see it initially. The message warns that the Brotherhood of Peaceful Freedom will produce some medium-nasty event at some particular place at some particular time. Everyone laughs at the spamming nutjobs but you do actually carry out the threat, for example it should be relatively easy to torch a previously-identified petrol filling station in an urban area.

You rinse and repeat until your credibility is enormous and a large number of people are on the lookout for whatever you broadcast next and they tell their friends and the press and so on. Then you warn of the first severely-nasty event, an amount of sodium azide will be released into shopping mall X. The mall is cleared but you ensure plenty is found and if possible some people poisoned. To evade security you could plant your stuff before publishing the message.

After a few more of these you could do whatever you liked, for example having the superbowl canceled would be no problem if you convinced people that they were in for a faceful of deadly poison if they attended. Alternatively, assuming some securely anonymous way of negotiating with a government (insert snake-oil quantum-encrypted satellite phone here) you could potentially collect a few billion in ransom. All that would remain for this movie-plot would be for the obligatory divorced alcoholic indisciplined and yet maverickally brilliant cop to somehow foil your escape into the sunset with the boodle.

Grant Gould April 17, 2006 10:12 AM

Let’s call this one “Trucker tarbaby.”

A huge fraction of this country’s goods move on trucks following a small number of routes. In order to properly license and tax this trade, trucks are periodically diverted to weigh stations.

Our terrorists take control of one of these, preferably near an old open-pit mine or some similar large disposal area. They install a CB-radio jammer on the approach to the weigh station, and a cell-phone jammer in the station itself.

They then divert trucks into the weigh station, flag them onto a side road, kill the truckers, and dispose of the trucks.

While this would be a slow plot, you could probably go for days without being noticed, and if you abandoned your site before it was detected, you could set up and do the exact same thing again half way across the country. In the course of a few days, you could destroy thousands of tons of shipping.

The crucial thing to make this work would be the communications disruption — you can operate this trick for as long as it takes word to get out. You would need to disrupt most communications systems over a fairly large distance before your trap in order to make your trap harder to find.

In addition to weigh stations, remote truck stops might also work — might even work better, since drivers get out of their vehicles there.

Red Dot of Dooom! April 17, 2006 10:14 AM

Thousands (or more!) people, each armed with a laser pointer in each hand, all point them at the same thing, causing it to explode!

Or, a genius develops a laser pointer several times as powerful, thus requiring fewer people.

LaGrandeFoote April 17, 2006 10:23 AM

Ultimate Movie.

GPS and Motars in OpenTop semi trailers. Able to launch a coodinated attack on a major sporting event, World Series, Superbowl, the Royal Rumble.

Inflicts fear at all sporting events in future. Causes economic event as attendance at sporting events fall. major sports teams go broke. College football is forever closed and no more scholarships for ediots who bulk up on steriods! Drug Co’s fail now and on and on.

there you asked for it and there it is!

Chris April 17, 2006 10:27 AM

Terrorists crash an aircraft full of bioweapons into the Oscar ceremony just as “Best actress” is up, thus sending the message that absolutely no-one is safe from Osama.

BaRbArIaN April 17, 2006 10:28 AM

One particularly nasty scenario involves hitting the US where it hurts the most…the cashflow.

A two pronged approach is my idea, terrorist hackers cause a major virus and/or EMP hardware destruction of the major credit card companies and electronic bank transfer infrastructure, leaving people to use cash in the short term while its being fixed.

Of course then some terrorists find a way to gain access to the five or so main Federal Reserve banks and randomly contaminate large quantities of cash with anthrax or a contact poison that takes hours to work and is hard to detect. The resultant economic chaos from people having nothing to buy and sell with would be large. Some would barter, others would grab weapons and take what they need, others would try and wait it out and not buy anything, further damaging the economy.

sCuBA April 17, 2006 10:41 AM

“Shallow Water”. Terrorists use the internet to determine the location of the undersea cables feeding the East Coast of the US, ( try it – its easy ). They buy 2 small “tugboats” and pain to match colors of cable servicing vessels ( info available on the internet ). Tugboats traverse the 2 main cable access points, small inflatables the other 4. Divers with explosives sever each cable in 2 places, 50 – 100 feet apart.
All data traffic to Europe will instantly stop – the world banking network will stop… Satellite systems will be overwhelmed and unable to process data. To make it really interesting, have a simultaneous attack on the “Head end” sites where the cables come up out the sea… car bombs or small light aircraft would do the trick. These sites are 100% custom and could not be rebuilt in a hurry. Simple, Highly Effective – even if only 50% success rate, limited civilian casualties, no high tech training required.

Coming to a movie screen near you soon.

utopiate April 17, 2006 10:54 AM

Donate all the money to the Republicans, and let them do as they please.

Watch as death and mayhem ensue!

Watch as the mightiest of nations topple!

Watch evolution in action when whatever crawls out from under the rock of America after the atomic destruction finds a new mate.

Watch as a new religion is born out of the piecemeal fragments of what was once considered knowledge.

Watch Out!
Cuz here it comes!

Geoff Lane April 17, 2006 11:29 AM

The best way to be successful in terrorism is to make your victim work for you…

For some years now there has been a number of highly vocal critics of the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) immunisation jabs. By scaring parents with claims of children being damaged by MMR, there is now a substantial percentage of children who are not immunised and have no natural immunity to the three diseases. As the diseases are still around, there are labs that culture all three in a number of locations. Most of the available money will be spent on gaining access to live Measles, Mumps and Rubella cultures.

The second stage is to get a number of older people placed in low wage inspection jobs within airports. This may take a while, but I suspect that the turn over of personal inspecting shoes for hidden bombs will be high and there will be little difficulty in getting the people in place. It’s important to use older people as they will have had MMR jabs or will have gained natural immunity.

Once in place the shoe inspectors infect the shoes of people during inspection. If asked the inspectors merely say that it’s a “new test for explosives” and the spray turns coloured in the presence of common explosives. Most passengers will have seen episodes of CSI where they use Luminol to show the presence of blood and will accept the explaination without question

So, the passengers go on to complete their journey safely and go home to infect their children and the children infect their friends and about seven days later there is a pandemic.

The terrorists are long gone by the time anybody figures out what happened.

(Anybody got the phone number of the producers of 24?)

Dan-CO April 17, 2006 11:38 AM

Plot: Terrorist blow up homes of private citizens to get the release of Gitmo prisoners.
How: A terrorist works for an online travel agent with clients all over the US. Over the period of a year, the terrorist passes name, address and trip length details to a mobile team. The mobile team breaks into the homes while the families are on vacation and plant a cell phone activated bomb in each home. Once there are enough installed, they give the Government 3 days to release the Gitmo prisoners. As the sun sets on the third day, they start to blow up homes from east to west on an hourly rate, then every few minutes. Let’s make it winter just for fun.

Stop reading this and check your attic right now…

Bird Flu Terror April 17, 2006 11:38 AM

Terrorists set up a pig and chicken farm and a small hospital.

They greet people which have human flu, they raise chickens infected with the bird flu, then they mix both infexious agents in pig food and cultivate their own breed of human transmissible bird flu.

Then they mass produce the virus and set up squads of attackers.

They go to about 10 or 20 major us cities and simply squirt people with the deadly virus.

Then it spreads all over the USA and kills half of all those who are infected.

Marnie April 17, 2006 11:48 AM

Terrorists kidnap the spouses, children, and parents of a key engineer at each nuclear power plant, a key engineer with water services in each major city, one air traffic controller at each of several large airports, one system administrator for each major bank, and a producer at CNN and MSNBC. These key people are told that unless they follow instructions, all family members will be killed. There is surveillance, so any contact with authorities will lead to instant death for their families.

Fearing for their families, and seeing no way out, the key contacts do as they’re told. (Note, another variation is that the people are chosen, and instead of family members being kidnapped, some of them are offered several million $ in cash – some people are motivated by fear, some by greed. This would show that the terrorists have psychological profiles and a clear understanding of their subjects. Maybe some are even offered several million $ to their favorite charity or cause, further blurring the lines…)

The instructions are slightly different, and done in a specific order. First, the water supplies are tainted; then malware is inserted into bank processing systems to begin siphoning money off to foreign accounts, and begin slowing down the ability to do transactions; then the airport traffic control systems are compromised, grinding air travel to a halt. Once the nuclear engineers have completed their instructions, the terrorists use the key contacts at the news agencies to play a tape warning that the water system is already tainted and people will begin dying within hours (people are already being rushed to emergency rooms), no one can leave b/c the airports are a confused mess and they can’t get money anyway. The final warning is that the nuclear power plants will all detonate in 10 hours, and there’s no way to stop it.

Of course, one of those key contacts at the nuclear facilities would have to be Bruce Willis, so that he can circumvent the terrorists and communicate by walkie-talkie/satellite phone/text message to the other engineers and explain to them how to reverse the countdown in exactly 9 hours and 59 minutes.

Dr. Trogdor April 17, 2006 11:50 AM

Widespread panic and shock effect is easy:
1) Purchase high-powered rifles with scopes. Create pipebombs with alarm-clock timers.
2) Affix the pipebombs to rural high-tension power towers, to topple the tower and cut off the grid interconnection, all timed for noon on a Monday.
3) Target electrical transformers in key areas: ballparks, amusement parks, electrical switching stations, hitting them at the same time.
Small teams of two could easily take out 40 transformers in a few hours, or 600 with 30 people.

Since the US has so few backup transformers, you could readily take out most major cities electrical power.

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:00 PM

Terrorists artificially inseminate the President’s daughters with Adam Sandler’s semen

A word from Toronto April 17, 2006 12:01 PM

Ok, first off, all those ones about arming terrorist in small towns and having them blow up small schools, malls, etc. Didn’t you guys see that Chuck Norris classic “Invasion USA”? But then again, if it is meant to be a movie plot, why shouldn’t it just be something that’s been done before? 🙂

Ok, let’s go with the theme – “movie” plots.

So here’s the idea. You use the $500,000 to pay for Film Editor training for your 20-30 willing volunteers.

They become editors and one (or more because they are all operating independently) gets to work on one (or more…) major motion pictures. They insert frames into the movie to subliminally suggest “30 minutes after the end of the movie, kill the person next to you.”

Now the crowds are lining up for the latest epic “Male Star of the Day”/”Female Start of the Day” blockbuster, opening in Theaters Nation Wide – with many having multiple screens showing the movie on the first day… – and 30 minutes after this mass murder on a national (global) scale ensues. Of course, the particular breed of terrorists and their supporters won’t be affected, because anyone of the right ‘faith’ wouldn’t be caught dead in THAT movie anyway, so they all are existing happily. (Note that this works for ANY organizatoin, and it doesn’t matter if they are Religious Fanatics, Animal Lovers, Alien Sympathizers, or Trekkies looking for revenge on the ‘Normal’ people who have derided them for so long….) But for the general population, the result is mass panic as everyone suddenly stops going out for fear of the person sitting next to them suddenly attacking them. No more restaurants, movies, or crowded spaces… Come to think of it, didn’t your wife just look at you strangely while you were lying in bed??? The possibilities are endless. Economy (and marriages across the country) meet Toilet….

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:03 PM

Terrorists set up chain of bargain Curry stands, and disable all public toilets in area

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:09 PM

Terrorists destroy satellite up-link during last 5 minutes of World Series / Supebowl / American Idol finale

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:13 PM

Terrorists organize nation-wide flashmob to have thousands of pranksters all flush the toilet at once, destroying major metropolitan water lines by vacuum and scalding millions

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:15 PM

Terrorists spam every email acct with a message saying they are having a torrid love affair with their mate

Oh Noes April 17, 2006 12:17 PM

Terrorists alter the rules of presidency in America. Allowing George W Bush to serve a 3rd and 4th term.

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:18 PM

Terrorists brainwash Oprah to select John Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness for Book-Club

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:22 PM

Terrorists offer $500,000 prize for footage of “America’s Funniest Terrorism Video”

Geoff Lane April 17, 2006 12:30 PM

One great way to get past security is simply to face it head on…

A terrorist group contacts a state that wishes to hurt the US and obtains an
old but operational cargo airplane. There are many of these slowly rotting
away on quiet airstrips around the world as the second hand value is
currently low (even in the US there are vast airplane graveyards in a few
desert areas.)

The next step is to get a good reason for the plane to enter US airspace.
The easiest way is for it to do some legitimate work, for example shipping
charitable aid to famine areas such as the Sudan or Congo. Once
established, it’s possible to file a flight plan from those locations and
not raise any warning flags.

But the final flight out of the Sudan or Congo will not be empty. Instead
there is a cargo of high activity nuclear waste (from the Ukrane) and high
explosives. After 9/11 the threat was assumed to be from a plane early in
its flight when it’s still full of fuel, planes at the end of their flight
are assumed to be a much lower threat.

So, as our plane slowly descends over an east coast it may will be entirely
ignored until obviously targeting the city, with luck it won’t even be
challenged. But even if it is recognised as a threat and fighters manage to
intercept, the result will be widespread nuclear fallout over the city and
its surroundings.

(Can I expect a call from Homeland Security for writing this?)

Jason Stout April 17, 2006 12:31 PM

My votes goes to Daniel Mick. It’s the same idea I was thinking. Snipers in major metroplitan areas.

I’d recommend a different strategy though. Coordinate 3-5 shootings in each major city on the same day. The country becomes aware of a concerted terrorist attack. Continue with random shootings one to two times per week for as long as possible. Use the media to spread fear. Release a list of ten or so potential targets (I.E. Teachers, mail deliverers, crossing guards, bus drivers, person at a gas station, etc). Each cell chooses a random target from the list of potential targets and assasinates a couple of people from that list.

Cornelius April 17, 2006 12:36 PM

Terrorists infiltrate Disneyland’s designers to create new ride- the Tunnel of Goat.Se

Riskable April 17, 2006 12:51 PM

In an America highly dependent on the Internet and fossil fuels for just about everything, the terrorists plan a three-prong attack executed during the next major hurricane crisis.

1) Coal mine operators desperate for workers unknowingly hire terrorists at ten different large mines throughout the U.S. These terrorists plant timed bombs at various remote locations of the coal transport railways. They then smuggle fire-inducing tools into the mines and ignite large amounts of coal creating a two-fold disaster that destroys a large coal supply while creating an environmental disaster that not only effects surrounding areas, but emits enough noxious fumes to create health problems for millions of Americans. Rolling blackouts are forced all across the nation.

2) Terrorists plant bombs at hundreds of remote (cargo) railway locations throughout the U.S. and time them all to go off at the same time as the coal attack. Further creating problems for power plants across the U.S. Since numerous high-tension power lines also run parallel to these railways, bombs are also planted at these locations.

3) The third team of terrorists bombs ten of the most trafficked Internet hubs. Taking out as much fiber optic cable as possible. Since most of these central concentration points of Internet connectivity also host most of the Internet’s most popular websites/servers, thousands of citizen’s essential sites and servers disappear.

The economic effects of this attack are devastating: Due to the lack of coal supply, power plants are forced to institute rolling blackouts across the country. As a result of this, people burn oil in generators at unsustainable rates, driving up the cost of oil to unheard-of prices. Businesses that rely on Internet traffic/customers lose millions of dollars and many will go out of business.

Then there’s the escalating effects: Due to lack of rail transport, companies are forced to use trucks which further increases demand for oil. Firefighters from all over the country are diverted to contain the coal/forest fires started by the terrorist bombs leaving much of the country vulnerable to fire. The extreme cost of oil weighs in rapidly on the consumer price index causing many to cut back on their purchases creating a major recession.

Bankruptcies abound and the world starts to lose faith in America’s long-term economic growth. This results in foreign lenders pulling out of the U.S. Federal budgetary deficit market. A catastrophic hyper-inflation is the result and the U.S. government starts printing money to pay for it’s expanding deficit and the disaster-fighting problems caused by the terrorists.

China announces that it is no longer going to use the U.S. currency as it’s own currency base while at the same time pledging aid for the U.S. As a result of the suddenly near-zero exports to the U.S., China’s own economy tanks, resulting in vast swaths of empty factories across the country as workers return home to provide food for themselves and their families the old fashioned way.

Europe quickly finds that it has loads of wealth in the Euro and proceeds to become the next economic superpower of the world. China shifts it’s export focus to Russia, India, and Europe leaving the U.S. a broken wasteland where people are starving to death as a result of lack of imported food, major energy problems, and no end in sight to the civilian uprisings.

The United States ends up splitting into Four separate regions:

West Virginia up to Maine become a sovereign socialist nation. They make an exclusive deal with Canada for the import of oil. They use their remaining inter-continental Internet links to provide cheap information workers (call centers, outsourced work, etc) to Europe and India.

Texas to Florida along with the central plains states form an authoritarian Christian theocracy that constantly borders on anarchy. Warlords rise up and control working coal mines and large swaths of land. Farmers are coerced into paying off these warlords and never really gain in economic status. People attempt to cross the border into the northeastern states creating an illegal immigration problem. Religious leaders become even more rich and powerful.

Nevada to Washington forms a Libertarian/Federalist government where the primary focus is to export goods and services to china. Trade deals are formed and much of the territory ends up being powered by Solar, Wind, and Nuclear energy. Silicon Valley ends up burning down in a riot.

Arizona separates out from the rest and forms a near-anarchy state with one well-regulated militia. They import power through trade agreements with California.

“I have a license to kill -9”

Tony W. April 17, 2006 1:00 PM

Terrorists confiscate phone vans and train as phone company employees for months. Then they attach generators to all NY and LA hardlines, thus creating a reverse conduit spewing 10,000 volts into anyone who picks up a hardline phone.


Government responds by creating the TSA (Telephone Security Administration) They regulate and enforce who can use a hardline. If you are on the watch list you must use a cellphone. Chaos ensues. A number of Senators are no longer able to make calls. Some pop stars are wrongly accused of calling friends in the middle east. The NSA can now listen in on every call to check the line voltage supposedly. Neo appears and after a long struggle with the TSA that includes much wire-fu order is restored.

Greg L April 17, 2006 1:01 PM

The terrorists decide to disrupt American life by spreading disease in the US South and Midwest. The mechanism is two fold: (1) destroy animal husbandry and (2) create reservoirs of disease that frighten the population and keep them indoors. The result is the collapse of the rural economy in the South, and mass population migration as frightened people move to other areas of the country.

Initial supplies of mosquitoes arrive as egg masses with an air traveler on a tourist visa. Likewise, the viruses and bacteria breeding cultures arrive via tourists. The material is in personal health care containers (toothpaste tubes, hair spray canisters, perfume bottles, etc.). The terrorists enter through ports-of-entry known not to use x-rays or other radiation that might damage the bio-weapons.

Once in the US, the terrorists spend 16 weeks growing the viruses, bacteria and viruses. None of the agents are bio-engineered. They are going to be introduced in their natural state, much like West Nile Virus entered the US a few years ago. Thus, no complicated lab equipment is needed. Just a small supply of rabbits and dogs to use in the life cycle of the disease and mosquito vectors.

Finally, the time to spread the bioweapons has arrived. The group breaks into too target sub-groups. The smaller one (6 people in 2 operational teams of 3 each) takes the cultures of Brucella bacteria (that causes Brucellosis), foot and mouth virus, rind pest virus, and rabies. The two teams spend the busy July and August months visiting county and state fairs in the South and Mid-West. The animals (and people) infected here will spread around to other fairs, auction houses and various herds. Because these diseases are unknown in the US, valuable time for spreading the diseases will result from the confusion. Aiding the spread of the diseases will be the US Dept of Agriculture witch will not act aggressively, at first, because it doesn’t want a panic to hurt agricultural exports.

The second, larger, group of 7 subgroups of three persons each will move around the South spreading Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with dengue & dengue hemorrhagic fever & yellow fever, TSETSE FLIES carrying sleeping sickness, and the Simulium damnosum mosquito with Onchocerciasis (River Blindness). The groups will spread the infected mosquitoes in wetlands around large population centers like Huston TX, Miami FL, Tampa FL, Atlanta GA, Washington DC and the vacation areas of tidewater VA.

CompaniaHill April 17, 2006 1:03 PM


If I were a terrorist, this is what I would target. Big, easy to find, and impossible to safeguard without making them nearly useless for their intended purpose of moving traffic at the highest volume possible. A truck bomb is flashy, but a terrorist could plant a bomb underneath with a timer, or even take out the girders live with a blowtorch and a little patience.

A single terrorist could just start taking out random bridges at random times, which would slowly but steadily ratchet up the public’s fear. A larger, well-funded group of terrorists could plan a coordinated attack that could spectacularly concentrate the effect. Time to get creative.

Plan 1: “Isolate Long Island”:
* 278 – Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
* 478 – Brooklyn Battery Tunnel
* Brooklyn Bridge
* Manhattan Bridge
* Williamsburg Bridge
* Queens Midtown Tunnel
* Queensboro Bridge (both levels)
* 278 – Triborough Bridge (near Astoria Park)
* 678 – Bronx Whitestone Bridge
* 295 – Throgs Neck Bridge
The tunnels would be harder to take out than the bridges, and would require more advanced preparation. But this would completely isolate Long Island from the rest of the continent.

How about Plan 2: “Up the Hudson”:
* 278 – Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
* Holland Tunnel
* 495 – Lincoln Tunnel
* 95 – NJ Turnpike / Cross Bronx Expressway Bridge
* 287 – New York State Thruway Bridge
* 6 – Bear Mountain Bridge
* 84 – Newburgh-Beacon Bridge
* 55 – Mid-Hudson Bridge (Poughkeepsie)
* 199 – Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge
* 23 – Rip Van Winkle Bridge (Catskill)
This would sever road transportation from the Atlantic ocean all the way up to Albany. While not completely isolating any particular area, it would effectively distance New York City and lower New England from New Jersey, Maryland and Washington DC.

Dr. Trogdor April 17, 2006 1:06 PM

OK — here’s another way to cheaply create widespread terror and extreme economic disruption. It’s by making the normal and widespread to be terrifying.

Week One: In 10 major cities, particularly in the Midwest, where it seems “safe”, steal 2 UPS trucks and bump off the driver. Leave exploding packages on doorsteps, with simple pipebombs and timers. Result — all UPS trucks stopped, and untrusted. Any package left on any doorstop will cause a panic.

Week Two: Affix pipebomb with cell-phone trigger to schoolbuses in several major cities. Follow the schoolbuses and trigger explosions as the buses pull into school. Result — all US schools shut down in a panic, parents stay home from work to watch the kids, 30% of the economy at a stand-still.

Week Three: Same tactic with pipebomb, affixing to tanker trucks at truck stops. Follow them to a gas station, then detonate from a distance. Result — gasoline, diesel and kerosene distribution shutdown, people afraid to buy gas. Two days later, affix to cars in suburbs, siphon their tank so they need to buy gas, then follow them to the gas station. Now it’s any car at the gas station!

Week Four: Shift pipebomb strategy to random Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, and Ford Probes. You could easily plant 10 in a single evening, per city. Follow into city, then detonate. Shift to taxicabs two days later, then buses. Transportation system shut down.

Week Five: Shift pipebomb strategy to US Mail delivery vehicles — every mailman looks like a terrorist.

Week Six: Insert bombs into the orange barrels that line all construction zones on the highway, and detonate. Select widespread targets, both urban and rural. The highways shut down as a result.

When normal is terrifying, it will grind the economy to a halt.

Anonymous April 17, 2006 1:11 PM

I am suprised no one has posted this yet:

A well known author and security specialist post on a blog a promotional contest about fictional terror plots to promote his latest book. The contest is a world wide success and rockets his book to #1. Secretly the author is part of a goup of international terrorist that are looking for better ways to attack the world and the terror plot contest will double and a massive distraction for law enforcement and governments chasing down leads, arresting and torturing all the blog contestents as the sinister terrorist group executes all the best fictional plots, one by one.

oh no now they will be after me

Rhampton April 17, 2006 1:16 PM

Hippie Santa Claus Suicide Bombers:

A small team of conniving secret agents from an Islmaic nation, who take the guise of a TV producer & crew, recruit aging hippies for a “stunt” to be aired on a new reality TV series. One highly motivated anti-capitalist hippie is recruited per “location” — each unaware of the rest. The hippies are told they are to play the part of a prankster employed as Santa Claus at an inconic retailer or shopping mall, like Macy’s in Manhattan or The Mall of America.

On the designated day, which happens to be the Islamic holy day “Id al-Adha” — a day of sacrifice honoring Abraham’s intention to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God’s request (December 20, 2007 – December 7, 2008 – November 28, 2009, depending when the plan is to be carried out) — the hippies are to be on the job as Santa. They will receive an incoming call on a special cell phone with a ring-tone of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” — the signal to begin the ‘prank.’

They will stand up and say something like, “Kids, Santa Claus is a tool for the Man, and all he wants is your parents money! Well I got news for you — Santa is nobody’s bitch. I quit!” Then, while the parents, children, and store employees are staring in disbelief, the hippies rip-open Santa’s shirt to reveal a white T-shirt with the message “Santa Isn’t Real.”

Unbeknownst to the hippies, who have been told their belt has been specially modified to transmit audio to a secret camera team, their belt is actually wired with plastic explosives. It’s at this precise moment, 30 seconds after the first one-ring call, that a second call triggers the explosives — this time to the ringtone of “You Dropped A Bomb On Me, Baby” by the Gap Band.

Of course the bloody carnage — a strike against American families, Capitalism, and Christianity — is caught by dozens of amatuer videographers who, conveniently, are also the parents and victims. Christmas will never be the same.

Deek W. April 17, 2006 1:29 PM

On a certain Friday evening, each of the 30 terrorists has two cell phones and sneaks into a theater and calls another terrorist. The result, in 30 theaters across the country, movies are simultaneously interrupted when cell phones start ringing.

For added effect, have the terrorists save seats for people who never show up!

Geoff Lane April 17, 2006 1:35 PM

Sometimes low tech is the way to go…

Today it’s a rare company that doesn’t provide some kind of cooled water
dispenser. We see them everywhere and never give a thought to what a
terrorist could do.

The large plastic bottles used in the water dispensers are carefully
designed to make it difficult to introduce anything into the water without
the seals being obviously broken. So we have to look for other attack
vectors. There are two obvious possibilities. Within the bottled water
plant, the returned bottles have to be cleaned and disinfected before reuse.
It may be possible to get people into jobs where they control and monitor
the quality of the cleaning process. They could then introduce dysentery
into the bottles at a point where they are assumed to be clean. The
refilled and infected bottles are then sent out to locations throughout the
city. The other possibility is the cooler maintainance staff. The water
coolers are replaced regularly so they can be cleaned. If the maintainance
staff were to place a source of dysentery within the cooler when it is
installed then it would be a long lasting source of infection.

It would be necessary to place operatives in most if not all the water
companies in an area to be really effective and produce a day zero attack
that would gain media attention.

Dysentery is an ideal disease as it is highly infectious and will rapidly
spread to those staff that do not drink the water from the cooler.
While there would not be a high percentage of deaths (there are a number of
simple, cheap treatments) a widespread infection in the population would
bring a city to a stop within days. Because it targets the people rather
than computer systems, having secondary computer sites will be of little
help as the transfered staff will carry the dysentery with them (and even
better, the water in the other site will probably come from the same water

(In the good’ol’days everybody drank beer instead of water because dysentery
was killed during the brewing process.)

Razorbit April 17, 2006 1:37 PM

A terrorist group builds a new kind of training camp in South America to train a special breed of killer attack dogs. They buy dogs from a prison gang in the US that breeds particularly viscious dogs (this will add insult to injury later). The dogs are trained over and over again to attack a man on a podium through a thick crowd. The terrorists practice this trick on their local enemies and then once they have 30-40 of the animals trained and ready (they could be breeding them as well to make additional generations of K9 fighters) they ship them to the US. Load the dogs up in Vans, drive into the vacinity of , open doors and release a wave of killer dogs on the scene. Dogs move fast and even if 75% of them are subdued by gunfire or bodygaurds, a few will get through a rip the speaker to pieces. Give the dogs special terrorist bandanas so the appropriate group can take credit for the spectacle. Include a “Made in the USA” label on the inside of the bandana just for fun.

O. Lawless April 17, 2006 1:54 PM


Eco-terrorists blow the interties between the state of California and its power-providing neighbor states — a very few connections providing the state with much of its required electricity. Remaining resources could be deployed to cripple/overtake the CAISO’s two control centers to run remaining resources to overload, causing further damage.

Port wine authority April 17, 2006 2:32 PM

Have you ever seen a cargo boat from China? Tractor-trailer-sized containers stacked up on deck like Lego blocks. Totally innocuous looking, and probably hundreds of them come in per day to the west coast. What does China have too much of? People. So suppose they fill up 100 cargo ships with people, armed only with guns and knives and a month’s supply of food to get across the ocean. They land simultaneously and disgorge an invading horde 100 times the size of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The soldiers disperse quickly into heavily populated port cities like Los Angeles, Oakland/San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle etc. Now, air power over American cities is useless against this diffuse enemy amongst us, and local police forces are helpless against the overwhelming tide. The Chinese roam the streets, killing everyone in sight, and within hours they have taken over the entire west coast of the U.S. Perhaps an equivalent scenario on the eastern coastal cities, and in one day 40% of the U.S. population is under Chinese military control. And that’s without weapons bigger than rifles! Imagine if they disguised 10 aircraft carriers as cargo ships also, or had nuke-launching capability on them, etc. to take out the defending nearby military bases.

Or for economic war, billions of dollars in damage could be done to the economy with only a few dozen major explosions. Take out the Intel chip factories in Oregon, Microsoft headquarters in Seattle, the major Internet hubs, AT&T network operations center, GM factories, Coca-Cola syrup plant, cigarette and beer factories, Boeing plant, Citibank data center – look up the Dow Industrials and bomb their most expensive factories. Post 9/11 they may actually have some security now, but probably not enough to stand up to a few dozen real enemy soldiers staging a takeover, or for that matter a rocket hobbyist building his own artillery and launching from a pickup truck a mile away. Multiple targets would have to be attacked simultaneously, because after the first wave security would increase sharply.

Androctonus April 17, 2006 2:35 PM

I’m surprised that terrorists haven’t blown up trains by destroying the tracks. Why run the gauntlet of security guards at the railway station to smuggle a bomb on board when you can achieve exactly the same result by driving out into the countryside and planting a bomb under the tracks? This is a classic example of asymmetrical warfare. You certainly wouldn’t need anywhere near the level of financing and resources that Bruce Schneier suggests as a starting point for a terror-campaign. Consider:- the US railway network is many thousands of miles long, and it’s impossible to police every yard of it.

Terrorists could so easily plant explosives under the track, then wait until a train was directly overhead before detonating the charge, thereby derailing the train and everything/everyone on it. If the train happened to be carrying hazardous materials (eg liquified propane gas that could be ignited with a few rounds of incendiary ammo) then the level of disruption/damage would be far greater. This mode of attack could be coupled with announcing “open season” on anyone working for the railway or using them to transport goods. A few high-profile shootings of blue-collar railway workers (plus their families) would be very persuasive.

S April 17, 2006 2:39 PM

OK, so a team of five to seven unskilled and one or two trained terrorists infiltrate one of the “Party Boat” cruise ships that go on three-day cruises from Long Beach, California, to Ensenada Mexico. As the crews of these ships are often foreign “hospitality workers” who sign on for a season or two, it would be easy enough to do.

These terrorists work in the galley. On the way back from Ensenada, they contaminate the food throughout the various dining facilities with botulinium or tularensis bacteria, causing a serious outbreak onboard the vessel. Either of these bacteria could cause severe illness, and suffient morbidity to cause panic onboard the vessel.

The outbreak has been timed to coincide with the vessel’s return to port. Ship-to-shore communication will guarantee some media coverage of the outbreak, but, as yet, it is not revealed to be anything more than a freak outbreak of disease. Debate will emerge whether or not to quarantine the ship, or whether the mystery ailment onboard is contagious. Communication from the passengers to loved-ones on shore will further generate attention; since it’s a “party boat,” plenty of video of the terrible conditions will be available for rebroadcast on television.

The ship will be moored outside of Long Beach harbor while public health officials take action. They fly a biohazard team out to the ship on a helicopter to investigate. The terrorists, who have broken into two tactical teams, take advantage of the general chaos at this point: the first team takes over the ship’s bridge, while the second team commandeers the helicopter.

The team at the bridge opens up the ship to full throttle, and proceeds to ram any available oil tankers that are moored at the Long Beach facilities. If they are able, they engage in multiple ramming operations — regardless, they will succeed in at least one ramming, thereby releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the harbor. This not only disrupts an extremely busy shipping port, causing financial damage that spreads across the entire economy, but also an environmental disaster. Since this is a movie plot and not reality, we might as well make the oil slick burst into flames, so there are big orange fireballs and lots of thick black smoke.

Meanwhile, terrorist crew number two has taken the helicopter and flown inland a short way to one of the many oil refineries. They either cleverly land near one of the gasoline storage stages and set it afire, or crash their helicopter into it. Either way, the explosion is phenominal, and disables much of the refinery. It also draws away much needed emergency support for the drama unfolding at the harbor, while causing extreme suspicion of all currently airborne helicopters. Naturally, since this is a movie, the suspicion results in at least one mistaken shoot-down; doubtless of a much-loved radio traffic reporter who we were introduced to in an earlier scene (his ex-wife is probably on the ship, and we probably saw her deciding during the cruise that her new boyfriend is a loser and she’s going to return to the husband).

So now the port is shut down for at least a few days, and gasoline supplies are disrupted in the Southern California area. Thousands of tourists are dead of disease and/or trauma, and the Holiday Cruising Industry is pretty much destroyed for a season, if not longer. The economy is damaged, confidence is shaken, and, to cap it all, the one terrorist who allowed himself to be taken alive gloats on television that the entire plot cost the terrorists less than $10,000, while causing billions of dollars worth of damage. He also smirks, before being dragged off, that it’s just the first salvo in a planned barrage across several vulnerable industries.

This plot has it all — bio-warfare; large numbers of innocent civilians caught up and suffering on television; dramatic explosions; and serious economic impacts. It evolves in stages, each of which attracting more attention so more media outlets can cover it live. And, if you’re willing to neglect reality, it’s plausible.

Simon April 17, 2006 2:46 PM

Terrorists infect one of the President’s dogs – Barney or Mrs Beasley – with avian flu, which in turn infects the first family and much of the upper-echelons of government. The flu kills much of the administration, sending the country into a panic.

Mr. Bojangles April 17, 2006 2:46 PM

Here is my idea. If someone mentioned something similar above i’m sorry but I wasn’t going to go through and read all of those.

This is how it will all go down. The terrorist have been organizing for years. In this situation there are about 20 terrorist who strategically place themselves around the United States. These 20 then split up into individual groups. These terrorist all go into seperate Walmarts and detonate themselves. If you do the math in most Walmart at any given time there are at least 100 people I would say. That is 2000 casualties.

The other terrorst are mad scientist who develop what is known as the “suckulon 5000” which forces all the worlds oil supply to retreat into the core of the earth thus causing total chaos.

Peter Attwood April 17, 2006 3:04 PM

Drive around dairy country on breezy evenings spraying hoof and mouth disease into the air. Drive up and down the California Central Valley, the Imperial valley, and other fruit growing areas releasing Mediterranean Fruit Flies. Drive around Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Kansas releasing several varieties of Corn Leaf Blight. When the returns come in, explain that this was done to make the US stop using its agricultural overproduction to ruin third world farmers and drive them off their land so that they are forced to come illegally to the US to work.

York April 17, 2006 3:50 PM

Movie title : “14 days”

Take your 30 terrorists and divide them into 10 groups of three. You then give each a schedule of a small number of geographically close cities, say Austin-Fort Worth-San Antonio, or Chattanooga-Nashville-St Louis. Each group rents an apartment in each city under the name of one of the individuals in the group. For instance, from Bob, Sam, and Andy’s group, Bob rents the place in Austin, Sam rents the place in Ft Worth, and Andy rents the place in San Antonio. Each apartment has a small stash of explosives, or a nearby storage facility or other kind of stash so nobody has to transport anything city to city.

Each team starts out in the first city, and on a predetermined day, hits a random, easy target in that city. A small bomb at a gas station. Blow up a small storefront. Punch holes in gas tanks in a large parking lot and toss a road flare in after a few minutes. Open up the valves on the gas stove at the apartment and set a simple electric spark timer. Park a van full of explosives somewhere. Open a few dozen propane tanks in a parking lot.

Nothing hard, nothing that you couldn’t get away from easily. Right after the attack, go to the next city and repeat. And again. Stagger the operations so that on any given day over a two week period, there is at least one attack, with the concentration of attacks at the end, to account for teams getting captured or killed. Make the last attack something spectacular and suicidal. This would have an especially chilling effect as the staggared final attacks come in. Everyone sees that first really big one (e.g., 3 trucks full of explosives next to supporting pylons of a busy overpass in 5:00 traffic. Just pull over and boom) as the last one. “That sure was a big one…that must have been the last attack…phew, it’s over.” Then another big one. And another, and another.

A leader residing in a cave in some other country announces the attacks the day before they start, alluding to weeks of terror, and then takes responsibility for the attacks as they proceed.

Imagine that for two weeks, there was a terrorist attack every day in random cities and suburbs across the US.

What would people do?

xyster April 17, 2006 3:51 PM

Bin Laden has already set in motion the mother of all movie plot threats. He’s now eating popcorn and watching it!

The one common thread following the terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid and London (and to a lesser extent bombings in other countries) has been the loss of civil liberties and protections from government through hastily enacted “anti-terrorism” laws (the misnamed Patriot Act and its various copycats).
It is a tenet of Western democratic thinking that a democracy’s strength is derived from citizens’ liberties and freedoms which foster, among other things, open and free communication, cooperation and pursuit of individual sucess, leading to the overall success of democratic society. As such, the anti-terrorism laws recently enacted are detrimental to democracy, weaken the nations that enact them and hence work to the benefit of the terrorist organizations that seek to overthrow Western deomcracies.

With this idea, the overall terrorist strategy is to execute relatively few high profile bombings and then sit back with a bucket of popcorn and watch as democratic countries implode, or at least weaken considerably, through their own irrational fear and knee jerk reaction to a vastly over estimated threat.

Bin Laden recognized that the only thing that will bring down the West is itself. He just needed to provide a little nudge.

Geoff Lane April 17, 2006 4:03 PM

Most people have no idea what a FBI identification or an arrest warrant
looks like; in any case fake identification is widely available. If a well
trained pair of terrorists turned up to a carefully researched, middle class
house in the middle of the night they would almost certainly manage to
convince the single inhabitant they really were from the FBI. With care a
team of 30 might manage to take up to 100 individuals in a night. As only
single people were targeted there would be little if any alarm the next day.

Suppose the team managed to do the same thing for two or three nights

By the end of the second or third night, nobody would be answering the door
to anybody. The entire city would be locked up tight and would stay like
that for days or weeks. Nobody would trust the police or other agencies and
the disruption throughout the country would be devastating.

(This is waaay too much fun.)

Robert April 17, 2006 4:08 PM

i’m a writer myself and have thought about this very thing many times over. He’re my favorite, even though it’s not fitting your 500 grand mark, it’s still an option.

smuggle uranium, plutonium, or any other garden-variety nuclear weapon metal. now grab outself a small private jet and load it to the max with TNT. Be sure that you back the Nuclear metal into the middle of the whole bunch.

take a flight to the nearest large city and push the big read button. one of two things wil happen:

1: the TNT explodes and rains nuclear metal over a small area. this is if the locarls are lucky.

2: A nuclear reaction occurs and you’ve just wiped out a good deal of that city.

that’s the way nuclear weapons work. the explosion compresses the metal until it has nowwhere else to go. one thing leads to another, atoms bumping into eachother and one breaks apart. that’s when the bad things happen. Ka-freakin-boom.

joris April 17, 2006 4:16 PM

A disgruntled former soviet biological weapons scientist(a white haired befuddled Rutger Hauer perhaps) is forced into a terrorist plot by a retired american special forces general. The General(a grizzly Gene Hackman) kidnaps the scientists’ lovely daughter(Elisha Cuthbert, or would that be one kidnapping too many towards being typecast?) and forces him to genetically modify turkeys to carry a latent dormant strain of ebola. The really brilliant thing: they only choose to poison fresh butterball turkeys right before thanksgiving(possible risky product placement options here). On thanksgiving, with first responders home with their families and the government response limited, the viral strain is released upon america when the turkeys are heated in the oven above 200 degrees. Possible: exciting cut-to shots can be made at this point as ovens all over america are turned on and their temperatures rise. The traditional holiday carving turns into widepread carnage. As all over america the meat thermometers reach 180, the viral strain turns virulent. Can the young brash CIA agent(Wentworth miller, fresh from Prison Break?) together with his leggy scientist(initially hostile but they will sleep together half way through, a latina actress thats for sure, which one?), african american forensics investigator(Forest Whitaker) and alcoholic failed partner(Chow Yun Fat) unravel the evil general’s plot in time? Can they discover that the evil plan is for America to break into an all out race war? Or will they fall into the generals trap and believe that the Black Panthers'(Samuel L. ofcourse as the militant leader) are behind this? Will america’s most giving of holidays turn into the General’s coup d’etat? Or will Miller and his brave team find the anti-virus in time, and discover the true meaning of thanksgiving? Thanksgiven: opening soon.

Cellshade April 17, 2006 4:19 PM

The ultimate terrorist plot:

During the height of summer, terrorists fly small prop planes over the water at packed vacation beaches and release tons of fresh chum into the waters.

Hundreds of people are injured in the massive shark feeding fest.

The tourism industry crashes, taking the rest of the economy with it.

iag April 17, 2006 4:24 PM

In order to camouflage a clandestine nuke delivery by vehicle, several thousand small adhesive patches of medical application radioactive product are adhered to the undercarriage of cars found at airports and train stations.

Others are placed on mass transportation.

This amount of chaff allows the real payload to be taken to the target area through all of the confusion.

The EMP delivered by this device will be sufficient to destroy the American infrastructure and economy as we know it.

Not much of a movie story, but seems plausible enough to me.

JR Morgan April 17, 2006 4:54 PM

Plot 1: An evil genius steals the Eiffel tower and turns it into a giant electro-magnetic beam to cause a dooms day astroid to smash into the Earth.
Plot 2: Terrorists hijack an LA city bus, pack it full of explosives, and try to blow up Fox studios to disrupt the nation’s supply of 24.
Plot 3: Terrorists contaminate the nations water supply with tainted pachouli to turn everyone into HIPPIES.
More to come…

Randy April 17, 2006 4:55 PM

I haven’t read all of the submissions. I feel sorry for you, having to read all of these.

I’m going to try to take this seriously…

As an al Queda terrorist, I think that my goal is to (a) disrupt the American economy, (b) increase fears surrounding oil supplies, (c) decrease American citizen’s willingness to keep troops in the Middle East.

Each of my 20-30 men would work one at a time. #2 only start after #1 gets caught or killed. Preferrably #2 starts within minutes after #1 gets caught or killed.

Each terrorist buys cheap cars, rents cars, or steals them (or some combination); plants a small amount of explosive in them; pulls up to a busy gas station; gets out and walks away; and triggers the explosive remotely.

He does as many as he can, in as wide of an area as he can manage, before he gets caught. He should leave some 1-2 day gaps with no explosions. When he gets caught he delivers a simple message, “This will continue until you leave the Middle East.”

If #1 starts in the northeast and works down the coast, then #2 starts in the midwest, and #3 in southern California. Hit big cities and small towns. Only hit gas stations with many people there.

When the public gets “aware” and starts policing gas stations, start planting the bombs on normal people’s cars and following them until they go get gas.

Richard April 17, 2006 4:55 PM

Spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors are highly radioactive and are currently stored in poorly guarded ponds on the sites of the power stations, pending the development of a more permanent repository for the dangerous material. Terrorists sneakily obtain some of these fuel rods and place them in reservoirs supplying drinking water to several key US cities. The result, widespread radiation poisoning, terror and fear.

Bruce Schneier April 17, 2006 5:34 PM

“I haven’t read all of the submissions. I feel sorry for you, having to read all of these.”

I’ve been following along as it goes on, so it’s not so bad. And some of them are pretty clever and interesting.

“I’m going to try to take this seriously…”

Good. I mean this to be serious.

Bruce Schneier April 17, 2006 5:42 PM

It you think there’s a lot of entries now, just wait until next weekend. There will — at least, according to the reporter — be a New York Times article on the contest on Sunday.

Terrorist Wannabe April 17, 2006 6:15 PM

I’d target either Disneyland during its 50th anniversary celebration or a high-profile shopping mall during a high-attendance shopping day (e.g. day after Thanksgiving).

The Disneyland scenario would involve a two-pronged attack. One prong would involve slipping as many suicide bombers as possible into the roles of the giant head cartoon characters who work the crowds. At a pre-set time, the bombers would set off their bombs in as big a crowd as possible. The second prong would involve having Disneyland attendees carry partially disassembled bombs to places where crowds are queued to wait for rides. Disneyland maintenance workers on the terrorist payroll will have planted the vital component to complete the bombs somewhere onsite for easy pickup and assemblage. Ideally, the bombing targets should be spread throughout the park for maximum effect.

The shopping mall scenario requires gaining access to the controls for all entrances to the mall from outdoor parking lots. At a pre-arranged time, the doors of the mall will be kept locked open so that several high explosive-laden SUVs can zoom inside the mall and set off their payloads through either an internal detonator or by collision with a wall or other structure inside the mall.

In either scenario, the message sent is the same: there is no place in America safe from terrorist attack.

Johan April 17, 2006 6:24 PM

Ok lets assume 30 people, and given 500 grand straight.

The first and formost thing to think about is very simply randomness. The more random and farsweeping the more it will terroize the public. Therefore like the 9/11 hijackers, several cells deployed at strategic places in the contenental US. THeir targets: Everything and anything. Unlike 9/11 there is very little central planning, each cell is given a basic amount of cash, training in armed weapons, suggestions of targets, a set date, and designations within the group. Of the thirty people ten will be directly tied together, they are the planners and the leaders. Each group decides on a city, some large, some small. Each group is given their funds and are bid farewell.A date and time is set for the action. No group talks to any other part of the group before, durring, or afterwards they only talk to the director or a proxy.

Consider 1: The Targets
We often here stories about terrorists poisoning water wells and trying to topple landmarks, but by far the most scary terror plots take place where we live and work.The most terrifying assasination happens when it is not just an innocent, but when it is someone who protects the innocent. Thirdly, abruptness is key. The quicker and more flashy the act, the more it grabs headlines. FInally, safe and clean targets, aka, the local police station, walmart, grocery stores,tim hortons, make people scared to go to these places.
For instance:
Before the commital of the act the Terrorist would undoubtably scout the location. Being the smart, almost normal person he is, the scouting would be so light as to not draw attention. He merely drives once or twice near the target building, getting the bearings for the attack. Sightlines, parking spots, even traffic all play a part. This particular terrorist choses the police station of a small nevada town, not large enough to be a flurry of activity, but small enough to be thouroughly busy at rushour. He is acting as part of a small group, only three people know him, this small group has been able to construct a crude RPG launcher using household supplies and training from the previous months. A week from the scouting on the date set forth beforehand, a day thad had no meaning, they assemble in a parking garage across from the station and wait for the correct hour.
The improvised weapon is launched and strikes the building creating caos, the terrorists then flee back to where they came.

Consider 2: The Weapons
Creativeness is encouraged. Anyone can create a bomb, but a tub of clorine dropped from a ahigh building onto a busy street is just as effective. The more outlandish the weapon, the scarrier the result. Remember the shoe bomber? Now because of him people take their shoes off at every security point. Imagine the caos from the underwear bomber. It sounds ubsurd, but when people start proposing a jaunt through your jockeys every time you go through the security line people stop laughing.

Consider 3: Irony
The more Ironic, the more it hurts. It may be crude, but a rented gas guzzling suv filled with a nice large fertilizer bomb ramming through the unlocked gates of an unsuspecting airport bound for a plane loaded with passengers is sure to attract alot of attention. Another possiblility is kidnapping an oil exec and drowning him in his own crude. Both of these acts send a stong message, and will sit in others minds because of the lasting Irony.

Trendy April 17, 2006 6:24 PM

Best idea I’ve come up with…

A group manages to get some enriched uranium from Iran, goes to Mexico and finds 20-30 people that want to come to the US. After agreeing to transport them the terrorists give the Mexicans a black backpack and tells them when and how and when to use them.

After getting into the US the terrorists manage to get the Mexicans jobs. After a few months sleeper cells all over the US move into action and detonate their dirty bombs in mutiple cities.

Add a CIA agent who finds out about the plot too late and the aftermath and you got yourself a multi-million dollar blockbuster.

Bill April 17, 2006 6:37 PM

A simple plan to disrupt commerce in the united states. So with 20 people that gives me the ability to drive 20 delivery trucks to the loading docks of 20 large Telco Central offices.

We will of course start with the offices that support Wall Street, Washington D.C., the chicago Merc, MAE East/West (what ever they are called today). That leaves me with 10 more central offices to blow clear to the ground. Might as well grab a few interesting Cell phone nexuses as well. Each location has a huge delivery truck pull up to the docking port (redirected delivery trucks – shouldn’t be hard to do) and have a shaped charge send 10-20 tons of explosive force into the building. Should shut down a central office for a month or so.

Now with a couple of other non-suicide type people — There are some BIG power lines that bring huge chunks of power from the Columbia river to California in the summer. Lets blowup 2-3 towers that carry the powerlines, the more remote the better. Should be able to grab power from Mexico and Texas this way as well. I believe there are similar type powerlines in the NE US as well that could be easily taken out.

There are three underwater aquaducts leading into NYC. Lets drop a large explosive satchel into each one – the more remote the location the better (less likely to get caught, the harder it will be to repair). NYC doesn’t come even close to being able to provide water for its residents.

California goes VERY dark
Phone/Internet/Cell service is severely degraded in high value locations.
New York goes dry. VERY dry.
Panic ensues as no one really knows where the next explotion will happen.

Mux April 17, 2006 7:01 PM

Come on, people! Let’s get imaginative…

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair, Berlusconi, Bolton, Feith, Ratzinger and another 20 “ultra-right wing Christians” (!) turn out to be nothing of the sort. They are all brainwashed cult members, seduced and/or blackmailed in their college days by a Heaven’s Gate-style organisation. But with reason.

Their secret purpose seems laudable: to save Humanity from complete annihilation at the hands of a warlike alien race. Unless Earth’s population is reduced to – and kept to – under 500,000 people by 2012, the aliens will use genetically-engineered prions to wipe everyone out. Why? Because it’s their planet, not ours. They created us accidentally by tweaking early primates, and now return to their terraformed paradise planet, Earth, to find it overrun and being ruined by billions of selfish primitive humans.

Not only that, but we are on the verge of interstellar travel and immortality drugs. We are utterly warlike by their standards and no way will humans be allowed to develop technologies which threaten the Galaxy (shades of Iran). The only thing that’s stops them wiping us out immediately is a deal.

We will form a One World Government.
We will not colonise other worlds until we are told that we may.
We will stop researching FTL travel and zero-point (‘free’) energy.
We will reduce our own population.

All the ‘Apocalyptic Idiots’ have been shown stunning evidence of the above scenario. They know it to be true. Outwardly they use ancient feuds and prejudice, but none are actually religious. The flames are being fanned for a greater purpose and the ends justify the means.

The problem is that it isn’t true. Having been tricked by hypnotic suggestion (plus some nuggets of truth to reinforce it), they are all the unwitting pawns of that alien race. Yes, the aliens are real. Yes, they did create Humanity and Earth was supposed to be their paradise world (you thought total eclipses were coincidence?), but they are not permitted to destroy us. That part is The Big Lie.

Not permitted by whom? Nobody knows. There are obviously greater powers than nasty ET out there somewhere. So the plan is hatched – trick the humans into self-destruction, a common fate for new civilisations.

The 20-30 ‘terrorists’ will wipe out their own species thinking they are saving it. It is the ultimate Black Op.

In the end the dastardly plot comes to a conclusion when Bush gets drunk and tells the aliens to either kill us all now or “get the f*ck out of Compton, you bug-eyed commie faggots.”

Amazingly, it works. Their bluff called, the aliens leave us in peace and George Bush is become the saviour of mankind, adored by the whole world.

The End.

PS. The ending is obviously the most implausible part. Shame Bush doesn’t think so…

Weirdo April 17, 2006 7:06 PM

Okay, here’s the Porno Terror plot:

Terrorists join up with cyber-terrorists (e.g., the pathetic script kiddies–remember, it’s a movie plot). They spread a worm that infects all corporate/government computers. At a pre-determined time, the computers all show nothing but porno flicks/pix. The result? No work of any kind getting done; nothing but sex. Politicians pass all sorts of laws banning porno, but they are seduced by their interns/campaign managers/other “close” staff and soon the Capitol is in a “make love” only mood.

Cumming this summer to an adult store near you.

(Yeah, I know–the only people scared by this are the sex-hating fundamentalists. Too bad they’re running the country.)

PeeDee April 17, 2006 7:33 PM

Okay, in hopes that someone will actually do something about this threat, which I’ve been dreading for 3 years now…

Back when SAR’s broke out briefly I couldn’t understand why all this fuss about biological labs when all a terrorist organisation needed was to buy a few plane tickets and recruit a small group of “suicide coughers”. It would be relatively simple to have a group standing by in some remote location (possibly Africa) waiting for the next report of Ebola, Marburg or SAR’s. They then fan out over the breakout area with the goal of at least one of them getting inoculated, meeting back in 36 hours. At which point they all mutually inoculate from whoever is “live” and the fresh cases fan out with the goal of transiting international flights and hubs continuously until they drop dead or are diagnosed. At each hub they discretely smear bodily fluids on door handles. With some rudimentary network design the number of infected people would spiral rapidly beyond retrieval.

This SCARES me.

jon April 17, 2006 7:43 PM

I thought it would be a good idea (from a terrorist point of view) to rig a few medium size explosives that would detonate in port-o-potties placed at large public gatherings, like summer concerts. Not many people would die in any one explosion, but the terror inflicted would be high – for one, people would have a fear of using the things…imagine being enclosed in a dark space in a compromising position when terror strikes! Also, the very existence of the toilets could be considered a security threat, and large public gatherings would no longer be permitted to have these large numbers of hiding places. Imagine a festival with 100,000 people and 5 toilets, each manned by a security guard? The inconvenience would be detrimental enough to severely limit public gatherings and this change in lifestyle is pretty much what the terrorists want.

TG April 17, 2006 7:50 PM

Terrorists make a secret deal with Central American cartels for huge amounts of caffeinated coffee beans, then execute precisely-timed raids on Pfizer warehouses to steal massive stockpiles of Viagra. With their unmatched stealth capabilities, they then seed America’s water supply, food manufacturing plants and Budweiser breweries with the dangerous combination of drugs. The result of this ingenious biological-weapon attack is America’s worst nightmare: millions of people who suddenly want to get very energetically laid… just for the hell of it.

CB April 17, 2006 8:04 PM

Gas, Water, Electricity.

Has anyone considered garbage? This is something you need to build on slowly. Make a sticky mixture which contains something nastily radioactive.

Each night your terrorists target a suburb which has put its bins out for collection — before dawn go through the suburbs and put some of your mix into each bin. Make sure the mix is in the rubbish and stuck to the bin.

Do this for several months until there is widespread contamination. You should have contaminated whole suburbs but also dumps, landfill (and if there are incinerators the atmosphere). If no one has noticed yet report it to the media.

Watch the city drown in fear and garbage! Workers refuse to drive the trucks or collect the bins! Citizens hoard their clean garbage, afraid to go near their bins! Rats! Cholera! Fire!

Not to mention that anyone walking at night when the bins are out for collection might be shot.

Costs are minimal — transport for the terrorists, your radioactive agent and whatever you mix it with. For added terror make some of it obviously recognisable (blue goo?) and start dropping similar looking stuff all over the city (this batch not neccesarily radiactive so it is easier to transport and spread about).

Where will the terror end?!?

TimC April 17, 2006 9:32 PM

Here is my movie plot (I’ll call it “Tucson By Morning???):

  1. A sleeper cell that has been in the U.S. for years sets up a warehouse business in Tucson, AZ near the Pima Air Museum/AMARC (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center) and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base where thousands of old aircraft are stored. They use the $500K to start a warehouse business that buys and sells overstocked merchandise so that large numbers of trucks and trucks carrying unusually shaped items come and go on a regular basis. They pass themselves off as Americans with Mexican names and speak fluent Mexican.
  2. Some time later, twelve terrorists come into Tucson, AZ via Mexico as Mexican nationals. Six obtain pilot licenses while working at the warehouse. Six take courses in aircraft maintenance while also working at the warehouse.
  3. For several years they take detailed photos of the old planes at AMARC and Davis-Monthan. At night they go through the fence to examine planes up close to determine which planes can be repaired and flown or which ones can be cannibalized.
  4. Overstock business and eBay allows them to obtain the equipment necessary to modify and repair old aircraft over time.
  5. In the warehouse they build replicas of old fighter aircraft and modify trucks to carry them and the real planes.

  6. The pilots rent planes on a regular basis and fly the route north and northwest so they get to know the route to Glen Canyon Dam and the Hoover Dam at low altitudes.

  7. Late at night and one by one over a short period they take the replica of an old fighter into a deserted part of the area that holds old planes and unload the replica and load in the actual plane using a crane system (I know – a stretch of the imagination is needed here). The replica is positioned where the old plane was. People will of course assume that this is the real plane.

  8. The old fighters are repaired and prepared for flight.

  9. On the night for the attack they hijack fuel trucks that would be going to Davis-Monthan and use them to fuel the planes.

  10. The planes then taxi over to I-10 on Valencia Road and head east on I-10 which is straight and flat for many miles with no overpasses.

  11. They take off and turn and head north and northwest.

  12. Three planes head for Glen Canyon Dam and three head for Hoover Dam. They go supersonic and hit the dams. The intent is to cause failure in both dams, flood the areas, deprive the southwest of drinking water and deprive Las Vegas and California cities of electricity. Other dams on the Colorado are also destroyed by the failure of the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams.

This plot has several interesting aspects:

  1. It uses our own weapons against us. Our fighters.

  2. It uses one of the gems of America, namely, the Eisenhower Interstate System against us. Ironic that the latter was built to do precisely this – in the event of an invasion, the straight parts of the interstates were meant to be used as makeshift airfields and runways as well as move men and material quickly.

  3. It causes instant, unstoppable and long term damage especially to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

  4. Having a business that buys and sells overstock is an easy business to be in and can be made self-sustaining so that the $500K is augmented.

  5. When people see USAF planes on the interstate they assume they meant to land at Davis-Monthan and think the pilots missed runway. Therefore there is no concern that USAF planes are on I-10.

  6. I know that an imagination is needed to pull off some of this but I think that is OK for now.

wcanevari April 17, 2006 9:39 PM

For real terror, simply cut off the water supply to Los Angeles. There are siphon tubes that carry the water from the aqueduct over the hills that suround LA.

These tubes are in remote locations, likely not very well guarded, if at all… they could easily be broken by explosives or aircraft impact.

Once broken, the siphon tubes would leak great quantities of water, causing local flooding and making access to the break impossible.

Repair would take a very long time, as new pipe sections would have to be remanufactured. These pipes handle pressures upto 500+ psi. The pipes are approx 10 feet in diameter, and an inch thick; not your average off-the-shelf pipe section.

Any quesses how 8 million people would react to loss of water or water rationing of a limited resource?

BlahBlahTerrorBlahBlah April 17, 2006 11:00 PM

Breed a nasty bug that’s only transmitted by direct skin contact (maybe a parasite), that lives in an oil base and has an incubation period of say about a couple of weeks. Put it in the printing ink for the magazine or newspaper of your choice.
The magazine or newspaper provides the transmission vector and distribution for you, you get to select the profile of individuals you want to infect by the magazines they read and it’s not going to be known about until a couple of weeks after you did the deed.
It would also do in all of the newsagents, thus crippling one of the nations primary sources of mass communication.

Phil Bevan April 17, 2006 11:14 PM

Using several packages of explosives cause the western side of the volcanic Canary Islands to collapse into the sea, depending on amount of the volcano that collapsed a tsunami up to 900m (3000ft) could be generated. Although a tsumami this size would most likely effect an area ~35 – 40 miles from canary islands a movie plot could involve digging holes in the atlantic floor, to form troughs and crests, could cause any tsunami to grow enough to cause major issues in the Carribean, Eastern US and Eastern South America.

Using explosvies at various intervals on the sea floor from the Canaries to the US to form the troughts and crests could be enough to cause a disaster.

I have a few more ideas to ‘strengthen’ the plot and make is more beleivable but this should be enough for this post.

Anne-Marie Skjong-Nilsen April 18, 2006 12:25 AM

My idea is for the terrorists to blow up all the sewage plants in New York City. Panic ensues. Imagine Manhattan knee deep in shit and 8 million people can’t use the toilets, showers, sinks, etc. Many historians claim that the toilet brought civilization to the cities, well let’s see how true they are.

Anthony April 18, 2006 1:05 AM

My plot is the following:

After a few years of observing American culture and political ways, the terrorist infilltrate our two major political parties. In doing so, they are able to help get nominated the stupidest and dumbest candidates in both parties for president. Its a true no win scenario.

After the election, the american people have voted in a true “tool”. A man of the people! Later they will say “hes like one of us”. Knowing that they have succeeded, the terrorist will sit back in wonderment and watch there plan work in ways that they could not have imagined. But that is just step one in there evil plan to bring down America.

There next step is to plan a terrorist act on American soil that will send our country reeling. Fear will overtake the American people and its new tool of a president, and our country will act in ways that will make our forefathers spin in there graves.

This tool, I mean president, will invoke new legislation that will erode the freedoms we once cherished as a people. His next blunder will to start a war that will last forever, draining the country of billions of dollars and putting us in a debt that we can never recover from.

The third strike by the terrorists will be to convince the major oil producing companies to gouge gas prices when ever the chance occurs, sending the American economy into a depression that will make the market crash in 29 look like a positive spike on some wall street economic chart. The price for a barrel of oil will rocket to $110.00. People who live in the Northern half of the country will flee to the South in droves because they can no longer afford to heat there homes. Hoovervilles will look like town houses compared to how people will be forced to live.

I can go on and on, but it does sound believable, doesn’t it.

355 April 18, 2006 1:48 AM

G. Gordon Liddy already wrote it..

but, just for giggles, where’s the largest concentration of radioactives in your town? Why, the Gamma Knife in your local hospital.

Steal a page from Neil Stephenson’s THE BIG U and build an armored golf cart. Make it R/C. Put two Bangalore Torpedoes on it (shaped charge on a stick) and program it to drive into the Gamma Knife centre, using the shaped charges to remove obstacles.

Once it arrives, it pours LOX on the steel casing of the radiation shield to embrittle it, then one last torpedo of thermite against the shield and torch it off. Then dump NaPalmolive all over the floor.

For giggles, program a war dialer with every media outlet for miles to tell the press what just happened to insure maximum spontaneous evacuation.. except for the caltrops just scattered all over the evac routes out of the back of rental trucks.

The automortars with incindiaries? Well, the wardialer could claim they’re loaded with Co-60 from the Gamma Knife center, as no one’s getting anywhere near that inferno to check.

Demis April 18, 2006 1:59 AM

(Stop me if this has been done before…)

It’s oscar night – the beautiful people are out in force.

25 elite european ex-special-forces mercenaries (all very attractive) pose as performers during one of the musical interludes. Just as their performance begins, under the leadership of their calm and mysterious mentor, they take control of the ceremony (and the audience) with weapons concealed in their extravagant outfits, while the cameras continue to roll…

Initially what would appear to be a political agenda being served up by this daring group of terrorists actually turns out to be a diversion for a far more sinister plot developing deep in the bowels of the Kodak theatre…

With all eyes turned on the televised drama, the remaining members of the team secretly tunnel and pack explosives onto an underground train bound for beneath a downtown hotel where several prominent politicians are staying in the lead-up to an important global summit on nuclear arms…

Only one man – a washed-up has-been B-grade action actor – realise what is going on, and, with the help of a plucky comic relief (or utterly sexy) character, reclaims his honour by putting on an action performance the world will never forget…

Joe April 18, 2006 2:02 AM

It’s rough, but plausible…
(1)Easily train several dozen terrorist operators behind the controls of excavators (such as back-hoes and/or track-hoes) rented cheaply: “”. (Or steal one!)
How many undocumented illegals currently have access to such equipment on the job daily in this country?

(2) Strategically place them over buried critical global network interconnects with GPS coordinates, maps, etc.. or just have the communications companies themselves come out and survey where their cables are buried so the terrorists’ seemingly legitimate “digs” will miss their fibers.

(3)Simultaneously sever dark and bright fibers, take out microwave transceiver bases (those little air-conditioned rooms at the bottom of communications towers), and any significant backbone connections such as the Internet1 & Internet2 interconnecting entities, Satellite transceiver locations, and the undersea fiber linkages…

-Sure the network is designed to “Heal” itself, but can it support well-researched and coordinated attacks with readily available (and rentable or steal able) commercial excavators?

-I know that this may sound silly, but NO AMOUNT of network Security or redundancy will protect your network from a determined person armed with the location of your company’s or (business’, states’, phone company’s, university’s, etc…) main fibers AND the controls a large backhoe or track hoe. They can even knock over your dish, if any.

Yes, true, there are Satellite network users…
Can you name some major ones in your town?
At work?
Of course not!, the latency is unacceptable and cost is too high…

-If terrorists want to hurt America’s economy quickly and perhaps prod Homeland Security to spend billions on protecting the country’s plethora of communications fibers this is one plausible way to carry it out.

Last time I checked, current protection for fiber optic buried cables included lots of dirt, polyethylene jackets with the occasional conduit (usually PVC), and maybe some stretch-resistant Kevlar and fiberglass strands.)

Anyone who has seen a large track hoe with 1-yard bucket in action knows what I mean…
And what about where Excavators cannot be taken?
-A gas-powered cut-off saw works wonders inside a city manhole tunnel on fiber cables.

While it is true that any communication cuts will eventually be repaired, a carefully coordinated attack (just like the 9-11 attacks which occurred about the same time on the same day) with several unguarded specific points of attack could wreak havoc on the economy, especially if the stock trading markets were targeted.

Our culture emphasizes the “Time-Is-Money” slogan, and these potential terrorist attacks could cost some significant time.

Not to mention what the targeting of utility sub-stations would do to the utility grid. Say, as a secondary attack following the cutting of the fibers. Plus it could be a nice way to ditch the very equipment that may be needed to help repair the damage to the fibers.
Modifications could be easily be made to an excavator just be aimed to drive into a substation say during peak summer demand… And with a $500k budget… your limiting factor would be the terrorist manpower needed to drive all the excavators.. -Joe

Andrew Y April 18, 2006 3:02 AM

Scenario 1

A small group of terrorists cross into the US by either boat, or walk across the Mexican/Canadian border. They acquire a number of old fifty calibre machine guns by simply stealing them from a musuem and source some armor piercing rounds for these weapons. They then split into groups of five, load them up into old vans and drive to the largest oil-refiners in the country. There they find the “crackers” where they blast them full of holes, effectively putting the refinery out of action for a month at least, depending on how big the resulting fire is. Putting three or four sufficiently large refinieries out of action for an extended period of time would 1) affect the price of gas, 2) put a lot of people out of work, 3) make people feel insecure.

Scenario 2.

A large team of terrorists break into small teams heavilly armed with oxy acetylene torches and start cutting their way through as many power pylons as they can find, just enough so that next time the wind blows they start to fall over. Do enough of them in enough places will result in serious power outages for extended periods of time. Do that just before superbowl and effect enough cities…. people won’t feel afraid, just pretty powerless to do anything about it. they would blame the authorities. Easy to do. and its impossible to monitor the entire routes of the lines. If there are big enough disruptions, the other lines will overload and the grid will shutdown automatically.

Scenario 3
A large group of terrorists raid any number of power plants (nuclear would be best but as long as it has a turbine its ok), and wreck the turbines (at speed it doesn’t take a lot), again large power outages. Do enough of them and total blackouts then rolling blackouts for months.

Scenario 4
A small group of terrorists raid a supertanker on its way to discharge oil. They blow the bottom out of it at the mooring/unloading point. Lots of oil/ lots of fire/some upset bunny huggers/good coverage on CNN and of course one fewer discharge point. The real beauty would be that the US would have to revise its procedures for handling these vessels causing further delays and restriction to the gas supply. The difficulty would be co-ordinating more than one of them.

Scenario 5.

Destroy the busiest interchanges, preferably with multilane highways crossing each other. Problem is you need a really big bang to bring the bridges down, or damage them badly. With the bridges down or seriously damaged the interchange will be closed for several months. Even more traffic.

Scenario 6
Dirty nuclear bomb in Manhattan. Terrorist financier buys a dental practice via a shell company. The practice (why stop at one) has an old xray machine or two. Close it down and take the radioactive sources. Put them in a bin with some fertilizer, diesel and a timer primed to make a loud bang. Drive through New York, set it off and make Manhattan or Harlem (poorer areas better – re-inforces the us and them feelings of discontent) glow in the dark.

MikeG April 18, 2006 4:31 AM

Terrorist get jobs at oil refineries and introduce a (very) finely powdered respiratory toxic into the refined gasoline. It’s carried around the country by tankers and vapourised by cars all over the country causing untold casualties and paralysing the road network. Nobody can drive to work, goods cannot be transported, the entire economy collapses.

dogstar April 18, 2006 6:55 AM

You use your 500k to develop a water soluable agent that causes sterility, but no other side effects. This is introduced into the water supplies – no-one notices for 9 months, by which time the whole country is sterile. Economy collapses etc

Aquila April 18, 2006 7:01 AM

I have always believed that History is the best teacher…
Remember the explosion in Halifax harbour at the end of WWI6 Two ships collided (see… The Mont-Blanc was loaded with 2,300 tons of wet and dry picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton and 35 tons of benzol… And she caught fire after another ship ram her…

Now what I a group of T were to seize a tanker filled with methane (liquid or not) enter the Hudson while filling it up with picric acid and other relatively cheap chemicals… and blew it up in NY harbour off battery park… Close enough to Wall Street to stop trading for a while! I think this would be relatively low tech and surprisingly effective… Prepare for it!

(of course, two attack could be carried together on either coast)


ps. I love to star in that movie with Angelina Jolie being a scared high priced lawer in a tower somewhere over looking NY Harbour as the tanker blews up!

Aquila April 18, 2006 7:24 AM

Forgot to mention…
Even if the tanker was stopped, the pollution resulting would be enaugh to stink up the whole place… so its would still be somewhat of a success.

maxsek April 18, 2006 9:04 AM

Movie Plot:

The terrorists get one of the oil prices to take over Micro$oft. The next version of Window$ is modified to display sublimnal messages at random intervals….

Randy April 18, 2006 9:05 AM

Plot #1: Terrorists use electromagnetic Radiation bombs (which can be constructed for 5-10K) to take out voting computers. (EMR bombs destroy all computers for miles around.) They do it only in certain key locations where one party is likely to win. This prevents these locations from being able to collect the votes before they are required by law to turn them in. The court’s rule that there was no provision that allows for them to re-do the vote.

Plot #2: People use electro-magenetic radiation bombs at major air ports. This takes out all the air traffic control towers and all the air port computers in general, as well as all of the computers on grounded planes.

Robert April 18, 2006 9:19 AM

it wouldn’t be hard to drop some anthrax in AC units of fast food places. the best ones to hit are the ones on major interstates where people are coming and going all the time. you could do the same with motels, in airports, gas stations, anything in a tourist destination would be an easy target, i know, i work tourism and we are bigtime slackers.

then they could hit greyhounds, planes, amtrack, go to new york and contaminate city busses and taxicabs, mass murder at it’s finest.

it’s easy to conceal anthrax than you would think, just wrap it in a BC or Goody Powder envelope and gently push it over the table. you’ll need a few men to do this and all over the country at the same time for a big reaction, say maybe 30 people. this requires no skill at all so any idiot that can keep his mouth shut can do this. Also, none of the men can know any of the others. that way, if they’re caught, not even torture would reveal any information.

i think the best part about this is the delayed reaction. it would take time for peoiple to get sick, and by then it would be too late. hundreds of thousands could die and the contamination could last for years if done properly, there would just be too many places and far too many people to trace their movements over the past week, or so. experts and contamination guys in white suits and fancy names would never find them all.

Kallahar April 18, 2006 10:42 AM

Aural Terrorism – You can’t turn off your ears.

Terrorists have these black boxes that they can put next to the road. The boxes cause your car’s speakers to produce sub-audible subliminal messages that cause people to go crazy and kill/shoot/suicide bomb random people. Even if the radio is off, even cell phones, headphones, and in-store elevator music are affected. No one is safe from the aural-terrorists.

Anthony April 18, 2006 10:43 AM

Terrorists get jobs with cola vending machine companies in DC and put a six pack worth of plastic explosive in the vending machines they fill throughout the DC area with timers and they all go off at once.

Don April 18, 2006 11:00 AM

plot 1: Terrorists lace Government cheese with LSD.

plot 2: Terrorists place sublimital messages in the next Harry Potter movie suggesting that kids can walk into traffic and not be hurt. The movie ends with a queston of whether or not this terrorist movie had a sublimital message as well.

plot 3: The 700 Club is highjacked and turned into an adult channel.

JimB April 18, 2006 11:02 AM

hijack a fertilizer ship. Pour the bunker oil into the fertilizer. Wire up explosives.

Since those ships are often found near refineries (eg. Galveston fertilizer ship explosion of 47), steam up to the Texas refineries, and pop off a 10 kiloton (or more) explosion. Bye bye refinery row. It takes years to rebuild refineries, the US economy will be permanently damaged.

Bob April 18, 2006 11:23 AM

How is this for a plot: During the weeks before Christmas terrorists inject mercury into a number of turkeys and place them in supermarket freezers up and down the country.

Ridiculous as it may sound this actually happened in the UK twenty years ago. I was a student at the time working in a supermarket at the weekend and would regularly have to do the “Turkey watch???, that is, standing by the freezer in the store guarding frozen turkeys for 3 hours at a time.

Do I win a free copy of the book?

dogstar April 18, 2006 11:26 AM

Burn loads of fossil fuels, creating carbon dioxide that leads to global warming – the ice-caps start to melt, water levels rise, hurricanes devastate the seaboards, crops fail….wait a minute…

Aaron April 18, 2006 11:36 AM

I actually did write such a screenplay back in 2000.

It was fairly high concept, and likely unfilmable, not only due to the current political climate, but also that there would likely be no one willing to allow a location for shooting.

The plot description: Terrorists seize a theme park from inside out. The terrorists systematically put themselves in as employees at the park. They use the actual employees as chemical weapons by installing temperature controlled detonation devices inside of costumes that they force a portion of the kidnapped employees to wear. If they remove the costume, they trigger the bomb. Costumed employees are escorted by terrorists to strategic locations in the park.

Also central to the story is that the park is hosting a “movie props” display from an “upcoming” action movie, one of which is appears to be a “replica” of a large explosive device, which is actually a large chemical weapon

Midway through the day, when attendance is at it’s peak, the terrorists make their prescence know and seal off all entrances to the park. The park itself is made to resemble Walt Disney World in design in that there are no conventional “walk up” methods of entry into the park from the front.

Demands are made of the terrorists, but the demands are made in vain. Their intentions are to detonate two chemical weapons that day. They intend to kill everyone in the park with a nerve agent, and then have a second weapon detonate afterward releasing massive quantities of anthrax into the air, infecting the park and the surrounding area. They make their “release” demands without telling their true intentions.

The end result of the movie is that the terrorists do manage to detonate the nerve agent, killing the majority of the patrons in the park, but are not able to detonate the second bomb. The hero of the movie manages to apprehend the mastermind of the plot, and keep him alive, against the terrorist’s will.

The actual hero of the movie is a captured employee who is unknowingly paired up with a real employee, instead of a terrorist escort. They manuever through the park, overriding security systems, get out of the park, then get back in all without outside help.

Brightspear April 18, 2006 12:31 PM

Same day suicide or timed high impact explosions in nursery or grade school auditoriums, playgrounds, and/or children’s theme parks. Careful attention given by the bombers to settings with large gatherings of children. Americans cater to their children: nothing could be more demoralizing than a series of related attacks, spaced perhaps a few hours apart, in both major cities and suburban areas. No one will know where they might strike next.

DKLA April 18, 2006 12:42 PM

I agree with earlier comments– you don’t have to look for wacky terrorist plots than your weekly episode of “24”.

Perhaps the winner of this contest gets a meeting with the writing staff… 🙂

Timm Murray April 18, 2006 1:46 PM

My idea came to me after the London bombings last July. London had just been announced as the host to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, but most thought it unlikely that the bombings had anything to do with it, since it had just been announced the day before. This got me thinking about how fast a small, loosely orginized group of people could put together a similar strike.

I imagine the group deciding to blow the city up at 4:00pm, and getting together by 5:00pm. They get the city bus route and choose a list of routes that will be roughly evenly distributed throughout the city at around 7:30am the next day.

They get the explosive materials for the bombs and practice making a few of them. They’re simple pipe bombs using synchronized wristwatchs for timers and packed gunpowder for an explosive. One end of the pipe is just stuffed with clay, and this end is packed with matchstick heads. The explosion will be directed out this end and the flaming matchsticks are intended to fly out and detonate the gas tank on the bus (this is unlikely to actually work, but when was the last time Hollywood acknowledged that fact?).

By midnight, they’ve got a design down that they can all put together in less than 10 minutes per bomb.

At 4:00am, each member drives near their assigned bus routes and walks the last few blocks to the bus stop. They each take a swig of vodka before getting on and impersonate a student who had been out drinking all night and needs a quick bus ride home. With the bus relatively empty at this time, they choose a seat over the gas tank and leave a backpack there. They get off at stops where another member has already left their car, which has more backpacks and bomb-making materials in the trunk. With few passengers on board, they can build each bomb right on the bus. At 7:30am, buses throughout the city are detonating.

This plot is short enough to make a season of ’24’.

Anonymous New Yorker April 18, 2006 1:52 PM

Terrorist could hijack planes, but instead of crashing them into buildings in NYC, they could crash the planes into the spent fuel pools at the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant about 50 miles north of NYC on east side of the Hudson river. (One of the 9/11 planes flew by this site.)

The spent fuel pools are not in a hardened building like the reactor. If the crash was able to cause the water to be drained from the pools, the ensuing fire and etc. would be extremely hard to put out would spew highly contaminated radioactive stuff into the atmosphere.

Given the typical westerly winds, the fallout would likely contaminate the a key focul point of NYC water supply and cut off most of the overland routes into NYC (except the GW, Holland, and Veranzano).

Imagine NYC and much of Long Island with no water and forced to deal with the bridge and tunnel people of NJ.

Sully April 18, 2006 1:53 PM

A terrorist cell posts a contest on the internet for the best way to cause terror to the American people.

They get flooded with suggestions.

They take the best ideas and pay crack-addicted Americans to enact them.

Anonymous April 18, 2006 2:04 PM

Terrorist Target: Children


Almost anyone can take two 2-inch segments of 1/4 inch hollow tubing weld them in the middle and bend such when set on any flat surface one end points straight up. If the ends of the tubing are cut on a serious diagonal such a device when placed on a road will puncture tires and cause flat tires.

The threat:

But now make much the same thing except a little smaller and fill with some nasty poison. Air drop them on grassy fiends where children play. These nasty devices will puncture tennis shoes to say nothing of bare feet. Someone else may be able to specify a poison that will almost always assure a slow but sure death.

To be effective 20 or 30 fields at least 100 miles apart in 5 to 10 different states need to be seeded the same night. A leader could sacrifice several members of his organization who actually perform an air drop. Some air drop teams will be caught. Of course these people know little about the overall organization. Other teams seed fields by hand. These teams are unlikely to be caught.

At least in the part of California where I live elementary school yards are not fenced. This threat will change that. Fences will go up. Guards will be hired. I.e. money will be spent to “Save our Children.??? Tennis shoes with steel reinforcement will become popular with parents even though that largely defeats the purpose of tennis shoes.

And best of all, people will be afraid.

Or for a massive single strike…

Terrorist Target: The Super Bowl

Target a large domed stadium planned for some future Super Bowl. Here is what you do.

Offer a better price on butane heating than natural gas (methane) heating. Butane, you explain, is the wave of the future. Because it liquefies at lower pressures than propane it’s even safer than propane when stored. We are offering a lower price as an advertisement for the safety and efficacy of butane heat.

Install in the stadium ceiling your special butane burner. You will also want a series of 20 gallon butane tanks on the stadium roof. And install a computer system to control things. What you don’t say is that your burners have a computerized burner release function. Then when it’s cold outside and the TV cameras are showing the really big halftime show … all the burners drop into the stadium.

Then the fun begins. Liquid butane flows from where the burners were. By the time the liquid butane reaches field level it has evaporated. The fuel air bomb is now ready. Kah-BOOM. The blast itself kills many and probably takes the TV broadcast offline. Then the hot gases cool and literally suck vendor carts and people into the stadium. The roof falls back down and kills many more. The few survivors suffer major hearing loss in addition to their more visible injuries.

And the best part is that the first part of the scenario will be played over and over on every TV station in the nation.

Actually making a movie about how such a plot was foiled at the last minute would scare our various political leaders into absurd knee jerk reactions. This could create almost as much fear as an actual exploding Super Bowl.

People will be very afraid.

Peter Butler April 18, 2006 2:07 PM

Terrorist Target: Children


Almost anyone can take two 2-inch segments of 1/4 inch hollow tubing weld them in the middle and bend such when set on any flat surface one end points straight up. If the ends of the tubing are cut on a serious diagonal such a device when placed on a road will puncture tires and cause flat tires.

The threat:

But now make much the same thing except a little smaller and fill with some nasty poison. Air drop them on grassy fiends where children play. These nasty devices will puncture tennis shoes to say nothing of bare feet. Someone else may be able to specify a poison that will almost always assure a slow but sure death.

To be effective 20 or 30 fields at least 100 miles apart in 5 to 10 different states need to be seeded the same night. A leader could sacrifice several members of his organization who actually perform an air drop. Some air drop teams will be caught. Of course these people know little about the overall organization. Other teams seed fields by hand. These teams are unlikely to be caught.

At least in the part of California where I live elementary school yards are not fenced. This threat will change that. Fences will go up. Guards will be hired. I.e. money will be spent to “Save our Children.??? Tennis shoes with steel reinforcement will become popular with parents even though that largely defeats the purpose of tennis shoes.

And best of all, people will be afraid.

Or for a massive single strike…

Terrorist Target: The Super Bowl

Target a large domed stadium planned for some future Super Bowl. Here is what you do.

Offer a better price on butane heating than natural gas (methane) heating. Butane, you explain, is the wave of the future. Because it liquefies at lower pressures than propane it’s even safer than propane when stored. We are offering a lower price as an advertisement for the safety and efficacy of butane heat.

Install in the stadium ceiling your special butane burner. You will also want a series of 20 gallon butane tanks on the stadium roof. And install a computer system to control things. What you don’t say is that your burners have a computerized burner release function. Then when it’s cold outside and the TV cameras are showing the really big halftime show … all the burners drop into the stadium.

Then the fun begins. Liquid butane flows from where the burners were. By the time the liquid butane reaches field level it has evaporated. The fuel air bomb is now ready. Kah-BOOM. The blast itself kills many and probably takes the TV broadcast offline. Then the hot gases cool and literally suck vendor carts and people into the stadium. The roof falls back down and kills many more. The few survivors suffer major hearing loss in addition to their more visible injuries.

And the best part is that the first part of the scenario will be played over and over on every TV station in the nation.

Actually making a movie about how such a plot was foiled at the last minute would scare our various political leaders into absurd knee jerk reactions. This could create almost as much fear as an actual exploding Super Bowl.

People will be very afraid.

Joe April 18, 2006 2:27 PM

a bunch of terrorists (or maybe one) each carry two or three cellphones onto a commercial airliner, and turns them all on and make calls as the plane is about to take off or land.

Add ipods, laptops, and other electronic gadgets to spice things up as needed

Monta April 18, 2006 2:56 PM

Bruce Schneier’s “movie-plot” terrorist threat contest entry.

Cripple the effectiveness of U.S. law enforcement and other first responders while slowing the retail economy to a standstill. Society begins to crumble with the reduction in their effectiveness and loss of confidence in their ability to keep order and safety. The economy tanks as people fear to shop in retail stores and online… It begins with Bruce’s suggested resources…

30 terrorists with a 500,000 bankroll purchase a variety of costumes and some simple explosives.

and unfolds like a chess game, one gambit at a time, each forcing the next move.

12 Terrorists purchase items from retail stores pack them with explosives and surreptitiously return them to store shelves. Computers, CD players, boom boxes, TV’s, cat food, etc. Some will be caught when “smuggling” explosive items back into “Best Buy” and “Wal-mart”. The deaths of a few dozen shoppers throughout the country or a period of days combined with the publicity of the apprehended terrorists causes retail shopping revenue’s to fall drastically.

Commerce moves to online sites where these terrorists have purchased and returned fully functional equipment, now laded with explosives. A few more deaths from on-line purchases and several devices discovered before they could be “re-shelved” causes on-line sales to plummet. A score of exploding devices bought on ebay adds to the confusion and decline of on-line sales. These terrorists continue their methods over the course of days and weeks (and perhaps months until they are identified and apprehended.) Information planted on the terrorists lead authorities to believe that there are 50 such agents. Thus they will continue to broadcast the threat even after the last of this group are restrained.

Summoning bomb squads becomes routine for retail outlets with both real and imagined threats- similar to the anthrax scares following the real anthrax attacks.

Phase II.
4 terrorists acting singly plant suspicious packages in retail stores, notify the management and leave to don their pre-purchased bomb-squad costumes. “Arriving” at the store before the real bomb-squad only to pull firearms from their black bags and shoot everyone in sight. After a few of these events the stores and public become wary of “bomb squads”. Police departments waste valuable time trying to identify “real bomb-squad members” from the fakes at every call. The original terrorists continue to plant real and fake bombs. A few copy cat bombers emerge in the mayhem.

There is a “friendly fire” event where a jittery Sheriff’s deputy shoots and kills a state bomb squad member. Bomb squads approach police officers with even more trepidation and vise-versa.

Phase II
The remaining terrorists don their “police officer” costumes in groups of 4, and find lone police officers to kill them and take their patrol vehicles. Any of the killing attempts that fail will generate additional publicity and fear of the new fake police officers. Terrorists will then use the police vehicles to randomly pull over vehicles on the highways. When the vehicles are stopped the terrorist “police” will shoot and kill the vehicle occupants. They will enter retail outlets as well killing customers and quickly leaving in the patrol cars. Word will continue to spread about “fake” police officers as the terrorists continue, and are slowly caught and killed. An additional friendly fire incident will happen between two groups of real police officers. Multiple officers will be killed. The confidence and compliance of the public in and with the police forces will be greatly reduced. Much time an energy will be spent in trying to verify the identity of police officers among themselves and to the public.

Law Enforcement will be forced to patrol in teams of two vehicles both for protection but mostly as a way of quick certification to the public that they are legitimate law enforcement personnel. (There being no accounts of the terrorist attacking from multiple police vehicles simultaneously in once attack).At this point law enforcement effectiveness will be cut in half, due to the dual patrols and likely in half again as each law enforcement encounter with the public and other law enforcement agents proceeds very slowly and cautiously. General law and order begins to degrade nationwide.

Phase III
At this point the few remaining members of the terrorist team will divert ambulances and rescue squads; and kill the occupants. Dressed in medical outfits they will monitor the radios and attempt to reach calls for medical assistance before police or other medical units. In the small percentage of events where the terrorists are the first on the scene they will disembark and shoot (at) everyone in sight before quickly re-entering their vehicles. Once again another public service is doubted. If they are not first to arrive on a scene they will await another opportunity.

In this environment everyone becomes suspicious of first responders. Ignoring police vehicle strobe lights to pull over on highways becomes common. The police suspect the medical technicians and vice versa. The public fears calling for help from the police or rescue squad. Crime increases at a tremendous rate as “common criminals” realizes that effectiveness of law enforcement has been greatly reduced. The economy begins a quick slide as employees are afraid to work at their retail positions due to bombs; customers are afraid to visit the stores or order equipment online. Unskilled workers are laid off work and crime from the unemployed skyrockets. The fear is perpetuated long after all the terrorists are caught and killed due to the occasional “friendly fire” event, the rare copy-cat bomber/shooter and the implication that there are many more terrorists yet uncaught.

Riots begin to protest law enforcement’s ineffectiveness and crimes perpetrated in their names. Protests demand the government do something “Now”. Riots spread to dozens of cities. Societal conduct crumbles and lawlessness abounds as law enforcement pales in the face of the tasks it is asked to perform. The President declares a national state of emergency. National Guard are called out nationwide, placing a further burden on the nations economy as productive workers are pulled from their jobs.

The President, using his emergency powers declares that every man, woman and child will be required to carry RFID identification, readable at 100 yards, with them at all times, giving their occupation, description, and home address to any querying device. Privacy and Religious activists stage civil disobedience “strikes” across the country leading to further fragmentation and unrest. RFID cards and readers are quickly reverse engineered and spoofed by researcher sponsored by the same privacy advocates and religious right, hamstringing this lame effort to restore confidence in public workers.

The economy, law enforcement, and medical services near complete collapse over the course of a few months while trust in public officials and public employee’s has eroded away to non-existance. Checkmate.

Kevin Calmes April 18, 2006 3:43 PM

Noted computer security guru trusted by all government agencies turns out to be a “Manchurian Candidate” – sees the Queen of Diamonds and releases Windows “Comrade” two months early – world falls apart.

miked April 18, 2006 3:52 PM

Nuclear bombs hidden in 8U rack-mounted servers are distributed in datacenters nationwide…anyone can be a customer, especially at Savvis. A complex series of port knockings, followed with the reassembly of little used tcp options from a the packets that follow are required to detonate. However, the only guy with the packet series is a muslim thats lost his way and looses his laptop in a strip bar…script kiddies, the sons of the bar owner, find his laptop and detonate the bombs…the ultimate in DDOS!
ha ha!

Dan Zerkle April 18, 2006 4:10 PM

The key point is just to take something that a lot of people use every day, and make it scary.

Soak a lot of $20 bills in something nasty, such as radioactive isotopes or anthrax. Spread them nationwide. Send a few of them to the FBI to prove that it’s real.

Contaminate several big wheat or corn shipments with a nasty toxin. Make sure that it kills some people and makes lots of other people throw up. The resulting mass hysteria will make a lot of other people throw up, too. Keep doing it for months.

Release poison gas in the subway of several cities at the same time. Do it again in a week.

Raid a water treatment plant and put something in the water. Again, radioisotopes are good. Do something to block traffic on the highways into the city. This will block water from being trucked in. If you put a toxic spill on the highway, it will greatly slow down the cleanup effort.

Then, there’s always simple and destructive: Blow up levees and cause floods. Do it in three cities at once. Do it again the next year.

BB April 18, 2006 6:38 PM

Osama has been captured by US forces and is now being tried for his crimes. In the midst of a huge media circus, an American executes a daring suicide bombing run to kill Osama and succeeds (a bombing run that cannot be explained by anyone who knew the bomber – he was actually an American born and American raised suicide bomber). Meanwhile, a new snake is rising to take control (let’s call this new leader Ajaf). Using the death of Osama to inspire a new generation of terrorists, Ajaf creates a new network of terrorist cells within the U.S. using small 2 to 3 man teams. Each team purchases common household supplies from dozens of stores and begin creating bombs that they can strap to themselves. Ajaf positions each cell to be responsible for a single target within an appointed window of time. Additional secondary and tertiary targets are also identified for each team just in case they need to alter their plans. These targets are intended to be large gatherings of people – mostly women and children. The first attack goes off in the heart of Disneyland just days before Thanksgiving. A few days later another attack takes place. And another, and another, and another over a period of days. All major targets focused on dense family populations. The US Government is spiraling out of control – they cannot track these terrorists down, nor can they predict their next target. The American people are gripped by fear and unable to leave their homes – again and again new attacks are reported and the Government has no answers. People become angry and intolerant of the U.S. Government and of anyone they tie to the threat of terrorism. Mass lynching’s of middle eastern people begin to take place, US forces try to stop them, the mobs retaliate out of fear, US forces are then opening fire on Americans… Marshal law is declared and if you are in the streets then you are a combatant. The bombings stop, but a cloud of fear and horror has descended upon the American people. The economy is in shambles, the American people loath their government beyond anything seen before in history…

Keith April 18, 2006 9:26 PM

Michael Higgins’s post on Apr 1 regarding triggering the Cumbre Vieja (which is exactly what I was going to suggest!!) is by far the best “Movie Plot Threat” in the theme of this contest. The idea is not just to kill people, but to do it in a hugely over-the-top way that is unbury-able by the press and governments, and categorically unforgetable. Besides, this threat would hardly dent the “terrorist world.”
For background and “movie justifiability” see:

Killing people conventionally is way too slow with too little real impact. Ecological disaster is too slow. But THIS takes the worst natural disaster of the past century and scales it up by orders of magnitude. This is REAL disaster movie material!!! Not protected, just sitting there waiting to be cooked off. (Better than a comet because we can actually go look at Cumbre Vieja and visualize just where to place the charges!!)

A well financed team, a North Korean or Iranian “device” (why waste it on Isreal when you can take out The Great Satan itself!) and you’ve made the world free for totalitarianism!

Much to my chagrin, Higgins got to it first it looks like to me. 🙂

Mister Me April 19, 2006 1:47 AM

Unlikely, yet still plausible? Story of my life. In the interest of not boring everyone to death with all the requisite slice of life posturing, I’ll jump right in.

In the dead of night, a soldier outside an undisclosed secret military facility has his neck broken by an invisible evil. A little girl is awakened to the sound of tanks outside her window. It is the present day.

A nefarious band of terrorists has itself mailed first class to the United States. Utilizing inexpensive hardware and simple incendiary devices, they’ve managed to destroy many of the internet’s major nodes and other vital communications hubs, simultaneously crippling the air and rail systems and disrupting satellite feeds. CENTCOM is alert level Zed as clandestine military operations in the middle east have been compromised internally. Several agents experience gruesome, rapid-fire deaths.

Hotel room, daytime. A group of stereotypical militant jihadists are inspecting what appears to be a trained bird of prey; a falcon, or perhaps a bald eagle. We soon learn that the bird is really a convincing remote controlled airplane. It flaps its wings as one of the mustachioed men laughs maniacally. Cigar smoke fills the room. Through the haze, we close in on a shot of the cigar’s label. Made in Cuba.

The president is a bumbling yokel with less of a clue than a bulemic cheerleader at fat camp. His approval rating has sunk to an unprecedented depth following an unpopular invasion of an especially unintimidating country. Concealed by his curtain of embattled ignorance, a coup is in the works. The secretary of defense is fearful that he may lose his job. Mounting discontent from military leaders and politicians down both sides of the aisle has the defense secretary walking on eggshells. Or so it would seem.

The little girl, it turns out, is the daughter of a top NSA agent. She is gifted with psychic abilities following her father’s accidental exposure to a supersecret military gas intended as a kind of non-temporary suntan lotion. Unknown to government researchers, the gas also effortlessly removes bubblegum from sidewalks. The NSA agent begins to unravel the defense secretary’s plans, and at the crucial moment when all is to be revealed to him, his office door swings open and his daughter runs in, screaming.

“Father! It’s not too late! You don’t want to know the horrible secret! They’ll kill you if you discover it!”

The envelope is seen descending in slow motion, further, more slowly still, until it is seen landing, ever-so-softly and with some Vaseline on the lens, smack dab in the middle of an extra-fancy NSA trashcan.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have begun a secret invasion of their own, with all the people of China – men, women, and children – paddling their way over to America in small, unassuming boats.

The plan, as it turns out, is to fly the fake eagle at the president. The bird may be strapped with some kind of explosive, or else it may emit a poison gas from its nose. Either way, the secret service guys will not shoot at it, fearing that it may be on some endangered species list somewhere. It’s only a matter of time before the president’s big speech at Tom Cruise’s placenta banquet, and you’d better believe the Scientologists are in on it. The clock is ticking.

A Mujahideen splinter group has spiked the water supplies of all major U.S. cities with hallucinogens. The Internet is still mostly unavailable, which has created a sort of YouTube- and MySpace-deprivation psychosis pandemic. Martial law has been imposed and only crazy people with guns are allowed outside after dark. Politicians and pundits are once again seen literally standing atop their soapboxes, and doomsday prophets are congesting the streets with their unnecessarily large sandwich boards.

There you have it. Vote for me to find out how it ends. Hint: it has nothing to do with the kinkajou headed succubus.

Mister Me April 19, 2006 1:56 AM

Also, to Joe: backhoes won’t work, I’m afraid. Backhoes and explosives (or pickaxes and a lot of time) would.

SLiM April 19, 2006 2:26 AM

Here is my recursive movie-plot threat…

A group of terrorists enter a competition to find the best movie-plot threat.

They propose to make a film about a group of terrorists who enter a competition to find the best movie-plot threat.

Their idea is to build a remote controlled plane carrying a gun and use it to assasinate the president because it can fly under radar etc. Whilst making the film they encourage the special effects industry to create the laser based command and control systems (to avoid radio jamming) and other technologies necessary to actually build and then use the device under the guise of filming.

The attempt is successful which throws the US political scene into turmoil and a Senate committee is created to investigate Hollywood for terrorist infiltration. The resulting McCarthyesque investigation brings the US movie industry to its knees.

Dougi April 19, 2006 2:28 AM

Steal a nuke or get some waste – waste must be post use, not post enricments.
Announce that the AWhiteB is tired of arabs dictating to the the USofA. Announce AWB-Hassidic alliance and announce that a nuke will be set of in some downtown.
Get lots of lpg in tankers – 1000 tonnes should be enough. Hire an ampitheatre for a Orphans benefit concert. Spend money on tickets, organisation of benefit and publicity. Arrange rehersal. Let off fireworks, have party with local religious groups and churches. Send everyone home. announce second rehersal. Burn nuke on thermite bed (Potassium Permanganate, Aluminium powder, steel wool, – about 100 kg) in the ampitheatre. a good hot fire is required to lift fallout plume.
Early am, a frosty morning at the Mile High Stadium would be good, fill up ampitheatre with LPG. remote ignite.
go on holiday with left over money.
After some time – say one week-announce successful nuke detonation.
Say AWhiteB, Hassidics only involved as front men for Sierra Club
Goals achieved
a) choice of terrorist groups changes political landscape
b) damage and fallout will look very nukey
c) everyone hates us now/clean up at home first.
d) world economy changes
e) RoW cheers as USA takes bat and ball, goes home.

ECA April 19, 2006 3:10 AM

Lets do away with any real education.
Lets get rid of about 90% of the cash.

with the man power of 20-30..Sitting in 20 states, all making Molitov cocktails, from dollor store Alcohol and deasal fuel, and maybe abit of gliceran…
aAt the end of summer as the fields are almost ready for harvest and the forests are drying out…2-4 persons in each state start up their cars and head for the harvest.
They drive down back roads into the RURAL areas and throw Burning cocktails into the fields, hit the hiways and do it AGAIN 50 miles down the road…
Hitting the fields, and the dry forests, could decemate about 1/2-2/3’s of the crops and light up the night with forest fires.
After 2 days of road travel they can disappear… With something like 2000 fires burning accross the US..

ECA April 19, 2006 3:14 AM

Another one is also easy…
Trojan nuke plant, had Waste barrels sitting on there site, for years after it closed… and its on the hiway system..
WANT it, TAKE it…
Wasnt any REAL security, and the plant is RIGHT off the main hiway, next to the river.. Take it up and Dump it into the head waters of the Snake and Mississippi.. should kill off enough fish and people, to casue ALOT of disruption…easy..

rkm April 19, 2006 4:05 AM

The Promotional Peppermint Attack:

Every trade show / hospitality event seems to massive amounts of free breath mints, not to mention airliners and cafes.

These mints are shipped in by the cattering companies in huge anonymous plastic bags.

The recipe is simple:

Take a lot of arsenic trioxide, add enogh sugar and peppermint oil to cover the metallic taste and roll out into litle white balls.

Distribute wildly at various events – and suddenly you got people either becoming very ill or dying in droves. And if you were to get these mints into wide spread circulation they’d be popping up for years to come.

It could be the end to the minty breath as we know it…

Jon Leirdal April 19, 2006 4:05 AM

Here is another one.
Buy 450000$ worth of Termite.
Make travel arrangements and rent truck.
Travel to Yellowstone.
Drive vehicle into to the crater of the supervolcano there. (There is maps to the thinnest area on the web)
Detonate Termite.

If my movieplot plan is successful: One supervolcano eruption.

A lot of damage and disruption in the old US. (And of course in the rest of the world too, but … heavy damage is essential)

Podders April 19, 2006 4:32 AM

Here’s my synopsis, I’d be very cheap to pad it out 😉

All these plots are too incendiary; one must look for the weakest link and that is the grey matter between the presidents ears. What about a spy who get close to him and starts tippling, discretely at first and then whamo pops the question “How about a swift one George????, the prez tumbles off the wagon, starts binging and making even worse decisions, until one night heavily fuelled and depressed he decides he’s going to end it ALL.

ECA April 19, 2006 6:02 AM

Still to say…
Being in the food production industry, inseting small amouts of boric acid into the food stuffs would be easy, and VERY deadly..

considering chicken poks takes about 2 weeks to infect…And the US has wiped it out(to a point) and extra shots are not given to adults…It would be very easy to carry it, and then jump into the Airlines and spread it, WIDELY..

Birp April 19, 2006 6:21 AM

One “soft” movie-plot threath,… or not so soft?….
(if anti-virus companys catch it early, could be soft; otherwise, can be “hard”)

Low profile computer virus, as concealed as posible. Whose targets where calc-sheets or databases. And the only payload that it carries was random data swaping capability, always between same column/field of diferent rows/records.

If changes are slow enough, wen users become aware that something happens with their data…. can be too late to recover from backup copies.

What can be worse than lost data…?, corrupt data that you can’t trust!

Serious databases are well protected, and it’s difficult to swap data into….

…But think it over for a moment: if it where possible…, for example, what about patient names, file numbers or treatments swaping in hospital records?; or account numbers, payment amounts, client id’s… swaping in ERP records?…or…..

dave437 April 19, 2006 6:21 AM

World War 1 In A US City

Conspirators research rail shipments of liquid chlorine; 90 tons in a GATX tank car. They

find one shipment routed through a major city, and locate two properly spaced road/track

intersections the train will cross. They high-jack two ambulances; and drive one to the

first intersection; it sits on the track with sirens and lights going – the train stops to

avoid hitting it. The two intersections are selected so that the chlorine tank car is now

stopped at the second one. The second ambulance, driven by a suicide bomber, arrives at the

stationary tank car and crashes into it, causing the chlorine to spill, spreading 90 tons of

poisonous gas throughout the surrounding area.

This would cost a lot less than $500,000.

I sent a somewhat more detailed version of this scenario to the Department of Homeland

Security several years ago. I hope they took appropriate action.

symcbean April 19, 2006 8:23 AM

I’m beginning to think that BS may just be looking for a large sample dataset with high entropy content for testing out how well wholesale surveillance methods for bulletin board postings work….but here’s mine.

Since nuclear weapons and biologicial warfare are just so yesterday, I’d do this: first steal a preview copy of a major film release. Produce thousands of DVD copies inserting subliminal messages, or even overt advertising and mail them out to as many people as possible. Double whammy – I’m undermining capitalism-as-we-know-it (maybe the studio will even go bust) and getting my message across directly. It does give some substance to what MPAA, but I guess that’s what they call collateral.

James A. Robbins April 19, 2006 9:38 AM

Place a small, shaped charge on the cables or pulley on a random selection of elevators in New York city, set to go off when the elevator nears the top of the shaft. Even if no one is killed (the safety breaks are supposed to stop them) access to the top floors of most office towers would be blocked until all the elevators in the city could be checked. For fun, another set of explosives (only a couple would be needed) that blow the floor out of some elevators, set to go off 24 hours later, would undermine public confidence (just when you thought it was safe to get back in the elevator), further undermining public confidence and disrupting the business structure.

Panic sets in when those who live in high rises realize that they will have to take their poodle down all those flights of stairs to take it for a walk.

Pauline April 19, 2006 10:18 AM

  1. Worldwide infection of parasites (intestinal worms that reproduce within humans.)
  2. Infection spread through infiltration of food processing plants (hiring of unskilled workers, no security screening).
  3. People who feel they are infected are reluctant to communicate and seek help.
  4. Known anti-parasitics cause this particular species to migrate to other parts of the body.
  5. Terrorists have key to cure and demand ransom in the form of major financial control or world financials.
  6. World powers pitted against each other in race for limited anti-parasitics.
  7. Day is saved by computer hacker who hits on a cure for her dog.

Tank April 19, 2006 10:41 AM

2 trucks are hijacked. One containing giant freaking lasers and the other containing sharks. The rest writes itself.

RadioActive Chief April 19, 2006 10:45 AM

Keep it simple.

Set up 8-10 teams of 2-3 people. All that’s needed are shotguns, matches, and non-descript used cars.

Start each strike team simultaneously in widely dispersed rural areas near interstate highways.

Attack 2 isolated farmsteads: kill the people, burn the buildings. Scram, and drive down the interstate 40-60 miles, repeat the same procedure through the day for a predetermined period of time, or until caught. Changing directions may help avoiding apprehension. It may even be possible to get away afterwards!

The whole country would be in a total uproar by the end of the day, with roadblocks, traffic delays, interruption of trucking transport, local vigilante activity, etc.

monchichi April 19, 2006 11:46 AM

A terrorist group starts infiltrating and recruiting large groups of homeless all around with country with offers of food and shelter and the chance to exact revenge on a country that has forgotten them. The most “able” and fanatic to the cause are sent to further recruit and activate cells. They are trained in seclusion, given drugs to control their more “unpredictable” habits, brought back to health and brainwashed into becoming human weapons. A day is chosen to send them loose, as suicide bombers, snipers, hijackers…what have you. Chaos, wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues.

LEC April 19, 2006 1:40 PM

How about smuggling food laced with ergot and LSD into the cafeterias in the Senate and House? Imagine the chaos, all the bad legislation, the out-of-control spending and pork barrel projects, the bridges to nowhere . . . Oh, wait, someone must have done that already!

gandalf23 April 19, 2006 1:47 PM

Oh. Forgot it was supposed to be unlikely.

hmmm… Ok here’s my second entry. (Yes, I stole chunks from joris, but that’s a longstanding tradition in Hollywood, and man was his “Thanksgiven” idea funny)

movie title: “Montezuma’s Revenge!”

Terrorist teams break into the various tequilla and beer facilities in Mexico. Once inside they insert slow acting poison into the production lines. Enough should be added so that one or two bottles are all that needs to be drunk for fatal results.

Spring break is just around the corner. 2008 is widely heralded as the 100th anniversary of Spring Break. Bars, fraternaties, and tourist spots all over the US are gearing up and ordering massive amounts of Mexican alcohol.

Can the young brash CIA agent(Luke Wilson) together with his leggy scientist(initially hostile but they will sleep together half way through, a latina actress- Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, or Michelle Rodriguez), african american forensics investigator (Chris Rock) and alcoholic failed partner(Bruce Willis) unravel the evil terrorist’s plot in time?

Can they discover that the evil plan is for America to break into an all out race war?

Or will they fall into the terrorist’s trap and believe that La Raza (with Al Pacino as the militant leader) are behind this?

Will America’s most sacred week of drunken debaucery turn into a graveyard of death?

Will girls ever go wild again?

Or will Wilson and his brave team find the antidote in time (synthesized from Bruce Willis’ amazingly effective liver), and discover the true meaning of spring break?

Oh! Even better!

movie title: “Saint Patrick’s Day”

Terrorist teams break into the various beer facilities around the US by getting low paying jobs on the nighttime cleanup crews. Once inside they insert slow acting poison into the production lines. Enough should be added so that one or two bottles are all that needs to be drunk for fatal results.

The poison turns the beer green, but no one notices because St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. Bars, fraternaties, and tourist spots all over the country are gearing up for the biggest drinking day of the year and ordering massive amounts of alcohol..

Can the young brash Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision special agent(Luke Wilson) together with a leggy scientist(initially hostile but they will sleep together half way through, a latina actress- Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, or Michelle Rodriguez), african american forensics investigator (Samuel L Jackson) and alcoholic failed partner (Bruce Willis) unravel the evil terrorist’s plot in time?

Will America’s most drunken of days turn into graveyard of death?

Has America lost the luck o’ the Irish?

Will the Blarney Stone be the grave marker for America?

Or will Wilson and his brave team find the antidote in time (synthesized from Bruce Willis’ amazingly effective liver), and discover the true meaning of Saint Patrick’s Day?

Xentac April 19, 2006 2:27 PM

The terrorist group convinces NASA that a meteor heading towards earth would end up in perfect geosynchronous orbit to create a space elevator []. They then put in a bid and win the contract to create such an elevator.

All of this construction goes on, they hook up the elevator to the meteor, and then everyone realizes that their original goal wasn’t to create a space elevator at all! They just needed an excuse to pull a large space rock into the earth! Suddenly the space elevator is converted into its true function, a giant winch.

Now the world must put together an elite task force to break into their own military base and cut the meteor free before it’s pulled in far enough to enter a slow, steady descent to the surface.

Included would be an old crazy man who knew all along that the terrorists were going to do it, but no one believed him.

MUnky April 19, 2006 2:57 PM

The BEST one would be releasing 10 tribbles into the wild.

[quote]With an average litter of ten, a single Tribble can therefore create a population of 1,771,561 within three days, and an amazing 304,481,639,541,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in thirty days![/quote]
in just 1 month the entire north american continent will be completely full of tribbles.

Now how can you beat that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bonjo April 19, 2006 4:35 PM

Nuke Hurricane: The terrorists get some old soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba and then plant them in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Then at the height of hurricane season they detonate the bomb in the path of an approaching hurricane. This does two things. First the water temperature raises 12 degrees making this hurricane stronger than anything ever imagined. Second, the radiation is also picked up by the storm. With category 5 winds extending 500 miles from the eye, massive flooding and wind damage is inflicted all the way from New Orleans to Chicago. Every hospital in America is filled with people suffering radiation burns and poisoning. The only possible prevention from this becoming a reality is to invade Cuba and place cameras all over the sea bed. All fishermen and boat owners are required to register a newly formed anti nuclear hurricane agency and report any suspecious warheads spotted while out on the water.

Tim April 19, 2006 5:01 PM

The scariest terrorist movie plot I can think of is that somehow they make George Bush president for life! It would star Ben Afflleck or Pauly Shore as Bush.

Dick Evans April 19, 2006 6:16 PM

Possible Plot. Have the 20+ terrorists buy rifles at random (pretty easily done). Day after Thanksgiving (biggest shopping day of the year), they each wait at a different large retailer or mall until just before doors open, then fire 20 rounds each and disappear. Imagine the economic impact to the nation. Over the next week, they target malls at random, just a couple of shots and disappear. Wounds count the same as kills, and maybe are better theater for the media interviews. Law enforcement catches a few, but they operate independently, so no clues or leads from one to link to the others. Excellent theater for the “good guys” suspending all sorts of civil rights in their search for the “perps”, who really just hide in plain sight. Scares me just writing it.

matt April 19, 2006 7:16 PM

Mega tsunami.
Away from the eyes of the american security services terrorist detonate explosives in a volcano in the Canary islands , off North Africa. if placed right the western part of the volcano will slide into the ocean and create a mega tsunami that will be as 160 feet high when it hit American shores. Scientist agree it can happen the question is when will the volcano collapse.
the terrorists can use the wealth of academic studies on the subject. pretending to be researchers the terrorists can pretend to be taking “soil samples” when they burry the explosives. working on a remote island of the shores of Morocco the terrorist can have less problem smuggling the explosives more over 500,000 bucks goes much further in africa. until the explosives are actually smuggled there,there is no smoking gun.

Jan April 19, 2006 8:38 PM

Simultaneous tsunamis wipe out east and west coasts killing millions.

The Nepal Maoist Liberation Front fed up with years of US military support for dictator King Gyanendra decide to take the fight to US soil. Their outlandish plan? To sink Hawaii and the Canary Islands and let the ensuing massive tsunamis flood the East and West coasts. How you ask? Bearded suicide bombers disguised as geologists simultaneously guide stolen deep sea submarines packed with C4 into the already unstable continental shelf’s under Hawaii and the Canary Islands.

Back story? A investigative journalist questions what a land locked high altitude country like Nepal doing lavishly funding a deep-sea-ocean-research institute? An FBI agent investigates the theft of two deep sea submarines in different parts of the world.

Money Shot 1: The sinking of Hawaii

Money Shot 2: Surfing the Tsunami. Elite team of Navy Seals and west coast surfers overcome their differences to ride the world’s biggest wave to strategically place tsunami-calming-bombs in wave’s path.

Plot twist: The terrorists actually funded by shadowy group of middle America real estate agents who are buying up huge tracts of land in New Mexico and Colorado with a plan to turn it into beach front properties

Mr Ska April 19, 2006 9:24 PM

Gas Bar Cancer Terror

Who owns America’s gasoline infrastructure? The important part of it is right in the public domain – gas stations. In many cases, they are owned by individuals as independent or franchised stations.

Deep-cover terrorists – enemies on American soil here for years or decades – purchase and operate gas stations across the country, specifically in the more populous metropolitan areas. Additionally, more terrorists will get jobs as truckers hauling fuel tankers, having access to both their fuel load, the destination tanks, and refinery distribution centers. At the same time, they start stockpiling quantities of low-level radioactive material, possibly from decomissioned X-ray machines, scrapped smoke detectors, or other sources.

On a pre-designated date, these materials are atomized by grinding or electrical discharge machining and introduced into the fuel tanks of these gas stations, possibly including diesel stations as well. As a result, highly aerosolized radioactive material is dispersed throughout urban centers, for a period of weeks or even months. This will expose tens of millions of Americans to these cancer-causing agents.

Within a year or less, cancer rates in these metropolitan areas will start skyrocketing. No one will suspect why, or even how, until vehicle engines start prematurely failing, and registering a high degree of radiation. By then it will be too late – over half of the US population, regardless of age, background, religion, or political beliefs, will have been exposed, necessitating the immediate confiscation of all fuel available to the public in every gas station, and decontaminated if possible. Transportation will grind to a halt for weeks until clean fuel can be distributed. Concurrently, the entire population of the US will need to be treated for radiation exposure, for which there will not be nearly enough for even a tenth of the population. Rioting will be prevalent.

This will have long-lasting effects on the entire country, including high infant mortality, stillbirth, and miscarriage rates. Cremation of the deceased may not be permitted, depending on how contaminated each person becomes with radioactive material.

The terrorists involved will not be immune to their plans – they will get sick and die to. They will be on a suicide mission, and will very likely succeed.

Haven April 19, 2006 9:41 PM

The terrorists resurrect the bubonic plague in its pneumonic plague form – it can be transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets. The mortality rate for untreated cases in real life is supposedly over 90%. Though the plague can currently be treated with modern antibiotics, this strain has been evolved by the terrorists in the lab to resist treatment (in the same way that many modern viruses have naturally evolved to resist antibiotics).

The terrorists release large numbers of infected fleas on airplanes and in major airports, and perhaps in places like the Pentagon and the White House. Any place with large crowds, such as major sports events or concerts, are targeted. Eventually millions of people will be infected with the bubonic plague without any chance of treatment – most of them will die within a week of their infection. (The terrorists could have infected themselves with a treatable strain, thus becoming immune to being infected again?)

The outbreak of the bubonic plague would not only cause millions of deaths but also create a mass hysteria. Pretty much everyone has learned about the Black Death of the 14th century and seen the images of dead bodies piled up in carts and fields. The mass media, by its mere nature of reporting events, would make it known to everyone that the basic second ‘black death’ had come to America. People everywhere would be freaking out — the phrase ‘bubonic plague’ has tragic and well–known connotations/history that other diseases (SARS, anthrax, etc do not have). Americans would be terrified.

With this kind of mass hysteria, the terrorists would basically be able to do anything. Blowing up a school would provoke a much greater reaction than it would otherwise. It would be easy for the terrorists to induce chaos and confusion in the masses.

As we all know, the Black Death in the 14th century had HUGE imacts on the economy & society of Europe. It would likely also change the course of America’s history – probably not to the same extent, but it would definitely cause many lasting damages.

This probably sounds more like a disaster or killer virus movie, but that’s what’ll make it more effective. The movie could have a main plot about the effects of the black plague, juxtaposed with flashback scenes of the terrorists planning and releasing the plague. The concept of a biological weapon (disease) that is released by just 30 people but ultimately kills millions is incredibly terrifying (to me, anyway).

The focus of the movie could be about the horror of the second black death, as well as the inner conflicts that the terrorists face when planning and carrying out this act. The possible inner conflicts could be yet another kind of horror.. even though the terrorists know so many people will be killed and may even feel guilt or doubt about it, they still ultimately go through with it.

Loren April 19, 2006 10:02 PM

Many of you are thinking small!

1) Spend something on education for one of the guys in biology. Synthesize smallpox (feasible for about $250k), infect the rest of the people and fly about the country until they collapse.

2) Attack the power grid. Place bombs on as many of the big transformers as they can. Those aren’t items you can just order up replacements for. You can probably get the whole nation this way.

3) Fuel tankers. Make a bunch of bombs with timers. Sneak around truckers stops at night, dropping them into gasoline tanker trucks. They fall to the bottom and stick themselves in place. In addition to the explosives there’s stuff in there that will burn when exposed to air. When the timers run down (some weeks from when they start) they burst the tanker and the fuel spills out and ignites. $500k will buy a LOT of bombs, that’s a LOT of big fires.

4) Gas stations. Similar to the above idea but you drop the bombs into the tanks in gas stations. Burst them open, light them on fire. Get enough of them and you’ll overwhelm the firefighting capacity of the city and might even be able to burn it down. $500k would suffice for many cities.

Prontissimo April 19, 2006 11:05 PM

Ok, here’s my plot for you all:

First, I have seen the word Coke and Pepsi in a few examples but this one goes way further.

Infiltrate Coke and other soda’s factories with chemical expert terrorists
Introduce latent agent, unworthy or undetectable in and by itself, so you can distribute as much as possible
This agent must be something that remains un-eliminated by human metabolism.
Then, on a given date, introduce the active agent, in many other manners, say public water systems, orange juice, food, fast food, air, whatever (at very large scale here),
But that agent in and by itself must also be something that would not warrant immediate action.
Then watch events unfold as the colliding agents, one dormant, the other the precipitator, create havoc and spread death while World health authorities scramble for bits and pieces as the evidence is scattered and difficult to isolate.

That would be my plot.

eca April 19, 2006 11:37 PM

want something that hasnt been updated in 50 years???
Most power grids are based on relay stations…
These stations are on the IDEA that a BASIC amount of power MUST be taken, NO LESS…
There are MILLIONS of these statations…

cuttin ght OUTPUT lines will short the WHOLE thing..BACK to the main stations and power plants…

Dr. Maximus April 20, 2006 3:36 AM

blowing stuff up … oh, c’mon. lace $20 bills with dimethylmercury (a neurotoxin that can be easily fabricated by any decent biochem grad student) and spread them around major metropolitian areas, airports and tourist hubs. toxicity is off-scale but symptoms take months to manifest themselves. by then it’s too late. send sample bills to the CDC and media outlets and watch the panic as people realize handling our paper money carries a death sentence. the dollar as de facto world currency ends abruptly as does US economic hegemony. euros anyone?

Ludwig April 20, 2006 4:53 AM

Terrorists infiltrate SETI (yes I know we already had that, but read on) and send out insulting messages to technologically superior races, claiming to speak in the name of the USA. Eventually such a race receives these messages and proceeds to whipe the USA off the map (“that’ll teach ’em manners!”) with a cosmic death ray.

Mustafa Syed April 20, 2006 5:32 AM

It seems somebody already has a workable movie plot that is being played throughout. Just leave it to media, techees and ploticians, who needs terrorists to scare prople.

fuo April 20, 2006 11:14 AM

Movie Plot:
A famous security expert announces a Movie-Plot Threat Contest, which is answered by an entry, which contains the most devastating terrorist plot ever thought of. Someone decides to realize this plot, and the movie spins an intriguing tale about how this plot begins a vicious self referential and recursive causal chain. The movie cleverly never tells us what the plot is, but some have conjectured that it has something to do with announcing a movie-plot threat contest.

Bruce Schneier April 20, 2006 1:02 PM

“A famous security expert announces a Movie-Plot Threat Contest, which is answered by an entry, which contains the most devastating terrorist plot ever thought of. Someone decides to realize this plot, and the movie spins an intriguing tale about how this plot begins a vicious self referential and recursive causal chain. The movie cleverly never tells us what the plot is, but some have conjectured that it has something to do with announcing a movie-plot threat contest.”

Too improbable….

Jim Finnigan April 20, 2006 1:31 PM

Two plot ideas:

  1. Terrorists hide anthrax-laden eggs on the White House lawn for annual Easter Egg hunt.

  2. Terrorists hide anthrax in the cocaine stash at a post-Oscars Hollywood party (this movie would never get made – hits too close to home)

Timm Murray April 20, 2006 3:13 PM

Haven: in the same way that many modern viruses have naturally evolved to resist antibiotics.

Yes, funny how viruses resist antibiotics 🙂

Jay Garmon April 20, 2006 3:31 PM

The key to any terrorist attack is to target the softest point in the infrastructure with minimal distance between yourself and your objective. As goofy as it sounds, there are 47 Starbucks coffeehouses within two miles of the White House, and more than a dozen within three blocks. (You can check my math at by using the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC address in the store locator applet.)

I’m pretty sure Starbucks doesn’t do background checks on its employees, and a little scouting and some patience would let a terror cell operating under your constraints put at least a dozen barristas on shift within sight of the White House (or the Capitol, or the NYSE) on the morning of a key workday.

Now, all you need is a hyperpotent, odorless/flavorless toxin with a variable incubation period, and you could create a short-lived, highly specific outbreak of any malady you choose.

The obvious first choice would be botulism, but that kills too fast and, since its anaerobic, is darn near impossible to cultivate, especially if the terror cell isn’t of the bioengineering variety (it would also blow the budget). You also couldn’t buy enough botox–which is sold in expensive, well-below-lethal doses–to do the job. So botulism is out. Polio would also be an ideal candidate, except that we innoculate against it. “Mad Cow” prions would also be great, but isolating them is also out-of-scope for our hypothetical terrorists. I’d recommend LSD, which can be bought on the street, is odorless and colorless (and bonds well to sugar) and has the advantage of chaos over lethality. Hordes of confused, traumatized victims distrusting of previous comfort source is the goal here–you don’t want them dying before they’ve even elft the store.

In any case, your target group would be the Starbucks demographic, which typically skews young, affluent, and highly educated as comapres to the general populace–precisely the demo for highly placed government staffers. All it takes is for a handful of press-worthy individuals (preferably somebody who has booked to a Sunday Morning flack program at least once) to freak out within the halls of power, and you’ve got a media firestorm in the nation’s capital. Better yet, until the toxin and the attack vector are identified, everyone is looking through peepholes, trying to figure out what the basic facts of the attack are. As details leak out, the same demographic in other locales–namely the professors, business folk, hollywood types, and anyone with with both the disposable income and self-possessed image cosnciousness to buy a $5 cup of coffee–will wonder if they’ve been hit, and if they’re next.

It’s a bit un-operatic for the terrorist mindset, but it does expose a point of vulnerability noone wants to admit, and that’s the goal.

eca April 20, 2006 3:36 PM

open a line of Movie theaters, that show films and have food stuffs at 1/2 price for NEW releases…
Crowd up the theaters, and in 1 short duration, after everyone LIKES the idea, infect them all…
Cheap easy and they could make a profit DOING it.

fuo April 20, 2006 4:48 PM

“Too improbable….”

Too bad. For a moment there, I thought I was an actor in my own movie….

Anonymous April 20, 2006 7:28 PM

don’t center it on the US, the world is bigger than you, so as contrast I’ll center on The Nethelands, were I live 😛

as said above hit the softes bit in anny place, in holland I’d hit all the land well below water level.

my plot’d be blow up dam’s dykes etc..
if strategicaly chosen you could blow 4 dykes or so in holland and scratch amsterdam, Roterdam etc. that’s probebly a couple of milion dead… not funny, but you have to know witch dykes to blow and when etc…
just to show how much ould be gone.

i doubt it’d hapen though hitting the right places at the right time (fload wind etc), they’d have to wait for the right time and they’d be cought (i think and hope, there are aledgetly more phone taps in the netherlands than in the entire US so it sohouldn’t be a suprise that the (stupid) BigBrother show came from the netherlands) ).

I don’t know what a simple bomb costs nor what would be needed for a dyke or dam but the budget seems more then adequate for a couple of bombs.

KingNothing April 20, 2006 8:25 PM

Simple plot….Happy ending…

Every 11th day, a suicide bomber would detonate a bomb while passing through the security checkpoint. After 15 successful attacks, the bombers start placing messages stating that if allowed through the checkpoint, the guards and people in line will be saved. The bombers would quietly ask to be let through the checkpoint. They would only show the bomb to the security guards without actually detonating it. If allowed, the bomber detonates on target further ahead. If not, the bomber detonates at the checkpoint.

Several guards would chose to let the bomber through, saving his life and the lives of everyone in line.

This would essentially prove to the public that no one is safe. Any target can successfully be hit.

The happy ending is when the government can no longer pretend to make us safe by removing our freedoms. We would be forced to be strong and resilient. Most generals know that you can not win a war with air power alone. People become used to uncertainty and more unity against the enemy.

munky April 20, 2006 9:39 PM

Ohhh i thought of another.

The terrorists all take their weapons and such and destroy all people who produce narcotics(weed-coke-e-h)

then we have a world wield epidemic of withdrawls.

This could be a great comedy. Have it from the view of someone like Courtney Love and she could be going around and be just going nuts with all the right-wing anti-drugs people who are getting withdrawls and stuff. could be pretty funny.

d2 April 20, 2006 11:45 PM

I’ve always thought that suicide bombers lacked any sense whatsoever (“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country”–Patton). But they’re scary, and such attacks could easily be done in the USA.

And even scarier was the Virginia/Maryland sniper crisis, because of Malvo/Mohammed having sense enough to ‘live to fight again tomorrow’.

Watching from a safe vantage point a few thousand miles from DC, the scariest terrorist activity I’ve imagined was many cells duplicating the snipers… Malvo/Mohammed times 25 moving randomly around the US, perhaps announcing their next kill-time, or killing simultaneously enough that the pattern is recognized. They could worsen things by some mouthpiece making outlandish/random demands. The demands might be more demoralizing if they weren’t all high-cost… they could be designed to make citizens question our ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ mindset. Cost of such an operation is way under $500k… 25 nondescript cars, fifty guys staying in motels or whatever, and a few crates of hunting rifles.

To make it good hollywood, when the good guys initially catch/kill the first-detected of these evil dudes, a plot twist would be to have the shooters be a couple of unrelated innocent joe-schmoes coerced into doing a single killing because family members were threatened.

The thoroughly non-hollywood idea that used to scare an industrial-hygiene PhD I worked for: shutting down technical infrastructure using clouds of small carbon fibers. He used various particles to model airflow in HVAC ducts, and one substance he used was short carbon fibers. They are highly conductive, small and light enough to almost aerosolize themselves, and they short out electronic gear with a vengance… imagine tiny short circuits randomly between all those Surface-mount chip leads. Now, imagine that crap being dumped over Wall Street or anywhere else that has both high profile and lots of computers or telecom gear.

Once things short out from these fibers, they SOMETIMES are recoverable after washing repeatedly. Most times, the damage is permanent.

Oh, and because a decade has quietly gone by since I learned of carbon fibers, I did some googling… turns out that Janes and other Defense geeks have discussed an existing bomb based on tech related to this concept. is one such article., and pics of Blu-114 are at

TroubleCity April 21, 2006 1:57 AM

I’ll get to the movie plot momentarily; I think it’s a reasonable and flexible one, and which my friends (who are mostly engineers or scientists) have talked about for a while over tea when we wanted to ‘blue sky’.
But a couple of comments on the terror profile:

  1. There may have been 20-30 unskilled people directly involved in the 9/11 attack, but that set of people was underpinned by another host of underlings who helped make a lot of these things possible, and were further abstracted from the scene – some may not even have been in the USA at the time (of the attack or lead-up). And – any operation like that requires a coordinator … or a mastermind, if you like. So the 20-30 unskilled people are on the ground, hands-on, and are basically expendable resources (of course easy to do with Islamic fundamentalists, if they are promised that all they have to do is blow up some infidels, take themselves out with the infidels, and then they get 70 virgins in perpetuity in Paradise – as if).
  2. Terrorists are not known for their ethical behaviour, so they will not necessarily stick to a budget, either. In fact, they can be quite parsimonious and decide they don’t want to pay anything for anything.
    So, they steal, cheat, kidnap, etc., to achieve operational readiness, and this usually requires only a few weapons and accessories.
    Look at 9/11 – none of them said, ‘Gee, a 767 costs [n] million dollars, but hey – that’s above our budget – so we’ll find another way to do make this thing happen….’ Or ‘Our ethos is that we cannot kill people in the air, so we have to hijack empty planes….” No – they stole/hijacked the planes with people in them to boot. Easy – and cheap, and considering this as a system, it displays several layers of terror including what they actually did, not only enabling how they achieved their targets, but what they took with them to do it.
  3. This is the most important point. I’ve read the 9/11 report, and have some military experience in this area. And one thing that really chilled me about the 9/11 attacks was not that they attacked – the projection of terrorism is really only limited by money and opportunity – but rather what they attacked – basically what can be seen as (and I’m sure the terrorists see as) America’s “gods” were attacked, in line with the traditional mode of terrorism, to shake reliability of those “gods”. These targets were not random, and were attacks on commerce (WTC) and on the military (The Pentagon), which most Americans would have to admit are what they stand on when they think of themselves as nationally/culturally superior to other countries. Today’s terrorists may actually have a syncretic agenda (partially ‘traditional’ terrorist motivation, and partially sectarian or localised hate that they want to project outward as money and opportunity allow), but that makes them no less dangerous than a non-fundamentalist (or what some may call strictly a ‘professional’ terrorist – lol).

——– Start of scenario ———–

To the plot:

Somewhere around 2020, nanotechnology has progressed to a point where nano-structuring is commonplace and the elements of a nano-structure can engage in low levels of “hive” intelligence.
China has been progressing more swiftly than any other country and keeping their breakthroughs in this area under wraps, and so no-one else knows about this in the rest of the developed world.

The Chinese have developed the ability to construct programmable ‘nano-devices’ or ‘nano-structures’, have them de-resolve into what appears like really fine dust, release that de-resolved structure package into a general (target) area, such that the de-resolved bits (nanites) will all coalesce at a particular place back into that original nano-structure or device, to perform their programmed task at the programmed place or under the programmed conditions.

The attack could come along a couple of axes as a start:

1) One set of nano-structures are designed to eat (through) high-grade steel (e.g., nuclear containment) structures (but also skyscrapers, bridges, tunnels, etc.), and in so doing enable themselves to replicate as they eat.

  1. Another set of nano-structures is a multi-structure system. These will become binary bombs when they restructure from the nanite form at a sensed target, and blow up immediately when they achieve their programmed environment. They will be attracted by caffeine, which becomes the host, and will detonate when that combination then comes in combination with both caffeine and stomach acid in concert. These will blow up coffee drinkers. (I included this one because I like coffee), and would give a good local touch to what is otherwise a global scenario – think of the corporate boss and his directors at an early morning meeting, and all of them have their coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts, followed a few minutes later by executive mush all over the place in the boardroom). Yummy.
  2. Another set of nano-structures are designed to create large atmospheric disturbances by destabilising the electromagnetic balance of the earth’s atmosphere, feeding on gamma radiation to grow and replicate themselves. They would cause a massive electromagnetic storm that covers the planet, preluded by a lot of localised destruction leading up to the full-blown storm, and the swapping of North/South poles. The resulting electromagnetic disruption would fry all electrical systems and render all electromagnetic devices useless.

… Noting – This could go to lots of other places, but regardless of what happens in addition in this scenario, of course terror ramps up pretty quickly (e.g., it only takes a couple of broad-banded threats that cross over political and societal boundaries to make it all come undone on a worldwide scale – it’s a bit scary just how fragile it all really would be) and it then becomes a question of ‘how much is more than enough’, especially if these structures can replicate.
This can be the problem with movies, as well – they tend not to end as quickly as the terrorism might end up having to go to achieve its goal.

But – I would end this movie plot with the nano-structures going out of control (another realism – mankind letting the genie out of the bottle too soon), and finishing off all life on the planet in some way that relates to a progression of the ‘hive intelligence’ into something else.

Partially, this finish is because I’ve been getting sick to death lately of these ‘end of the world’ movies that don’t deliver on their promise (e.g., 10.5, or the one about the super-volcano, and the last one about the killer electrical storms – the only reason I watched them was to see how – at least how the movie – saw the world ending(!) and they didn’t deliver – not one).
The way these movies already made go breeds a mentality (incurably humanistic and of course pollyanna) that mankind will always be able to wiggle his way out of trouble, but never sees to the other side of that question – what if we run across something that we can’t fight – or defeat?

That would be The End.

It wouldn’t hurt any of us to consider that scenario, regardless of how we get there, before the real thing were to come along, even if it starts out as a bit of escapism, as most movies are today.
Terrorism cannot be fairly treated as escapism, so making a movie about it at this level and trying to be real is perhaps not in the best taste … but when has that made Hollywood blush? As they say, no one has ever lost money under-estimating the mentality or morality of the viewing public.

But I suppose the good thing about this exercise is that, if we throw these scenarios out now, maybe even if they don’t make ‘good’ movies (by whatever standard), they will at least expose a possible axis of real threat. Picking the Chinese was not arbitrary; there are many who do believe that the Chinese, in another 30-40 years, will be a serious world security threat, albeit without the sort of restraint that the USA has had as the ascendant ’empire’ of late.

——— End of scenario ———

If you are wondering about what this nano-stuff is all about or how nanotechnology might become quickly ubiquitous and very (too) powerful in anyone’s hands, read some of Neal Stephenson’s work, especially ‘The Diamond Age’, which is solely about nano-technology. He probably has the best bead on what technology will be doing for (and to) us in the future, anywhere from 20-50 years from now.
I read his books with a mixture of fascination and dread, and I suspect that you will, too.

——— Bye —————

Nadrogirani KiberOfcan April 21, 2006 8:46 AM

Since there is an tech and financial limit…

Select one or several biggest cities. Destroy power grid (or at least some of the main nodes) that powers these cities, and do it around 9-10 PM when everybody is at home and it’s dark outside, wait 10-30 minutes for panic to spread, and then deploy homemade tear gas over the city(es) using rockets (homemade fireworks rockets would do just fine).

Now you have several elements – darkness, lack of power, lack of information about what has been happening, and tear gas, which (depending of the type) can even cause death if affected people have some kind of respiratory problems… What you get is wild panic in the darkness in the center of urban life… Enough to be remembered long after the attack.

And you probably wouldn’t have to spend all of the proposed budget…

Andrey April 21, 2006 9:30 AM

Hi folks!
Here’s my try:
1. Infiltrate a couple of gas stations. Throw small timered bombs into as many cars’ tanks as you can. The bomb’s timer should be set to explode all the cars simultaneously. You can throw the bombs for a couple of weeks before exploding them to get as many cars as possible.

  1. To gather a large crowd for to serve as a target for a terror attack one can fake an alien spaceship crash. A bit of surplus decorations from ‘Star Trek’ + some calls to local radio stations should do the job.
    Best regards,

Leo Pereira April 21, 2006 12:47 PM

My movie plots:

Dramatic effect plot:
Suicidal terrorists who have infiltrated the Secret Service (thus bypassing security) climb to the top of the Washington Monument and then attempt to launch a tactical nuclear missile (from a modified shoulder launched RPG no-less) at the Lincoln Memorial – where the President is giving a MLK day address in front of his cabinet, the Joint Chiefs and the Congressional Leadership. The only one who can stop them are this plucky ne-er-do-well ex-Secret Service Agent who was thrown off the presidentail detail for flirting with the first daughter (whom he’s now having an affair with).

Generate the most fear plot:
Terrorists plant a dirty bomb inside the Homer Simpson Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float – planning to detonate it right as the float passes the reviewing stand, ensuring that the explosion affects the greatest numbers of New Yorkers while also being seen by all Americans live – generating even greater fear within the country.

Delije Sever April 21, 2006 2:03 PM

Plot (with bits of reality):
Muslims takes over Kosovo and Western Macedonia and joins them together with Albania to form a greater muslim reich in the heart of Europe. Their ultimate target is USA (who ironically helped the muslims to take over Kosovo from the Christians).

The main character is an extremely clever computer specialist called Irhabi 007. By intercepting american radio traffic in Iraq he helps setting up an ambush that kills a great number of american soldiers. The radio traffic uses SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground And Airborne Radio System) and it is intercepted using the FH-1 frequency-hopping interceptor manufactured by VIDEOTON-MECHLABOR Manufacturing and Development Ltd of Hungary.

This ambush leads to political consequences for the whole middle east and the home opinion forces the US administration to finally redraw its forces from Iraq and Iran.

Mark April 21, 2006 2:20 PM

Dupont (or pick your favorite corporation) chemical weapons scientist engineer a chemical weapon able to withstand temperatures in excess or 1600F. Terrorists steal a quantity of this agent, add a small quantity to their 1982 Volkswagon Diesel Golf, and drive the streets of Manhatten (can’t use LA, Jack Bauer is there), dispersing the agent through the vehicles exhaust. Consumers quit driving for fear the gasoline supply has been contaminated, the major oil companies all file for bankruptcy, sending the market into a free fall. On the bright side, bicycle sales skyrocket many of America’s obese begin to loosing weight, the nation becomes healthier, and we all (well, those that survive) live happily ever after.

Bob April 21, 2006 3:58 PM

Since the purpose of terrorism is to scare as many people as possible why only scare regular people why not scare public servants too?
What I purpose is five; four-man teams one team per city; New York, DC, Chicago, LA and one floating. They plant bombs at random locations once a week. Where they are sure to kill at least one person. When the emergency responders show up, Police, Ambulance, Fire Department, etc, they shoot one with a high power sniper rifle at only one of the scenes. So now not only are the citizens afraid so are the people who are here to protect them. To double the effect one of the explosives should be set along high volume commuting corridor so people are afraid to come to work and when a bomb goes off it ties up traffic for at least half a day. The fifth team is completely free floating they work where and when they want but are active at least a couple a times a month. These teams get no information after initial training. No team is aware of another. Everything is on a time schedule and no team’s schedule is the same as another’s.
After a predetermined period of time they switch cities; some of the same cities, some different cities but never the same team in the same city.
After martial law is declared in at least five major cities –population around 500,000—the teams slow the pace until they only do one thing a year or any time there is discussion about lifting martial law. By that time it does not even have to be anything major or even kill anyone as long as the people knew it was related to terrorism. The US Police state would be in full swing.

zts April 21, 2006 5:19 PM

Dear Bruce’s Idiot Readers,

Given a sentence such as this:

“Entrants are invited to submit the most unlikely, yet still plausible, terrorist attack scenarios they can come up with.”

Please note that the first comma does not mean “ignore everything up to the second comma.” And even if it did, you’d still need to have some wacked-out ideas about where “unlikely” ends and “impossible and/or violates laws of physics” begins.

Thankyou for your time, goodnight.

bookwench April 21, 2006 6:22 PM

This is an open website and my plot scares the piss out of me, so I refuse to put it here where anyone can read it, even to impress the world. It’s my personal nightmare, thanks. Besides, can’t you get arrested for thoughtcrime these days?

grasshoppermind April 21, 2006 8:05 PM

Osama, masquerading as Security Guru Bruce Schneier, launches a competition to create the best ‘movie plot’ terrorist threats. This sets in motion a huge distraction occupying the minds of the worlds foremost security practitioners as they all try to ‘top’ the offering that went before. Unfortunately for him, Osama is so overwhelmed by the creativity on offer, he forgets to organise anything worthwhile having blown out his own inspiration in his last signature piece. Our hero Bruce, having escaped from the clutches of Osama’s henchmen (who should have known that a simple three roller combination lock would eventually fall to the cryptographic mind of our hero) finally manages to convince a ‘high placed source’ to arrange for the arrest of the man sitting behind the big desk at Counterpane security. Movie closes with a shot of Bruce back behind his desk but the disturbing twinkle in his eye leaves us wondering whether they got the right guy. And of course setting us up for a lucrative sequel…

fireworks spectacular! April 21, 2006 8:15 PM

Movie-Plot Threat: Sydney Harbour Bridge Attack

Primary Objective: Topple Sydney Harbour Bridge

Method: Hijack fully laden oil supertanker on route from middle east to Botany Bay. Eg previously infiltrate crew, learning how to pilot ship or pirate capture en route or both. Take onboard (relatively small) amounts of incenduary based explosives. Enter Sydney harbour (on incoming tide at around 4:45pm on weekday) accelerate to full speed rounding Chowder Bay and aim at southern bridge pylon ( E151d12’34.38 S33d51’16.02 ). On impact at 5:15pm (peak commuting), detonate explosives causing fire and/or secondary objective of Exxon Valdesse scale oil spill, with effect maximised by incoming tide. (Optionally, deploy simultaneous attack – explode small truck bomb in cross city under sea harbour tunnel). Stand back and watch the fireworks, with cars, buses, trains, pedestrains plummetting into harbour from toppled bridge. Repeat attack at 8:45am following day, show ineffective/invain attempts to stop 2nd attack – being blocked with navy aircraft carrier (collission, fire) and airborne bombing, resultng in 2nd major oil spill. Spectacular !

Nicholas weaver April 22, 2006 11:02 AM

The Angle Grinder threat…

A group of terrorists target the Bay bridge in San Francisco (a big, 4 tower suspension bridge). Team one fakes an accident during rush hour at the San Francisco exit on the upper deck, backing up traffic along the span.

Team two does the same thing on teh lower deck near treasure island, filling the bridge.

Now Team 3: the suicidal Angle Grinder men, leave Treasure Island on motorcycles and cut through traffic to reach the first point where the main suspension cable is low. They are equipped with very lange angle-grinders (cutting wheels).

Two men, one on each cable, use the angle-grinders to cut through the cables while the remaining suicidal terrorists guard them.

Once they cut through the main cables, the bridge will collapse. This is made easier by having the bridge fully loaded.

(they use angle grinders because it is easier than high explosives to cut the bridge supports).

There is one solution: we must, MUST ban all large angle grinders with cutting wheels of 1′ diameter or more!


Richard Sosa April 22, 2006 11:19 AM


In this scenario a scientist has inadvertently developed a bacteria that renders oil useless as a result of his attempt to improve upon the bacteria that is commonly use to gobble up oil spills. This formula does not die off but continues to thrive and is able to lie dormant for years. The scientist was attempting to put in safeguards to the bacteria that would render it useless within several hours however spies have leaked out this new information to (terrorists). The terrorist have broken into the scientist laboratory and are threatening to unleash this formula on the world if their demands are not met.

Movie goers have needed a new hero to dominate the screens and Hollywood now has the potential for a new hero to dominate movies for the next 10 to 15 years while reaping the financial benefits.

Richard A. Sosa, D.C.

Dapip33 April 22, 2006 11:21 AM

Terrorist plot threat:

Perhaps the best way to create terror would be to attack a vulnerable and in many ways sacred target. My movie plot threat would involve terrorist targeting the nations most notable hospitals in several large cities. Hospitals have poor security. I should know as I have worked in several. It would be very easy to gain access to main buildings to plant explosives. This could be done in a coordinated fashion. Not only would there be numerous victims, but it would be difficult to treat the victims, compounding the problems associated with the attack. The result is stricter security at places of care making it difficult to visit loved ones, or evening crippling the business of large metropolitan hospitals.

Richard A. Sosa D.C. April 22, 2006 12:01 PM

Nano technology has been developed for computer use. In this scenario nano technology was to be used to improve the our computers. Terrorist have infiltrated the facilities that develop and market the use of nano technology. We have become accustomed to their use that terrorist have developed a sleeper mode to be awakened at a future date.

In a second scenario terrorist have infiltrated plastics manufacturing with Nano technology and a new form of plastique exposives. While a one litre bottle may not seem to harbor a very large explosion by itself, coupled together in cases and detonated simultaneously they will cause massive damage throughout the world if their demands are not met. This form of explosives may also be developed to react with the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is in many of our sodas, much like a fire that reacts much more violently when in the presence of an oxygen tank.

Anonymous April 22, 2006 12:10 PM

@Haven: see this.

Bubonic plague is no longer a threat to humans because it can be treated with antibiotics, but it is still very much around and rather closer to home than a lot of people think.

Simon Moon April 22, 2006 12:44 PM

Does it count if it’s already been done?

In the early Seventies (still in the period called “The Sixties”) a guy demonstrated using a cheap watch to make a precision 7-month time fuse: open the front of a calendar watch, and put two contacts in series on the month wheel and on the day wheel.

This guy made nine bombs with these timers. He put three in safe deposit boxes in three big New York banks, three in Chicago, and three in San Francisco. He then sent fifty or so copies of a letter with full details to major journalists and columnists all over the country. He enclosed the nine keys to the safe deposit boxes in nine of the letters.

The keys ensured that the whole thing couldn’t be hushed up. Eight of the bombs were found, as described, but it turned out that the ninth had gone off prematurely (istr BofA in San Francisco) but the bank had been able to hush it up. Every paper in the country printed the tech details of the gimmick on the front page.

They only caught the guy a few years ago . . .

Now, for instance, what are the possibilities of holding new building hostage for ransom by having put bombs into their foundations six months ago?

Other applications are left as an exercise . . .

Discoflamingo April 22, 2006 12:49 PM

My friends and I started talking about this after 9/11, and my friend (who is now in the Army) had what we considered to be the best idea. Find unoccupied suburban homes in several geographically disparate areas of the US – at least four, more would be preferable. They do not have to be occupied, and the plan is easier if they are not. Now, blow them up using low-grade explosives, LP gas, grid gas lines, or what have you. That would probably be enough to dislodge many suburbanites’ sense of security and stability.

another_bruce April 22, 2006 1:37 PM

here’s a cheap, low-tech recipe for chaos that attacks what america loves the most (no, silly, not her children, her cars!):
most cars are now controlled by computer chips that are vulnerable to electromagnetic pulses….
because we drive on the right-hand side of the road in this country, the equipment would be mounted to project out the left side of dingy old vans, it would consist of the generator from a microwave oven, with a special antenna…
one day during rush hour, a couple of these vans in every major city, driving in the fast lane in the non-commute direction, irradiating and disabling all the cars in the commute direction on the left. there aren’t enough tow trucks to get them all off before the next day, when the freeway is unusable and nobody can get to work anymore. the american economy takes one in the engine room.

sergev April 22, 2006 1:40 PM

Terrorism, especially with so limited resource, can be effective only through media coverage. And the most effective way to get it – attack media persons. So – just kill journalists, tv reporters, media executivies, movie actors and theirs family members. Did it in the way, which will give best picture – pools of blood and so on. And always give information , who and why did it.

Alan J. Wylie April 22, 2006 2:44 PM

Traffic simulators, e.g.
show how the habits of typical drivers (too fast, too close) cause traffic flow to enter a “caterpillar” like state of high and low speed flows. It would not take more that a couple of cars, driven to force the resonance of acceleration and deceleration to significantly increase the probablity of a multiple vehicle pile up.

Anti-terrorists would, of cause, spread the meme that this is actually happening, and that the only way to defeat such terrorism is to leave a bigger gap between you and the car in front, and to start braking when the car in the distance brakes, rather than waiting for the one in front of yours.

TheMadCzech April 22, 2006 2:58 PM

Let’s say terrorists from a certain region of the world engineer a toxic chemical agent. They get into several major, geographically dispersed gasoline distrubution centers (where it is stored before it go’s to the filling stations). Add the toxic agent to the gasoline. The effect isn’t noticed until after people fill their vehicles and start driving when the toxin is activated by the vehicles combustion system and released into the atmosphere thru the exhaust killing eveyone who breathes it in almost instantly.
Not only would this probably kill millions before the powers that be figured out what was going on, it would bring our economic system to a grinding halt!

Ian April 22, 2006 4:04 PM

A group of tangentially-related people are kidnapped. It doesn’t have to be anything terribly important to what the terrorists want, but it has to be obvious how they are related to the media which is going to be sensationalizing the story. It should be something which is reasonably common, especially among segments of the population with high crime rates. Let’s say they’re all from gangs, maybe even the same gang.

Anyways, one of the abductees is killed in a particularly gruesome manner and dumped on a playground in a totally different places, hundreds of miles away from where they were abducted. A little unassuming town that noone outside of the state has ever heard of. Shortly thereafter, a short killing spree, such as by sniper, rocks a nearby town.

A couple weeks later, another of the abductees is dumped in a playground in some entirely different place, again followed by the same sort of short killing spree in a nearby town.

The first time, the link was tenuous at best. The second time, the link becomes obvious and undeniable.

Now, a couple weeks later, all the rest of the abductees are delivered to playgrounds on the same day, only this time at major metroplises. LA, Boston, New York, etc. Bonus points for proximity to airports.

The playgrounds feed on the natural fear people have of anything when it comes to their precious little babies. When they see it happening at small towns that don’t actually mean anything, all the people in the suburbs who thought they were safe, not living in the bustling financial centers, will become scared that it could happen to them. Then when it happens to all those major cities simultaneously, for at least a few days the entire economy of the US will grind to a halt as everyone’s afraid to go to work.

Dr. Bonzo April 22, 2006 5:08 PM

Following up on suggestion #2 by Stuff and Nonsense (April 17): Use diesel-and-fertilizer explosives (as in OK City) to demolish interchanges at key Interstate Highway intersections (e.g. I-65 and I-64 in Louisville’s “Spaghetti Junction,” or I-15 and I-80 at Denver’s “Mousetrap”). Even better if this can happen at a time when large crowds are gathered nearby for a holiday or sporting event. If the explosives (or some other mechanism, coordinated with the bombing(s)) can be used to disperse a biological or chemical agent, even better yet.

[Inspired by having to deal with the traffic tangle associated with “Thunder Over Louisville,” the Kentucky Derby Festival event which has thousands of people gathered at the banks of the Ohio, many of them close by the 64/65 interchange.]

Wim L April 22, 2006 5:23 PM

Terrorist movie plots? Okay: Terrorists infiltrate Hollywood, working as scriptwriters, producers, and people with artistic control. They churn out a series of increasingly inane thrillers and scare movies. Each movie contains the same message: that terrorists never do things the easy way; they always do things in patterns building up to a climax; and the more specific and narrowly-applicable a countermeasure is, the better. Characters who advocate broad countermeasures or countermeasures which don’t infringe on peoples’ daily activities are shown to be dangerous buffoons. Over time, since the decadent American populace gets all its opinions from Hollywood, America comes to focus all its efforts on ineffective countermeasures to imagined schemes that are too stupid for terrorists to use anyway. Terrorists rub their hands with glee.

The day is saved by a bunch of Salt-Of-The-Earth Small Town Americans, who use common sense based on bizarre farming/ranching metaphors to see that Something Is Wrong. One of them happens to be the President’s dad, and he reminds the President of his sensical, small-town roots and gets him to set up a special presidential commission that vets every movie produced by Hollywood to make sure it doesn’t contain stupid terror plots.

Audiences’ heads implode from irony, thus destroying the global economy.

Wim L April 22, 2006 5:23 PM

I like the Disney plots. Disneyland is iconically American (recursively so!), and it allows for lots of photogenic kids in the movie.

Also, Movie America is a small place. It only has a few cities (LA, NYC, “generic other eastern city”, one small town in the Midwest and another in Maine, and marginally Boston or DC). Disney is near LA.

So here’s a movie outline.

Terrorists infiltrate Disneyland (for a movie, it’d have to be a pseudo-Disneyland with the serial numbers filed off) and work as the guys in the cartoon suits. With the big heads, nobody can tell if you have a “terrorist beard” or even a turban (gasp).

The evil plan is that the President and First Lady are taking their Disney-age kids to D’land, along with a gaggle of disadvantaged but adorable kids who would never be able to afford to go otherwise. The terrorists will pull off their costumes’ heads, open fire with machine guns, and demand concessions from the US.

Our hero is someone who worked for the theme park, or DHS, or somewhere, but was laid off because The Economy Is Bad. Their job was offshored, thus paving the way for the infiltration (all furriners all same!). Our hero notices ominous incidents and eventually realizes what’s going on, but of course nobody listens to him.

Eventually he convinces people. By that time, it’s the day of the plot and the terrorists are in place. The good guys have to sneak into D’land through the complicated maze of service tunnels beneath the park. Lots of Mission Impossible style stuff: avoiding laser beams, bypassing code locks, and so on, as the camera cuts back and forth between them, the group of kids, and the terrorists.

Of course it comes down to a climactic hand-to-hand fight between our hero and the boss terrorist on a moving roller coaster. They trade an implausible number of blows. The terrorist slips and clings to the side of the car. The good guy (being the good guy) reaches out to save him, but the terrorist refuses and curses America with his last breath before being smacked by a passing support beam and falling to a gruesome death in the ‘coaster machinery. The End.

A movie is better if it can pander to more of the audience’s fears. The whole ZOMG TERORRISTS!!1 plot is pretty good wingnut fodder, but we can add more. See, the theme park wanted to do background checks on its employees, but was stopped by a civil liberties group. Also, the city police have had their guns taken away by Evil Leftists. (scene: cop in position to take a shot at a terrorist, reaches for gun — but doesnt have one! Ahhh!)

I’m having a harder time coming up for a sop for the left in this plot, but how about this human interest angle. See, the hero’s rebellious teenage daughter has been dating a swarthy (darkly handsome!) foreigner. He’s always suspiciously close to an incident, and the audience is led to believe he’s working with the terrorists, and dating the daughter in order to get close to the hero (who worked in security or something, remember). But it turns out he’s actually working for foreign intelligence, or Interpol, or somebody, against the terrorists, and our hero almost screws the pooch by being xenophobic/racist and not trusting the guy at a critical moment.

(Needless to say, in the final post-climactic scenes, after the terrorists have been defeated and the hero vindicated, the daughter stops dressing gothy/punkish and wears more girly clothes, thus subliminally (ha!) indicating that All Is Once More Right With The World. She’s still dating the foreigner, who turns out to be of royal descent or something, and who no longer has scary background music. Also, he’s an excellent Little League coach (america! apple pie! baseball! rah rah!) because he was a cricket star back home — American audiences won’t bother to keep track of the differences between Indians and Iraqis and Afghans and Saudis anyway.)

Clive Jones April 22, 2006 5:46 PM

Platypus3333 has already suggested a widespread attack on bubble wrap.

An idea I had several years ago is even simpler to execute – just find out who supplies the stuff to Amazon and put anthrax spores in that.

Because the packing materials would have been taken away with the garbage days before people developed symptoms, the infection vector would take a long while to spot, and the attack would disproportionately affect the upper socio-economic strata. I’m willing to bet quite a lot of very important people burst Amazon bubble wrap.

DoctorDuck April 22, 2006 6:14 PM

Using geophysical data The Gaia Theory of the interconnected world and Plate Techtonics; Terrorists plan to activate the San Andreas Fault system in California by moving the tectonic plates in Central America. Using a combination of conventional and Nuclear explosives stolen from Brazil
they overrun the Research drilling platform in the Pacific 500 miles off the coast Costa Rica ttp:// and using the existing well detonate a nuclear device below the earth’s crust. The resulatant shockwave releases the fault system with the attendent damage. However the biggest distruction comes when the SuperVolcano under Yellowstone is awakened by the seismic activity. See Simon Winchester’s book “A crack in the edge of the world”
All of this distruction is preceeded by a cryptic public statement of Allah’s vengence on the sinners by a Muslim cleric, just what happened in Java before Krakatoa exploded, (See Simon Winchester “Krakatoa” ) millions will be converted unless this group is stopped by a young geophysicist on the research platform.

Max April 22, 2006 7:50 PM

After some sort of military/paramilitary training, divide the 30 men into one and two man teams. Distribute them throughout the country with about a year of lead time for them to reconnoiter and prepare. They should be planning various types of mayhem, bombs in public places(schools, stores, security lines at airports), freeway snipers, quietly killing people in their homes, infrastructure disruption, crop burning, forest fires, whatever they can come up with to disrupt people’s sense of well being.

Upon activation the teams start off with stuff that doesn’t get them noticed and slowly build their activity. They also stagger their activity too help evade capture and for prime time news coverage of the results.

Activate the teams with a 9/11 type plane bomb using an in-bound foreign flight.

Norm April 22, 2006 7:53 PM

You elect a president like Bush and put him in the white house. You let him blatently do things that are not in the interest of the people, like have the energy companies make the energy laws and have the pharmacutical companis write the new medicare prescription bill which forbid citizens from going to Canada and get U.S. medicines cheaper. You vote for nothing but Republicans because you know they don’t care about anything but the higgest bidder, you pay off pundants like FOX news, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’riely and Ann Coulter because they are for sale also and do a good job of lying and debating against what is best for a democratic society. You watch as This president stacks the courts with other soulless members who also believe that the majority of Americans want is irrelevant. We all look the other way while our society goes broke, no one respects us, the weather patterns go crazy due to us dropping bombs with depleted platonium in them, tsunamis are routine, the rich get richer, you have a total facist reality that we have to live in. etc. etc. So just vote republican and consertive. Isn’t that scary? The terrorist just sit back and watch us destroy our selves.

kai April 22, 2006 8:01 PM

Intercept a truck delivering raw plastic granules to a children’s toy factory. liberally sprinkle radioactive powdered metals into the load. Wait for the plastic to be made into toys and distributed over the lead up to Christmas, then make a big announcement a week before Christmas. Granted it would be very easy to detect products that had been tampered with in this fashion, so they could easily be removed from stores, but a portion of the products would be in the homes of America already. Watch as the nation is gripped by fear of rampant consumerism over the Christmas period, as people line up with their toys, to be scanned by Govt officials with Geiger counters, and kids are playing with glow in the dark toys that are nice and warm to the touch, even when left outside in the cold snow…

gandalf23 April 22, 2006 8:42 PM

Terrorists create maps for Counter Strike: Source that resemble, in layout, vital facilities in the US, the Capital Building, the White House, CIA HQ, places like that. They have also developed a tele-operated robot of death, that responds to the signals of a player in CS:S. The terrorists hold a tournement to find the best players. The top ten players will play on the same side vs the most advanced bots ever designed. The “bots” are really input sensed by the tele-presence robots, and are just in-game representations of the actual guards, civillians, and cops at the locations. The ten players will play each of the maps in rotation.

A plucky young CIA agent, and dedicated CS: S player, but not one of the top ten players, discovers the plot, but no one listens to him. He’s got to convince the number one player in the world, Bob Flaa, or F-Bomb as he’s known in the game, to team kill his players, as that’s the only way to stop the destruction. Of course, the other players don’t think so, so they’ll be out for him, too.

Will the plucky young CIA agent be able to convince F-Bomb to TK his fellow players?

Will he have the skills to do so successfully and stop the terrorists evil plan?

Will the cute jail bait hacker be able to crack into the terrorist’s mainframe and send the evil teleplayer bots to the headquarters of the terrorists mysterious backer?

Counter Struck, coming this fall.

Nikolai April 22, 2006 9:20 PM

The terrorist insinuate themselves into the Left and Democratic party. They succeed in getting the Left to impeach George Bush. Dick Cheney is sworn in as President and Donald Rumsfeld is selected as Vice President.

The Left’s anger builds up so intense that their heads begin to explode all over New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, DC, etc. Others throw themselves from the buildings having had to accept that not only that Christianity is real but the apocalypse is upon them. Several major news anchor’s heads explode on the air.

The major Left strongholds are a bloody mess. The cities are shut down for a week or so so that the streets can be hosed down with bleach to sanitize them. News is unavailable as the main stream media can’t stop crying.

Andrew April 22, 2006 9:31 PM

After reading some of the fiendish plots contributed here, now I have to pull out my A-listers. Information warfare plots.

1) We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ NCIC: a sophisticated cyberwar attack is launched against state and Federal criminal justice databases. Peace officers nationwide start getting “officer safety advisory: suspect armed and extremely dangerous” hits when they run checks on concealed weapons permit holders and off-duty officers outside their own region. When they stop dangerous suspects, their information and background comes back clear. When they stop private citizens, the system works OK about 98% of the time — just often enough that the “red” hits are convincing. After a lot of cop-vs-permitee and cop-vs-cop shootouts, the database eats itself or is corrupted in lots of really annoying ways. No one ever trusts a criminal records check again.

2) Background Checks Clear: as above, except for background checks for employment. All of them. Perhaps for a specific company or industry, such as hazmat truck drivers. Implement secretly, verify results, and strike accordingly.

3) Telephone Terror: our sophisticated terrorist cell plugs discreetly into a number of COs around the country and starts crank calling. Random members of the public, news media politicians, security / 911 / police / military operations centers, and just for fun, the White House Operator. Sometimes they make threats, sometimes they report false plots. Once in a while they call in a real incident just to keep people guessing. Our plucky heroes find out all about the plot and try to report it — but can’t get past the terrorists, who are the tip of the iceberg for a few puzzled Indian call centers actually making the thousands of calls per minute. (“It’s all part of some big American joke . . . but when we read the script, the ladies scream! Oh well, the $1.00 an hour is good money . . . “)

4) How Much Work Can A Network Work When A Network Can’t Net Work?

Social engineering to take down corporate networks, focusing on the ATM and credit card networks. With no ability to pay for anything, and no way to verify if an ATM or credit card is good, the millions of fake cards mailed two days prior start arriving in high-crime zip codes nationwide. The trust, faith and credit of the financial system tanks.

5) A Little Knowledge Is Dangerous: nanotechnological warfare. The terrorist cell quietly and with no fanfare infiltrates university and private research labs working on self-replicating nanotech. With a twenty year lead time, the players will be in the Right Place at the Right Time to unleash oil eating nanobots, Seven Second Specials (with apologies to Neal Stephenson) and “Dial-A-Genocide” killer nanobots that check the target’s ethnicity before knocking them off, or perhaps just rendering them sterile.

Kha April 22, 2006 10:00 PM

An teacher exchange program for American schools with an EVIL nation/organization is created to “strengthen the bond” (always a popular buzz term) between the USA and the aforementioned EVIL nation/organization.

Your choice of EVIL nation/organization is yours, big shot Hollywood (or paranoid US government) type – N Korea, a Balkan state, Al Qaeda, China, Pakistan, fans of Howard Stern, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Church of Scientology, Iran, those polygamy folks from Junniper Creek on ‘Big Love,’ Russia (or ex-Russian nation), Columbia, that Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, Canada (c’mon, what really goes on there?), or even Parrotheads.

[Compare this program to what the US and Japan have for English language instruction in Japanese schools, Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) – not implying that JET is evil, although they should have hired me back in 1995 when I applied.]

Unbeknownst to the innocent red blooded American youths getting these new teachers, the new teachers are carriers of the dreaded (fill in the blank) virus.

Chaos ensues, sky starts raining blood, more than one Child is Left Behind, dogs sleeping with cats, etc.

BETTER YET – the teachers don’t carry the dreaded (fill in the blank) virus, they have, in fact, been implanted with a small yield thermonuclear device!

And when will these bombs explode?

August 7th, 2006, at 3 (and a bit) seconds after 05:04 AM (UTC/GMT +12 hours)

Yes, 08/07/06 at 05:04: 03.21 seconds

Why UTC/GMT +12 hours? I really needed a time zone where it would be 5 AM in the morning and school kids would be at school in all four time zones of the continental US (no offense to Hawaii and Alaska).

Seeing how dense most Americans about the whole time zone thing, you can change it accordingly to the level of fear you are selling (movie or Patriot Act-wise).

COUNTDOWN! (With a theme song by Europe, produced by Diddy)

quincunx April 23, 2006 12:04 AM

Although others have mentioned the federal reserve, they misunderstand how it works. One mentioned stopping it’s operation – but that would actually be good for the economy in the long run.

The terrorist attack is to seize the federal reserve and accelerate the very thing it does best. Keep the printing presses and the credit expansion going as long as possible. If some guards show up – just give ’em some of that money, the suckers won’t know it will be worthless anyway – most Americans are oblivous to the fact that their money has eroded 95% in the last 90 years.

That’s right baby, hyperinflation!

You don’t even have to kill the fed chairman (Bernanke) – the guy loves the printing press as much as you do, he will have your full cooperation.

We can make the recent Mexian, Argentinian, Bolivian, and 1920’s German inflation look like walk in the park.

This is by far the worst attack. Most damaging to the most people, and the least effort expanded. Where is my prize?

John April 23, 2006 1:07 AM

Most unlikely yet still plausible terrorist threat?

5 teams of 6 people led by electrical engineering experts spend $75-80k each developing large earth resonance Tesla coils diametrically opposite large American cities (which would conveniently place them around the Middle East / Central Asia, and spend the remaining $20-25k each to bribe the power companies into assuring enough power.

Then at a synchronized time they flip on their coils which send current through the earth at a given frequency, causing the ground of those American cities to be electrified, thus shorting out power and internet service in those cities, causing panic and hysteria.

Shortly thereafter, an American population, incensed by sitting in the dark unable to check sports scores or look at internet porn, demands vengeance.

Kaboom April 23, 2006 2:44 AM

Terrorist Plot Submission.

Requires only one unassuming jihadi, perhaps two others as lookouts. Objective: Hijack major airport shuttle bus without anyone’s knowledge.
Board bus at it’s point of origin, while the driver is on scheduled break before beginning his next run of the airport stops. Knock driver unconscious, gag and hogtie, then store him away in the trunk of a waiting sedan vehicle. Point of origin at this major metropolitan airport is at a rental car parking lot, so there is cover, as well as many rental cars to choose from in which to stash the driver.
Put on driver’s uniform, keep to the schedule and route. Make all pick ups and drop offs. You should draw near to tarmac areas about ten minutes into the route. You have already checked airline arrival/departure schedules, and have a particular plane in mind, preferably one that is fully booked and almost ready for takeoff. When within a few hundred metres of the plane, race bus into plane at the fuel tank location. Ram the plane with full power. The bus will serve as the detonator, the fully fueled plane as the bomb. The force of the explosion and the ensuing fire should destroy most of the airport terminal, killing thousands. Terrorist cells may act independently and simultanously around the country, following this same plan.

I thought of this submission while traveling as a passenger on an actual airport shuttle bus. I was alarmed at the lack of security, and the open access this method provided to otherwise off limit areas. At no time was anyone ever ID’d prior to boarding the bus. The rental car lot was unsupervised and open to the public, who could access the lot via a major expressway.

Bobby J April 23, 2006 2:46 AM

When old communication/spy satellites are retired they are sent a command to fire their thrusters and push themselves up, out of their original geo-synchronous orbit. So outside the GS orbit, you have all these thousands of tons of metal swarming around the planet.

For $500K, you should be able to set up a nice little transmitter station that would allow you to take control of these old clunkers, plot a trajectory that would cause them to fall into orbit decay and come crashing down on any or all of our state capitols and the White House, and fire the thrusters.

It’d be like ARMAGEDDON, only good.

Adam April 23, 2006 4:38 AM

Sorry if this has been posted before, I don’t feel like reading through all the comments…

Plot #1: Terroists genetically modify (a) major crop(s) so that they don’t produce food (maybye more vulnerable to disease); perhaps they work at a biotech firm, maybye they produce it themselves and just release it. It doesn’t need to actually cause much damage, just terror. Environmentalists will further fuel fear by warning that it might cross into wild plants and cause untold damage.

Plot #2: Same as above, but they also (possibly after, not during) genetically modify crops to be toxic; result is that people (who may have stockpiled food) don’t trust their food. Huge wastage of food occurs and their is some shortage (not due to it being a widespread problem but due to people stockpiling).

Plot #3: Same as above, but make sure a high-profile person and/or event receives said toxic food.

scrumpy April 23, 2006 5:17 AM

A LOT of posts here. This has a few similarities with some I read but hopefully isn’t a repeat.

I think the key is simplicity so I’d assume an approach of 15 teams of 2.

Each couple receive firearms training, how to be a sleeper cell, how to raid a house etc…

They almost exclusively target families. A different team strikes every 2 days and then moves on to a new city awaiting its next turn.
While a team is in sleep mode it chooses a family to target. Starting with a family whose surname begins with the letter A. They go in and take out the whole family as discretely as possible but leaving some form of a dated calling card to show it fits into the larger scheme.

2 days later a family whose surname begins with B is taken out in a different city. This continues indefinately until all teams are evenually caught.

Once the press cotton on to what happens Mr John Doe knows that in X days it could be his family that is taken out with no warning.

Sometimes the family may not be discovered
for several days and the public will be hopeful that the ordeal is over, but eventually they will be found showing the police have failed.

Eventually a team will be caught, but again the attacks will continue. This has the potential to continue for months if not years.

Are your family next?

No big explosions, but I think that after a while the scale of these execution type killings could have a larger impact. Every couple of days the press get a new family with distraught relatives to interview, pictures of innocent kids.

michael bernstein April 23, 2006 6:46 AM

Decapitate the technology industry.

Cheap biowarfare attacks (such as deliberately infecting people with something and giving them a plane ticket) on the high-tech industry via conferences will degrade the performance of this industry, first by infection and secondly by discouraging future conference participation.

Bonus drama points for using a disease that can be easily spread human-to-human, such as the flu-of-the-season, which will leverage the attack to co-worker’s employees when the return home from the conference.

Bonus ‘moral victory’ points for staging the attack in Las Vegas (Sin City).

Bonus drama points for deliberate ‘engineering’ of the infectious agent in some way. This need not be any more high-tech than finding a more virulent strain endemic in some part of sub-Saharran Africa or SE Asia.

michael bernstein April 23, 2006 6:56 AM


Fund teams of sleepers who wait for an emerging disease to erupt somewhere and then leap into action!

They travel to the site of the outbreak, deliberately get infected, and then travel again to the US to play tourist, spreading their infection as much as possible, especialy by plane travel.

Paris April 23, 2006 6:59 AM

Concerning reference in NYT 23 April to Canary Island of La Palma – tsunami wiping out East Coast of USA (make this Brazil to Canada as well), one needs only to read the novel SCIMITAR SL-2, by Patrick Robinson (Harper Collins, ISBN 0-06-008664-5), for your perfect movie plot line. Wherein North Korea and Iran get together to fire cruise missiles from a submarine into the (presently dormant but recently active) volcano on La Palma which British and USA scientists say will eventually cause 25% of the Island to fall into the Atlantic, causing the largest tsunami in the world’s history, reaching the Atlantic east coast seaboard within 7-8 hours, with death toll over 50 million. As one of the few Americans to have lived on this Island, I took photographs there 3 months ago of a huge dynamite storage facility which is situated on the outer slope of this volcano. It urgently needs to be relocated elsewhere on the island, but locals scoff at the idea. Present security level at facility is comically minimal.
Photos available upon request. One South Florida newspaper journalist is researching this topic at present.

michael bernstein April 23, 2006 7:19 AM

Biggest Bomb Evar:

Teams rent small planes which are loaded up with diesel or gasoline and then crashed into ships carrying huge amounts of fertilizer as cargo (reminder: OK-city bomb was fertilizer+diesel).

Large (very, very large) explosions ensue in our ports, shutting down import and export, damaging the economy.

Note: costs are low because the main explosive does not have to be purchased, an approprite shipment just needs to be identified.

Rodent April 23, 2006 7:57 AM

Bruce, I’d like to offer my own suggestion for a movie plot terrorist conspiracy:


Terrorists will simultaneously use electromagnetic pulse bombs to destroy critical banking systems, communications infrastructure and disable governmental computers all over the nation. Cities with high concentrations of commutations targets will hit first (New York’s stock exchange, Washington DC’s comm hubs, Silicon Valley, etc.) and then proceed to hit other targets from there. There will be localized chaos in the affected areas as the lights go out permanently and the effects may be transmitted over greater stretches of the nation by targeting high-voltage transmission towers, thereby spreading the pulse to anyone connected to the electric grid.

The Popular Mechanics article estimates that the bomb can be built with as little as $400. EMP guns would cost more, but they would be used by said terrorists to hit individual targets.

The only people to get by easily will be the Amish.

Thanks for the opportunity, Bruce, and I hope I win the book.


aikimark April 23, 2006 8:59 AM

This is a movie plot is a multi-pronged attack that takes place in the Summer that is meant introduce disruption in several areas:
* transportation
* federal government
* financial
* citizens

With the military and national guard stretched thin overseas, the effect of these actions area expected to be multiplied.

The first round of attacks is actually a bit of a feint. Take down bridges and overpasses around DC. This can be done with a combination of low-tech IEDs stuck to the underside of the structures. A van with retractible top drives under these structures at night and uses either compressed air or strong springs to propel the explosive/adhesive package to the underside of the structures. The daytime takedown of the structures accompanied by some mortars for added terror effect.

Several parts of the Metro are also disabled. The feint is a threat to the DC population if some extortion isn’t paid.

The transportation threat is extended to air transportation. Simple remote controlled ground-to-air interceptors. They could be propelled by a homemade pulse jet or gas-powered leaf blowers, bought at yard sales. Planes will be targeted near hub airports because of the cascading effect of outages.

In various parts of the country, the water supply will be disrupted by attacks on pumping stations and the introduction of toxins in the water supply. This is expected to cause riots in places like Los Angeles. When toxins are used, they will survive boiling.

As a big hurricane approaches Florida, escape routes are disabled along the major interstates.

A secondary transportation attack comes a bit later. As Winter approaches, petroleum supplies are disrupted.

The money supply is tainted with small spurs stuck on paper currency, laced with Ricin (or some equivalent alkaloid poison).

Quasar April 23, 2006 9:46 AM

Terrorist start infultrating internet chat rooms where child molesters and kiddie porn people hang out. They then procede to work with the perverts to kidnap and molest as many children as possible. People are afraid of terrorists and child molesters, they’ll be really afraid of them woring together. While there at it they can get the children addicted to drugs as well.

Quasar April 23, 2006 9:59 AM

The terrorists would have to make sure that all abductions were rich or uppermiddle class whites. Child abuductions happen all the time. But a coincidence of two upper-middle class abductions makes cnn go into child abduction hysteria mode. Imagin what would happn if 50 high profile child abduction cases were to happen across the country within a few days.

NK April 23, 2006 10:22 AM

Exploding Cell Phones

  1. Intercept a large shipment of cell phones (or operate a cell phone repair shop).
  2. Replace the battery with a slightly smaller one.
  3. Fill the remaining space with plastic explosive.
  4. Connect a detonator to ringtone circuit so that the phone explodes when it rings.
  5. Add a time-lapse mechanism that activates the detonator on a chosen date.
  6. Release the phones to the market.
  7. Wait for E-day.

Bonus twist 1. If operating a repair shop, collect all the phone numbers of tampered phones. On E-day run autodialers to call them at the same time to get simultaneous explosions.

Bonus twist 2. Rig half of the phones to explode when a call is made instead of received. Thus people who see their friends’ head explode, will try to call 911…and they explode.

Bonus twist 3. Run multiple autodialers on E-day to make recorded fake reports to 911 to disrupt the emergency response.

Bonus twist 4. Rig Blackberries instead of cell phones. They are extremely popular with politicians in Washington.

aikimark April 23, 2006 10:34 AM

There will be random disruptions in the electrical supply throughout the campaign. Summertime hits air conditioning. Winter hits home heating.

Nikolai April 23, 2006 11:10 AM

It seems many underestimate the resiliency of ships, bridges and buildings. It takes a lot of combined failures to destroy these things. Crashing a fuel laden aircraft into a bulk carrier full of fertilizer would be extremely unlikely to ignite the cargo. Taking down a bridge requires the simultaneous loss of many supports. If in doubt, ask a combat engineer. If you’ve ever seen the demolition of a building, you saw that it takes a lot of planning and coordination to cause the collapse. Without it, you end up with a weakened but standing structure. The WTC towers’ collapse was a fluke, not by terrorist design. The Oklahoma City federal building and the Pentagon were damaged but not tipped into structure failure and collapse.

Disasters are caused by a chain of events. Survival depends not on complete perfection of all aspects of a system but rather the prevention of just one event in the chain. If not, disaster would be the everyday norm. Most failures are because links in the chain are allowed to deteriorate shortening the chain and increasing risk of disaster.

giafly April 23, 2006 11:14 AM

Pay 100 young women $500 each to flash their boobies at major sporting events.

Scaling up the fuss that was caused by Janet Jackson’s garment malfunction at the Superbowl, this campaign is guaranteed to bring civilisation to an end.

More important, it’s the sort of film plot that Hollywood likes.

Shmarya April 23, 2006 11:22 AM

Terrorists go through improv training, work a few comedy clubs and then bomb simultaneously on Leno and Letterman.

Chris April 23, 2006 11:23 AM

The group of 20-30 terrorists split into 5 member teams in Chicago and New York. They are armed with suicide vests and various small arms purchased at area gun shows and have avoided any background checks against their ID or provided fake ID when needed.

During the opening hours of the various trading floors in these cities they open fire on the stock brokers and workers on the floor and when out of ammo detonate their vests causing further death and destruction to the building and equipment.

Result: American economy is thrown into havic as a very lengthy shutdown stops all trading for at least 1-2weeks as the situation is studied and new security measures are put into place to attempt to stop an identical attack.

tony April 23, 2006 11:33 AM

Movie plot: 5 seconds of silence

A terrorist group contacted a Russian submarine commander in order to launch a surprise nuclear missile attack against the United States from a secret location. This new sub has stealth capabilities.

An unknown signal from outer space causes a 5 seconds of silence around the world., cellphones, radios, tv, military comms etc did not not during that period of time. Nobody realizes the importance of it.

Only the whales reacts to the signal and begin to behave in a strange manner.

The russian goverment realizes that one of the submarines has taken a different route and the first step taken to prevent a disaster is to revoke/cancel the crypto keys that would allow the launch of the missiles. The terrorist group, thinking ahead of time, had sent a special agent(genius) to get new keys and send the information to the sub.

The russian goverment is unable to track the sub, and decides to notify the White House.

The whales start to swin to unknown location in the Pacific. Thousands of whales are in a cruzade without knowing why.

Another signals is sent causing another 5 seconds of silence.

The White House gives the order to chase the russian sub. Attack class subs and aircraft carries are sent to find the sub.

Scientists realize the strange behaviour of the whales.

NSA analyst in the White House believes that this could be the key to find the sub.

The whales find the russian sub and now it is a race against time. The new keys are about to be sent.(a good idea would be to show high tech computers and the special agent cracking the system with a laptop running linux!!!)

Our forces finally are able to find also the russian sub and the real war starts. The russian commander doesn’t fight alone. A fighter squadron is sent to protect the sub.(A group of seven russian air force officers joined the terrorist group)

The keys are sent and received. Everyhting is ready for the lunch.

The whales proceed to block *** preventing the lunch.

The real mess starts but we win.

Where did the signal come from???

** more can be added to the plot.

tony April 23, 2006 11:51 AM

5 seconds of silence (final version)

Movie plot: 5 seconds of silence

A terrorist group known as Genesis, contacts a Russian submarine commander in order to launch a surprise nuclear missile attack against the United States from a secret location. This new sub has stealth capabilities.

An unknown signal from outer space causes a 5 seconds of silence around the world., cellphones, radios, tv, military comms etc did not not during that period of time. Nobody realizes the importance of it.

Only the whales reacts to the signal and begin to behave in a strange manner.

The russian goverment realizes that one of the submarines has taken a different route and the first step taken to prevent a disaster is to revoke/cancel the crypto keys that would allow the launch of the missiles. The terrorist group, thinking ahead of time, had sent a special agent(genius) to get new keys and send the information to the sub.

The russian goverment is unable to track the sub, and decides to notify the White House.

The whales start to swin to unknown location in the Pacific. Thousands of whales are in a cruzade without knowing why.

Another signals is sent causing another 5 seconds of silence.

The White House gives the order to chase the russian sub. Attack class subs and aircraft carries are sent to find the sub.

Scientists realize the strange behaviour of the whales.

NSA analyst in the White House believes that this could be the key to find the sub.

The whales find the russian sub and now it is a race against time. The new keys are about to be sent.(a good idea would be to show high tech computers and the special agent cracking the system with a laptop running linux!!!)

Our forces finally are able to find also the russian sub and the real war starts. The russian commander doesn’t fight alone. A fighter squadron is sent to protect the sub.(A group of seven russian air force officers joined the terrorist group)

The keys are sent and received. Everyhting is ready for the lunch.

The whales proceed to block the manholes(?) preventing them from opening.

The real fight starts but we win.((we can show our pilots chasing and avoiding being hit
from enemy missiles…hollywood style.))

Where did the signal come from??? An ufo leaves one of Jupiter moons getting lost in

NSA can not break the signal.

Special agent from Genesis is able to break the signal.

The end.

** more can be added to the plot.

Ubuntu Linux

Using Opera’s revolutionary e-mail client:

giafly April 23, 2006 11:54 AM

A few of the innocent prisoners at Guantenamo Bay have been freed. These unfortunates are back in their normal lives, with no police protection.

Killing one or two of them should be simple, with fake suicide notes to Al Jazeera blaming the after-effects of American torture.

Then watch the riots.

Benoit April 23, 2006 12:49 PM

Material: small remote bombs that can be easily and quickly attached under vehicles.

Step 1: put bombs under cars parked at a big gathering (Indy 500, SuperBowl), explode cars that are in each exit of the parking and then explode cars that are still parked (10 bombs approx. and 3-4 persons needed). No need to have many people killed, the objective is to block them in the parking lot and create fear.

Step 2: Wait for another event in the following month and repeat.

Step 3: Go for 5-6 smaller gatherings about a month later but the same day.

Step 4: repeat Step 3 a week or two later

Now that you have repeated actions in different places to prove the power you have and the number of places that become potentially dangerous you go on to keep media presence:

Step 5: Plant the bombs under cars using tunnels or bridges at peak traffic hours, preferably a friday to have the weekend news for you (important political things rarely happen the weekend). Detonate them on the bridges, in the tunnels at approximately the same time (you have a three hour gap between East and West coast. If possible, have another car explode in the traffic jam. Objective: 4-5 attacks the same day in different cities.

Step 6: Go for approx. 20 random cars, buses, trucks and have them explode anywhere all over the country the same day.

Wait for the medias to cool down and repeat Steps 1, 3, 5 and 6 randomly. Let the summer holidays begin and repeat in mid summer when politicians are on holiday 😉

You have to go for two or three big events during the year and use the smaller attacks on holiday seasons (Christmas and summer). What’s important is to prove that whatever the size of a gathering, wherever people are and whoever they are there may be a bomb.

Geoff Lane April 23, 2006 1:12 PM

Attack the emergency response model…

Suppose a small group of people attacked the water distribution system. This could be quite simple as all they need do is target the pumping stations in a city. This attack is not the primary goal, but it will be hugely disruptive in a city with a sub-tropical climate such as New York.

The response to such an event would be the setting up of water trucks. Now who checks that the water truck they find on the street is actually from the water company? Does anybody independently check the quality of the water delivered once they get home? The fake water trucks supply slow-acting poisoned water. By the time people start dying, the trucks are abandoned and the terrorists are long gone.

Randy April 23, 2006 1:36 PM

I attacked the issue of knocking out the power for years and wrote an unpublished novel and screenplay for it. None of the methods in your 580 postings so far that talk about taking out the power grid get to the simple, cheap essence of it. I consulted with experts in the business. The secret is NOT knocking down transmission towers (that takes too much explosives), not part of the towers, not transformers, not cutting power lines with gas saws (too labor-intensive), not balloons (much too unwieldly and expensive), not taking out the power plants (generators can be replaced quickly). The weakest point in the system are the insulators. Those insulators hold up the wires. All you have to do is put a small amount of explosive on hundreds of insulators and the lines come down. It takes six weeks to repair several wires. The problem escalates geometrically when you have hundreds of wires down, to the point where it would take five years to restore power. In the meantime, the ripple effects of no power are devastating…to take just one example, gas pumps won’t work, so transportation comes to a standstill. Key part of transportation is for food. Food doesn’t get delivered. People starve. Electricity controls all the sewage plants. They don’t operate, diseases like typhoid set in. Businesses, of course shut down, ruining the economy. There are hundreds of ripple effects. Nothing, repeat, nothing is more devastating than this attack on the basic infrastructure when you consider all these effects.

Yeraze April 23, 2006 1:51 PM

Terrorists “procure” a flatbed & a large chemical tanker truck (9/11 proved that licenses are easy to come by if you want it legit, or just hijack one).

Load the flatbed with Chlorine, load the tanker with bleach. Attack the storm-ravaged Deep South (or any other locale, if preferred). Use lesser-known remote water filtration stations, typically unmanned and only protected by a single padlock. Add the ingredients to transport homemade Mustard Gas to widespread areas (everyone who uses the water supply). In alot of cases, gas buildup will rupture pipes, disrupting water flow and releasing even more gas.

The attack is cheap, simple, fast to deploy, and using (mostly) available materials. Could easily attack multiple sites over the course of a few hours or days.

Yeraze April 23, 2006 1:53 PM

Here’s another one:

Procure a large flatbed, and several large steel oil drums.

turn each oil drum into a bomb (Leave the exact details as an exercise to the user, but for simplicity a fertilizer bomb). Use a simple pressure-gauge for the detonator. Drive over a dam near a populated area. Pull the flatbed over, quickly dump the barrels into the water. At the designated depth the barrels explode, weakening the dam.. with enough of them, collapsing it and flooding nearby areas.

mayhempix April 23, 2006 1:59 PM

“Birds of a Feather???

Terrorists set off a seemingly unstoppable epidemic of Avian Flu in the US.

Glass vials of avian flu are smuggled by terrorists into the country by inserting them in rectums and vaginas. These are delivered to 5-6 obscure small chicken farms across the US previously bought at bankruptcy auctions after US family farms were forced out by ruthlessly competitive poultry corporations. Chickens are injected with the flu virus and then covertly added to the huge tightly packed corporate chicken production flocks a few days away from slaughter by planted workers.

By the time it’s realized that chickens are dropping dead by the tens of thousands, tens of thousands more have already been delivered and sold by chain supermarkets, fast food chains and restaurants across the country. Food preparation handlers, housewives and cooks spread the virus to co-workers, family and friends resulting in a massive epidemic that spreads like wildfire infecting hundreds of thousands in the course of just a few days. This includes the military, hospitals, police and firefighting forces, and FEMA and Homeland Security personnel.

As the death tolls mount riots ensue and anyplace remotely connected to chickens is torched as people deemed responsible are dragged into the streets and beaten to death by angry mobs. The fate of the nation falls into the hands of a disparate group thrown together by the rapidly evolving and seemingly impossible to stop crisis.

Characters include:

Angry vindictive 22 year old son of displaced US farmer that died of heart attack after farm is repossessed and contacted terrorists with idea.

Former FEMA virus specialist who was replaced when FEMA was absorbed by Homeland Security and positions were given to inexperienced political hacks who towed the administration line.

10 year old seemingly immune to the virus with pet rat and her dying 16 year old brother.

26 year old female activist working for humane treatment of animals in food industry.

Active decorated conservative 3 star general at odds with administration on plans for a retaliatory nuclear strike against Muslim Asian country.

A treatment with characters, subplots and resolution is available.

Copyright 2006 Mayhempix all rights reserved.

*Note: I only read the first few entries on this blog so any semblance however minor to any other post is purely coincidental.

Geoff Lane April 23, 2006 2:19 PM

The best spies and terrorists enter a country with nothing at all except a
valid passport and a credit card, knowing that they can buy everything they

Petrol/Gas filling stations are everywhere and have tanks holding thousands
of litres of potential explosive. When properly built these tanks are
perfectly safe and contrary to what some movies and TV drama may like you to
believe they are almost impossible to explode during a normal accident.

Most tool rental stores will stock boring tools that can cut large holes
through brick and concrete walls.

The tops of most petrol/gas tanks at filling stations are usually no more
than one meter below the ground surface and often are covered with just sand
or gravel and then a thin layer of concrete or tarmac. Using one of the
boring tools to cut a couple of holes down into a full tank would be quite
simple (and with care quite safe.)

Into one of the holes is sealed the compressed air hose used for inflating
tyres (an extension hose may be required.) Into the other hole is sealed a
long pipe fitted with a shower head to create a fine spray. The pipe must
extend to the bottom of the tank to ensure that the air pressure will force
out the fuel.

A simple ignition device on a timer is placed on the ground and the air
compressor switched on. Fuel-air explosions are not very efficient but the
availability of large amounts of fuel and the slow explosion velocity is
highly damaging to surrounding buildings.

Ideally the attack should take place at night and the filling station should
be closed but if necessary the attendants will have to be dealt with. The
ignition time should be just after dawn for best results.

A team of 30 could, with practise, prepare five to ten filling stations in
one night.

Total cost for the hire of the tools, bits of plumbing and some hose would
be less than $5000 leaving $495,000 for the wrap party.

Geoff Lane April 23, 2006 4:03 PM

Lifts have very reliable safety mechanisms and are the safest means of
transport by far. Damaging the lifting gear would be disruptive but not
terribly terrifying.

One day during the morning rush when they are crowded 16 suicide bombers
enter a lift in each of the 16 tallest buildings in the US. Each carries a
briefcase full of explosive which they trigger as soon as the doors close.
An FBI agent, our hero, starts an investigation.

The remaining 16 terrorists lay low for a year by which time all the
security searches that were instigated after the original bombings have been
abandoned or are so lax as to be useless. The hero fights for better
resources but is mostly ignored.

The next attack takes place on the same day as the first and consists of 8
larger bombs in subway carriages, buses and trains. Again the attack is
during the rush hour, again the intent is terror and disruption. The hero
is vindicated and gains backing and resources and Secret Service help.

Exactly year later the next attack consists of four suicide bombers in
restaurants. By now the hero has sufficient clues to start searching
backwards for connections and is leading a major investigation task force
but making little progress.

The following year there is no attack but the expectation is so high that
normal life is impossible on that day. Having predicted mayhem the hero
is now disgraced and in future can only work on the case in his spare time.

The final year consists of the remaining four terrorists packing high
explosives into three small cars and fitting them with motion detectors.
The motion detectors are used to detect when the cars come to a halt —
think of Speed.

A car transporter is stolen and given some bullet proofing, sufficient for
the transporter and driver to survive sustained firing for a few seconds.
The transporter mechanism is locked down so it creates a ramp. The idea is
that the transporter is driven up to a well known sensitive area that is
protected by fences, concrete barriers and armed guards where it can be used
as a ramp by the cars which are driven at high speed up the ramp and over
all the barriers. If any of the cars survive the jump they will race
towards their final target. In any case, when the cars stop, they blow up.

But this is a movie plot, so the hero has to work out the pattern and work
backwards to the point early in the story where the terrorists made a
mistake that leads to the final four being identified before the attack. The
hero and his Secret Service buddy set up a defence within the grounds
consisting of well hidden aeroplane catch netting which is used to stop the
cars, which then explode but well away from the intended target. The hero
emerges burnt, bruised but victorious.

I wonder if Bruce Willis is available? If not, Jerry Doyle would do.

Soldier April 23, 2006 4:19 PM

Admittedly, the power grid model has been played but I would like to think of this as a more coordinated plan. Having been a Registered Nurse and a member of DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team) it becomes real clear how all of this works presuming that some part of the infrastructure this country is based upon is operational.

The plot I have devised here is based on 20-30 men and $500,000. Double the men and money, create a second team to go after the fuel system and the US will be stopped for years.

What follows is what I have developed.


The Plot

By Soldier
22 April 2006


Security is an illiusion.

Almost all security systems are operated and controlled by computers and are linked by dedicated communications systems, thus they all have a common weakness. Power. Despite battery backups and generators there is a limit to how long such means are sustainable. A large scale failure of the power grid, coupled with small scale attacks with bio-weapons will cause panic. The bio-weapons need not be lethal, the terrorists don’t want them to be lethal, just highly infectious. The object of the terrorist is to instill fear, to make your enemy use up his resources to fight you, or even better, to get the enemy to fight amongst themselves. The problem will be there won’t be an enemy to fight.


A security room in a bank is going through change of shift when the power fails. Within a few seconds the lights come back on but it is clear they are running on an internal generator. They start going through the process of securing the facility without power. Five minutes later power is restored. This was a dry run by the terrorists to see how operations would be handled in a major city if a few lines were cut down.

25 men, using old vans and cars bought cheap are driving around the United States with nothing conspicuous on them. They look ‘normal’ and attract no attention. The only unusual thing is when they stop at night they pull into local stores and buy what they need for making low grade explosives. They cook their product and drive out of town early in the morning to find a remote high tension wire tower. They have maps that show where all of these lines run and a cleverly disguised diagram to show where to put the explosives.

Each man operates alone and is wearing a chronograph watch. Each bomb made is set to go off at a specific time. The goal is to create power surges back through the line that shut down as many substations as possible and may even damage the grid. One team of two men is driving an electric company truck from substation to substation along the east coast and especially in the New York and D.C. area planting devices in control panels. The objective is to make it a difficult and dangerous process to repair the damage without making it impossible.

After two weeks of driving around the countryside the terrorists meet at a hotel in Kansas City. They have a conference planned and scheduled at the hotel. One of their members brings in a tray with pitchers of what appears to be water but has botulism in it. Each is poured a glass and the glasses passed around. In a toast the leader raises his glass and says “God be praised!??? Everyone responds “Insh’allah!???. They then break for lunch in the crowded restauraunt. That afternoon they are each given new maps and leave the hotel and head off to every major city in the U.S., some by plane, some by car and some by train. All of these men have new jobs they start on Monday in the restaurant business as cooks.

Each man is a walking bio-weapon that will take three days to incubate. They will then culture themselves onto agar plates and grow their own bio-weapons and spread it as far as possible before they are discovered. While each man starts his day job it is expected to take two weeks before widespread infection occurs. Ten days after drinking the water the power is going to go out.

A line worker driving along a remote part of an access road stops to investigate something attached to a high tension wire tower. A failure of the grid is caused by the toppling of 250 strategically chosen high tension wire towers in remote areas, coupled with the damaging of controls at substations. The line worker recognizes it for what it is but the tower blows up before he can call it in.

In a control room for the national power grid the controllers try to avoid the spike they see heading for the east coast as the power fails from west to east at the highest peak hour of summer. Several substations fail to respond to commands from the control center and most of the country and the entire east coast goes dark. The generators kick on but there isn’t enough sustainable energy to make everything work. Communications become spotty and after 36 hours the only communication networks running are run by the military. Fuel has become scarce as hoarding and looting start. Batteries go quickly and the worst affected are the fire and EMS operations as the police don’t share their already overloaded system as the police try to coordinate civil order as society starts to break down.

And then people start getting sick.

Hospitals find themselves overrun with botulism cases. People unable to get to hospitals start dying at home. Hospitals burn through most of their resources in 24 hours because they stock on a “just in time??? model for cost savings and do not have sufficient resources on site to handle such a crisis. Antibiotics become scarce and the children, least capable of coping with the disease, start dying. Rumours of a contaminated water supply send New York spiralling into chaos.

Meanwhile in Washington the President and the cabinet are unable to make quick changes to an already overtaxed system. The military is slow to change gears from war to civil defense. The billions spent on weapons systems now seem useless as thousands of Americans, mostly children and elderly, are dying for lack of care. What started as a mild, locally isolated crisis in Portland, Oregon has in two weeks spread across the country and repairs to the power grid are being delayed by the inability to coordinate repairs.

But what the terrorists hoped for didn’t happen.

The President of the United States, in an International appeal asks the world for help. Taking a big piece of humble pie he is required to acknowledge the US has not always dealt fairly with the rest of the world and promises to change. The world responds in kind with medical supplies, food, material and fuel

As many of the terrorists lay dying they wonder why other countries haven’t attacked America while they are down. They feel btrayed. Their leader makes calls to his paymasters to find out why the war hasn’t started yet. Being the only satellite call being made at the time the call is a large beacon and is easily monitored by a listening station in Colorado at Fort Hauchucha. This information is tracked backed to local Law Enforcement who attempt to arrest them. The leader and his two chief henchmen have turned their hotel room into one very large bomb in the middle of their hotel and blow themselves up, taking a good chunk of the hotel and its guests with them.

What the paymasters wanted was an apology from the United States for meddling in their affairs.

They got it.

And then the lights come back on in New York

Benjamin April 23, 2006 4:30 PM

I often wonder why the simple isn’t used more often.

Raise hornets/bees/wasps out in the open. No one suspects bee keepers of any wrong doing and generally keep away from hives. Do this across the US.

At some point, have the terrorist bee keepers collect hundreds into boxes and simultaneously go on to mass transit (buses, trains, etc), crowded areas (sports events, political gatherings) and release the bees.

I don’t know the number of people who are allergic to bees, but I do know that just about everyone I know is terrified of bees. Can you image the chaos caused by releasing a hundred hornets on a subway?

The movie could be called “Bee’s on a Train”. Samuel L. Jackson could be in it.

Stan Harrison April 23, 2006 5:23 PM

Middle eastern cab drivers locate themselves, one or two per block, throughout Manhattan, from top to bottom, and, at a designated time, blow themselves up.

Before this, all middle eastern owned fruit stands had been selling poisened fruit and the emergency services and hospitals have been filling the street taking people to hospitals. The streets are also filled with police as a result.

These thoughts do not in themselves make a film but can certainly be a climactic part.

By the way, I think about this every time I take a cab.

Vik Olliver April 23, 2006 7:35 PM

FAE Plot:
Bad guys occupy appartments in several cities. Assemble within each one large calibre mortars capable of propelling containers of flammable gas (propane, MAPP, ethylene oxide etc) a hundred metres or so in several directions. Fire off the mortars, creating a large fuel/air cloud, and then ignite same to produce the equivalent of a “daisy-cutter” bomb in a built-up area.

Next week, hit another city…

Vik Olliver April 23, 2006 7:42 PM

The nuke scenario.

An oil tanker – an Ultra Large Crude Carrier typically measuring over 300,000 metric tons – could easily conceal a nuke. Oil normally burns as a liquid. Now, imagine if that oil were suddenly vapourised, spread widely, mixed with air and ignited in a US port.

This would create a fuel/air explosion in excess of a megaton equivalent, while using a relatively small or primitive nuke. Blast radius – 7-10 miles.

dantewyrmfoe April 23, 2006 9:11 PM

April 15 1865.

Abraham Lincoln lies dead as the first casualty of Robert E. Lee’s suicidal fanatical followers, specifically the infamous assassin John Wilkes booth.

The film follows Lincoln’s “highly trained” secret service as they hunt down the assassin, on April 26th they find him hiding in a Tobacco barn where he is shot and killed, but not before he’s beaten and interrogated into giving away the fanatical Lee’s plans.

As it turns out, ever since his defeat at Anteitam, Lee has slowly begun to create a huge stockpile of explosives which he plans on sending on a train into the heart of the Union, with the President already dead the Unions morale was at an all time low this final weapon of mass desctruction would send a crushing blow to the Union who would finally surrender to the Confederacy.

The rest of the film will follow a special unit of soldiers as they attempt to intercept the train and it’s deadly payload. Along with a romantic subplot about a young couple abord the train as they fight to stay alive…or some such garbage.

(God…is any of that even remotely historically accurate? I guess that doesn’t really matter much.)

secops April 23, 2006 11:50 PM

Saddam was running this code on his XBoxes. Guys were trading oil for code and shipping UN food to Iran. This stuff’s classified! I wrote sayings to put on bombs and then had a birthday party for John Travolta, who never showed up.

/* The IRAQI BLOCK CIPHER BSF-1.052.36*/

/* Iraqi cipher standard 1998 */

/* 160-bit keys, 256-bit block */

#include <stdio.h>

unsigned char one_way_res[16];

unsigned char rnd_perm[256][16],rnd_glob[256],ciphertext[32];

int compt,i,y;

unsigned char l[32][16],r[32][16];

unsigned char chaos[256];

unsigned char chaos1[256]={
















init_pbc1(unsigned char key[20])


int w,err,ix,x;

unsigned char fixed_key[32]={



for (compt=0;compt<256;compt++)




for (w=0;w<4;w++)



for (compt=0;compt<256;compt++)




for (compt=0;compt<32;compt++)





for (compt=0;compt<16;compt++)



for (ix=0;ix<16;ix++)



for (x=0;x<ix;x++)


if (rnd_perm[compt][x] == (ciphertext[7]%16) )







if (err==0)












for (ix=0;ix<256;ix++)



for (x=0;x<ix;x++)


if (rnd_glob[x] == ( ciphertext[7]%256) )







if (err==0)










for (compt=0;compt<256;compt++)




for (w=0;w<4;w++)



for (compt=0;compt<256;compt++)




for (compt=0;compt<32;compt++)






round_init(unsigned char plaintext[32],int nbround)


for (i=0;i<16;i++)





for (i=1;i<nbround;i++)



for (y=0;y<16;y++)



r[i][y]=l[i-1][y] ^ one_way_res[y];



for (i=0;i<16;i++)






round(unsigned char plaintext[32],int nbround)


for (i=0;i<16;i++)





for (i=1;i<nbround;i++)



for (y=0;y<16;y++)



r[i][y]=l[i-1][y] ^ one_way_res[y];




for (i=0;i<16;i++)






one_way_init(unsigned char matrix[16])


int z;

unsigned char permut[16][16]={

















for (z=0;z<16;z++)


one_way_res[z]=( ( chaos[matrix[permut[z][0]]] | chaos[matrix[permut[z][1]]])+

( chaos[matrix[permut[z][2]]] | chaos[matrix[permut[z][3]]]) ) ^ ( (chaos[matrix[permut[z][4]]] +

chaos[matrix[permut[z][5]]] )+( chaos[matrix[permut[z][6]]] ^ chaos[matrix[permut[z][7]]]) );

one_way_res[z]=one_way_res[z] + ( ( (~chaos[matrix[permut[z][8]]] ^ chaos[matrix[permut[z][9]]]) +

(chaos[matrix[permut[z][10]]] & ~chaos[matrix[permut[z][11]]]) ) ^ ( (chaos[matrix[permut[z][12]]] ^

~chaos[matrix[permut[z][13]]]) + (chaos[matrix[permut[z][14]]] ^ chaos[matrix[permut[z][15]]]) ) );



one_way(unsigned char matrix[16])


int z;

for (z=0;z<16;z++)


one_way_res[z]=( ( chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][0]]] | chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][1]]])+

( chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][2]]] | chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][3]]]) ) ^ ( (chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][4]]] +

chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][5]]] )+( chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][6]]] ^ chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][7]]]) );

one_way_res[z]=one_way_res[z] + ( ( (~chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][8]]] ^ chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][9]]]) +

(chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][10]]] & ~chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][11]]]) ) ^ ( (chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][12]]] ^

~chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][13]]]) + (chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][14]]] ^ chaos[matrix[rnd_perm[z][15]]]) ) );






int tt;

unsigned char key[20]={0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,


unsigned char text[32]={0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,


printf(“Plaintext :”);

for (tt=0;tt<32;tt++)


printf(“%X “,text[tt]);




round(text,6); /* 5 rounds */

printf(“Ciphertext :”);

for (tt=0;tt<32;tt++)


printf(“%X “,ciphertext[tt]);





round(text,6); /* 5 rounds */

printf(“Plaintext :”);

for (tt=0;tt<32;tt++)


printf(“%X “,ciphertext[tt]);





key : 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Plaintext :0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Ciphertext :B 58 52 F 6A 3C 1E 63 70 46 16 73 57 BC 68 CD BF 7C E0 8F 15 54 3A E5 59 96 55 54 83 43 E 86

key : 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Plaintext :0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Ciphertext :D9 48 EE 9C 33 94 7A A3 F F0 1E F9 CB E2 32 50 BA 43 E1 18 47 D3 24 89 4A 63 14 E5 D B6 9E 2B

key : 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Plaintext :1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Ciphertext :4 CF B 24 E9 A8 3A AD C1 53 6A 7C 46 E1 3D CD 8C A8 9B 3D 10 B9 DC A1 D3 F 44 A6 D5 1F 93 83

key : 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Plaintext :1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Ciphertext :4E 43 60 1B 4F 57 D2 CA DA BB 9D E0 F5 61 3 D3 55 6B C5 DD C4 8F 48 65 16 A1 3A 15 B1 B8 19 58


Wim L April 23, 2006 11:54 PM

Cars are increasingly automated. IIRC, the VW Touareg is completely drive-by-wire — there’s no mechanical linkage any more between the controls and the wheels.

So, terrorists “hack into” or plant a “virus” in car control software. (I’m using the scare quotes because those are the terms a movie would have to use — in reality, it would probably be easier as an inside job at the auto manufacturer or something like that.) At a designated time, cars go crazy and kill their occupants, by standers, etc. It would be like the movie “Maximum Overdrive” (that is, it would be a bad movie). It would be best to have this happen repeatedly and unpredictably, so that people could work up a good level of fear.

It seems to me that good movie/terror conduits are things that people encounter regularly but are still kind of scared of. Cars fit that description. Elevators, jetliners, tall buildings, and power distribution also fit that description.

Creidiki April 24, 2006 12:23 AM

Bees venom causes minor irritation when stung, but is highly toxic when inhaled. So our $TERRORIST_ORGANISATION will purchase some beehives, around 50 should do. They will then collect the venom which is simple enough, since collection devices are basically glass plates electrified with car batteries.

Collected venom is allowed to dry and ground to fine dust. Now we need to make the dust airborne over a large crowd, for shock value, our target is boyscout convention. Collected beevenom is airbusterd using common fireworks.

Stefan Wagner April 24, 2006 2:14 AM

Hi Bruce, hi audience

A few groups or individuals spread across the country.

Phase 1)
Send 100 letters in SF, Chicago and NY to people, claiming:
‘You have been choosen by random to be on our kill-list for symbolic reasons.
Here is our message: “…” (political message).’

Phase 2)
Wait a few days, and kill one or two of them in every city.

Phase 3) Wait a few weeks, then repeat.

Phase 4) Repeat with different cities, but 1000 mailings.

Phase 5) Vary the number of days or week between mailing and killing.

Phase 6) Keep mailing and killing, but kill people who haven’t been mailed, and place the mail in their flats while killing them.

Phase 7) Increase the number of people who receive the mail.

Phase 8) Kill people who haven’t been killed, but are left from Phase 1

If practical, poison should be used for killing, and old people should
be mailed too. Some of them will die by nature, but their death will
seed mistrust.

Underlying ideas: Everybody might be a target, and get fear.
Mailing-actions refresh alarm-mood.
How shall the police protect 1000 people for several weeks? Impossible.
But if one get’s killed, people will ask ‘why didn’t they protect him?’

Anonymous April 24, 2006 3:37 AM

Nothing gets people to submit like the fear of sudden death (hey, then we can get Patriot Act II, yay!).
-DC sniper scenario, but on a larger scale.

Nothing gets people to react like a massive psychological warfare attack on their homeland.
-Dirty bomb or low-yield nuke set off on U.S. soil, “terrorists” take responsibility through anonymous admission on the internet. Of course the days before the attack there is insider trading on stocks but the government never releases who was behind the trading.

Anonymous Coward April 24, 2006 3:51 AM

In other news:

“… evildoers could initiate globe spanning internet contests and disrupt our communication systems by using up all the bandwidth”

John V. Doe April 24, 2006 6:11 AM

Give your “unskilled” people an ID, each can be actived independantly on US territory through e-mail, phone, relay-phone, publication of capture (yours for example), and so on. Let them sleep a year or two to get info on their various target, best place… When activited, must kill at least a child/a known person in different or identical place each week until captured or killed or stopped by you to be reactived few weeks later.

Killing method must vary and must be done by using the most seen action: Shoot a gas station, hi-jack a lorry to crush people, shot them in the middle of a “high society” restaurant or street or near a ice-cream van, and so on.

They must publish an identical signature in the following days after an action. Since nobody but you knows how many of them are active at the same moment, alone or in group, nobody knows what will happen next.

In the US, there is no problem for them to get a gun by any way, legal or not. But a suicide explosion time to time is recommanded.

The goal is to create UNCERTAINITY, fear, doubt, scare, to paralyze education and life. Even if a couple of kid/known person per month is far less than what the transportation kills per day.

UKDave April 24, 2006 7:08 AM

@Jay Garmon mentioned botulism but then tossed the idea, due to the toxicity and the cost of generating it.
Firts botulism is really easy to develop, as it exists in the wild and creating an anaerobic environment is simple with some canning equipment. Botulism also takes from 18 to 36 hours to develop symptoms which means it could be spread and outbreaks would have a somewhat random pattern.

The variation to the plan is the delivery method. Have 10 teams with $4000 a piece in ones that have been treated with the liquid. Attend random events/locations that would allow for maximum distribution (street fairs, sporting events, malls).
Once the pattern became known, it would still take time as the initial infection vector is food.
One other note, people who have had Botox treatments can’t be given the anti-toxin.

DStaal April 24, 2006 9:30 AM

This one will take small teams (6-8 people) at several major airports.

Load one-two handbags full of ‘dust bombs’ – homemade devices that when dropped/thrown will release a fine dust into the air.

At the airport, part of the team goes through security as normal, then sets up at pre-planned locations inside the airport.

Then we need a ‘ringer’ to go through security. They should have something innocuous but forbidden in their bag so they get pulled over by security. Their job then is to make a fuss: tie up as many security agents as possible.

Once the agents are distracted, the ‘carriers’ rush the gates, with their bags in hand. They should spread dust bombs as they run. (Put a couple in your path: the security gaurds who are chasing will probably pause before running through the dust cloud.)

When they are about to get caught, the bags should be relayed to the next member of the group in the airport. Repeat until you run out of people to pass the bags too. Extra credit if you manage to get the bags out of the passenger areas… (Bonus if you can have someone working for the airport start running around the baggage area at the same time yelling ‘Jihad!’ Even if you can’t get them anything to place in the bags.)

Do this simultaniously across the country in major hub airports, preferably on a busy travel day. (Thanksgiving Sunday comes to mind…)

The airport will have to be emptied until all passengers are re-screened, the dust is cleaned up, the dust is analysed for composition, and possibly the terrorists checked for contagious mega deseases.

The dust of course can be any bioweapon that can be delivered in dust form, but it can also be nothing more than ground flour or powedered sugar. The former has the advantage of being a real threat (you would require treatment for quite a few people this way), while the latter has the advantage of propaganda: You haven’t actually done anything, but you’ll probably have at least one martyr to talk about.

In the meantime (and either way) you’ve shut down airtraffic across the country and around much of the world for several hours. Done at the right time, you’ll disrupt the holliday shopping season, and be able to crow about the western comercialism.

You can probably also point out how the security of the airport was more of a danger than your people, and spread some distrust of that…

DStaal April 24, 2006 9:38 AM

Generate a large amount of a white-dust bioweapon. Pack it in sweatener packets (sugar and artificial) mixed with the normal sweatener.

Distribute these packets into fast-food restruants around the country and in airports. The closer to the highways the better. Just walk in, order a drink, and place a few packets in with the rest as you are getting some sweatener for yourself.

People will be dying by the droves. To stop it you have to find the persons distriubting the packets. It will take quite a while to figure out how the weapon is being spread, and once it is found out people will be avoiding resturants for ages.

monta April 24, 2006 9:53 AM

Bruce Schneier’s
Terrorist Movie Plot Contest Entry

There is a existing deadly virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and a way to spread it (Mosquitoes in particular “Culex pipiens” ). Here is the outline for how they could be used to spread terror and lay waste to the U.S. economy and health using the proscribed “30 terrorists with $500,000”.

By Monta “glad HE’S not a bad-guy” Elkins
and Kirk “Mosquito Man” Averett


Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) kills about one third of the people who become infected making it one of the most deadly mosquito-borne diseases in the United States. Approximately half of those who survive will have brain damage according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The virus lives in host reservoirs- typically game birds. Mosquitoes become infected when biting those game birds. The mosquitoes then infect humans when they are bitten. Humans die.

Phase One.

Pheasants seem to be the most susceptible domestically-reared game bird
Though many other types of fowl could be used as well. Terrorists would seed likely mosquito breeding grounds with mosquitoes and an infected caged bird. Many potential mosquito breeding grounds exist, from ponds, to old tires, to junk yards. Anything that holds small amounts of water can be used.


From egg to breeding adult can be as short as 7 days with warm weather (85-100 F) and a bit of organic material in the water for the larva to use as food (a bit of cattle feed would do it).

Symptoms usually appear 4 to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

That gives the 30 terrorists at least 11 days to drive and seed Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) across the country and perhaps as long as 20 days before the first cases appear. Assuming they can drive and seed 5 locations a day for 10 days thats 1500 mosquito sites. Those mosquitoes will continue to seek out breeding locations and other game birds to infect on their own. (And the terrorists will have other work to do after the 10th day- long before the first symptoms appear in the public- see Phase II).

12 days after the process begins people begin to present to hospitals with some “unidentified viral encephalitis”. In 3 more days the trickle becomes a stream and the CDC is called to try to isolate the cause. The deaths are appearing in news reports and the public becomes fearful. In 2 more days the CDC has identified EEE and calls for mass spraying of the insecticide, malathion, nationwide to stop the mosquitoes. Even if enough trucks, and planes could found to kill every mosquito on the planet on this day; tens of thousands of people have already been infected for a week. “Walking wounded.” The stream of infected arriving at medical facilities becomes a flood. Since there is NO effective treatment for EE 30% of them will die and 50% of the survivors will ultimately suffer brain damage. Malathion deteriorates rapidly in the environment due to sunshine and water, so spraying must be done daily. Cities, counties and states will “fight” over limited supplies of insecticides and the hundreds of thousands of vehicles and devices needs to administer it.

Hospitals are overwhelmed. People are afraid to leave their houses to go to work or shopping. Tens of thousands of people are called upon in the mosquito eradication attempts; leaving their regular productive endeavors. A significant portion of the work force either dies or becomes brain damaged, further crippling the economy. The national guard and armed forces are recalled from their duties in Iraq and elsewhere to operate the spraying machinery and fight the plague at home. EEE become endemic in the U.S. from this point on. A state of Emergency is declared by the President severely curtailing American liberties. Border and airline security measure are stepped up severely to make a show of the attempt to keep anyone from smuggling something as small as 1cc of a blood borne pathogen into the U.S.

Phase II
“The extremely small droplet aerosols utilized in adult mosquito control are designed to impact primarily on adult mosquitoes that are on the wing at the time of the application.”

The terrorist stopped early in their seeding of natural, existing, breeding grounds of mosquitoes to develop some special, protected breeding areas. Inside and thus protected from the malathion spraying. The terrorists had each rented 3 (or more) widely separated apartments, in large cities across the U.S. In those apartments they build small plywood “ponds” covering most of the floor, lined with plastic sheeting; warmed with fish tank temperature controllers; seeded with mosquito larvae and food. 2-3 animals would be left in each apartment, with plenty of separate food & water for them. You would want them to live as long as possible. Only one would have to be infected initially– the others would get infected pretty quickly. Pick “low rent” districts to keep the rent expense down, and maximize the number of apartment breeding grounds. Poorer neighborhoods would be less likely to notice the apartments and slower to search them when the Presidential order for landlords to search all rental properties ultimately comes.

A hole in a window screen allows the mosquitoes to travel outside their warm protected home; infect people and other bird at large and seek additional breeding grounds.

Mosquitoes travel up to a 14 mile diameter depending on species; essentially covering all of New York, New York, from 3 strategically placed apartments.

The effects on the economy, freedom and feeling of security in the U.S. would be incalculable.

Additional Options:
Remove Phase I and begin with Phase II breeding in apartments. That would have less “initial shock”, but might hide the infection method lounger since there would be no (dead) birds found caged near water sources. Authorities would spend many days waiting for the malathion spraying to take effect (remember it takes 4 to 10 days for symptoms to appear) and when it did not, many more solving the puzzle of rented breeding grounds in apartments.

Before beginning, taint Consumer (Deet containing) anti-insect sprays with a nerve agent. Their procession through the supply chain will be greatly accelerated once the infection vector is discovered. A very small number of deaths from tainted insect sprays or spraying will cause a significant decline in their use when they are most needed; thus allowing more persons to become infected.

Breed mosquitoes that are selected for malathion resistance before beginning.

Careful planning and work would allow most of the terrorists to leave the area before the plot was revealed, leaving them alive become sleepers agents; waiting for the call to begin again.

Tom Grant April 24, 2006 10:04 AM

Movie Plot Threat-

Mission: Terrorize Americans. Neutralize American Economy, Make America feel completely vulnerable, and all Americans unsafe. (Power grid + populace threat)

Scene 1

A rented van drives from Spokane, Wa to a remote setting in Idaho and loads up with shoulder mounted rocket launchers and a couple of people dressed in fatigues.

Scene 2

Terrorists dressed in “delivery man” garb take over the UPS cargo depot at the Spokane, Wa airport. A van full of explosives is unloaded at the depot.

Scene 3

Terrorists dressed in “delivery man” garb take over the UPS cargo depot at the
Kamloops, BC, airport. A van full of explosives is unloaded at the depot.

Scene 4

A van with mercenaries drives through the Idaho forests enroute to an unknown destination. Receives cell communiqué that locations Alpha and Bravo are secured.

Scene 5

UPS cargo plane lands in Kamloops and is met at the deopt by terrorists who overtake the plane and its crew. Explosives are loaded aboard the aircraft.

The same scene plays out in Spokane moments later, and that plane is loaded with explosives.

Two pilots board each of the cargo planes and ask for takeoff instructions as night falls across the West.

Scene 6

Two cargo jets go airborne from two separate locations.

A van with four terrorists arrives at their destination, parked on an overlook ridge just after nightfall. They use infrared glasses to scope the target. The camera pans down and away from the van, exposing the target. Grand Coulee dam.

The cell phone rings and notification comes to the leader that “Nighthawks alpha and bravo have launched”.

Scene 7

Two radar operators in separate locations note with alarm that UPS cargo jets they have been tracking have dropped off the radar and may have crashed.

Aboard each craft the pilots have turned off navigational radios and are flying on “manual” at low altitude. One heading South, one heading North.

Scene 8

Planes are closing in on the “target” and the rocket launcher crew goes to work. With precision they strike lookout and defense positions on the dam, then target the office structures below.

As they finish, a cargo jet approaches from the North at high velocity, slamming into the back side of the dam just above the waterline and exploding, shuddering the earth. A large portion of the center-toip of the dam is missing. Within seconds a cargo plane coming from the South slams into the front face of the dam, closer to the base, and explodes in a blinding flash, shuddering the earth.

In moments, the dam begins to fail, and a final volley from four rocket launchers on the hill above helps break open the face of the dam.

The 40-mile long lake Roosevelt begins to pour down the Columbia River valley, uncontrolled. No warning is given to the dams downriver, other than the generation at G.C. is now offline.

Scene 8

Through the night the surging wall of water roars down the Columbia waterway, overtopping dam after dam and gaining momentum (and huge amounts of water) along the way. The cities of Wenatchee and Kennewick are inundated and largely swept away.

A van of renegade’s retreats to Northern Idaho to hide.

Scene 9

As day breaks in the West, there is no power from Seattle to Los Angeles. The Western power grid has failed.

Commerce has ground to a halt west of the Rocky Mountains.

Water is sweeping down the Columbia river gorge threatening to overtop Bonneville dam and wipe out the large metro area of Portland, Or.

Scene 9

Bin Laden releases a video on Al Jazeera that claims victory over the Americans.

Scene 10

Pandemonium, as water sweeps into a panicked Portland, Oregon, washing all away in its path, and surging water well up the Willamette valley.

Scene 11

Washington situation room…little input is coming in from the West. Some military bases have emergency power and sat phones, and are reporting that the devastation of the dam infrastructure is complete. 7 major and 5 minor dams have been destroyed. Re-powering the West coast will take months, as connections from the Eastern grid will have to be made through the New Mexico Mountains.

Scene 12

America’s GNP drops from the top of the charts to 20th worldwide. Exports and imports cease on the West coast.

Martial law fails to control mass exodus from Seattle, San Francisco, and L.A. as millions flee to the east.

Gas shortages and vigilante mentality take their toll on the panicked populace. The West is “wild” once more. The East is overrun with millions seeking homes and employment.


Tom Grant April 24, 2006 10:22 AM


I forgot to include “Worst US Market Crash in history.” in Scene 12



Jim April 24, 2006 11:22 AM

A commercial fisherman out of Chesapeake Bay rendezvous with a freighter out of Pakistan and a 50-caliber sniper rifle is handed over to the captain of the fishing boat.

Communication with the spy/assassin is by OWVL (One Way Voice Link) using Morse code and enciphered messages.

A former CIA communications expert decrypts the messages and unsuccessfully tries to interest members of the FBI or the CIA.

The fishing boat travels up the Potomac and, anchored under the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the captain attempts to assassinate the POTUS as the Presidential motorcade crosses the Memorial Bridge to Arlington Cemetery on November 11th.

The variation would be to replace the sniper rifle with a suitcase sized nuclear device.

Anonymous April 24, 2006 11:41 AM

I haven’t read them all, but this one from “Roy” on April 1st is my favorite –

“Bomb Scare with a Twist: At the target building, preferably holding thousands of people, a dummy bomb is planted and a bomb threat called in. The object is to see where the evacuated people concentrate. The actual attack starts days later with a bomb threat, followed by an exploding squib, forcing evacuation out to the concentration areas, where, subsequently, half the car bombs are detonated. When emergency services arrive, the other half of the car bombs are detonated.”

Pat Cahalan April 24, 2006 11:48 AM

My wife added an addendum to my plot. If it becomes (schedule-wise) easier to execute during the summer instead of around New Year’s, have the team dedicated to the Rose Bowl go around the county igniting large wildfires in the three days prior to the freeway event.

This gets all of the fire crews tired, moves emergency resources outside the city limits (which will make it really difficult for them to get back, especially with all the traffic snarled due to the freeways being on fire), and means that the firefighting aircraft will already be engaged.

chitownckb April 24, 2006 1:00 PM

It has been said that passengers would not allow a 9/11 type hi-jack of a jet. I agree. But how about this…

Plot: Several terrorists enter country at different locations and different means. Illegal border crossings, student and work visas, etc. Then they purchase coffins and equip them for life support. The coffins are then manned and then scheduled for airborne shipment to overseas locations. Once the plane is airborne the terrorist exits the coffin and hijacks the plane. No passengers to deal with on a freight airline and lots of fuel to make the plane go boom since it is tanked up for an overseas flight. Questioning of cargo might even be less because the company would not want to upset the “grieving” family.

dr.bad April 24, 2006 2:00 PM

Apparatus, system and method for terrorizing a city
by poisoining a large number of people while disrupting communications of said city


1) Select a city and an appropriate date and time.
2) Get a potent, water-soluble, tasteless, odourless and invisible poison (e.g., LSD).
3) Develop an electronically controlled small poison pump that can inject poison into water pipes. This can be accomplished by :
a) Developing a special fixture for PVC water pipes serving buildings. A section of the pipe is covered with a ring (to contain pressure), and a hole is drilled into pipe. The ring contains a nozzle attached to the pump.
b) Develop a kind of hoses that can be inserted from the faucets.
4) Attach 100 such devices to pipes in various buildings.
5) Build 500 radio jammers capable of jamming various bands — emergency, cellular and spread them across the city.
6) The jammers and pumps are set to go off a given date.
7) For profit, you can blackmail the government and give them the locations for a few of these pumps.
8) Take appropriate care to put the jammers and pumps near large metallic masses and electric lines.
Also, use proper design and shielding techniques to ensure they have a very quiet electromagnetic signature. This way they should be hard to spot.
9) To make sure no-one else takes “credit” for your efforts, post appropriately encrypted messages to the usenet or various blogs, possibly using steganography. You could, for instance, write a very nice freeware or open-source game and hide the messages in it.
10) After the fact, post the decryption keys.

Steven April 24, 2006 2:53 PM

How about a personal-sized thriller, told from the perspective of an unwitting agent of death? I envision a movie called “CARRIER” about an illegal immigrant who realizes he has been injected with a deadly virus that has the potential to wipe out millions. Any contact with him is deadly. Even his own death would not prevent the virus from spreading. He has to escape FROM the United States even though the FBI and every cop in the country is hunting for him. Or else he will die knowing that he is responsible for a continent-wide plague.

RSaunders April 24, 2006 3:16 PM

al-Qa’ida vs NFL

There are 32 NFL teams, usually 14 games on Sunday and one on Monday. Sampling the 2006 schedule, it seems there are usually 9 games at 1300 Eastern Time. A trained 3-man mortar team can fire four rounds in the time of flight of a Russian 82mm mortar. This weapon has a range of 2.5 miles. From a street about 2 miles from the stadium, drop 4 rounds in with 9:11 to play in the second quarter or the second half kickoff or whatever. Since all the games are televised, you’re sure to get coverage. While you might kill a few folks, you’ll start 9 riots. They might even cancel a couple of weeks of games, but you can do it again a couple of weeks after that. After they cancel the NFL season, you can start on baseball (more games but not as good of TV coverage).

Requires 27 terrorists, 9 trucks, and 126 pounds of equipment per team. You can afford to spend $200/pound on smuggling fees.

vedaal April 24, 2006 3:41 PM


Terrorist suicide bombers are aren’t achieving as much carnage or recognition as they thought they should be,
and there is a lull and malaise in their activities.

The ringleader / masterminds are also weary, having not accomplished anything they consider memorable,
and so, they decide that this time, they and not the younger recruits are going to carry out the plot.

The Target:

  • the bridges and tunnels of a few major American cities

The Plan:

  • the people involved dress as successful middle aged businessmen, in suits and ties,
    and drive expensive but not ostentatious bmw’s, in keeping with an affluent urban image

-they assume that this is not the terrorist profile that the screeners will be looking for,
and that they will be allowed through normal traffic without being stopped and having their vehicles searched

-they accumulate a large supply of highly flammable materials, paint thinner, acetone, solvents,
easily acquired in any Home Depot or similar chain store

-they purchase all the ‘ordinary’ materials necessary for a ‘do-it-yourself’ home renovation project,
so that the flammable materials are plausibly part of the project, and do not trigger any alerts or investigations.

-once they have stockpiled enough flammable materials to fill their trunks, they arrange on a date and time for a spontaneous
attack, where they drive full speed into a head on collision with one of the bridge towers or tunnel walls

-they communicate steganographically by using spam messages as the cover carrier, and an agreed upon simple poly-alphabetic substitution cipher to hide short text messages within the spam

— they use common anonymous spam e-mail addresses with yahoo, hotmail, etc. domains,
and the sender makes a new address for each message, sent to the receivers’ legitimate ‘respectable’ e-mail addresses

— the e-mails are deleted immediately after being read, as expected of spam

— no non-terrorists are spammed, so there is no spam-abuse triggered investigation

— [steganography is used because all the known cryptographer consultants have dismissed it as ‘less-than-respectable crypto’,
and have asserted time and again that steganography has never, and probably never would be, used by terrorists 😉 ]

The Twist and Happy Ending:
(sorry, but i can’t bring myself to write something where the terrorists do anything but lose ;-)) )

-in one of the cities, on the day of the attack, there is unusually heavy traffic,
and one of the terrorists starts out early, so that he can be at the tower of the bridge at the appointed time.

  • on one of the merging lanes approaching one of the bridges,
    an aggressive motorist in a hurry, has a mild scrape with one of the terrorist bmw’s.

-the motorist gets out of his car and starts yelling at the bmw driver, claiming that it was the bmw driver’s fault

  • to his surprise, the terrorist driver of the bmw, who doesn’t really care anymore about money or possessions,
    offers to pay a generous amount of cash on the spot to settle it, saying that his insurance would go up more, if he had to report it

-at this point, the police, who are routinely stationed at such bridges at rush hours, arrive,
and the motorist at fault starts speaking loudly to the police, telling them that it was all the bmw driver’s fault,
and says, ” Look, he even offered to pay me cash for the damage, that must prove he knows it was his fault.
If it were ‘my’ bmw and someone did that to me, I would be screaming my head off!”

  • the police do find some merit in this line of reasoning,
    and also have a bad feeling about the frustrated and panicked look on the bmw driver’s face,
    and decide to investigate more closely,
    and see him trying to light a match to set to a short fuse leading to the trunk.

–they overpower him just in time,
and it dawns on one of the officers that the ‘successful-businessman-appearance’ might be the new profile,
and the bridges and tunnels of major cities might be the new targets …

with a marvelous efficiency and inter-agency co-operation of all personnel,
this is communicated to the tunnel and bridge authorities in all the major cities,
and all the attacks are thwarted with just seconds to spare.


All involved are slightly shaken by the ‘near miss’
which was averted,
not by proper security precautions,
but by the Grace of God, only through the ‘lucky’ accident on the day of the attack …

rock April 24, 2006 4:38 PM

Terrorist cells all over the united states are all activated for one major assault on the states. Thousands of public hospitals are bombed at the same time on the anniversary of 9/11 and a threat is received by the news indicating more attacks on health care facilities. Meanwhile, the public was unaware that the day before the bombings millions of americans were infected by a biological weapon distributed in malls by the same cells . movie theaters and sports arenas the day prior. With half of the country sick and dying the other half fears going to the hospitals. 🙂

rock April 24, 2006 4:55 PM

After witnessing the effects of the black out of 2004. Terrorist stage the biggest blackout in american history by attacking major power facilities throughout the country with a computer virus . Immediately following the blackouts terrorist foot soldiers sneak through the streets of the major cities placing bombs in key locations in the darkness. As the light returns the government struggles to find an answer to the power system when a curious technician finds a mysterious countdown synchronized across the whole country. Can she stop them in time? 🙂

Rhampton April 24, 2006 4:57 PM

Compressed Gas & .50 caliber rifles

Months before, 10 teams of two men set shop in mid-sized cities (apx.population 400,000 – 800,000) and observe the railroad and truck shipments of compressed gasses. Once the planning is complete and targets of opportunity are identified, the teams disperse. From then on each man operates individually and has no further contact with the other.

Each man must obtain a .50 caliber rifle on their own, but ammunition is given to all at the outset. To minimize suspicion, they must take on the persona of a stereotypical pro-America avid gun-enthusiast — including purchasing several small arms and making regular trips to firing ranges.

On the given day, each man is to strike between 8:00 and 8:10 am to minimize federal recognition and response to a mulitple-threat attack. Armed with a .50 caliber rifle and a 2-4 Raufoss multi-purpose rounds, they shoot tankers of compressed gas — preferrably in-or-near major soft targets like hospitals, schools, apartments, etc. or key infrastructure like highway interchanges, electric sub-stations, etc.

Cities in which two flammable targets are hit will overwhelm the capabilities of fire departments from these mid-sized cities. Cities in which one toxic gas and one flammable target are hit will slow the initial response to give the fire a chance to spread. Cities in which two toxic gas targets are hit will cause chaos as conflicting reports of gas type and source come in.

* Raufoss multi-purpose rounds combines armor-piercing, explosive, and incendiary effects for maximum anti-personnel and fire start effect.

  • A conventional 90-ton tank car contains 180,000 pounds of compressed, liquefied chlorine. If such a vehicle were to release its contents, a heavier-than-air toxic cloud that could easily cover tens of square miles … other vulnerable shipments include anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and LPG (see Crescent City, Illinois, June 21, 1970)

Pat Sutlaw April 24, 2006 5:43 PM

If you really want to make an impression on the American nation, the way to do it is to sink an aircraft carrier. Better still, sink an aircraft carrier and make a video of the attack for propaganda.
Now on the face of it, knocking out a carrier is difficult, but I think there might be a small chance as follows:

A. Analyse global carrier delpoyments to work out where they regularly pass through shallow waters. Bottlenecks such as the Straights of Gibraltar or the approach channels to any harbours regularly used by carriers might be candidates. The point is to find a relatively shallow stretch of water where a carrier is likely to go, sooner or later.

B. Upon confirmation of an approaching carrier, Sink a large quantity of compressed LPG gas cylinders, clad in explosive designed to rupture the gas cylinders, in the expected path of the carrier. What is a “large quantity”? Well I am thinking of (say) 500 47kg propane cylinders giving 23,500kg compressed gas. The gas will expand by a factor of 250 when released (

C. When the carrier is sailing over the sunk gas cylinders detonate the explosives to release the compressed gas. Note that we are not interested in the potential explosive force of the gas when detonated in oxygen – we just want to release as much gas as possible under the ship to force it down in the water.

A few notes:

  1. Perhaps you don’t “get” this. Normal ship buoyancy relies on the weight of displaced water by a ship. If the water under the ship contains enough rising gas, then the ship will sink. The only question is how much gas is required to achieve this result.
  2. If the attack is carried out on a ship approaching a harbour, there should be a chance to get the attack on video.
  3. As far as I know, no warship has ever been designed to defend against this type of attack. The only possible defence I can see is to keep the ship sealed airtight so that it will float back up after the gas has bubbled up to the surface.
  4. LPG has been suggested because it is easily commercially available. There may be other compressed gases, such as normal air, that have better liquid/gas compression ratios and hence are more suitable for this type of attack.
  5. Buying enough LPG gas to achieve this aim would be very expensive today. Perhaps a bit of old-fashioned fraud or even theft would be better than purachsing the gas (after all who wil look for it underwater).

  6. Reliably blowing up the gas cylinders under (say) several hundred feet of water would be hard. The only chance I see is a command line laid from the sunk gas to a control point. This is definitely a weak point in the attack.

Just to clear up any potential misunderstandings, I have no interest in terrorism – just security.

rock April 24, 2006 6:25 PM

With millions of immigrants flooding the country the USA feels they are losing their country. A high level politician influences congress to pass laws to force all immigrants out of the country. A resistance is established to combat the fascist USA and claim that this land belongs to the world. A civil war erupts. All troops abroad are called home. A sinister connection is discovered. The 9/11 hijackers, Bin Laden, The immigrant hating politician, the resistance. All peices of the same puzzle, all al Quaeda.

( powerful drum music starts……., scenes flash across the screen —–9/11 attack footage—– Politician rousing congress in a speech—– Immigrants protesting in front of the white house—-American soldiers fighting each other in NYC—-EXPLOSION……..smoke settles…. Arabian music plays and as the smoke clears Bin Laden walks out of a cave with the american flag but as the screen backs up we realize the cave is at mount rushmore where thousands of muslims are gathered and scream in a roar “Allah Akabar” .Music ends with movie start date. 🙂

Wildgrrrl April 24, 2006 7:02 PM

I think the most dangerous terrorist attack would be one that would continue indefinitely without the terrorists needing to be alive. The terrorists get multiple lethal viruses and release them into the animal population, especially something like a bird. Or they could genetically engineer a particularly nasty virus that does not have immediate symptoms and send a carrier on a New York subway and a casino in Las Vegas. Within a month the whole East aqnd West Coasts would be decimated. Then the terrorists could just waltz in and take over while everyone is running around like headless chickens. MWAA HAA HAAA!!!!