Tom Ridge Can Find Terrorists Anywhere

One of the problems with our current discourse about terrorism and terrorist policies is that the people entrusted with counterterrorism—those whose job it is to surveil, study, or defend against terrorism—become so consumed with their role that they literally start seeing terrorists everywhere. So it comes as no surprise that if you ask Tom Ridge, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, about potential terrorism risks at a new LA football stadium, of course he finds them everywhere.

From a report he prepared—paid, I’m sure—about the location of a new football stadium:

Specifically, locating an NFL stadium at the Inglewood-Hollywood Park site needlessly increases risks for existing interests: LAX and tenant airlines, the NFL, the City of Los Angeles, law enforcement and first responders as well as the citizens and commercial enterprises in surrounding areas and across global transportation networks and supply chains. That risk would be expanded with the additional stadium and “soft target” infrastructure that would encircle the facility locally.

To be clear, total risk cannot be eliminated at any site. But basic risk management principles suggest that the proximity of these two sites creates a separate and additional set of risks that are wholly unnecessary.

In the post 9/11 world, the threat of terrorism is a permanent condition. As both a former governor and secretary of homeland security, it is my opinion that the peril of placing a National Football League stadium in the direct flight path of LAX—layering risk—outweigh any benefits over the decades-long lifespan of the facility.

If a decision is made to move forward at the Inglewood/Hollywood Park site, the NFL, state and local leaders, and those they represent, must be willing to accept the significant risk and the possible consequences that accompany a stadium at the location. This should give both public and private leaders in the area some pause. At the very least, an open, public debate should be enabled so that all interests may understand the comprehensive and interconnected security, safety and economic risks well before a shovel touches the ground.

I’m sure he can’t help himself.

I am reminded of Glenn Greenwald’s essay on the “terrorist expert” industry. I am also reminded of this story about a father taking pictures of his daughters.

On the plus side, now we all have a convincing argument against development. “You can’t possibly build that shopping mall near my home, because OMG! terrorism.”

Posted on March 4, 2015 at 6:40 AM45 Comments


Ken P. March 4, 2015 7:00 AM

The study was funded by a group that wants to build their own stadium at a different site. Go figure.

Chris March 4, 2015 7:56 AM

Of course we have fear-obsessed people running the DHS. If anyone rational got the job, they’d dismantle the entire department (or radically restructure it). It’s a self-selecting position. The guy who replaced Ridge (Schweiker) as governor of PA went to my high school and we had a boring assembly to mastur…. err I mean honor him. Half of it was about how awesome Ridge was. I knew it was all paranoia then, and it’s simply gotten worse since.

Cpragman March 4, 2015 7:58 AM

If the location already has good emergency services infrastructure (as airports already do) then a stadium there actually benefits from that.
Putting a stadium far from emergency services would put people at more risk, or require additional expense to duplicate those resources.

chuckb March 4, 2015 8:07 AM

Using risk determination principles it is readily apparent that the probability that this study’s conclusion is valid equals 0.

z March 4, 2015 8:35 AM

It’s natural to find terrorists everywhere when the system rewards overreaction and paranoia rather than common sense. If your job is counterterrorism, the punishment for missing one terrorist attack is enormous public outcry, condemnation in the media, calls to “do something”, and probably getting fired. The punishment for ridiculous overreaction? Some people on Bruce’s blog criticize you, maybe some others roll their eyes, but not much else.

The root of this is a societal problem, namely that we are a group of children who can’t use rational thought and reward hysteria rather than common sense. It’s apparent in far more than just terrorism too.

Pyrantel Pamoate March 4, 2015 9:11 AM

Rough tough fatass BMD commanders,

if somebody brings em in and ties em up they’ll beat em up real good. They’ll ‘smoke em,’ if they can hide in a fort thousands of miles away.

Bedwetting candy-ass cowards. Any one of em, you can just walk up to him and break his nose with a riken and he’ll just tremble and squeak and wait for his goons to protect him.

BoppingAround March 4, 2015 9:25 AM

those whose job it is to surveil, study, or defend against terrorism — become so consumed with their role that they literally start seeing terrorists everywhere.

Just like with communists in 50s, isn’t it?

Alex Cox March 4, 2015 10:18 AM

This fixation on the potential of “terror” is going to prevent high-speed rail in California. None of the fantasies of hour-long train trips factors in the cost of protecting the new road between LA, SF and Sacramento (it will have to be razor-wire fenced, video-surveilled and policed for its entire length) nor the cost and time wasting potential of airport-style queues and scanners in all the stations.

edge March 4, 2015 10:34 AM

“In the post 9/11 world, the threat of terrorism is a permanent condition”.

Therefore we should have eternal marshal law, right?

David Leppik March 4, 2015 10:43 AM

If there’s a risk that a terrorist will take over a plane and fly it into a stadium, where can they possibly locate a stadium that won’t be within striking range of a suicide plane? In an underground bunker?

I wish I weren’t stating the obvious, but the 9/11 attackers flew their planes way, way off their flight paths.

Or perhaps the perceived risk is that a bomb on a plane will be so precise in targeting its debris that it can hit a stadium? That’s even more absurd.

Martin March 4, 2015 10:45 AM

You’re cherry-picking, probably run out of things to say. Try the Huffington Post.

Anura March 4, 2015 10:59 AM

@David Leppik

They could always put it on the moon. I would certainly watch that one.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons March 4, 2015 11:56 AM

Based on Ridge’s statements, we need the BSA–the Bathroom Security Agency. Post a guard in every home to avoid the accidental deaths that occur on a regular basis in this country–and–around the world. We must prevent all accidental (terrorist) drownings that happen every day around the world. While we’re at it, why not form the Martian Counter-Terrorism Unit (MCTU) just in case (preemptively) the Martians decide to go rogue.

paul March 4, 2015 12:02 PM

It really is perfect. Any new structure close to existing major structures increases the risk to the existing stuff, so it shouldn’t be built. And any new structure far from existing major structures constitutes a new risk and overstretches the resources of first responders, so it shouldn’t be built. Unless you’re being paid by the people in favor of the project, in which case it either spreads the same risk over multiple structures, thereby reducing risk for each one, or provides a new targeting conundrum for terrorists, thereby reducing the risk to existing major structures.

Dirk Praet March 4, 2015 12:35 PM

My personal favorite is Steve Emerson, a self-proclaimed terrorism expert who was recently called a “complete idiot” by UK PM David Cameron for describing Birmingham as a “totally muslim town”. He also got Fox sued over alleged no-go zones and sharia courts in Paris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

It was the same self-aggrandizing numbnut who after the Boston marathon bombings said on TV that a 22-year-old Saudi national was to be deported by the USG on national security grounds. The man, of course, had nothing to do with the attack. One of his best claims so far in May 2013 was that Barack Obama was having daily meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood.

It really is time for the US to finally pull its head out of its *ss and get over 9/11 PTSD. People are terrorised more by the paranoid or for-profit fear-mongering and lies by the likes of Tom Ridge and Steve Emerson than by the actual terrorists themselves.

jones March 4, 2015 12:43 PM

The obvious solution is to outlaw the NFL, then there’s no risk of NFL stadiums being bombed.

The NFL are profit-sharing communists anyway. We can have televised our F16 flyovers at military parades instead.

Sam March 4, 2015 1:05 PM

The very first comment by Ken P. nails it – this has nothing to do with terrorism or even security. This is just politicking around the building of massive new stadium. The exact same thing happens with Environmental Impact Reports, and various watershed runoff challenges, etc, etc. It’s just paperwork being thrown in the way of a project.

Whether its terrorism risk, or the impact a development will have on migratory birds, nobody actually believes this BS…

Lev Bronstein March 4, 2015 1:23 PM

You all miss the point. If it is that close to the airport it is impossible to make it a no fly zone during events. When nothing bad happens because its not a no fly zone, then it shows all the times they’ve made no fly zones over stadiums to be pure theatre. QED this cannot be built.

RetiredOldFart March 4, 2015 1:24 PM

Give a man a hammer and everything looks like a nail. Ask a scare monger about security….

chopper March 4, 2015 2:43 PM

More NFL owner nonsense to force the cities they are already in to pay for new stadiums. That’s the only purpose for anything NFL in L.A.

“Close to LAX” depends on your definition of “close.” It’s not close by car or transit. But, I’m sure Tom feels otherwise and someone would question my patriotism suggesting he is wrong.

Another Kevin March 4, 2015 2:46 PM

@Bruce: On the plus side, now we all have a convincing argument against development. “You can’t possibly build that shopping mall near my home, because OMG! terrorism.”

That sounds as if it teeters somewhere between NIMBY “Not in my back yard!” and BANANA “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.”

But you’re right, “OMG Terrorism!” is an all-purpose argument that can be marshalled in favour of or in opposition to virtually anything. Equivalently, it’s an entirely vacuous argument.

CallMeLateForSupper March 4, 2015 3:09 PM

He must be right: he’s a former governor, after all. I can only conclude that the massive NS buildup and the many billions of US$ spent on it are not “fit for purpose”.

whpratt March 4, 2015 4:25 PM

Yoda had all the best lines, but here he was a touch off. Fear doesn’t just lead to anger; all to often it also leads to tonnes of money.

Ole Juul March 4, 2015 5:57 PM

It seems to me that Tom Ridge is in the same category as the paranoid trolls that we see in this and other forums, such as the “Michael And Ingrid Heroux” entity. At what point does this get considered to be a medical problem? I’m all for respecting the privacy of people’s inner piccadillos and personal problems, but our society is sometimes too polite – particularly when it comes to public figures with the ability to do real harm.

65535 March 4, 2015 8:28 PM

I had a friend who was a fairly successful dod contractor. In a moment of shear honesty he said, “The whole defense business runs on fear. If you want to get the bid play the fear card.”

Tom Ridge is playing the “fear card” but for financial gain.

Wesley Parish March 4, 2015 9:07 PM

Stadiums are dangerous places. Not for the people inside of them, but for the planes flying overhead. People can assemble rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the handicap bathroom. They wait until all the fans file into the stadium before removing their high caliber sniper rifle from the leg of their tailgate grill, using it to gun down the F-18s during the National Anthem flyover.

Someone should run this by a few flyboys for laughs. There’s such a thing as “deflection shooting”, where you aim at where something’s supposed to be, not where it is at the current moment – and most people who’ve fired rifles won’t have that skill … much too technical for Tom Ridge … OMIGAWD, the thought of being required to think! Cruel and inhumane punishment!!!

One of the more interesting tit-bits of WWII in North Africa was when a Messerschmitt Bf109 pilot decided to strafe one of the British Eighth Army trains carrying troops and supplies to the front line, and the troops – Punjab Rifles, I believe – piled out, dropped to the ground and took aim at the plane, which bravely ran away.

There’s a world of difference between a platoon taking down an attacking aircraft – which also happened in Vietnam when the Viet Cong patriots made things hot for the US Army and Marine choppers – and some random sniper casually bringing down a flight of twin-engined fighter jets.

It’s nowhere near even bad fiction.

Josh March 5, 2015 1:47 AM

I really don’t think this is very valid. A cursory search makes it appear that plenty of other stadiums have already been built on a flight path like mentioned in the report.

SoWhatDidYouExpect March 5, 2015 2:24 AM

If Tom Ridge can find terrorists anywhere, why aren’t those terrorists being arrested? If Tom Ridge knows about these terrorists, shouldn’t he be arrested for not reporting them to the government? Isn’t he witholding information about terrorists? Tom Ridge seems to know a lot about terrorists so why isn’t he providing that information to the government? Is he a terrorist or hiding information about terrorists?

Just saying, I think someone should get that information from him or hold him accountable for what he is saying.

Sam March 5, 2015 6:21 AM

Clearly the entirety of LA needs to be moved. Having LAX flight paths so close to LA is an overlapping of risk that outweighs any benefits.

American Patriot March 5, 2015 8:12 AM

But you don’t understand, we must eradicate all risks and threats to stadiums because they are critical national security assets. If the enemy destroys our stadiums, where are we going to hold our giant Nuremberg rallies with ritual brain damage to keep up national loyalty when the government loses another war?

Jon Allen March 5, 2015 11:46 AM

A more fundamental problem is that there is no solid definition of terrorism. It’s a vague concept that can be applied to anything a government does not like.

Wm March 6, 2015 8:08 AM

The story about the father and daughters was disturbing. This smacks of Nazism and HLS agents have a Nazi mentality. Always be ready to say ‘I exercise my right to remain silent.’ and teach you children to say the same. Warn them that cops are pathological liars and will tell them that they are too young to exercise that right, but stand their ground even if they become upset. Exercising your right to remain silent or taking the 5th is the only sure way to squelch intrusive police and government questioning and behavior.

vas pup March 6, 2015 10:50 AM

Video recording, security, evidence:

!!!!Very important article on proactive data security:

“They know that most breaches are inside jobs, that people are part of the problem and can, with authorization, attack in real time. To defend against this, cybersecurity professionals are looking for new real-time technologies that can audit people-to-machine and machine-to-machine digital actions and proactively protect their pre-designed security policies.”

“We must move from reactionary cybersecurity methodologies to real-time proactive technologies.”

“Data-in-motion is this: You have a database waiting to do something and an application that can activate an event process when needed or in microseconds with human- or machine-to-machine activation.”

“This point of audit must be done during data in motion, where a casual real-time event can be recognized prior to processes logging. This is where and how achieving true proactive cyberdefense resides.”

“If you look at a hack’s anatomy, you can see that the hacker not only has the real-time first strike advantage, but he can also manipulate the security policy to make the exploit look like a normal part of the process. Knowing these two critical attributes of a breach — location and policy exploit — defines where proactive defense mechanisms must be placed.”

“With nearly $500 billion projected in cyberattack losses just this year, we are at critical crossroads of addressing cyberattacks. Both the public and private sectors are demanding proactive cybersecurity technologies versus today reactionary options. To achieve this, we must beat the hacker to the punch by deploying technologies that can authenticate, view, audit and analyze known digital policy events in real time during data in motion. 5GL allows us to audit policy event patterns in microsecond speeds during data in motion, which puts us ahead of the hacker.”
Many useful links inside as well.

Marcos El Malo March 6, 2015 2:40 PM

@Wm Don’t like being intruded upon because your mixed race family seems “suspicious”? Maybe you should have thought about that before adopting outside of your race.

Whether or not the jerk was an employee of HS in the story of the family taking vacation pictures is not the most important fact. Whatever the jerk’s authority, what is on display is the power trip of someone secure in his power, putting someone else in their place because the have diverged from the putative norm.

The point of the exercise wasn’t to ascertain the safety of the girls, but to shame the man in front of his family. Our culture of fear gave the bully carte blanche to work his magic because (child pornography/human trafficking/terrorism).

Concerned March 7, 2015 9:56 AM

‘We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam
is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to
live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is
entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff meant to make us feel better,
and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the
globe in the name of Islam.’

‘The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It
is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50
shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter
Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over
the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb,
behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after
mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of
rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to
kill and to become suicide bombers.’

‘The hard, quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent
majority,’ is cowed and extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of
Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were
responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority
were irrelevant. China ‘s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese
Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.’

‘The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a
warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across
South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of
12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet. And
who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said
that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?

vas pup March 10, 2015 8:31 AM

NSA and DOJ are under lawsuit for mass surveillance:

Lets evaluate on the scale from 1 to 10 chances lawsuit stop mass surveillance:
My bet is optimistic: 3, and pessimistic 1. Jennie is out of the bottle already, and we “surrounded” by external and internal enemies from terrorist organisations, lone wolf lunatics, liberals – free thinkers using Constitutional rights, terrorist states (North Korea, ISIS) and of course Russia and China (how could they have their own geopolitical interests new their borders?). I guess you got my irony.

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