Carnage Interrupted: An Analysis of Fifteen Terrorist Plots against Public Surface Transportation

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Carnage Interrupted: An Analysis of Fifteen Terrorist Plots against Public Surface Transportation


This report examines 13 terrorist plots against public surface transportation that were uncovered and foiled by authorities between 1997 and 2010 and two failed attempts to carry out attacks. Certainly, this is not the total universe of foiled or failed terrorist plots in these years, but they were selected on the basis of what is known about them and the accessibility of information. The report focuses on terrorist plots in the West. Seven of the 15 plots took place in the United States, and four occurred in the United Kingdom. These two countries figure prominently as targets of terrorism, and in addition, American and British officials have dealt with terrorist plots through publicized arrests and trials, which provide additional information. Although motive was not a criterion in the selection of the plots, all but one involve individuals or groups inspired by al Qaeda’s ideology of violent global jihad against the West. The exception is the 1997 Flatbush plot, in which two terrorists, both of whom had connections with Hamas, angered by events in Palestine, simply wanted to kill as many Jews as possible to express their opposition to U.S. support for Israel. Other sources suggest that the Flatbush plotters wanted to force the release of jailed Islamist terrorists in the United States, including Ramzi Yousef, who participated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman, who was convicted for his involvement in a plot to carry out additional bombings in New York.



Brian Michael Jenkins received a Bachelor of Arts degree in fine arts and a Masters degree in history, both from UCLA. He also studied at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, and in the Department of Humanities at the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, where he was a Fulbright Fellow and received a second fellowship from the Organization of American States.

Commissioned in the infantry at the age of 19, Mr. Jenkins became a paratrooper and ultimately a captain in the Green Berets. He is a decorated combat veteran, having served in the Seventh Special Forces Group in the Dominican Republic during the American intervention and later as a member of the Fifth Special Forces Group in Vietnam (1966– 1967). He returned to Vietnam on a special assignment in 1968 to serve as a member of the Long Range Planning Task Group; he remained with the Group until the end of 1969, receiving the Department of the Army’s highest award for his service. Mr. Jenkins returned to Vietnam on an additional special assignment in 1971.

In 1983, Mr. Jenkins served as an advisor to the Long Commission, convened to examine the circumstances and response to the bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Lebanon. In 1984, he assisted the Inman Panel in examining the security of American diplomatic facilities abroad. In 1985–1986, he served as a member of the Committee of the Embassy of the Future, which established new guidelines for the construction of U.S. diplomatic posts. In 1989, Mr. Jenkins served as an advisor to the national commission established to review terrorist threats following the bombing of Pan Am 103. In 1993, he served as a member of the team contracted by the New Jersey–New York Port Authority to review threats and develop new security measures for the World Trade Center following the bombing in February of that year.

In 1996, President Clinton appointed Mr. Jenkins to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. From 1999 to 2000, he served as an advisor to the National Commission on Terrorism, and since 2000, he has been a member of the U.S. Comptroller General’s Advisory Board. Mr. Jenkins is also the Director of the National Transportation Security Center at the Mineta Transportation Institute and since 1997 has directed the Institute’s continuing research on protecting surface transportation against terrorist attacks.

Mr. Jenkins is a Special Advisor to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and a member of the advisory board of the ICC’s investigative arm, the Commercial Crime Services. Over the years, he has served as a consultant to or carried out assignments for a number of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As part of its international project to create a global strategy to combat terrorism, the Club of Madrid in 2004 appointed Mr. Jenkins to lead an international working group on the role of intelligence.

Mr. Jenkins is the author of International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict; the editor and co-author of Terrorism and Personal Protection; the co-editor and co-author of Aviation Terrorism and Security; and a co-author of The Fall of South Vietnam. His latest books are Unconquerable Nation: Knowing Our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves and Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? He is also the author of numerous articles, book chapters, and published research reports on conflict and crime.


Mr. Trella has extensive experience in homeland security at the state level. He served for three years as special assistant to Maryland’s governor, for homeland security, public safety, emergency management, military affairs, and veteran’s affairs. While serving in this capacity, Mr. Trella was the governor’s liaison with the state’s public safety agencies on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent anthrax attacks in Washington, D.C. In 2003, Mr. Trella began working for the National Governors Association as a senior policy analyst in homeland security, specializing in homeland defense/National Guard issues, intelligence, information sharing, and interoperable communications. Prior to joining the governor’s staff, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army for six years, with international experience in strategic and tactical planning, negotiations, security, counterterrorism planning and operations, and disaster relief. Mr. Trella has a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in business economics from Loyola College in Maryland and a Masters degree in international negotiations and conflict resolution from the University of Baltimore and the School of Advanced International Studies.

January 2012
Surface transportation



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