January 18, 2007, - 9:51 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Hmmm . . . a “Middle Eastern man” crouches down and deliberately spills poisonous mercury onto the Los Angeles subway lat at night around Christmas-time and then disappears without getting on a train.
But it has nothing to do with terrorism, right? It’s just “an accident.”
Hardly seems like it, according to CNN’s coverage (there is video, at this link, too):
The Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating an incident involving an unidentified man who spilled a vial of mercury inside an L.A. subway station just before Christmas and then disappeared after reporting it to transit authorities.
A statement released by the JTTF Wednesday evening shows a picture of the man taken from a frame in a surveillance video. The caption reads: “Wanted for questioning in connection with unexplained activity.”
That activity can be seen in a copy of the surveillance video — obtained exclusively by CNN — which shows the Pershing Square subway station in Los Angeles late on the evening of December 22, the Friday before Christmas.
In it, the man crouches on the train platform and spills about five fluid ounces of mercury from a small bottle. He then goes to a Metropolitan Transit Authority call box to report what happened.
An accident? Maybe, but authorities would like to know more. And a counterterrorism expert told CNN the incident should set off warning bells.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Ken Robinson, who used to work in intelligence for the Pentagon and has analyzed dozens of al Qaeda tapes for CNN. “He’s got a heavy metal and he’s taking it into a subway. There’s no good reason to do that. None.” . . . .
Shortly after the spill in late December, the [L.A. County] sheriff’s department sent out an alert, saying to be on the lookout for a man described as being “white or Middle Eastern,” who is wanted in connection with a “possible act of terror.”
But the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department thinks it’s just an “accident.” Move along. Nothing to see here:
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, the lead agency in the investigation, believes the spill was just an accident and not terror-related. Also, the man who spilled it placed a call moments afterward from a call box, alerting authorities to the spill.
“At this point we are relatively confident that it is not a credible threat,” said L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.
Yes, people kneel over tracks and dump mercury onto them by accident all the time. I’ve done it, haven’t you? (Note to law enforcement authorities: I haven’t really done it. I was being facetious.)
But the FBI and Homeland Security–usually part of the “nothing to see here, move along, no ties to terrorism” crowd–are suspicious. In the past, they’ve warned that this kind of behavior is done as a test run to guage police reaction time. And that’s what this appears to be:
A joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin released in 2005 warns that terrorists may make calls to test police reactions.
In the case of the spilled mercury, according to the HAZMAT cleanup report read to CNN, law enforcement did not respond for a full eight hours.
Pat D’Amuro, now a CNN analyst, was a top FBI counterterrorism agent. He says it’s premature to rule out terror. . . .
In Thursday’s statement, the terrorism task force said that although there is “no evidence to suggest these activities are terrorist-related, or even criminal in nature, we are seeking to resolve questions as to the reason and/or motivation of the mercury spill and why the unidentified male had the vial in his possession.”
Thanks to Reader Mary, who sent the tip and wonders why the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is seeking a “White OR Middle Eastern” in the description, when it is clearly a Middle Eastern Arab in the video:
I watched the surveillence tape and that guy was an Arab. I’ve lived in Detroit long enough to be sure on that fact.
Memo to the L.A. County Sheriff, who should be recalled for allowing his men to take EIGHT HOURS to respond to the mercury spill: They are here and planning their attacks on us from within. We must finally begin to take them seriously.
Hello . . . ? Wake up.
Tags: al-Qaeda, analyst, Christmas, CNN, Debbie Schlussel Hmmm, Department of Homeland Security, Detroit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, heavy metal, Ken Robinson, L.A., L.A. County Sheriff, L.A. County Sheriff's Department, L.A. subway station, law enforcement, law enforcement authorities, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force, Los Angeles subway, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Pat D'Amuro, Pentagon, Reader Mary, sheriff, spokesman, Steve Whitmore