Food Trucks: The Next Terrorist Threat

In a fit of fearmongering reminiscent of the Mobile Bioweapons Labs used to get us into the Iraq War, FDNY did a report last month warning about the use of food trucks by terrorists. (Via Government Security News, h/t G.W.Schulz) The chief worry seems to be that food trucks carry 20 pound propane cylinders, get close to important landmarks, and would serve as an easy surveillance platform.

But some of the other things the report warns about are the fact that “roach coaches” are increasingly being replaced by gourmet carts and ESPN’s food cart has a large screen TV.

Apparently, in addition to Ford being a suspected terrorist, ESPN is now a suspected front for a terrorist surveillance operation, complete with large screen TV showing sports?

The thing is, in addition to threatening burgeoning small business growth, this fearmongering presents another problem: the last two real terrorist plots in NYC.

As Schulz pointed out, the guy who thwarted Faisal Shahzad’s attempt to blow up Times Square was street vendor Duane Jackson, not the NYPD, which was instead busy profiling Muslim-owned businesses rather than the 7-11 that might have led to Shahzad’s hawala. And while Jackson’s handbag cart probably doesn’t have propane tanks, if we start treating street vendors generally as subjects of suspicion, we’re less likely to see the cooperation that Jackson gave.

Food trucks may make great surveillance platforms, but that’s true of citizen observers like Jackson as much as terrorists.

Then there’s the other real terrorist attempt in NYC since 9/11: Najibullah Zazi’s thwarted plot to attack the subway. Before he gave it up to become a terrorist, Zazi ran his father’s food cart in the financial district.

For years, he was a fixture in Lower Manhattan, as regular as the sunrise. Every morning, Najibullah Zazi would be there on Stone Street with his pastries and his coffee, his vending cart anchored to the sidewalk.

For many on Wall Street — young, old, all in a hurry, the charging bulls of Bowling Green — his was the first hello of the day. Affable and rooted, he lived for 10 years in the same apartment with his family in Flushing, Queens. His father drove a cab for more than 15 years.

He was, in other words, no brooding outcast, no sheltered, suggestible loner raised in a closed community.

He was the smiling man who remembered a customer liked his coffee large, light and sweet. He had a “God Bless America” sign on his cart. He was the doughnut man.

But rather than just blowing up his cart and a bunch of banksters, Zazi dropped the cart, flew to Pakistan, learned how to make explosives, moved to CO, bought a lot of hair care products, and then got picked up calling a known terrorist in Pakistan, whereupon the FBI caught him before he finished making his explosives.

Obviously, a smart terrorist isn’t going to follow Zazi’s plan to the letter. But it just shows that even someone with the intent and the coffee cart isn’t necessarily going to use that cart to kill people, even bankster people.

Look, I think it’s a great idea for the FDNY to have a good idea of what fuels well-outfitted food trucks have on them and what jerry rigged ones have, because they do, occasionally and apparently accidentally, blow up.

But that’s a threat independent of the terrorists lurking behind ESPN’s large screen TV. And if we turn all the food truck vendors (who of course often are immigrants) into potential terrorists, we’re going to alienate citizen observers like Jackson.

Sometimes a doughnut cart is just a doughnut cart.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

12 Responses to Food Trucks: The Next Terrorist Threat

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @GregoryMcNeal No more alarmist than the entire premise behind airport security. Or many of our security measures.
28sreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Yes, I know it is 72º here, even though cloudy currently, but I am concerned @michaelwhitney pedicure may have robbed fella of snow traction
16mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @PogoWasRight @EducationNY Absofuckinglutely!! We would do fine together. Just have to find an open F1 bar between our houses.
23mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @joanneleon Oh, I wasn't suggesting he was a she. But boys can be pretty too.
31mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel 3) This makes investigative journalists into agency-free vehicles for leaks in ways press ought to be attentive to https://t.co/fyFyNDOV0S
45mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel 2) Jury should have heard abt improper treatment of classified info other potential culprits had done https://t.co/fyFyNDOV0S
46mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel My thoughts on the Sterling verdicts: 1) Guilty on obstruction will make venue appeal very interesting. https://t.co/vHH6G0B06D (1/3)
47mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @mattapuzzo @yoyabbayo @nytimes Well, yes (though that merits its own much discussed legacy). But, here, the hypocrisy seems relevant w/o ES
54mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz .@mattapuzzo @nytimes Prominent? Important? Yes, but Panetta+Cartwright notable in Sterling article, yes think so relatively before Snowden.
56mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz "Most prominent leak case, however, remains open. Snowden." http://t.co/yD5F5vKPhd Um, @mattapuzzo @nytimes maybe mention Panetta+Cartwright
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @Pedinska: @bmaz @markos @emptywheel 70F and not a cloud in the sky in Denver. :-s
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz .@Pedinska @markos @emptywheel Yeah, it is now 70º here too, but I probably won't go swimming in the pool due to chill of cloud cover.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
October 2012
S M T W T F S
« Sep   Nov »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031