Rick Rescorla is widely known as “the man who predicted 9/11.” He held the position of Chief of Security for Morgan Stanley from 1985 to 2001, overseeing the physical safety of thousands of company employees. Putting the lives of others ahead of his own, he perished during the World Trade Center attacks.
I find myself in a very similar predicament to the late Rick Rescorla. Although our concerns differ, they both deal with undiscussable, speculative national security issues. His involved airplanes targeting buildings. Mine involves wireless communication being used to foment human stampedes. First, a little background.
In 1990, Rescorla advised the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to increase security and monitoring for the basement parking garage of the World Trade Center. His concerns were dismissed on the basis of cost, precedent and unnecessary fear mongering. His premonitions turned out to be entirely accurate. In 1993, a truck bomb detonated in the garage level. Although this attack failed to destroy the Towers, it did significant structural damage. It also killed 6 people and injured roughly a thousand.
Rescorla and his security team theorized that it was just a matter of time before there was another attack. Except this time, the perpetrators would come “through the air.” Rescorla was extremely worried about the possibility of an airplane, loaded with explosives, flying directly into one of the buildings. Once again, Rescorla voiced his concerns but was rebuffed by the NY/NJ Port Authority.
After the 1993 terrorist attack, Rescorla chose to take the initiative. He made a unilateral decision to enhance emergency planning and contingency operations. He instituted evacuation safety drills on a regular basis. These training preparations impacted everyone at the financial services firm across the board, from the janitors to the secretaries to the top executives.
Sensing a permanent state of vulnerability, Rescorla encouraged Morgan Stanley to relocate their corporate operations to neighboring New Jersey. But since the company’s lease ran through 2006, his suggestion was discarded.
Well… we all know how this one turned out.
While I would NEVER profess to be a hero like Rick Rescorla, our stories do have a lot of interesting parallels.
* We’ve both aired unique concerns about a “black swan” event — a future incident that dramatically impacts the course of humanity. An occurrence that ushers in an era of irrevocable change.
* Both subjects are inherently undiscussable or taboo. Even though the artificially generated stampede (the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater) is exceedingly generic in nature, it appears society will be unable to directly confront and remedy the dilemma at hand… until it happens. Or at the very least, is attempted.
* Both scenarios test the established limits of the First and Second Amendments (freedom of speech, situational awareness and the right to defend oneself).
* In the face of a preventable tragedy, both predicaments encourage society to be proactive as opposed to reactive.
* Both scenarios rely heavily on elements of asymmetry and the introduction of new concepts in generational warfare. His — using the plane itself as an actual weapon. Mine — using decentralized information as a weapon.
* Both feature an unprecedented “rate of return” on your investment. The total cost to perpetrate 9/11 was estimated at $250,000. However, the immediate economic fallout was in the billions. Many would argue the long term impact, in excess of trillions. An artificially generated stampede, or worst case scenario dominipede, could be attempted with an investment of time, minimal research and an expenditure of maybe a thousand dollars. As an act of terrorism, the transaction cost is unfathomable.
* They both invite a paradoxical question. Which is the superior course moving forward… action or inaction? What if by putting it out there, you inadvertently put an idea in someone’s head? Prior to 9/11, how many people envisioned a plane intentionally flying into a building? Multiple buildings? Prior to an artificially generated stampede, how many people have had discussions about a VIRAL BLITZKRIEG (a saturation of cellular-induced panic)? Multiple, simultaneous panics?
From what I can ascertain, Rescorla was confronted by an entrenched level of resistance. I’ve encountered this as well. These are challenging issues that require an adjustment of thought and reasoning, not simply an allocation of resources. It requires deliberation with a long-term event horizon. Money alone cannot not fix this problem. In many ways, it actually serves as an impediment.
I suspect Rescorla’s safety drills were not well-received. Picture yourself as a Morgan Stanley executive on a vital overseas conference call or a securities trader involved in a multimillion dollar transaction. Now let’s drop everything and walk down 50-75 flights of steps. I also suspect many dismissed his concerns as paranoid or delusional because it involved an unfamiliar scenario that very few could mentally grasp or were willing to comprehend.
Rescorla was passionate about a hypothetical because he had a very specific vision of how history would unfold. Much like I envision an artificially generated stampede morphing into a dominipede, I think it’s highly likely that Rescorla conceived of the prospect of additional planes.
Rescorla spoke out. But nobody listened because there was no perceived immediate benefit. The upside was not “tangible enough.”
I’ve taken my concerns to members of Congress, relevant government departments, sports team ownership and management, collegiate athletic institutions and their respective leadership, private industry, charitable organizations, social media groups, news outlets, etc. Once again, nobody wants to take action because “there’s nothing in it for THEM.”
Now assuming you’re a critical thinker, it’s reasonable to be wondering the following…
What about other ways to create a panic that results in a stampede? What about drones carrying hand grenades? What about active shooters and truck bombs? Why not warn people about blimps, as was portrayed in the movie Black Sunday? What makes the artificially generated stampede so unique that it demands full disclosure?
Well, the answer to that one’s a bit more complex. Fortunately, the information is out there — 3 books and 70+ articles on the agsaf.org website. Best of all, it’s free. And so is the solution. Awareness.
One final thought. While 9/11 is rife with inconsistencies and conspiracy theories, here are two indisputable facts. The first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 am. At 8:55 am, multiple official announcements were made over the building-wide public address system in the still-undamaged South Tower, reporting that the building was “secure” and that people should return to their offices.
My point — on that fateful day, everyone in charge got it totally wrong. Even when the most reasonable course of action was to evacuate and err on the side of caution, South Tower employees were explicitly told to stay put. Fortunately, there was this one guy named Rick Rescorla, armed with only a bullhorn and common sense.
A “dominipede” (multiple stampedes) is a black swan event that transpires in real-time. Mitigation is irrelevant. You either tell people or you don’t. Other than myself, is there anybody out there in the government or the entire NFL who’s willing to just acknowledge the crux of the issue (50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in large, confined crowds capable of disseminating false information)?
Oops, I forgot. Nobody’s allowed to talk about it. Sounds familiar, eh?
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
-George Santayana (The Life of Reason, 1905)