"The Hurt Locker, New York City edition." Related NYT story. (Image: screen capture from NYC local CBS affiliate WCBS-TV. Tim Shey, via @antderosa)


  1. I’m glad someone caught it, that it malfunctioned.

    What bothers me, though, is that this wasn’t caught because of eavesdropping on a phone line, or a warrantless search. Just dumb luck. What worries me is that the authorities will use this incident to get more concessions on our civil liberties.

  2. Don’t worry guys: Kevin Barry, a former supervisor in the New York Police Department bomb squad, speculated that if the device had functioned, “it would be more of an incendiary event” than an explosion.

    We’re in the clear. Everything is OK. Carry on.

    1. That’s terrible news. First our schools fall behind most of Asia in teaching math, and now we fall behind much of the middle east in IED construction…

      We’d better bring back shop class.

      1. Don’t worry, the Scots are equally behind. Those douches didn’t so much bomb the airport, as much as set themselves alight.

        Couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple of blokes.

      2. #3,

        I know a guy who built IEDs as a teenager in Vietnam. His design used a stick (like a garden stake), a candle, a few rubber bands and a hand grenade.

        Of course it relied on hand grenades being easy to obtain. I wouldn’t blame New Yorkers for their inability to secure cast off military explosives.

  3. The feds are saying it doesn’t appear to be a terrorist event? That’s confusing. What else would it be?

    1. Are you really so disillusioned that you can’t think of anything other than a terrorist attack that would warrant bomb squad participation?

      1. Since it does seem to be an IED, rather than say an accidental conglomeration of dangerous cargo, I wonder how else the incident could be classified than as a terrorist act.

        Any indications as to the motivations of the bomb-makers yet? Is this jihadists, or home-grown militia, or what?

        1. Sometimes a crazy person just wants to make other people die. Or, sometimes an arsonist just wants to pick up a newspaper and see something they did on the front page. They might not even care whether or not other people were afraid.

          Terrorism is an extended form of basic intimidation. It uses fear directly to seek a goal… such as the release of political prisoners, a removal of occupying troops, acquiring a ransom payment, etc.

          Until someone takes credit and issues demands, it’s not terrorism, it’s just good, old-fashioned, random acts of violence.

          It’s not a great idea to turn “Terrorism” into some umbrella term for everything violent and scary, because it then gets used to pare down complicated concepts into a simple, monolithic, repeatable mantra that smacks of (and encourages) such horrible things as authoritarianism.

    2. The feds are saying it doesn’t appear to be a terrorist event? That’s confusing. What else would it be?

      You are probably going by the old definition of terrorism, which is people who commit acts of violence against the government or civilians to create fear for political purposes.

      Since 2001, terrorism means any violence committed against Americans by brown people with beards, regardless of where or why it occurs. Iraqis fighting US troops with guns in Iraq are called terrorists in the news, but when Chechens took 850 civilians hostage in a theater in Moscow, killing many, most US newspapers called them “rebels” and refused to use the T word.

    3. “The feds are saying it doesn’t appear to be a terrorist event? That’s confusing.”

      Teabaggers are freedom fighters, obviously.

    4. Whatever they tell us it is, it won’t be something that makes the NYPD look like paranoid jerks. Even if it would be.

    1. @Stefan Jones: Why do you assume it’s muslims? That’s certainly not who I would assume had done this. There are plenty of nutters out there, especially these days, who I would think more likely to be responsible. Like the bicycle bomber, for instance – they never did catch that guy, right? Different MO on that one though.

      @tobergill: The only reason I can think of for the feds not calling it a terrorist attack is that we’ve used the word so much and for so many things that are not terrorist attacks, the word has lost all meaning and they’re currently in the process of inventing a new word that means actual terrorist attack.

      1. I can picture it now: a rebranding exercise a la Labia-from-Monkey Dust … “Terrorism Lite(R) – for those acts of violence or near-violence which end not in carnage and mayhem but in chuckles and bar-room anecdotes …” “Terrorism Classic(TM) – the original gun-and-box-cutter-toting-no-nonsense-lay-on-the-floor-old-school style terrorism, as enacted in cities from Belfast to Madrid to Mumbai – now with a redesigned font!” “Terrorism Cherry(R) …” etc

        1. @daen: I think you’re on to something, but I’m thinking more like Terrorism XTREME and Terrorism MAX. And of course Terrorism CODE RED.

          @Christovir: I agree with your sentiment, but the “old” definition of terrorism never applied military targets, not does it apply to acts by regular military troops. Use of the word terrorism in reference to attacks against any military target is the main reason that the word has lost its meaning.

      1. Aren’t we now using jihadist to refer to anyone promulgating a terrorist movement for religious or political aims? Crusaders used to murder millions in the name of Christ. Now they go door-to-door to collect money for the local charity. Jihad seems likely to take the same semantic path.

  4. looking at the pic, in case the bomb’s a BIG one, that’ll be a lot of shovellin’…

  5. Robot looks almost human……

    Not much of a bomb…propane and fireworks. Not a serious attempt.

  6. Nice that it fizzed rather than banged…..but what are all those people doing standing behind the guy in the Michelin Man suit? Ringside seats to bomb disposal. Hell yeah!

  7. How the hell do you make a detonator that’ll pop a propane tank out of all that weak shit? Even an m80 or bigger firecracker isn’t going to make propane tanks explode.

    Was the moron hoping the gas would burn until the tanks exploded? They have a safety pressure release, it’d just make a big flame and scare people…

    If only everyone who built bombs was this moronic.

  8. Let’s be thankful for stupid morons like this who can’t make a proper bomb.
    If this person weren’t a complete numpty the headlines might be quite different.

  9. Wannabe terrorists should really watch Mythbusters. They just had an episode where they showed that propane tanks will not explode unless you go to great lengths to disable the safety valve.

    For all thumbs terror, gasoline is the way to go. You won’t get all that much of a sock wave, but a big scary fireball.

  10. #14, its all a matter of perspective, and the winner writes the history books, but in the end its all the same.

  11. Bystanders are far too close to the vehicle… with a car bomb, the cordon should be 500 meters at least… and everybody in any building/office facing the blast should have also been evacuated…

  12. Folks, you all know this happened on May Day (aka: May 1st) and a week or so after an Anarchist Film Fest here in NYC?

    My guess is some wannabe anarchist ding-a-ling did this. Who else would park a thing like this near the NYPD station in Times Square? Only a cookie cutter anarchist.

  13. PS: Just to make clear, I think whoever did this is a scumbag. But this has all the signs of some “Shove it cops!” level anarchist who wants to “make a point.”

  14. What bugs me most is the amount of people standing as close as they can to the Police tape. A guy in a suit like that with a robot is a pretty good indicator that you’d like to be someplace else.

  15. I live in Upstate Manhattan. Coincidentally, last night my wife and I were watching “The Hurt Locker.”

    Check out the photo above: onlookers less than half a block away. If the cops are yelling there’s trouble, and then somebody wearing one of these Nostromo style bomb suits shows up… just run away.

    Very glad it was botched. Many thanks to the bomb squad. Glad “See Something, Say Something” paid off.

    Since 9/11 the U.S. has been filled to bursting with fear and ignorance. Lawmakers who use these acts as an excuse to erode our Constitution and get more blood on our hands abroad are guilty of aiding the real terrorists.

    The point made above re: loss of specific meaning for the word “terrorism” is spot—on: another symptom of the profound dumbing-down we’ve got going on over here.

    Count your blessings all.

  16. Just going by the stupid design and uncreative target, my hunch is that it’s probably one or several angsty teens, or possibly a mentally ill person. (Putting aside whether one would have to be “mentally ill” to blow up a crowd of strangers.) If the nominal motive is even coherent to anyone else, it’s probably secondary to the attempted bombers’ personal problems. It could well be “Islamic holy war,” or “anarchy,” or “this will show all the phonies,” but it’s probably not important.

    Just a hunch.

  17. Fireworks go pop-pop-pop, possibly ignite some gasoline fumes (containerized gasoline won’t even burn well, it’s very oxygen-hungry), propane cans just sit there, getting slightly warm.

    Worst case it’s one more car-fire. Terrible smell, disrupts traffic, NYC residents don’t fucking care, move along, it’s just a car fire, never seen a car fire before? Tourists….

  18. Bomb squad came to one of my NYC workplaces about a year ago. Coworkers and clients were ordered not to leave the building–INSIDE the cordon, which was not exactly heartening. The suspicious package was up the block, about 100 feet away, in front of a mosque. It turned out to be a bag full of weights.

    I can imagine two potential ways that story could have come to be:
    1) Somebody either forgets they’re taking their barbells for a walk or just gets tired and sets them down. This is Brooklyn Heights, and no level of inane entitlement and/or obliviousness will surprise me.
    2) Somebody just wanted to scare the sh*t out of the brown folks. Mission accomplished.

    The second scenario? That’s called terrorism.

  19. Begin countdown to some wingnut’s excited revelation that this is the New World Order’s latest false-flag operation, or an excuse for Obama to start seizing our precious guns / rounding up all patriots. (There are already some a few nuts claiming that the Obama administration caused the Gulf oil spill as a pretext to ban offshore drilling, institute cap & trade, and start seizing our precious guns / rounding up all patriots.)

  20. Propane tanks, fireworks, and some gasoline? A psychopath with an IQ of 75 put this thing together. Seriously, read some wikipedia before trying to build bombs.

    The device didn’t “malfunction” – it had no hope in hell of ever functioning in the first place.

  21. This event makes Americans look like buffoons all around. First for not having the basic know-how to make a car-bomb that goes “boom.” Secondly, for running a completely undisciplined evacuation and cordon: compared to the brilliantly successful half-mile cordon that the Brits executed before the Manchester bombing, this was a clown show.

    1. Unfortunately, we had several decades of experience with the IRA in London, Manchester, Birmingham etc to hone our evacuation act. I just missed both the St Mary Axe and Bishopsgate bombs. After the St Mary Axe bomb, and seeing the 100-odd metre tall NatWest Tower, as it was then, with not a window left in it and thousands of window-blinds waving around in the wind like some bizarre feeding tentacles on a sea-monster was a weird experience. Everyone was standing quietly on the left side of the train as it arrived at Liverpool Street that Monday, gawping up at the ruined buildings and wondering what the hell we were doing commuting into what looked like the aftermath of a warzone. I was amazed the death toll wasn’t higher, but then the Provos were in the habit of actually telling the police where the bombs were in advance – civilian carnage wasn’t their number one priority.

  22. Excuse me, I don’t appreciate being called a wingnut.
    I am NOT a republican.
    I left the lizard party when it was clear that they supported the NWO agenda.

    Why don’t you just go relax in-front of your HD television wearing your snuggle burial shroud while the chemtrails give you a nice, soothing misting???

    Just go back to sleep, the authorities are handling things.

    And you’ll wonder how things got to be so bad when you’re waking up to get your NWO Real ID RFID hand chip and wasting your Ameros on pointless bullshit.

    1. Dude, you left out “sheeple” and black helicopters. I was THIS close to filling my bingo card!

      1. DEFINITELY a “wing-nut.” Did you get the bonus square for the use of the “Amero” since Boing Boing has links to the artist who created those ( Sheesh, how hard are people going to cling to garbage that was never real BEFORE they seized upon it? Heck

        Face it, tin-foil hat conspiracy nuts are everywhere these days and, thanks to the internet, they can feed each other’s delusions

  23. Why the critiquing of the technique? Do you all really want successful terrorists?

  24. You know, I’m noticed something.

    We call a lot of explosives “Improvised Explosive Devices”, or IEDs. What exactly is NOT an improvised explosive?

    Presumably that’d be a professionally crafted, purpose made explosive. Which would then be an explosive produced by either 1) the military or 2) construction and mining efforts. Even the latter, if used in a car bomb, would probably be called an IED…

    So why do we differentiate on the notion of an “Improvised” explosive when the only time an explosive isn’t improvised is when we bomb people and lay landmines?

    ~D. Walker

    1. So why do we differentiate on the notion of an “Improvised” explosive when the only time an explosive isn’t improvised is when we bomb people and lay landmines?

      Don’t forget mining, construction (I’m thinking specifically of blasting through bedrock to lay foundations), and controlled demolition. And of course, Mythbusters, although when they’re not using the heavy-duty stuff with the help of an explosives expert, they tend more toward the “improvised” side of things.

  25. This is a Public Relations stunt. It is safety theater. You are being manipulated by fear. A low-discharge pyrotechnic device is not a bomb. Any cracker-moron with an internet connection can make a real one. I have stood within 30′, unprotected, of combination acetylene, mapp gas, propane and gasoline fires, accelerated by compressed oxygen, as part of my television work. It was hot, and somewhat unpleasant, but not damaging.

  26. You can’t assume Muslims, or Left/Right wing crazies or anything else. I could be a lone nut just wanting to make a big bang. And yes, I could have. Propane released prior to the charge going off equals a hyperbaric device, assuming proper dispersal. Bottom line, let the cops do their job.

  27. I don’t know where people are getting “not terrorist related” since this is being investigates as a possible act of terrorism.

  28. So, we get a bomb threat in Times Square and the public hue and cry here is, in effect: “Jeez, what a dumbass. Can’t even get his bomb building act together.”

    What really concerns me about the culture that engenders these sorts of commentaries is that these same commentators are probably intent upon reproducing.

    1. You could perhaps discuss the concept instead of insulting people?

      Dropping in just to say “I’m better than you people” tends to give others the opposite impression.

    2. ZOMG! Terrorists! Let’s evacuate New York City and only let people back in after they’ve been x-rayed and cavity searched!


  29. Since it does seem to be an IED, rather than say an accidental conglomeration of dangerous cargo, I wonder how else the incident could be classified than as a terrorist act.

    Is an arsonist that burns down buildings just to watch them burn a ‘terrorist’? Was this really the act of a hardcore Jihadist flown in straight from Afghanistan, or the work of a mentally ill asshole who decided after beating off the invisible men that instead of being a pirate today he is going to now be an Islamic freedom fighter? My guess is that it is probably the later. I would be shocked if the culprit doesn’t turn out to be mentally ill, retarded, and has exactly zero connections to a “real” terrorist organization.

    If this turns out to be a “real” scary Islamic terror cell, might I suggest we save ourselves a few trillion dollars and just ignore the retards? This “bomb” was so fucking stupid and poorly constructed that the amazingly dumb bastard that made this is more likely to be a danger to himself than any of his fellow humans.

    The changes we should make in our laws because of this ‘threat’ are exactly zero. Hell, we should probably pull a few laws off the books and cut some funding to DHS to fund something worthwhile, like boating safety, CPR training, and lightening rods. Spending trillions to stop mentally ill people with an IQ of around 50 from assembling random semi-flammable materials into a configuration that stands zero chance of exploding is kind of fucking stupid. Best case scenario for this dumb bastard would be for god to send down a lightening bolt setting the bomb off… in which case we would have suffered the terrible damage of a slightly singed sidewalk. Oh no!

    If this is terrorism, we need to disband the DHS.

  30. Funny headline on the front page of the paper here (Wgtn, NZ) today:

    “Police Foil Car Bomb Attack In New York”

    Um, no they didn’t. That headline /should/ read “Police Accidentally Discover Grossly Inept Attempt At A Car Bomb”

    This guy, whoever it is, is the land based version of Captain Sizzlepants.


  31. Gah, I’m kind of a appalled already by some of the news reports coming out about this.

    Timers were connected to a 16-ounce can filled with fireworks, which were apparently intended to set the gas cans and propane afire, [police Commissioner Ray Kelly] said. The vehicle would have been “cut in half” by an explosion, and people nearby could have been sprayed by shrapnel and killed, he said.

    His statement really is not true at all. It’s pretty fantastical, in fact. Windows might have blown out dangerously, but setting off 2 cups’ volume of fireworks next to gas cans and propane tanks does not cause an explosion in anything but a cartoon. Propane tanks are too rugged to be blown up by anything short of an actual demolitions charge, and tossing one in a fire just makes a big flame as the safety valve vents the pressure (and doesn’t explode). Mind, this is also after the chintzy device smokes and pops and gives everyone nearby ample warning to move away. =

    It couldn’t be more obvious that this was a non-threat to a prepared city. It might even have been trying to avoid killing people while still frightening them (a la Weather Underground).

    This is why people are speaking up and critiquing how inept this bomb was. At least myself I’m trying to defuse the fearmongering and say “hey, this wasn’t a threat, don’t freak out and do something dumb”.

  32. This just gets better and better. Now police are reporting that the car contained “eight bags of a granular substance, later determined to be nonexplosive grade of fertilizer”.

  33. Can we get an update post for this story now that the video of the balding, white 40-something dude changing his shirt after leaving the incendiary SUV has been shown on the morning news?

  34. I can’t help being amazed at the crowd of people standing near the supposed IED.
    I wish there was a way take away these peoples right to vote. I know that, statistically, 50% of them don’t vote, but I’d feel better about our future anyway.

  35. UK newspapers are reporting that this was related to the 200th and 201st episodes of South Park.

  36. Predictably Mayor Bloomberg is responding with promises to make NYC safer with more security cameras. This despite the fact that the area in question already had security cameras and they didn’t affect the outcome of the “bomb” threat one way or another.

  37. I could be way off base here, but some conspiracy minded friends suggested that this device was actually something used by the food vendors common to the area. Anyone have any solid info on that angle? I’m really curious!

  38. Man, back in my hometown, a car filled with fertilizer, fireworks, and propane means Fourth of July, not IED!

  39. If I were one of the authorities after an attack like this, I’d probably be issuing public statements to the effect that…

    “While it may not have been the world’s most effective bomb, it still could have blown up spectacularly and hurt or killed a bunch of people.”

    …in the hopes that the next moron who wants to blow something up will figure this sort of thing is good enough, and a lot easier than building a real bomb.

    Anyone who thinks “Americans can’t even build effective bombs” has obviously forgotten Timothy McVeigh.

  40. Anyone who thinks “Americans can’t even build effective bombs” has obviously forgotten Timothy McVeigh.
    I don’t think anyone’s forgotten (well, except the Fox-fringe), but that you’re mis-quoting. That should read “Americans can’t even build effective bombs ANYMORE”

    @ Brainspore:
    There’ve been a couple of high-ish profile stories recently that speak directly to the effectiveness of CCTV:
    three crimes and two murders, both directly in front of the camera, and … nothing. And one of those was in a freaking prison, fercrissakes. CCTV may be about a lot of things, but it certainly ain’t about making steets safer or reducing crime.

    captcha fun: hitt us

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