5 Terror Plots That Fortunately Failed

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In the wake of any terror attack, people are left feeling frightened, shaken and vulnerable. And of course that’s totally understandable. But one can take heart knowing that for every terrorist who succeeds in pulling off their dastardly act of violence, there are a whole lot more who fail, either thanks to a government’s efforts to foil them, because of their own bungling incompetence, or sometimes, they fail through simple “bad luck,” which of course means good luck for the rest of us. And you know what? Terrorists have been failing like chumps for a long time.

5 Times Square Bomber: Zero; NYC: One

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In 2010, a van parked illegally near New York City’s famous Times Square, the driver walked away and … nothing much happened. A bit of smoke and some fizzling. That’s because the simple bomb Faisal Shahzad has planted was, fortunately, terribly designed. Had it gone off, dozens could have been killed and/or injured. Instead, Faisal and dozens of his co-conspirators were arrested.

4 The Underwear Bomber – Keeping it in His Pants

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The name Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not one you would think lots of people would bandy about, but bandy they did in late 2009 and into 2010. Fortunately the talk was all about how U.F.A. failed to blow up a bomb in his underpants that could easily have brought down a U.S. passenger jet on Christmas Day, 2009. This failure was pretty much due to one man’s incompetence.

3 The Tyler Poison Gas Plot – Homegrown Monsters

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In 2003, police in Tyler, TX arrested several Americans linked to white supremacist/anti-U.S. government groups who were suspected of plotting domestic terror attacks. What evidence supported these claims? Oh, let’s see: a bomb filled with cyanide gas, dozens of smaller explosive devices, multiple machine guns, half a million rounds of ammunition and stockpiles of hydrochloric acid, to name a few things. And how was all this uncovered? One of the potential terrorist/murderers had meant to send a trove of fraudulent IDs and documents to a sympathetic militia group but accidentally mailed the packet to the wrong address complete with a note reading “We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands.” The hands it fell into belonged to a decent citizen who immediately went to the authorities.

2 The People’s Will … Was to Kill People?

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In the last days of the Imperial period of Russia, in the late 19th century, a group of leftist terrorists known as “Narodnaya Volya,” or “People’s Will,” emerged with the goal of overthrowing the czarist system they saw as subjugating the Russian people. The way they sought to do this was by killing off the most powerful people in Russia, namely Tsar Alexander the II, who they did kill in 1881 after failing more than half a dozen times. Their overall plan backfired, though, when his successor, Nicholas III, clamped down even more tightly on the Russian people in response to the terrorists, making life for The People less free and liberal than ever.

1 Guy Fawkes and the Bomb That Never Blew

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The year was 1605, the place jolly old England. Except that in the early 1600s, a lot of people in England were decidedly less-than-jolly, largely due to the rift between Catholics and Protestants (or, to be specific, the Church of England). Enter Guy Fawkes, a man passionately devoted to restoring England to rule by Catholics. He and his co-conspirators hatched a plan along these lines: “If we blow up Parliament and the king, they won’t be around to not be Catholic anymore!” The men rented a room under the House of Lords and began to fill it with barrels of gunpowder, only to be betrayed and found out.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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