American Prospect

Two If By Sea


March 2005

By James Verini

Last October, Osama bin Laden released his first videotaped message in nearly three years. It was lengthier than anything he’d sent out for a while because he got wrapped up in business talk. “So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy,” he said, quoting the British Royal Institute of International Affairs to point out that in the September 11 attacks, “Every dollar of al-Qaeda defeated a million dollars by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs.” He went on to ridicule America’s deficits.

If you were an al-Qaeda cell member egged on by this, you would likely fantasize about the port complex of Los Angeles. It is, arguably, the single most attractive target for economic terrorism in the country. By volume, the two ports that comprise it — the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach — are the third-busiest port in the world. A 20-minute drive south of downtown L.A., it is America’s umbilical cord to world trade. An attack there would cripple the national economy instantly and send shockwaves the globe over. Even a sloppily planned incident would cost billions. And yet, more than three years after 9-11, after hundreds of millions of dollars spent on risk assessments and plans, the L.A. port is still, essentially, an open bull’s-eye. See Full Story