by October 1, 2001 0 comments

Valley of fear

Suddenly, living in Silicon Valley has taken on a grim and potentially deadly meaning–being Osama bin Laden’s next target. Several months ago, a follower of his told a US news agency that three of the major targets in the United States would be New York, Washington DC and Silicon Valley. That’s two down, and one to go.

Obviously, with the exception of the vast Intel headquarters complex, there are no clear targets in Silicon Valley for an airplane attack. A greater fear is the use of biochemical agents like anthrax.

With new revelations that the terrorists had been planning the World Trade center attacks for three years, living in the US for as long as 10 years, even attending top universities and starting families, the fear is quite real that other cells have been preparing other attacks.

Most alarming is that the most recent attacks show there is no need to smuggle a weapon into the United States. Just using what is already available here is more than sufficient.

In this vast country that offers so many opportunities to operate undetected, it is quite possible that one or more of these planted cells have been developing biochemical weapons for years. A well-financed cell could easily have infiltrated the labs of top educational institutions and biochemical companies giving them access to the means to produce a deadly biochemical weapon.

The San Francisco Bay Area has long been regarded as one of the “best places on Earth” to live and work. Today, that image has changed dramatically. For once, I hope my analysis turns out to be completely wrong.

Changing fortunes

Imagine the United States with no air traffic and isolated from the rest of the world. That unthinkable reality was the immediate after-effect of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC.

Today, domestic airplanes are traveling once again, but only a fraction of what it was before September 11. That is very evident just from looking at the sky the following Monday evening. From the backyard of our house on the slopes that overlook the Valley, there are almost always 10-14 airplanes visible in the air at the 9 pm rush hour. The most I’ve counted at one time were 16 aircraft. On the Monday evening after the attacks, there were at most four planes, and often just one. 
There are a few scenarios by which air traffic in the United States will return to the previous levels in the near future. And the same can be said for many sectors of the Silicon Valley high-tech industry. Some businesses will thrive, including companies selling products for computer and network security. The Valley’s defense industry is likely to get a boost. Since the end of the cold war, the defense sector has played third string to the business and consumer sectors.

Now the United States is facing a long-term active military campaign against terrorism. No doubt technology will play a big role in tracking down and infiltrating the terrorist networks. But it will do little to bring back the daily congested traffic scenes, which many now look back on as an icon of the Valley’s recent prosperous past.

Paul Swart runs SVNS

(Silicon Valley News Service)

No Comments so far

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.