Saturday, 28 May 2011

Now it can be told - how I almost saved Obama

About four weeks ago, a light-blue Mercedes truck with white cargo box was abandoned on the grassy stretch of ul. Kórnicka between ul. Trombity and the railway line. Since that day in late April, it stood just there. At the time I guessed it had broken down and been dumped. I'd pass it on my way to work, giving less and less thought to what it was doing or for how long it'd remain there. That is, until the day Barack Obama was due to fly into town. 

On Friday morning I drew open the curtains and saw the very same truck in the middle of the field behind our house. Overnight, someone had driven it - or towed it - 1.5 km south, snuck it between the two houses at No. 6 and No. 8, and unceremoniously left it in the field.

What ran through my mind as I looked at that truck from our balcony...? In less than ten hours' time, Barrack Obama's Air Force One will be passing overhead at a height of 300m. Left: you can see just how close the vehicle is to the flight path. A truck of this size would make a very convenient hide in which to store hand-held surface-to-air missiles, such as the Stinger, much used by the Taliban in Afghanistan against low-flying Soviet helicopters. A plot could have been hatched - days before Osama Bin Laden's demise - to bring down Air Force One as it was coming in to land at Okęcie. 

Keep the weapons in a truck abandoned on a quiet, semi-rural street near the airport, wait until the day of Obama's arrival, see which way the wind was blowing, which runway was being used... then move into place under the flight path.

Right: This is what flashed through my mind's eye on Friday morning. An arsenal of hand-held surface-to-air missiles hidden in a truck parked in the field behind our house, just waiting to be unleashed against the Leader of the Free World as he flew in to Warsaw. Better to take preventative action, or just let it be? 

My cognitive bias or Bayesian inference at work? The chances of coincidence (someone just decided to move the truck into a field under the Okęcie flight path on the very day of Obama's arrival) were probabilistically higher than the chances of a terrorist plot. Even so, aware of that, I thought it better to be safe than sorry. History what if: imagine the consequences for Poland of such an attack happening on its soil. 

The idea of Jeziorki becoming to Americans what Smolensk has become to Poles sprang to mind. Time to call the authorities. They were thankful. They checked. The van, they told me, was empty - but they kept it under surveillance anyhow.


student SGH said...

Slightly hilarious

"better safe than sorry" - off the record I can confess this is a catch-phrase in the financial divison of one of the world's largest corporations...

toyah said...

Faine story! Strange though the secret service hadn't spotted this one before. They should have, shouldn't they?

Michael Dembinski said...

They were tipped off just hours after daybreak. I guess the truck was moved in the wee small hours.

toyah said...

They should have checked the truck before. If your guess had been correct, and you had not let them know, the shame would be now on the secret service.

jazgdyni said...

Widzi Pan, Panie Michale

gdyby Pan miał całkowicie wyrafinowaną polską mentalność, to by Pan zostawił to auto w spokoju, czekając na rozwój wypadków.

I zakładając, że poszłoby to w kierunku, jak podpowiadała Pańska imaginacja, jakiś taliban wyjąłby tego Stingera, lub lepiej, ruską Striełę, i zestrzeliłby to paskudne Air Force One.

I wtedy, my Polacy zobaczlibyśmy, Jak Tusk i ferajna, w oparciu o konwencję Chicagowską, bez udziału amerykańskich służb i ekspertów przeprowadzają nasze własne, niezależne od świata śledztwo.


Ps. I write this text in polish, because You need also training as we do.

Unknown said...

It only took one person to notice this and raise the alarm. Something anybody could have done . . . good thing somebody did it! A longshot maybe (no pun intended) but good thing you did. Imagine how you would feel in the unlikely scenario if things turned out very differently!

Anonymous said...

You have a future in the secret service, Michael.

student SGH said...

The idea of Jeziorki becoming to Americans what Smolensk has become to Poles sprang to mind

But if what the figment of you imagination had materialised, this would have been an assassination. This implies you back conspiracy theories on Smolensk plane crash. Would there really be an equality mark between those two plane disasters?

According to you I have a future in metheorology and stand-up. I'd opt for the former. Stand-up doesn't even have a Polish equivalent and is not really popular in Poland, despite recent Polsat's effort to popularise it.

Anonymous said...

You wonder how far an airport perimeter search reaches. I assume the plane has various electronic gizmos to deflect incoming rockets etc, but well spotted anyway. I guess the protection detail have to accept a degree of vulnerability.

Or maybe they don't...