Last Tuesday an dry ice “bomb” exploded in Disneyland’s Toontown, and the area was cleared of Disney-goers for a couple of hours. The Anaheim Police Department says that similar devices have exploded in Anaheim in recent months. This comes after a series of terrorist plots have been uncovered over the years, centering on Disneyland and Disney World, as well as Disneyland-themed parts in other parts of the world.
A dry ice bomb is made by breaking dry ice into small chips that will fit through the neck of an empty 2 liter plastic bottle, covering them with water, and replacing the cap on the bottle to create an effective weapon.
Toontown is popular area for parents and their young children and a place where large crowds of people gather, as in the case of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Fortunately there were no injuries this time. But investigators have not turned up a motive for this action.
Disneyland has had bomb scares before. In 2012, SanJuanCapistranoDispatch reported that Disneyland had to extend its hours because of the delay caused by the discovery of a “suspicious object,” which turned out to be a nothing more than a rolled piece of paper offering a “spirit message” of positive thoughts and goodwill.
Disneyland was closed in 2011, after a GPS device, part of a treasure hunt referred to as “geocaching” was uncovered out in the open on a bridge near the ESPN Zone, discomfiting park officials enough to call the police. Geocaching is advertised as a real-life treasure hunt attracting more than 5 million people worldwide, searching for almost 1.5 million “caches” hidden around the world.
There was public awareness after 9/11 that theme parks were a potential target for terrorist actions. An article in the Orlando Sentinel in 2008 reported that SeaWorld Orlando, one of Disney World’s competitors, could possibly be a location for terrorist actions by chemical means. This was the result of a review by the federal government of facilities across the United States.
The Los Angeles Times referred to a statement by the FBI that it was not aware of any possible threats to Disneyland or Disney World.
But that same year former CIA officials told the United Press International that Southern California’s Disneyland and Seattle’s Space Needle were suspected sites of a foiled 1999 “millennium bombing attacks” being financed by Osama bin Laden. The plot was linked to the apprehension of an Algerian, Ahmed Ressam, by U.S. Customs officials at Port Angeles, about 60 miles northwest of Seattle. He had crossed into the U.S. from Canada in a car carrying ten 110-pound plastic bags of urea, a substance used in fertilizer, which, though legal, can be utilized to make explosives.
Dry ice bombs would bear a potent and malign message by terrorists to the U.S., inflicting horrific damage in a crowded and well-renowned theme park such as Disneyland or Disney World, which attract visitors from all over the world.
The former U.S. intelligence officials in the interview with United Press International, charged that the FBI had “plenty of indications” that the Space Needle, at least, was part of bin Laden’s plan to terrorize the United States. The catastrophe of 9/11 could have happened at any number of locations in this country, besides the World Trade Towers in New York.
In October of 2001, the Inquirer Washington Bureau relied on internal government reports to assert that terrorists groups affiliated with al-Qaeda network had surveyed at least five sites in the U.S. for possible attacks, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland, as well as the Sears Tower in Chicago.
In 2005, an online chat source cited news reports confirming that authorities in Paris unearthed a terrorist plot to attack the city. This would devastate nearby Disneyland Paris, which is not far away.
In 2007, KNBC reported that Disneyland in Anaheim and Disneyworld in Orlando were the only two commercial properties in the U.S. that had gained federal no-fly-zone status after 9/11. This status was awarded to the sites just days after the Iraq invasion. Aircraft has to stay three miles away and 3,000 feet above the theme parks.
Disneyland franchises throughout the world have been subject to potential attacks. In 1995, Tokyo Disneyland was designated as the next place in line for a terrorist attack by the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult. Aum Shinrikyo had releasing a canister of the highly toxic nerve gas Sarin in the Tokyo underground, killing twelve and injuring more than 5,,500. Authorities determined that the group planned to launch an attack on the Japanese theme park resort on Easter Sunday, when the largest crowd would be congregating. The action by police authorities stopped this from happening.
The effect of a terrorist bombing on Disneyland would not be limited to death or injury inflicted on the patrons unluckily present. One of a series of studies by the Economic Modeling Group concerned the inter-regional economic impact of terrorist attacks on theme parks. Such attacks could have serious effects on the U.S. economy. Obviously sustained attacks, like shark attacks, would keep the tourists away.
Besides any conclusion that may be drawn that such attacks are inspired by religious fanaticism or originate solely from outside this country, there are reasons for domestic terrorists to focus their ire on Disneyland.
In 1998, Timothy McVeigh wrote a 1,200-word essay from the federal maximum-security prison at Florence, Colorado, entitled “An Essay on Hypocrisy”. The essay was published in Media Bypass magazine. In it, McVeigh stated that the Oklahoma City bombing was revenge for the killings at Waco and Ruby Ridge by the United States government. He expressed the belief that the terrorist action in Oklahoma was “morally equivalent” to U.S. military actions against Iraq and elsewhere.