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NaderIsMyHero Donating Member (80 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 02:59 AM
Original message
Fear and loathing in Vegas
Case of the mysterious mass lockout

In a town where the lovestruck can select from a roster of Elvis lookalikes to marry them at 4am, what happened two weeks ago in Las Vegas was pretty strange, even by the locals' standards.

Late on the morning of February 21 - nobody is precise about the exact time, location or identity of the first caller - someone rang a locksmith and complained that the remote-control locking system on the caller's car was refusing to respond.

The old-fashioned key, linked to the same circuitry, wouldn't work either, so could the locksmith fix whatever had gone wrong?

A couple of minutes later, another locksmith's phone rang. Different caller, different make of car, different security system, same problem.

By the end of the day, the best estimate is that police, fire brigade, locksmiths, car dealerships and tow-truck services had received at least 200 calls from stranded motorists. Many who are still puzzling over the February 21 incident put the figure as high as 1000.

"Maybe it's those little green men," joked Mike Estrada, a spokesman for the United States Air Force's Nellis Air Base, which sprawls over 4100 square kilometres of desert 160km north of Vegas.

He was referring to the Area 51 military research facility, which sits in the middle of Nellis' bombing range and where UFO buffs and conspiracy theorists maintain the Pentagon picks apart space aliens and their crashed flying saucers.

While no one seriously blames intergalactic vandals for the lockouts, the general belief in Vegas is that Estrada, whose own car also was locked tight, might have been pointing reporters in the right direction.

The likely culprit, say some, was a top-secret test of equipment intended to fry an enemy's circuitry.

Is this the biggest exercise in paranoia since a drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson mistook the desk clerk at Circus Circus for a man-eating lizard? Only if you label weapons analyst John Pike, director of the Washington-based Global Security think tank, a fruitcake, which he most definitely is not.

"The idea that a military test of some sort was responsible isn't that far-fetched," Pike said, noting that hush-hush electronic weapons and counter-measures are among special projects funded by the Pentagon's "black budget", details of which are withheld even from the congressional Armed Services Committee.

Still, being a man of science, Pike advocates checking the most likely explanations first. Trouble is, none of them pan out.

Solar flares, for example, have been known to scramble electronics. But on the day in question, Old Sol was as peaceful as he had been in weeks.

Static electricity created by unusually dry air is another possibility. But according to weather records, Vegas actually saw a little rain on the day the locks froze shut.

By default, speculation returns to the rumoured goings-on at Nellis. And there the trail is littered with a host of tantalising clues.

Take what happened in March, 2001, when the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson returned to its port of Bremerton in Washington State. Automatic car locks went crazy there, too. A month later, when the USS Abraham Lincoln tied up at Puget Sound, the same phenomenon occurred.

And then there was an incident in Los Angeles when Air Force One flew low over the suburbs and garage doors sprang open without prompting. Like car locks, the doors' radio-activated mechanisms are prompted by low-power transmissions similar to those used by cellphones, hobbyists' models, and to relay signals from security systems' motion detectors.

There is another, more contentious, episode worth considering.

On September 11, 2001, after the first three hijacked jets hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the fourth aircraft crashed to earth in Pennsylvania. The official story is that a posse of heroic passengers fought their way into the cockpit, destroying their aircraft and themselves while grappling to reclaim the controls.

Several witnesses reported that the jet was being closely tailed by a small, white, unmarked aircraft. As the pair passed overhead, radios in the vicinity crackled and died.

Could that white jet - whose existence the Pentagon has denied - have been blitzing the larger aircraft with signals to confound its avionics and make it fall from the sky? According to some theorists, and not necessarily the sort who believe in alien autopsies, that is possible, if not entirely probable.

So what of the Las Vegas mystery? What do aircraft carriers, Air Force One and rumours of white business jets have to do with car locks?

Just this: In Iraq, the roadside bombs that have claimed so many US lives are triggered by devices borrowed from things such as remote control locks, cellphones and toys. The last such bomb, which killed three GIs, went off near Baghdad in mid-February - just days before everything went haywire in Las Vegas. Since then, all Iraqi blasts appear to have been detonated by suicide bombers or built-in timers.

Meanwhile, US bomb disposal teams have been defusing the devices in increasing numbers, according to the Pentagon's daily actions from Iraq.

Could the military have used Vegas as a test site for jamming and blocking technology before rushing it to Iraq for immediate deployment in the field?

Pike of Global Security has his doubts, pointing out that while it would be relatively easy to fry 1000 car locks, the military would need to protect its own equipment. But he concedes that such electronic immunity may have been developed.

"It's been widely reported that electronic countermeasures saved Pakistan's President Musharraf by stopping bombs from detonating as planned," Pike noted. "So we know this sort of technology exists, that it is being explored, and that it is being used.

"That said, can we tie what happened in Las Vegas - a genuinely fascinating incident, by the way - to the military? Not on what we know of the technology as of now."

Pike's reservations don't cut much mustard with people who had to pay emergency locksmiths to let them into their own cars in Las Vegas. There, it isn't Estrada's little green men who top the list of suspects, but blue ones - the blue of a US Air Force uniform.

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MI Cherie Donating Member (682 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 03:38 AM
Response to Original message
1. Interesting ...
... very interesting!

While it is possibly a good thing that there is a device that can defuse bombs and merely cause inconvenience for motorists it is truly scary if it can be programmed to bring a plane down.

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Old and In the Way Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 04:43 AM
Response to Original message
2. Very interesting....
Two things-

(1) Why wouldn't it waste all the electronics on the cars?

(2) The Flight 93 takedown makes a lot of sense....if you didn't want to leave evidence of a missle attack. A clean kill with no evidence.
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