HARRISBURG - If a test vehicle is blown up in the remote reaches of central Pennsylvania and nobody hears it, did it really explode?
In what was truly a secret operation - kept under wraps from even Gov. Rendell and various state and federal law enforcement agencies - the FBI rigged a replica SUV with explosives at a still-undisclosed location about 30 miles from State College, and detonated it to simulate what would have happened had the car bomb exploded in Times Square.
Investigators believe the late-June test revealed that the homemade fertilizer bomb would have killed untold numbers of people in the heart of New York.
But in conducting a test that involved re-creating a Manhattan street scene in rural Pennsylvania, the agency apparently did not notify any state or local authorities.
Officials in Centre County, where State College is, said they didn't know about the test. Then again, no one is saying exactly where outside State College the test occurred. So it could have been in an adjacent county.
Asked Wednesday morning if he had heard about the June test, Rendell told The Inquirer that he had not.
Nor did he seem especially irked about being kept in the dark.
"There's probably not a law against blowing up a vehicle on private property, presuming it didn't hurt anyone," Rendell said after testifying before the state Senate Transportation Committee about Pennsylvania's need for new sources of transportation funding.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Philadelphia FBI office said they, too, knew nothing about the blast. Neither did the state police or the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which generally works closely with the FBI, officials said.
"We don't know anything about that," PEMA spokeswoman Ruth Miller said, replying to a request for information.Read more
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