Headlines blazed and radio and television buzzed with the news. Federal agents had located and captured - busted, a terrorist ring. Wasn't it only yesterday that another group of local terrorists had been captured? This time the target was JFK airport in New York, the airport named after the beloved president and world famous figure, the leader who was himself a victim of homegrown terror. This time the venue of choice was the jet fuel pipes that run underground in the heavily trafficked airport.
We were told that had they been successful, Guyanese born and naturalized citizen ring leader Russell Defreitas and his religious Muslim gang would have caused more damage than 9-11. In fact, that is not the case at all. The greatest damage would have come not to individuals and not to the infrastructure but to that great giant called the airline industry. The damage to people and property itself would have been minimal - it was the intention that was grand. These men hoped for an act of destruction so great that it would actually minimize the devastation and dwarf the trauma of 9/11.
The fact that their plan was unworkable in no way diminishes the magnitude or importance of the situation. The United States and the Western world continue to be at risk - from within, by our own.
These Muslim terrorists wanted to make a statement. They wanted to make the United States and by extension the entire Western world and Israel hurt. They wanted to make us quake with fear. According to the indictment, these plotters wanted to "cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks" because they "wanted to do something to get those bastards." They mean us.
It requires only a cursory look to determine that the plan was more a wish list than a death sentence for thousands of innocent world travelers. Experts with knowledge about pipelines and fuel have said it would be impossible to cause the kind of explosion that would result in any damage to the line or, more importantly, to anything or anyone above ground. That's what the experts say and these men, while dedicated to their hateful cause, are anything but experts.
Russell Defreitas, sixty-three years old and now retired, used to work at JFK airport and knew it like the back of his hand. The problem for Russell and his plan is that he stopped working at the airport in 1995, long before the airport security system was overhauled, tightened and improved as a direct result of 9/11. Yes, he was spotted on surveillance missions and taking photographs around the airport four times in the past year, and yes, he claims to have learned bomb-making in his native Guyana, but neither he nor his cohorts ever built a bomb. They never bought bomb materials. They never even trained as terrorists, never read the al Qaeda textbook or viewed the video.
Defreitas, Kareem Ibrahim, Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur desperately wanted to hurt America. Luckily for us, they seem pitifully incapable of actually doing America harm. They had no contingency plans and no alternatives. They were not even fluent in the basic operations of the new fuel system and its security and capabilities at the airport. They had an idea but there was no real operational plan. And the plan that they did have seemed poorly conceived and it is most doubtful that it would have worked even with the opportunity to put it into action.
They are guilty of conspiracy to perpetrate an act of terror. They were plotting and the group leader even confessed to an informant that he feared that the FBI was on to them. And because of very important and remarkably effective investigative work on the part of the federal authorities, especially the Joint Terrorism Task Force, they were caught and now they deserve to be punished.
And they are not alone.
A bungling, 63-year-old former baggage handler is not the true profile of a homegrown terrorist. The probable and highly effective terrorists of tomorrow will be engineering and computer science students in their late 20's and early 30's. They will be men and women with real training and true discipline. They will be people with access to highly secured computer sites and with the ability to get both virtual and real clearance to those sites.
Homegrown terrorists and terrorist wannabes - in the United States and in all other Western countries - are an increasing breed. The West needs to keep up the pressure. The West needs to unmask these perpetrators of evil and uncover and dismantle these plots. It's not easy - it's necessity.
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