The JFK Terror Plot: Another Overblown Threat

They had a nuke guy? Who is News Corporation kidding?

The plan was intricate. It could have shut down JFK. Or it could have been a dud. There was no guarantee of mass casualties, considering that the terminals and planes would still be standing had the plan worked perfectly. In fact most experts agree that at most, it would have blown up one big fuel tank and nothing more. I'm not about to call the terror news bullshit, like last summer's London liquid bomb scare clearly was. But consider what had to happen in order for this plan to work, beginning with the fact that the alleged plotters needed explosives.

Or maybe there was no plot. Maybe the drug-dealing informant the FBI used to arrange these arrests just made shit up to avoid a lengthy sentence. If the defendants actually thought that lighting a pipeline at one end would cause a mushroom cloud of death and destruction at the other end, then they really are stupid. Ya think?

The threat these guys posed was certainly not as bad as it was first reported to us by the AP.

Take a breath and read how loony this is:

“The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable,” U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it “one of the most chilling plots imaginable.”

In an indictment charging the four men, one of them is quoted as saying the foiled plot would “cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks,” destroying the airport, killing several thousand people and destroying parts of New York’s borough of Queens, where the pipeline runs underground.

There's no way that could have happened. How did such a scary story run wild through our mainstream news media? Oh right, the Bushworld culture of fear. I forgot.

Will Bunch at Attytood put it best:

Look, here's what you need to know about the JFK Four (one suspect is still at large.) They were yet another band of ne'er-do-wells with a homegrown hatred for the U.S. They had no terror training or know-how, no links to Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or the big-bucks funding mechanisms of the kind that carried out real terror on 9/11. Their driving force in this plot of "unthinkable devastation" was a government informant, a twice-convicted drug dealer eager to win a lighter sentence. Aside from the most important aspect that their plan was not feasible, they also had no explosives to carry it out.

People who think that violence and bloodshed are an answer to anything are indeed a danger to a civil society, so unless the facts are radically different than what's been reported so far, we should have praise for law enforcement, including the NYPD and the FBI, for not letting this kind of nonsense get very far. It shows yet again that the law-enforcement approach to fighting this type of threat -- so ridiculed when John Kerry dared even mention it in 2004 -- remains the one that in most cases works best. That said, the plot was not exactly the biggest thing going on the world right now.

I see that Mr. Bunch does not want to offend the NYPD. I understand. I know a little something about NYPD retribution over lawsuits and bad press. But let's get real. Commissioner Ray Kelly embarrassed himself by being at that press conference to announce the arrests. To take credit for stopping an impossible 'terrorist' plot is absurd. Then again, he also took credit for stopping the plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with blow torches. So Ray Kelly is shameless. He'd be a good mayor.

And then consider this Huffington Post entry by Nora Ephron:

1. In order to foil a terrorist plot, you must first find a terrorist plot. This is not easy.

2. Not just anyone can find and then foil a terrorist plot. You must have an incentive. The best incentive is to be an accused felon, looking at a long prison term. Under such circumstances, your lawyer will explain to you, you may be able to reduce your sentence by acting as an informant in a criminal case, preferably one involving terrorists.

3. The fact that you do not know any actual terrorists should not in any way deter you. Necessity is the mother of invention: if you can find the right raw material -- a sad, sick, lonely, drunk, deranged, disgruntled or just plain anti-American Muslim somewhere in the United States -- you can make your very own terrorist.

4. Now the good part begins. Money! The FBI will give you lots of money to take your very own terrorist out to lots of dinners where you, wearing a wire, can record yourself making recommendations to him about possible targets and weapons that might be used in the impending terrorist attack that your very own terrorist is going to mastermind, with your help. It will even buy you a computer so you can go to Google Earth in order to show your very own terrorist a "top secret" aerial image of the target you have suggested.

5. More money!! The FBI will give you even more money to travel to foreign countries with your very own terrorist, and it will make suggestions about terrorist groups you can meet while in said foreign countries.

6. Months and even years will pass in this fashion, while you essentially get the FBI to pay for everything you do. (Incidentally, be sure your lawyer negotiates your expense account well in advance, or you may be forced -- as the informant was in the Buffalo terrorist case -- to protest your inadequate remuneration by setting yourself on fire in front of the White House.)

7. At a certain point, something will go wrong. You may have trouble recruiting other people to collaborate with your very own terrorist, who is, as you yourself know, just an ordinary guy in a really bad mood. Or, alternatively, the terrorist cell you have carefully cobbled together may malfunction and fail to move forward -- probably as a result of sheer incompetence or of simply not having been genuinely serious about the acts of terrorism you were urging it to commit. At this point, you may worry that the FBI is going to realize that there isn't much of a terrorist plot going on here at all, just a case of entrapment. Do not despair: the FBI is way ahead of you. The FBI knows perfectly well what's going on. The FBI has as much at stake as you do. So before it can be obvious to the world that there's no case, the FBI will arrest your very own terrorist, hold a press conference and announce that a huge terrorist plot has been foiled. It will of course be forced to admit that this plot did not proceed beyond the pre-planning stage, that no actual weapons or money were involved, and that the plot itself was "not technically feasible," but that will not stop the story from becoming a front-page episode all over America and, within hours, boilerplate for all the Republican politicians who believe that you need to arrest a "homegrown" terrorist now and then to justify the continuing war in Iraq. Everyone will be happy, except for the schmuck you shmikeled into becoming a terrorist, and no one really cares about him anyway.

So congratulations. You have foiled a terrorist plot. Way to go.

Or take Anthony Kaufman's article on the Huffington Post tonight:

Anthony Kaufman
Mon Jun 4, 11:24 PM ET

Why didn't the headlines read "Bombers Not Smart Enough to Bomb JFK" or "Plot to Blow-up JFK Unfeasible"? No, as is often the case in our post-9/11 paranoid universe, media hype and authoritarian fear-mongering conspire to freak us out.

On Saturday night, local New York news stations -- in flashy "team-coverage" packages -- declared a major plot to destroy John F. Kennedy airport had been uncovered. Complete with frightening court-drawings of the "dark-skinned" alleged ring-leader and maps that showed a path of destruction stretching all the way from Queens to New Jersey, the news painted a picture of impending doom a la 24, thwarted at the last minute by brave undercover sources working for the F.B.I. Even HuffPost's link to the Associated Press story "Authorities Charge 4 in NYC Terror Plot" offered little explanation of the near-impossibility of the supposed plot. Needless to say, I went to sleep scared out of my wits, worried for the safety of my friends and family.

The next morning, of course, I found buried deep into the news coverage reporting about how would-be mass murderer Russell Defreitas was "not smart enough" to carry out such a plot, and the plot, itself, probably wouldn't have worked anyway. Oh, no matter, right-wing bloggers and conservative pundits went hog-wild all-day Sunday (perfectly timed) with the BREAKING news, using the charges to justify their attacks on all things Islamic and their "war on terror."

While most folks have a healthy distrust of the press, it's all too easy to get swept up in the media maelstrom around such trumped-up counter-terrorism proclamations.

I am reminded, of course, of the front-page news stories of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber," whose mis-label stuck on him like super-glue, despite the fact that the charges against him three-and-a-half years later made no mention of a dirty bomb. What do people remember? The shocking lead-item statements of imminent apocalypse made by Attorney General John Ashcroft or the little news story on page three some years later that showed just how ineffectual and unthreatening Padilla was? Or what about the so-called "Detroit Sleeper Cell," whose case proved to be a mockery of the U.S. justice system, revealing it to be overzealous, and let's face it, completely racist?

Is it a coincidence that the alleged plots to attack Fort Dix and JFK come at a time when this U.S. Administration's support is flagging, and Americans are increasingly doubtful of its ability to effectively fight terrorism. While we'll never know for sure, there's one thing that is certain:The media needs to do a better job of cutting through the propaganda.

Ok, I'm now calling it complete bullshit.