The Washington Post has been reporting extensively on the foiled JFK terror plot. I wanted to wait a bit before posting on it, as I don’t want to add to all the white noise, but it’s looking as though the investigation is widening now:
NEW YORK, June 2 — Authorities said Saturday that they had broken up an alleged terrorist plot to bomb aviation fuel tanks and pipelines at John F. Kennedy International Airport, arresting a former airport worker and two other men with links to Islamic extremists in South America and the Caribbean.
The lone U.S. resident and alleged leader of the conspiracy, Russell Defreitas, 63, a native of the small South American nation of Guyana, was arrested in Brooklyn. Two others — one of them a former member of parliament and religious leader in Guyana — were being held abroad, and a fourth man was being sought by authorities overseas.”
And here’s the interesting part:
“Nonetheless, the charges provided yet more evidence of the threat posed by homegrown terrorists (my emphasis), embittered extremists who hail from the Middle East or, in this case, from the Caribbean and northeastern South America.”
“The new case, officials say, also shows how extremists in the United States can use the Internet to reach out for help, domestically and internationally, to turn their rage into an assault.
Notice the lines I emphasized in the quote and notice also that this was at the end of a 16 month sting operation.
A bit of background material on sting ops to follow:
Remember that the six suspects arrested on May 7 in the Fort Dix terror plot were also caught at the end of a 16 month sting operation by the FBI and the South Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Two informants who had infiltrated the Fort Dix group recorded allegedly incriminating conversations said to be “inspired by Al Qaeda.”
That language sounds terminally vague, too. What does “inspired” (a word also used about the JFK plot) mean here? Cho Seung Hui, the Virginia shooter also referred (negatively) to Al Qaeda – couldn’t he be described as being inspired by it too? Rumsfeld’s whole theory of netcentric war (NWC) was inspired by the threat of guerilla terrorism and 4th generation war. I guess, NWC is Al Qaeda-inspired too.
And here’s another sting operation – a British plot apparently foiled in August 2006, also as a result of a year-long undercover investigation.
A quote from the article on the British plot:
“Put simply, this was a plot to commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” said Paul Stephenson, deputy commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police”
Note the language used, words like “unimaginable.”
Notice, later in the piece, the linking to 9-11 (“if successful could have rivaled the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in death toll”).
Note also the linking to Al Qaeda without any proof (” with inspiration but not direction from Osama bin Laden”).
The same language appears almost verbatim in the three reports. Is this only coincidental and caused by the nature of the incidents being investigated? Or can there be another explanation?
I’ve analyzed before the use of “memes” in the media — a theme or phrase that you’ll find setting the tone for a news item in opinion-making journals, which will be repeated regularly over a period. A meme shapes the boundaries of what is discussed. It enters public consciousness and unwary readers automatically assume that the government really has Al Qaeda operatives in hand, even though they don’t. Plus, constantly referring to 9-11 and potential disasters of an unquantifiable level helps notch up public fear just that much more.
That doesn’t mean that Fort Dix or JFK or the August 2006 British plot aren’t jihadi plots. They might well be. But , I’ll warrant, not anywhere as organized, centralized or massive as we are being led to believe. Not anything, anyway, that requires the kind of power grab the feds are making to tackle it.
Guilt by association is an old trick that prosecutors and attorneys use when they want to hype the value of the information they have or the arrests they’ve made. And sting operations, no need to remind you, can also get heavy-handed.
Imagine someone shadowing you for over a year, playing on your one weakness – say, gambling at the race-track – dangling money under your nose, actively putting temptation in your way. Doesn’t that begin to shade into entrapment?
Meanwhile, remember what President Bush said back in 2005 about having just foiled 10 huge terror plots in the years after 9-11? Here’s an article from the Washington Post, October 7, 2005, on that speech. You’ll see the same meme there.
It seems that, besides the plot involving Jose Padilla and some other (lesser) efforts, Al Qaeda was ready to use two hijacked commercial airlines to attack the west and east coast in 2002 and 2003. Taken together, the plots included foreign and domestic attacks and most were apparently masterminded by Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, allegedly the brain behind 9-11.
Now, here’s the salient part:
“but it [Bush’s speech] offered scant information beyond the location and general date of each reported plot — making it difficult to assess last night how serious or advanced they were or what role the government played in preventing them.”
Now, of course, no one denies the government has some legitimate interest in secrecy in wartime. Nobody needs to have every last detail when there are security concerns. But we always have to be very wary about secrecy in government. It invariably breeds abuse. And this report is vague beyond any reasonable standard.
Besides, why the announcement in 2005 of stuff that took place in 2002 and 2003? The Post’s explanation is that the speech was “intended to shore up sagging public support for the war.”
PR, in other words. Notice the simple, broad themes that are repeated here in this Post piece, once again, as you’ll find them repeated in every terror story over the last few years: the horror of 9-11, Al Qaeda as a unique evil like Soviet communism or Nazi fascism, some immeasurably huge disaster barely averted or about to take place, the threat of a radical Islamic empire from Indonesia to Spain, the link between the war in Iraq to possible future wars against Iran and Syria, and an unusually personalized response addressing Bin Laden and Al Zarqawi.
The Bush speech followed a video-tape that surfaced on September 11, 2005, purportedly announcing Al Qaeda’s plans through the mouth of an American born and bred recruit (a so-called homegrown jihadi) Adam Gadahn (the son of a New Yorker, Philip Gadahn (born, Philip Pearlman). Gadahn pere converted to Christianity in the 70s . Gadahn fils supposedly converted to Islam at 17 (1995), learned Arabic thereafter, and in only 8 years became a confidante of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, entrusted with terror attacks on the US.
Frankly, that sounds incredible to me, but it’s the official story, as repeated in this New Yorker profile by Raffi Khatchadourian.
Gadahn was charged with treason on October 11, 2006. according to SITE, a terrorist network monitoring outfit.
Oh la la, as my co-author Bill Bonner is wont to say.
More on the JFK plot:
The daughter of one of the JFK suspects is sure it’s a set-up, according to this report, which argues that her father was not even computer literate.
Update: The original link I posted in the paragraph above vanished this morning and was replaced by an error message, so I put in an ABC report, but here is the other report- once more- at News24 (can’t vouch for this as a source, but it seems to say much the same thing as the ABC report).
I’m also adding this link to a Paul Craig Roberts piece on what seems to have been another sting operation – the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Roberts is analyzing what he calls the murder of Robert Trentadue while in the custody of the FBI, who mistakenly thought he was Timothy McVeigh’s partner in the bombing.
According to an LA Times report (now archived), “the family ordered the Orange County undertaker to strip the body and wipe away the makeup. Then they saw the rest — his battered head, his gouged throat, his arms and legs, hands and wrists, even the bottoms of his feet, all covered in deep, ugly wounds….”
The report adds,
“Dr. Fred Jordan, the Oklahoma medical examiner, performed the autopsy. “I felt Mr. Trentadue had been abused and tortured,” he concluded. He later told an Oklahoma City television reporter that “it’s very likely he was murdered.”
More on that here at Talkleft.
Just to double check, I went into the LA Times archives and found the summaries of 3 archived stories you can pay to read. Here’s the summary of one.
From “Seeing Murder in Face,” Richard Serrano, LA Times, March 9, 2004:
“Raymond Essex, a U.S. Parole Commission administrator, reported that Trentadue admitted using $200 worth of heroin the day he committed the savings and loan robbery in San Diego that led to his federal conviction in 1982. Trentadue acknowledged being in a drug- induced stupor during the robbery.
Unconvinced, the Trentadue family began its own investigation. With [Jesse Trentadue], the lawyer, taking the lead, they talked to inmates who said [Kenneth Trentadue] had not been acting irrationally. Using the Freedom of Information Act, they obtained prison documents that showed that a videotape related to the incident was mysteriously erased, and that the cell had been cleaned by guards before FBI agents arrived.
Trentadue’s family pushed on. They learned of bloodstains near the panic button in his cell — a sign Trentadue might have been trying to get help before he died.”
I did not personally verify them, but they are well documented and sourced.
For those who haven’t read about it before, here’s a good account from Reason magazine’s Jacob Sullum of what happened at Waco, Texas, on April 19 1993 when a stand off between the Branch Davidian religious sect and federal agents led to the burning of the compound and the deaths of over 70 people, including children.
Waco was widely seen as a violation of the Posse Comitatus act forbidding the use of the US military against its citizens, although the government’s position was that it was within it, since military assistance to the state national guard was permissible.