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Plot Twists

If we’re not afraid, have the terrorists won? An assessment of past terror threats.

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Nobody doubts that the United States is, by this point, overdue for another terrorist attack. But was the alleged plan to blow up the fuel lines at JFK, revealed, with much apocalyptic fanfare, by law enforcement last week, really an example of another 9/11 averted? Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani thought so, calling it a reminder that “the terrorists are at war with us, both overseas and here in the United States.” Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg said, “You can’t sit there and worry about everything. Get a life … You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist.” The JFK plot was just the latest of many such conspiracies to be foiled in the last few years. Or was it nothing more than a violent delusion that the government exaggerated for its own PR ends? As Georgetown professor Bruce Hoffman, author of Inside Terrorism, says, “Even if these plans appear half-baked, quarter-baked or not entirely serious, that’s only part of the story. People who are incompetent or irrational can still inflict enormous damage. Look at the Virginia Tech student.”

APPARENT PLOT
June 2007
Blow up fuel tanks, pipelines, and terminal buildings at JFK airport, leading to “unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction,” said a prosecutor.

JIHADISHNESS
“[Americans] love John F. Kennedy. If you hit that, the whole country will be in mourning. It’s like you can kill the man twice.”

GOVERNMENT RHETORIC
“The discovery and dissolution of this chilling plot is further evidence that New York remains a target of terrorists.” —Governor Eliot Spitzer

DENOUEMENT
Russell Defreitas arrested in Brooklyn. Kareem Ibrahim and Abdul Kadir arrested in Trinidad. Abdel Nur gave himself up in Trinidad.

THREAT ASSESSMENT
Officials say the explosions would have been stopped before they could spread to the entire pipeline because of safeguards in the system.


APPARENT PLOT
May 2007
Attack Fort Dix with automatic weapons and RPGs. One who worked as a pizza delivery man cased the place.

JIHADISHNESS
We are all crazy … We can do a lot of damage with seven people.’’

GOVERNMENT RHETORIC
“Once they got onto that base and started to shoot, everyone was in danger.” —Christopher Christie, United States attorney for New Jersey

DENOUEMENT
Eljvir Duka, Dritan Duka, Shain Duka, Agron Abdullahu, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, and Serdar Tatar arrested after two of them allegedly tried to buy automatic weapons from an FBI informant.

THREAT ASSESSMENT
The plotters asked a Circuit City clerk to transfer video of themselves shooting onto a DVD. The clerk tipped off the FBI. “We’re talking about people who were not terribly skilled and knowledgeable.” —Hoffman


APPARENT PLOT
June 2006
Blow up Sears Tower and FBI headquarters in Miami.

JIHADISHNESS
“Kill all the devils we can.” Claimed attack would be “just as good or greater than 9/11.”

GOVERNMENT RHETORIC
“Homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda.” —Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

DENOUEMENT
Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rothschild Augustine arrested.

THREAT ASSESSMENT
Mayor of Chicago declared the Sears Tower was not under any actual threat. Plotters did not have the means to finance an attack. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in September.


APPARENT PLOT
August 2004
Blow up Herald Square subway station.

JIHADISHNESS
Mastermind Shahawar Matin Siraj said he was “ready for jihad.”

GOVERNMENT RHETORIC
“It is clear that they had the intention to cause damage, to kill people … The motive was basically … hatred of America.” —Police Commissioner Ray Kelly

DENOUEMENT
Two plotters arrested August 2004. Siraj sentenced to 30 years in prison, January 2007. Co-conspirator James Elshafay sentenced to five years in prison, March 2007.

THREAT ASSESSMENT
Elshafay had $38 in his bank account when arrested; he testified against Siraj, whose defense lawyers accused the NYPD of entrapping Siraj. Neither plotter was in possession of explosives.


APPARENT PLOT
March 2003
Sever cables to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.

JIHADISHNESS
Iyman Faris traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to allegedly meet with Osama bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

GOVERNMENT RHETORIC
“Highlights the very real threats that still exist here at home in the United States of America in the war against terrorism.” —Attorney General John Ashcroft

DENOUEMENT
Faris arrested March 2003, sentenced to twenty years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Faris said he pleaded guilty only to get a book deal.

THREAT ASSESSMENT
Faris told Al Qaeda he couldn’t carry out the plan because the bridge was too heavily guarded. “It was farcical. His ambition exceeded his capabilities.” —Hoffman


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