Chronology of the JFK fuel pipeline terror plot -informant played critical role in arrests-DOJ statement
June 2, 2007
Chronology of the conspiracy
June 3, 2007
According to the indictment, authorities gathered information about the alleged plot through reports, e-mails, taped conversations and telephone calls.
About January 2006: Suspects allegedly conspire to blow up planes, fuel tanks, pipelines and other facilities at Kennedy Airport. According to the indictment, the suspects performed physical surveillance of Kennedy Airport, made video recordings of the facilities, located satellite photos of the airport's buildings and facilities on the Internet as well as sought expert advice, financing, and explosives.
July 13: Russell Defreitas meets a confidential source and an individual unidentified in the indictment at the Gertz Plaza Mall in Queens. Defreitas allegedly knew the source from a mosque in Brooklyn.
July 28: Defreitas again meets the source, and says he is traveling to Guyana in mid-August and would stay through the end of Ramadan. (Ramadan occurred between Sept. 24 and Oct. 24.)
Aug. 1: Defreitas meets the source, who drives him to his residence. During a discussion of the war then taking place in Lebanon, Defreitas says that Muslims always incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a "pass." Defreitas also says he envisioned an attack that would make the WTC attack seem small, but failed to provide details. Later, he added that many other nationalities of Muslim -- not just Arabs -- were involved in the fight or the war for Islam.
Aug. 2: Defreitas meets the source at a store in Brooklyn. The source drives Defreitas home to pick up clothes for his trip to Guyana. Defreitas invited the source to meet him in Guyana before placing a telephone call to "Individual A," a citizen of Guyana. The source and "Individual A" exchange greetings. Defreitas tells the source he is "the right man for the job," but failed to elaborate.
Aug. 7: Defreitas meets the source and asked whether they could speak confidentially. The source agrees, and Defreitas reiterates that there were "brothers" who wanted to do something bigger than the WTC attacks. Defreitas says the individuals would travel from Trinidad and Guyana to New York City to conduct the operation, and reveals that "Individual A" was involved in the plan.
Aug. 8: During a recorded meeting, Defreitas again recruits the source. Defreitas reveals that the operation involved a "cell" of "six or seven" people but that he was unaware of the details. He says the plan involves Kennedy Airport and "cell" members would come to the U.S. via airplane, "do what they have to do and get out." He explains he's a former airport employee with unique knowledge of the facility, says that the cell had been searching for someone in New York whom they could trust to be part of the operation and the source was sent by Allah to be the one. Defreitas mentions an "Individual B," but says the source would have to travel to Guyana to be vetted there before meeting "Individual B."
Aug. 17: Defreitas travels to Guyana.
Sept. 10: In a recorded conversation, between "Individual A" and the source, "Individual A" says: "Would you like to die as a martyr?" In order to infiltrate the group, the source replies that would be the greatest way to die in Islam.
Sept. 20: The source travels to Guyana, where he would stay until Oct. 27, for Ramadan. During his stay, the source has several meetings about the plot with Defreitas, "Individual A," and another person, "Individual C."
Sept. 24: During a meeting among the source, "Individual A" and "Individual C," "Individual A" says the plot involves several people but does not identify them. "Individual A" says the U.S. has the technology to prevent an attack from the "outside," but that it can't prevent attacks such as the one on Sept. 11.
Sep. 27: "Individual A" and "Individual C" tell the source the three are traveling to Trinidad to discuss the plan with a fourth person, "Individual D."
Sept. 29: Another person from Guyana, "Individual E," is introduced to the source. In their conversation, "Individual E" tells the source he helps "brothers" who want to perform jihad.
Oct. 7: "Individual A" and the source meet at a Georgetown, Guyana, business owned by "Individual E." "Individual A" says he has arranged the meeting to talk about jihad, but "Individual E" responds that "Individual A" should get involved in teaching Islam, so that he could select serious persons who are right for jihad. "Individual E" urges caution, recalling the case of Sheikh Abdel Rahman and his attorney, Lynne Stewart.
Oct. 10: "Individual A" informs "Individual E" of details to blow up the fuel line that feeds into Kennedy Airport, adding that exploding one of the U.S. largest pipelines would cause greater destruction than the Sept. 11 attacks. "Individual E" agrees to take part in the plan, but cautions against talking about it over the phone or anyone not directly involved. "Individual E" provides code names for the plan. Also, "Individual A" says they were working on another plan to smuggle mujahideen from Asia into Guyana and then into the U.S.
Oct. 12: Individuals A, C, E, Defreitas and the source meet again at E's business. "Individual E" described his thoughts of blowing up U.S. choppers parked at the Guyanese airport for an air show. Individual E also says he is close friends with a leader of Jamaat Al Muslimeen, a Trinidadian Muslim group. Over the next few weeks, Individuals A, E and C, Defreitas and the source meet several times to discuss the Kennedy attack. "Individual A" suggests Defreitas and the source return to New York to conduct surveillance at the airport to determine what kind of explosive would be appropriate for the plan.
November and December: Individuals A, C, E, and Defreitas hold meetings in Guyana regarding the plot, updating the source via telephone (conversations were consensually recorded). The discussions involve plans for an associate's of "Individual E" named Abdel Nur to travel to Trinidad and meet with "Individual D." The trip is delayed because Nur's passport had expired.
Jan. 1, 2007: Defreitas leaves Guyana for New York. In conversations with with the source, he describes how they can take pictures of Kennedy Airport but is concerned that security would likely to stop them if they tried to shoot photos. Defreitas, however, explains that he had been able to access restricted areas while visiting friends at the airport, but that now identification is needed.
Jan. 2: Defreitas tells the source he was motivated to strike Kennedy Airport because he had seen military parts -- including missiles -- shipped to Israel that he felt would be used to kill Muslims. He said this would be a big plot and that everything had to be in order.
Jan. 3, 4, 10 and 11: Defreitas and the source conduct surveillance of the airport, and law enforcement officers keep track of the meetings.
Jan. 3: During a trip to Kennedy Airport with the source, Defreitas identifies a gas station near the airport's entrance, fuel tanks near Terminal 1 and parked aircraft as possible targets. Defreitas tells the source "Individual E" "really wants to get this thing going. He's very sincere about it." In a call to "Individual E," Defreitas tells him "mission accomplished today," to which "Individual E" responds: "All right, that's good, that's good, that's good." Defreitas also tells "Individual E" that televangelist Pat Robertson is on television predicting that a disaster would hit America. "Individual E" says: "So he's probably not too far off, huh?"
Jan. 4: In another trip to Kennedy Airport, Defreitas tells the source "I got to show you all the escape routes ... how to get in, and how to get out." Defreitas identifies fuel tanks next to the water -- which provide fuel for planes -- as a possible target, saying security there is virtually non-existent. In the return trip, Defreitas says the plot would destroy "the whole of Kennedy," that only a few people would escape and, that due to underground piping, part of Queens would explode. Their rewards for the plot would be "a place in paradise," Defreitas tells the source. He goes on to say: "Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow ... They love John F. Kennedy like he's the man ... If you hit that, this whole country will be mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."
Defreitas also says he has been considering the plan "from the time I worked in the airport, before terrorism started in this country ... " He says he thought, "Well, I could blow this place up. ... I could knock this place ... And I would sit and see a plane taxiing up the runway. And I would say, if I could get a rocket, then I could do a hit. By myself, I am thinking these things. But I had no connections with no Arabs or nobody -- I'm a Muslim working in the airport for so many years."
Jan. 10: Defreitas and the source return to Kennedy Airport, conduct surveillance and identify other targets.
Jan. 11: Defreitas instructs the source to drive to Kennedy Airport, explaining that he wanted to identify a different way to enter. Defreitas videotapes parked airplanes.
Jan. 14: Defreitas and the source return to Guyana, taking with them the airport videos for Individuals A and E, who were pleased with the material. They discuss a trip to Trinidad to meet with "Individual D."
Jan. 22: The source meets with "Individual E" and discuss how the latter could get his hands on explosives for the plot. Over the next several days, Individuals A and E became increasingly suspicious that Individual C was a spy for the Guyanese government. The suspicions lead to Individual A deciding against traveling to Trinidad.
Feb. 13: In a heated argument following the removal of the airport video from a computer, "Individual E" states that he wants to stop his involvement in the plot.
Feb. 18: Defreitas and the source meet with "Individual F," a Guyana citizen, and go to an Internet cafe to show him the airport video. "Individual F" identifies Abdul Kadir as an associate who might be interested in the plot. Kadir was a member of the Guyanese Parliament, a former mayor of the Guyanese town Linden, and an imam.
Feb. 19: Defreitas, "Individual F" and the source travel to Linden, Guyana, to meet with Kadir. Kadir, who is shown the airport video, expresses interest, and says he needed a few weeks to contact some associates who could help in the plot. He code-names the project "the chicken hatchery" or "chicken farm" for future conversations.
Feb. 22: Defreitas, Kadir and the source meet in Georgetown, Guyana. Kadir tells Defreitas and the source that his associates have their own rules and wanted to minimize the killing of innocent people. Karid suggests Google Earth software for more detailed pictures of the airport.
Feb. 28: Defreitas and the source return to New York. Custom agents conduct a search of Defreitas and his belongings. The officers find Defreitas's phone book, which contains the names and phone numbers of Kadir as well as Individuals A, E and F. Defreitas later tells the source he suspects the U.S. government knows about their plans.
March 1: Defreitas tells the source he informed Kadir of the search by custom agents, who had recorded the phone book information.
March 5: Defreitas and the source call Kadir and say that they had used Google Earth software to find the "chicken farm."
March 7: Kadir tells the source "the folks don't want to deal with that hatchery" because of the custom agents' search.
Early April: Defreitas and the source discuss traveling to Trinidad to meet with the JAM leader and talk about the plot.
April 11: Defreitas and the source call Kadir and asks him to travel to Trinidad with them. He agrees.
April 14: Defreitas and the source call Kadir again and tell him they have doubts about Nur's character. They ask Kadir to make introductions to the JAM leader.
May 7: Defreitas and the source discuss the trip to Guyana and Trinidad as well as the plot. Defreitas talks about asking Kadir to meet them at the airport in Guyana to avoid security problems. The source tells Kadir "On the (UI) chicken farm, I downloaded the Google Earth and we've got the print of the chicken farm from the air." Kadir responds that the material "should be good."
May 10: Defreitas and the source travel to Guyana and meet Kadir at the airport.
May 11: Kadir confirms dates for Defreitas and the source to travel to Trinidad to meet with the JAM leader. He adds that "Individual G," who is not aware of the nature of the meetings, would travel to Trinidad on May 13 to arrange the meeting with JAM leader.
May 14: Defreitas and the source meet with Nur in Georgetown, where Defreitas tells Nur that Kadir would be traveling with them to Trinidad to make the introduction with the JAM leader.
May 19: Kadir meets with the source, and he says he won't be able to travel to Trinidad because of a pending "project" that requires him to be in Guyana May 21 and 22. Kadir receives a telephone call confirming "the folks" in Trinidad have "arranged the meetings." Kadir advises the source how they should handle themselves in Trinidad, including during the meeting with the JAM leader, whom he says is under "serious government" surveillance.
May 20: Defreitas and the source travel to Trinidad. An associate of Kadir takes them to the home of Kareem Ibrahim, a citizen of Trinidad and an associate of Kadir.
May 22: Nur tells Defreitas and the source that the JAM leader suggested they return a few days later to discuss the plan in detail. The leader suggested he wanted some "checks" on Defreitas and the source before any meeting. Later, Nur tells Kadir that he met with the JAM leader and presented him with plan. Kadir says he was pleased.
Late evening May 23: Comparing the plot to the Sept. 11 attacks, Defreitas says "even the Twin Towers can't touch it." He adds: "This can destroy the economy of America for some time if it falls into the right hands." Ibrahim advises against presenting the plan to the JAM leader and instead said he would present it to overseas contacts who would be interesting in funding it.
May 24: In a phone call to Kadir, Defreitas tells him that Ibrahim knew about the plot and was going to present it to his contacts. Kadir agreed to keep the money received for the plans in his foundation in Linden, Guyana. A code is devised for future communications.
May 26: Defreitas and the source return to New York. During a telephone call, Ibrahim said the plan was moving forward. One of his associates would travel overseas to present the plan.
Authorities request arrest warrants for Russell Defreitas, Kareem Ibrahim, Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur.
Informant critical in terror probe
He is known in court documents only as "the Source."
The simple title does little to convey the importance of a man who federal officials say infiltrated a group of would-be terrorists working in three countries to blow up networks of jet fuel tanks and pipes at Kennedy Airport.
At a news conference Saturday at the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Mark Mershon would describe him only as an "agent" working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
But the criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn against a retired Kennedy cargo handler and three others offers a peek over the shoulder of a man officials say spent a year and a half pretending to be a willing participant.
According to the court document, the informant was convicted on federal drug trafficking and racketeering charges in the Southern District of New York in 1996. In 2003, he was again convicted of drug trafficking in a New York State court. His sentence on that charge, the document states, depends on his agreement in 2004 to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.
The document states that he expects to serve a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation and receives unspecified financial assistance.
The informant -- whose reports to investigators were corroborated by extensive recordings and documents -- gained the trust of Russell Defreitas, 63, a key figure in the alleged plot who last worked at Kennedy in 1995. They met at the Gertz Plaza Mall in Jamaica, Queens, last July when Defreitas greeted him and said he recognized him "from a mosque in Brooklyn." Over the next several months, the pair met repeatedly in Brooklyn and Queens as Defreitas gauged his suitability to participate in a plan "that would make the World Trade Center attack seem small," the criminal complaint said."
At a meeting in August, Defreitas revealed that he was working with six or seven others in a plan involving Kennedy and that he believed the informant was "sent by Allah" to join them. In a recorded telephone conversation in August, an unidentified man in Guyana who is accused of involvement in the alleged plot asked the informant if he is willing to die as a martyr. In order to ingratiate himself with the man, the complaint states, he answers that "this was the greatest way to die in Islam." Defreitas and the man made several trips together in the following months to Defreitas' native Guyana and later to Trinidad and Tobago to meet with potential backers, the court papers say.
Some of the more chilling details of the complaint describe four trips the informant made to Kennedy and the surrounding area with Defreitas in January. On the first visit on Jan. 3, the document describes the informant driving his vehicle as Defreitas gave directions and pointed out possible targets at his former workplace. The pair returned three more times, with the informant driving and Defreitas in the passenger seat videotaping areas of the airport and discussing security soft points and an "escape route" to the Belt Parkway.
The informant is just the latest operative to help the federal Joint Terrorist Task Force investigate suspected terror plots. Last month, confidential operatives helped the FBI uncover what investigators believe was a plot by Islamic extremists to kill American military personnel at Fort Dix, N.J. Six suspected Jihadists were arrested.
Staff writer Anthony M. DeStefano contributed to this story.
DOJ statement on JFK Airport plot arrestsSuspect allegedly said, ‘If you hit that, this ... country will be in mourning' Updated: 1:46 p.m. PT June 2, 2007 The following is a press release from the Department of Justice detailing the government's allegations against four men charged with conspiring to attack John F. Kennedy International Airport.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Four individuals, including a former member of the parliament of Guyana and a former airport cargo worker at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), have been charged with conspiring to attack JFK airport by planting explosives to blow up the airport's major jet-fuel supply tanks and pipeline. The plot was foiled well before it came to fruition through an outstanding law enforcement effort in the United States and abroad.
The arrests were announced today by Roslynn R. Mauskopf, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark J. Mershon, Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, New York Field Office, Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department, Samuel J. Plumeri, Superintendent of Police/Director of Public Safety, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, and Michael Balboni, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, New York State Department of Homeland Security.
Agents from the FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force (JTTF) arrested one of the defendants, former JFK employee Russell Defreitas, a U.S. citizen and native of Guyana, in Brooklyn, New York. He is expected to make his initial appearance at 2:00 p.m. today before United States Magistrate Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York. Abdul Kadir, a citizen of Guyana who has served as a member of the Guyanese Parliament, and Kareem Ibrahim, a citizen of Trinidad, are in custody in Trinidad. A fourth defendant, Abdel Nur, is a citizen of Guyana. The United States plans to seek their extradition.
According to the criminal complaint, beginning in January 2006 and continuing to the present, the defendants conspired to destroy buildings, fuel tanks, and fuel pipelines at JFK airport with explosives. JFK handles on average over 1,000 flights daily, approximately half of which are international flights, and handles annually, approximately 45 million passengers and over 1.5 million tons of cargo with an estimated value of $120 billion. The fuel supply for these operations are linked primarily to the Buckeye Pipeline, which distributes fuel and other petroleum products to various sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens, New York, among others.
As alleged in the complaint, the plot tapped into an international network of Muslim extremists from the United States, Guyana, and Trinidad, and utilized the knowledge, expertise, and contacts of the conspirators to develop and plan the plot, and obtain operational support and capability to carry it out. For example, as part of the plot, the conspirators dispatched Defreitas from Guyana to conduct video and photo surveillance of JFK airport on four occasions in January 2007. During the surveillance and using his knowledge of airport operations from his prior employment, Defreitas identified targets and escape routes and assessed airport security. The defendants also obtained satellite photographs of JFK airport and its facilities from the internet and traveled frequently between the United States, Guyana, and Trinidad to discuss their plans and solicit the financial and technical assistance of others.
The defendants used their connections to present their terrorist plot to radical groups in South America and the Caribbean, including senior leadership of Jamaat Al Muslimeen ("JAM"), which was responsible for a deadly coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990. As the complaint alleges, defendants Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of JAM leaders. Defendant Kareem also was preparing to send an emissary overseas to present the plan to other extremists.
An informant working with law enforcement agents began monitoring the plot at its early stages and made numerous recorded conversations with the defendants. In a recorded conversation following one of the surveillance missions to JFK airport, Defreitas predicted that the attacks would result in the destruction of "the whole of Kennedy," that only a few people would survive the attack, and that because of the location of the targeted fuel pipelines, part of Queens would explode.
In discussing JFK airport as a target, Defreitas exulted over JFK airport's symbolic importance:
"Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow .... They love John F. Kennedy like he's the man .... If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."
In a later recorded conversation with his coconspirators in May 2007, Defreitas compared the plot to attack JFK airport to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, stating, "even the Twin Towers can't touch it," adding that, "this can destroy the economy of America for some time."
In discussing the plans, Kadir stressed the goal of causing economic damage and suggested minimizing the killing of innocent men and women. In one conversation, Kadir and Defreitas discussed the need to disable the airport control tower from which airport security monitors the fuel tank locations. Kadir, an engineer by training, explained that the tanks were, most likely, double tanks, requiring two explosions to provide enough oxygen to ignite the fuel inside the inner tank.
Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Justice Department, said, "The defendants sought to combine an insider's knowledge of JFK Airport with the assistance of Islamic radicals in the Caribbean to produce an attack that they boasted would be so devastating to the airport that 'even the Twin Towers can't touch it.' Like the Fort Dix case several weeks ago, this plot highlights the evolving nature of the terrorist threat we face, and our investigation into both plots highlights how our agents and prosecutors are refining their capability to detect and pre-empt such plots before they advance to a dangerous stage."
"The defendants are charged with conspiring to bomb one of the busiest airports in the United States, located in one of the most densely populated areas in the northeast - had the plot been carried out, it could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction," stated U.S. Attorney Mauskopf. "But, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of law enforcement, the defendants' plan never reached the operational stage, and the public was never at risk. We remain unwavering in our commitment to stop terrorist plots before they become terrorist acts and will spare no effort to secure the safety of the public." Ms. Mauskopf added that the investigation is continuing.
Mark J. Mershon, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, stated, "The defendants had the connections to present their terrorist plot to radical groups in South America and the Caribbean, including senior leadership of Jamaat Al Muslimeen ("JAM"), which was responsible for a deadly coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990. As the complaint alleges, defendants Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of JAM leaders. Defendant Kareem was also preparing to send an emissary overseas to present the plan to extremist networks there when law enforcement stepped in to disrupt it.
"Once again, terrorists have plotted against New York, and once more NYPD detectives and FBI agents joined forces to deny them. A disaster has been averted. Congratulations to both in thwarting this plot, and to the Port Authority Police Department with whom the NYPD continues to work closely to protect JFK International Airport," stated Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.
"This announcement demonstrates, once again, that there are people continuously plotting violence against our vital assets and our homeland. This investigation and the arrests that are related to it prove that the cooperation of state, local, and federal law enforcement can produce real results that help to make our state and nation safer," stated Michael Balboni, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, New York State Department of Homeland Security.
If convicted of conspiring to attack JFK airport with explosives, each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The charges in the complaint are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey Knox and Marshall L. Miller of the Violent Crimes and Terrorism Section.