Published June 05, 2007
| FOX Fan
Half baked, and technologically impossible.
That’s what the representatives of Buckeye Pipeline had to say about the plot to blow up the pipelines and fuel tanks in and around JFK airport. I’ve had a couple of really interesting conversations with the people of Buckeye and the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, that give a better explanation of why the scheme to plant explosives and carry it out would have been hard to pull off. Still, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out at a press conference this week, every single potential threat to the people of New York is taken seriously, and every single one is investigated to the fullest.
Russell Defreitas, 63, was arrested Friday night at the Lindenwood diner in Brooklyn. (Interesting side note: this diner was once bugged by the Feds during the investigation into the Gambino Family crime boss, John Gotti Jr., and is also the diner where a caller used the pay phone to report spotting a body in a nearby marshy area, which turned out to be missing college student Imette St. Guillen.)
The former JFK cargo worker had reportedly been stewing in his hatred of the United States for some time. Defreitas told an undercover informant, that when he was an employee at the airport in the 1990s, he had seen military parts being shipped to Israel, including missiles, that he felt would be used to kill Muslims. He went on to say he “wanted to do something” and that “Muslims always incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass.” Defreitas was secretly recorded telling the informant that if the destruction of JFK had been enacted, it would have caused a huge loss of life and devastated the U.S. economy ... and, caused a deep symbolic blow against a national icon: President John F. Kennedy
When the news broke Saturday, air travelers were understandably uneasy. At a news conference held by local and federal authorities, they said that if the plot had been carried out, it could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction.
After covering the arraignment of Russell Defrietas Saturday at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, we took our cameras to the curbside of JFK airport on Sunday. I found a variety of emotions from travelers who were flying out of the airport. Some told me they felt safe, and that the arrests of the suspect just goes to show you; homeland security is doing its job. Others told me that they were a little nervous, envisioning explosions, but needed to fly to get to work, get home, or to go on a long waited vacation.
There was one family I talked to that I couldn’t get out of my head. A mom and dad were seeing off their son, as he headed to Europe for a month. He appeared to be in his early 20s. They were scared. Mom was really scared. She was sitting in the passenger’s seat with her door swung open, watching her husband give their son a hug. When I looked at her, I noticed her eyes were red and swollen like she had been crying, and she just looked at me, and said “I don’t want him to go … this is too scary.” Their son hollered back, and said, “Mom! It just shows security is working, and they got the bad guys … DON’T worry!”
I don’t have that family’s phone number, but if I did, I would call that mom. I would let her know what the people at Buckeye Pipeline told me, and what the Port Authority officials said too. Remember the plan was to plant explosives all up and down the pipelines that carry jet fuel to planes at the airport. The suspects hoped to start a line of explosions that would blow up the airport, and start a fire that would blast through the pipes, and extend into nearby neighborhoods, hurting or killing many more victims. Buckeye officials say those pipelines are FULL of fuel, and that’s a good thing. In order for that fuel to ignite, the fuel has to first evaporate so it can turn into an explosive vapor, then, it has to mix with a certain amount of oxygen before it can become combustable. The pipelines have no vapors in them. In addition, the company has automatic valves in the pipelines if there is a problem. “Block Valves” run up and down the lines, so that if there is a fire, caused by a terrorist act, an accident, or even a lightning strike, they can shut it down immediately. The company also has what officials call a very sophisticated control and monitoring system so they can watch the temperature and pressure of the fuel.
A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, which runs security for the airport, told me that they have barbed wire fences around the airport, “Delta Barriers” around the fuel supply — those are the raised metal ramps like the ones you see around the Wall Street area —to protect against anyone driving in dangerous material. They have alarms on the pumping stations, a “special operations” unit that monitors every move around the airport, and the largest K-9 units in the country ... and those are just the things you see.
Another interesting note; JFK airport is also having a 57-mile long virtual fence installed around the facility. The fence has state-of-the art heat, movement, and video sensors to detect and detour terrorists. It’s called a “P.I.D.,” a Perimeter Intruder Detection system. The fence has been in the works before this recent plot came to light, and is also being built at LaGuardia, Newark, and Teterboro, N.J. airports. The fence was modeled on systems at Israel’s Ben-Gurion and Baghdad’s airports.
While this terrorist threat was significant, and potentially very deadly, I feel like this information would make that mom feel a little better about seeing her son off at JFK. Knowledge is power. So is fear. I hope knowledge can win out on this one.
Laura Ingle has been a correspondent with FNC since 2005, and most recently reported for the Gerardo At Large syndicated news magazine program. She currently is based in New York.