JFK plot

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The plot was, as the saying goes, “more aspirational than operational,” but the arrests of these suspected terrorists are obviously good news.

A suspected terrorist cell planned a “chilling” attack to destroy John F. Kennedy International Airport, kill thousands of people and trigger an economic catastrophe by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through populous residential neighborhoods, authorities said Saturday.

Three men were arrested and one was being sought in Trinidad on Saturday. 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 Queens, where the line runs underground.

One of the suspects, Russell Defreitas, a U.S. citizen native to Guyana and former JFK employee, said the airport was a symbol that would put “the whole country in mourning.”

With the news just breaking this afternoon, some of the details are still a little sketchy, but there was no plan for an imminent attack — the plot, the AP noted, “never got past the planning stages.” With that in mind, we don’t yet know whether this plot was along the lines of the bizarre “Seas of David” cult in Miami, which posed no meaningful threat to anyone, or something more serious.

We also don’t know if this is similar to the plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge (which was less serious than advertised), the British hijacking plot (which didn’t stand up well to scrutiny), or the plot to attack Los Angeles’ Library Tower (which turned out to be far less serious than we’d been led to believe).

That said, given what we know this afternoon, it appears to be a successful law-enforcement/counter-terrorism operation. The officials who were involved with uncovering the plot and arresting the suspects deserve the nation’s gratitude.

It’s good to know that intelligence gathering and law-enforcement efforts — the very techniques Bush and his allies have ridiculed as ineffective — can make a difference.

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