Al Qaeda's reported nuclear whiz kid — a "tantalizing terror figure" with a $5 million bounty on his head — was the figure investigators had hoped to snag in their 18-month probe of a plot to blow up a New York airport, the New York Post reported Monday.
The name of Adnan Gulshair el-Shukrijumah, reportedly the man Usama bin Laden tapped to lead a previous plot to detonate nuclear bombs simultaneously in several U.S. cities, came up at several points in taped conversations during the probe, law-enforcement sources familiar with the investigation told the paper.
Those living near the pipeline aren't entirely satisfied with the thwarted plot because security concerns remain:
"The pipeline is a ticking time bomb because anyone can go down there at any time," a retired city worker who lives a block from the pipeline in Brooklyn, Morton Pupko, said.Consider that there are sections of the pipeline that pass under densely populated areas of the City, and the potential for a catastrophic attack with mass casualties is a possibility, despite the safeguards built into the pipeline.
The pipeline's operator, Buckeye Partners, has said that in the event of an attack, sections of the 40 miles of pipeline that run between Linden, N.J., and Queens could be isolated easily by shutoff valves.
The president of Accufacts Inc., a company that investigates oil and gas pipelines, Richard Kuprewicz, said an explosion in the pipeline would probably extend for hundreds or thousands of feet, not miles.
Meanwhile, I wonder whether the reports over the past several months about how the Port Authority was working on a deal with the New York and New Jersey governors on a plan to have National Guardsmen operate in the Port Authority's PATH system was not tangentially connected to the ongoing terror investigation.
Having the National Guard bolster the Port Authority police in the PATH system would free up Port Authority police to operate at JFK airport and shift resources to the areas that were likely to be affected by a terror plot. When the plan to station National Guardsmen in the PATH system was announced, the Port Authority pointed out that there were no specific threats against the PATH system that had been made, but it would seem logical that such a move would enable the shift in resources to where it was needed.
And speaking of PATH and other rail and subways systems in the NY metro area, the NYPD is calling for a total order maintenance sweep of all cars in the system to improve security:
While it is unclear exactly how much funding the New York City Police Department spends on counterterrorism, the department is leading a $30 million program funded by the Department of Homeland Security to create a 50-mile perimeter barring nuclear weapons from the city, investigating the importation of chlorine, which can be used in the manufacturing of deadly bombs, and deploying a counterterrorism unit into the streets and the subways of the city every day.Elsewhere, the unindicted coconspirator in ABSCAM, Rep. John Murtha, thinks that the latest terror plot is a response to the US involvment in Iraq. Murtha apparently hasn't been paying attention to the facts. Defreitas specifically stated that he wanted to attack the US and JFK airport because he claimed to have seen US weapons being shipped to Israel where they could be used against fellow Muslims. That was included in the complaint against the four accused men. Murtha either ignores the facts, is lying, or both.
Adding to the department's counterterrorism efforts, officers from the city's police department and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are now performing a counter-terrorism reconnaissance program, known as "total order maintenance sweeps," or TOMS, at Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter stations. The sweeps, where a patrol of officers inspects each train car on every train that pulls into a commuter station, are being implemented randomly across the city.
"Attacks in London against the mass transit system there demonstrated how planning and bomb assembly took place outside of London," Mr. Kelly said. "The Madrid commuter rail bombings showed how commuter trains approaching the central city were also targeted. NYPD presence on Metro-North and LIRR trains is just one more element in widening counterterrorism coverage and cooperation among neighboring jurisdictions and agencies."
According to the FBI, Shukrijumah appears to have gone to Pakistan, where he's likely joined up with al Qaeda elements. As Allah notes, if they had captured Shukrijumah, it would have been an intel bonanza and tactical victory on par with the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
One of the curious aspects of the coverage of this story is the abject failure of the New York Times to provide above the fold coverage to a story with great import to the New York metropolitan region. Every other paper in the region has devoted at least one day of front page coverage to the story, if not more (see nj.com, northjersey.com, nysun.com, nypost.com, nydailynews.com, and nynewsday.com for a sampler). The New York Times, instead buried the story on the inside pages of the paper. Most curious. Even if the New York Times believes the plot wasn't going to cause as much damage as FBI investigators believed or that experts considered the threat to destroy miles of pipelines that snaked through the New York metro area to be remote, the fact that the FBI was hoping to nab a major al Qaeda figure should have rung some bells.
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NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly says that explosives were available to the JFK plotters:
"Did they have explosives in their possession? No. But clearly, there were explosives available in Guyana," Kelly said.UPDATE:
Kelly said the four Muslim suspects made repeated trips between the U.S., Guyana and the Caribbean while plotting the JFK terror plot. Several of the trips were made to try to win support from Jamaat al Muslimeen, an extremist Muslim group in Trinidad and Tobago, Kelly said.
"We don't know exactly what this case could have changed into, could have morphed into, if they were able to successfully create a partnership with this militant group," Kelly said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Kelly, who has assigned 1,000 cops to fight terrorism, said it was only a matter of time before the alleged mastermind, Russell Defreitas, 63, of Brooklyn, got his hands on explosives.
"They tried to get money, and they tried to get explosives," Kelly said. "I think the investigators took this case down at the appropriate time."
Say hi for the video - tapes of the last encounter between Defreitas and the informant before Defreitas was taken into custody have been released.
One of the things that has gone rather unremarked upon is that there are quite a few references to unnamed individuals. James Robbins notes:
Reading the indictment against the four would-be JFK airport bombers, Russell Defreitas, Abdul Nur, Kareem Ibrihim and Abdul Kadir, I was struck by the phrase “together with others” which frequently followed their names. It is on page 1, page 2, page 3, twice on page 4. In the course of the document we are introduced to these others, known only as Individuals A-G. There must be some legal rationale why we can’t know their identities. It surely can’t be to conceal from the Individuals that we know what they were up to; they must have figured out who is which letter by now. But until we know who Messrs. A-G are, we can’t know the extent of the network, or the magnitude of the threat.
Of the six, the most interesting are A and E. “A” is one of the ringleaders of the plan, playing a key role in conceptualizing and promoting it. Yet for some reason, he was not indicted. “E” is even more important — a businessman in Georgetown Guyana, who funds jihadists on their missions and comes across in the indictment as extremely knowledgeable in matters of terrorism. It seems as though he has done this many times before. He served as a mentor for the prospective attackers, but eventually pulled out of the plan when he thought it might be compromised. Good instincts.