NEW YORK—The alleged plot to blow up Kennedy Airport's fuel system, intended to be more destructive and deadly than the Sept. 11 attacks, was driven by a deep-seated hatred of the United States and the West and now spotlights the Caribbean as another region of the world that increasingly poses a terrorism threat.
Authorities said four men, including a former member of the Guyanese parliament as well as a Brooklyn man who was a Kennedy cargo worker, are being charged with conspiring to plant explosives to damage the airport's jet-fuel supply tanks. The men allegedly also had plans to plant explosives on a 40-mile pipeline that winds its way from a facility in Linden, N.J., through Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens on its way to Kennedy Airport.
The plot, which the men code-named "Chicken Farm," was foiled "well before it came to fruition," authorities said Saturday in unveiling the threat. The men had not gotten the explosives or financing needed to carry out their plan.
"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," said U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf at a news conference Saturday. She called it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."
Three of the men are under arrest -- one in Brooklyn and two in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago -- and officials are seeking a fourth in Trinidad. The arrests were made, authorities said, because they felt they had gathered enough evidence, including numerous audio recordings, to successfully prosecute the suspects.
According to court papers, Russell Defreitas, 63, the Brooklyn man arrested, came up with the bombing plot during his years working at the airport. He told an FBI informant that he had seen "military parts being shipped to Israel, including missiles that he felt would be used to kill Muslims." As a result, Defreitas said he wanted to do something to strike back.
Defreitas, a U.S. citizen and a native of Guyana, later told the informant that when he used to work at Kennedy, "these things used to come into my brain -- well, I could blow this place up. ... And I would say, if I could get a rocket, then I could do a hit."
Defreitas thought that destroying Kennedy Airport in particular would hurt Americans and the U.S. economy alike, according to the court complaint.
"Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States," Defreitas allegedly told the informant during one of the four trips the two took to the airport this past January to conduct video and photo surveillance. "If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning."
Defreitas also thought that targeting the pipeline at the airport would destroy the residential Queens neighborhoods bordering Kennedy, authorities said.
The alleged plot, which authorities had been monitoring for about 18 months, involved men with connections in Guyana and Trinidad. Defreitas and the informant also made a number of trips to the two Caribbean countries, leaving law enforcement officials to claim that there is a new region of the world to be mindful of for terrorism threats.
"This latest plot was at once different and similar to what we have seen before," said New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "Different in its distinct ties to the Caribbean, a region that is rarely thought of in terms of terrorism but of increasing concern to us as a crucible in the foment of Islamic radicalism."
Yet despite the international scope, Kelly pointed out that New York City remained at the heart of terrorism threats.
"If we learned anything from this latest plot, it's that they keep coming back to New York," he said.
NYPD patroled pipeline
According to Kelly, when his department first learned of the plot, its counterterrorism division conducted a survey of the pipeline and its helicopters and boats began regular patrols of it.
Authorities said the pipeline is part of the Buckeye Pipeline system, which originates in the Upper Midwest and distributes fuel and other petroleum products to various sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens, including Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.
Buckeye spokesman Roy Haase declined to discuss details of the plot or the security measures of the company.
"There was a time when we would brag about our safety and security features, but we would not do that now, for fear we would be undermining them," Haase said.