Saturday, June 02, 2007

More on the JFK airport terror plot (BIG update)

(I've added much to this account, and have taken the research into areas visited by few other bloggers. Yes, it's a big, long, weird story -- but I beg you to stay with it.)

An FBI informant was involved with the JFK airport terror plotters:
The plan was foiled with the help of an informant who recorded conversations with the suspects as recently as last month.
But so far, we have no reason to believe that the informant encouraged criminality, as has occurred in previous instances.

An initial report on CNN fleetingly suggested that the plot actually concerned drugs in some way. Certain factors make the idea intriguing -- after all, the story involves airport personnel who have strange connections to the Caribbean. Stranger still, two of the four accused, Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir, come from the South American nation of Guyana.

Accused plotter Abdul Kadir, a former member of parliament in Guyana (!), was on his way to an Islamic religious conference in Iran. His daughter denies that he has any association with either the other accused conspirators or with any anti-American activity. However:
Kadir's wife, Isha, said that her husband was nabbed while boarding a flight to Venezuela, where he planned to pick up a travel visa to attend an Islamic religious conference in Iran. He had flown from Guyana to Trinidad on Thursday.
That sort of travel has a cost. This guy is getting money from somewhere. According to the Australian,
Authorities said Kadir and Nur were associates of Jamaat Al Muslimeen, a Muslim group behind a 1990 coup attempt in Trinidad.
This Sunni group, led by former police officer Yasin Abu Bakr, is a nasty bit of business with a long and continuing history of rape, kidnapping and murder. So far, I've seen no evidence that Jamaat Al Muslimeen is related to Al Qaeda. Keep in mind, as you read the following, that Trinidad/Tobago has an ethnically diverse population, and that less than ten percent of the citizens of that island nation is Muslim.

Regarding that 1990 coup:
A court ruling, questioned by many as patently absurd on the facts, upheld an amnesty agreement obtained during the incarceration of parliament by the group. This led to the non-prosecution of its members for this crime despite the contention that the fact that guns and force were used to obtain said amnesty constituted duress.
Obviously, the court was paid off. Think money, think drugs, think smuggling.
In many respects, the Jammat al-Muslimeen’s ideology and rhetoric mirror that of militant Black ethno-nationalist movements, including the most radical fringes of the Nation of Islam. Abu Bakr’s supporters see him as a hero fighting for social justice. Interestingly, although most Trinidadians did not support his 1990 coup attempt, many at the time agreed with the issues raised by the Jammat during the crisis, especially impoverished Afro-Trinidadians. At the same time, the Jammat is seen by many locally as a well organized criminal empire involved in everything from drug smuggling, money laundering, kidnapping for ransom, and extortion, with Abu Bakr running the show.
(Emphasis added.) Interestingly, the arms for the 1990 coup came from Florida. Paging Daniel Hopsicker!

Right now, I suspect this matter goes beyond any simplistic scenarios of Bushco attempting to gin up a terror threat in order to bolster his poll numbers.

I think these guys were involved with smuggling.
I think CNN's early whispered suggestion of "drugs" was right on the money. Indeed, we can hardly come to any other conclusion -- after all, we're talking about airport security personnel allying themselves to a criminal group in control of a nation's illicit activities.

If my suspicions are correct, the FBI didn't need a terror tale to shut down this operation. And that's intriguing.

Update: One of our commenters made a point which should have occurred to yours truly. If Kadir belongs to a Sunni sect, why is he attending a religious meeting in Iran, a Shi'ite country?

And why go to Iran through Venezuela?

(Second update: A reader says that Kadir was Shi'ite and that Venezuela has the only direct flight to Iran; see the fourth comment, below.)

We are told that this plot has been in the working for two years, but Kadir was a member of the Guyanese parliament as recently as last year.

This blogger and I are not sympatico politically (although I too am a fan of good ol' Andy Jackson), but he has done some good digging. He introduces us to a key Jammat al-Muslimeen lieutenant named David Millard, who goes by the nomme de guerre of -- I'm not making this up -- Buffy.

Buffy was not directly involved with the coup -- he was in New York at the time -- but he was fingered for several mafia-like murders in his home country. And just like the guys involved with the JFK airport plot, Buffy tends to hop between Trinidad and Guyana.

How does he hook up with the JFK thing? Well, a year ago, Buffy was nabbed by the Guyanese Defense Forces:
The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Thursday [ 4 May] night announced that the man held in the raid in the continuing search for 30 AK-47 rifles and five pistols stolen from its Georgetown headquarters, had identified himself as Mustafa Abdullah Muhammad, also known as Edmund DeFreitas.

He has, however, now been identified as David Millard, well-known in Trinidad as 'Buffy', who fled from New York after a shooting incident and returned to Trinidad where he moved up the ranks of the radical Jamaat Al Muslimeen group led by coup leader Abu Yasin Bakr.

A top source yesterday said authorities are trying to find out how Millard found his way here and acquired a Guyana passport in the name of Edmund DeFreitas, recorded in the travel document as born in March 1960 at Bartica in Guyana.
(Emphasis added.) He had used the name DeFreitas for years; the name even appeared on his driver's license. Here's the interesting part: One of the JFK terror suspects goes by the name of Russell DeFreitas.

A mere coincidence of nomenclature? My "Spidey sense" indicates otherwise.

So, what happened to Buffy after the Guyanese scooped him up? He was investigated on arms charges -- something to do with a whole bunch of missing AK-47s. According to one report, crack cocaine was found at his residence, and he bragged about working as a "bodyguard" for the local drug kingpin. The Guyanese brought the United States FBI into the investigation:
The FBI assisted the GDF in conducting several polygraph examinations and interviews and the investigation produced additional leads that are being analysed by the FBI, the Joint Services and other organisations here and in the U.S., the release said.
(Emphasis added.) Then the Guyanese sent him to Trinidad to face those pesky murder charges. He stayed in jail for a few months...

...then walked free last December!

So, what do we know?

1. Buffy had connections to still-mysterious organizations in the United States.

2. He spent time in New York, home of the most recent terror plot.

3. He used fake ID with the name "DeFreitas," the same last name as the leader of the alleged terror plot.

4. Both Russell and Buffy have links to Trinidad and Guyana.

5. Buffy has links to drug smuggling. For reasons given above, I believe (but cannot yet prove) that the JFK "terror ring" was originally a smuggling operation.

6. In the criminal complaint, the informant quotes Russell DeFreitas as saying that the "brothers" from Trinidad and Guyana will assist in the terror plot. I feel fairly safe in taking this as a reference to
Jamaat Al Muslimeen.

Did Russell DeFreitas know Buffy? Did the latter inspire the former's pseudonym?

Frankly, the two look like they could be related, if the sketch is anything to go by. Russell DeFreitas is 63, while Buffy's "DeFreitas" ID lists a 1960 birthday.

Oh. I forgot one "fun fact":
When he was arrested Millard told Guyanese investigators that he was an American citizen and had served in the US Army.

The Saturday Express was told that Millard did in fact serve in the US Army but was deported from that country and is a Trinidadian citizen.
Deported when? Served when?

In Guyana, Millard claimed to be a bodyguard to a local drug kingpin, which arguably buttresses my surmise that this terror cell was involved with smuggling. The criminal complaint here offers some further clues, especially when you compare the information about Russell DeFreitas' Guyana trip to the information given above about Buffy's antics in that country.

Also worth noting: The FBI informant (known only as the Source in the complaint) was -- you guessed it -- a convicted drug smuggler. This background, it seems, is what endeared him to DeFreitas.

If you put it all together, you may agree that my major hypothesis -- these guys were all about drugs -- is, if not proven, quite likely.

I realize that many visitors to this site want to see a simple scenario: Bushco created a fake terror threat to buttress the President's sorry poll numbers. I think that just such a scenario has played out in the past -- but this ain't that.

Neither do I think that anything here redounds to Bush's credit.

One thing I'd like to know is just when the 63 year-old Russell DeFreitas retired from his job. It would be terribly embarrassing if the administration allowed a man with connections to Jamaat Al Muslimeen to work as a baggage handler after September 11, 2001.


Anonymous said...

Unless ... what if these guys are operatives of the FBI, CIA or NSA? It wouldn't be the first time, if so, and it wouldn't be the first time the other agencies were clueless (read: Luis Posada) The smuggling aspect leaves that possibility open in my mind. The CIA is addicted to smuggling.

If we take the story at face value, I have to flag the reference to the man whose wife said he was going to Iran for a Muslim conference. To 99.9% of readers, that's an indictment in itself. But what would our gut reaction be if it said he were en route to a Southern Baptist Convention meeting? Being Muslim or going to Iran doesn't mean he's a bad guy!

DrewL said...

If Kadir were involved with a Sunni group, wouldn't that make it a bit odd that he was planning to attend a Muslim conference in Iran, which is a primarily Shiite nation? That's not to say that Sunni are necessarily unwelcome in Iran, but it would seem a bit odd, especially for someone who allegedly had terroristic intentions in mind.

Any chance that this association gets played up by the Iran-haters as a link between Iran and terror plots? That's ultimately what will allow them to gin up enough support to strike Iran in a "pre-emptive" fashion.

Joseph Cannon said...

Damn good point, drew.

And why go to Venezuela, of all places, to get a connecting flight to Iran?

Anonymous said...

I am originally Iranian and came to this blog by searching in Internet.
1. Abdul Kadir is Shia, and this is first time that one shia is involved in trorrist activities.
2. The reason that he went to Venezuela is that the only direct flight from America continent to Iran is from that country.
3. This flight was started month ago, although it is not economical decision, but it was decided during Honey moon of Chavez-Ahmadi nejad.
4. Now in Iran is anniversary of Khomeini's death- first leader of Islamic Revolution- and that is the reason for their trip. Iranian government never discloses the name of guests from around the world in this ceremony (Government pays for all their costs).
Hope this enlighten you.

Uncle $cam said...

And why go to Venezuela, of all places, to get a connecting flight to Iran?

Well, of course because is part of the wide network of evil doers! I mean look, he even shuts down Television stations for gods sake!.. and besides we got to show the people how reaching and wide this terror thing is.

Note: the above is tongue planted firmly in cheek, Chávez is not closing any TV station. The license of one station that helped to run a coup against him ran out and wasn't renewed. In any other country, such a station would have been closed years ago.

Who knows what really happened here, the crucial thing is, most people do not trust, and even fear this admin; as Bob Wilson says, the more the people fear the gov, the more the gov fears the people hence
a paranoid feedback loop.

Terry Hildebrand said...

I don't know whether this is in any way relevant to the matter at hand, but I do recall that the infamous Rev. Jim Jones and his suicidal(?) Kool-aid drinkers committed their act in Guyana. Its government has flipped flop back and forth from socialism to being more Western-friendly, with a good deal of intervention by our CIA and other spooks.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to underestimate the ability of idiots to wreak havoc, but I am increasingly troubled by the government's legal right to arrest and indict someone for so-called "planning."

If I daydream about a revolution that is initiated when a mob storms a federal building in SF, am I planning such an attack? What if I decide to write a novel based on the premise, and so take (completely legal) photos of the building? What if I talk to friends about this great idea I have for a novel? Have I broken any of the kind of laws that prohibited certain behaviors in the America I grew up in?

Did these guys accused of being terrorists actually possess any explosives? Did they trespass on JFK property in restricted areas? Did they do anything more than boast about how they could strike a serious blow against the US?

Does this sound like the planning of a terrorist act: "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. You can kill the man twice."

Get real. It's arrests like these that led the Founding Fathers to write Habeas Corpus into the US Constitution. This bust sounds exactly like the chickenshit accusations of "conspiracy" that the kings and queens of Europe used whenever they wanted to jail political enemies.

Here is a relevant story: my wife was death-threatened on the phone by an ex-boyfriend. The police explained there was really nothing they could do. Why? The guy was in another state, so the threats were not proximate. He could have gotten on a plane, caught a cab from the airport, and killed her in the morning. BUT IT DIDN'T MATTER, LEGALLY. If the threat was not immediately realistic, it wasn't a true threat.

As far as these terrorists are concerned, I await any evidence that they broke any laws, or were at least a realistic threat. If not, we live in some country that isn't America.

DrewL said...

Unirealist...good points. While I certainly believe there's something else going on here that very well may involve drugs (could have been planning to blow the fuel tanks as a very effective diversion as they proceeded to load/unload vast quantities of contraband), the specifics offered by the authorities in this case seem very sketchy, at best. Very similar, in fact, to the very nebulous threats uncovered last summer and again this summer, followed by big press conferences and front page headlines...mostly over some very, VERY minor players who had no backing, no concrete plans, no weapons, etc.

Certainly, such potentially bogus busts do nothing at this point to help Bush's public standing, per se. As a second term, post-mid-term election prez, poll numbers are a thing of the past as a concern for Bushco. But continuing to bolster support for our involvement in Iraq (after all, we're keeping a lid on terrorism by being there, right?) and eventual involvement in Iran, these types of "fear mongering" arrests serve to keep the "war on terror" front and center in the public's mind.

A report from the WaPo (appeared in this morning's Dallas Morning News) indicates that the "alleged conspirators, authorities said, were initially detected through information gathered by the CIA in South America and the Caribbean. That led authorities in the New York region to launch a 16-month sting operation focused on the activities of Mr. DeFreitas..."

So, both CIA involvement and an FBI informant. Hmmmmm.

Another quote from the article: "The new case, officials say, also shows how extremists in the U.S. can use the Internet to reach out for help, domestically and internationally, to turn their rage into an assault."

Could this be used as fuel for further erosion of our constitutional protections? After all, we have to root out the evil doers here at home now. Can't do that with too much freedom gettin' in the way.

Also, this: "Authorities noted that the cell had not targeted passenger terminals or airplanes. Officials and airport security experts said that an explosion at the cell's primary targets - JFK's fuel tanks and a small segment of the 40-mile petroleum pipeline that supplies the airport - probably would have resulted in major damage but relatively limited loss of life."

So, they were nowhere close to executing this horrific plan that, apparently, had no plans to target people. Yet, an arrest had to be made and the case had to be trumpeted far and wide to the media, including all manner of press conferences and such. Oooooo-kay. Something just ain't right about that.

If it was related to a big drug operation, why would that fact not be made apparent? Are the authorities involved? Are they still working that angle of the plot? Or, is it just more of the "gin up" for entrenchment in Iraq and new activities targeting Iran? Whatever it is, it certainly doesn't appear to be just another bust of a terrorist cell intent on killing innocent Americans. Far from it.

On another note, how does the anonymous Iranian who commented earlier know that Kadir is a Shia rather than a Sunni Muslim? If so, then why would a Shia be associated with a know Sunni Muslim group like the Jamaat Al Muslimeen? Sure, he might be more likely to go to Iran, but he certainly wouldn't be involved with Jamaat. Would he?

So many questions to be answered.

Anonymous said...

i'm totally with unirealist on this, especially since his point has been made several times in reality (chuckle). consider the plot in england that was revealed prematurely, royally (chuckle again) ticking off the bobbies, but also royally serving bush on the timing. those poor slobs had not even bought plane tickets or ANY explosives, and some didn't have a passport. yet they were arrested on the sayso of an informant. i think we should start calling these types 'ferments', for what i hope are obvious reasons.

still, unirealist's point actually supports joe's, that the headline is not fully supported by the deeper facts.

i confess i'm way out of the loop on this story, but it smacks to me of something i've been waiting to see for a while. namely, there are SO many criminals now involved with gubmint bidness, it's just a matter of time before they start warring with one another for turf. all they have to do is expose their competitors to authorities.

and in order to keep all the damning connections and evidence under wraps, they call it terrorism and cry 'national security.' case closed, perps walk.

Anonymous said...

My head's spinning. I'm going to have to re-read this and let it sink in. These two pieces are very useful foundations to discuss real versus Orwellian news in the fading days of the Bush administration.

How will we, the public, distinguish between serious terror plots and politically convenient fabrications? This story came up and my first thought was, is it real or is it some stretch of the imagination to make the WH look vigilant? You provide a useful framework and also a reminder, things are strange out there, much stranger than we know.

Perhaps the biggest danger is a government in place here that is so palpably disrespectful of the law, we question its veracity as a first course. When I say "we" I'm not talking about an aggressive bunch of bloggers and news junkies, I'm talking about a huge segment of the public. The very nature of this administration should have us all attuned to the potential "blow back" from the ill will created around the world.

Thanks. I'm getting a "Wilkes" sort of feeling from this story.

Anonymous said...

So am I, Michael Collings.

Be careful, Joe.