Thoughts on the JFK plot

A few thoughts on the JFK plot:

  • On the spectrum from "entirely homegrown" to "entirely foreign," this seems to be somewhere in the middle. They were naturalized citizens and had to travel back to Guyana and Trinidad to get money and support. However the plot was conceived while Defreitas was working at JFK and living in NYC. So - was JFK a target of opportunity? Or a symbolic target? Or an economic target? Probably all three.
  • Defreitas & co. felt like global jihad was being monopolized by Arab Muslims (page 8). Might part of their motivation have been to claim recognition as non-Arab Muslim mujahideen? Apparently the Trinidadian group they tried to get funding from, Jamaat al Muslimeen, has roots in an Afro-Trinidadian (as opposed to West Indians) ideology that evolved from pan-African nationalism (Jamestown).
  • The JFK airport was targeted because of its symbolism:
    "Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States… If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice." (page 18)
    But it would not be a symbolic target like the Pentagon, White House, Capitol, etc., because it is a functional target as well as a symbolic target. This might mean that an aim as important as the symbolism would be economic disruption (which Defreitas rambles about elsewhere). They targeted a key node in our transportation network, and their attack would have had cascading second and third-order effects (I haven't even started Robb's book yet and I'm already a true believer
    !).
  • The profiles of Russell Defreitas and his co-conspirators do not mesh well with the general profile of successful terrorist leaders, who tend to be educated and middle class. He was homeless for periods of time and no education is listed in his profile. Instead, his case better matches the profile of the individual disconnected with society who turns to violence to find meaning:
    These forms of violence are not generated by religion, but in the absence of political ideologies, the actors involved take religious themes to construct meaning.
    The actors construct themselves as generic, abstract Muslims, disconnected from cultures and living traditions. Their abstraction and disconnection make them global people.

2 comments:

subadei said...

"These forms of violence are not generated by religion, but in the absence of political ideologies, the actors involved take religious themes to construct meaning.

The Abu Sayyaf of Philippines come to mind.

The good bit, regarding the JFK plot (and the Ft. Dix Six)is these weren't exactly a troop of geniuses. Sooner or later, however, some smart players are going to enter this game.

Adrian said...

There was a very good article on Abu Sayyaf in the Atlantic in the last couple months.

The smart ones are the guys who did 9/11. Hopefully they recognize that the diminishing returns on terrorism mean that they don't need to attempt another large-scale strike for as long as possible. The stupid ones, like Fort Dix, the Miami guys, and the JFK plot, have no sense of strategic timing and are thus unpredictable.