Just like I said when the story broke.
Aviation experts cautioned Saturday that the alleged plot targeting John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York would have faced many hurdles, not least of which is the fact that jet fuel does not easily explode.
“The level of catastrophe that may be created is much more limited than most people would expect,” said Rafi Ron, former head of security at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. “The fuel that we are talking about is mostly jet fuel, which, unlike the gasoline most people put into their cars, is not that susceptible to explosion.”
That difficulty apparently concerned one of the alleged plotters â€” an engineer who, federal authorities said in their complaint, explained to his associates that the tanks at JFK would probably require two explosions to provide enough oxygen to ignite the fuel.
But even then, aviation security experts said, fire would not have spread through the pressurized pipelines that bring fuel out to airplanes parked at gates.
“The probability that an explosion would travel through the pipeline and destroy targets along the tarmac is almost nil,” said Ron, now president of New Age Security Solutions in Rockville, Md. “The exception would be pipelines that are not in use and contain vapor.”
The criminal complaint filed by the federal authorities against the four defendants in the case â€” one of them, Abdel Nur, remained at large yesterday â€” suggests a less than mature terror plan, a proposed effort longer on evil intent than on operational capability. …
Some law enforcement officials and engineers also dismissed the notion that the planned attack could have resulted in a catastrophic chain reaction; system safeguards, they said, would have stopped explosions from spreading.
The complaint, filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, also suggests that at least two of the suspects had some ambivalence. One of the men was game for bombing the airport but leery about killing masses of people, the complaint says. Another dropped out of the plot for a time to tend to his business. …
As with many post-9/11 terror plots, the line between terrible aspiration and reality can get lost in a murky haze.
In case after case, from what authorities said was a dirty bomber to the Lackawanna Six, federal prosecutors hail arrests of terrorists and disruptions of what they describe as sinister plots. But as these legal cases unfold, the true nature of the threats can come into question. …
The papers give reason for doubt about the competence of the suspects. The details tend to suggest a distance between Mr. Defreitasâ€™s dream and any nightmarish reality.
There is, too, the question of the role played by the unidentified undercover informant who befriended Mr. Defreitas.
The informant is a convicted drug trafficker, and his sentence is pending as part of his cooperation agreement with the federal government, said the authorities. …
Many of the plotâ€™s larger details are left to the imagination.
Surprisingly frank discrediting of the DoJ’s assertions by the two Timeses, I’d say.
Generally, I think the rule of thumb is that the louder TV yells the less scared we should be.
Update: The AP has more on the informant-provocateur here.