Terrorism Cases Being Built on Early Plans

Prosecutors worried about the risk to life are bringing charges in terrorism cases before plots are fully developed, resulting in cases that appear to be built more on talk than action.

An example, according to the New York Times, is the criminal complaint filed against four men accused of plotting to ignite fuel storage tanks at Kennedy International Airport. Its allegations suggest “a proposed effort longer on evil intent than on operational capability,” the newspaper says.

One of the defendants wanted to bomb the airport but didn’t want to hurt lots of people, the complaint says. Another dropped out of the plot for a while.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who helped investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, says it’s important for law enforcement authorities to pay attention to intentions. “The whole goal now is to get these plots at a very nascent stage — and that means the evidence will always be more ambiguous,” he told the newspaper.

A federal official told the Los Angeles Times that it’s alarming former airport worker Russell Defreitas was able to get as far as he did, considering his limited capabilities.

“It is a bit worrisome when someone like this, who is a bit washed up, is able to go out and solicit funding and the blessing of others who are more organized and experienced,” an anonymous Justice Department official told the Los Angeles newspaper.

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