Aspiring terrorist Russell DeFreitas imagined that his 2007 plot to attack Kennedy Airport would bring him a heavenly reward and gloated about wounding Americans' memories of their fallen president, according to secretly recorded tapes revealed at his conspiracy trial Tuesday.
"There is a place in paradise for both of us," DeFreitas told FBI informant Steven Francis as the two conducted surveillance at the airport. "Anytime you hit Kennedy, it's the most hurtful thing for the United States. . . . If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It's like you kill a man twice."
DeFreitas, 66, a Guyanese-American former cargo handler at Kennedy, and Abdul Kadir, 58, a Guyanese member of parliament, are charged with multiple counts of conspiracy in the plot to blow up jet fuel tanks and a pipeline at Kennedy.
Officials say they tried, unsuccessfully, to get support from Iran and al-Qaida to pull it off. Francis, 39, a convicted drug trafficker who agreed to work as an informant in the hope of leniency, penetrated the plot in mid-2006.
Defense lawyers say the plot would have gone nowhere without his encouragement and assistance.
The tapes featured DeFreitas coldly calculating the carnage his attack could cause in Queens and venting anger at his treatment as a Muslim black man in America - but also had comic elements, as when DeFreitas and Francis bickered over how to crouch in the cab of a truck and secretly film a surveillance video that, in the end, looked like a bad home movie.
DeFreitas repeatedly referred to the plot as revenge for having to load military equipment on planes at Kennedy that he believed Israel used to kill Muslims. He was convinced that an attack on the airport's farm of three-story-high fuel tanks would be devastating.
"It will take out the whole entire area, the whole of Kennedy will go up in smoke," he said to Francis. "A few people might escape, but escape to where? Jamaica Bay?"
Throughout the tapes, as he and Francis drove the informant's black Ford truck to different vantage points around the airport, DeFreitas also chortled at how lazy and underpaid the security guards were and marveled at how close the pair could get to the fuel tanks without encountering resistance.
"No soldiers. Nothing at all," he said on one tape. "The tanks ain't got one person."
But for all the bravado about knowing his way around Kennedy, DeFreitas later acknowledged to the informant that he had no real idea how to launch an attack, and was relying on other conspirators in Guyana to come up with an operational plan.
"They got to come in with the best advice," he said. "'Cause right now, as I see it, the way things used to be done can't be done any more. The technology is too advanced, so if the technology is advanced, we got to behave advanced, we got to come up with supernatural things. . . . I just come up with wild things, but I know we're not going in like that."