AP: Foiled JFK Terror Plot Isn't Chilling, It's 'Chilling'

June 4th, 2007 3:26 PM

A plot to blow up a major airport and with it a huge fuel pipeline running under densely-populated residential neighborhoods is, safe to say, an objectively devastating and horrific prospect were it executed to fruition. So why the editorial version of air quotes in this June 2 AP story (h/t DailyGut.com) for the word "chilling"?:

NEW YORK - Federal authorities announced Saturday they had broken up a suspected Muslim terrorist cell planning a "chilling" attack to destroy John F. Kennedy International Airport, kill thousands of people and trigger an economic catastrophe by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through populous residential neighborhoods.

Three men, one of them a former member of Guyana's parliament, were arrested and one was being sought in Trinidad as part of a plot that authorities said they had been tracked for more than a year and was foiled in the planning stages.

"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."

In an indictment charging the four men, one of them is quoted as saying the foiled plot would "cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks," destroying the airport, killing several thousand people and destroying parts of New York's borough of Queens, where the line runs underground.

One of the suspects, Russell Defreitas, a U.S. citizen native to Guyana and former JFK air cargo employee, said the airport named for the slain president was targeted because it is a symbol that would put "the whole country in mourning."

"It's like you can kill the man twice," said Defreitas, 63, who first hatched his plan more than a decade ago when he worked as a cargo handler for a service company, according to the indictment.

True, the adjective "chilling" comes from a U.S. attorney quoted in the story, but even so, putting the descriptor in quotes in the lede seems a bit dismissive of the nature of the threat.