Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another 'Terrorist' Hoax Case in the United States: Liberty City 7 in Miami

Another 'Terrorist' Hoax Case in the United States

No, Ana Menendez hasn't changed. I have changed my opinion and grown to appreciate the point of view she brings to the pages of the Miami Herald.

She's not an exile, though the Herald makes a point of that she was born to exile parents.

She's been raised in the United States and clearly has a good sense of irony. I always sensed this from the first time I read her short story, In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd", which I recommend to everyone who isn't part of that milieu but wants to get a sense of how it functions from the inside.

Here she helps readers to get an insight into the mentality of the government in this obvious frame-up case, which she presents as a comedy of errors by a foolish and presumably overzealous group of prosecutors. Sometimes humor is the best way to get people to think about a problem. Seriously, I really mean that.

In our society, with its fearfully short attention spans, getting a reader past the headline is already quite an accomplishment.

The goal of the federal government with this trial is to maintain the notion of terror plots everywhere, which encourages many people to be untroubled at the government's behavior, in trials like these, and in many other situations.

It helps encourage some people to avoid thought of the damage which the Guantanamo prison camp does, not only to the reputation of the United States itself, but even to the prospects for U.S. soldiers captured abroad, should that ever happen anywhere in the world.

Unfortunately, it seems that not many people are standing up for these defendants, beyond activists like our friend Jack Lieberman, or "Radical Jack" as I got to know him back in the 1970s. Conviction may well turn out to be a slam dunk in a place like Miami, I'm sorry to say, which is, of course, why they are being tried there in the first place.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba


Liberty City 7 trial runs like a B-movie
Posted on Sun, Nov. 18, 2007


Someday, the United States will infiltrate, disarm and prosecute a genuine terrorist cell. In the meantime, we have the Liberty City 7.

The trial of the Bumbling Jihadists in Miami federal court is a bittersweet farce for our times, a case that offers the illusion of progress in the ''War on Terror'' without actual war or terror.

That such a case even made it to court is testament to our weird, paranoid age.

Ever since the seven men were arrested in 2006, prosecutors have done their best to paint the group as fearsome warriors. Yet Narseal Batiste and his band of merry men were found with neither guns nor chemical weapons nor, for that matter, a plan that would work in this galaxy.

More than jihadists, Batiste and his followers seemed to be operating like frat boys out of a 1970s movie. Among the items seized by agents: a samurai sword, martial arts equipment and a copy of The Way of the Ninja.

This last is all about avoiding unnecessary conflict. Or was that the video game?


No matter, the trial goes on. As if to make their own mark on the surreal proceedings, a dozen Ukrainian judges dropped in to watch Wednesday morning. They sat, listened and left almost immediately.

Show trials are organized by powerful tyrannies in a demonstration of both might and cynicism. The weak effort going on in downtown Miami hardly rises to the definition.

Prosecutors have based their case on several mind-numbing hours of FBI recordings between Batiste and informants, Brother Mohammad (Elie Assad) and Abbas al Saidi, whom Batiste considered a friend.

Batiste's foreign friends ended up conning him. Which must have come as a shock to Batiste -- because all that time he says he was scheming to con them.

Since his arrest, Batiste has consistently stuck to his story: That he was stringing the rich guy along in order to get money from him.

''I was behind a couple of months on the rent, the children had no clothes,'' said Batiste, the father of four, on the stand. ``There was no food for a couple of days. There was a lot of pressure on me at that time.''


Not that con and conee didn't occasionally suspect one another. The time eventually came, Batiste testified, when he was pressed on his astonishingly low-budget plan to blow up the Sears tower.

''He saw I was just asking for $50,000,'' said Batiste. ``And he got me.''

For his part, Batiste began to have his own misgivings. Like the day at Circuit City when his handler showed up with a roll of cash but had to get on the phone to ask permission to buy a lousy computer chip.

''I watch a lot of movies, and I know how people in organized crime work,'' said Batiste, who indicated he was not impressed.

We've come to an interesting point in American arts when third-rate cons take their cues from third-rate films. Forget the cycle of violence. We're in the grips of a great cycle of mediocrity.

So far, the trial has all the trappings of a middling production: An august setting, intense lawyers and clean-cut FBI agents right out of central casting. Meanwhile, everyone else is trying to keep a straight face.

The show continues through the end of the month. It's still not clear if the jury will buy any of it.

But one senses that's beside the point.

As in Hollywood, what matters is the illusion.

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