UPDATE: For the first half-hour of its existence, the headline of the article was the same as above, which was copied and pasted from the original. Clicking on the link now shows the headline has been changed to “FBI says suspects sought to form own army.” Interesting.
Miami/Chicago Jihad Update, from AP:
MIAMI – Seven men accused of trying to blow up the Sears Tower with help from al-Qaida never actually made contact with the terrorist network and were instead caught in an FBI sting involving an informant who posed as an al-Qaida operative, authorities said
Federal prosecutors said the men — who operated out of a warehouse in Miami’s blighted Liberty City section — took an oath to al-Qaida and plotted to create an “Islamic Army” bent on violence against the United States. Five of those arrested are U.S. citizens.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stressed that there was no immediate threat in either Chicago or Miami because the group did not have explosives or other materials it was seeking.
“This group was more aspirational than operational,” FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said.
But they all necessarily start as “aspirational.”
Nevertheless, Gonzalez said Thursday’s arrests underscored the danger of “homegrown terrorists” who “view their home country as the enemy.”
Those arrested ranged in age from 22 to 32 and included a legal immigrant from Haiti and a Haitian who was in this country illegally. Investigators said all members of the alleged plot were in custody.
“We are confident that we have identified every individual who had the intent of posing a threat to the United States,” said R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. attorney in Miami.
Five of the defendants, including alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste, appeared in federal court in Miami on Friday under heavy security. They were brought in and out in single file, chained together at the wrists and wearing ankle chains.
“It’s an example of the philosophy of prevention. These arrests were made during the talking stage, long before any bombmaking stage,” said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Florida. “While they may be seen as bungling wannabes, they are
potentially dangerous wannabes who, based on the allegations, were pursuing extremely dangerous plans.”
And now the standard “but he’s a nice boy” denial about one of the perpetrators:
Joseph Phanor, the father of defendant Stanley Grant Phanor, said he did not believe “anything they say about” his son.
“This boy, he’s not a violent boy. He never got into trouble. He didn’t want to kill people,” the elder Phanor said. Court records show that his son was convicted of carrying a concealed firearm in 2002 and sentenced to two years’ probation.
Prosecutors said Batiste began recruiting and training the others in November. The FBI learned of the plot from someone the defendants tried to recruit, authorities said. The FBI then arranged for an informant of Arabic descent to pass himself off as an
Batiste met several times in December with the informant and asked for boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles and $50,000 to help him build an “Islamic Army,” the indictment said.
In February, Batiste told the informant that he and his five soldiers wanted to attend al-Qaida training and planned a “full ground war” against the United States in order to “kill all the devils we can,” according to the indictment. His
mission would “be just as good or greater than 9/11,” it said.
Prosecutors said the men plotted to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower, the tallest building in America, and other buildings.
Batiste and a co-defendant provided the informant with photographs of the FBI building in North Miami Beach, as well as video footage of other Miami government buildings, and discussed a plot to bomb the FBI building, the indictment said.
Richard Shultz, professor of International Security at Tuft’s University in Massachusetts, said that groups such as the one in Miami could pose a threat even if they do not make contact with al-Qaida.