Six Homeless Men In Florida Accused of Plot to Blow Up Sears Tower on Trial For Third Time

South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

liberty-six

By RASHA MADKOUR

Associated Press Writer

1:50 PM EST, February 18, 2009

MIAMI (AP) — A group of Miami men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago’s Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices sold out their country for money, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday at the start of the men’s third trial.

Prosecutors are trying to convict the so-called “Liberty City Six” on four terrorism-related charges after two previous trials ended in hung juries. The men are accused of plotting terror attacks with an FBI informant they thought was an al-Qaida operative.

A defense attorney for the group’s leader, Narseal Batiste, 34, said the government’s sting operation was a setup. The FBI’s paid informants were motivated by money to manipulate the men and encourage them to take actions that could later be used against them, attorney Ana M. Jhones said.

“This case is a 100 percent setup. This is a manufactured crime,” she said.

The men took an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden — captured by the FBI on videotape — led by a man claiming to be an al-Qaida operative who was an informant posing as a terror financier.

Batiste has previously testified he was never serious about any terror plots and was only playing along in hopes of getting $50,000.

There has been no evidence the men ever took any steps toward pulling off an attack. When they were arrested in 2006, the Bush administration trumpeted the case as an example of heading off terrorists early.

“What’s relevant is their intention — what they wanted to do,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Arango said.

Prosecutors said the men took photographs and video of possible targets in Miami, including the FBI building, a courthouse complex and a synagogue. In exchange, they wanted money to build what Arango described as their paramilitary group.

“They all agreed to sell out their country for money,” Arango said. “The fact that they did so for the mighty U.S. dollar is no excuse.”

Jhones said one of the informants tricked Batiste into taking the oath and encouraged him to make a list of weapons and equipment. She said video and audio captured by authorities will show two informants were in control and calling the shots, not Batiste.

The defense attorney said Batiste, a construction worker and father of four, was repeatedly asking about the money on the recordings, not talking about blowing up buildings.

“You cannot buy your way to a conviction,” Jhones said.

The men each face 70 years in prison if convicted of four terrorism-related counts, including conspiracy to support al-Qaida and conspiracy to levy war against the U.S.

The trial is expected to last at least two months.

The group of men were named after their hometown of Liberty City, an impoverished area of Miami.

Kicking Ass and Taking Names: Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald Call Bullshit on the White House Stenographers

jandg

The Grand Dame of Blogs, Jane Hamsher and the Tough, Smart Glenn Greenwald Are Getting it Done

Access Journalism — Business As Usual?

By: Jane Hamsher Wednesday February 11
F I R E D O G L A K E

Glenn Greenwald has been rightfully indignant about the Obama DoJ’s use of Bush’s “state secrets” argument to cover up charges of rendition and torture.  The NY Times this morning says “It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred…..Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration’s tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court.”

But Bush’s “state secrets” claims aren’t the only White House holdovers. Glenn also singles out Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic today for being a DC stenographer whose idea of “reporting” is calling up administration sources, granting them anonymity without cause, and then writing it up mindlessly without critique or context:

What possible justification is there for granting administration officials anonymity to explain why they are embracing a Bush-era weapon that they have long criticized?  And why does an administration swearing great levels of transparency and accountability — and vowing to use secrecy only when absolutely necessary — need to hide behind a wall of anonymity in order to explain why they did what they did here?  Why can’t they attach their names to this explanation, so that they can be questioned about it and held accountable?

Why would he do that?  Well, possibly because that’s the only way they’ll talk to him — or anyone else.  New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston has also written about this “business as usual” quality of White House press relations:

My questions to LaBolt and Singh prompted a return phone call the next day from Nick Shapiro, who spelled his name, but had to be prodded several times to give his job title: assistant press secretary.

During our brief conversation, Shapiro, like LaBolt (whose name Shapiro did not recognize), started one sentence with “off the record.” Told that the journalist grants the privilege, and that none would be granted here, Shapiro expressed surprise. His surprise was double-barreled, at both the idea that the reporter issues any privilege and that any reporter would decline to talk “off the record.”

The reportorial practice of letting government officials speak without taking responsibility for their words has been an issue with the public and is being questioned now by some journalists, as shown by this article from Slate’s Jack Shafer.

Questions about whether Shapiro knows the difference between off-the-record, background, deep background, and on-the-record did not get asked, because Shapiro made it clear he had no interest in answering anything about how the Obama press secretary’s office is operating and what its tone will be. He said questions should be submitted in writing by e-mail to nshapiro@who.eop.gov. I sent Shapiro an e-mail outlining the contours of what would be covered in an interview, but have not received a response as of this writing, the following day.

Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter whose book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense [and Stick You with the Bill] is indispensible for anyone wanting to understand how the taxation and legislative system has been gamed to favor the rich.  He’s a superb journalist and sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s still employed at the Times(note:  Johnston has left the NYT.) An administration interested in transparency should be ecstatic about working with him.

But what is going on right now in the world of DC journalism finds its most naked expression in Ambinder’s piece, though I’ve seen other glaring examples of late — journalists are scrambling for who gets “access” to the White House.  So there’s no end to the bullshit they’ll write to ingratiate themselves to potential sources, or the inconvenient facts they’ll edit out in order to be the new Bob Woodward. (Though Ambinder does deserve some praise on this front — he wrote what everyone else knows but isn’t saying about White House plans:   “encouragement of moderate Democrats,” “entitlement reform” and “standing up to Speaker Pelosi.”)

You can see it in the horror with which the traditional media is responding to Sam Stein getting called on at the President’s press conference — there are rules, there is a pecking order, and This Is Not How It’s Done. While it’s great Sam got recognized — he’s a really good journalist and he asked a critical question — it’s not much more than “window dressing” if the day-to-day interaction with the press stays the same as it did during the Bush years.  And with Rahm managing the relations between the White House and the media these days, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening.

Update: And the stenography continues: Ambinder calls back his “administration sources” so they can respond to Glenn but neither names him nor links to him.  “They’re sensitive to the politics of the case, but they’re not motivated by what civil libertarians may write on their blogs.”  The administration people don’t want you at the slumber party Glenn Greenwald, and they don’t give anonymous quotes to you, Glenn Greenwald, and they certainly aren’t going to RESPOND to you, Glenn Greenwald, well okay they DID and Ambinder just wrote PARAGRAPHS about it but they are going to just turn their backs and pretend you’re not there.  Feh.

The Crimes of George W. Bush [Video]

Did PBS bury controversial torture documentary under pressure from Bush administration?

THINK PROGRESS

Scott Horton reports today that PBS may have refused to nationally air a controversial documentary on the use of torture by the U.S. government in order to protect its funding. Previously, the Bush administration threatened to cut PBS’s funding after it aired Bush’s War, a Frontline special critical of the war in Iraq:

On Thursday evening WNET in New York will air an important new documentary by Emmy and Dupont Award winning producer Sherry Jones entitled “Torturing Democracy.” It appears on WNET and several other affiliates independently because PBS would not run the show. […]

According to producer Sherry Jones, PBS told her that “no time slot could be found for the documentary before January 21, 2009″ — the day after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leave office.

Watch a clip from Torturing Democracy here.

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