September 03, 2006
Nothing’s Funny Any More

I tried to figure out how to make fun of this. But as George Carlin said when Kissinger got the Nobel Peace Prize, irony is dead. Comedy is no longer as funny or as weird as real life.

You remember those wackos in Miami that Gonzales was so proud of catching, the guys who thought that jihadists wear uniforms, and asked their FBI informant for boots? Turns out they got more than equipment from the FBI: they got their most convictable ideas as well.

Not only did government informants provide money and a meeting place for Batiste and his followers, but they also gave them video cameras for conducting surveillance, as well as cellphones, and suggested that their first target be a Miami FBI office, court records show.

At the hearing, Batiste’s attorney, John Wylie, showed that the FBI’s investigation found no evidence that his client had met with any real terrorist, received e-mails or wire transfers from the Middle East, possessed any al-Qaeda literature, or had even a picture of bin Laden.

Asked for a response, a Justice Department spokesman referred a reporter to Gonzales’s remarks about the case.

One of the informants had been arrested for assault and marijuana possession; he got $10,500 for his work plus $8,815 for expenses. The other got $17,000 plus approval of his petition for political asylum in the US. So, real reliable guys, no reason for them to lie, cheat, or provoke terrorist thoughts. Nevertheless, they seem to have done so.

Acting on instructions from the FBI, CW2 [the second informant] told the group that his al-Qaeda bosses were planning to attack FBI buildings in Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami. He asked that Batiste and his group assist by providing video of the Miami FBI building, “which would be sent back to al Qaeda overseas,” according to court papers. He also gave Batiste a video camera.

In late March, driving a van provided by the informant, Batiste and two associates videotaped and photographed the FBI building, as CW2 had requested. They also taped the federal courthouse and detention center, and the Miami police headquarters.

Batiste fought for control of his group, and lost most of it to a guy who calls himself Sultan Khan Bey (he calls his wife Queen Zakiyaah). These guys were trying to set up an independent nation inside the borders of the US.

Three days before Christmas, Batiste and CW2 met again, and Batiste talked for the first time about destroying Chicago’s Sears Tower, a landmark in a city where he once worked as a FedEx delivery driver and still had associates. Batiste said he would take advantage of the ensuing chaos to liberate Muslims from a nearby jail. They would form an army powerful enough to force the U.S. government to recognize the “Sovereign Moors” — an offshoot of a religious group, the Moorish Science Temple, to which Batiste claimed allegiance — as an independent nation.

A week later, when he met with CW2 again, Batiste asked for more firearms, radios, binoculars, bulletproof vests, SUVs and $50,000 in cash. He also invited the informant to join him on a trip to Chicago to meet his “two top generals” and look at the Sears Tower. But the trip never took place.

By the beginning of January, CW2 had offered Batiste a rent-free warehouse large enough for training. In reality, the FBI wanted a new meeting spot because it could not carry out surveillance at the [Moorish] “embassy,” which was located in a high-crime area where agents would be easily spotted. At the same time, however, Batiste began to mistrust CW2 because of his numerous questions and ended direct contact with him for a while.

Yeah, that declaring a sovereign nation within the borders of the US worked real well last time. As I remember, those guys had boots and uniforms, and they still lost.

Anyway, now that the FBI’s hooked the fish, they can reel him in at a time of their choosing. If the fish fights back a bit, they throw in some more bait.

When Batiste grew impatient for money early in March, CW2 placated him by formally swearing him into al-Qaeda. In a ceremony recorded by the FBI, the informant read an English translation of the al-Qaeda loyalty oath, “welcomed Batiste to al Qaeda and declared that al Qaeda and the Moors were officially united,” according to court papers. The informant and Batiste also selected a two-story warehouse as their new headquarters and training site.

On March 15, the FBI wired the warehouse for sound and video. The next night, before a secret camera, CW2 administered an English translation of the al-Qaeda oath to six members of Batiste’s group, four of whom called themselves “prince” and two who were addressed as “brother.”

The men also face charges of conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

Of course, that terrorist group consisted entirely of FBI agents, who seem to have provided the ideas, the direction, the false contacts with terrorist organizations, the equipment — indeed, everything but the warm bodies. It seems likely that there are hundreds of groups of angry idiots around. I don’t think we should arrest people simply for that. There has to be some of kind of reason to think they’re dangerous. These guys couldn’t have robbed a McDonald’s, a fact which seems to be clear to everyone.

At a July 5 detention hearing, Nathan Clark, an attorney for one member of the group, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ted E. Bandstra that the ceremony at which the defendants took the al-Qaeda oath was “induced by the government themselves in an effort to set these people up.”

“What we see is this entire organization, by the government’s own admission, falling apart … Nobody really believes that these people are capable of doing anything,” he said.

In the end, Bandstra ruled that the seven would have to remain in jail because the allegations were “disturbing.” But he added that “the plans appear to be beyond the present ability of these defendants” and said he expected their attorneys to argue the government’s actions at trial.

Is it normal for the judge to suggest a strategy to the defense team? Maybe it’s just so obvious that he can’t be said to be giving anything away. But if the story is really like it sounds in that Pincus article, these guys will walk. They didn’t actually do anything illegal, and the stuff that comes closest was suggested to them by the FBI, who provided the equipment as well as the ideas. Who are the terrorists here?

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at September 03, 2006 10:37 PM
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Some time ago, the German government tried to illegalize the National Democratic Party (NPD) who still glorify Hitler and his NSDAP. Unfortunately, it turned out that half their leadership was composed from undercover officers of the 'Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution' (Verfassungsschutz) actively shaping the party and it's goals. So the judges had no choice but to let them carry on. Kind of embarrassing.
But the same procedure every time. And quite often it works.

Posted by: Peter on September 4, 2006 8:17 AM

Sorry, guys, but since 9/11 we've been living in a world where entrapment is the least of our worries. Think about it. What if somebody came to you and suggested the same things that the FBI agents did? Wouldn't you have kicked him out of the door, then called the FBI? Why didn't these innocent little choir boys do that? Any guesses?

Posted by: Nugatory on September 5, 2006 10:59 PM
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