“Aspirational Terrorism” Won’t Send You to Jail, But It’ll Lead the News

The St. Petersburg Times has a good review not just of the mistrial for the Liberty City Seven, but of the larger context of failed terrorist prosecutions.

Another highly touted federal terrorism case ended in a mistrial Thursday.

After listening to more than two months of testimony and deliberating for nine days, a Miami jury deadlocked on charges against six men accused of pledging allegiance to al-Qaida in a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. A seventh man was acquitted.


With no guilty verdicts, the Liberty City Seven join about a dozen other terrorism defendants around the country who have been prosecuted since the Sept. 11 attacks in costly cases that resulted in acquittals and mistrials.

Joshua Dratel asks what I consider the money question: is this really the way we should be spending our time?

New York criminal defense attorney Joshua Dratel … said repeated mistrials in terrorism cases raise questions about how FBI agents and prosecutors are spending their time: "Shouldn’t they be finding terrorists instead of creating them?" he asked.

Dratel said that jurors in the Liberty City Seven case were "obviously conflicted over whether the defendants were created and cultivated by an informant."

Though the question presumes the intent behind terrorism prosecutions is to combat terrorism. If, however, the intent of terrorism prosecutions–particularly of such pathetic wannabes–is to distract attention from larger issues, then it seems to be doing just the trick. As RawStory pointed out just after the indictments, the indictment of the Liberty City Seven served as a pre-packaged media event, tailor made to distract from other news.

Rameau says that the Liberty City Seven coverage has upstaged other important news. In a conversation with RAW STORY earlier this week, he said that on the day of the Liberty City arrests, “a former director of the right-wing Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) admitted to planning terrorist acts against Cuba.”

Yet this “failed either to draw national attention or merit ‘above the fold’ coverage on the front page of the Miami Herald,” said Rameau.

The CANF conspirators were charged and acquitted by a Puerto Rican jury in 1997, after a federal judge threw out one of the defendants’ self-incriminating statements. No charges have ever been brought against the individuals on the U.S. mainland.

Rameau notes that while the government has taken action against "men with little to no demonstrable capacity to advance their plans beyond the discussion stage,” it has refused to extradite – or prosecute – Luis Posada, suspected mastermind of the bombing of a Cuban airliner “full of human beings” in 1976.

The arrests also came at a time when reports of a covert U.S. program to search bank records of citizens have created blowback for the Administration.

The government’s actions, Rameau claims, exhibit “a double standard in the war on terror, characterized by the selective prosecution of groups with minimal social and political value.”

Rameau further notes that the raid “was timed to happen at the exact same time that FBI Director Robert Mueller was on the Larry King Show. It was a made-for-TV event.”

Somehow, these made-for-TV indictments only seem to end up in prosecutions if the government has destroyed evidence, as they did with Padilla.

  1. JimWhite says:

    I think that this case and the other failed prosecutions are Exhibits 1 in calling bullsh*t on Kiriakou’s claims that torture of Zubaydah lead to any real interventions. Imagine the public trial that would have been carried out on anyone caught with real plans and means for an attack.

  2. Leen says:

    Have never even heard of “a former director of the right-wing Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) admitted to planning terrorist acts against Cuba.”

    Thanks EW.

    Christy is back and I love it when she is all feisty and calls bull shit “bullshit” and is ready to kick some ass.


  3. brendanx says:

    That Kirchner thing would have been more a propos on this thread. That’s another thing the government is spending its time on.

    • bmaz says:

      Yep Brendanx, and I had already decided to bring it over here for you. Brendan posted a link to this extremely stupid looking prosecution emanating out of the Miami US Attys Office (they appear to be big on stupid prosecutions) on the “Bam! CIA” thread a couple of threads back.

      Argentina’s new president berated the United States on Thursday for alleging that the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez had tried to illegally funnel cash to her recent presidential campaign, labeling the accusations “garbage.”

      U.S. officials, though, said four men who were charged in Miami in connection with the case — and who allegedly conspired to cover up the truth — had close ties to the Venezuelan administration.

      U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday said they had evidence that a suitcase containing nearly $800,000 seized by Argentine customs officials in August came from the Chávez administration and was destined for the campaign of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was sworn in Monday as Argentina’s president.

      Fernández de Kirchner, elected by a wide margin in October, responded Thursday with some accusations of her own: The United States manufactured the scandal, she said, to punish her for maintaining friendly relations with the vocally anti-American Chávez.

      I think Brendan has found a nugget that fits right in with EW’s position that the Bush Administration is using the DOJ for their own petty purposes, not to truly fight legitimate terror and make our country safe. If you folks are so inclined, it is worth clicking through the link; this is another head scratcher.

      • brendanx says:

        I wouldn’t quite call it “petty”. They’re using DOJ in the service of their foreign policy. At least it’s better than the Posada case, in which they’re using terrorists in the service of their foreign policy.

        And you’re a lawyer. What the heck, exactly, are the charges? Conspiracy to violate Argentinian election law?

  4. bmaz says:

    I will stick with petty because I think their policy vis a vis Chavez and Venezuela is belligerently insane and motivated by Cheney, Bush and Friends personal interest in pimping them because they don’t make any decent money off of Venezuelan oil. There are several statutes that could be contorted against Antioinini, as I said above, and the others are being roped in purely under a conspiracy umbrella. It does sound pretty bogus on the surface.

  5. Mary says:

    Zubaydah’s torture did lead to the Padilla arrest (keep in mind that Zubaydah -in each of his Hani 1, Hani 2 and Hani 3 manifestations- thought Padilla was nuts). Which may kind of be a counterpoint to aspirational terrorism won’t land you in jail point. fwiw.