Thursday, December 13, 2007

The terror plot that wasn't

You knew it, I knew it, now finally the government knows it: The doofuses known as the "Liberty City Seven", who were arrested last year and charged with plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, were not exacly poster children for terrorism. Their trial ended today, with one acquittal and deadlocks on the remaining six defendants.

I'm all for stopping terrorist plots before they get anywhere near the operational stage, but from the beginning it seemed obvious that these jokers not only weren't anywhere near operational, it would have taken a minor miracle for them to have gotten there -- if indeed that was their goal.

That being obvious, it was exceedingly foolish of the government -- in the personage of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, who personally announced the "foiling" of the plot -- to put its credibility on the line with this case, insisting that the group was "emblematic" of the future face of Al-Qaeda, practically Public Enemy Number One.

Even back then, the flimsiness of this case -- and the apparent incompetence of the defendants -- led many to conclude that the government's description of the terror threat was overblown. Today's verdict will simply reinforce that, and mean the government will have a harder time getting people to take real threats seriously.

To be sure, the verdicts weren't an exoneration of the defendants. The acquitted man, Lyglenson Lemorin, had left the group months before the arrests. The deadlock over the other six is neither conviction nor exoneration. Clearly, at least some jurors thought there was enough evidence to convict each of them. And the government has vowed to retry them.

If the government seriously believes they were a threat, then it should do so. But it should take a good hard look at the evidence and decide if that's truly the case. High-profile prosecutions of ineffective wannabes undermines the fight against terrorism in the long run.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't let "apparent incompetence" throw you. That's what was said about the show bomber...Richard Reid. And he nearly blew up Flight 63 from London to Miami. These people should not be discounted as "probably" nothing. Remember that's what we did before 9/11 with those who took flight lessons here. Remember the final jest of the 9/11 Commission???? "We failed to connect the dots."


12/23/2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

At some point, we need to use our judgment. The alternative is to simply believe everything the government says -- a trust that it has proved to be unworthy of.

Besides, Reid was caught in the act; there wasn't time to dismiss him as incompetent beforehand. And the fact that he *was* incompetent goes a long way to explain why the plane didn't blow up -- he couldn't get the explosives to detonate.

Had he been in the shoes (ahem) of the Liberty City crowd, he would have been arrested the minute he actually acquired plastic explosives and bought a plane ticket. Just to show how much farther along the curve he was.

12/31/2007 5:28 PM  

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