Supressed News

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Miami indictments: Manufacturing “terror” as a means of intimidation

Within 48 hours of the US Justice Department’s startling announcement Friday of the round-up of a “home-grown” terrorist cell in Miami, the media had all but dropped the story.

Its initial response, particularly that of the broadcast news outlets, was to amplify the government’s lurid charges, warning of a conspiracy “even worse than September 11,” including a supposed plot to blow up the nation’s tallest building, the Sears Tower in Chicago. The television news channels carried live shots of the building, as if hijacked airplanes were about to plow into them.

As details of the supposed plot and the identity of the alleged conspirators came more sharply into focus, however, the media backed away. Not only was the Chicago skyscraper in no danger, there also existed no plot, much less the means of carrying one out. The entire government case was so manifestly bogus that not even the right-wing fabulists at Fox News could sustain it.

Nevertheless, the initial sensationalism and fear-mongering had an effect. By the time public defenders were appointed for the seven men indicted in the case, the attorneys’ protests that their clients were victims of blatant government entrapment received a minute fraction of the attention given the government’s “terror” charges at the outset.

Who are the seven young men—Narseal Batiste, 32, Patrick Abraham, 26, Burson Augustin, 21, Rothschild Augustine, 22, Naudimar Herrera, 22, Lyglenson Lemorin, 31, and Stanley Grant Phanor, 31—whose mug shots were broadcast into millions of American homes as the supposed new “face of terror?” They include a former Federal Express driver, two Haitian immigrants—one a legal resident and the other undocumented—and several other individuals from Miami’s deeply impoverished and predominantly black Liberty City neighborhood.

What will happen to them? Despite the transparent attempts by both the government and the media to “lower expectations” in relation to the case, and the near unanimous view of the legal community that the case is at best “thin” and at worst a crude exercise in state provocation and entrapment, the seven defendants remain in federal lockup. They face the very real threat of spending the rest of their lives in prison for the sole “crime” of having allowed themselves to be drawn into supposedly incriminating conversations with an undercover FBI informant/agent provocateur.

There was neither criminal action nor a credible plan to commit a criminal act. No explosives and not a single weapon were found in the raids carried out by FBI SWAT teams in Miami. As one federal official put it, the “plot” was “more aspirational than operational.”

The real question is whose “aspirations” played the decisive role in this episode—those of the defendants, or those of the government? There is every indication that by means of a provocation in Miami—the latest in a long line of similar cases—the government was pursuing definite political objectives of the most reactionary sort, with chilling indifference towards the fate of those it ensnared in its fabrication of a “terrorist threat.” As far as the organizers of Bush’s “global war on terror” are concerned, the seven young men from Liberty City were utterly disposable people.

If there is anything unique about the Miami case, it is the fact that the victims of the provocation are non-Muslim African Americans in the poorest neighborhood in one of America’s poorest cities, rather than immigrants from Islamic countries. The modus operandi is not new. It has been employed by the federal authorities in case after case. In each of them, highly motivated agent provocateurs—some paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, others offered leniency on criminal charges—were dispatched to produce a “terrorist threat” where none existed.

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