Liberty City Seven Trial Begins!

Forget about OJ -- opening arguments in the trial of the “Liberty City 7” are underway and already, the case looks like it will afford one of the zaniest, glimpses into our government’s war on terror yet – as if Operation Iraq Freedom weren’t enough of a circus.

The seven have been charged with various counts of “providing material support to terrorists” and “seditious conspiracy” – including plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago – strong accusations, but the evidence to back them up, defense lawyers emphasized today, is flimsy at best. When they were finally arrested, the defendants were found with, among a few other things: several machetes and swords (defense lawyers call them “ornamental”), a copy of “The Way of the Ninja,” and map of Florida.

Maybe they were going to pretend to be conquistadores!

Among the items not in their possession: explosives, plans, guns – not even box cutters. As for the men’s connection to Al Qaeda, the prosecution has this somewhat imposing roadblock to go up against: even the government agrees that the men have never been in contact with a single member of Al Qaeda. No, the alleged plotting and providing they did was with an FBI informant, who convinced the men at one point to recite (in front of hidden cameras) some kind of verbal pledge to Al Qaeda. The men agreed, according to the defense, because the informant had promised them $50,000.

Indeed, defense lawyers intend to show that their clients were, in fact, trying to con the conman, scam the scammer. The very evidence the government intends to use against Batiste -- wiretapped recordings of him bragging about his plans for terror and global domination – only demonstrates, the defense says, how obvious it is that Batiste was blowing smoke. At one point, they say, Batiste claimed to have a team of women snipers ready to do his bidding; at another, he revealed a scheme to unite all the country’s gangs in a nationwide brawl; Batiste is recorded saying that Yemen is in Africa, and – according to one lawyer – that he planned to “flood lake Toronto,” – whatever that means: although there is no ‘Lake Toronto,’ a ‘Toronto Lake’ does exist, but it’s in Canada . . . near Toronto.

Anyway, what with Alberto Gonzales out of the picture, we need to appreciate trials like this while we can. At his peak, Alberto would prosecute a falafel.

You know falafels are "Middle Eastern," right? Hummus, too.

-- Isaiah Thompson

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Isaiah Thompson