‘Homegrown Terrorists’ Arrested

Should the foiling of an ‘aspirational’ terrorist cell’s bomb plot be cause for alarm?

The U.S. this week charged seven Miami men with plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and several federal buildings in Florida. The men'”five U.S. citizens, one legal immigrant, and one illegal immigrant'”were arrested after making contact with an FBI agent posing as an al Qaida operative. According to the indictment, ringleader Narseal Batiste told the agent he wanted to 'œwage a full ground war' against America, and asked him to provide needed equipment, including machine guns, radios, uniforms, and boots. The men had no weapons of their own, and no real contact with foreign terrorists.

'œThis group was more aspirational than operational,' said FBI Deputy Director John Pistole. Batiste and his followers are members of a fringe black nationalist religion called the Moorish Science Temple of America, which blends Islam with Christianity, Freemasonry, and other traditions. 'œToday, terrorist threats may come from smaller, more loosely defined cells who are not affiliated with al Qaida but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message,' said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. 'œLeft unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al Qaida.'

What alarmist 'œhype,' said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. 'œIt is not now and never has been my intention to belittle terrorism,' but this was clearly a 'œpreposterous, crackpot plot' by a group of angry losers with no means to accomplish their violent fantasies. Turning these arrests into a nationally televised news conference, with ominous pictures of the Sears Tower, is a blatantly obvious attempt by the Bush administration to frighten the American public into supporting its assault on civil liberties.

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