Gonzales: 'Homegrown Terrorists' Plotted Attacks
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
We have an update now on a story we're following this morning. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez says seven men arrested yesterday in Miami were homegrown terrorists who sought an alliance with al-Qaida to blow up buildings in the United States.
Attorney General ALBERTO GONZALEZ: (United States Attorney General) These individuals wished to wage a, quote, "full ground war" against the United States. That quote is from the investigation of these individuals, who also allegedly stated the desire to, quote, "kill all the devils we can." They hoped for their attacks to be, quote, "just as good or greater than 9/11."
WERTHEIMER: Attorney General Gonzalez speaking today in Washington. NPR's Larry Abramson is following this story, and he joins me now.
Larry, what can you tell us about these men and the charges against them?
LARRY ABRAMSON reporting:
Well, of the seven men, Linda, five of them are U.S. citizens, and they were rounded up in a raid last night in the Liberty City area of Miami. They're now facing four different counts for conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, conspiracy to levy war against the United States, and also conspiracy to damage buildings by explosive device, because, apparently, they were discussing a plot to bomb Federal Bureau of Investigation buildings in five different cities.
Now, what happened was the leader of this group, Narseal Batiste, started to meet with what he thought was a representative of al-Qaida last December and began to discuss with him his plans to blow up buildings, to attack the United States. This Narseal Batiste swore allegiance to al-Qaida in front of this man, who he thought was a representative of al-Qaida; in fact, he was working with the FBI and basically served to throw out the bait to lure these people in.
They continued to meet. The purported al-Qaida representative offered them support; they basically gave him a shopping list - sizes of different military boots that they wanted for their mission. They went out and did reconnaissance of the FBI buildings and also were planning to do reconnaissance of the Sears Tower in Chicago, all with an eye toward destroying these buildings.
WERTHEIMER: But actually how far along was the plot, can you tell?
ABRAMSON: Well, the Deputy Director of the FBI, John Pistole, said that the plot was really more aspirational than operational. In other words, they talked about it, they did some things in preparation, like gathering videotape and doing reconnaissance, but they didn't apparently buy any explosives, buy any guns; nothing was seized. So they didn't really appear to have the tools. And there was a lot of back and forth with the reporters about whether or not they actually had the ability to carry out this plot. Attorney General Gonzalez said, we didn't want to wait until they had the ability to do it; we wanted to move in as quickly as we possibly could.
WERTHEIMER: And they were charged under a new section of the anti-terrorism law, which covers precisely that.
ABRAMSON: That's right. It's all conspiracy to provide support, and is basically the idea that if you offer anything to al-Qaida, you are helping the terrorists. Of course, they didn't actually give al-Qaida anything, because this guy wasn't an al-Qaida representative.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Larry Abramson. Larry, thank you very much.
ABRAMSON: You're welcome, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.