The "Seas of David" plot "more hype than evidence"

White House claims about alleged terrorist plot appears to have been wildly exaggerated.


Steve Benen
April 16, 2008 11:16PM (UTC)

There have been a series of alleged terrorist plots that the White House has claimed to have disrupted. Sometimes Bush and his team use these thwarted plots to defend torture, and sometimes it's to defend illegally tapping Americans' phones, but the bottom line is always the same -- there are dangerous bad guys out there, and the president is stopping them.

As it turns out, most of the examples of thwarted plots touted by the Bush gang fall apart under scrutiny, but my all-time favorite has to be the "Seas of David" cult (aka, the "Miami Seven" or the "Liberty City Seven").

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When these would-be terrorists were captured, the administration characterized it as an enormous victory. Shortly after the suspects were taken into custody, Dick Cheney personally bragged that the Miami group was "a very real threat." Then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was so excited he held a press conference to highlight this stunning counter-terrorism success story.

The AG said the group represented a "new brand of terrorism" created by "the convergence of globalization and technology." The Justice Department said the terrorists in Miami intended to even blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Except the story was wildly exaggerated -- and juries refuse to give prosecutors a conviction. A deadlocked jury led to a second mistrial today.

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Critics have said the administration's efforts to prosecute the men on terror charges undermines its credibility.

Miami law professor and civil rights lawyer Bruce Winick said the defeat was a harsh blow to the Bush administration. "It makes them look bad," said Winick, who has criticized the Liberty City Seven case in the past. "They don't have any credibility... you can't see terrorism under every rock," he said.

The government's case was "more hype than evidence," Neal Sonnett, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told ABC News recently. It was viable to argue, as the men's lawyers did, that the government informant "created the crime."

Critics' accusations appear to have merit. These alleged terrorists had no weapons, no bombs, no expertise, and no money. They didn't behave or operate as terrorists. They apparently swore an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden, but because an undercover FBI infiltrator suggested the idea. For that matter, despite some reports to the contrary, these guys weren't Muslims, but instead practiced their own hybrid religion that combined Islam and Christianity.

Their "plots" against the United States were "embryonic at best." The New York Daily News described the group, which was more a cult than a terrorist network, as the "7 Boobs." They'd have trouble attacking a convenience store, better yet the Sears Tower.

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They were best known in their community for following a leader who would wander around inner-city Miami in a bathrobe.

Something to remember the next time the White House describes something as "a very real threat."


Steve Benen

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