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Columnist Skeptical About Feds Terrorist Convictions in Miami

miami-mapBy Leonard Pitts Jr.
Miami Herald Columnist

Like the Mounties, they finally got their men. And all it took was three years, three trials and millions of taxpayer dollars.

At that price, you’d like to feel a certain satisfaction from last week’s guilty verdict against five men from inner-city Miami who stood accused of conspiring with al-Qaida to launch terrorist attacks in this country. You’d like to feel you’d seen justice done. Instead, you are left with the nagging suspicion that all you’ve seen is justice miscarried.

Prosecutors say the seven men arrested at a Liberty City warehouse in June 2006 were a homegrown terror cell conspiring with an FBI informant they thought was an al-Qaida representative to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and other sites. The feds made their case with secret recordings, testimony that the men swore an oath of allegiance to al-Qaida and photos of possible terror targets taken by the defendants.

But the defense said the seven were just the hapless members of a would-be religious sect who thought they had found a patsy who’d give them money as long as he believed they were planning a terrorist strike. All they wanted, they said, was cash — to finance their sect.

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