U.S.Attorney General's remarks at press conference on Florida terrorism indictments
June 25, 2006
pdf of indictment:
Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
I'm joined today by FBI Deputy Director John Pistole and Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher of the Criminal Division.
The convergence of globalization and technology has created a new brand of terrorism. Today, terrorist threats may come from smaller, more loosely-defined cells who are not affiliated with al Qaeda, but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message. Left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al Qaeda.
Recent events around the world have demonstrated the challenges posed by homegrown terrorists who live in the area they intend to attack. The terrorists and suspected terrorists in Madrid and London and Toronto were not sleeper operatives sent on suicide missions; they were students and business people and members of the community. They were persons who, for whatever reason, came to view their home country as the enemy. It is a problem we face here in the United States as well.
As has been reported, seven men were arrested yesterday in Miami on charges of conspiring to support the al Qaeda terrorist organization by planning attacks on numerous targets, including bombing the Sears Tower in Chicago, the FBI Building in North Miami Beach, Florida, and other government buildings in Miami-Dade County. Fortunately, because of the fine work of law enforcement, these men were unable to advance their deadly plot beyond the initial planning phase.
The seven men who were arrested – Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyblenson Lemorin and Rothschild Augustine – were named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Miami. The indictment charges four counts:
conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, namely al Qaeda; conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists; conspiracy to maliciously damage and destroy buildings by means of an explosive device; and conspiracy to levy war against the Government of the United States.
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."
The defendants – five American citizens, one legal permanent resident and one Haitian national in the United States illegally – are expected to make appearances at U.S. District Court in Miami today.
As always, it is important to remind you that the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The indictment alleges that Batiste, the ringleader of this group, intended to recruit and supervise individuals to organize and train for a mission of war against the United States. Batiste and his co-conspirators allegedly attempted to obtain the support of al Qaeda to achieve their goals. They also took steps to carry out their plans for violent attacks on this nation. Those steps included seeking out uniforms and weapons, conducting reconnaissance, and taking bayat, the oath of allegiance to al Qaeda. We know this because an individual they thought was a member of al Qaeda was present at their meetings. In actuality he was working with the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force.
If convicted, the defendants in this case each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison on the charges of conspiracy to provide material support or resources. The defendants also face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each charge of conspiracy to destroy buildings by use of explosives and conspiracy to levy war against the United States.
This case clearly demonstrates our commitment to preventing terrorism through energetic law enforcement efforts aimed at detecting and thwarting terrorist acts.
The arrests and today's indictments are the result of an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Miami, which includes, among others, the Miami-Dade and the City of Miami Police Departments, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Criminal Investigation unit at the Internal Revenue Service. I am pleased by the cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement in taking down this group of individuals who wished to harm our country and its citizens.
I want to thank FBI Deputy Director John Pistole in particular for the FBI's leadership in this investigation. I also thank the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Florida, Alex Acosta, and his office, for their efforts in prosecuting this case, along with the counter-terrorism section of the Criminal Division here at the Department of Justice, headed by Alice Fisher.
I'll now turn to John Pistole for remarks and then we'll be glad to take your questions.