Terror plot suspect says he “played along” with al-Qaida oath
Posted on Tue, Nov. 13, 2007
By CURT ANDERSON
AP Legal Affairs Writer
Terrorism plot suspect Narseal Batiste testified Tuesday that he was “played along” with taking an oath to al-Qaida from a man claiming connections to the terror organization and that his six co-defendants were not told in advance about a pledge ceremony.
Batiste, in his fifth day on the witness stand, said he wasn’t serious about pledging allegiance to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden and repeated that his main goal in dealing with “Brother Mohammed” – in reality an FBI informant – was to get some $50,000 he had been promised.
“I was really after the money all along,” Batiste testified. “I just played along with taking the oath.”
Batiste and the other members of the so-called “Liberty City Seven” are on trial for allegedly plotting to destroy Chicago’s Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices in Miami and other cities. Authorities say their purported plans never got beyond the initial stages.
An FBI audiotape was played for jurors Tuesday in which Batiste takes the oath alone from “Mohammed” and then makes plans to meet him again with the entire group at a new warehouse. Batiste was told the building was being provided by al-Qaida for the group but it was actually from the FBI, which had fitted it with hidden surveillance cameras.
A few days later, on March 16, 2006, the other six defendants are recorded taking the al-Qaida oath. After the ceremony, “Mohammed” for the first time brings up the idea of bombing FBI offices in five major cities and gives Batiste a video camera for reconnaissance at the Miami office.
Batiste testified that he felt he was “leading the brothers astray” when they took the al-Qaida oath, but he did not stop the proceeding in hopes of getting the promised cash. Batiste said his hopes were bolstered when “Mohammed” came through with the warehouse, which was stocked with food and also contained a boat.
“I accomplish my purpose, or what?” the informant “Mohammed” said on an FBI videotape.
“You’re getting there,” Batiste replied, adding in his testimony that he was expecting a suitcase full of cash as well.
“I didn’t see no money drop on the table,” he said.
Batiste also said he recited a mission statement from the Moorish Science Temple, whose Miami chapter he led, in an effort to remind the group that their goal was to do good in the community. The Moorish Science Temple is a black empowerment sect that blends elements of Islam, Christianity and Judaism but also does not recognize the U.S. government’s authority.
“My whole purpose in life was finding justice and equality,” Batiste said.
Batiste is likely to remain on the witness stand for the rest of the week. The trial is expected to continue into December.