Thursday, April 17, 2008

Would somebody explain this, please?

Quoth the Miami Herald:

Confronted on Wednesday with a second mistrial, prosecutors must now decide whether to seek a third trial for a Miami group accused of plotting with al Qaeda to blow up federal buildings in an insurrection against the United States.

Are we stacking the deck a little with that lede? In light of ...
... Prosecutors tried to prove the Liberty City group joined forces with al Qaeda in 2006 by taking a loyalty oath to the terrorist group and providing surveillance of target sites such as the FBI building and federal courthouse complex in Miami-Dade County.

Defense attorneys countered that the six men -- led by a Messianic-like figure named Narseal Batiste -- tried to con up to $50,000 out of an FBI informant who posed as an al Qaeda operative and set them up in a terrorism plot they had no intention of carrying out.

Was there a really, really clever Qaida dude who lured the FBI informant off the path and snuck in to administer the loyalty oath? Or did the alleged bozos swear allegiance to a guy posing as a Qaida operative? Seems to me that if it's the latter, the lede fundamentally misstates the issue. I can don the ornate robes and proclaim my role as St. Peter's heir all day long, but if you offer to join my secret army, you aren't swearing fealty to the Vatican. I checked.

The jury pools seem to have this figured out, but you do sort of wonder if journalism wouldn't be doing better by its part in the Great War on Terror if we were a bit more firm in distinguishing Qaida -- a dangerous bunch of people who pose a serious national-security threat -- from the vast array of lesser perils that arise from time to time.


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