Filing details 'Portland 7' plot
One group member asked an informant about making a bomb days before his arrest, a new court document shows
Less than a month before he was arrested, "Portland Seven" defendant Jeffrey Leon Battle asked an undercover FBI informant if he knew how to make a bomb and said he wanted to arm himself for a possible confrontation with authorities.
The September 2002 comments followed a series of secret "body wire" recordings in which Battle spoke of his consideration and ultimate rejection of committing a terrorist act in the United States, specifically to kill hundreds of Jews at a Portland-area synagogue or Jewish school.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors filed a 23-page memorandum in U.S. District Court in Portland that gives new details about the failed trip by Battle, Patrice Lumumba Ford and four other Portland-area men to travel to Afghanistan in October 2001 and fight against U.S. troops.
The filing comes ahead of Monday's scheduled sentencings of Battle and Ford on their Oct. 16 guilty pleas. No surprises are expected as both men and prosecutors have already agreed to 18-year prison terms and the judge has said he will not alter the agreements. What's uncertain is whether either will make statements about their actions and beliefs.
The group that has come to be known as the Portland Seven -- for the seven people indicted in the case -- called itself "Katibat Al-Mawt," which federal prosecutors say loosely translates to "Squad of Death."
One Portland Seven member, Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, had such disdain for Jews that he referred to them as "lampshades," the document states. Battle told the informant that he wanted a "blade" to cut off the heads of "kaffirs," or unbelievers.
Six of the seven have pleaded guilty, and one, Habis Abdulla al Saoub, was killed last month by Pakistani troops in a raid on an al-Qaida encampment. He was the only member of the group to reach the battlefields, and his friends thought he was acquainted with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
More than a year of court filings and courtroom hearings has painted a picture of a loosely knit group whose members, to varying degrees, read and watched films about jihad, or holy war, and participated in firearms and martial arts training before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The U.S. military's invasion of Afghanistan -- an attempt to oust the Taliban government that supported and harbored bin Laden -- "galvanized" the members to take their fight to the Afghan battlefield. In October 2001, six men traveled to China, where several attempts to cross into Pakistan failed because of visa problems and a buildup of Chinese troops at the border.
After returning to Oregon, Battle spoke with the FBI's informant of a "burning desire" to fight in a jihad and die as a martyr, according to the government's filing.
The document also reveals contents of some wiretaps approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret federal court designed to issue wiretaps and search warrants in terrorism and spy cases where national security is at risk.
On an Aug. 14, 2002, wiretap recording, Ford and Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, Ahmed's brother, spoke about wanting to marry Muslim women. Ford said he wanted to marry a "real" Muslim -- not a "fake" American one -- who carries an AK-47 assault rifle and is "ready to run and blow something up."
In addition, intercepted e-mails from Battle's ex-wife, October Martinique Lewis, the only woman in the group, show she emphatically supported their jihad against U.S. troops. Lewis remained in Oregon while the men went overseas. She told Battle that she was raising money for their fight, that she was telling people he was on a spiritual trip, and she warned him to be careful not to get caught.
When Battle was arrested on Oct. 4, 2002, he initially claimed the overseas trip was for religious education, but eventually told investigators with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force about the plot, naming everyone except Maher "Mike" Hawash.
Both Battle and Ford agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to levy war against the United States but have not cooperated with the government's ongoing investigation into others who may have helped organize and finance the trip. Their attorneys have said that their trip was motivated by their religious beliefs that they would have been coming to the aid of fellow Muslims.
The remaining defendants agreed to cooperate with investigators in exchange for reduced sentences. Lewis pleaded guilty Sept. 26 to money laundering and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 1 to as long as nearly 31/2 years in prison.
The Bilals pleaded guilty Sept. 18 to firearms charges and conspiracy to contribute services to the Taliban. Muhammad faces 8 to 14 years in prison; his brother faces 10 to 14 years. Hawash pleaded guilty Aug. 6 to conspiracy to contribute services to the Taliban. The three are scheduled for sentencing Feb 9.