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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Informant describes fear of discovery in terror case
Published October 10, 2007
MIAMI - An FBI informant testified Tuesday that he feared his cover had been blown and that he might be killed by a group of terrorism suspects when he and a second informant were forced to change clothes, relinquish their cell phones and were driven to a remote Florida Keys location.
Abbas al Saidi said he knew that the group was wary of the second informant, known to them as Mohammed and purportedly sent by al-Qaida to assist in a plot to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI buildings in several cities.
"They felt suspicious of him. What if they killed us? What if they know we are with the FBI?" Saidi said were some of his thoughts as the pair was driven from Miami to Islamorada on Jan. 28, 2006.
Yet despite the precautions taken by the terror suspects, Saidi said he managed to slip an FBI-supplied recording device into the clothes he was forced to wear, and he was never searched again.
Mohammed, he added, was able to keep one of his three cell phones by convincing the men that al-Qaida operatives would call him every 15 minutes. Mohammed used that phone on the trip to the Keys to communicate in Arabic with an FBI translator and keep agents apprised of what was happening, said Saidi, who is originally from Yemen.
The testimony came as Saidi spent a third day on the witness stand in the trial of the so-called Liberty City Seven group accused of conspiracy to wage war against the United States and provide material support to al-Qaida. If convicted, each of the seven defendants could get up to 70 years in prison.
U.S. officials have said the alleged plot never got to the operational stage, and defense lawyers have said the group was mainly trying to get money and that the informants drove the conspiracy forward.
Saidi said that when they arrived in Islamorada, they met with the group's leader, 33-year-old Narseal Batiste, and temporarily regained his trust.
Saidi admitted under cross-examination that he and Mohammed were never overtly threatened on the trip, despite their fears.
Under cross-examination by Batiste lawyer Ana M. Jhones, Saidi acknowledged that he had provided information in the past in New York investigations and that he used those connections to get out of jail in Miami in late 2004 when he was accused of assaulting his then-girlfriend.
Saidi was expected to remain on the witness stand today for cross-examination by the seven defense lawyers. The trial is scheduled to last into December.