The biggest Al Qaeda plot the FBI claimed to have foiled in the years following the 9/11 attacks involved no weapons, no plot, and no Al Qaeda. Instead, the vague, implausible threat by a group of construction workers in Florida to blow up U.S. buildings, including Chicago’s Sears Tower, was mostly the making of the FBI, whose undercover operatives sought out the men, promised them money, and coached them over months to implicate themselves in a conspiracy to commit violent acts they never actually intended or had the means to carry out.
The “Liberty City Seven” case — known by its connection to the poor, violence-ridden Miami neighborhood where the men involved lived — was the most high-profile FBI investigation of a supposed terrorist cell after the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. It came as the bureau, which had failed to act on intelligence it had received before 9/11, faced enormous pressure to predict and stop the next attack, setting off its transformation, in the words of former Deputy Director John Pistole, “from reactive crime-solving agency to preventative national security agency.”
The ordeal of the seven Black men, most of them Haitian American, who were manipulated by two paid FBI informants into pledging allegiance to Al Qaeda is recounted in a new Frontline documentary, “In the Shadow of 9/11,” by British director Dan Reed.
“It was kind of really absurd, almost unbelievable,” said Reed, who has previously directed…