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More on the Final Two Portland Terror Case Pleas

From Ziska, who has been following the Portland case since the beginning. He hasn't been blogging much lately, but his old posts on the case are here. Today he e-mails:

There are some interesting aspects to the case. Everyone pled guilty to plea bargains. The ringleaders got 18 years, which is very high for what they actually did (try to go to Afghanistan) but low for what they're supposedly guilty of (being an al-Qaeda sleeper cell).

According to one story, the fact that the the "ringleaders" did not have to agree to cooperate in order to get a plea bargain was a victory for the defense, since no broader conspiracy was proved or even seriously alleged. Apparently also the plea bargain was motivated by the prosecution's unwillingness to deal with a FISA challenge: "The sources said the driving force behind the government's offer was to avoid possibly losing an argument on the merits of FISA as amended by the Patriot Act".

At the same time, it seems likely that the guilty pleas were motivated in part by the extraordinary powers granted the prosecution by the Patriot Act. None of the evidence against the defendant publicly available so far seems terribly compelling, though there may have been more that has not been released.

Kent Ford, the "ringleader" is a well-educated and talented individual whose parents are well thought of in the Portland political community.

ASHCROFT: "Sometimes the enemies are here at home," said Ashcroft, who also used the case to defend the USA Patriot Act. "We cannot overlook the threat posed by United States citizens."

More news coverage here and here. Ziska says the Portland Tribune articles are the best, and to find older stories, just do a search here for "Ford" and "Battle."

Our coverage can be found here. Our favorite article is one from the LA Times, no longer available online, which concludes the group "is more suggestive of bumbling, would-be holy warriors than of soldiers training for deadly missions." See here.

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