MIAMI The leader of a group accused of plotting terrorist attacks in the U.S. said on an FBI videotape played at trial Wednesday that he sought to raise an "Islamic army" to fight a guerrilla war.
Narseal Batiste was also recorded saying he needed boots, black uniforms and machine guns for his soldiers.
"I cannot show them strength, I cannot show them power, if I'm still weak," Batiste said during a secretly videotaped Dec. 16, 2005, meeting with an FBI informant posing as an al-Qaida operative named Mohammed.
"What's your plan?" Mohammed asked Batiste.
"To build an Islamic army. For Islamic jihad," Batiste replied.
The Yemeni informant was paid about $80,000 by the FBI to pose as the al-Qaida emissary. The FBI had been investigating Batiste and six other men from Miami's impoverished Liberty City neighborhood after another informant tipped agents about the group in September 2005.
The so-called "Liberty City Seven" are accused of plotting to destroy the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago and bomb FBI offices in five cities to ignite a war aimed at overthrowing the U.S. government. They face up to 70 years in prison each if convicted of all four charges, which include conspiracy to levy war against the United States and providing material support to al-Qaida.
The purported Sears Tower plot was never mentioned directly on the FBI videotape, but Batiste told Mohammed at one point, without being specific, "It's there. We're going to bring it down."
"I like the word you said, 'bringing down,"' Mohammed answered.
Defense lawyers insist the men only went along with Mohammed in hopes of scamming him out of about $50,000 and never intended to carry out any attacks.
On the tape, Mohammed repeatedly tries to get Batiste to describe the group's intentions "I'm asking you if I'm wasting my time," he said and at one point said Batiste is too soft-spoken.
"Can you higher your voice, because I have a problem hearing?" Mohammed asked.
Batiste is clearly suspicious initially of Mohammed, asking at one point if the radio could be turned on presumably to drown out their conversation. At another point, Batiste said, "I don't trust this place."
But at the end of the meeting, the two stood and embraced, and Batiste saluted Mohammed. "Carry on," Mohammed responded.
Batiste, wearing a white turban, made clear that he is serious and would continue with his plans whether Mohammed provided assistance or not. He described his group as "seven generals" and said they have been training in military and martial arts skills.
"I'm the man who is determined, whether I get any kind of help from you or not," Batiste said. "I'm going to do what needs to be done. And I'm well on my way to accomplishing it."
Mohammed asked Batiste to write out a list of his main needs, and Batiste used a hotel notepad to comply: "Boots knee high. Automatic hand pistols. Black security uniforms. Squad cars. SUV truck black color. Cell phones."
Batiste initially says on the tape he is unconcerned about money, but later he acknowledged that "I'm exhausted financially. We have nothing."
Mohammed did eventually provide the group with boots but not the weapons, money or other supplies. The men never obtained any explosives and U.S. officials have said their plot never got past the talking stage, although they were videotaped in March 2006 taking an oath to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
The hotel meeting tape was played during testimony of the lead FBI agent on the case, Anthony Velazquez.
The trial is expected to continue into December.