After two mistrials because of hung juries, US attorneys succeeded today in convicting five Florida men of intending to blow up the Sears Tower… with explosives and a plan provided by an undercover FBI agent. The defendants, one of whom was acquitted, were called the Liberty City 6 and they now face possible sentences of up to 70 years in prison.
The trial has been hotly debated due to lack of physical evidence, and the nascency of the terrorist plot. The defendants, who lived in a poor neighborhood and some of whom were struggling fiscally, had no means to blow up the Sears Tower: no explosives, no guns, not even a video camera to take surveillance. In fact, the plot to blow up the Tower, plus vans for travel and a camera to survey the area, came from a FBI informant who had been arrested for domestic assault. The main pieces of evidence from the prosecution seemed to be an oath to Osama bin Laden some of the defendants made, and a list of desired materials (which did not include explosives) they gave to the informant.
You can read more about the case, and other examples of pre-emptive prosecution, in our 2008 article, “The Department of Pre-Crime.”