Meet the Portland Seven
Part II: Jeffrey Leon Battle
Rumors and reading between the lines of news accounts suggested Jeffrey Leon Battle is a weak link among the Portland Seven. Back in October, federal agents and officials emphasized his military training when most of the defendants were taken into custody.
Ashcroft said one of those arrested, Jeffrey Leon Battle, joined the U.S. Army Reserves to obtain training in U.S. tactics and weapons. Ashcroft said Battle, who was discharged last January while in Bangladesh, intended to use that experience against American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Battle later "caused himself to be discharged" from the Army, Ashcroft said without elaborating.
The insinuation was that Battle had obtained military training so he could use it in a jihad against the United States.
That suspicion he is a weak link was confirmed in court filings this week.
After he was arrested on federal terrorism charges, Portland Seven defendant Jeffrey Leon Battle told investigators “that his intentions were to go fight in the jihad against American and coalition troops” and named other defendants as taking part in the alleged plot, according to recently filed court documents.
Battle’s comments were detailed at length in a motion filed with the U.S. District Court by attorney Andrew Bates requesting that his client, Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, be tried separately from the other defendants.
Biographical accounts paint Battle as the least well-educated and sophisticated of the defendants, along with his wife, October Martinique Lewis. An emigrant to the Pacific Northwest from Texas, Battle worked a series of low-paying jobs, including as an orderly at a nursing home. A high school graduate, he doesn't seem to have sought further education. While in custody, the couple lost custody of Battle's young son, who they had reared from infancy, to his biological mother.
Battle's reported remarks have an aura of fantasy about them. He said to have talked extensively to the FBI's informant, Khalid Mustafa.
In the motion, which was filed Wednesday, Bates alleges that Battle told a federal informant that he wanted to:
•Attack synagogues and kill 100 to 1,000 Jews
•Become an assassin and search out FBI agents to kill
•Obtain large tanks of gasoline to make flame throwers and attack domestic military bases
•Die for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden because of his high regard for him.
Battle seems to have spent the least time, five years at most, as a Muslim. Unlike at least four of the other defendants, he does not speak Arabic. He also seems to have had difficulty financing his trip to China in October 2001. That is how his wife was drawn into the case. She sent him small amounts of money while he was abroad. Lewis is also requesting a separate trial.
I am not aware of any mental health examinations of Battle or the other defendants. However, it seems to me that the fancifulness of his claims, if the allegations are true, would justify such an inquiry.
The man I heard discussing Islam, 9/11 and Malcolm X months ago was not Battle, who is heavier and dark skinned. I believe he was Patrice Lumumba Ford. Though Ford said nothing incriminating, having heard him sheds light on why the neigbhors of some of the Portland Seven reported the suspects to law enforcement officials. Politically charged discussion is not the norm for Americans, especially not in public places. Jeffrey Battle's neighbors were among those who observed and reported.
A neighbor of the couple, Matt Hawkey, said he often saw men -- sometimes in suits, sometimes in traditional Muslim garb -- clustered in the parking lot near their apartment. They talked, listened to music from a car and sometimes shuffled large duffel bags between a Ford Blazer and the apartment, he said.
Hawkey said he called the FBI about a year ago after Battle's young son told his children the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were a good thing. He said agents enlisted him to turn in 30 to 40 license plate numbers from the cars of people involved in the late-night meetings.
"(The FBI) told me, 'Be careful. Do not approach these people,"' Hawkey said.
It unclear whether Battle's alleged statements also incriminated the last suspect arrested, Maher Mofeid 'Mike' Hawash.
The indictment of Battle and his co-defendants is available from Findlaw in PDF format and can be downloaded here.