Key Issue in Kansas Trial: A Racist Terror Plot, or Just Idle Talk?

Defense lawyers say that federal officials, who relied on a paid informant who infiltrated the group, have overstepped by trying to criminalize offensive but legal speech. The lawyers argued that the men’s conversations, many of them secretly recorded by the informant and played for the jurors, amounted to idle talk. No one was physically injured in Garden City.

The trial comes at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities, particularly Muslims, and incidents of hate-related violence have escalated nationally, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes. Mosques have been firebombed; women and men in head coverings have been assaulted; and businesses and homes have been vandalized. In some cases, people have been killed.

“It is now…

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