Barack Obama - Authorized Assassination of US Citizen

Last Updated : Sep 09, 2010

Summary

Anwar al-Awlaki is an islamic extremist with known ties to terrorists such as Fort Hood Shooter Major Nidal Hasam, the attempted Christmas day "Underwear Bomber", and several 9/11 hijackers.  Al-Awlaki was born in the United States and retains US citizenship, but has not lived here for several years.  He has been a main recruiter for al-Quada, and it is suspected that he is now actively participating in the organization of attacks against the US.  In April of 2010, it was reported that President Obama had authorized that Anwar al-Awlaki be added to a list of poeple approved for capture or killing.

Note: The Wikipedia page concerning Anwar al-Awlaki is extremely detailed on his background and ties to islamic extremists.  Much of the text here was obtained from the sources there.

 

Background 

Anwar al-Awlaki was born in 1971 in Las Cruces New Mexico. His father possessed an agricultural economics degree from New Mexico State University and a Doctorate from the University of Nebraska.  In 1978, he moved with his family to Yemen, where he remained for the next 11 years and his father worked as Agriculture Minister and as president of Sanaa University.  In 1991, Al-Awlaki returned to the US to attend college where he earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University in 1994.  Reportedly, he attended on a foreign student visa and Yemeni government scholarship, which he obtained by claiming to be foreign born.  He also earned an M.A. in Education Leadership from San Diego State University. He possesses no formal training in islamic studies, and is fluent in English.

Anwar al-Awlaki remained in the US after completing his college studies, and worked occasionally as an Imam.  In 2002, he moved to England to escape what he called a "climate of fear and intimidation in the US".  In Britain, he again lectured to Islamic youth.  In 2004, he returned to Yemen, where he lives with his wife and children in his ancestral village.

FBI agents have identified al-Awlaki as a known, important "senior recruiter for al Qaeda", and a spiritual motivator.

 

Arrest record

  • Al-Awlaki was arrested in San Diego in August 1996 and in April 1997 for soliciting prostitutes. In the first instance, he entered an AIDS education program and paid $400 in fines and restitution, and the second time, he was sentenced to three years' probation, fined $240, and ordered to perform 12 days of community service.
  • In 2001-2002, al-Awlaki was observed crossing state lines with prostitutes in the D.C. area. Authorities considered detaining him, but he left for Yemen in March 2002.
  • On his original application for a US social security number in 1990, al-Awlaki listed Yemen as his place of birth and then used this SS# to obtain a passport in 1993, later changing his place of birth information to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  A Denver federal judge signed off on an arrest warrant for al-Awlaki for passport fraud in October 2002, but it was rescinded within days due to lack of evidence.
  • In mid 2006, al-Awlaki was detained by Yemeni police at the request of the US.  He was released in December of 2007

 

Ties to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda

In 1998 and 1999, al-Awlaki served as Vice President for the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) in San Diego. During a terrorism trial, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) accused the CSSW of being a “front organization to funnel money to terrorists,” and US federal prosecutors have described it as being used to support Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.  The FBI investigated al-Awlaki in 1999 and 2000 for possible fundraising for Hamas, links to al-Qaeda, and a visit in early 2000 by a close associate of "the blind sheik" Omar Abdel Rahman (now in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center attack). Al-Awlaki was also contacted by a possible "procurement agent" for bin Laden.  

Investigations on many known terrorists have turned up tapes of lectures and books written by al-Awlaki.  He is a known recruiter for the organization, and his fluent english and rhetoric have been credited with radicalizing many english speaking islamists.

 

Association with USS Cole bombers and 9/11 hi-jackers

Among the planners for the USS Cole attack were two of the 9/11 hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77 which hit the Pentagon, (Nawaf Al-Hazmi and Khalid Almihdhar). Nawaf and Khalid traveled to San Diego in 2000 where witnesses told the FBI they had a close relationship with Awlaki, that he served as their spiritual advisor, and they were frequently visited by pilot Hani Hanjour. The 9/11 Commission Report indicated that the hijackers also "reportedly respected [him] as a religious figure." Authorities say the two hijackers regularly attended the mosque al-Awlaki led in San Diego, and he had many closed-door meetings with them, which led investigators to believe al-Awlaki knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.

On June 10, 2000, Mihdhar left San Diego to visit his wife in Yemen at a house which was also used as a communications hub for Al Qaeda. Yemeni Prime Minister Abdul Karim al-Iryani reported that Mihdhar had been one of the key planners of the USS Cole bombing.

In January 2001, al-Awlaki became the spiritual leader of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in the Falls Church metropolitan Washington, DC, area, and was also the Muslim Chaplain at George Washington University.  Soon afterwards, his sermons were attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers (Al-Hazmi again, and Hani Hanjour, which the 9/11 Commission Report concluded "may not have been coincidental".  When police investigating the 9/11 attacks raided the Hamburg, Germany, apartment of Ramzi Binalshibh (the "20th hijacker"), al-Awlaki's telephone number was found among Binalshibh's personal contact information."In my view, he is more than a coincidental figure," said House Intelligence Committee member Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

Writing on the IslamOnline.net website six days after the 9/11 attacks, Awlaki suggested that Israeli intelligence agents might have been responsible for the attacks, and that the FBI "went into the roster of the airplanes and whoever has a Muslim or Arab name became the hijacker by default."

 

Links to Major Nidal Malik Hasan

The FBI investigated Major Nidal Malik Hasan after intelligence agencies intercepted at least 18 emails between him and al-Awlaki between December 2008 and June 2009. Terrorism expert Jarret Brachman said that Hasan's contacts with al-Awlaki should have raised "huge red flags". In one of the emails, Hasan wrote al-Awlaki: "I can't wait to join you [in the afterlife]". Hasan also asked al-Awlaki when jihad is appropriate, and whether it is permissible if innocents are killed in a suicide attack. In the months before the attacks, Hasan increased his contacts with al-Awlaki to discuss how to transfer funds abroad without coming to the attention of law authorities.

On November 5, 2009, at Fort Hood—the most populous US military base in the world, located just outside Killeen, Texas—Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on a shooting spree which killed 13 people and wounded 30 others.

After Major Hasan's attack, al-Awlaki posted the following text on his website:

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Hider Shaea interviewed al-Awlaki in November 2009. Al-Awlaki acknowledged his correspondence with Hasan, and stated that he "neither ordered nor pressured ... Hasan to harm Americans".  Al-Awlaki said Hasan first e-mailed him December 17, 2008, introducing himself by writing: "Do you remember me? I used to pray with you at the Virginia mosque." Hasan said he had become a devout Muslim around the time al-Awlaki was preaching at Dar al-Hijrah, in 2001 and 2002, and al-Awlaki said 'Maybe Nidal was affected by one of my lectures.'" He added: "It was clear from his e-mails that Nidal trusted me. Nidal told me: 'I speak with you about issues that I never speak with anyone else.'" Al-Awlaki said Hasan arrived at his own conclusions regarding the acceptability of violence in Islam, and said he was not the one to initiate this. Shaea summarized their relationship by saying, "Nidal was providing evidence to Anwar, not vice versa."

Asked whether Hasan mentioned Fort Hood as a target in his e-mails, Shaea declined to comment. However, al-Awlaki said the shooting was acceptable in Islam because it was a form of jihad, as the West began the hostilities with the Muslims. The cleric also denounced what he described as contradictory behavior by Muslims who condemned Hasan's actions and "let him down." Referring to the post on his blog praising the shootings after they occurred, al-Awlaki said he "blessed the act because it was against a military target. And the soldiers who were killed were not normal soldiers, but those who were trained and prepared to go to Iraq and Afghanistan".
Al-Awlaki released a tape in March 2010, in which he said, in part:

 

Ties to attempted bomber of Northwest Airlines Flight 253

On Christmas day, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to crash Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by detonating explosives he had hidden in his underwear.  The material failed to ignite and the plane landed safely.  In January 2010, unnamed U.S. "security sources" said that there is concrete evidence that al-Awlaki met Abdulmutallab prior to the attack.  In February 2010, al-Awlaki admitted in an interview that he taught and corresponded with Abdulmutallab, but denied having ordered the attack.

Representative Pete Hoekstra, the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said anonymous officials in the Obama administration and officials with access to law enforcement information told him the suspect "had contact [with al-Awlaki].... The question we'll have to raise is was this imam in Yemen influential enough to get some people to attack the U.S. again." Hoekstra added: "The belief is this is a stronger connection with al-Awlaki" than Hasan had.

The Sunday Times established that Abdulmutallab first met al-Awlaki in 2005 in Yemen, while he was studying Arabic. During that time the suspect attended lectures by al-Awlaki. The two are also "thought to have met" in London, according to The Daily Mail. He attended a sermon by al-Awalki at the Finsbury Park Mosque. Evidence collected during searches of flats connected to Abdulmutallab in London indicated that he was a "big fan" of al-Awlaki, as web traffic showed he followed al-Awlaki's blog and website. 

The two were communicating in the months before the bombing attempt, reported CBS News, and anonymous sources said that al-Awlaki was providing spiritual support. According to federal sources, over the year prior to the attack, Abdulmutallab intensified electronic communications with al-Awlaki. "Voice-to-voice communication" between the two was intercepted during the fall of 2009, and one government source said al-Awlaki "was in some way involved in facilitating [Abdulmutallab]'s transportation or trip through Yemen. It could be training, a host of things. "Anonymous intelligence officials suspect al-Awlaki may have directed Abdulmutallab to Yemen for al-Qaeda training.

Abdulmutallab told the FBI that al-Awlaki was one of his al-Qaeda trainers in remote camps in Yemen. And there were confirming "informed reports" that Abdulmutallab met with al-Awlaki during his final weeks of training and indoctrination prior to the attack. Intelligence linking the two became apparent after the attempted bombing, including communications intercepted by the National Security Agency indicating that the cleric was meeting with "a Nigerian" in preparation for some kind of operation.

In January 2010, al-Awlaki acknowledged that he met and spoke with Abdulmutallab in Yemen in the fall of 2009. In an interview, al-Awlaki said:

Al-Awlaki also asked Yemen’s conservative religious scholars to call for the killing of American military and intelligence officials who assist Yemen’s counter-terrorism program. Fox reported in early February 2010 that Abdulmutallab told federal investigators that al-Awlaki directed him to carry out the bombing.

Cageprisoners campaigned for al-Awlaki when he was in prison in Yemen. Shortly after his release, Begg obtained an exclusive telephone interview with him. According to Begg prior to his capture, al-Awlaki had condemned the September 11 attacks.

In his March 2010 tape, al-Awlaki also said:

 

Ties to other extremists

Al-Awlaki's name came up in nearly a dozen terrorism cases recently in the U.S., UK, and Canada. The cases included suicide bombers in the 2005 London bombings, radical Islamic terrorists in the 2006 Toronto terrorism case, and radical Islamic terrorists in the 2007 Fort Dix attack plot. In each case the suspects were devoted to al-Awlaki's message, which they listened to on laptops, audio clips, and CDs.

Al-Awlaki’s recorded lectures were also an inspiration to Islamist fundamentalists who comprised at least six terror cells in the UK through 2009. Michael Finton (Talib Islam), who attempted in September 2009, to bomb the Federal Building and the adjacent offices of Congressman Aaron Schock in Springfield, Illinois, admired al-Awlaki and quoted him on his Myspace page. In addition to his website, al-Awlaki had a Facebook fan page, with a substantial percentage of "fans" from the U.S., many of whom were high school students.

In October 2008, Charles Allen, US Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis, warned that al-Awlaki "targets US Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen." Responding to Allen, Al-Awlaki wrote on his website in December 2008: "I would challenge him to come up with just one such lecture where I encourage 'terrorist attacks'".

 

Targeted to be captured or killed

On April 6, 2010, reports began to emerge that Anwar al-Awlaki had been added to the CIA list of operatives that were authorized to be captured or killed.  His name already appeared on a separate list maintained by the US military.  

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials told the LA Times. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.

References

[1] Website: Telegraph Article: Killing of radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, authorised by US Author: NA Accessed on: 04/20/2010

[2] Website: The Christian Science Monitor Article: Fort Hood shooting: Was Nidal Malik Hasan inspired by militant cleric? Author: Dan Murphy Accessed on: 04/20/2010

[3] Website: The Washington Post Article: Imam From Va. Mosque Now Thought to Have Aided Al-Qaeda Author: Susan Schmidt Accessed on: 04/20/2010

[4] Website: The Denver Post Article: Warrant withdrawn in 2002 for radical cleric who praised Fort Hood suspect Author: Karen Crummy Accessed on: 04/20/2010

[5] Website: NPR Article: Officials: Cleric Had Role In Christmas Bomb Attempt Author: DINA TEMPLE-RASTON Accessed on: 04/20/2010

[6] Website: The Washington Post Article: Yemeni American cleric Aulaqi confirms contact with Nigerian suspect Author: Karen DeYoung Accessed on: 04/20/2010

[7] Website: The Washington Post Article: Obama to get report on intelligence failures in Abdulmutallab case Author: Karen DeYoung Accessed on: 04/20/2010

[8] Website: The New York Times Article: Cleric in Yemen Admits Meeting Airliner Plot Suspect, Journalist Says Author: Robert Worth Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[9] Website: The Telegraph Article: Fort Hood shooting: radical Islamic preacher also inspired July 7 bombers Author: Philip Sherwell and Duncan Gardham Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[10] Website: The NEFA Foundation Article: Anwar al Awlaki: “Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing” Author: NA Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[11] Website: Fox News Article: RAW DATA: Partial Transcript of Radical Cleric's Tape Author: NA Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[12] Website: The Washington Post Article: Cleric says he was confidant to Hasan Author: Sudarsan Raghavan Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[13] Website: The Huffington Post Article: Imam Al Awlaki Says He Did Not Pressure Accused Fort Hood Gunman Nidal Hasan Author: NA Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[14] Website: The Times Online Article: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: one boy’s journey to jihad Author: Dan McDougall in Sana'a, Claire Newell in Abuja, Christina Lamb in Washington, Jon Ungoed-Thomas, Ch Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[15] Website: Fox News Article: Investigators Recover SIM Cards During Searches of Homes Tied to Abdulmutallab Author: Catherine Herridge Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[16] Website: The Telegraph Article: Detroit bomber's mentor continues to influence British mosques and universities Author: Patrick Sawer and David Barrett Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[17] Website: The Las Angeles Times Article: U.S.-born cleric linked to airline bombing plot Author: Josh Meyer Accessed on: 04/21/2010

[18] Website: Time Article: FBI Sets Up Shop in Yemen Author: Elaine Shannon and Timothy J. Burger/with Massimo Calabresi Accessed on: 04/21/2010

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