Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, 2008Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2008

Anwar al-Awlaki (April 21, 1971 – September 30, 2011) was a U.S.-born Islamic  imam and a leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist group, whom the Saudi news station Al Arabiya called the “bin Laden of the Internet.”

Described by U.S. government officials as al-Qaeda’s senior talent recruiter and motivator, al-Awlaki was intimately involved in a number of major terrorist activities, including:

  • As imam at a mosque in Falls Church, Virginia (2001–02), which had 3,000 members, al-Awlaki had spoken with and preached to three of the 9/11 hijackers, who were al-Qaeda members.
  • In 2001, al-Awlaki presided at the funeral of the mother of convicted Fort Hood shooter and U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, with whom al-Awlaki exchanged extensive email in 2008–09 before the Fort Hood shootings.
  • After al-Awlaki went into hiding in 2006, he was associated with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who attempted the 2009 Christmas Day bombing of an American airliner. Al-Awlaki was allegedly involved in planning that attack.
  • In 2009, al-Awlaki was promoted to the rank of “regional commander” within al-Qaeda. He repeatedly called for jihad against the United States.

In April 2010, the Obama regime placed al-Awlaki — a U.S. citizen — on a list of terrorists whom the C.I.A. was authorized to kill. On September 30, 2011, al-Awlaki was killed by an American drone in Yemen. Two weeks later, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who was born in Denver, was also killed by a CIA-led drone strike in Yemen.

Given al-Awlaki’s sordid history, it is curious — to say the least — that in 2002, none other than the same al-Awlaki was an invited speaker at a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) luncheon.

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This astonishing discovery is the result of the tireless efforts of the nonpartisan citizen watchdog group, Judicial Watch.

On September 11, 2013, Judicial Watch announced that it has obtainedsurveillance reports and logs from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealing that, on Feb. 5, 2002, FBI agents had trailed U.S.-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Aulaqi to the front doors of the Pentagon where he spoke as an invited guest at a private Department of Defense luncheon for high-level Pentagon officials. The luncheon — less than five months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — was part of DOD’s outreach to moderate Muslims.

But just a day before the luncheon, al-Aulaqi had been identified as a “terrorist organization member,” and an FBI alert had been issued reading, “Warning – approach with caution . . . Do not alert the individual to the FBI’s interest and contact your local FBI field office at the earliest opportunity.”

According to the FBI surveillance log for February 5, 2002, at 11:30 am, “Aulaqi boarded the Metro train, blue line north for the Pentagon.” At 11:32 am, “Aulaqi exited the Metro train, walked through the turnstyle [sic] and greeted two unidentified white females.” At 11:40 am, “Aulaqi and the two unidentified females walked through the train station, onto the escalator, walked southwest and west adjacent to the Pentagon, up the steps and walked northeast towards the entrance to the Pentagon.” And at 12:00 pm, “Surveillance discontinued at the Pentagon.”

The 262 pages of documents were obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI and the Department of State seeking records related to the al-Qaeda leader killed in a CIA-led U.S. drone attack.

According to Fox News, the invitation list for the Pentagon luncheon where al-Awlaki was a featured speaker included up to 70 top DOD staffers, including Deputy General Counsel Charles Allen, former Deputy General Counsel Whit Cobb, former principal Deputy General Counsel Dan Dell’Orto, former General Counsel William Haynes, Deputy General Counsel Paul Koffsky and former deputy General Counsel Douglas Larsen. The London Daily Mail reported that“the Defense Department lawyer who vetted al-Awlaki wrote that she ‘had the privilege of hearing one of Mr. Awlaki’s presentations in November and was impressed by both the extent of his knowledge and by how he communicated that information and handled a hostile element in the audience’.”

According to FOIA documents previously obtained from the FBI by Judicial Watch, the FBI was aware as far back as September 27, 2001, that al-Aulaqi may have purchased airplane tickets for three of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta. On October 10, 2002, al-Aulaqi was detained at New York’s JFK airport under a warrant for passport fraud, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, the FBI ordered al-Aulaqi’s release, even though the arrest warrant was still active at the time of his detention.

To date, Judicial Watch’s litigation has resulted in the release of more than 1,800 pages of responsive records, many of which were previously classified.  The documents also raise serious questions as to the nature of the relationship between al-Aulaqi and the U.S. government. As Fox News reported on August 23, 2013, “A four year investigation by Fox News, and newly declassified documents obtained separately by Judicial Watch, are raisingquestions over the U.S. government’s handling of Anwar al-Awlaki, and whether it tried to recruit the radical American cleric as an intelligence source in 2002.” Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller did not dismiss the possibility, telling Fox News, “I am not personally familiar with any effort to recruit Anwar al-Awlaki as an asset – that does not mean to say there was not an effort at some level of the Bureau (FBI) or another agency to do so.”

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said: “These FBI logs document Keystone-cop incompetence by our national security establishment.  For the FBI to follow a known terrorist to the Pentagon where the terrorist has a high-level meeting is beyond comprehension. It is becoming increasingly apparent thatthere’s more than meets the eye in Obama’s assassination of al-Aulaqi.  We were told that he was a terrorist, when in fact he was also probably a U.S. government informant.  Did Obama know about this?  Congress and the media need to get on the ball.”

One last tidbit from the FBI files on al-Awlaki:

The supposedly devout Muslim imam was a frequent patronizer of prostitutes. In fact, in 1997 in San Diego, al-Awlaki was booked for soliciting prostitution. Here’s his mugshot:

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Al-Alwaki mug shot(photo: San Diego PD, via KPBS)

~Eowyn

Dr. Eowyn is the Editor of Fellowship of the Minds and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.