Anwar al-Awlaki was an American and Yemeni imam. U.S. government officials said that he was a senior talent recruiter and motivator who was involved in planning terrorist operations for the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda. The Saudi news station Al Arabiya described him as the "bin Laden of the Internet."
Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico in the United States in 1971 to parents from Yemen, while his father was doing graduate work at U.S. universities. His father, Nasser al-Awlaki, was a Fulbright Scholar.
In 1993, while still a college student in Colorado State's civil engineering program, Anwar al-Awlaki visited Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation.
From 1996–2000, al-Awlaki served as imam of the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque at the edge of San Diego, California.
In August 1996 and in April 1997, Al-Awlaki was arrested in San Diego and charged with soliciting prostitutes.
In 1998 and 1999, he served as vice-president for the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW). Years later in 2004, the FBI testified that this group was a "front organization to funnel money to terrorists". Though the FBI investigated Awlaki from June 1999 through March 2000 for possible links to Hamas, the Bin Laden contact Ziyad Khaleel, and a visit by an associate of Omar Abdel Rahman, it did not find sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.
Anwar worked on a doctorate degree in Human Resource Development at George Washington University Graduate School of Education & Human Development from January to December 2001. Some organisation apparently covered his costs.
At some point the FBI learns that al-Awlaki knows individuals from the Holy Land Foundation.
Philip Mudd, formerly of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center and the FBI's top intelligence adviser, called him "a magnetic character … a powerful orator."
A 36-year-old Dane called Morten Storm says he was the man who led the CIA to Anwar al Awlaki, the al Qaeda cleric killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen last year. And he says he did it with a computer thumb-drive that secretly contained a tracking device. Among the evidence he's produced: recorded telephone conversations, passport stamps showing multiple trips to Yemen, correspondence with Awlaki, and a recording of a conversation with an unidentified American - who acknowledges his role in the pursuit of Awlaki. Read more: Anwar al-Awlaki: al Qaeda's rock star no more The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten has published details of his story over the past few days, after reviewing documents and tapes of the conversations Storm provided. The Danish Intelligence Service PET won't confirm or deny Storm's account; CNN has yet to reach American officials for comment. Storm appears to have led a life of many parts -- committed jihadist, family man and outdoor sports enthusiast.
Anwar Al-Awlaki may be the first American on the CIA's kill or capture list, but he was also a lunch guest of military brass at the Pentagon within months of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Fox News has learned.
According to the documents, obtained as part of an ongoing investigation by the specials unit "Fox News Reporting," there was a push within the Defense Department to reach out to the Muslim community. "At that period in time, the secretary of the Army (redacted) was eager to have a presentation from a moderate Muslim." In addition, Awlaki "was considered to be an 'up and coming' member of the Islamic community. After her vetting, Aulaqi was invited to and attended a luncheon at the Pentagon in the secretary of the Army's Office of Government Counsel."
Former Army Secretary Tommy White, who led the Army in 2001, said he doesn't have any recollection of the luncheon or any contact with Awlaki. "If this was a luncheon at the Office of Government Counsel, I would not necessarily be there," he said.
After repeated requests for comment on the vetting process beginning on October 13th, an Army spokesman insisted Wednesday that the lunch was not an Army event. "The Army has found no evidence that the Army either sponsored or participated in the event described in this report," spokesman Thomas Collins said. Collins said he believed the event was sponsored by the office of the Secretary of Defense. A spokeswoman there said she would look into it and get back to Fox News.
A former high-ranking FBI agent told Fox News that at the time Awlaki went to lunch at the Pentagon, there was tremendous "arrogance" about the vetting process at the Pentagon. "They vetted people politically and showed indifference toward security and intelligence advice of others," the former agent said.
2002 Return[edit | edit source]
The FBI, for the the first time, has admitted publicly that it knew the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was returning to the U.S. in October 2002 and that an FBI agent discussed the American's return with a U.S. attorney before he was detained and then abruptly released from federal custody.
“I really want to get to the bottom (of this),” said Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the committee that has oversight of the FBI. Wolf noted Wednesday that the Webster report makes no mention of the 2002 incident and the FBI’s role in the cleric’s release.
Mark Giuliano, the FBI's assistant director for national security, testified Wednesday that the FBI knew in advance that he was making his way back to the United States, though he didn't explain how.
Al-Awlaki was detained at New York City's JFK airport because a customs database flagged him based on an outstanding arrest warrant.
Former FBI agents say there are only likely two explanations: The bureau let the cleric into the country to track him for intelligence, or the bureau wanted to work with him as a friendly contact.
During Wednesday's hearing, Giuliano could not explain a significant time discrepancy. Al-Awlaki was being held in the early-morning hours of Oct. 10, 2002, when FBI agent Wade Ammerman told customs agents that "the warrant had been pulled back." In fact, documents show the warrant was still active at that time and was only vacated later that day.
The FBI has consistently maintained that the arrest warrant was pulled because the case against the cleric was weak, and it has suggested the timing, coming on the same day the cleric re-entered the U.S. at New York City's JFK airport, was coincidental.
A Republican congressman, in a letter obtained exclusively by Fox News, accuses a senior FBI official of making misleading statements or providing incorrect testimony about the Fort Hood massacre and about the bureau’s contact with the American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I am concerned that the bureau’s witness at this recent hearing, Mr. Mark Giuliano, the executive assistant director for national security, made comments to the committee that I believe were misleading or incorrect with regard to the nature of findings in the Webster Commission report and the FBI’s understanding of Anwar (Aulaqi) al-Awlaki,” Rep. Frank Wolf wrote in the letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, dated Wednesday.
During testimony earlier this month before Wolf’s appropriations subcommittee, which has oversight of the FBI, the congressman questioned whether a decision by the FBI to let al-Awlaki walk away from a federal arrest warrant in 2002 was evidence the bureau wanted to work on terrorism cases with the cleric as an informant. Giuliano insisted to the committee that the FBI would have incarcerated the cleric if it had been possible, but the warrant was weak. But Wolf, in his letter, made clear he didn't buy that explanation.
On a bipartisan basis, the committee rejected Giuliano's explanations as not believable, because after the cleric was released from federal custody at JFK on the say-so of Agent Ammerman, the cleric then turned up in Ammerman’s investigation in Virginia of Ali al-Timimi, who was later convicted of inciting terrorism. While Timimi’s case is on appeal, court records show he thought al-Awlaki was wired.
Wolf suggested the FBI agent wanted the cleric in the U.S. to facilitate his case. “While there may have been a reasonable argument for allowing him (the cleric) into the U.S. at the time the decision was made in October 2002, the FBI has, thus far, failed to publicly explain its rationale and its role," Wolf writes in his letter. "More troubling, the documents surrounding the release of Aulaqi do not match the bureau’s public statements on this incident….
"During the hearing, I raised the question of whether the FBI requested that Aulaqi be allowed into the country, without detention for the outstanding warrant, due to a parallel investigation regarding Aulaqi’s former colleague al Timimi, a radical imam who was recruiting American Muslims to terrorism. Notably, the Timimi case was being led by the same WFO agent who called the U.S. attorney’s office and customs on the morning of October 10.
The letter also questions the FBI’s view of al-Awlaki in 2008 and 2009 as a propagandist who had yet to cross the threshold to violence. There is now strong circumstantial evidence, as first reported by Fox News, that the cleric’s contacts with the hijackers were not a series of coincidences but rather evidence of a purposeful relationship.
As one example, the cleric knew a Syrian, Daoud Chehazeh, who facilitated the hijackers in Virginia. Fox News has shown that a series of bureaucratic screw-ups has allowed the Syrian to continue living in New Jersey, where he is fighting deportation.
The FBI had no immediate comment on the letter when contacted by Fox News.
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller was more deeply involved in the post-9/11 handling of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki than previously known, according to newly released documents reviewed exclusively by Fox News.
The documents, released after Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request and then sued the FBI, show a memo from Mueller to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on Oct. 3, 2002. It is marked “Secret” and titled “Anwar Aulaqi: IT-UBL/AL-QAEDA.”
While the substance of the memo is redacted in full, with the FBI citing classified material, the memo is one of at least three FBI reports -- whose primary subject is the cleric -- in the nine days leading up to Awlaki’s sudden return to the U.S. in October 2002.
Commenting on President Obama's decision to authorize the killing United States citizen Anwar Awlaki via a missile fired by an unmanned aerial vehicle Steve Coll wrote:
"Klaidman has reported what would appear to be the first instance in American history of a sitting President speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial."