Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Anwar al-Awlaki, man of mystery

A short while ago, I said that I was confident that Anwar al-Awlaki was an evil bastard. While I remain confident that the sentiments he has expressed are evil, everything else about the man now seems mysterious.

Is he dead?
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the notorious crotch-bomber (and subject of several previous posts) has claimed that Anwar is still alive. It's unclear whether he spoke metaphorically.

Still, it's fair to ask if we have proof of his death beyond the word of the U.S. government. According to the Guardian, the drone attack left physical remains:
A senior tribal chief who helped bury the bodies in a cemetery in Jawf told the Associated Press that seven people were killed in the strike, their bodies completely charred. The chief said the brother of one of the dead, who had given the group shelter in his home, had witnessed the strike.

According to the chief, the witness said Awlaki was travelling in a pick-up with six other people on their way to neighbouring Marib province. They stopped for breakfast in the desert and were sitting on the ground to eat when they spotted drones, so they rushed to their truck. A Hellfire missile fired from a drone struck the truck, leaving it a charred husk and killing all of those inside. The chief spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be connected to the group, and he did not identify the witness.
Why would they rush to the truck? Seems to me that the wisest course of action would have been to spread out in seven different directions.

Frankly, this story doesn't add up. Why didn't they eat breakfast in the home of the brother? Why did these men get in the truck, travel a very short distance, then get out and eat? They cannot have traveled far, because they were observed by the brother.

This eyewitness account seems more than a little odd. At any rate, since the remains were unidentifiable and the witness is also unidentified, we really don't have proof that al-Awlaki was killed.

For whom did he work? This far-right site notes oft-heard reports that al-Awlaki was recruited by the CIA. A ludicrous claim? Maybe. Maybe not.

After the announcement of al-Awlaki's death, quite a few people pointed to this bizarre story which appeared in the U.K.'s Daily Mail a year ago. The headline: "Dining with the enemy: Al Qaeda leader linked to 9/11 hijackers 'was invited to the Pentagon for lunch after attacks.'"
New documents have been obtained which apparently detail how Anwar Al-Awlaki, the first American on the CIA's kill or capture list, rubbed shoulders with high-ranking military personnel just months after the atrocities.

Fox News claim to have acquired documents that state that Awlaki was taken to the U.S. Department of Defense's headquarters as part of the military's outreach program to the Muslim community in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
American-born Awlaki, of Yemeni descent, 'was considered to be an up and coming member of the Islamic community'.

'After her vetting, Aulaqi (Awlaki) was invited to and attended a luncheon at the Pentagon in the secretary of the Army's Office of Government Counsel'.

Awlaki was apparently interviewed at least four times by the FBI in the week after the September 11 attacks because of his links to the three hijackers.

Nawaf al-Hazmi,Khalid al-Mihdhar and Hani Hanjour were all aboard Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon.
Al-Awlaki was a former chaplain at George Washington University -- which just happens to have longstanding ties to the CIA. (Example.) Could American intelligence have recruited him at the time, or earlier?

Facebook. Al-Awlaki communicated with jihadis via Facebook, which I consider pretty damned suspicious behavior. How likely is it that an alleged Islamic holy warrior would use Facebook, an internet service which is notorious for compromising the privacy of users? A service funded by the CIA and owned by a Jew? A service which requires users to divulge their cell-phone numbers in order to gain an account, even though modern cell phones have GPS tracking devices baked in?

Arguably, al-Awlaki's Facebook account provided Uncle with an easy way to track the names, addresses and physical locations of any young dimwit who might be attracted to jihadist rhetoric.

Let's get back to the crotch bomber.
After the incident, Al-Awlaki spoke at length about the putative bomber:
"Umar Farouk is one of my students; I had communications with him. And I support what he did."
This is jihadi boilerplate, and not very informative. Why didn't he address any of the many mysteries surrounding the crotch bomber case? See, for example, here and here and here.

In particular, I'd like to know who videotaped the flight. I'd also like to know how Farouk got aboard the flight in Amsterdam without a passport. Originally, we were told that a well-dressed accomplice helped him board as a "refugee;" strangely, both the accomplice and the "refugee" story soon disappeared from official accounts.

The Timeline. This site offers a rather thorough overview of al-Awlaki's life. History Commons also provides valuable details. Let's look at some noteworthy entries:
June 6, 1990: Applies for Social Security card. Claims he was born in Sana’a, Yemen.

June 8, 1990: SSN 521-77-7121 issued to Awlaki.
He was born in New Mexico in 1971, a fact which he might have mentioned to the folks at the Social Security office. His family moved to Yemen in 1978; he came back to the United States on June 5, 1990.

In 1991, he started attending at a university in Colorado, and was graduated in 1994 with a degree in civil engineering. However, he spent much of that time period popping in and out of the country.
1993: Awlaki visits Afghanistan. “My impression was that he didn’t like it there,” Abdul Belgasem, a fellow student at CSU, tells Time magazine. “He wouldn’t have gone with al-Qaeda. He didn’t like the way they lived.”
Shortly after he got his degree, al-Awlaki began his career as an imam. It seems likely that al-Awlaki was one of the Denver operatives who, in 1994, set up secure communications for Osama Bin Laden using U.S. Army lines. See here.

August 1996: Busted for soliciting a prostitute in San Diego. Pleads guilty to a lesser charge. Enrolls in HIV and AIDS education program and fined $400.

Time uncertain: Arrested by San Diego police “for hanging around a school.”
There was another prostitution bust in 1997.

Starting in 1998, he was the vice president of a charity accused of funding Al Qaeda. This fact makes his visit to the Pentagon all the more remarkable.
January 1999: Enrolls in San Diego State University master’s in educational leadership program. SDSU spokesman says the school does not have records showing Awlaki earned a degree.
Why would he enroll in such a program?
1999-2000: During its investigation, FBI learns that Awlaki knows individuals from the Holy Land Foundation and others involved in raising money for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Sources alleged that Aulaqi had other extremist connections. (9/11 Commission Report)

February 2000: Four calls between Awlaki and Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi who helped Al-Hamzi and Almihdhar find an apartment in San Diego. An FBI agent tells 9/11 Commission staff he is “98 percent sure” that the two hijackers were using al-Bayoumi’s phone at this time.
Early 2000: Visited by a subject of a Los Angeles FBI investigation closely associated with Blind Sheikh [Omar Abdel] Rahman. (Congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11)

Early 2000: Several sources tell FBI that Alwaki “had closed-door meetings in San Diego” with Alhazmi, al-Midhar and another unidentified person “whom al-Bayoumi had asked to help the hijackers.” (Congressional Joint Inquiry)

Feb. 3, 2000: FBI electronic communication, background searches re: Awlaki. (9/11 Commission report)

March 2000: FBI closes its investigation, stating “the imam … does not meet the criterion for [further] investigation.”
One wonders what the guy would have to do to meet their criterion. According to History Commons, al-Awlaki served as the "spiritual guide" to the San Diego-based hijackers.

As most of you know, many mysteries surround those two men, who, if you believe certain reports, even had the ability to be in two places at the same time. They lived in an open, above-ground fashion -- with an FBI informant.

Here's what I wrote them on an earlier occasion:
They clearly had dangerous histories. The FBI knew all about them from taps on the father-in-law's phone. Supposedly, the CIA gave the FBI a data dump on the two, although the documentation may or may not have gotten lost in the mail. They were allowed to fly in and out of the United States, meeting with all sorts of dubious characters, and living on nobody-knows-what source of income. Evidence suggests that they may have been in (and out of) the country since 1996.

They had a listed phone number, accessible to anyone with internet access. They had a California DMV record. They had a U.S. bank account.

And they were shacking up with a freaking FBI informant.

You probably could have found them in about ten minutes, even without FBI authority. They did everything short of sending Christmas cards to the Hoover building. Nevertheless, Bob Fuller of the Bureau couldn't find them.
Back to our timeline. In early 2001, al-Awlaki moved to Virginia (home of the spooks) and began his career at George Washington University, where he pursues a PhD in "Human Resource Development."
April 2001: Al-Hazmi and Hani Hanjour arrive in Falls Church and attend Dar Al-Hijra mosque. Awlaki denies having contact with the men in Virginia.
August 2001: According to NY Times, Awlaki tells neighbor Lincoln Higgie, “I don’t think you’ll be seeing me. I won’t be coming back to San Diego again. Later on you’ll find out why.”
On that same occasion, he said that "something big" was going to happen, and that he had to be out of the country -- in fact, he had plans to go to Kuwait. (Why Kuwait? He had family in Yemen.)
Before Sept. 11, 2001: Awlaki returns briefly to San Diego (9/11 Commission MFR) “Reportedly acted suspiciously by declining help with boxes he was transporting in a rental car (driven only 37 miles) and by refusing to provide any local address to the rental agent.”
September 2001: German authorities find Awlaki’s phone number in the Hamburg home of Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who was a leading figure in the 9/11 plot.
Given his clear connections to the San Diego team members, you would presume that Al-Awlaki would have scooted out of the country -- as he had announced he would do. But no. Naturally, he was interviewed by the FBI after the terror attack. And with unnatural ease, he sailed right through their questioning -- even though he clearly seems to have lied about his relationship with the hijackers, since his story contradicted the evidence of his cell phone records.

(Wasn't Martha Stewart forced to do jail time for lying to investigators about a much less important matter?)

Yet even though they let the guy go more than once, the FBI would later tell foreign governments that they want to question al-Awlaki!

There was another prostitute bust in 2002. Despite which...
Feb. 5, 2002: Awlaki delivers lecture to senior Defense officials at the Pentagon on Islam and Middle Eastern politics and popular culture.
Go here for a DoD memo about that luncheon. Attendees had a choice of seafood, beef or chicken.

His name came up in the abortive Operation Green Quest investigation. He was placed on the terrorist watch list. Shortly after that, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of passport fraud.

In October of 2002, the warrant was rescinded and the criminal case was dropped. He was allowed to fly into the U.S on October 10, 2002. Customs detained him until the FBI told Customs that al-Awlaki was taken off the watch list just the day before.

History Commons draws the following info from a 2004 U.S. News and World Report story:
Al-Awlaki then leaves the US again. The FBI will later admit they were “very interested” in al-Awlaki and yet failed to stop him from leaving the country. One FBI source says, “We don’t know how he got out.”
The pattern is unmistakable: The FBI told everyone that they were "very interested" in the man -- but only when he was out of the country. If they were so desperate to talk to him again, why didn't they pay him a visit when Customs had detained him at the airport?
Dec. 18, 2003: British MP Louise Ellman tells House of Commons calls Muslim Association of Britain is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; says Awlaki “is reportedly wanted for questioning by the FBI in connection with the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.”
Yeah. Funny thing about that, Louise: The FBI did question him twice, both before and after he 9/11 attacks. They let him go, despite clear evidence of his involvement. And they let him fly in and out of the country, even though lots of innocent people (lefties, mostly) were put on the "no fly" list during this same period.

In 2006, he was in Yemen. The authorities there arrested him on kidnapping charges. (Al Qaeda in Yemen was going to kidnap a U.S. official.) The U.S. requested the Yemenis to hold him.

In October of 2006, an Al Qaeda gunrunning ring in Yemen was raided by the authorities. Al-Awlaki was part of this ring, using the name Abu Atiq. This fascinating story in The Australian almost comes right out and admits that "Abu" was an "inside man" working for either Yemeni or western intelligence:
...the key to the raids appears to be a Yemeni known as Abu Atiq, who was arrested about six weeks before the October 17 swoop. Abu Atiq was allegedly an associate of two of the September 11 hijackers and a protege of the virulently anti-Western Salafi cleric and head of Islamic studies at al-Islam, Abdul al-Majid al-Zindani, who the US wants arrested on terror charges. But Atiq's biggest claim to notoriety is his alleged role in a foiled al-Qa'ida plot to bomb oil and gas facilities in Yemen.
The strong implication here is that Al-Awlaki was scooped up on kidnapping charges, cooperated with the authorities, and blew the whistle on the gunrunners. The Australian notes that those who run afoul of Yemeni authorities usually are tossed into rough detention at the Central Security Prison in Sanaa, where torture is often used on suspects.

Al-Awlaki was confined for 18 months, kept away from the other prisoners. We don't know if he was tortured, but he probably was not -- if he had been, he would have advertised the fact during his propaganda broadcasts.

During his imprisonment, the FBI questioned him about his contacts with the 9/11 hijackers. This, despite the fact that they had already questioned him about that in 2002 and decided that he was unworthy of further attention.

Even though many smaller fish disappear into Yemen's prisons, never to be seen again, al-Awlaki was let go. He then began his career as a jihadist rabble-rouser, media figure and Facebook personality.

By the way: The drone strike represents only his most recent death. In December of 2009, the Yemenis reported that they had killed him in an airstrike.

I don't claim to have a proper "Theory of al-Awlaki." But there is definitely something about this guy that we have not yet been told.


prowlerzee said...

I struggled through this, and bless you for keeping all the names straight (I was particularly confused by one pronoun in your clips box ..."After her vetting..."). But the storyline came through and I particularly appreciated the Martha Stewart reference, thank you!

Keeping the world safe from the evil Martha Stewarts of the world seems like the utmost the bozos in charge can do. Do you mind if I borrow that moral yardstick for a sign for Occupy Boston?

Genie said...

The mystery man looks like Jew anyway.

Bob Harrison said...

I've seen several honest examples of people (whatever) diving into vehicles as choppers, planes, and drones approach. Terror doesn't make for logical thinking.

I wonder through what magic 8- ball (maybe his own) that ye olde crotch bomber gets his unerring intel?

Anonymous said...

Jesus only came back from the dead once.

Woman Voter said...

What is it with 'terror' oppressive men and prostitution? Makes one wonder about 'sexual' issues, anger and OUTBURSTS (OK, 'outbursts' is to simplistic, but the point is they seem to present a danger to self or OTHERS!).

Why would the FBI and CIA leave such a man loose and about? Odd, very odd and up until reading this post I believed he was an American guy who had gone off the road into the cultish parts of religiosity (Many groups like this, have cultish links/behaviors etc).

The crotch and shoe guys both had very low self esteem and had thought they were going to have a better time in the here after...etc...blah, blah...

Are reporters really reporting these days or are they asleep, and why didn't we know about the arrests?

Woman Voter said...

myiq2xu said...
Jesus only came back from the dead once.
Why didn't the media report about his 'drone strike kill' in 2009 by Yemen? Was he already dead, or is he pretending now, was it a play for political moves? Who benefits from such 'Tough Actions'???

Rich said...

Great piece -- just a thought here. A lot of contact points that eventually end up somewhere around Al-Hamzi have a Saudi intelligence aura. Our own intel guys seem to go blind when the Saudis come marching thru. BTW, Anwar def had a party-hardy handle on American culture.

stickler said...

I am reminded of the good advice given out in Vietnam: "Spread out; one can of ham-and-limas will get all of you."

BTW, the Social Security Death Index has no listing for the SSN listed as being Anwar al-Awlaki's.

Anonymous said...

Another brilliant piece of well-sourced, carefully explained conspiracy theorizing, Joseph!

I'm so glad you refused to passively, trustingly, stupidly accept the government's version of this highly suspicious and credulity-straining story.

Your longtime admirer,
Andy Tyme

seymourblogger said...

Martha Stewart was Deterrence, a term used by Baudrillard. We libs tend to catalogue these instances as indications of stupidity, scapegoating, and so on, but what they really are is Deterrence, to throw us off track from what they want to throw us off the track of.

The media does this all the time. It surrounds us with information that obscures the "knowing". The information becomes the event, not the event.

I am sure everything you wrote is true. Your problem is that you are trying to find a logical meaning in this soupy mess. The secret is that there is no logic to it. All this is just a mess of discontinuous events in his actions. There is no linear development or progression that he is moving towards.

We expect the FBI to be logical. They are not. It is like the traffic cop who tickets the parking meter while the house nearby is being robbed or its owner is being murdered. You can't fault them as they are busy working. They are busy doing nothing to obscure the fact that they cannot do intelligence, and they cannot protect us.