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Inside the Ring
Question of the Day
Federal investigators chasing e-mail and other communication links between Fort Hood shooting suspect Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki should consult a new book that cites documents on the al Qaeda imam.
“Muslim Mafia,” by investigative reporter Paul Sperry, reports on copies of once-secret U.S. immigration records revealing that U.S.-born Awlaki was detained by authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Oct. 10, 2002, as a terrorist suspect as he tried to re-enter the United States from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was mysteriously released because a warrant for his arrest had been rescinded the day before, according to the book Mr. Sperry co-authored with P. David Gaubatz.
According to one document cited by the authors, Mr. Awlaki, spelled “Aulaqi” in those records, had been on a terrorist watch list and was referred to secondary inspection at the time of his detention.
Click on the links below to view documents on radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki cited in “Muslim Mafia”:
• U.S. immigration records show Aulaqi, the 9/11 imam, was detained about a year after the attacks — on October 10, 2002 — upon reentering the U.S. from Riyadh.
• A restricted federal database reveals that the subject of a federal investigation by a Houston-based terrorism task force “sent money to Aulaqi.” The imam, who listed Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va., as his address, is a “silent hit” in connection with the case, records show.
• The same database reveals Aulaqi also has been the target of a terrorism-financing investigation led by a Customs special agent.
• The restricted database log shows that Aulaqi was released from custody at JFK International Airport after agents there got word from D.C. that an arrest warrant for him “had been pulled back” the day before he arrived.
• Page two of the database log that shows Aulaqi was “escorted to Saudi rep… to continue with flight to Wash. D.C.”
Mr. Sperry told Inside the Ring that Mr. Awlaki’s release in 2002 was “absolutely outrageous and scandalous.”
“Had he been arrested at JFK based on the fraud warrant, the FBI would have had a crack at him while in custody,” Mr. Sperry said. “And their terrorism case against him would have developed. Instead, he was allowed to leave the country and is now safely and freely radicalizing and recruiting terrorists to attack the U.S. — his own country. Awlaki was born here. He’s not just soliciting violent jihad, he’s soliciting treason.”
A second document cited in the book — a printout from a restricted database known as the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, or TECS, from July 12, 2002 — shows that a target of an FBI task force in Houston had sent money to Mr. Awlaki, who at the time listed his address as the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church. According to the book, the case against Mr. Awlaki is still active.
Additionally, another TECS document from Nov. 24, 2002 identified Mr. Awlaki as being the target of a terrorism financing investigation. This document states that he is “former Imam of Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.”
According to one TECS incident log, Mr. Awlaki was released from custody at JFK International Airport in New York after agents consulted with officials in Washington and were told that an arrest warrant for the imam “had been pulled back” or rescinded, on October 9, 2002, the day before he arrived.
As a result, Mr. Awlaki and his family were ordered released and he later left the United States on a Saudi jet.
“Both Congress and the 9/11 Commission have criticized law enforcement for not thoroughly investigating Awlaki’s ties to the 9/11 hijackers and other terrorists,” Mr. Sperry said. “The FBI is now trying to locate Awlaki overseas. The independent 9/11 panel and joint congressional inquiry apparently were not aware of the sensitive incident at JFK.”
Mr. Sperry wrote that Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, is “al-Qaida’s go-to imam for preparing suicide cells in the West, including the 9/11 hijackers, for ‘martyrdom operations.’ ”
Mr. Awlaki is believed to be a key facilitator and adviser, and possibly a field commander, for the 9/11 cell that hit the Pentagon, Mr. Sperry wrote. “In short, he’s an unindicted 9/11 co-conspirator, and he remains at large.”
“The 9/11 Commission concluded Awlaki, who aided and privately counseled the hijackers, was ‘suspicious’ and should be brought in for questioning. The commission was not told, however, that he was taken into custody a year after 9/11 on a warrant but then released after the warrant was mysteriously rescinded. Awlaki was allowed to turn around and leave the country on a Saudi Arabian airline without any further investigation, even though he remained on the terrorist lookout as the subject of multiple investigations involving al Qaida financing,” the book says.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is geopolitics editor and a national security and investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
Mr. Gertz also writes a weekly column ...
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