“Approach with caution.” That’s the instruction the FBI gave to agents who spotted Anwar al-Aulaqi on September 4, 2002, according to new records obtained by Judicial Watch. And yet, the very next day, al-Aulaqi, identified by the FBI as a “terrorist organization member,” was an invited guest speaker and luncheon guest at the Pentagon.
Shocking? You bet. But that’s not all our investigators learned.
The documents, obtained via the FBI per a JW FOIA lawsuit, also reveal that the FBI proposed prosecuting al-Aulaqi in 2002 on charges stemming from the Imam’s spending a total of $2,320 for seven documented encounters with high-priced Washington, D.C., prostitutes.
Nearly a decade after the FBI’s inter-agency red flag, in September 2011, Barack Obama ordered the assassination of the al-Qaeda leader in a CIA-led U.S. drone attack.
Here are the specific revelations contained in the newly released documents:
- The FBI had already identified al-Aulaqi as a dangerous terrorist when he was invited to speak at a Pentagon luncheon.
The documents obtained from the FBI include a computer database record showing that an FBI employee searched for al-Aulaqi’s criminal history on February 4, 2002, – the day before al-Aulaqi spoke as an invited guest at a Pentagon luncheon – retrieved information identifying al-Aulaqi as a “terrorist organization member” and containing the following alert: “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.” [Emphasis added.]
- Al-Aulaqi spent thousands of dollars patronizing prostitutes on several occasions in 2001 and 2002, and the FBI proposed prosecuting him on charges related to that activity, but failed to do so.
The FBI records include a June 4, 2002, memorandum from Assistant FBI Director Pasquale D’Amuro to Office of Intelligence Policy and Review Counsel James A. Baker documenting al-Aulaqi’s use of prostitutes in the Washington, DC area on at least seven occasions between November 5, 2001 and February 4, 2002 (the day before his speech at the Pentagon). The detailed memorandum seeks Bureau approval for the prosecution of al-Aulaqi for prostitution-related charges and notes that al-Aulaqi spent a total of $2,320 for the encounters. [Emphasis added.] In addition, FBI surveillance reports indicate that al-Aulaqi sought and/or engaged the services of a prostitute on at least four more occasions in January 2002.
- Al-Aulaqi’s doctoral education was financed by the World Bank and supported by the Government of Yemen.
The documents include a July 12, 2000 letter from the Center for International Programs at New Mexico State University (where al-Aulaqi received his Master’s degree) confirming that he was “sponsored for a Ph.D. degree under the auspices of a World Bank Community College Project in Yemen. This project will pay for Mr. al-Aulaqi’s tuition and fees, books, health insurance, and living costs while he is pursuing a Ph.D. degree program.”
- The FBI was investigating al-Aulaqi’s links to terrorism as early as 1999.
The records include a previously Secret memorandum dated June 15, 1999 from the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Diego office to the FBI Director requesting that the Bureau open a counterterrorism investigation into al-Aulaqi. As part of this investigation, agents conducted surveillance of his home and at the al-Ribat mosque in San Diego where he served as Imam more than two years before the 9/11 attacks.
- FBI records include Special Surveillance Group operator notes of close physical surveillance of Aulaqi from November 6, 2001, to January 2002 – including: following al-Aulaqi to class at George Washington University; at a November 11, 2001, meeting of the Islamic Society of Baltimore; and during a November 15, 2001, radio appearance on National Public Radio.
Catherine Herridge of Fox News, who has done excellent work on this story, highlighted this additional revelation from the Judicial Watch documents:
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller was more deeply involved in the post-9/11 handling of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — the first American targeted for death by the CIA — 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.”
And then there are al-Aulaqi’s connections to 9/11, also documented inside the FBI at the time of the Pentagon luncheon.
According to FOIA documents previously obtained by JW from the FBI, the agency 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 1,600 pages of responsive records, many of which were previously classified. The documents pertain to the FBI’s investigation of al-Aulaqi’s role as “spiritual advisor” to two of the 9/11 hijackers, his suspected involvement with terrorism as early as 1999, his banking activities, his frequent patronizing of prostitutes, and the State Department’s revocation of his passport approximately six months before his death.
To say the FBI’s schizophrenic approach to al-Aulaqi raises questions is an understatement. From “terrorist organization member” and patronizer of prostitutes to dining at the Pentagon? From 9/11 “spiritual advisor” and “approach with caution” to release from custody?
The preferential treatment accorded Anwar al-Aulaqi, at a minimum, suggests a unique relationship between the terrorist leader and our own government. One can fairly conclude that the al Qaeda mastermind had some type of “protected status” with our government – despite his terrorist and criminal activities.
Perhaps we should not be so surprised, given the FBI’s complete immersion into political correctness. Remember, this is the same agency that purged its training curricula of material deemed “offensive” to Muslims.
But this goes way beyond political correctness.
We knew within days after the attacks on the World Trade Centers that al-Aulaqi was a dangerous character, so why did it take the government ten years to bring him to justice?
Let’s sum up. FBI documents show that al-Aulaqi was tied to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The FBI listed him as a member of a terrorist organization. The FBI had al-Aulaqi “dead to rights” on federal sex trafficking charges. The FBI refused to enforce an arrest warrant against him for passport fraud. Despite all of this, al-Aulaqi was never detained or prosecuted. He went on to a leadership role in al Qaeda and other terrorist activities that lead to the deaths of Americans.
And this of all places his subsequent assassination by President Obama in a different light. Did we have to kill a double agent or someone who had been an intelligence asset of the United States government?
We intend to continue searching for answers.
As I told Fox News, “It’s about time this administration (and the government generally) comes clean about its relationship with al-Aulaqi. It’s screaming for further clarification.”