Last week, death of American Jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki spread across the globe. Numerous American leaders, to include President Obama, immediately jumped on airwaves spreading this news. As I mentioned on at least fifteen Fox Affiliate radio stations last Friday, “let’s not jump the gun about Awlaki’s death.”
Today, the Yemen Post announced that Al Qaeda is claiming allegations of Awlaki’s death were false and he is in fact “still very alive.”
American born and raised Anwar al-Awlaki seems to be more like a cat than a human. Does he have nine lives? So far, we know he had at least three lives considering he was presumably killed on at least two separate occasions. If the most recent CIA led targeted killing proves unsuccessful, al-Awlaki will be half way to living the nine lives of a cat.
The propaganda mastermind for Al Qaeda may still be alive today. If this is the case, then the likeliness of two of his companions who accompanied him are also alive–chief bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri and chief editor for AQ’s Inspire magazine Samir Khan.
If these three Al Qaeda operatives truly escaped death, this news serves a few key points.
Is the United States Intelligence Community negligent in their verification on targeted killings? A grave amount of former CIA officers have repetitively stated flaws within today’s covert and clandestine operations. Many have decried policy maker’s foolish destruction of American Human Intelligence (HUMINT). We depend too heavily on host nation insight yet if we actually had boots on the ground to verify offensive operations, confusion pertaining high value targets deaths would be marginalized.
Leaks of sensitive information jeopardize U.S. credibility. When operations go as planned, Americans embrace those involved–when they go astray, those very citizens will be the first to criticize everyone involved. Leaking sensitive information simply to be the first to “break news” can and is often counterproductive. Sadly, we have way too much trust within our sources of information neglecting the golden rule of information dissemination–“trust but verify.”
News of last week’s targeted killings consumed virtually every American household. Many persons trusted those politicians, intelligence, and defense experts broadcasting the deaths of at least two American Al Qaeda terrorists. It’s incredible knowing how many Americans still trust our government–it’s disheartening seeing how few are capable of awaiting verification.
Kerry Patton is the Co-Founder of the National Security Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organization pending 501c (3) status. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of “Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies” and the children’s book “American Patriotism.” You can follow him on Facebook.