The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have filed a law suit against the US government for putting Anwar Al-Awlaki on a CIA “kill or capture” list. They say people in the US government are not allowed to kill US citizens who are far from any fighting without trial. But officials in the US government say they are allowed, and have tried to shut the law suit down by using ‘state secrets’.
From 1998-1999 Anwar Al-Awlaki was the vice president of a small charity. It was called the Charitable Society for Social Welfare. It was the US branch of a Yemeni charity founded byAbdul Majeed al-Zindani.
Federal prosecutors in a New York terrorism-funding case later decided to describe the charity as, “A front organization” that was, “used to support al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.”
Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhazmi are said to have been among those that captured aeroplanes on September 11th 2001. They prayed in a lot of mosques, one of these was Al-Awlaki’s in San Diego. These two were also seen in some conferences including Anwar Al-Awlaki’s. Alhazmi also prayed in Anwar’s new mosque in Virginia. 9/11 investigators later called Anwar, Alhazmi’s, “Spiritual adviser.” But they could not show they ever met in person.
In June 1999 the FBI investigated Al-Awlaki. There had been suggestions that he may have had contact with an individual named Ziyad Khaleel. It is said that Khaleel bought a satellite phone which was later used by Bin Laden in the 1990s. Khaleel is said to be the U.S. fundraiser for the Islamic American Relief Agency. It is a charity the U.S. Treasury has said funded bin Laden. It had listed Al-Awlaki's charity as its Yemeni partner.
Holy Land Foundation
From 1999-2000 FBI agents took a looked at Al-Awlaki again. During their investigation they say they found out that Al-Awlaki knew people from the Holy Land Foundation. These people are said to have collected money for Palestinians. But the FBI did not find anything and so they did not arrest Al-Awlaki.
In early 2000 Nawaf Al-Hamzi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar prayed at a San Diego mosque. They had just come from a holiday in Malaysia.
In February 2000 it is said that there were four phone calls between numbers used by Awlaki and Omar al-Bayoumi. al-Bayoumi is said to be a Saudi who helped Nawaf Al-Hamzi and Khalid Al-Mihdhar find accommodation in San Diego. The 9/11 Commission says it is not clear that al-Bayoumi’s phone was only used by him. Al-Awlaki publically said he did not know these men. But he was still accused by FBI ‘witnesses’ who said he had come across al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in San Diego.
In March 2000 the FBI closed its investigation. They said,
“The imam …does not meet the criterion for investigation.”
In January 2001 Al-Awlaki moved to Virginia and was employed at Dar al-Hijrah. Dar al-Hijrah pulls a regular crowd of about 3,000 people to Friday prayers. It is one of the largest mosques in the USA. He also enrolled in a PHD program at George Washington University.
Nidal Hasan and Ramzi Binalshibh
In 2001 Nidal Malik Hasan prayed in the Dar al-Hijrah mosque.
In April 2001 it is believed that Hazmi left San Diego for Virginia with Hani Hanjour. They were helped to find accommodation by a Jordanian man they met in Virginia named Eyad al-Rababah.
The phone number of one of the largest mosques in the USA, Dar al-Hijrah, was found in a Hamburg apartment said to have been rented by Ramzi Binalshibh.
But it is clear that Al-Awlaki had no connection with any of these people. Agents from the FBI said that to the 9/11 Commission and Congress, that there was no reason to detain Al-Awlaki.
Before the 11th September 2001 Al-Awlaki came back to San Diego for a very short time. He is said to have carried the boxes he was transporting in a rental car by himself, which he drove 37 miles. He also missed out on giving a local address to the rental agent.
On the 11th September 2001, attacks were carried out in New York. Anwar Al-Awlaki said they were wrong and should not have been done.
17th September 2001 on IslamOnline, Al-Awlaki wrote that he believes the Israelis were involved in the 9/11 attacks. He also said that FBI agents,
“Went into the roster of the airplanes and whoever has a Muslim or Arab name became the hijacker by default.”
Officials from the FBI interviewed Al-Awlaki four times in the days after the attacks. They were happy that Al-Awlaki's contacts with the hijackers and other people they were interested in was only by chance. They explained it as due to the small world of Islam in America.
But Raymond Fournier, a State Department investigator, would not let it go. He found a way to charge Mr. Awlaki with passport fraud. This was because of a system error that said Al-Awlaki said he was Yemeni when he entered the United States in 1990. A warrant was put out but prosecutors in Colorado pulled it back. They said there was no criminal case.
On the 28th September 2001 Al-Awlaki was interviewed by people from the National Geographic. He shared what he thought of the events of September 11th 2001.
In March 2002 raids were conducted on Muslim places and community leaders in Virginia. Al-Awlaki was very upset. He left for Yemen the same month.
In spring 2002 Al-Awlaki is said to have posted some writings in Arabic titled “Why Muslims Love a Good End to Life” on the Islam Today Web site. And also discussed Palestinian martyrdom operations.
In October 2002 a federal judge in Denver signed an arrest warrant for Al-Awlaki. But on the 9th October 2002 the arrest warrant was pulled back.
10th October 2002 Al-Awlaki came back to America. He stepped off a Saudi Airlines flight from Riyadh to New York. Because he was on an earlier version of the federal terrorism watch list, airport security made a mistake and stopped him for questioning. Immigration documents show that Al-Awlaki was stopped by immigration agents before 06:15. FBI agents were called and told Al-Awlaki had been stopped. At 07:40 customs agents came to know that the arrest warrant had been “pulled back.” At 09:00, after more phone calls, it was confirmed that the warrant did not apply anymore. And by 09:20 Al-Awlaki and his family had been released, “With thanks for their patience.” A representative of Saudi Airlines escorted them away, “To continue with their flight to Wash, D.C.”
In late 2002 Al-Awlaki is said to have visited the home of Ali al-Tamimi in Fairfax, Virginia. Al-Tamimi is an inspirational speaker and religious man. They talked about the problems of people going to fight in wars.
Just before the end of 2002 Al-Awlaki left the US for the UK. In June 2003 Al-Awlaki gave a lecture at the Muslim Association of Britain’s meeting in London. He also attended the December 2003 Islamic Forum of Europe lecture ‘Stop Police Terror.’
On the 18th December 2003 in the Commons, Louise Ellman a member of the British parliament called the Muslim Association of Britain a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. She also said that Al-Awlaki is wanted for questioning by FBI agents in connection with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“In June 2003, the Muslim Association of Britain organised a series of meetings with an American imam, Anwar Al Awlaki, as guest speaker. That gentleman is reportedly wanted for questioning by the FBI in connection with the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.”
In 2004 Al-Awlaki returned to Yemen for good. He took classes and lectured at Iman University in Sana’a, which was headed by Abdul Majeed al-Zindani. Al-Zindani is an important religious person. His name is also on a list US officials have of ‘global terrorist suspects.’
In August 2006 Al-Awlaki was grabbed by Yemeni security. He was held and tortured for more than a year as part of a ‘secret investigation.’ Yemeni officials said they arrested Al-Awlaki with a group of five Yemenis suspected of kidnapping a Shi'ite teenager for money. Al-Awlaki was accused of being the group’s spiritual leader and putting out a religious ruling that said it was okay to kidnap foreigners and rich Yemenis. He was released without trial after a year in prison.
In prison he spent the first 9 months all by himself in a very tight cell. After this he was moved into a larger room. He could do more in this room but he was still all by himself. It is only in the last month and a half of being locked up that he got a cell mate to talk to.
On the 17th October 2006 Yemeni secret police raided eight foreigners living in Sana’a. Agents from the CIA and British Ministry of Intelligence claimed they had been watching them. Twelve others were also arrested by the police across Yemen. Yemeni officials tried to say they had ruined an al-Qa’ida cell and stopped guns being taken secretly to neighbouring Somalia. But they did not shown the evidence for what they were saying. The key to the raid may have been an ‘Abu Atiq.’ People think this is Al-Awlaki. He had been arrested some six weeks earlier. In September 2007 FBI investigators talked to Al-Awlaki about the September 11 attacks.
12 December 2007 Al-Awlaki was not charged with a crime. He was released.
On the 31st December 2007 Al-Awlaki gave an interview with Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee and now campaigner. Al-Awlaki said he was first held because he was helping sort out a local tribal problem. He was arrested because the government wanted to solve the problem themselves, but not the way the tribes wanted. But it soon became clear that he was being held because US government officials asked Yemeni security agents to do so.
In February 2008 US counterterrorism officials linked Al-Awlaki to terrorism,
“There is good reason to believe Anwar Aulaqi has been involved in very serious terrorist activities since leaving the United States, including plotting attacks against America and our allies.”
The official who said this did not want his name known. He had spoken to The Post. At the same time Al-Awlaki moved to Shabwa province.
In December 2008 it is said that Al-Awlaki wrote a letter calling for fighters and money for al-Shabaab. The letter is available on the internet. But how and where it comes from are not said.
17 December 2008 Nidal Hasan is said to have first contacted Al-Awlaki by email. At the beginning Al-Awlaki did not reply. But after Hasan sent two or three more emails Al-Awlaki began to write to him.
Hasan wanted some information on Islam. From the emails it is said he did not like what soldiers from the USA were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is said he found answers in Islam that showed what they were doing was wrong. They kept chatting until the middle of 2009.
On the 1st January 2009 Al-Awlaki gave a speech by video link to worshippers in East London Mosque.
March 2009 a blast killed two Yemeni guides and South Korean tourists in Yemen. The explosions may have been because of mines in the area.
In August 2009 Al-Awlaki was banned from giving a speech for a British money raising event by video link at Kensington town hall.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
On the 4th of August 2009 Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attended the Sana’a Institute for the Arabic Language.
August 2009 Abdullah al-Asiri, 23, tried to kill Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayif. Nayif was the head of counter-terrorism in Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the martyrdom operation.
On the 21st September 2009 Abdulmutallab is said to have left the Sana’a Institute.
In Autumn 2009 officials from the National Security Agency (NSA) said they caught “voice-to-voice communication” between Abdulmutallab and Awlaki. They say that what they heard showed Al-Awlaki, “Was in some way involved in facilitating this guy’s transportation or trip through Yemen.” But they could not say what help was given. The NSA agent kept their name hidden.
In October 2009 Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is thought to have travelled to Shabwa around this time. Investigators think Shabwa was where Abdulmutallab was trained and geared up. It is said that Abdulmutallab had blast chemicals sewn into his underwear.
A top Yemeni government official guesses Abdulmutallab met with suspected al-Qaeda agents in a house that had been used by Al-Awlaki. U.S. officials said it was possible that Al-Awlaki and Abdulmutallab did not meet in person but think they had at least talked on the phone.
On the 5 November 2009 the “Fort Hood Shooting” happened. Nidal Hasan is said to have killed thirteen and wounded twenty-eight soldiers preparing to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.
On the 7th November 2009 Al-Awlaki is said to have posted on his website thanks for Hasan, a hero.
Kill or Capture
On the 17th December 2009 an air strike in Yemen hit what was said to be an Al-Qaeda training camp in Abyan province. Officials in the Yemeni government said they did it. But the Yemeni newspapers said the US was responsible for the bombings. A Navy ship in the sea had fired the weapon in the attack. A cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs was used, said Amnesty International.
On the 23 December 2009 Al Jazeera showed an interview with Al-Awlaki talking about Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood shooting.
24 December 2009 another cruise missile in Yemen hit the far off valley of Rafadh. It was said to have destroyed Anwar al-Awlaki’s house. The Yemeni authorities said the strike killed lots of Al-Qaeda agents including the leader of the Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen Nasser al-Wuhayshi. They also said they killed his Saudi deputy Said Ali al-Shihri. But officials later came back saying that none of them had been hit. A local witness said the missile killed five low-level Al-Qaeda people. The attack also hit a farm belonging to Fahd al-Qusaa, not al-Awlaki’s house. Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Mr al-Alimi said that Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Wahishi and al-Shihri left the place hours earlier in two vehicles. On the 27 December 2009 a close relative of Anwar Al-Awlaki told the Yemeni Observer that Anwar Al-Awlaki’s house was not demolished in the air strike as it is at least 50km from the bomb area. They spoke without revealing their name in a phone interview.
25th December 2009 Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is said to have tried to blow up a transatlantic airliner carrying 290 passengers and crew minutes before it was going to land in the US. Intelligence officials say Al-Awlaki was part of it. AQAP said they did it.
In Autumn 2009 a US intelligence person says that Anwar Al-Awlaki did not say Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s mission was wrong. In an interview with Al Jazeera Arabic in 2010, Al-Awlaki said that Umar Farouk was one of his students. Al-Awlaki also said he did not give the go-ahead allowing Abdulmutallab to carry out his operation.
26 December 2009 Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is charged with trying to destroy an American plane. His trial is scheduled for Autumn 2011.
14 January 2010 Ali Mohamed Al Anisi said talks were going on with people from Al-Awlaki’s tribe. They wanted to convince Anwar to turn himself in. Al Anisi was the director of Yemen’s National Security Agency and a senior presidential adviser.
In January 2010 it was reported that Al-Awlaki had been added to a list of US citizens for killing or capture by the Joint Special Operations Command. The person who said this was a military official afraid to reveal his identity.
3rd January 2010 the ACLU files a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit asking people in the US government to give them basic information about how they are using drones to kill people.
In early 2010 Al-Awlaki is said to be in hiding in the far off mountains of Yemen under the protection of his tribe as he tries to hide from the manhunt. But he himself says in a video interview,
“But it is not true that I am a fugitive, I move around among my tribesmen and in other parts of Yemen: because the people of Yemen hate the Americans and support the people of truth and the oppressed. I move around among the Awlaki tribe, and I get support from wide sectors of the people of Yemen.”
03 February 2010 in a speech in front of the House Intelligence Committee, Dennis Blair told Congress that American citizens can be killed by agents from the US government outside the USA. Blair was the National Intelligence Director. He said that Americans would not be killed overseas for not agreeing with the US government. He also promised that there were a set of rules ready so that such killings are always carried out by the book.
6 April 2010 people in the Obama government said they have given permission for the killing of American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki. Intelligence and counterterrorism officials think Al-Awlaki has changed from asking people to attack the United States to doing it himself.
26 April 2010 someone tried to kill the UK’s ambassador to Yemen in Sana’a. AQAP say one of their people tried to do it.
1 May 2010 someone tried to blow up people in Times Square, USA. On Monday Faisal Shahzad is arrested as a suspect in the attempted bombing. It is said he was trying to leave the country. On the 6th May 2010 an intelligence agent close to the Times Square investigation said that accused Times Square Bomber, Faisal Shahzad, had a website link with Anwar Al-Awlaki. Faisal Shahzad was found guilty of an attempted car bomb attack in New York's Times Square. He has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
23rd May 2010 producers from al-Malahim Media Productions made available a 45-minute video of an interview with Anwar Al-Awlaki. Al-Malahim is said to be the official media arm of AQAP. Many people in newspapers, television, on the radio and internet have said that Anwar al-Awlaki called for Jihad against America, praised Major Nidal Hasan and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and said killing US civilians is okay.
16 July 2010 officials at the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control froze Anwar Al-Awlaki’s money. They made it illegal for any attorney to provide “legal services” for him without first asking permission. The ACLU and CCR sued people running the Treasury Department because they did not get permission. The next day they got it.
3rd August 2010 the ACLU and CCR announced that they are asking officials in the Treasury Department to let them offer free legal services to Nasser al-Awlaki. Nasser al-Awlaki wanted to have his son removed from a list of people for killing or capture by agents of the CIA or US military.
3rd August 2010 the former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Professor Philip Aston, said that:
“To comply with its accountability obligations, the United States should disclose when and where it has authorized its forces, including the Central Intelligence Agency, to kill, the criteria for individuals who may be killed, how the U.S. Government ensures killings are legal, and what follow-up there is when civilians are illegally killed. Disclosure of these basic legal determinations is the very essence of accountability, but the United States has so far failed to meet this requirement.”
On the 30th August 2010 civil liberties groups, ACLU and the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), filed a law suit against people in the US government for putting Anwar Al-Awlaki on a CIA “kill or capture” list. They say people in the US cannot just kill US citizens who are living far from any war. The rights groups believing that this breaks both the US Constitution and international law. The groups asked that if people in the government have evidence that a US citizen is involved in terrorist activity, those people should show that evidence to a court and not just kill the person without saying why or give them the chance to answer for themselves.
22nd September 2010 in a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Michael Leiter spoke about what he saw as the terrorist threat to the United States coming from al-Qaeda. Leiter was the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. He explained that Anwar Al-Awlaki knowing the West and Al-Awlaki helping AQAP are making people in the security services of the US worried.
On the 23rd of September 2010 Robert M. Gates signed off the military and state secrets privilege in order to protect information on people in the Department of Defense and US armed forces. This information was coming out because of the Anwar Al-Aulaqi v. Barack H. Obama case. Gates was the Secretary of Defense. On the same day Leon E. Panetta did the same thing. A day later James R. Clapper, said he supported this and that he thinks Anwar Al-Awlaki has become an agent under AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahishi.
Nasir al-Wahishi is said to have been a top al-Qaeda commander and was killed in a US drone attack in northwestern Pakistan on December 28th 2010.
Clapper was the Director of National Intelligence. Clapper claims that Al-Awlaki has been doing more than just speaking since the end of 2009. On the 25th September 2010 some people in the Obama government used the state secrets privilege so that they can stop the lawsuit filed for the father of Anwar Al-Awlaki. They said that it,
“Would require the disclosure of highly sensitive national security information concerning alleged military and intelligence actions overseas.”
On the 8 October 2010 the Governor of Yemen’s Shabwa Province, Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi said,
“So far we have not received any official statement that confirms his affiliation with al-Qaeda.”
Anwar Al-Awlaki is thought to be in the mountains of Shabwa and Marib. He has protection from the large and powerful Awlaki tribe, and large sections of the Yemeni people.
Anwar Al-Awlaki has been sentenced to ten years in prison without him having a say for ‘inciting’ Hisham Mohammad Assem to kill Jacques Spagnolo. Assem and Anwar’s lawyer say they did not have any contact with Anwar. Assem said he only killed Spagnolo because he insulted him and slapped his face and he is being used to make officials in the US government happy.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)