Radical and Influential Cleric May Be More Radical and Influential Than Originally Thought
In yet another shocking development in the Christmas Day bombing incident, a number of national-security officials (who wish to remain unidentified when discussing sensitive information) have confirmed the rumors that everyone in Washington was wondering about; the man responsible for the attack’s inspiration- an Islamic preacher named Anwar al-Awlaki- may have been in contact with tens of thousands of foreigners over the past year.
Investigators and interviews from Newsweek have indicated that at least 10,000 email accounts from across the world are registered to the fiery Islamic Imam, now based in Yemen. In what could easily be labeled as the most devastating oversight in the U.S. intelligence community since the WMD fiasco in Iraq, President Barack Obama is now forced with the difficult task of easing the concerns of the America people.
In normal circumstances, I would imagine that security holes in the system are plugged relatively quickly. In fact, I still have faith in our intelligence service. Officials within the CIA will undoubtedly throw every resource at its disposal to cool off the political heat wave that is scorching Washington as we speak.
But even so, the fact that so many bits and pieces of intelligence were not connected in a thorough way is discomforting to many Americans both at home and abroad.
Anwar al-Awlaki is not exactly a mysterious figure in the security database; the man has been known to advocate violent jihad against western targets in his sermons, prayers, and discussions. Awlaki is believed to be behind the Fort Hood Massacre that killed thirteen people last December, and now U.S. authorities are investigating whether Awlaki had contact with the “underpants bomber” when he was in Yemen.
When living in the United States, Awlaki was even in touch with two or three of the 9/11.
I only have one question regarding this case; if the danger of Anwar al-Awlaki was so profound to U.S. intelligence officials in the past, why on earth did the CIA, NCTC, and the FBI hesitate to label this man as a direct threat to national security? This question is even more prudent given the relationship that Al-Awlaki had with some of Al’Qaeda members before the September 11 attacks. While I am certainly not an expert on the collection of intel, it is not unreasonable to assume that the U.S. Government would place an extra surveillance on this same individual.
Intelligence agents claim that the email exchanges between the Fort Hood shooter and al-Awlaki were too general to warrant additional investigation. How can this be, given the fact that this same individual inspired three Al’Qaeda operatives to conduct an unprecedented attack on the American homeland? I do not know about you, but if I discovered that a “suspect” was somehow associated with the most devastating terrorist attack in American history, I would be quick to monitor this individual with full force; regardless of how many contacts he has had over the past decade.
The notion that al-Awlaki could have been in contact with approximately 10,000 foreigners should only increase the CIA and FBI’s attention on this man. Sure, it is difficult to monitor all of al-Awlaki’s contacts, but if a man holds a reputation for preaching and working with militant Islamic fundamentalists, it should be a natural inclination for American officers to deepen their investigation.
-Daniel R. DePetris