AmericanJihadist.com updates will now appear a new address. All old and new stories will be available as part of http://news.intelwire.com/, with American jihadist specific content at http://news.intelwire.com/search/label/American-Jihadists. The old pages will be maintained, but will be mirrored at the new site. All menus should now point to the new site, but links inside story pages and throughout the site will be gradually converted. RSS feed for all INTELWIRE sites will now be consolidated at http://news.intelwire.com/atom.xml. If you can't find a story you read before, try Google site search from here. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
CIA May Set Its Drone Sights on Anwar Awlaki
Interesting -- and significant -- story in the Washington Post today. Radical imam Anwar Alwaki -- an American citizen -- may soon be added to the CIA's drone target list.
Much ado has been made about the fact that this would be the first time an American has been targeted -- although as I have noted elsewhere, it would not be the first time an American Jihadist was killed in a drone attack. In 2002, a U.S. drone strike in Yemen (as it happens) killed Kamal Derwish, a Buffalo native connected to the Lackawanna Six.
It was reported earlier that the U.S. may have missed an opportunity to kill Awlaki due to wrangling over the legalities that his citizenship may or may not complicate. The questions include:
What standard of evidence gets you on the kill list?
Who reviews that decision?
Do you (as a citizen) have any recourse to get off of the list?
These are not idle questions. In at least one case, U.S.-aligned forces killed an Al Qaeda suspect whose terrorist credentials were (at the least) questionable. That person wasn't a U.S. citizen, but it's still a troubling precedent. What if Eliot Ness has simply whacked Al Capone?
The kill list is -- currently -- about two dozen names long. Most of them are active in command and control of terrorist attacks. While there are strong reasons to suspect Awlaki falls into that category, extremely significant unanswered questions remain -- not only about his role in the Detroit Christmas bomb attempt and the Nidal Hasan massacre, but about his connection to September 11.
Realistically, the only way most of those questions are ever going to be answered in the public sphere is if Awlaki is captured and returned to the U.S. for a trial. As I have mentioned before, trials are the public's most important window into Al Qaeda and how terrorism works. And there is no case we need to understand more than 9/11.
It looks like there will changes in procedures and discipline for those who failed to spot problems that could have prevented the murder spree of Nidal Hasan, the Army major who shot and killed 13 people in November. The missed warning signs included Hasan's obsession with U.S. wars as "wars against Islam" and his contacts with radical Al Qaeda-linked cleric Anwar Awlaki.
Contrast that to the handling of Ali Mohamed, Al Qaeda's last big conquest within the military. Mohamed infiltrated the U.S. military on orders from Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader Ayman Al Zawahiri. Some of his commanding officers sent up alarm bells about Mohamed's radical leanings (including statements made on the video below which was distributed by the military to educate soldiers about the Middle East).
No one was disciplined and nothing was changed after Mohamed's spying on behalf of Al Qaeda was exposed, a failure that spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations. The Pentagon even stonewalled requests by the CIA for information about foreign nationals serving in the armed forces after Mohamed's duplicity was finally exposed in 1998.
Accountability is an important tool in dealing with terrorism, because accountability leads to adaptability, which is our enemy's greatest strength. It's a lesson that could be applied even more broadly in the U.S. government, but a good start is a good start.
An interesting report out this week on American Jihadists. It summarizes a lot of key points to keep in mind on this subject, but it's focused mainly on post-9/11 terrorism cases.
About a third of the cases covered involved converts to Islam. In my own reporting, I've found that converts are an extremely important part of the jihadi mix -- especially when it comes to Americans.
About half of the cases they studied were Arabs, the rest were a mix of ethnicities. The cases I have documented in the book will probably end up skewing slightly higher toward non-Arab ethnicities.
About half the cases covered involved U.S. citizens. I expect to skew slightly higher on that front as well, although it's going to be in the same neighborhood.
There a few important elements I will be covering in the book which are not present in the study. First off, Americans have been taking part in jihad ever since the modern age of terrorism began in 1979. I'll be looking at several of those cases in the book, including some interviews with pre-9/11 jihadists. I am also examining Canadians in the book, because the cultural and logistical markers are fairly similar.
The second point is that not everyone who takes part in jihad also becomes involved in terrorism. I'm working to integrate some of those cases into the book as well.
Finally, I want to note there are plenty of cases which haven't made a big splash in the news media. I'll be looking at some of those as well.
Awlaki said he met Nidal Hasan nine years ago, at the Dar Al-Hijra mosque in Washington, D.C. Hasan began emailing Awlaki again on Dec. 17, 2008, almost a year before Hasan shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood.
The pressing question for American counterterrorism officials has been: Should those messages have alerted U.S. intelligence that Hasan was a threat? Awlaki's answer to the question of the message content certainly suggests the answer was "Hell, yes."
He was asking whether killing American officers and soldiers is legitimate or not. [...] I am surprised where were the U.S. security agencies, which claimed one day that they are able to read cars and vehicles plate's numbers from up in space, anywhere in the world. His messages were asking about the Islamic rule of killing a Muslim soldier, who served in the U.S. Army.
And in other letters he explained his view of killing Israeli civilians and was in favor of this, he mentioned the legal and factual justifications for targeting Jews with rockets. Later, there were some of his letters that asked for a way he can transfer some funds to us, to contribute on charity works.
More broadly, Awlaki said:
An American-Muslim's loyalty is to the Muslim nation, not for America. Hasan has proved that, through his blessed operation; may God richly reward him.