Declassified Docs Reveal FBI Identifying Anwar al-Aulaqi as a Terrorist Day before He Spoke at Pentagon Luncheon
Database records on al-Aulaqi include FBI alert: “Warning – approach with caution … Do not alert the individual to the FBI’s interest and contact your local FBI field office at earliest opportunity.”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealing that the agency had warned agents who spotted U.S.-born al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Aulaqi to “approach with caution” the day before he spoke as an invited guest at a Pentagon luncheon. The documents also reveal that the FBI proposed prosecuting al-Aulaqi in 2001 and 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.
The documents were obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI and the Department of State seeking records related to the al-Qaeda leader killed in a CIA-led U.S. drone attack.
Specific revelations contained in the newly released documents include the following:
- 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 searching 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.
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 7 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 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.
According to FOIA documents previously obtained from the FBI by Judicial Watch, the FBI 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.
“The preferential treatment accorded Anwar al-Aulaqi raises serious questions about the 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,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We knew from 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? We intend to continue searching for the answers to this burgeoning scandal.”