The Corner

Anwar al-Awlaki: Pizza, Prostitutes, and Public Radio

Judicial Watch once again reminds us of the fun to be had with the Freedom of Information Act. The watchdog organization has obtained from the FBI 340-plus pages of information about Anwar al-Awlaki, the Falls Church, Va., cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.

The information ranges from al-Awlaki’s application for graduate studies at The George Washington University (an intended Ed.D. in “Human Resource Development”) and a San Diego State University professor’s recommendation that he “will be a success in your program and in his professional life,” to news articles asking about al-Awlaki’s role as “spiritual adviser” to the September 11 terrorists.

The files also reveal the extent of the FBI’s investigation into al-Awlaki’s activities in the weeks following the 2001 attacks. The documents chronicle the minutiae of the FBI’s surveillance operation (“407 at Bertucci’s eating solo”; “436 eating pizza, 2 slices left . . . 445 finished eating-doing work.”), which included trailing him to NPR, where he was a featured guest on “Talk of the Nation” on two separate occasions.

Extra fun: You can listen to the complete audio of al-Awlaki’s November 15, 2001, appearance here, and of his January 23, 2002, appearance here. NPR also has the full transcripts (November and January) and additional links to the audio.

In addition, the FOIA documents claim that al-Awlaki’s longtime affinity for prostitutes (he was charged with soliciting in 1996 and 1997) had not diminished. He reportedly paid for services on several occasions during the FBI surveillance period.

But the documents do reveal some troubling information: One prostitute told FBI investigators that “she thought to herself that [al-Awlaki] looked like Osama Bin Laden.”

That sort of profiling is despicable.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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