The Corner

Awlaki and 9/11

In today’s Washington Post, I write about how the wolves are circling the CIA’s Predator program, and how the Obama administration is endangering the CIA officials involved in the program by expanding operations while shrinking the legal ground on which their efforts are based. The administration refuses to invoke the president’s Article II powers under the Constitution to defend the country, relying instead on the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The problem, former State Department Legal Advisor John Bellinger has explained, is that Congress authorized the use of force against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  But many of those currently targeted — particularly outside Afghanistan — had nothing to do with those attacks. The President has authority to target these individuals under his Constitutional powers as Commander in Chief, but the case is murkier if relying on the AUMF alone.

As examples, I cite the Pakistani Taliban leaders who sent a terrorist to blow up a car in Times Square, but were not involved in 9/11. (On these pages, Andy McCarthy has called for updating the AUMF to cover all branches of the Taliban.) And I note that, “The American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi was not involved in Sept. 11 — yet he has reportedly been put on the targeting list.”

On this last point, Tom Joscelyn writes to correct me:

Your point before this stands, but Awlaki clearly was involved in Sept. 11. The intelligence community and FBI consistently messed up their analysis of him beginning in 1999. He hosted two of the hijackers in San Diego beginning in Jan. 2000 and became, according to the Joint Inquiry, their “spiritual advisor.” When Awlaki left for Falls Church, VA, one of the two followed him there. Awlaki’s congregation then assisted both this hijacker (Hazmi) and another hijacker in their tour of the Northeast.

Some have tried to claim that Awlaki may not have known what was going on. I think that is utter nonsense. The two hijackers who met up with him in Jan. 2000 (Mihdhar and Hazmi) had just left a key planning meeting in Kuala Lumpur when they boarded a plane for San Diego. When they got to San Diego, they set up shop and would drive all the way across town to get to Awlaki’s mosque — even though other mosques en route were closer.

You have that fact, Awlaki’s known “spiritual advice,” the fact that one of the two followed him to Falls Church, VA, the fact that still another hijacker then went to the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, etc.

I think that Awlaki’s involvement is one of the items that KSM kept from his interrogators. There is no indication that he spilled the beans on him. But this doesn’t mean Awlaki wasn’t involved as the CIA’s own reporting notes that KSM kept certain aspects of AQ’s operations secret even after the EITs.

Tom also points out:

Hazmi and Mihdhar did move close to Awlaki’s mosque in February 2000, but they didn’t initially live near there. My point about driving to his mosque is that they had plenty of other options and just happened to pick Awlaki’s. And Hazmi and Mihdhar had closed door meetings with Awlaki in San Diego. He wasn’t teaching them that jihad is a purely personal and spiritual endeavor, you can bet on that!

Tom Joscelyn is a national treasure.

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