I was pleased when your brother conveyed from you salaams to myself and was excited by hearing your profession. I pray that Allah may grant us a breakthrough through you. As a starter, can you please answer these questions in as much elaboration as possible: can you please specify your role in the airline industry, how much access do you have to airports, what information do you have on the limitations and cracks in present airport security systems, what procedures would travellers from the newly listed countries have to go through, what procedures would a person on a watch list have to go through?
Karim sent an email to Awlaki, who is addressed as the “prof,” on January 29, 2010. Karim complained about having to live “with the kuffar” (disbelievers) and said he “desperately” wanted to leave. As for his specific knowledge of the airline industry, Karim explained:
I have knowledge about the key people in BA [British Airways] starting from the top management and the key people in BA IT department. I also have knowledge about key IT hardware locations, which if targeted can bring huge disruption to flights and cause BA a major financial loss ... but this would be at the risk of exposing myself as I will have to do that with my own login ID...
I personally know two brothers, one who works in baggage handling at Heathrow and another who works in airport security. Both are good practising brothers and sympathise towards the cause of the mujahideen and do not slander them. They are of the type who would help with money and moral support but I am not sure if they are at the stage to sacrifice with their lives.
On February 13, 2010, Awlaki emailed Karim. Awlaki probed Karim’s ability to get a bomb or suicide bomber on board a plane headed for the U.S. and also encouraged Karim to take a job on a flight crew. Awlaki wrote (emphasis added):
Our highest priority is the US. Anything there, even if on a smaller scale compared to what we may do in the UK, would be our choice. So the question is: with the people you have, is it possible to get a package or a person with a package on board a flight heading to the US? If that is not possible, then what ideas do you have that could be set up for the uk?
…You should definitely take the [cabin crew] opportunity, the information you could get would be very useful.
Karim emailed his brother on February 15, 2010: “If it's not a good idea to visit you guys, then I intend to visit BD or USA. If I visit USA, I can check out what their security process is like.”
Karim also replied to Awlaki on February 15, saying he was willing to work on a U.S.-focused plot and also suggesting that they launch a cyber attack on British Airways. Karim wrote Awlaki (emphasis added):
I have started working on the bros I mentioned on the last letter without mentioning you directly. Alhamdulillah the bros responded better than I expected...
If full damage can be inflicted that would mean cabin crew would be stranded in different parts of the world, planes will be grounded and it will be total chaos.
Like you say, I also agree that US is a better target than UK, but I do not know much about US. I can work with the bros to find out the possibilities of shipping a package to a US-bound plane.
The CCR and ACLU, as well as others, pretended throughout the course of the ill-fated lawsuit that Awlaki’s ties to terrorist operations were questionable. As Awlaki’s email exchanges with a convicted terrorist show, however, the cleric is clearly involved in potting terrorist attacks. Awlaki queried Karim about weaknesses in airline security and insisted, “Our highest priority is the US.” Awlaki wrote these words just months before the CCR and ACLU tried to get a court to stop the U.S. government from attempting to kill Awlaki.
Although these emails were not available to the public at the time the lawsuit was filed, they are hardly surprising. Awlaki's emails with Karim are by no means the only evidence the U.S. and U.K. have amassed against Awlaki.