Anwar al Awlaki's official web site is still down this morning. Awlaki was the spiritual advisor for at least two of the 9/11 hijackers and probably a third before Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood Shooter, contacted Awlaki between "10 to 20 times" beginning in December of 2008.
Intriguingly, Awlaki's Facebook page (at least, it appears to be his official page) is still up and it may very well include an additional clue regarding Hasan's contacts with Awlaki. On the discussions section of the site, the last entry lists a post by a user named "Hasan" on December 14, 2008.
Of course, this could very well be a different "Hasan." But it is interesting to note that the post was made at roughly the same time Maj. Hasan reportedly began emailing Awlaki.
Two of the three posts in this online discussion, including the one made by "Hasan," have been deleted. But the thread was apparently used to discuss Awlaki's lectures, which are readily available on YouTube.
U.S. officials are combing through Maj. Hasan's emails and Internet posts in an attempt to determine the full scope of his plotting. Investigators previously downplayed Maj. Hasan's contacts with Awlaki. It has been widely reported, for example, that one official deemed Maj. Hasan's communications with Awlaki as being consistent with Maj. Hasan's research into the effects of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That's hard to fathom. Awlaki is a known jihadist who openly advocates attacks on Americans. What valid reason could a U.S. serviceman possibly have for contacting Awlaki other than collecting intelligence on the cleric for the U.S. government? (And there is no evidence that this was the case here.)
In fact, Awlaki has repeatedly condoned terrorist attacks by portraying the U.S. as being at war with Islam itself, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maj. Hasan repeated this myth in his June 2007 presentation to senior Army medical officials when he wrote:
"It's getting harder and harder for Muslims in the service to morally justify being in a military that seems constantly engaged against fellow Muslims."
Maj. Hasan clearly espoused a radical jihadist view of the world in that same presentation.
Awlaki's lectures posted on You Tube also make this view explicit. One sermon is titled "It's a War Against Islam." In the lecture, Awlaki rails against searches of suspected and known terrorist fronts in the U.S. and abroad. Awlaki accuses the U.S. of leading a war against Muslims and implores his fellow Muslims to "stand up" in this fight.
Regardless of whether or not the "Hasan" on Awlaki's Facebook page on December 14, 2008 was Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, it is clear that the Fort Hood Shooter adopted the views promulgated by Awlaki as his own. However, it would be interesting to learn if this "Hasan" is one and the same as the mass murderer and, if so, what his deleted post had to say. Presumably, it should be fairly easy for authorities to figure this out by investigating the poster's IP address and other identifying information.