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The ACLU, Moazzam Begg, and the Fort Hood Shooter's Cleric

1:35 PM, Nov 19, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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In my piece yesterday, I noted that the ACLU released a video earlier this month that features former Gitmo detainee Moazzam Begg. Begg made news earlier this year when he became the front man for a video game in which players could pretend to be Gitmo detainees capable of shooting their way out of the detention facility. The game's producers canceled it as public pressure to nix it mounted.

But that hasn't stopped Begg.

In fact, Begg has compiled an extensive and troubling resume since being released from Gitmo. (This is in addition to the disturbing jihadist dossier he compiled prior to ever being detained.) One of Begg's more troubling associates is Anwar al Awlaki - the al Qaeda cleric who became a confidant for the Fort Hood Shooter.

The relationship between Begg, Cage Prisoners (Begg's organization), and Awlaki has been detailed by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens of The Centre for Social Cohesion, which has released a dossier on Awlaki's supporters in the UK.

On the relationship between Cage Prisoners (CP) and Awlaki, Mr. Meleagrou-Hitchens writes (footnotes omitted):

The relationship between CP and Awlaki dates back to 2006, when they organised campaigns appealing for Awlaki to be released from custody by Yemeni authorities. Among other things, the campaign asked CP supporters to "Write to the Yemeni Ambassador to UK, Mohamed Taha Mustafa and urge him to work for the immediate release of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki," and "Write to the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to make representations to her Yemeni counterparts to work for Imam Anwar al-Awlaki's immediate release." In the ‘sample letter' provided by CP, Awlaki is referred to as a "prominent Muslim scholar."

The relationship between CP and Awlaki appears to have strengthened after this, and in December 2007, CP announced Awlaki's release, telling readers that any messages of congratulations they had could be passed to Awlaki through them - suggesting that CP were at the time in direct contact with Awlaki.

In December 2007, Begg interviewed Awlaki for CP's website and Awlaki praised CP for its support. (A transcript of the interview is available online here and you can also find audio of the interview, with pictures of Begg and Awlaki, on You Tube.) Meleagrou-Hitchens rightly observes that the interview is "extensive and friendly" and notes:

In addition, the [CP] website reproduces a number of materials from Awlaki's official website, and currently contains at least 4 book reviews by Awlaki that originate from his site. In reproducing his work in such a way, CP present[s] Awlaki as a religious authority.

In September of 2008, just a few months before Awlaki was contacted by Major Nidal Malik Hasan, CP hosted a fundraising event called "Another Ramadan 2008" during which Awlaki delivered a "live lecture" via his cell phone. CP called it a "big draw" for its attendees.

Then, in August 2009 (just weeks after Awlaki blessed attacks on non-Muslim soldiers on his web site), CP organized a conference called "Beyond Guantanamo" that was scheduled to feature a video of Awlaki. Local authorities forced CP to withdraw Awlaki's lecture. CP did so, but issued a statement saying:

Cageprisoners (CP) is deeply concerned by the decision by Kensington and Chelsea Council to ban Imam Anwar al-Awlaki from addressing the CP annual Ramadan fundraising dinner on 30 August 2009.

…CP cannot comment on any other statements attributed to Imam al-Awlaki or other guests as we are unaware of their accuracy and furthermore, they are of limited importance to the remit of CP which is to focus on civil liberties and human rights.

Meleagrou-Hitchens notes that while CP claimed it was "unaware of Awlaki's extremist background," the CP "reproduced an article [on the CP's web site] from the New York Times which identifies his sermons as an inspiration for violent jihad" one month earlier.

Finally, on October 2, 2009, the CP web site reproduced a defense of Awlaki that was written by one of CP's members. The author objected to the councils' decision to prevent Awlaki from lecturing the "Beyond Guantanamo" conference and called him an "inspirational imam."