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The Federal Bureau of Non-Investigation

11:09 PM, Nov 9, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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How dense can the FBI be? Yes, all of the pieces of Hasan's story still need to be put together. But to say there is no evidence of a "broader terrorist plot" is myopic to the point of absurdity.

Moreover, when JTTF "investigators" evaluated Hasan's communications with Awlaki prior to the Fort Hood shooting, they concluded that he "was not involved in terrorist activities or terrorist planning."

That was wrong. Hasan was plotting terror. There are 13 dead Americans and 29 more wounded to prove it. So, a reevaluation of his discussions (presumably emails) with Awlaki is necessary before the FBI jumps to any conclusions about the breadth of this terrorist plot.In all likelihood, what we are witnessing here is the third intelligence and law enforcement failure with respect to Awlaki.

The first failure came in 2000. The FBI began investigating Awlaki in 1999 but shuttered the investigation in March 2000 because the Bureau determined he did not warrant further scrutiny.

That was a mistake.

In January 2000, two of the 9/11 hijackers met up with Awlaki at his mosque in San Diego. Awlaki became their "spiritual advisor." Awlaki then moved to the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. Two 9/11 hijackers (including one of the hijackers Awlaki had met with in San Diego) followed him there and received assistance from the mosque's members. Al Qaeda's September 11 point man, Ramzi Binalshibh, kept contact information for the Dar al Hijrah mosque at his residence. So, Awlaki and his mosques had substantive ties to three of the 9/11 hijackers and the terrorist who was responsible for coordinating their activities.

The second failure came in 2002. The FBI investigated Awlaki again after the September 11 attacks and found there was a lot of "smoke," but told the 9/11 Commission and the Congressional Joint Inquiry that they did not have enough evidence to detain him. So, Awlaki relocated first to the UK and then Yemen. There, his al Qaeda role has only grown -- despite being briefly detained by the Yemeni government at the request of U.S. officials in 2006.

Letting Awlaki go was the second big mistake.

Now we have a third failure. Despite the fact that Hasan had reached out to Awlaki, who had been investigated twice before because of his ties to al Qaeda, "no formal investigation" into the Hasan-Awlaki connection was ever launched.

How can that possibly be? A member of the U.S. military with ostensible extremist beliefs reaches out to a prominent al Qaeda cleric and the U.S. government concluded there was nothing to worry about? Really?

To give you a sense of how absurd this is, consider the NEFA Foundation's short dossier on Awlaki, which was released in February of this year. NEFA reported:

"Anwar al Awlaki (a.k.a. Anwar al Aulaqi), an American who lives in Yemen, who is regarded as an Islamic scholar, may be a key player in Al-Qaida's efforts to radicalize and incite American Muslims to commit terrorist acts."

NEFA went on to warn:

"Al Awlaki is a highly regarded, American-born, pro-Jihad ideologue with access to a young audience in the United States, even from his location in Yemen. There is no other comparable pro-Al-Qaida American figure who has such tremendous access to audiences or who has such credibility."

So NEFA, a small not-for-profit organization, was able to connect the dots on Awlaki. But the U.S. government (which spends billions of dollars a year tracking the terrorist threat) has apparently been unable to do so -- repeatedly. There were ample reasons to worry about any American -- let alone an American serviceman with extremist beliefs and access to military facilities -- reaching out to a prominent al Qaeda cleric. Yet, according to the FBI, the U.S. government concluded those contacts were not a possible threat.

This is the third time that the U.S. government has had an intelligence failure with respect to Anwar al Awlaki.

Congress should push forward with its investigation into the Fort Hood shootings to ensure there isn't a fourth.