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Will the FBI Properly Investigate the Fort Hood shooter's Alleged al Qaeda Ties?

1:25 PM, Nov 9, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The Congressional Joint Inquiry into the September 11 attacks highlighted Awlaki's ties to the hijackers. Awlaki's name was withheld from the Joint Inquiry's final report. He is identified only as an "imam" on pages 178 and 179. However, those pages clearly deal with Awlaki as all of the details about the "imam" match Awlaki. Prior press accounts have also identified the "imam" discussed in the report as Awlaki.Awlaki first showed up on the FBI's radar in June 1999, when the Bureau opened an investigation into his activities. According to the Joint Inquiry's report, Awlaki "was in contact with a number of other persons of investigative interest." According to press accounts, one of these individuals procured supplies, including a satellite phone, for Osama bin Laden. And in early 2000, the Joint Inquiry found, Awlaki "was visited by a subject of a Los Angeles investigation closely associated with Blind Sheikh al Rahman" - the same man who offered guidance to the terrorist cells responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a follow-on plot against landmarks in New York. Rahman and his Egyptian-based terrorist organization were and remain core members of Osama bin Laden's international terrorist conspiracy.

Despite these disturbing ties, the FBI closed its investigation into Awlaki in March of 2000. "In the case closing memorandum," the Joint Inquiry found, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation said that Awlaki had been "fully identified and does not meet the criterion for [further] investigation."

That was a major mistake.

Just two months prior, in January of 2000, 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar arrived in San Diego. At the time, Awlaki was an imam at a local mosque. The FBI "developed information" after the September 11 attacks, according to the Joint Inquiry, showing that "al Hazmi and al Mihdhar were closely affiliated with an imam in San Diego who reportedly served as their spiritual advisor during their time in San Diego."

The Joint Inquiry added: "Several persons informed the FBI after September 11 that this imam had closed-door meetings in San Diego with al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, and another individual, whom" had been asked "to help the hijackers."

That imam was Awlaki, who moved to Falls Church, Virginia in 2001. Al Hazmi and another 9/11 hijacker, Hani Hanjour, followed Awlaki there and "began to attend the mosque with which the imam was associated" in April 2001. That would be the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center - the same establishment where the Fort Hood shooter held his mother's funeral in May 2001.

One member of the Dar al Hijrah mosque helped the two hijackers (Hazmi and Hanjour) find an apartment and drove them to Connecticut and New Jersey. The Joint Inquiry noted: "From the hotel in Connecticut where they stayed for two nights, a total of 75 calls were made to locate apartments, flight schools, and car rental agencies for the hijackers."

Al Hazmi and Hanjour were not the only 9/11 conspirators with ties to Dar al Hijrah. "During a search of Ramzi Binalshibh's residence in Germany, police found the phone number for the imam's mosque." That is, the point man for the September 11 operation, Binalshibh, found it important to keep the mosque's information close by.

So, at least three of the hijackers (Hazmi, Mihdhar and Hanjour) had important ties to Awlaki. And another 9/11 conspirator, Ramzi Binalshibh, kept the contact information for Awlaki's mosque in his apartment. After September 11, one FBI agent who reported to the Joint Inquiry stated the obvious: "there's a lot of smoke there" with respect to Awlaki's ties to the hijackers.

Yet, amazingly, the FBI allowed him to leave the country in 2002. As the Washington Post has reported, "The FBI told the 9/11 Commission and Congress that it did not have reason to detain" Awlaki.

That was a major mistake, too.

Awlaki became an even more prolific al Qaeda recruiter after relocating to Yemen, where he has reportedly taken direct part in terrorist planning. U.S. authorities asked the Yemeni government to detain him in 2006, but as evidenced by his fully operational web site, Awlaki was freed in short order and is allowed to continue his operations.

Now, of course, the investigation into Hasan is still in its early stages. Nothing is definitive at this point. But the FBI seems to be willing to dismiss evidence connecting Hasan to a broader terrorist conspiracy out of hand. Within hours of the shootings, an FBI source told Fox News that terrorism was "not being discussed" in this matter. This is absurd on its face as Hasan's attack, even if it is not connected to any other bad actors, is clearly an act of terrorism.