The month after Major Nidal Hasan open fired at Fort Hood, killing thirteen people and injuring thirty-two others, his mentor — the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — gave an interview to Al Jazeera.
In the December 2009 interview, al-Awlaki describes his year-long email correspondence with Hasan, explaining that he coached Hasan to kill American soldiers on the grounds that, according to Islamic law, it was Hasan’s duty to do so.
The interview was predictably pro-jihad. But there was one notable comment that stood out. About one-third of the way through the interview, al-Awlaki asks his Al Jazeera counterpart:
I wonder where were the American security forces that one day claimed they can read the numbers of any license plate, anywhere in the world, from space?
In other words, al-Awlaki wondered why, with all the high-tech surveillance the National Security Agency (NSA) has at its disposal, the messages between him and Major Hasan weren’t intercepted and read. The argument that al-Awlaki’s emails would have been a needle in a haystack does not hold water. Al-Awlaki has remained high on every U.S. intelligence agency radar ever since it was revealed — in the “9/11 Commission Report” — that he was linked to at least four of the 9/11 hijackers through two separate mosques where he preached. One, the Dar al-Hijrah mosque, is located near Falls Church, Virginia, and the other, the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque, is located in San Diego, California. That al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico, attended Colorado State University, is a U.S. citizen, and left America for Yemen in 2002 to preach jihad online makes him a person of interest who was most definitely being watched — long before Nidal Hasan ever attacked Fort Hood.
On Wednesday, March 17, a new al-Awlaki audio tape emerged. In it, al-Awlaki goads President Obama into releasing the entire contents of his year-long email correspondence with Nidal Hasan.
Al-Awlaki says that the reason President Obama has not released the emails is because the Obama administration has something to hide: “His administration tried to portray the operation of brother Nidal Hasan as an individual act of violence by an individual. The administration practiced the control on the leak of information concerning the operation in order to cushion the reaction of the American public,” al-Awlaki says on the tape, the translation of which was provided by SITE. The story first broke on CNN.
It is a sorry day for America when the rising star of jihad has a valid point. Why hasn’t the Obama administration released the full set of al-Awlaki/Hasan emails? I asked this of the White House press office and have not yet received an answer back.
The release of the emails will likely be stonewalled because they would be a lose-lose situation for the administration. If one of the many U.S. intelligence agencies was in fact monitoring the correspondence, as they should have been, then the subtext of al-Awlaki’s challenge is that there might be something in the emails that suggests Hasan’s murderous rampage was about to go down and therefore could have been prevented. Conversely, if no American intelligence agency was monitoring correspondences between a radical cleric in Yemen and a radical Muslim at one of the largest military bases in the U.S., then one has to wonder why not. Was the NSA really too busy taking down license plate numbers from space?
While al-Awlaki continues to elevate his status as al-Qaeda’s rising star, throughout the rest of his tape he eerily calls for every Muslim in America to rise up and join the jihad against America. This could be scoffed at as wishful thinking if only al-Awlaki didn’t have such a dangerous track record firmly in place. “Terrorism is theater,” counterterrorism analyst Brian Jenkins once said, and certainly the pupils of al-Awlaki feature prominently in the press. Not only was al-Awlaki a mentor to Nidal Hasan; he was also a mentor to the Christmas Day underwear bomber. And just this month, another American jihadist was arrested in Yemen and made headlines. Sharif Mobley worked at five U.S. nuclear power plants and proved to be murderously cunning after his arrest. Mobley was recovering in a hospital in Yemen when he tricked a hospital worker, a Muslim, into unshackling him so the two men could pray. When the hospital worker set Mobley free, the New Jersey jihadist grabbed the man’s gun and shot him dead.
If terrorism is theater, democracy is transparency. The Obama administration should release the full set of al-Awlaki/Hasan emails now, or admit they do not have them.