That Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was let go in 2002 despite there being a warrant for his arrest is not news. The Denver Post reported that information shortly after the Fort Hood massacre.
However, we are learning more about some of the details about that release thanks to a Congressional hearing at which
Via Fox News:
The FBI, for the the first time, has admitted publicly that it knew the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was returning to the U.S. in October 2002 and that an FBI agent discussed the American’s return with a U.S. attorney before he was detained and then abruptly released from federal custody.
Al-Awlaki, who would become the first American targeted for death by the CIA, eventually was killed last September in Yemen by a U.S. drone strike. Since September 2009, 26 terrorism cases have been tied to him and his digital jihad, according to the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
“I really want to get to the bottom (of this),” said Republican Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the committee that has oversight of the FBI. The committee was holding a hearing Wednesday on the Webster report on the FBI’s intelligence failures leading up to the Fort Hood massacre. Al-Awlaki exchanged 19 emails with Maj. Nidal Hasan, accused of murdering 13 in the shooting.
Wolf noted Wednesday that the Webster report makes no mention of the 2002 incident and the FBI’s role in the cleric’s release.
That leads to testimony from a senior FBI Official:
Mark Giuliano, the FBI’s assistant director for national security, testified Wednesday that the FBI knew in advance that he was making his way back to the United States, though he didn’t explain how.
Al-Awlaki was detained at New York City’s JFK airport because a customs database flagged him based on an outstanding arrest warrant. Giuliano, under intense questioning by Wolf, also admitted Wednesday there were discussions between an FBI agent and the U.S. attorney in Colorado about the U.S.-born cleric’s re-entry and the warrant.
“Yes, sir, there was a dialogue, as there always will be,” Giuliano replied. “If a case agent has a case on somebody that is coming into the country, the system is triggered and set up so that there will be a call to that case agent.”
Former FBI agents say there are only likely two explanations: The bureau let the cleric into the country to track him for intelligence, or the bureau wanted to work with him as a friendly contact.
As Breitbart points out, a man named Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer (Ret.) appears to be vindicated yet again:
There is a possible shady explanation for al-Awlaki’s release. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer said earlier this year that al-Awlaki worked as a triple agent and an FBI asset well before 9/11. Shaffer wrote a memoir on Able Danger, a supposed Defense Intelligence Agency data-mining program that uncovered two of the three terrorist cells later implicated in the September 11 attacks, which was censored by the Pentagon. If Shaffer is correct, American intelligence had been working with al-Awlaki from the last years of the Clinton presidency.
Shaffer was railroaded by bureaucrats when he attempted to reveal the truth about Able Danger. Here, once again, he seems to have been proven right. Bolstering his credibility further is a glaring inconsistency with how al-Awlaki’s release was handled.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Giuliano could not explain a significant time discrepancy. Al-Awlaki was being held in the early-morning hours of Oct. 10, 2002, when FBI agent Wade Ammerman told customs agents that “the warrant … had been pulled back.” But that couldn’t have happened while al-Awlaki was in custody, since it was only 5:40 a.m. in Colorado where the arrest warrant originated and where the courts had yet to open for the day.
In fact, documents show the warrant was still active at that time and was only vacated later that day.
The FBI has consistently maintained that the arrest warrant was pulled because the case against the cleric was weak, and it has suggested the timing, coming on the same day the cleric re-entered the U.S. at New York City’s JFK airport, was coincidental.