Judicial Watch announced today that it received documents on March 4, 2013 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that raise new questions about close ties between Anwar al Aulaqi, the U.S.-born terrorist assassinated by a U.S. drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011, and Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, two of the five hijackers who attacked the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In the documents the FBI describes al Aulaqi as “The Spiritual Leader of the Hijackers.”
Judicial Watch received the documents in response to a June, 2012, Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and Federal Bureau of Investigations (No. 1:12-cv-00893). They are part of Judicial Watch’s ongoing investigation of al Qaeda in the United States, including its current operations and support network.
Materials received by Judicial Watch reveal the following information the FBI regarded as worthy of investigation in its probe of ties between al Aulaqi and the 9/11 hijackers:
- An FBI report dated 9/20/2011 notes that al Aulaqi made purchases at a Texaco in La Mesa, California, “several times a month” over the preceding two years. Reportedly this is the station where hijacker Nawaf al Hazmi worked, as did probable 9/11 co-conspirator Mohdar Abdullah (whose close association with and material assistance to al Hazmi and al Mihdhar is well-documented in the 9/11 Commission’s report).
- An undated FBI report indicates an individual received a check for $281.50 from al Aulaqi and wrote a check for $175 to al Hazmi on July 7, 2001. There is no additional information about the transactions. The FBI apparently found the transaction to be of investigative interest because, depending on the identity of the intermediary party, it could indicate direct assistance from al Aulaqi to al Hazmi.
- On 9/13/2001, FBI agents took possession of and searched the vehicle al Aulaqi rented in San Diego on 9/8/2001 (which he kept for one day and drove only 37 miles). While there is no report regarding the results of the search, the action highlights the FBI’s interest in al Aulaqi and suspicions about his trip to San Diego, home to both al Hazmi and al Mihdhar leading up to the attacks.
- An FBI report dated 10/24/2001 indicates that the Bureau became aware three days after the 9/11 attacks (9/14/2001) that al Aulaqi had rented a Mailboxes Etc. mail drop in Falls Church, VA. The mail box was the subject of a federal grand jury subpoena.
“The more we learn about Anwar al Aulaqi, the more questions arise not only about his activities before and after 9/11, but also about the al Qaeda operational and support network still active in the United States,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is now even more concerning that al Aulaqi was invited to the Pentagon after 9/11 and then let go by the FBI despite warrants for his arrest.”
An earlier release of FBI documents obtained by a Judicial Watch FOIA and reported by Fox News suggest that the FBI was aware on September 27, 2001, that al Aulaqi had purchased airplane tickets for three of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta. Subsequent to the FBI’s discovery, al Aulaqi was detained and released by authorities at least twice and had been invited to dine at the Pentagon.
In 2010, President Obama reportedly authorized the assassination of al Aulaqi, the first American citizen added to the government’s “capture or kill” list, describing the radical Muslim Cleric as “chief of external operations for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).” The Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department has reportedly determined that targeting and killing of U.S. citizens overseas was legal under domestic and international law.