On September 30, the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)
assets under the Agency's control, assassinated the alleged "external
operations" chief of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western
intelligence assets, also known as Al-Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki, and a
second American citizen, Samir Khan, the 25-year-old editor of Inspire magazine, in a drone strike in Yemen.
As The Washington Post
reported last month, the "commingling" of CIA officers, JSOC
paramilitary troops and contractors "occupy an expanding netherworld
between intelligence and military operations" where "congressional
intelligence and armed services committees rarely get a comprehensive
Or any "view" at
all, which is precisely what the CIA and Pentagon have long desired; an
oversight-free zone where American policymakers operate, as Dick Cheney
infamously put it, on the "dark side," a position fully-embraced by the
"hope and change" administration of Barack Obama.
state-sponsored killing, like the May 2 murder of Osama Bin Laden in
Abbottabad, Pakistan, resurface many unanswered questions concerning the
9/11 attacks, the so-called trigger for America's global "War on
But before turning to those issues, it is necessary to
take a detour and examine administration actions; specifically the
deliberations undertaken by Obama's national security team which
culminated in Awlaki's death.
White House "Death Panel"
the fantasies of the corporate-controlled Tea Party who charged during
the run-up to the White House sell-out of health care reform that the
administration would create "death panels" to deny care to the elderly,
it has since emerged that Team Obama has stood-up the authentic article.
According to The Washington Post, President Obama's Justice Department "wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting" of Awlaki. The Post
reports that the memorandum "was produced following a review of the
legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior
lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the
legality of killing Aulaqi."
That memorandum, according to The New York Times, was drafted in June 2010, some six months after Awlaki had been placed on the White House hit list, by Office of Legal Counsel attorneys "David Barron and Martin Lederman."
former OLC lawyers are prominent "liberals" from prestigious
universities; Barron at Harvard and Lederman at Georgetown University.
enough, in several scholarly articles they had railed against the
previous administration's adaptation of the "Unitary Executive Theory"
promulgated by "torture memo" authors Jay Bybee and John Yoo.
Bush, OLC opinions were used to justify everything from warrantless
wiretapping, the domestic deployment of the military to arrest
Americans, to the torture and indefinite detention of "terrorist"
suspects at the Guantánamo Bay prison gulag and CIA "black sites."
This of course begs the question: if Awlaki's murder was "legal," why then was the authorization to do so reached in camera by officials following a deliberative process which can't be shared with the public because of "national security"?
answer should be chilling and shocking to all Americans: because the
nucleus of a death squad state recalling those stood-up in Chile and
Argentina during the "dirty war" period of the 1970s may now exist.
disclosed that Americans "are placed on a kill or capture list by a
secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the
president of its decisions, according to officials."
"There is no
public record of the operations or decisions of the panel," reporter
Mark Hosenball wrote, "which is a subset of the White House's National
Security Council. ... Neither is there any law establishing its
existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate."
According to Reuters,
"targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level
National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations
are then sent to the panel of NSC 'principals,' meaning Cabinet
secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval."
"former official" told Hosenball that "one of the reasons for making
senior officials principally responsible for nominating Americans for
the target list was to 'protect' the president," i.e., provide Obama legal cover under the thin veneer afforded by "plausible deniability."
reported that "broadly speaking" White House orders to kill Awlaki were
based on claims that "the nation's inherent right of self-defense [is]
recognized under international law." However, "international law also
imposes limits: Targeted killing is banned except to protect against
'concrete, specific and imminent' danger."
And although the
administration now claims that Awlaki was targeted for death because
"his role in AQAP had gone 'from inspirational to operational'," Reuters
disclosed that "officials acknowledge that some of the intelligence
purporting to show Awlaki's hands-on role in plotting attacks was
In fact, the White House has failed to provide any
proof whatsoever that Awlaki posed an "imminent danger" to the United
States, although there is considerable evidence that he was on the radar
of U.S. and allied secret state intelligence agencies for more than a
decade, had close ties to several of the 9/11 hijackers and could have been picked up and indicted at any time.
federal law enforcement officials gave Awlaki a green light to leave
the United States, unlike thousands of innocent Muslim-Americans
swept-up and detained by the FBI in the post-9/11 hysteria that followed
A "former military intelligence officer who worked
with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism
targets," told the right-wing Washington Times:
"I think it's pretty easy to understand why they didn't take him alive.
Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial,
an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target
of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be
crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American
That about sums up the dominant mindset of an Empire in
sharp decline: the rule of law and due process for criminal suspects
reduced to a "hassle."
Slouching Towards Dictatorship
national security team justified whacking Awlaki, as with their earlier
hit on Osama Bin Laden, by referencing the Bush-era Authorization for
Use of Military Force (AUMF), hastily passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
"A decade later," McClatchy
reported, "the Obama administration contends that this wartime
authority remains even if it's evolved for reasons the administration
won't fully elucidate."
The relevant section of AUFM reads: "IN
GENERAL -- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and
appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines
planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that
occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or
persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism
against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
Readers will undoubtedly note that in passing
the resolution, Congress not only ceded its authority to declare war to
the Executive Branch but also planted the seeds of the administration's
preemptive war doctrines along with an unprecedented expansion of its
domestic surveillance powers.
More pertinently, is the reason why
the administration "won't fully elucidate" how the Bush-era AUMF
"evolved" chiefly due to the fact that secret annexes now exist which
authorize the killing of Americans, not only in Yemen or other "War on
Terror" fronts, but right here in the United States itself?
all, it's not beyond the Obama administration to play fast and loose
with the truth or hide repressive policies under layers of top secret
presidential "findings" or a multitude of CIA and Pentagon black
programs, as did the previous Bush government.
Recall that during
the run-up to the reauthorization of three expiring provisions of the
USA Patriot Act, civil libertarians decried the use of secret legal memos
justifying everything from unchecked access to internet and telephone
records to the deployment of government-sanctioned malware on private
computers during "national security" investigations.
Recall too, that the Obama administration, as The New York Times
disclosed in June, handed the FBI "significant new powers to its
roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go
through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the
lives of people who have attracted their attention."
These "news rules," the Times
averred, will give agents "more latitude" to investigate citizens even
when there is no evidence they have exhibited "signs of criminal or
It gets worse.
Last month, The New York Times
revealed that the FBI "is permitted to include people on the
government's terrorist watch list even if they have been acquitted of
terrorism-related offenses or the charges are dropped."
these new standards, the Bureau may deem someone a "known or suspected
terrorist," not based on evidence gathered through a criminal
investigation, but solely if officials have "particularized derogatory
information," including that derived from First Amendment protected
activities, to support to support an individuals' watch listing or
placement on a "no-fly" list.
One administration wag, speaking on
condition of anonymity because to do otherwise would reveal "closely
held deliberations within the administration," but did so anyway because
this was clearly a sanctioned leak to stenographer Peter Finn, told The Washington Post that "what constitutes due process in [the Awlaki case] is a due process in war."
administration officials refused to disclose the exact legal analysis
used to authorize targeting Aulaqi," Finn wrote, "or how they considered
any Fifth Amendment right to due process."
We now know, thanks to Reuters, that authorization came from a White House death panel, an extra-constitutional committee of anonymous officials operating outside the rule of law.
we have seen since Barack Obama took office, as under the previous Bush
government, the Constitution is a meaningless scrap of paper with some
words on it, duly trotted out on national holidays only to be cast aside
in practice; that is, when it isn't used as a rhetorical hammer against
assorted "new Hitlers" or geopolitical rivals whose resources corporate
America seek to "liberate."
Dead Men Tell No Tales
As toxic to democratic norms and the rule of law as the Awlaki affair clearly is, there are underlying parapolitical themes surrounding his murder which strengthen suspicions that what took place in Yemen on September 30 is more than just another story about an overt power grab by the Executive Branch.
the government and media continue to cover-up the role played by the
CIA and other secret state agencies in alleged intelligence "failures"
leading up to the 9/11 attacks, evidence suggests that the Awlaki
killing, as with last May's murder of former bête noire
and on-again, off-again ally, Osama Bin Laden, may have been a
"clean-up" operation designed to remove inconvenient witnesses with
knowledge of Agency involvement in the plot.
As Antifascist Calling
reported nearly two years ago in the wake of the aborted 2009 bombing
of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day over Detroit, a plot
for which Awlaki was accused of orchestrating, though evidence can't be
supplied because it's "secret," The Washington Post
disclosed that Awlaki had extensive contacts with 9/11 hijackers Nawaf
Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar and Hani Hanjour who "had spent time at his
mosques in California and Falls Church."
In a series of 2010 articles (here, here, here and here), I reported on the stark parallels between September 11 and the Flight 253 affair.
as with the 2001 attacks we were told "changed everything," far from
being a failure to "connect the dots," intelligence and law enforcement
officials possessed sufficient information that should have
prevented accused bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, from boarding that
plane and placing the lives of nearly 300 air passengers at risk.
wile Awlaki wasn't given a free pass by the administration in that
botched attack, earlier government failures to apprehend him certainly
set the stage.
According to History Commons,
"shortly before the [FBI] investigation [into Awlaki's alleged ties to
the now-shuttered Holy Land Foundation] is closed," in 2000, Awlaki "is
beginning to associate with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar
shortly before the investigation ends."
"For instance," History Commons
avers, "on February 4, one month before the FBI investigation is
closed, al-Awlaki talks on the telephone four times with hijacker
associate [and suspected Saudi intelligence agent] Omar al-Bayoumi."
9/11 Commission will later speculate that these calls are related to
Alhazmi and Almihdhar, since al-Bayoumi is helping them that day, and
that Alhazmi or Almihdhar may even have been using al-Bayoumi's phone at
the time. Al-Bayoumi had also been the subject of an FBI
counterterrorism investigation in 1999."
Keep in mind that at
least two of the hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, figure
prominently in recent revelations by researcher Kevin Fenton, the author
of Disconnecting the Dots.
In a recent conversation with Boiling Frogs Post's
Sibel Edmonds and Peter B. Collins, Fenton said that during the course
of his investigation, drawn from the Congressional 9/11 Joint Inquiry,
the 9/11 Commission, the Justice Department's Inspector General's
report, and the CIA's still-redacted Inspector General's report, he
discovered that the CIA had deliberately withheld information from the
FBI that the future hijackers had entered the United States with
multiple entry visas issued in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
the Agency had identified the pair as international terrorists who
attended a 2000 Al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia where they and others,
including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Khallad Bin Attash, one of the
principle architects of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and
Tanzania, planned the assault on the USS Cole and the 9/11 attacks, they kept this from the FBI, information that could have led straight to the heart of Al-Qaeda's "planes operation."
provides substantial evidence that the CIA's Alec Station Director
Richard Blee and deputy, Tom Wilshire, concealed intelligence from
investigators, concluding this "information was intentionally omitted in
order to allow an al-Qaeda attack to go forward against the United
As part of this continuing cover-up, Awlaki's ties to
the 9/11 hijackers were far more extensive than secret state officials
have led us to believe.
In fact, although the Obama
administration has justified killing Awlaki with false claims that he
was AQAP's "external operations" chief, his role before
9/11 was substantially more significant from an investigatory
perspective: that of a "fixer," first in San Diego where he assisted
Saudi spook Omar al-Bayoumi in "settling" Alhazmi and Almihdhar, and
later in Falls Church, Virginia, where he did the same for Hani Hanjour.
In 2002, Newsweek
revealed that "some federal investigators suspect that al-Bayoumi could
have been an advance man for the 9-11 hijackers, sent by Al Qaeda to
assist the plot that ultimately claimed 3,000 lives."
"Two months after al-Bayoumi began aiding Alhazmi and Almihdhar," Newsweek
disclosed, "al-Bayoumi's wife began receiving regular stipends, often
monthly and usually around $2,000, totaling tens of thousands of
Payments arrived "in the form of cashier's checks,
purchased from Washington's Riggs Bank by Princess Haifa bint Faisal,
the daughter of the late King Faisal and wife of Prince Bandar, the
Saudi envoy who is a prominent Washington figure and personal friend of
the Bush family."
With startling similarities to the Awlaki case,
ten days after the attacks, al-Bayoumi is picked up by British
authorities in London, where he had relocated in July 2001, at the
request of the FBI. Although his phone calls, bank accounts and
associations are scrutinized, the Bureau claim they found no connections
The Washington Post
will report that by 2002 the FBI had concluded, the same year Awlaki
leaves the U.S., "that no evidence could be found of any organized
domestic effort to aid the hijackers."
Recall that new
information linking some members of the Saudi royal family and its
intelligence apparatus to the attacks has recently surfaced. Last month,
The Miami Herald
revealed that two weeks before the kamikaze assaults on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, a Saudi family "abruptly vacated their luxury
home near Sarasota, leaving a brand new car in the driveway, a
refrigerator full of food, fruit on the counter--and an open safe in a
Investigative reporters Anthony Summers and Dan
Christensen learned that "law enforcement agents not only discovered the
home was visited by vehicles used by the hijackers, but phone calls
were linked between the home and those who carried out the death
flights--including leader Mohamed Atta--in discoveries never before
revealed to the public."
"Ten years after the deadliest attack of
terrorism on U.S. soil," Summers and Christensen wrote, "new
information has emerged that shows the FBI found troubling ties between
the hijackers and residents in the upscale community in southwest
Florida, but the investigation wasn't reported to Congress or mentioned
in the 9/11 Commission Report."
In a follow-up piece that significantly advanced the story, researcher Russ Baker reported on the WhoWhatWhy web site "that those alleged confederates were closely tied to influential members of the Saudi ruling elite."
Building on information first disclosed by the Herald, Baker, the author of Family of Secrets,
reports that this "now-revealed link" between those who consorted with
the hijackers in Florida "and the highest ranks of the Saudi
establishment, reopens questions about the White House's controversial
approval for multiple charter flights allowing Saudi nationals to depart
the U.S., beginning about 48 hours after the attacks, without the
passengers being interviewed by law enforcement--despite the
identification of the majority of the hijackers as Saudis."
there a pattern between the hands-off treatment afforded well-connected
Saudis and Anwar al-Awlaki's casual, and inexplicable, flight from the
"After 9/11" History Commons
points out, "the FBI will question al-Awlaki, and he will admit to
meeting with Alhazmi several times, but say he does not remember what
they discussed. He will not claim to remember Almihdhar at all." Other
accounts suggest that the relationship was much closer.
"The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry," History Commons
avers, "claim that Alhazmi and Almihdhar 'were closely affiliated with
[al-Awlaki] who reportedly served as their spiritual adviser during
their time in San Diego. ... Several persons informed the FBI after
September 11 that this imam had closed-door meetings in San Diego with
Almihdhar, Alhazmi, and another individual, whom al-Bayoumi had asked to
help the hijackers'."
"Around August 2000," History Commons
reports, "al-Awlaki resigns as imam and travels to unknown 'various
countries.' In early 2001, he will be appointed the imam to a much
larger mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. During this time frame,
Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and fellow hijacker Hani Hanjour will move to
Virginia and attend al-Awlaki's mosque there."
Anecdotally, in 2003 Newsweek
reports: "Lincoln Higgie, an antiques dealer who lived across the
street from the mosque where Aulaqi used to lead prayer, told Newsweek
that he distinctly recalls the imam knocking on his door in the first
week of August 2001 to tell him he was leaving for Kuwait. 'He came over
before he left and told me that something very big was going to happen,
and that he had to be out of the country when it happened,' recalls
The antiques dealer later told The New York Times,
that when he learned that Awlaki would be permanently leaving San
Diego, "he told the imam to stop by if he was ever in the area--and got a
strange response." Higgie said, "'I don't think you'll be seeing me. I
won't be coming back to San Diego again. Later on you'll find out why'."
the FBI suspected Awlaki "had some connection with the 9/11 plot,"
authorities claim there wasn't enough evidence to charge him, nor can he
be deported because he's an American citizen. And when the Bureau
hatched an ill-conceived plan to arrest him on an obscure charge of
"transporting prostitutes across state lines," that plan collapsed when
Awlaki left the U.S. in March 2002.
"But on October 10, 2002," History Commons
reports, "he makes a surprise return to the U.S." Although his name is
on a terrorist watch list and he is detained by Customs' officials when
he lands in New York, they are informed by the FBI that "his name was
taken off the watch list just the day before. He is released after only
"Throughout 2002," History Commons
informs us, Awlaki is the "subject of an active Customs investigation
into money laundering called Operation Greenquest, but he is not
arrested for this either, or for the earlier contemplated prostitution
charges. At the time, the FBI is fighting Greenquest, and Customs
officials will later accuse the FBI of sabotaging Greenquest
Awlaki again leaves the U.S., this time for
good. Although the FBI admits they were "very interested" in Awlaki,
they fail to stop him leaving the country. One FBI source told U.S. News and World Report, "We don't know how he got out."
however, it was not until 2008 that secret state officials concluded
that Awlaki was an Al-Qaeda operative! This beggars belief, and raises
the question as to why he was
allowed to leave in the first place. It certainly can't be for lack of
evidence or that when Awlaki set-up shop, first in London and finally in
Yemen, he is continually under surveillance by British, Yemeni and
American intelligence agencies.
Although interviewed four times by the FBI after September 11, the Bureau concluded, according to The New York Times, that Awlaki's "contacts with the hijackers and other radicals were random."
Other investigators however, disagreed. "One detective," the Times
reported, whose name has been scrubbed from 9/11 Commission files, told
staff that he believed Awlaki "was at the center of the 9/11 story." At
the time of the Flight 253 affair, I wrote that "despite, or possibly because of these dubious connections he was allowed to leave the country."
fact, the curious disinterest exhibited by authorities in bringing
Awlaki to ground following September 11, were neither "errors in
judgement" nor "mistakes" by overtaxed investigators but are rather, a modus operandi which suggests that Awlaki and others were part of a CIA domestic operation which allowed the 9/11 plot to go forward.
• • •
in what I have written above should be construed as justification for
the extrajudicial assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. In fact, the
opposite conclusion can be drawn. The available evidence indicates that
Awlaki could have been arrested multiple times. At the least
serious end of the criminal justice spectrum he could have been charged
with providing "material support to a designated foreign terrorist
organization," to whit, Al-Qaeda, and legally taken out of circulation.
he wasn't and continued to operate freely as a propagandist, despite
substantial corroboration from multiple law enforcement sources that he
was a key figure in the pre-9/11 domestic support network, suggests that Awlaki may have been a double agent, albeit one who had decidedly gone "off the reservation."
handling by authorities raise serious questions about just how
extensive U.S. support for Al-Qaeda was prior to, and possibly even after the September 11 attacks, particularly in resource-rich global hot-spots.
numerous journalists and researchers have painstakingly documented,
Al-Qaeda, allied terrorist outfits and international narco-trafficking
networks have a long, sordid history of supporting U.S. covert
operations that targeted America's geopolitical rivals even as Bin
Laden's far-flung organization plotted to attack the United States
In this light, Awlaki's "targeted killing" as with the
earlier hit on Osama Bin Laden, may be part of a larger CIA/Pentagon
operation to remove inconvenient participants and witnesses from the
scene who might have a thing or two to say about the crimes and
intrigues hatched by the imperialist Empire.
After all, dead men tell no tales...
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