Written by Tom Fitton
“Approach with caution.” That’s the instruction the FBI gave to agents who spotted Anwar al-Aulaqi on September 4, 2002, according to new records obtained by Judicial Watch. And yet, the very next day, al-Aulaqi, identified by the FBI as a “terrorist organization member,” was an invited guest speaker and luncheon guest at the Pentagon.
Shocking? You bet. But that’s not all our investigators learned.
The documents, obtained via the FBI per a JW FOIA lawsuit, also reveal that the FBI proposed prosecuting al-Aulaqi in 2002 on charges stemming from the Imam’s spending a total of $2,320 for seven documented encounters with high-priced Washington, D.C., prostitutes.
Nearly a decade after the FBI’s interagency red flag, in September 2011, Barack Obama ordered the assassination of the al-Qaeda leader in a CIA-led U.S. drone attack.
Here are the specific revelations contained in the newly released documents:
The FBI had already identified al-Aulaqi as a dangerous terrorist when he was invited to speak at a Pentagon luncheon.
The documents obtained from the FBI include a computer database record showing that an FBI employee searched for al-Aulaqi’s criminal history on February 4, 2002, – the day before al-Aulaqi spoke as an invited guest at a Pentagon luncheon – retrieved information identifying al-Aulaqi as a “terrorist organization member” and containing the following alert: “Warning – approach with caution . . . Do not alert the individual to the FBI’s interest and contact your local FBI field office at the earliest opportunity.” [Emphasis added.]
Al-Aulaqi spent thousands of dollars patronizing prostitutes on several occasions in 2001 and 2002, and the FBI proposed prosecuting him on charges related to that activity, but failed to do so.
The FBI records include a June 4, 2002, memorandum from Assistant FBI Director Pasquale D’Amuro to Office of Intelligence Policy and Review Counsel James A. Baker documenting al-Aulaqi’s use of prostitutes in the Washington, DC area on at least seven occasions between November 5, 2001 and February 4, 2002 (the day before his speech at the Pentagon). The detailed memorandum seeks Bureau approval for the prosecution of al-Aulaqi for prostitution-related charges and notes that al-Aulaqi spent a total of $2,320 for the encounters. [Emphasis added.] In addition, FBI surveillance reports indicate that al-Aulaqi sought and/or engaged the services of a prostitute on at least four more occasions in January 2002.
Al-Aulaqi’s doctoral education was financed by the World Bank and supported by the Government of Yemen.
The documents include a July 12, 2000 letter from the Center for International Programs at New Mexico State University (where al-Aulaqi received his Master’s degree) confirming that he was “sponsored for a Ph.D. degree under the auspices of a World Bank Community College Project in Yemen. This project will pay for Mr. al-Aulaqi’s tuition and fees, books, health insurance, and living costs while he is pursuing a Ph.D. degree program.”
The FBI was investigating al-Aulaqi’s links to terrorism as early as 1999.
The records include a previously Secret memorandum dated June 15, 1999 from the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Diego office to the FBI Director requesting that the Bureau open a counterterrorism investigation into al-Aulaqi. As part of this investigation, agents conducted surveillance of his home and at the al-Ribat mosque in San Diego where he served as Imam more than two years before the 9/11 attacks.
FBI records include Special Surveillance Group operator notes of close physical surveillance of Aulaqi from November 6, 2001, to January 2002 – including: following al-Aulaqi to class at George Washington University; at a November 11, 2001, meeting of the Islamic Society of Baltimore; and during a November 15, 2001, radio appearance on National Public Radio.
Catherine Herridge of Fox News, who has done excellent work on this story, highlighted this additional revelation from the Judicial Watch documents:
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller was more deeply involved in the post-9/11 handling of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — the first American targeted for death by the CIA — than previously known, according to newly released documents reviewed exclusively by Fox News.
The documents, released after Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request and then sued the FBI, show a memo from Mueller to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on Oct. 3, 2002. It is marked “Secret” and titled “Anwar Aulaqi: IT-UBL/AL-QAEDA.”
And then there are al-Aulaqi’s connections to 9/11, also documented inside the FBI at the time of the Pentagon luncheon.
According to FOIA documents previously obtained by JW from the FBI, the agency was aware, as far back as September 27, 2001, that al-Aulaqi may have purchased airplane tickets for three of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta. On October 10, 2002, al-Aulaqi was detained at New York’s JFK airport under a warrant for passport fraud, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, the FBI ordered al-Aulaqi’s release, even though the arrest warrant was still active at the time of his detention.
To date, Judicial Watch’s litigation has resulted in the release of more than 1,600 pages of responsive records, many of which were previously classified. The documents pertain to the FBI’s investigation of al-Aulaqi’s role as “spiritual advisor” to two of the 9/11 hijackers, his suspected involvement with terrorism as early as 1999, his banking activities, his frequent patronizing of prostitutes, and the State Department’s revocation of his passport approximately six months before his death.
To say the FBI’s schizophrenic approach to al-Aulaqi raises questions is an understatement. From “terrorist organization member” and patronizer of prostitutes to dining at the Pentagon? From 9/11 “spiritual advisor” and “approach with caution” to release from custody?
The preferential treatment accorded Anwar al-Aulaqi, at a minimum, suggests a unique relationship between the terrorist leader and our own government. One can fairly conclude that the al Qaeda mastermind had some type of “protected status” with our government – despite his terrorist and criminal activities.
Perhaps we should not be so surprised, given the FBI’s complete immersion into political correctness. Remember, this is the same agency that purged its training curricula of material deemed “offensive” to Muslims.
But this goes way beyond political correctness.
We knew within days after the attacks on the World Trade Centers that al-Aulaqi was a dangerous character, so why did it take the government ten years to bring him to justice?
Let’s sum up. FBI documents show that al-Aulaqi was tied to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The FBI listed him as a member of a terrorist organization. The FBI had al-Aulaqi “dead to rights” on federal sex trafficking charges. The FBI refused to enforce an arrest warrant against him for passport fraud. Despite all of this, al-Aulaqi was never detained or prosecuted. And he went on to a leadership role in al Qaeda and other terrorist activities that lead to the deaths of Americans.
And this of all places his subsequent assassination by President Obama in a different light. Did we have to kill a double agent or someone who had been an intelligence asset of the United States government
We intend to continue searching for answers.
As I told Fox News, “It’s about time this administration (and the government generally) comes clean about its relationship with al-Aulaqi. It’s screaming for further clarification.”
Liberals love playing politics with race. They don’t care if their race-based policies are unconstitutional. They don’t care if they are divisive. They don’t even care if they work. They peddle these policies so they can win votes.
Thankfully, last week the Supreme Court put an end to one form of race-based politics, ruling the federal government can no longer attack states that want to impose voter integrity measures under the guise of “racial equality” – not without solid, current evidence of discrimination. This decision now makes it easier for key states to implement voter ID laws, protecting the integrity of the electoral process. (See more here.)
On Monday of this week, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that schools must prove there are “no workable race-neutral alternatives” to achieve diversity on campus before considering race as a factor in the admissions process – a modest, but important step to eliminating race-based preferences altogether. The case involved a white applicant to the University of Texas-Austin, Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission – in her view due to the university’s race-based admissions policies. (JW filed an amicus curiae brief with the High Court in this case which you can read here.)
But the Supreme Court is not finished with the issue of affirmative action. Next term, the Court will consider a case that will determine if voters in Michigan have a say in whether affirmative action policies should continue at the taxpayer funded University of Michigan. And JW has once again entered the debate.
On July 1, 2013, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief for our friends at the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) with the High Court in support of Proposition 2, Michigan’s seven-year-old ban on the use of racial preferences in college admissions.
According to the brief:
Among the harms caused by the Sixth Circuit’s decision are: a dangerous erosion of the people’s right to democratic self-governance; the needless further enshrinement of the intellectually impoverished concept of race into law; the perpetuation of a culture of racial and ethnic politics in American public life; and the perpetuation of racial and ethnic resentment and intolerance in American society.
On November 15, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled 8-7 that the affirmative action ban, which Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed in a 2006 referendum, violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection laws. (The Supreme Court has granted cert. and is now considering Michigan’s appeal.)
And how did the Sixth Circuit come to the ridiculous conclusion that unlawful race-based preferences trump the people’s right to govern themselves?
In striking down Proposition 2, the Sixth Circuit Court relied upon the “political restructuring doctrine,” a legal precedent used by courts to invalidate laws judged to impede the access of minorities to the political system.
In its brief, JW argues, reliance on this doctrine is not only inappropriate, it is unconstitutional: “The Sixth Circuit’s use of the political restructuring doctrine to propagate racial preferences in Michigan violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Both the political restructuring doctrine and its application to affirmative action are judicially unjustifiable in present day America … In 2013, significant populations of blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians all must compete at the ballot box … [T]he smaller and shrinking white majorities of 2013 have been successfully transformed by the civil rights movement and no longer favor racial exclusion and discrimination.
[T]he political restructuring doctrine has only been applied to cases where populations vote their racial group interests alone. This assumption is no longer true for popular initiatives on affirmative action, if it ever was. The broad public dislike of affirmative action is spread evenly among America’s racial groups: The wide opposition to affirmative action in college admissions spans partisan and racial divides. Nearly eight in 10 whites and African Americans and almost seven in 10 Hispanics oppose allowing universities to use race as a factor.
Unlike the slim 8-7 appellate court vote that rendered the referendum null and void, the public’s vote was not close.
The Michigan ban on racial preferences in college admissions was passed in a 2006 referendum, with 58% voting “yes.” It was added to the state’s constitution, barring publicly funded colleges from granting “preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”
So what is at stake here is the basic right of the citizens of a sovereign state to make their own laws. The Supreme Court should take up this issue and hold that the people of Michigan were acting within their constitutional rights when they overwhelmingly banned insidious racial discrimination. If it fails to do so, then key aspects of self-governance – including the powers of initiative and referendum — would be rendered meaningless.
In the Fisher affirmative action case mentioned above, Justice Clarence Thomas, who joined the majority but wrote his own concurring opinion, argued that considering race in college admissions violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
According to U.S News, “Thomas noted that slaveholders once argued that slavery civilized blacks, and that segregationists once argued that separating students by race was good for blacks because it protected them from racist whites.”
Thomas wrote: “Following in these inauspicious footsteps, the University [of Texas-Austin] would have us believe that its discrimination is likewise benign. I think the lesson of history is clear enough: Racial discrimination is never benign.”
Let’s hope this opinion, which mirrors the arguments put forth by JW and the AEF, prevails when the High Court decides the Michigan affirmative action case next term.
Liberal celebrities traveling to countries hostile to the United States — and supporting oppressive and cruel dictators – is not a new phenomenon. (See Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Susan Sarandon, and many other Hollywood leftists, who have visited and publicly lauded the now-deceased Venezuelan Communist strongman Hugo Chavez.)
But two of the music industry’s hottest celebrities might just have gone too far with a recent trip to Cuba.
Judicial Watch recently obtained records from the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) revealing that singers Beyoncé and Jay-Z may have violated the terms of the travel agreement under which they traveled to Cuba by engaging in tourism activities.
The Sir John Soane Museum Foundation, which organized the trip, was required by the OFAC license securing the trip to “provide each traveler with a written statement” informing them of the stringent tourism restrictions, which restricted participants to “a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”
According to the records, OFAC specifically did not “authorize transactions related to activities that are primarily tourist-oriented, including self-directed educational activities that are intended only for personal enrichment.”
But evidently, Beyoncé and Jay-Z either didn’t get the memo or they chose to ignore it. Reports from both the press covering the couple’s wedding anniversary trip as well as the couple’s own statements indicate that the entertainers engaged in extensive “self-directed” and “tourist-oriented” activities unrelated to “educational activities.” According to the London Daily Mail, “Pictures showing Beyoncé and Jay-Z sauntering down a street in Havana, Cuba and taking in the island’s nightlife have sparked outrage among activists appalled that the couple could vacation in a country known for its oppressive regime.”
In a photo album posted by Beyoncé on their Tumblr page, the couple is seen taking in their surroundings as they are driven through Havana, often with Jay-Z seemingly sporting a Cuban cigar.
In an angry response to criticism of the couple’s trip, rap-singer Jay-Z produced a song entitled “Open Letter,” claiming he had “done turned Havana into Atlanta,” and telling President Obama, “You don’t need this s—, come chill with me on the beach.”
(Judicial Watch obtained the documents on June 14, 2013, in response to an April 9, 2013, FOIA request to Treasury. The 32 pages of records provided, “all records concerning, regarding, or relating to Cuba travel by Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Shawn Corey “Jay-Z” Carter from March 31, 2013 through April 8, 2013.”)
Reaction from Cuban-American public officials to the couple’s trip has been sharply critical.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, an American of Cuban descent, denouncing the couple as “hypocritical,” said: “These are tourist trips, and they are – what they’re doing is providing hard currency and funding so that a tyrannical regime can maintain its grip on the island of Cuba, and I think that’s wrong,”
According to press reports, Beyoncé and Jay-Z “splash[ed] as much as millions of dollars for luxurious accommodations for their entourage of family, friends and security,” on the island, which, according to Freedom House, has confined some 500,000 political prisoners since the Castro brothers took power.
In a letter to the Director of Foreign Assets Control, Representatives Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), born in Cuba, and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), of Cuban descent, requested additional information about the OFAC approval process, saying, “Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple’s trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda.”
No one is above the law. That’s our official motto. And regardless of how much money or fame someone might have, they must be held accountable. The Obama administration obviously isn’t serious about enforcing the legal restrictions on travel to communist-controlled Cuba. It seems that the Beyoncé/Jay-Z trip made a joke out of the law.
Speaking of making a joke out of the law, as you know from reading this space each week, the Obama administration is off the rails and out of control with scandal after scandal exploding into the news seemingly every day. And if you want to know the inside scoop about Obama corruption, then you cannot miss our feature documentary film, District of Corruption.
We have had enormous success in the initial broadcasts of our television distribution partner, AXS TV, the film is going to be re-broadcast several more times this month (be sure to check our film page for any additional updates):
Saturday, July 6 – 3:30 p.m. ET.
Monday, July 8 – 5 p.m. ET.
Thursday, July 18 – 1 p.m. ET.
In closing, I want to wish everyone a happy Independence Day Weekend. Let’s use this holiday to renew our commitment to returning integrity to our institutions of government, and fostering respect for our nation’s founding document, the United States Constitution.
Until next week…
Tom Fitton, President Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach.