Awlaki was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Yemeni parents. He has earned a reputation as a powerful voice for radical Islam, while those familiar with Islamic extremism have described him as no more than "an al-Qaeda affiliate nut case."
Nut case or prophet, Awlaki's name has been in the news often, as he has claimed to have been the spiritual advisor to both Nidal Hasan, the accused Ft. Hood shooter, and Umar Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of attempting to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 over Detroit.
The point of one of the memos is to call attention to the evangelical potential Awlaki's discourses might have in the United States.
The first memo, drafted by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, reckons that Awlaki (spelled Aulaqi in the text of the memo) could "inspire" obedience in American radicals and devise terrorist attacks on Americans on American soil.
The Fox News report quotes the memo as saying, "The FBI and DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis are concerned that Anwar Aulaqi's support for violence against U.S. military and civilian targets could inspire terrorist groups or individuals to conduct attacks in the United States. The FBI and DHS/I&A encourage reporting of suspicious activity to appropriate authorities and encourage our homeland security, military, and law enforcement partners to remain vigilant."
On April 6, 2010, the New York Times reported that President Obama had authorized the targeted killing of Awlaki. The CIA and the U.S. military both maintain lists of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda and its associates who are pre-approved for capture or killing, the so-called "kill or capture" list.
According to intelligence sources, Awlaki is currently enjoying the protection of al-Qaeda affiliated tribes in the southern mountains of Yemen. In a video clip produced by the group known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Awlaki is quoted as saying, "What am I accused of? Of calling for the truth? Of calling for jihad for the sake of Allah? Of calling to defend the causes of the Islamic nation?" Later in the clip, Awlaki praises the efforts of Hasan and Abdulmutallab, describing both as his "students."
Yemen's most influential Islamic cleric, Sheik Abdel-Majid al-Zindani (pictured above), is regarded as an al-Qaeda-linked terrorist by the United States government. Zindani founded the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), an organizatoin at which Anwar al-Awlaki once served as Vice President.
In May, U.S. officials changed Awlaki's official status, asserting that he had ceased being merely "inspirational" and had become "operational" and plotting attacks against America and American citizens and concerns.
Remarkably, Awlaki has never been indicted, has never been placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list, nor formally placed on any government list of suspected terrorists. Furthermore, the Justice Department actively impeded Senator Joe Lieberman's investigation into the role played by Awlaki in the Ft. Hood massacre. The Department steadfastly refused to release any of the email conversations between Hasan and his erstwhile mentor.
One of the documents obtained by Fox News reportedly asserts that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has expanded the desired scope of its operations and is actively targeting people and places in the West. The Fox News story cites a quote from the memo claiming that "the group is also prepared to strike directly at the West itself, and to operate beyond the Arabian Peninsula for the first time."
Recently, Barry Walter Bujol, an American from Texas, was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he tried to supply al-Qaeda (specifically al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) with money and personnel.
The FBI claims that Bujol had corresponded frequently via email with Awlaki in which the self-professed cleric sent Bujol a paper he penned entitled, "44 Ways of Supporting Jihad." In that tract, Awlaki writes that the "hatred of [those who reject Islam] is a central element of our military creed."
Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Aulaqi, who received graduate degrees from New Mexico State University and the University of Nebraska, claims that the government of the United States is inventing the case against his son and using him as a convenient scapegoat. "He's not Osama bin Laden, they want to make something out of him that he's not," Aulaqi told CNN.
The government of Yemen recently refused to extradite Awlaki to the United States citing the country's law that bans extradition of its citizens.
Yemen's Islamic Affairs Minister, Hamoud al-Hitar told the Associated Press that his government desires that Awlaki be brought to justice, but that it will be in Yemeni courts not in those of the United States. In the statement, al-Hitar encourages American intelligence and law enforcement to provide his government of proof of Awlaki's terrorist ties so that "the Yemeni justice system can do its job."
Instead of providing proof of Awlaki's guilt, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security have criticized Yemen's failure to crackdown on al-Qaeda and its associates they believe are holed up in the mountainous regions of the country's southern coast.
For more information on Anwar al-Awlaki, see the following related articles:
Photo: Awlaki's ally? Yemen's most influential Islamic cleric, Sheik Abdel-Majid al-Zindani, considered an al-Qaida-linked terrorist by the United States, attends a conference in the capital San'a, on Jan.14, 2010: AP Images