(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained 900 pages of newly released internal documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicating there may have been a serious rift between the agency’s 9/11 Commission Task Force (Task Force) and the National Commission on Terrorism (Commission) in tracking the activities of U.S.-born al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Aulaqi. Additionally, in an October 2003 email from al-Aulaqi to an FBI agent, the terrorist says he is “astonished” and “amazed” by the media coverage of him and hoped that “US authorities know better.”
The documents were released as a result of the court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit,Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:12-cv-00893), which was filed on June 4, 2012. Judicial Watch first asked for the documents over three years ago, in September 2011.
The FBI emails obtained by Judicial Watch dating back to December 2003 suggest that agency personnel were bothered by the Commission’s “numerous and unrelenting requests” and were dismissive of the Commission’s work. The emails indicate that the FBI refused to set up interviews between the Commission and al-Aulaqi, and was surprised to learn of the Commission’s trip to Yemen, in what turned out to be a futile attempt to track down the terrorist. Quoting from the emails:
- FBI email from December 15, 2003 – “SA [REDACTED] has had a conversation with Aulaqi and has tentatively set up an interview for mid March. With the Va. Jihad trial scheduled for early Feb. this is will be the earliest SA [REDACTED] can meet Aulaqi [REDACTED] With that said, we would not want to do the interview with the 9/11 commission. If the 9/11 commission needs to meet with Aulaqi, we will provide the contact information so they can set up their own interview.” [Emphasis added]
- FBI email from December 21, 2003 – “… I would like copies of all e-mail contacts between [REDACTED] and Aulaqi as soon as possible. They [apparently the 9/11 Commission] have requested copies of these e-mails. I will discuss the content with the commission staff and determine what the course of action will be. This is a hot topic for them and they have been relentless in their desire to interview Aulaqi.” [Emphasis added]
- FBI email apparently also on December 21, 2003 – “… the [FBI] 9/11 Commission Task Force (Task Force) has received numerous and unrelenting requests from the NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TERRORISM (9/11 Commission) regarding closed WFO [Washington Field Office] subject Anwar Aulaqi. These requests stemmed from WFO’s revelation to 9/11 Commission staff member [REDACTED] that an individual representing himself as Aulaqi left several telephone messages on SA [REDACTED] office voice mail. WFO EC dated 11/25/03 provides explicit details regarding these voice messages, and 9/11Commission is aware of the same … Nonetheless, for reasons not clearly discernable to the Task Force, the 9/11 Commission reiterates the following Miscellaneous Request [REDACTED].” [Emphasis added]
- FBI undated email, likely in 2004 after Al Aulaqi had moved to Yemen – “… Apparently the 9/11 Commission is interested in interviewing Anwar Al-Aulaqi and some members are en route to Yemen to try and do that … I was interviewed by the 09/11 Commission on 10/16 about Aulaqi … They were obviously interested but made no requests for assistance in setting up their potential interview with Aulaqi. According to [REDACTED] the 09/11 Commission that is enroute to Yemen is now trying to figure out how they’re going to arrange the interview of Aulaqi once they get there.”
On October 23, 2003, al-Aulaqi wrote (after first leaving a voice mail) to an unnamed official at the FBI Academy:
I was astonished by some of the talk circulating in the media about me. I was even more surprised to know that the congressional report on Sep 11 had alluded to me as being a “spiritual adviser” to the hijackers. The Guardian newspaper in the UK mentioned that the US authorities are looking for me in the UK while Time magazine mentions that they are looking for me in Yemen. Well in both countries I could be easily accessed. Even though I have nothing more to say than what I did at our previous meetings I just wanted to let you know that I am around and available. I am amazed at how absurd the media could be and I hope that the US authorities know better and realize that what was mentioned about me was nothing but lies.
Despite this email and an offer to speak with U.S. officials, the final report of the Commission notes that its members were unable to locate al-Aulaqi for an interview during the course of their investigation. The report describes al-Aulaqi’s prior relationship with at least two of the 9/11 hijackers as a “remarkable coincidence” and describes him as a “potentially significant San Diego contact” of the hijackers.
Al-Aulaqi’s email offering to meet with the FBI after being identified as a person of interest by the Commission is the latest in a series of events that have fueled speculation that he was an asset or an intelligence source for the U.S. government.
Read more at Judicial Watch