The Closest Thing We’ve Got to an Awlaki Indictment

Anwar al-Awlaki<a target="_blank" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anwar_al-Awlaki_sitting_on_couch,_lightened.jpg">Wikimedia</a>

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Last week prosecutors filed their sentencing memorandum in the case of admitted underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a flight to Detroit in 2009 but ended up setting himself on fire and being subdued by nearby passengers. The memo includes a document that purports to show how Abdulmutallab ended up on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with a bomb in his pants. The document provides the first real public evidence that extremist American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in September, had an “operational” role in Al Qaeda.

Though Obama administration officials frequently insisted to reporters that Awlaki was not simply a pro-Al-Qaeda propagandist, but someone with a functional role in Al Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen, actual evidence to that effect was scarce. According to the Abdulmutallab memo, in which prosecutors recommend a life sentence, Awlaki:

  • Helped facilitate Abdulmutallab’s travel to Yemen, and allowed Abdulmutallab to stay at his home.
  • Evaluated Abdulmutallab’s “suitability for jihad,” and then helped him get training.
  • Gave “final approval” to the attempted plane bombing.
  • Helped Abdulmutallab film his “martyrdom video.”

This information likely forms at least part of the justification for the decision to target Awlaki, who, according to the New York Times, was placed on the US’s covert “kill list” following Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to kill more than two hundred people. Since Awlaki is dead and the government remains tight-lipped both about the legal justification for targeting him and the evidence regarding his role in Al Qaeda, it’s impossible to objectively evaluate how reliable this information actually is. 

H/T Marcy Wheeler

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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