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The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in the Name of Fighting the 'War on Terror'

Jeremy Scahill's new book, "Dirty Wars" shines a light on America’s unregulated and increasingly unilateral global assassination program.

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When 9/11 happened, Anwar al-Awlaki was living in Virginia, and he was the imam at a very large, prominent mosque, the Dar Al-Hijrah religious center in Falls Church, Virginia. And when 9/11 happened, Awlaki became the go-to imam for large, powerful corporate media outlets in the United States to understand the experience of American Muslims in the aftermath of the attacks. And Awlaki passionately denounced the 9/11 attacks, said the United States had a right to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice. He was someone that was profiled by  The Washington Post for a piece that they did about Ramadan. He was on PBS and NPR and was talking about this, the feelings of many American Muslims, which is that you hear a president in George Bush saying it’s a crusade and basically putting a number of Muslim countries, you know, in the crosshairs around the world, the start of the rumblings toward the invasion of Iraq, the initial invasion of Afghanistan, clearly sort of turning into something that was going to be a much longer-term presence. And Awlaki was affected by all of this. And when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, you saw a real sort of tilt toward a radicalization in Awlaki.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be back with war correspondent Jeremy Scahill on his new book,  Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: "Freedom," sung by Richie Havens in 1969. He died yesterday at the age of 72 at his home in New Jersey. This is  Democracy Now!,,  The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re continuing our conversation with Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, the book coming out today. We return to Jeremy talking about Anwar al-Awlaki and his time in the United States.

JEREMY SCAHILL: There’s this a whole other part of this story, which is that Awlaki, at his mosque in San Diego, two of the 9/11 hijackers had been—had attended services at his mosque, and a third one had also attended services with one of the other guys at his mosque in Virginia. And the FBI—he was already on their radar, but they brought Awlaki in a number of times for questioning, and they basically cleared him and said that he had—you know, had nothing to do with those guys except knowing them peripherally in his mosque. But that’s been the source of a lot of—of intense scrutiny in the aftermath of the attack and everything that happened with Awlaki, because some people believe that he was directly attached to the 9/11 attacks, which I think is a preposterous—I mean, it’s nonsensical to think that these guys would have keyed in Anwar Awlaki to the 9/11 attacks at a time when he was viewed as a very moderate guy. He endorsed George Bush for president in the 2000 election. In fact, Bush had a lot of support in the Arab-American community, because many people felt that he would be better than Al Gore on the issue of Palestine. And so, you know—but Awlaki had had this contact with these 9/11 hijackers. He also had been busted twice on solicitation of prostitute charges, and then those were resolved through community service and probation. But—

AMY GOODMAN: And were they real?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, we don’t know. Awlaki says that they weren’t, that it was a—that it was a setup. You know, I’ve—

AMY GOODMAN: To try to flip him?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, so what happened is that he gets busted, I think the first time in '96 in San Diego on a solicitation charge, and then he's pulled in. And he claimed—Awlaki claimed that the FBI tried to get him to start informing on people in his mosque and keeping an eye on them and telling them who was coming in and out of his mosque, and, you know, claimed that he told them to get lost. There was actually an interesting sort of development with this whole story, in that Awlaki had repeated interactions with the FBI. And I talked to a former senior FBI agent who had worked the Awlaki case, and said he believed that the bureau was trying to flip him or that they maybe had in fact gotten Awlaki to start doing some informing.

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