The (Possibly) Tell-Tale Publication Date and Other Circumstantial Info
By Paul Iorio
Awalki's copyright for much of his life's work. Was
he summing up and getting his affairs together, a few
weeks before 9/11, in anticipation of some sort of upheaval?
Anwar al-Awlaki, the Islamic militant known to have met
with two of the September 11th hijackers, spent the weeks
prior to 9/11 collecting much of his life's work for publication
The proximity of his work's official publication date to the
9/11 attacks arguably gives the appearance of someone summing up or
getting one's work and affairs in order before an anticipated upheaval or
interruption of some sort.
Analogously, the Securities and Exchange Commission often launches
investigations and even indicts based on this sort of
circumstantial evidence (i.e., increased business activity preceding
a dramatic market downturn or upturn).
According to the online records of the U.S. Copyright Office,
reported for the first time here, Awlaki has filed for a copyright
only twice in his career: for a 22-CD audio compilation of his
lectures that was published on August 15, 2001, and for a cassette
tape version published months earlier. (The formal copyright for
both works was registered in subsequent months.)
Awlaki's copyrighted oeuvre -- "The Life of the Prophets," an audio
anthology of his speeches spanning some two dozen discs and
18 cassette tapes -- was published by the Denver, Colorado-based
Al-Basheer Company For Publications & Translations, which
shares the copyright with him. (The company has not yet
responded to a question about whether it still pays royalties
to Awlaki and, if so, who it now pays.)
The Al-Basheer Company initially promoted the CD-set prominently
on its website's front page but has since removed it from its
online catalogue altogether. However, the publisher does
currently publish and promote works by another jihadi, Bilal Philips,
who the U.S government has called an "unindicted co-conspirator"
in the World Trade Center attack of 1993. (It was previously
thought that Philips' works were only availablea t the few
western libraries that hadn't yet removed them from the shelves.)
In the period before the 9/11 attacks -- from August 24 to August
27, 2001 -- Awlaki and Bilal Philips both appeared at a Da'wah
Conference at the University of Leicester in the U.K. with
other Muslim activist speakers, including Rafil Dhafir, now
in prison in the U.S. on terrorism charges.
When the circumstantial evidence about Awlaki's activities
in the weeks before 9/11 is put together, one has to wonder
and ask about the possibility that Awlaki had
foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks.
First, as has been widely reported, Awlaki knew two of the
hijackers -- Hawaf al-Hizmi and Hazmi's roommate Khalid al-Mihdar --
in the months prior to the hijackings. (A third, Hani Hanjour,
attended the mosque where Awlaki was the imam). Second, as
reported exclusively here, Awlaki spent the months and weeks
before the attacks getting his life's work together, assembling
together a sort of 'collected works' retrospective of his
lectures (though he had never before and hasn't since
copyrighted his material). Third, in the week before the
hijackings, he was participating in a seminar with a militant
involved in the World Trade Center bombing of '93.
(It should be noted that a cassette tape edition of Awlaki's
work had been published in January 2001, and even this date
supports my theory that he was tying up loose ends. After all,
the hijackings were originally scheduled for early 2001 and
then for July 2001, with the final date of 9/11 decided only
at the last minute. So if hijacker al-Hizmi had confided
in Awlaki in 2000 about the upcoming attacks, Awlaki would have
come into 2001 knowing only that the hijackings would take
place some time that year.)
For the record, the conventional wisdom has it that Awlaki
publicly condemned the 9/11 attacks at the time. But
close scrutiny of his statements reveals that he almost always
talked about 9/11 in highly ambiguous and almost sneaky terms
that could easily be read as an endorsement of either side.
For example, Awlaki was quoted by The New York Times in '01 as saying
the following about incendiary jihadi talk that leads to violence:
''There were some statements that were inflammatory," Awlaki told The Times --
while not specifying whether he was referring to statements by
Muslim radicals or by the so-called infidel -- "and were considered
just talk, but now we realize that talk can be taken seriously and
acted upon in a violent radical way." (Again, his meaning was
slippery and could have easily been along the lines of:
'now we realize that blasphemy and anti-Islamic talk must be
taken seriously and should be combated with violence.')
By the time of the 9/11 attacks, al-Awlaki had already been under
investigation for a couple years by the F.B.I. for suspected al Qaeda
ties. (The myth that he was a moderate then and has become an
extremist only recently is evidently just that: a myth.) He is currently
thought to be hiding in Yemen and is considered a high priority target
by the U.S. government.
Awlaki's collected lectures, prominently promoted
by its publisher, Al-Basheer, in '01.
* * *
Awlaki's publisher has gone on to publish
books by other jihadists like Bilal Philips,
who helped plan the bombing of the twin towers in '93.
* * * *
Awlaki and Bilal Philips both shared the bill
at a conference at the University of Leicester a couple
weeks before 9/11.