FBI incompetence let Anwar al Awlaki slip away, say retired investigators

Asia's Tech News Daily

More than 20 years after 9/11, two key investigators who made the case their lives’ work have revealed they are still haunted by the fact that the FBI let the terrorists’ spiritual adviser slip away, only to inspire more deadly attacks in the name of Islam.

In an exclusive interview, New Jersey criminal investigator Jim Bush and FBI agent Bob Bukowski, who are both retired, told the Washington Examiner never-revealed details about how they pieced together some of the players behind the plot to hijack four commercial planes and kill 2,977 people. But the case that capped the careers of two seasoned investigators brought both triumph and disappointment, and they are only now learning why Imam Anwar al-Awlaki eluded them in the months after the attack.

“I feel Awlaki was the most important figure in the 9/11 investigation,” Bush said recently, his words tinged with both nostalgia and regret.

Awlaki was a charismatic radical cleric with a passion for prostitutes and whose fiery sermons could turn peaceful Muslims into cold-blooded killers. Bush and Bukowski were working on a branch of the 9/11 investigation code-named PENTTBOM and based in Paterson, New Jersey. Eleven of the 19 hijackers passed through the Garden State, and the gritty, densely populated city 20 miles west of Manhattan was a hot spot.

Jim Bush's and Bob Bukowski's FBI identification badges. (Jim Bush and Bob Bukowski)

By June 10, 2002, Bush and Bukowski were confident they had enough to nab al-Awlaki, but they were inexplicably told to stand down by the FBI. Between that time and Sept. 30, 2011, when a U.S. drone killed al-Awlaki in Yemen, the imam helped direct some of the world’s most high-profile acts of terrorism. He referred in a video to the so-called “underwear bomber” and Fort Hood gunman Nidal Hasan as his “students,” and a New York subway bombing plot, the thwarted attacks of the “Fort Dix Six,” and multiple attacks in England all bore al-Awlaki’s dastardly fingerprints.

Years later, Bush and Bukowski finally know the reasons they were prevented from bringing al-Awlaki to justice before he could inspire more followers to kill infidels: incompetence and paintball.

In the days following 9/11, the PENTTBOM team worked out of Paterson, New Jersey. Its mission was to focus on the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77, which was slammed into the Pentagon, killing 189. They knew early on that a shadowy cleric had played a key role in the plot, but his identity had been elusive. Nine months after the attack, they showed the American-born al-Awlaki’s photo to Eyad Rababah, who was in a Charlottesville, Virginia, jail, suspected of helping two hijackers get IDs and apartments at the behest of the mysterious imam.

“We showed the picture, and he sighs, and he looks at it, and he looks at it, and he goes, ‘That’s the guy. That’s the imam,’” Bush recalled the Jordanian-born Rababah saying after seeing a grainy picture provided by the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office. “It was a 100% identification.”

“I’m like, ‘Wow, this is it. We‘ve got it,’” Bush recalled. “We had him identified by Eyad. We knew that there was enough to hold Awlaki.”

Rababah was a star witness early on, “the first live person that met hijackers,” Bush said. In working backward to find out who helped the 19 dead terrorists, his help was critical. Rababah had turned himself in at the New Haven, Connecticut, FBI field office after learning that Bush and Bukowski were on his trail after tracing him to a forged ID found in one of the hijacker’s cars.

Eyad Rababah. (Albermarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail)

“I know the FBI is looking for me, and I just want to let you know I did meet two of the hijackers,” he told the FBI. It was just 17 days after the 9/11 attacks.

In the ensuing months, Rababah would be tied directly to aiding four of the five hijackers from American Airlines Flight 77: Hani Hanjour, who piloted the hijacked plane, Nawaf al Hazmi, Majed Moqued, and Salem Hazmi. While they were the martyrs who died in the name of their twisted cause, the detectives knew they couldn’t have done it alone.

“You have to look as a detective,” Bush said. “You’ve got to say, ‘How did these guys move around?’ They didn’t speak English. They had to have a network.”

The investigators first established that the hijackers had stayed in safehouses the detectives traced to Rababah and his Syrian roommate, Daoud Chehazeh. Chehazeh had been arrested just before the Rababah turned himself in. Under questioning over several weeks while he was held on charges of ID fraud, Rababah’s claim of innocence began to unravel. One of the apartments he and Chehazeh shared was near a Falls Church, Virginia, mosque where al-Awlaki preached.

Despite claiming they “were not religious,” Chehazeh acknowledged sending Rababah to ask the mosque’s imam for work. Confronted by that admission, Rababah confirmed he met with the imam at the mosque where two future hijackers asked for his help finding them a place to stay.

Daoud Chehazeh. (Alexandria Detention Center)

“Wow, wow, wow, this is going good,” Bush recalled thinking. “We got Rababah at the mosque. We got him talking to Awlaki. We got him to talking to the hijackers after the prayer service.“

The next step was getting Rababah to confirm that the imam he’d met was al-Awlaki. On June 10, 2002, while awaiting deportation to Jordan, Rababah made the jailhouse identification of al-Awlaki. Bush and Bukowski knew they had moved beyond the lower-level layer of logistical support and one ring closer to the senior leadership of al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki was a major player in the plot, and bringing him in could lead even further up the terror chain.

But al-Awlaki was not arrested, and the reasons would not be known to Bush and Bukowski for years. The pushback from the FBI started as Bush and Bukowski began their long drive back to New Jersey from Charlottesville. Bukowski knew another FBI agent was working on a different case involving al-Awlaki, but he didn’t know much more than that.

“I’m not going to step on anybody’s toes,” Bukowski recalled. “I don’t know what they are doing, and they don’t know what I’m doing. But at least we figure, ‘Let’s give him a call and tell him what has happened.’”

Bukowski told FBI Special Agent Wade Ammerman they had gotten a major break in the terror investigation, and that they had enough to arrest al-Awlaki. Ammerman said he wanted to meet Rababah to verify the account but would get back to them.

He never did. When an exasperated Bukowski called his bureau colleague back, he was stunned to hear Ammerman question their evidence.

“He goes, ‘I don’t know, I don’t believe he’s really identifying him,’” Bukowski said.

What the investigators did not know was that Ammerman was overseeing a separate terror investigation into what became known as the “Virginia Paintball” case. A cancer researcher and self-described Muslim scholar named Dr. Ali al-Timimi had allegedly inspired a group of young men from Virginia who used paintball to train for holy war to go to Pakistan to join the terror organization Lashkar-e-Taiba. Al-Awlaki was working as an informant for the FBI in that case, and nabbing him for 9/11 would blow his cover, the two investigators later discovered.

“We knew that there was enough to hold Awlaki,” Bush said ruefully. “They didn’t want to for the reasons we know now.”

“The Washington field office did not want Awlaki identified so they could use him as an asset for the paintball case in which Awlaki didn’t know the players,” he said.

Still, a week after Rababah positively identified al-Awlaki to Bush and Bukowski, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego issued a warrant for his arrest for falsely stating on his passport that he was born in Yemen when in fact he was born in New Mexico. Al-Awlaki had been in Yemen since March 2002, but he was nabbed at New York’s JFK Airport on Oct. 10. Bush and Bukowski suspect Ammerman summoned him back to help with the paintball case.

Ammerman allegedly told customs agents to let al-Awlaki go. Days later, the cleric visited al-Timimi’s Virginia home asking for help recruiting men for jihad. Al-Timimi’s defense attorneys insist their client declined to help and unsuccessfully sought evidence showing al-Awlaki was wearing a wire and trying to entrap al-Timimi.

Al-Timimi was convicted of 10 felonies and received a life sentence in 2005. He was sent to the federal supermax prison in Colorado. A decade later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit remanded al-Timimi’s case on the grounds that the FBI withheld evidence that it used al-Awlaki as an informant.

His case is still under appeal. Al-Timimi was released from prison in September 2020 and is now under home confinement in Virginia awaiting resolution of his case. Jonathan Turley, al-Timimi’s appellate attorney, declined to comment on the new revelations from Bush and Bukowski.

“We are obviously concerned by such reports but, given the ongoing litigation before in the federal courts, we do not feel that it would be appropriate to comment on such new evidence or allegations at this time,” Turley said.

Documents obtained by Judicial Watch suggest that Ammerman had not gone rogue. Senior FBI leadership, including then-FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, were aware of the decision to pull back al-Awlaki’s arrest warrant.

When reached by phone, Ammerman said he recently retired from the FBI office in Covington, Kentucky, and was contemplating writing a “non-fiction book that would have to be cleared through FBI channels.” He declined further comment.

“It is not wise for me to discuss these matters as I am bound by [nondisclosure agreements],” he said.

The handling of al-Awlaki by the FBI has never been fully explained.

As for Bush and Bukowski, they still wonder why they were left in the dark while carrying out the most important investigation of their careers. Not only have they since learned the FBI had crystal clear images of al-Awlaki that would have made Rababah’s identification even more conclusive, they now know the FBI surveilled the cleric as he consorted with prostitutes and as he attended a Department of Defense luncheon at the still damaged Pentagon during a Muslim outreach event in February 2002.

FBI surveillance footage of Anwar al-Awlaki in Virginia on Feb. 5, 2002. (Judicial Watch)

“Knowing Awlaki’s involvement with the hijackers and their support network, it would logically seem to me more important to understand, disrupt, and hold accountable the people involved that perpetrated the largest terrorist attack and murder on U.S. soil instead of assisting in an investigation that he didn’t have a connection with,” Bush said.

Ten years and 19 days after 9/11, the 6-foot-1, 135-pound al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a U.S. Hellfire missile launched from a drone. In the intervening decade, he had emerged as one of the world’s most wanted men and most feared terrorists. Bush and Bukowski don’t mourn al-Awlaki, but they wish they had been the ones to bring him to justice.

“Why did we not have probable cause to arrest Awlaki,” Bukowski recently wondered, “but we had probable cause to drone him?”

Washington Examiner Videos

Tags: News, FBI, Department of Justice, Terrorism, 9/11, September 11 Terrorist Attacks, Anwar al Awlaki

Original Author: Pamela K. Browne

Original Location: FBI incompetence let Anwar al Awlaki slip away, say retired investigators

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

India's active cases comes down to 1,07,019, lowest in 541 days

India saw a single-day rise of 8,318 new coronavirus infections taking the country’s tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,45,63,749, while the active cases have declined to 1,07,019, the lowest in ... Read more »

Tucson police officer dies of unspecified medical condition

The Tucson Police Department reported the death of Detective Jason Southard on Friday morning. Southard passed away after being hospitalized for an unspecified medical condition, the Tucson police announced on ... Read more »

Masdar signs agreement to develop Armenia's largest solar power plant

© Provided by Khaleej Times Supplied photo Masdar, one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies and a subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Company, announced today it has signed an agreement ... Read more »

Carmakers accelerate creativeness to make up for global chip shortage

© JUNG YEON-JE Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler cars has set up a direct line of communication with all chip suppliers, including wafer producers in Taiwan. AFP Whether buying computer chips directly ... Read more »

Bersatu tak tanding PRN Sarawak

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Keputusan berkenaan diambil dalam perbincangan bersama Ketua Menteri Sarawak yang juga Presiden GPS Abang Johari Openg, menurut Muhyiddin Yassin. PETALING JAYA: Bersatu tidak akan ... Read more »

Jets' Ryan Griffin finding place after dreadful 2020 season

Ryan Griffin has already surpassed his offensive production from last season, and there are still seven games left. Since Tyler Kroft was placed on injured reserve following a lung laceration, ... Read more »

Russia-based insults led Rangers' Artemi Panarin to hurl glove at Brad Marchand

BOSTON — Artemi Panarin did not see the humor in it, not even a little. Two sources confirmed Brad Marchand was yelling insults at Panarin from one bench to the ... Read more »

Maxene Magalona Got Super Emotional With Her 'Viral' Family's Birthday Surprise

© Provided by Cosmopolitan Philippines Maxene Magalona couldn’t help but break into tears while on the set of the mystery and crime drama series Viral. The actress got super emotional when the cast ... Read more »

‘I can have more fun now': Young Albertans roll up their sleeves to get COVID-19 vaccine

Thousands of kids in Alberta are one big step closer to being protected from COVID-19. © Courtesy: AHS Sofia Flores Rojas, 9, after her COVID-19 vaccine in Calgary, Alta., on ... Read more »

Samantha visits ex-father-in-law Nagarjuna's studio after split with Naga Chaitanya. This is why

Samantha visited Nagarjuna’s Annapurna Studios on November 26 for the first time after split with Naga Chaitanya. Samantha was spotted at Nagarjuna’s Annapurna Studios on Friday (November 27) for the ... Read more »

Prashant Kishor eyes KMC polls; TMC releases list of 144 candidates, 64 women nominated

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: Ahead of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls, the ruling TMC on Friday (November 26) released the list of 144 candidates.  Following a three-hour-long ... Read more »

Talks of new alliance, Cong not enthused but open to Chirag

© Provided by Hindustan Times The LJP failed to impress in the recently held by-polls for two assembly seats in a continuation of its dismal performance in 2020 assembly elections. ... Read more »

Narendra Modi to chair meet on COVID-19 situation with top government officials at 10.30 am

© Provided by Firstpost Narendra Modi to chair meet on COVID-19 situation with top government officials at 10.30 am Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair a meeting with top government ... Read more »

Inflation warning: Savers urged to lock their money away to stop it ‘losing value'

With the Bank of England base rate currently at 0.1 percent and inflation having risen by 4.2 percent in the 12 months to October 2021, the money left in basic ... Read more »

Pensioners issued savings warning as state pension may not cover surprise costs

When it comes to finances, people are well familiar with the notion of budgeting for their monthly outgoings. Whether it is rent or mortgage costs, electricity, gas, council tax, or ... Read more »

Pension and state pension income can be boosted by taking action - 'never too early!'

Retirement can often be expensive, and individuals will need to have a certain amount of money put aside to see them through later life. However, people do not have to ... Read more »

Retire early: how to turn your side hustle into a million pound business

The business man in his late thirties came up with his niche business idea after spotting a gap in the market and working on his side hustle for just two ... Read more »

Fuel poverty fears as support 'not enough' for widows living on just £8,000 state pension

With energy bills skyrocketing in the UK and massive energy companies such as Bulb falling into administration, many households will be looking for vital benefits to make ends meet this ... Read more »

‘UnWrapped' Podcast: ‘Gossip Girl' Star Jordan Alexander on Embarrassing Fashion Fails and Addressing ‘Privilege' on Screen

© Provided by TheWrap Untitled design-2 In this month’s episode of “UnWrapped,” hosts Emily Vogel and Andi Ortiz are joined by “Gossip Girl” star Jordan Alexander. Ahead of participating in ... Read more »

Bobbi-Anne McLeod murder: Cody Ackland appears in court over murder of Plymouth teenager

A man has appeared in court charged with the murder of teenager Bobbi-Anne McLeod in Plymouth. A body, believed to be that of the missing 18-year-old, was discovered on Tuesday ... Read more »

PM Modi to chair meet on COVID-19, vaccination status today amid concerns over Omicron variant

© Provided by Jagran English New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair a high-level meet with top officials of the government over the COVID-19 situation ... Read more »

Mayor Isko Moreno optimistic about Yorme movie clashing against Eternals at the box office

© Provided by PEP.ph Ang musical na Yorme: The Isko Domagoso Story ang unang Pinoy movie na ipalalabas matapos mag-reopen ang local cinemas noong Nobyembre 10. Makikipagsalpukan ito sa marvelous ... Read more »

South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe taken out of Philippines' green list

Cabinet Secretary and acting Palace spokesperson Karlo Nograles Nov. 16, 2021 The Philippine government has taken out South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe from its green list. Cabinet Secretary and acting ... Read more »

New Covid variant is more infectious

SCIENTISTS in South Africa said Thursday they had detected a new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations, blaming it for a surge in infection numbers. The number of ... Read more »

Schweizer Biathlon-Team bereit für Weltcupstart

© KEYSTONE/GIAN EHRENZELLER Der Biathlon-Tross eröffnet die Olympiasaison heute Samstag in Östersund. Die Schweizer Equipe will in Schweden einen soliden Start hinlegen, um mit Blick auf Peking 2022 Ruhe ins ... Read more »

Vollblut-Zürcher will Luzern mit Lachen aus dem Tabellenkeller retten

Diashow ein Der 42-jährige Sandro Chieffo ist der neue Trainer an der Seitenlinie des FC Luzern. Nach der Trennung von Fabio Celestini übernimmt Chieffo mindestens für vier Spiele bis Weihnachten ... Read more »

Erste Bilder und Informationen zum neuen Kia Niro

Kia präsentiert auf der Autoshow in Seoul den neuen Niro, Marktstart ist 2022. © Kia Bislang hatten Kunden des Niro die Wahl, ob sie das Auto mit Hybrid-, Plug-in-Hybrid- oder ... Read more »

Asylsuchende auf Lesbos müssen in Übergangslagern überwintern

© Keystone/AP/Panagiotis Balaskas Asylsuchende auf den griechischen Insel Lesbos und Chios können nicht wie geplant bis zum Winter in neue Flüchtlingslager ziehen. Rund 2550 Menschen werden dort weiterhin in Zelten ... Read more »

Bangladesh vs Pakistan 1st Test Day 2 at Chattogram, Full Cricket Score

© Provided by Firstpost Bangladesh vs Pakistan 1st Test Day 2 at Chattogram, Full Cricket Score Toggle between the tabs above to switch between quick scorecard, full scorecard and ball-by-ball ... Read more »

'Gutkha man' from Kanpur Test 'irritated' over viral video, says sister receiving 'nasty comments'

© Provided by Jagran English New Delhi | Jagran Trending Desk: Amid the ongoing 1st Test match between India and New Zealand at the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur, a ... Read more »

Best gift to my father: Shreyas Iyer dedicates hundred on Test debut to supportive parents

Shreyas Iyer India batter Shreyas Iyer dedicated his hundred on Test debut to his parents, saying they have been pillars of support, backing him through ups and downs in his ... Read more »

WATCH: Sonam Kapoor, Anand Ahuja enjoy slingshot ride as they go 220 feet into the sky in old video

© Provided by Pinkvilla Actress Sonam Kapoor and her husband Anand Ahuja are one of the most adored Btown couples. From taking trips together to setting up a home, everything ... Read more »

Blowing the house down: life on the frontline of extreme weather in the Gambia

The windstorm arrived in Jalambang late in the evening, when Binta Bah and her family were enjoying the evening cool outside. “But when we first heard the wind, the kids ... Read more »

More SAfrica travel restrix as new variant emerges

A coronavirus variant was recently identified in South Africa and is leading to a new round of travel restrictions just as many had finally begun to ease. Read more »

NYC teen stabbed in face after being jumped by three attackers

The 14-year-old was taken to a local hospital in stable condition following the attack in Elmhurst Friday evening. Christopher Sadowski A teenage boy was stabbed in the face during an ... Read more »

Fans erect memorial outside Stephen Sondheim Theatre after death of Broadway legend

A memorial to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim outside his namesake Broadway theater just hours after his death on Nov. 26, 2021. AFP via Getty Images Fans mourning the loss of ... Read more »

Amapiano Or Ed Sheeran On His Wedding?

People are continually dancing to the fantastic Amapiano tunes that have recently taken over the South African music industry. The Amapiano hits are perfect for every occasion, whether you’re at ... Read more »

Wanna One members are reunited!

Photo: Kim Jae Hwan/IG Wanna One are reunited and it feels so good! Ten out of eleven members of the South Korean boy band posed for a group photo posted ... Read more »

Sikat na Kapuso actress, napiling maging hurado sa Miss Universe 2021

© Provided by PEP.ph Ngayong Sabado, November 27, ang alis ni Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez patungo sa Eilat, Israel para sa grand coronation ng 70th Miss Universe ... Read more »

Gogglebox cast react to Boris Johnson's 'toe curling' Peppa Pig CBI speech

The cast of Gogglebox were left open mouthed and horrified as they watched Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver his now infamous speech to the Confederation of British Industry on Tuesday ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic