Thursday, June 14, 2012

American cleric used more than 60 email accounts to reach followers, including Hasan

By , with additional reporting by Pamela Browne, Gregory Johnson and Cyd Upson
Published June 14, 2012


The American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki used more than 60 email addresses and sent several thousand emails to his followers, some with encryption and code words, while under FBI surveillance -- according to a five-month investigation by Fox News. Some of those emails were exchanged with accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan. 

"Fox Files: The Enemy Within," which debuts on Fox News Channel June 15 at 10 p.m. ET, draws on exclusive interviews and first-hand accounts of the Fort Hood massacre which killed 13 and injured at least 43 others on Nov. 5, 2009. For the first time, victims of the shooting, as well as senior investigators, break their silence about the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil since 9/11. 

"He (Anwar al-Awlaki) was incredibly busy. He -- during his peak period -- had upwards of 60 email accounts that he was using at any given time," retired FBI agent Keith Slotter told Fox Files. 

Slotter, whose career spanned 25 years at the Bureau, was the special agent in charge of the San Diego field office from 2007 to 2012. His agents at the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which included detailees assigned to the FBI, tracked the cleric who was the public face of Al Qaeda 2.0 and the new digital jihad. 

Since the attacks of 9/11, there are now more than 100 JTTFs across the country. 

But in the 2011 Senate Homeland Security Committee investigation of the Fort Hood massacre, the FBI came under criticism for failing to act as an "effective interagency information sharing and operation coordination mechanism."   

In other words, at times the FBI failed to share key information with intelligence analysts under their supervision. 

Slotter, who now works at a private international investigative firm specializing in cyber crime and digital forensics, characterized the number as "thousands of emails ... over a three-year period, tens of thousands." 

By 2009, the cleric, the first American on the CIA's kill-or-capture list, understood he was the target of U.S. and foreign intelligence services. Fox Files has learned al-Awlaki shunned the use of phones and turned to his keyboard because he believed email communications were more secure. 

"He'd let some (emails accounts) go dark, and he'd use 10 or 15, and then those would go dark, and he'd go to a different set. So he was constantly revolving," Slotter explained. "As you can imagine with that many accounts, it was quite a lot to stay on top of." 

Asked how much of it was encrypted or used code words, Slotter replied: "I'll simply say, some was encrypted. And leave it at that. I don't want to get into the technological aspects." 

Slotter has reviewed the emails between al-Awlaki and Major Hasan. The former FBI agent went to them many times after the attack to consider if anything was missed. 

"I reviewed those emails many times. I had them bound on my desk, had all of them. There was nothing really in there that would indicate al-Awlaki prompting Major Hasan to do something." 

Also in 2009, at the same time al-Awlaki was exchanging emails with Hasan, Fox Files has confirmed the radical American cleric was sending highly encrypted emails calling for a major terrorist attack. 

British court documents obtained by Fox Files through the Freedom of Information Act show the highly encrypted emails included specific operational instructions to blow up a British plane heading to the United States. The recipient -- Rajib Karim -- is now serving 30 years in a British jail. 

While the 19 emails between al-Awlaki and Hasan appear much less specific, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the mere contact between an Army officer and a known extremist should have led to more action by federal and military investigators. 

"I have read the emails and they should have given rise to alarm," Collins said. "Just the fact that a member of our Armed Forces was communicating at all with a radical cleric in Yemen should have given rise to an investigation that was thorough and complete." 

Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Manning, who was shot six times at Fort Hood, told Fox News that he heard Hasan scream "allahu akbar." 

Manning spoke exclusively to Fox Files about the massacre. At one point, Manning said he pretended to be dead fearing the shooter would try to finish him off if he appeared only wounded. 

"You could lose your security clearance in the Army for having bad credit and be kicked out of the Army. But you can't lose your security clearance for talking to, uh, a member of Al Qaeda, through e-mail. I mean, it doesn't make any sense." 
Fox Files requested an interview with FBI Director Robert Mueller to discuss the Fort Hood shooting and the independent review by former FBI and CIA director Judge William Webster. The FBI has yet to respond to the formal request.

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