The Next Wave: On the Hunt for Al Qaeda’s American Recruits
A TV journalist tracks the ‘next wave’ of terrorists – the home-grown variety.
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Much of the original reporting in the book, based on her TV work, examines the imam’s interactions with the US government in 2001 and 2002, when there was a warrant for his arrest on an old passport fraud charge that the government vacated, allowing him to leave the country for good.Skip to next paragraph
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While under suspicion by the FBI both before and after 9/11 for various activities, Awlaki did not publicly reveal himself to be a full-blown proponent of terrorism against America until several years ago. Until then, he had condemned the 9/11 attacks.
He was arrested in 2006 by Yemeni authorities and incarcerated for 18 months. Awlaki was interviewed by the FBI while in prison, presumably proclaimed his innocence, and was released by Yemen in 2007, apparently without objections from the Bush administration. (For whatever reason, Herridge does not mention his Yemeni incarceration and release anywhere in the book. )
The freed Awlaki subsequently would become a far less ambiguous figure, praising Hasan – with whom he had exchanged e-mails – as a hero for his 2009 massacre of 13 people at Fort Hood, and calling American Muslims who condemned the killings “traitors to Islam.” The imam also admits to having met the underwear bomber in Yemen, while Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square, N.Y., bomber, has confessed to having been inspired to violence by Awlaki and his anti-American rhetoric. The imam is now widely believed to be a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and actively involved in plotting attacks against America and other countries.
Herridge might have done better to focus her poorly organized book from start to finish on Awlaki. She speculates that he may have been part of a support cell for the 9/11 hi-jackers and also that the US government didn’t snatch him up in 2002 (or 2007, although, again, she omits this more compelling incident) because officials were trying to recruit him as an intelligence asset. Again, she is plowing well-harrowed fields.
This book was completed before the killing of Osama bin Laden, and Herridge may now be scrambling to insert a few pages on the incident – although the successful raid would clash with the pervasive tone of her brief.
When she isn’t disparaging the current administration herself, she is quoting people who do, such as counterterrorism agent “Daniel L.” who, she writes, “[b]ecause of his deep Christian beliefs ... is not afraid to discuss the darkness of radical Islam.”
President Obama just doesn’t get it, according to Daniel, who asserts that the current administration is “desperate to assimilate, ignore, or redefine” the radical Islamic jihadist.
David Holahan frequently reviews books for the Monitor.