Al-Qaeda

Jason Leopold on the Samir Khan Case

By Benjamin Wittes
Monday, September 22, 2014, 9:59 PM

Over at VICE News, reporter Jason Leopold has this very interesting story about the FBI investigation of Samir Khan, the AQAP propagandist and editor of Inspire magazine, who was killed in the strike against Anwar Al-Awlaqi. Khan, like Al-Awlaqi, was a U.S. citizen, though the government maintains that he was not the target of the strike that killed him. The article is based largely on documents released by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act. While Leopold notes that they are heavily redacted, he actually gleans a lot of worthwhile detail from them. The story opens:

In 2006, a high priority for the FBI was tracking the owner of a blog called Inshallahshaheed who frequently posted commentary in support of Muslim extremist groups and violent jihad.

The FBI feared that both the shifting tone of the blog entries and the dozens of videos the blogger posted to YouTube depicting terrorist operations indicated that he was planning an attack against the US, or intended to join up with militants in Iraq and Afghanistan to fight the US military.

Five years later, that blogger, Samir Khan, was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen alongside radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who the Obama administration had secretly targeted for death, setting off a fierce debate over executive power. Both men were affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — and both men were US citizens.

"Together, Aulaqi [Awlaki] and Khan have drawn on their understanding of the United States to craft a radicalizing message tailored to American Muslims," Lauren O'Brien, an intelligence analyst in the FBI's counterintelligence division, wrote in September 2011, the month the two men were killed.

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