Nidal Hasan Email Correspondence with Al-Awlaki Released » ADL Blogs
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August 1, 2012 0

Nidal Hasan Email Correspondence with Al-Awlaki Released

This month, the FBI released cor­re­spon­dence between Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter who killed 13 peo­ple and injured 32 oth­ers in Novem­ber 2009, and Anwar al–Awlaki, the influ­en­tial American-born ter­ror­ist ide­o­logue who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in Sep­tem­ber 2011. The cor­re­spon­dence – 16 emails sent by Hasan to al-Awlaki and two responses from al-Awlaki – reflects Hasan’s inter­est in argu­ments jus­ti­fy­ing acts of violence.

The emails were included in the final inde­pen­dent report inves­ti­gat­ing the Bureau’s han­dling of intel­li­gence sur­round­ing the 2009 shoot­ing.  Accord­ing to the report, aside from blast emails orig­i­nat­ing from al-Awlaki’s web­site, these 16 mes­sages encom­pass all of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Hasan and al-Awlaki in the time frame sur­round­ing the attack.

Less than a year before the shoot­ing, on Decem­ber 17, 2008, Hasan asked al-Awlaki for his view on Mus­lims serv­ing in the U.S. mil­i­tary and whether attack­ing mil­i­tary per­son­nel was a good idea. Two weeks later, on Jan­u­ary 1, Hasan wrote to Awlaki that hatred of the Israel could unify “all Mus­lims regard­less of… dif­fer­ence [sic].”  He also decried the dou­ble stan­dard he per­ceived was applied to Israel and the U.S. in rela­tion to the Mus­lim world.

Later that month, Hasan asked for al-Awlaki’s opin­ion on “indis­crim­i­nately killing civil­ians,” and sent another mes­sage sev­eral days later that read, “the West­ern world makes clear that it does not want Islamic rule to pre­vail.” On Feb­ru­ary 19, Hasan claimed that al-Awlaki has “a very huge fol­low­ing” in the United States that is afraid to be vocal. A mes­sage from Hasan three days later noted that his “goal is Jan­nat Fir­daus [Par­adise].”  On Feb­ru­ary 28, Hasan shared a sur­vey with al-Awlaki that he claimed “shows that most Mus­lims feel that the U.S. is try­ing to under­mine Islam [sic].” A few months later, on May 31, Hasan asked for al-Awlaki’s opin­ion on sui­cide bombings.

In one of the two emails al-Awlaki wrote to Hasan, dated Feb­ru­ary 19, 2009, he said that he would be unable to award a schol­ar­ship estab­lished in his honor and expressed his dis­com­fort with the idea.  The other email, from Feb­ru­ary 22, sug­gested that Hasan help “poor peo­ple, orphans, wid­ows, dawa [Mus­lim out­reach] projects.”  Both mes­sages are dated more than eight months prior to the attack.  Hasan appar­ently never heard from al-Awlaki again, despite con­tin­u­ing to con­tact him through June.

Although al-Awlaki did not respond directly to later emails from Hasan, in the 8th issue of the ter­ror­ist mag­a­zine Inspire, released in May 2012, al-Awlaki wrote that “the pop­u­la­tions of the nations that are at war with the Mus­lims and espe­cially those who are at the lead such as the U.S., Britain and France should be tar­geted by the mujahidin in oper­a­tions that employ explo­sives, poi­sons, firearms and all other meth­ods that lead to inflict­ing the great­est harm on them…”

The release of these emails belie al-Awlaki’s claims in the after­math of the attack that he had “blessed the act because it was against a mil­i­tary tar­get,” gave Hasan “per­mis­sion to carry out his attacks at Fort Hood,” and instructed him to “kill other Amer­i­can sol­diers.” His cor­re­spon­dence to Hasan was, in fact, rel­a­tively innocuous.