Google, the world’s top search engine and one of the world’s largest companies, is running paid ads promoting Anwar al-Awlaki, the deceased American-born imam who was directly and indirectly responsible for some of the world’s most famous and deadly terror attacks in the past few years, including the 9/11 terror attack, the Ft. Hood massacre, the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. As this story goes to press, people searching on Google for Anwar al-Awlaki are likely to be presented with a paid advertisement for al-Awlaki’s website.
The simple website consists of a number of videos of al-Awlaki speaking – all hosted on Google’s YouTube video sharing service – plus a request form to join a mailing list.
A search to determine the owner of the site showed that the domain’s ownership has been masked.
Google and YouTube, based in Mountain View, CA, are part of Alphabet, a holding company, whose CEO is Eric Schmitt, a top Hillary Clinton campaign supporter.
Given al-Awlaki’s status as the inspiration behind some of the most famous and deadly terror attacks in the past few years, you’d think that both Google and law enforcement agencies would have put some safeguards in place to make it more difficult for people to find the propagandistic proselytization of Anwar al-Awlaki.
Even years after his death at the hands of an American drone strike, American-born Imam Anwar al-Awlaki continues to be a motivating factor behind deadly attack after deadly attack.
Terrorism Inspired by Al-Awlaki
Omar Mateen carried out the deadliest attack on U.S. soil at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida after watching hours of al-Awlaki videos. A friend of Mateen’s submitted an OpEd to the Washington Post in which he explained how Mateen had been led to terror: “I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.”
Another man who lived in Fort Pierce and attended the same mosque as Mateen had carried out a suicide bomb attack in Syria in 2014 and was inspired by Awlaki. 22-year-old Palestinian American Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, acted on behalf of an al Qaeda-linked militant group, driving a massive truck bomb into a restaurant filled with government soldiers after watching hours of Awlaki videos. In a video Abu-Salha made before the attack that killed people, he said “In a lecture, Anwar al-Awlaki said when you make a journey for jihad it’s like a cliff, jump off the cliff and you don’t know if the water is deep or shallow. Don’t know if there’s rocks or if it’s going to be very deep. You just have to jump and put your faith in Allah that it’s going to be deep and you won’t be harmed, that you’re going to be safe after you land in the water.”
Nidal Hassan, the Muslim terrorist who killed 13 people and injured more than 30 at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009. Hassan’s attack required no money and no organizational support but we know he had indoctrination in the form of email exchanges with Anwar al-Awlaki. As the New York Times reported in 2009:
The communications provide the first indication that Major Hasan was in direct communication with anyone who espoused militant views. On Monday, Mr. Awlaki praised Major Hasan on his Web site, saying that he “did the right thing” in attacking soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mr. Awlaki added, “The only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.”
Mr. Brachman said Mr. Awlaki was especially appealing to young Muslims who are curious about radical ideas but not yet committed. “He’s American, he’s funny, and he speaks in a very understandable way,” Mr. Brachman said.
The deadly Boston Marathon attack was carried out by two Muslim brothers who learned how to make a pressure cooker bomb from an al-Qaeda magazine called Inspire! using easy to find materials. Inspire! magazine was founded by Anwar al-Awlaki. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev tweeted a few weeks before the attack to listen to al-Awlaki and ‘‘you will gain an unbelievable amount of knowledge.’’
The San Bernardino massacre by Muslim husband and wife also required very little in the way of time or money. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik watched hours of al-Awlaki videos with next-door neighbor and Muslim convert Enrique Marquez, with the NYT reporting that the three had “steeped themselves for years in radical and violent Islamist propaganda, including the teachings of the extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and bomb-making techniques from an Al Qaeda magazine.”
As Breitbart News reported, Ohio State University terrorist Abdul Razak Ali Artan called al-Awlaki a “hero” in a Facebook post shortly before the car / knife attack.
Al-Awlaki had repeatedly called for the murder of Charlie Hebdo editor, Stéphane Charbonnier. The terrorists who attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine said they were financed by al-Awlaki. As Reuters reported: Cherif Kouachi, who was killed along with his older brother following a three-day manhunt, made the assertion to BFM-TV before his death while holed up inside the building, saying “I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al Qaeda of Yemen. I went over there and it was Anwar al Awlaki who financed me.”
Somali terror group Al-Shabaab (or “The Youth”) has been promoting “lone wolf” attacks for years in slickly produced videos, many of which featured footage of al-Awlaki, as shown in this video about the mainstream media’s coverage of terror recruiting.
The two men who attempted to kill Pam Geller, Breitbart reporters, and others at the “Draw Mohammed” event in Garland, Texas were inspired by al-Awlaki. Nadir Hamid Soofi gave his mother CDs of al-Awlaki speeches before the attack and Elton Simpson’s avatar on Twitter was a photo of al-Awlaki.
The FBI learned that Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, the Muslim terrorist who murdered four Marines and a sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2015 had watched al-Awlaki videos prior to the shootings.
In 2009, al-Awlaki gave advice directly to attempted “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. As the Washington Post reported:
Abdulmutallab, inspired by the online lectures of Awlaki, left Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he was taking graduate classes, and traveled to Yemen to meet the cleric in August 2009. By that time, Abdulmutallab had been following Awlaki, the preeminent propagandist of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, for several years and was determined to carry out a suicide operation.
Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed a former Labour minister in London in 2010, was inspired after watching online videos by Anwar al-Awlaki:
Q: When did this interest of yours for Islam develop?
A: I’ve always been quite religious and I started to listen to Anwar al-Awlaki lectures last year and then I started to get really into it and I listened to everything that … like all of his recorded lectures that he made and that would have been like since November. I’ve been listening to him since November.
Q: I just want to go over a little bit how your thought has gone from getting to religion to all of a sudden wanting some form of vengeance.
A: Because as Muslims we’re all brothers and sisters and we should all look out for each other and we shouldn’t sit back and do nothing while others suffer. We shouldn’t allow the people who oppress us to get away with it and to think that they can do whatever they want to us and we’re just gonna lie down and take it.
Q: Where did you learn that from?
A: From listening to his lectures.
Q: And that’s caused you to do what you’ve done today?
Another al-Awlaki fan in 2010 was Faisal Shahzad, the attempted Times Square bomber. NYT
The Media Portrayed Awlaki as a Moderate Muslim
From beyond the grave, Anwar Al-Awlaki has shown he was one of the most influential & effective jihadist leaders. Yet at one point he was taken as an example of moderation in the Islamic faith.
Just a month after 9/11, the New York Times quoted Anwar al-Awlaki as a spokesman for moderate Islam. On October 19, 2001, the New York Times published an article titled Influential American Muslims Temper Their Tone in which they wrote:
Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, spiritual leader at the Dar al-Hijra mosque in Virginia, one of the nation’s largest, which draws about 3,000 worshipers for communal prayers each Friday, said: ”In the past we were oblivious. We didn’t really care much because we never expected things to happen. Now I think things are different. What we might have tolerated in the past, we won’t tolerate any more.”
There were some statements that were inflammatory, and were considered just talk, but now we realize that talk can be taken seriously and acted upon in a violent radical way,” said Mr. Al-Awlaki, who at 30 is held up as a new generation of Muslim leader capable of merging East and West: born in New Mexico to parents from Yemen, who studied Islam in Yemen and civil engineering at Colorado State University.
Anwar al-Awlaki’s successful double life shows how well he understood the planning before a terror attack and the public relations that must follow it. As reported by Patrick S. Poole, Awlaki was accepted enough that he even “had led Friday prayers in the U.S. Capitol for congressional Muslim staff members.”
This portrayal of Anwar Al-Awlaki as a moderate Muslim in the wake of 9/11 stands in sharp contrast to his deadly resume, and to the fact that he himself played a role in 9/11.
In 2004 the Wall Street Journal’s Glenn R. Simpson reported that al-Awlaki “counseled two of the hijackers while they stayed in San Diego and then transferred to a mosque that both hijackers attended in northern Virginia shortly before the attacks.” In 2010 the NYT reported that one detective said that al-Awlaki “was at the center of the 9/11 story,” and that an unidentified FBI agent said that “if anyone had knowledge of the plot, it would have been” the cleric, since “someone had to be in the U.S. and keep the hijackers spiritually focused.”
The new “lone wolf” tactics have changed the way that the world needs to focus on fighting terror.
The two elements of terrorist planning that law enforcement has looked to disrupt in the past have been money and organizational infrastructure.
9/11 is an example. The investigations after the towers came down focused on who had supplied the hijackers with cash and who had supported their plot with travel, communications, ID and other forms of direct organizational support. It was a complex operation and fifteen years later, it’s “old school” Al-Qaeda.
Anwar al-Awlaki helped master the crucial third element of Islamic indoctrination: the steady intellectual process of convincing someone to kill themselves and others for Allah.
YouTube has recently begun demonetizing videos with political content, including political interviews that this author has posted which are original content and which illuminate issues such as the Syrian civil war and the measures the US government has taken to purge material about the dangers of jihad.
Google has a contact page for letting them know how you feel about their running an ad advertising the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki.