Awlaki, a jihadist who spoke fluent English, was the driving force behind the Fort Hood Massacre in November 2009, the attempted bombing of Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 as well as the attempted bombing of Time Square in May 2010. Nidal Malik Hasan, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad all had direct contact with Awlaki either in person or over the Internet. It is also well worth noting that two of the 9/11 hijackers attended his sermons in Virginia (as did Hasan). The two 9/11 hijackers in question, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar were both on American Airlines Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon. It is believed that Awlaki either had a role in the attacks of September 11, 2001 or was at the very least aware that they were being planned.
Awlaki also served as a source of inspiration to the jihadists who carried out the London subway bombings in 2005, to a Canadian terror cell which planned to carry out attacks in Toronto and Ottawa in 2006 but thwarted by Canadian authorities and as well as those who planned to attack Fort Dix in 2007.
It was also Awlaki who issued a fatwa last year against Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris who initiated the Facebook campaign “Everyone Draw Mohammed Day.” She launched the campaign in response to the threats made against South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone following their two part episode which featured a depiction of Mohammed. Norris would withdraw from the campaign but that was not enough for Awlaki. Norris subsequently changed her identity and went into hiding. In light of the fact that Awlaki is now dead it will be interesting to see if Norris comes out of hiding. However, I am inclined to think this will not happen as his followers will be eager to seek revenge and she would be a prime target if she made herself known.
While one could make an argument that we could have learned a great deal about al Qaeda operations from Awlaki had we captured him. But where would they have put him? Guantanamo? Given his U.S. citizenship, the Left would have demanded a civilian trial. It’s probably just as well that Awlaki has arrived in that special place in hell reserved for him.
UPDATE: I see that Ross Kaminsky and I both have the same destination in mind for Awlaki.