Does Obama Admin. Operate a Terrorist Catch and Release Program?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Does Obama Admin. Operate a Terrorist Catch and Release Program?

Documents obtained by Judicial Watch reveal that Anwar al-Awlaki was in custody on several occasions, but was released by the U.S. government.

Anwar al-Awlaki wasn’t quite as elusive as he was portrayed by the U.S. government. That is reportedly the information contained in documents obtained by Judicial Watch.

The records obtained by Judicial Watch as result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) petition served on the State Department reportedly reveal that Awalki was detained by U.S. authorities on several occasions. The following are highlights of the record of Awalki’s time in U.S. custody. Note: the Judicial Watch report on their findings uses an alternate spelling of Awlaki’s name.

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was asked on March 24, 2011, to issue a communication to al-Aulaqi, requesting him to “appear in person” to pick up an important letter at the post. The letter issued by the embassy, which included a partial address for al-Aulaqi, was a revocation of his passport: “The Department?s [sic] action is based upon a determination by the Secretary that Mr. al-Aulaqi [sic] activities abroad are causing and/or likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States.” The embassy was instructed not to inform al-Aulaqi when he came to the embassy that the “important letter” was a passport revocation.

The documents include two “Privacy Act Release Forms” issued by the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, signed by al-Aulaqi. One was dated November 14, 2006, and the other July 2, 2007 — which indicates that he was held for at least eight months. (Press reports had indicated that al-Aulaqi’s arrest was in relation to an al-Qaeda plot to kidnap a U.S. government official.) The documents do not indicate how long al-Aulaqi was detained or why he was released.

In short, Awlaki was detained and released under the Bush administration, and under the Obama administration, the government planned to get him to appear at an embassy (his location was known), hand him a message, and let him go.

In a statement, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton characterized the federal government’s duplicity in the Awlaki case as a “catch and release program for terrorists.”

"These documents provide further evidence that the federal government, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has been operating a 'catch and release' program for terrorists. The idea of inviting Awlaki, a known terrorist, to our embassy in Yemen in order to revoke his passport is beyond belief," Fitton said.

Awlaki was killed by a drone attack on the command of President Obama on September 30, 2011.

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Anwar al-Awlaki (photo)

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