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tv   Alexander Meleagrou- Hitchens Incitement  CSPAN  June 21, 2020 11:30am-1:01pm EDT

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says i want to do this just like america i really respect how they are doing it. that is inconceivable that sentiment is being expressed. smacked to watch the rest of the program visit our website and search the title of his book the world. see when it's a great pleasure to help out with the book launch for alex meleagrou-hitchens with the book "incitement: anwar al-awlaki's western jihad" i wrote a book about this guy some years back he remains a fascinating character to me. and so it is an honor to be asked by alex to throw some questions at him. we will be doing this for an hour or maybe a little bit longer. if you have a question that
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you want to send in at any point you will see a q&a box down at the bottom right of your screen. you can send us a question in the latter part of this event, alex will answer some of them. so to start us off, as i'm sure many of you know is a research director of the great program of extremism at george washington university which has become the go to resource for many people studying this topic. and so why don't we start by asking how you came to take an interest in anwar al-awlaki and maybe you can fill us in a little bit on the background as you explain that.
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>> guest: thank you scott thanks for doing this we had the shared interest of the "new york times" in particular the back in the two thousands in the last decade were incredibly helpful for me and that is the book objective choice and my pleasure to do this. so this came across my radar in around 2007. i just started as a junior researcher, looking at activism and jihad in the uk in particular. as a look at the individuals and networks in the uk, this name just kept coming up as a reference or a speaker who is being hosted at this point from yemen where he was. he also spent some time in the uk. at least a year. i was in the early 2000 so he
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was this known figure. it just became clear to me, by the end of the last decade in 2,082,009 that the sky was perhaps the most influential speaker for a range of different activists. those from islam, those not necessarily jihad but had an over worldview. and so he was having this wide appeal. i just started following everything he was saying and doing look at the people who were his followers and attending events where he was being screened and live streams in london stay when you actually heard them speaking live? >> guest: yes one community center. that to know about him so well spent time trying to get the authorities to become more aware of the fact there is a
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guy by this point was premature reaching that jihad. he was beamed through live stream into traditional muslims and the mosques and he was running courses through video at a community center in south london which i cover in the book and i interview people who were involved with trying to get that stopped, involved with going ahead. it was just this kind of -- it slowly became an obsession i guess. that manifested into me doing a phd on him in college. that was some 2010 to run 2014. and slowly that kind of became this book which is taken us a little large amount of time to publish mostly my fault. >> so, this is a guy who spent almost exactly half of his 40 years he lived in the u.s. and half abroad most of that in yemen. why don't you, it's
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interesting you call this is western jihad. why don't you walk us through a somewhat unusual biography and tell us what his connections were too yemen, what his connections were to the yet u.s. and the uk. i think one of the things i mentioned early on was the biographical story of anwar al-awlaki had been done and largely by yourself. there is already a good biography of him. so while there is some components of biography in the book is mostly presented as an intellectual history. i have to map his own evolution and place him there merging in the west and then as well as understanding his own intellectual history, explaining how and why you such an effective communicator. that is what the book tries to do. so we can start with anwar
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al-awlaki's early career in colorado. he was a preacher there at least one small local area. very soon into his work it became clear that he had an ability -- he had an ability and doing things that preachers were not doing up at times that expense part of the popularity. he was tracked basically almost all of his early work life of the prophets life of mohammed. most of things he was famous for early that time are referred to as basically historical accounts. mostly with the prophet but his companion. and these are the second most important primary text. they're less reliable than historical accounts which brings together a lot of different sources and the
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history. that's pretty much all his work really was. it was the translations of previous existing history into english not just putting them in english to make them available to westerns. speaking to a lot of pretty influential preachers in america and others no one had done this for. no one in america and english had translated these and made them available. he got the attention of saudi businessmen and package them effectively and get them out. >> so in the small world of islamic bookstores sort of the best-selling kind of a bestseller on cd.
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this is a guy who kind of grabbed the latest technology for reaching his audience. these were essentially the islamic equivalent of bible stories you're collaborating on. storage might take the old testament with the battles and heroes. and he had a knack for storytelling in that way. >> guest: yes storytelling is a big part of his overall success which i get into later. you have to understand islam in america at the time and how it was being disseminated pretty conservative islamic american bird really at the time the way it would work as you'd have the conference on the east coast or west coast, california, d.c., new york, new jersey, these were conferences where people would congregate a lot of preachers
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would sell their work usually with audiotapes back then, recorded audio tapes. spoke for people who work for company that had a rocky stuff. most of the stuff looked was raggedy, old, tapes in unmarked cases things were passed around when someone moved or to shabby stall at a conference. the saudi businessmen completely revolutionized that whole industry. not only did he get on cd he packaged it the actual packaging was really professional, high budget. in this stall itself with the best looking stall in the place there's a big marketing push behind some of his saudi charisma and the potential i had. so purely from those kind of logistical parts of how it was presented in america the time
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is very quick to become the best-known, best disseminated. c1 so at that time, we think of this guy now as a leader of al qaeda, someone who endorsed violence someone who is a major terrorist. back then, that is not who he was. but why don't you try to place him in the kind of world of western islam of american islam, ideologically at that time was he radical? >> no i don't think i'd put them down as a radical. i think again to give you a quick overview of what islam looked like when i rocky emerged part of what the book does is it tracks across the spectrum we can roughly describe the thoughts. so physically he presented the way he dressed in the robes
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the type of beard he had he presented himself. why argue essentially it's in the u.s. this emerged in the u.s. some i've managed to identify in the late 70s early 80s. i had with this initially had was nonpolitical non- activists. i was very concerned with very in-depth study, no real engagement with politics of the outside world really are geopolitics or any of that. taking their line from a selective handful shakes their having that into america. the sentiment organization spoke to people who are members of that movement and group of since moved on or are still in it. really the request was your
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gonna calm, study with will have conferences going to create a very closed community and we are not going to engage with politics or activism. >> and that's what we see the time customer to max one of the really revealing things is he was not in that qs s is divided into three categories very simply passive is this a lot of detail in that but we don't have the time for it now. in america, the quiet -ism came to uss soon in the '90s i knew organization emerged call the islamic association of north america. that was seen in the american of activism. there also engaging in politics were an gaging with
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why and who we were discussing with muslims and they risk ignoring that they are saying don't think about fighting them when you haven't learned a person in the activists are saying we knew to employ method as it has some type of activism and engagement with the outside world. but still a lot of studies are required theologically movement. iraqi emerges with qs s vying for influence and attention. and he kind of offers this new way which is really engaging with politics and society. it is using theology and making it relevant. there's no real in-depth
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study. , their narrative accounts and very engaging and very well translated. so i rocky offered this lights interviewed two made the first time with iraq in that way. he was relying on the what he was relying on he's going into depth on creativity and theology. this made him a unique proposition for a lot of people part. >> this was big like you just mention this is the big mosque in virginia right across the potomac from washington where he got quite a following, was quite a successful young kind of hotshot. and then along comes 911. some of our audience may be
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old enough to remember where he got quite a bit of attention from the fbi because two of the hijackers had been in his mosque in san diego. after he moved to washington and virginia third showed up. so they kind of wondered what was the connection there. so, take us from what happened after 911 to his departure in his life overseas? >> the fact that this allows them to place him a little earlier there are many different types of mosques in american they're pretty identifiable. you have mosques that are very specific they're usually quite close to the saudi kingdom they present physically in the way it demands it. sometimes there's more closely associated with the muslim brotherhood.
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the hindu mosque is really a sort of brotherhood influenced mosque. the fact that he was at that mosque a sign, this is coming from said you don't go there unless you have influence in your thinking. we don't just hire and let people get. so i rocky kept the defusing of america of draft and presentation with i place them somewhere in this category. 911 happens he becomes one of the go to voices looking to hear more about islam. let's not forget, people know about the religion a lot more than they did back then.
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when 911 happened the idea was still kind of a mystery for a lot of people. i was in my teens, i went to a multicultural school. i do pretty good idea but it was not by any means one that we knew much about. and so there is an attempt to find the guy who could link it altogether. he was interviewed and became public is fairly critical of al qaeda it received a lot of attention and praise as a result. but, one of the things the book does of the first couple sections are divided into his early work and later work. his early work at this time had small clues and it about the influences that he was under. and the direction he may go in depending on how it unfolds. think one of the ways it becomes cured is it signified he was a pretty big fan who
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wants to impede could have been the former leader and anwar al-awlaki founded that group. >> this was all he was in the u.s.? >> guest: yes, yes. there are things he was saying" he was using their coming straight in one of the first big for me was when it was mainstream as his endorsement the version of the world is in a state of ignorance because it is not being run by islamic law. he was using an interpretation very early on in his career. this in number of other examples in the early work. their sources one could only had found in the work.
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you see the influence they would repeatedly say to me the early 90s an early 2000 i was told this by a lot of different americans who were very worried about him and said we kept hearing this. the way he justifies that bombing is the way it had just recently been justified, very important saudi al qaeda member. very quickly said suicide bombings are legitimate, took a couple of stories to prove this. which i can't go into now. i rocky was relying on that in the early 2000's or late '90s to say actually this is justification for suicide bombing not telling anyone to do that but saying that early on when 911 happens, and a new
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option emerged for iraqi as well. i think that it kind of -- he kinda gravitated towards other options perhaps had dissipated. and the thing about activists, is that what ever happens outside in the world, their belief, their creed, their ideology does not change neither does their methodology. so how they practiced their methodology is subject to undulation of geopolitics. see a lot moved to jihadism and his predecessors in northern virginia. durg that pe,
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during 911 on you mentioned a lot of american media rushed to this speaker of american english can still find the later lita tran leader of al qaeda in his basement explains ramadan to the americans. but even then, when he condemned the 911 attacks, he always tried to balance it and say just as it is wrong for america to be bombing women and children and afghanistan, it was wrong for al qaeda to attack on 911. he was always doing this sort of balancing act at that time. so he leaves the u.s. he
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leaves the u.s. under a number of clouds and lease u.s. angry what happened after that time a lot of federal agencies turn their attention to islamic activism and in the united states. one major operation that took place, when they are still in northern virginia was the operation to shut down a number of islamic charities that were accused by the fbi and other further real agencies and funding groups there's a lot of door knocking down a people be arrested. i rocky saw this as a first step with an increased effort this is proof the idea of award islam is from the start
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the idea of the west is an inherent threat to islam from the start in his work. it is not a culture of america with motivation and all that was not seen as a benign thing in his eye islamic identity in it was an attempt to ruin all that. so he leaves america after given is very impactful decision. he goes to the uk and again the book, it's mapping out what american islam look like at the time and really as i describe it it's a fairly dark. in short of sort history of the relationship and why the society. we are gearing up towards -- we were already in afghanistan. there's a lot of attention on muslim anyway we were couple away entrant years away from the attack. were gearing up to getting to
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iraq. and london famously the venue of one of the biggest protests in the history of the city. there's a lot of mobilization. there is a lot of opportunity for activist organizations to really inflame things. and create division and recruit on the back of it. so activism in the uk when they went there was really brazen there were a few quotes in it, in the book from the kind of stuff mainstream organizations were saying back then. seems like threatening to stop cooperating with the police if certain demands were not met, making claims that wanting to establish was a lip not a legitimate mainstream all this stuff. >> that was quite different from the world he left in america. they were on the defensive
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after 911, they knew they were being watched very carefully. and if anything it was a rally around mainstream to keep from being singled out and attacked. it was towards radicalism right customer somatic yes. big-time open support for defensive jihad saying if the uk invades iraq, it will be justified for british soldiers to be killed. i would just redo a statement given out by the student islamic society. which today is a mainstream solid organization sorbate umbrella group have big fans
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of iraqi when they came to england they hosted around in the one i work at king's college. this is a statement they put out i will read part of it is eventually saying muslims are being demonized where's previously it was muslims themselves under attack now the agenda is to attack islam's principles values and political system they are under attack. again, this is as an islamic organization saying the idea of islam is a political system and it should be established. it's a completely straightforward mainstream idea. now the age of isis that is quite a shocking thing. imagine student saying that today. that is the kind of stuff they were saying then. gives the couple speeches including one that was very influential mosque this openly influenced by the islamic and
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handing out books. he gives a speech where they have this in the uk it was heavy-handed police action undoubtedly. he had been arrested and roughed up by the police on suspicion of character. his campaign group emerged outside of that. which again i think was fair enough to an extent paying compensation for all of this. in the campaign emerges called stop police terror. and part of the campaign was part of the threat if that's of the police do not stop terrorizing muslims, if they don't stop, we will stop cooperating. i rocky gives this speech at the campaign where he presents a war on islam that is happening in the uk.
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so one of the key things one thing to spend to the war on islam they personalize the war for westerners. that meant the iraq war, the israel, palestine, afghanistan, it's not hard to sell the this war to summon his family was just killed. harder to sell to islam's who are fairly well off and relatively happy and mostly in western countries. big part of his job was to make it a reality by using examples, things are happening in the country but he took a number of examples and other recent things attempted by the british government to extend the amount time you can hold someone on terrorist were sufficient without charge. all of this stuff was in there he knew it was in there with the concern and he plaited up to say luck actually, the crowds are forming around being muslim in the west britain going to give you all
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these examples. so he does that. >> alex lemay interrupt for just one second to say, to tell those who did not hear me say this before, if you question you can click on the q&a button down the lower right of your screen prayed rightly question for us. in the latter part of this presentation we will turn to those questions and alex will answer as many as we have time for. so, what happened to my rockies output at that time? in those years when he was in the uk? and then when he moved to yemen after a year or two in the uk. was he continuing -- was at the bestseller of a box sets of stories of the prophets and so on. what had happened to his outputs? and was he finding an audience beyond the basement of the east london mosque?
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: : it's important for jihaddist but not something that has a much wider spell electric to all or academic value. yet he chooses at that time in the uk to translate this, and give it modern relevant and speaking to people who attended the event, at the time an mi6 agent who had gone to the event and realized he was sitting in an event where al-awlaki what translating with two of the
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bomber inside the meeting. that's the kind of people who war attracted to him back then. so translating the jihad at all was suspicious and a lot of acts in the uk, nonjihaddize or anti-jihadists were worried and warning everyone they could. so, that is the first big sign that he is taking another step which is making important jihaddist work make sense to us and have -- giving them references that are relevant to their lives and are accessible in english to them in ways that were never before. so he translated that in the uk and all the -- you can hear -- it's all audio, by the way, all audio or video. the vast majority of his work what ar and not written. the book of jihaddist. and pretty much soon after that he goes to yemen, in 2004.
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and we can go on about it. if you had any questions about that. >> i wonder when he left the uk, my recollection is that he -- kind of had money problems. didn't really have a profession he was being paid for in the uk. of course, had family, his extended family, his father was very prominent member of yemeni society, firmer government minister and -- former government minister and chancellor of two different universities. so he's from a prominent family. so he was getting back to that. but do you have any sense that he was headed for yemen in part because there was an al qaeda branch there and already was thinking about that? >> guest: not clear.
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certainly a friend of his in the uk, i spending to who said there were things al-awlaki was saying to him that were suspicious, he said there's some -- he wasn't clear but i couldn't really get more than that. things move sort of not that quickly -- it was sort of -- in yemen before, spent time in prison and then came out, couple of years before he ended up actually joining aqac but in that interim other major things happened and again, 2005, in yemen, you translate the path of jihad and that was the nest step from book of jihad. a modern jihaddist text, one which al-awlaki takes on himself to translate for westerners and this time there's in pretense about it being an academic exercise. it's an attempt to say, look, you need to read this and understand what is so important,
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how to fight jihad and how it will never end until the day of justice. never really stop fighting. wasn't just translating it. it was repackaging it. reframing so it that references were for westerners, not for a mideastern audience. >> host: how did he get it out. >> guest: at the time it was not all that normal for preachers like him to use live streaming or youtube or any type of sort of forum upload. causes of the path of jihad, audio translation and then recorded and disseminated. don't know how the original one camouflet just an audio file upload open to youtube and various formats,.
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>> host: so, you -- we're going to -- we have to leave time for questions here. so, fast forwarding a bit, obviously connects with al qaeda, the al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, the saudly yemenie branch of al qaeda, and finds his sort of spiritual home and it's actually in the province that his family is originally from. he moves out boon docks to the family home and connects with al qaeda. so he has made this whole journey from denouncing 9/11, from the pulpit so to speak in the u.s., to becoming more and more openly extremist in his talk and of course the world's changing at the time. the u.s. invades afghanistan after 9/11 and the u.s. invades
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iraq, and there's plenty of evidence for what al-awlaki talked but at this war on is islam and end up literally spokesperson for al qaeda, a leader of a sort in the al qaeda branch and leader of jihad, about becomes an extremely influential and so you say in the book, you did the analysis and by your account you found that his inspiration or his influence could be found in at least 66 of 212 people accused of jihaddist crimes in the united states. that is really remarkable. to what do you attribute -- here's this guy off in the wilds of yemen. to what do you attribute his enormous influence on american
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muslims, european muslimed in terms of luring them into jihaddist violence. >> guest: one thing i point out in the book, i present him along in this sort of pantheon of person jihaddist preachers. not the first and wasn't the last but most important and i'll say why in a moment. we have others. but one that al-awlaki did that these others didn't he start his career as a very influence shall main stream preacher, adored by mainstream and very, very important organizations. so, unlike other jihaddist english peeker its like al faisal, they only spoke about
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jihad. they took everything they could from the koran and focused on fighting jihad. al-awlaki did human work that didn't talk but it at all. so, he was firstly able to -- when he started talking about jihad he was able to present fighting jihad as a wider -- part of the wider islamic project in a lay -- the other guys could do be dismissed by mainstream muslim because all they're taught about is jihad. he was talking but a lot of other things. and then brings jihad interest the conversation, and presents it as just a natural part of islam. there's that part. no others had that wider mainstream credibility before hand. and i think that is pretty much the key reason. i use a very brief theoretical framework to analyze al-awlaki's work based on
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social movement, a collection of series that explain how and why people get involved in collective action or what they call contentious politics and that's basically protests, any type of collective action that can good all the way up to actual acts of terrorism. what i argue if you look at how al-awlaki presented ideas and credited meaning, he did so using methodded -- not realizing is, methods that are very -- [loss of audio] -- and that's one thing al-awlaki wanted to do as well to move beyond al qaeda, the organization, to say actually there's a wider movement out here. al qaeda the organization may collapse. we are social moment -- [loss of audio] -- dependent on ideas and presentation. so the book explains how al-awlaki follows very similar methodses that all sorts of social movement actors do, and refer to the social movement take on the responsibility of
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transmitting that idea and movement, that movement ideas to specific -- he was very effective at doing that and the become kind of details the key steps. big part of that, big part of any social movement is the creation of a collective identity, and offer to your audience the opportunity to feel part of something. thes and to relegate individual identity is something deeply selfish. you should care but the svelte is presented as a waste of time, and actually -- and fascist movements do this a lot, and there's a book in i note in the introduction the true believer in which he says it's for people for whom the self have given up on and they're looking for something. al-awlaki was able to through the story telling particularly i mixed, able to create a shared narrative, a shared history and shared experiences that people could feel part of, and once you get people to have that shared
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collective identity, it's one of the first steps toward getting them to act on behalf of that collective. >> host: before we turn to questions, and i am sorry we have to speed along, but you do a terrific job of analyzing three particular cases of muslims in the west two in america and one in nigeria, deeply influence. by this guy and lured into jihaddism by him. so, why don't we talk but these three. maybe we'll do them in the order of the depths they went to in the jihaddist movement. so let's start with zachary chesser, who stands for a lot of people. >> guest: so the book once it goes over the al-awlaki intellectual history it moves on to trying to get a sense how exactly he impacted people and
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when and why there's three chapters. zach is a very well known case for those who follow this stuff closely. chose three case studies on the basis of each one represents three defendant ties of jihad gist, mobilation and activityism in the west. zach started online, took on the role of the -- becoming an online propagandist, a term coined long ago, and someone who basically took it on as heir job to create the propaganda online and for whom that started feeling like wasn't enough and wanted to become an activist, trying to join al-shabaab, influenced heavily by al-awlaki at the time. and was arrested and spending much of the rest of his philosophy jail in the u.s. the key things about chesser are one of the first times you see him is on al-awlaki's blog that al-awlaki sets up in
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yepen and he is a commenter on the blog and you can see his own development from this young, curious, recent convert to islam, to jihaddist, and he is actually a really great exam of strategically what al-awlaki was trying to do in his al qaeda years. one key thing he did, they said let's lower the bar for what it means to be involved in this movement. let's make it -- before that the idea was the way you get involved in global jihad is you have to get up, travel to some hell somewhere and trito become a professional terrorist and somewhere in east africa. that was the idea. only be legit if that is what you were dog. al-awlaki came out and said essentially, no, if you get online and start -- [loss of audio] -- spreading prop again da you're part of the movement. when you her the bar you aa lot
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more anymore and create a lot more potential for those people to start at that low rung of online activism and work up. >> host: another one of church yap at thes is nidal has san. he army psychiatrist who opened fire at fort hood in 2009. so, that was a guy who didn't have to go to the afghan border, was able to carry out jihad as home as al-awlaki was telling him to too. >> guest: the book identifies moments in he's people's lives where they were experiencing some kind of vulnerability, some kind of unease or questioning of their own wrote and for chesser it was his conversion the islam was the moment that someone could take advantage of. hasan, interestingly, the death of his mother that the first sparked a new interest in islam and al-awlaki presided over his mother's funeral we find
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out. the first time he came across him. stuck in his mind. one key thing to keep in mind with all these guys -- i was luck in enough to be involved in an interview with nidal hasan -- when you ask him what are the works of al-awlaki he are most important to him, this is a guy who conducted a mass shooting. it's not the jihaddist stuff. it's the early stuff. the thing to keep in mind with all the guys. they love al-awlaki because of all the other islam stuff he was doing. yes, the jihad stuff was useful and important but you ask them their favorite, it was always the life of muhammad, and same with hasan, he explained how al-awlaki helped him under the war in islam was not just a physical violent effort involving the dropping of bombs
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in the middle east. there was an ideological effort in the united states. giving an immediate sense of threat to. the when you eave are that kind of immediacy, you have a chance of getting people involved in saying this is one that is happening. for hassan, even though al-awlaki specifically told him to do the attack, hasan's understanding of islam was entirely shaped by al-awlaki's work, beth the earl -- early stuff and later. >> host: famously right after the shooting al-awlaki came to most americans attention when he wrote on his, who nidal hasan is a hero, and suddenly there was this guy who had been an imam in america, saying in english on a much read blog that this guy was a hero and that was the first time that many of us, including
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me, took an interest on anwar al-awlaki. so, before we get to the questions, your third case study is farook, the underwear bomber, the christmas day bomber. in 2009 who tried to blow up that aircraft over detroit. so tell us about him. he actually did not -- he did decide to leave home and go to yemen, right? >> guest: yes. so with chester we have the online activist who tries to become a foreign fighter, wants to go to al-shabaab and help them. hasan, the classic lone actor, influenced by things he is seeing online and reading, and al-awlaki indirectly, and then you have the pro terrorist, you have the guy who does it the old-fashioned we, goes to the actual terrorist organization and tries to -- chapter covers a lot of his time in the uk so i already described what the uk activityism looked like at the time. that's how it looked when he was
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at the university of lsc in london and in fact he was the president of the islamic society and was a member of the federation of student lahm society organization i read the statement from. hit was in a milieu of people who were activists and who ideologize al-awlaki, and in affect found was part of it thathold the chapter was i think -- i think documents that you got released by the fbi, through foi, "the new york times" had to sue for. the foi request on the interview he gave after his arrest. a lot of interesting information that helped me put it together. one thing he says when hi was in london was all the islamic society members, all his people involved with were all major al-awlaki fans, and as well as number of organizations he was a fan of, including a group called
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case prisoners who are well-known today, formed bid a former -- very hard to completely understand, but what is important he he was to some extent a product of what was going on in the uk at the time, and al-awlaki was his door, his access to the jihad movement. he goes to yemen through a number of ways i describe in the book, manages to actually good meet al-awlaki, is recruited, train, provided with a bomb and attempts to it it off on christmas day over detroit. and there's a lot in the become that explains how and why al-awlaki was so important to him, and really it was -- a boy who was very -- very well-read up on it. could presite the korean. a person who was very religious
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as well. >> host: perfect. why don't we go to questions now. we have 22 questions, a lot of great questions and we have been given permission to go beyond noon for a while. so we'll get in as many questions as we can. some or big and broad, some are pretty quick. i'll start with the quick one. when in the uk, if ever, did al-awlaki ever come across the -- another extremist character who folk maize know about -- folks may know about. >> guest: a good question. strangely enough, al-awlaki's time in the uk just about predates chowdery as a figure and the organization that he was a head of was itself an offshoot of his -- a political activist group in the and you can i know his -- has a relationship with al-awlaki and were competing
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along with a number of others for his attention and his praise. and i spoke to a former senior member of hg at the time, the organization that preceded, who said in the end that it had very little to disagree with on al-awlaki and saw him as a useful figure because he was the sporter of setting occupy a caliphate which hg's -- i think chowdery was a less serious, slightly more narcissistic my view than al-awlaki but that's a more permanent view than anyone else. >> host: was al-awlaki ever employed by the saudi embassy while he was preaching in the church. >> guest: not that i know of inch fact one thing to keep in mind, speaking of saudi stage, one thing i say in the become is al-awlaki doesn't really have much in form of formal training in the way that other preachers in the u.s. did.
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one had again and train at saudi university for years who were serious scholars. al-awlaki was not a serious scholar. he present as such but actually very little of his work contained any kind of in depth academic discussion, and for that reason, he was so much more accessible than all these other shakes but a he was asking very little of his audience no study or discussion involved. he spend time in saudi arabiay but no official qualification. not an employee. >> host: tell us about the nature -- your view of the nature or the relationship with the 9/11 hijackers with whom he had contact both in san diego and later in falls church, virginia. some speculation that maybe he was somehow in on the plot. >> guest: yeah. i know you addressed this in your book, too. all of the same mind.
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it's still one of those big questions. you raved in the 9/11 commission property and they're not convinced he had nothing to do with it. think you can see in there. there's still some big question mark. in the end -- actually the san diego one is a bit stranger because the two hijackers -- the mosque in san diego was not in the mosque you good to if you don't in the city. it was a mosque in a pretty bad part of town. had to really know it. someone had to have told you to go there if your just visiting the city at the time you would have gone know main mosque there. this is the thing that come up. who told him to good there and then he goes across the country to virginia and goes there and they end up at the same mosque again. i don't think al-awlaki had an involvement in 9/11 and as we discussed in the past, had he done he would have admitted later on when he was an open member of al qaeda. he had nothing to lose and was
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trying to gain credit. my one thought is perhaps when they were in the united states, he went to sheikh mohammad and they were telling them where to good and what to do, may have scoped out this sort of scene of american islam at the time and said -- had a look at al-awlaki's work and said this guy is not a jihaddist, not openly calling for jihad and also not an -- not saying things we disagree with really either. the type of islam he was preaching was one that would not have swayed the views of those di. wont have wanted to send them to a preacher who maybe would have convinced them that jihaddism was wrong. al-awlaki wouldn't dot that and at the very least at the time he was glorifying jihad. so i have a feeling maybe had a look and said this give isn't going to do any harm, may
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bolster their emotional connection to it all, but really it's just speculation. i don't think he was actually involved. >> host: sheikh mohammad was the main plotter of the 9/11 attacks, a day who had again to college in this country as well. he had studied in north carolina, and so he had a sense a little about of the scene here, and it could be that there was a chain of connections where they -- without reveal anything of the plot, of course, because i think the last person that a guy that sheikh mohammad was trusted was a guy like al-awlaki who was an american by birth and had lived here and for all they knew he was an fbi informant so wouldn't trust him with the plot but might have sensed a sort of hospitable,
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helpful guy who was fluent in arabic and english and could he them out as he seemed to have done in terms of their living arrange.s and so on. so we have a question here, how would you characterize al-awlaki's operation recall ol' in aqap, al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, and physically organizing rather than inspiring attacks and i should say this was the crucial distinction between president obama ended up putting out al-awlaki on the kill list. he did that because he essential based that on evidence he had beening a operational terrorist, not just an ideology. he was actually participating in terrorist attacks, including sending the underwear becomer to attack the u.s. so, what was his operational role in aqap?
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>> guest: not to say the person asking the question has this misconception but there is a misconception that al-awlaki was killed be the u.s. government because of what he was saying. jeremy scahill in a good bork, dirty wars, makes this kind of claim beaut al-awlaki, that al-awlaki was killed because he was saying things we didn't like. in fact overall the book is a very good critique of the use of special forces and in fact the thing but scahill, he relies on my early work on al-awlaki to make these point but ignored the fact i say al-awlaki was operational and this is why -- and scahill decided not to address that. the fact is, yes, we know that the matala case was the first one we know of where he had a very direct path in terms of target selection, weapon procurement, bomb procurement, connected with them the bombmaker, the main man behind the plat. the moment he did that he met
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the criteria of whatever you think on the kill list obama had, he met the criteria for it. the book lays out a number of other lesser known plotses that al-awlaki was involved with, including a nigerian who plotted to go back to nigeria and recruit more members and even maybe plot a terrorist attack in. >> i jeer nye gea. he was involved with the brothers who went and murdered the charlie -- magazine in paris. the directed one of the brothers and gave him money to commit that attack. so that is -- still an idea that al-awlaki was killed because of what he was saying. novel. that what get people residents attention but al-awlaki met the criteria tobi a -- to be assist nate. what think of the policy, but strategically and we now see one of the ways that the jihad movement attacked the west is
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through -- one of the ways it looks today. al-awlaki was kind of -- him and akahn were really one of the first people behind that idea, an idea that wasn't all that popular for al qaeda at the time. guys like bin laden depend like the idea of the lone actor attack can thought it would mean they would lose control of the mom. eventually al qaeda embraced the lone actor model large by because of al-awlaki. i tell my students -- i'll give you story that a chapter open '0. in london a couple years ago, the road outside the natural history museum, car jumps offed the curb and hit a few people and get everyone's attention. why? well because somewhere in our minds there's a thought of maybe this is a terrorist attack. very soon after the event happens the police feel compelled to announce evidence it's not being treated as
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terrorism related. isn't that a term you hear all the time. there's been a knifing, shooting, a consider jumping jue curb. that's not terrorism related. 10-15 years ago, that's not where our minds went when a random act of violence. that's where our mind god now -- many people. this stir told you is one which you probably heard in other versions of in times square or whatever. that is really al-awlaki -- al-awlaki did that so some extent. created it so these events -- the attacked that did take place, the vehicle attacks and stabbings, were low impact casualty wise but kept the movement in our minds texas forefront of our mind and if you're a terrorist and using terrorism as propaganda, the main thing is you want to kill a lot of people. he that's usually not the main goal. it keeps attention of your
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adversaries, of your potential recruits and the lone actor model that al-awlaki developed did that to at the point where now we're doing at the propaganda for. the by having to address the fact of someone junior -- jumping the curb reminds us of al qaeda all over again and every time that happen they'd have had a success. >> host: the root of terrorism, the word terrorism is to cause to tremble. and with pin prick attacks in many cases in the post 9/11 years, the jihaddist groups keep peep on edge and see them as major players. here's a quick one. we're past noon now but allowed to go 0 on for a while, another 15 or 20 minutes. so we have a of great questions to tackle here.
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a quick one. what evidence is there that inspire magazine, which for those who don't know is the -- was the extremely influential english language magazine of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. what evidence there is that the inspire magazine was the brain child of al-awlaki and that he was the editor? i see this claimed a lot. is that true? >> guest: in sort, yes but a long are story. again, acan, an american saudi from charlotte who basically went over the yemen to join look at aqap, doesn't get enough credit and i wish i could have done more with him he book. probably book to be written about him. a very important figure. and it may we be actually akahn was more important to inspire. jessy morton was very important jihadiing a tissist in america in the 2000s. a predecessor magazine to
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inspire called jihadi recollection, which you can look it up, it looks exactly the same as inspire, also rough around the illinoiss put developed in the united states by akahn and by jessie morton who said that al-awlaki was actually involved with jihad recollections, which is something i didn't know until i spoke to jessie about it, and so he was getting strucks to acan when he used to live in america in the mid-2000s about what jihad recollections should contain. so, it was a brainchild of people like akahn, jessie morton, al-awlaki. al-awlaki is the guy who made it popular. they needed to drive it but i think a lot of the strategic thinking had to do with akahn but human being was very involved with it and wrote alreadies under his own name. >> the patron at that time. kind of the honorary editor in chief or something. >> guest: yeah.
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and one thing al-awlaki was keen is jihad recollection, he wrote an article with jihad recollection saying we should reshift our focus to far enemy, meaning -- to the near enemy. he he was saying we should stop attacking america and good back to attacking the secular leaders in arab world. al-awlaki reprimands him for this and says, no, no no, focus on america. he was very keen to keep the focus there. >> host: so, we have number of questions and sort of circle around the transformation of anwar al-awlaki from more or less mainstream acceptable american imam, famously was invited after 9/11 to speak at the pentagon, give a luncheon speech at the pentagon. don't get a whole lot more mainstream than that. to a leader of al qaeda.
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what do you think made -- what were the key factors in driving that change? do you point to any external event, any internal event in his life? do you really think it was sort of an unvilling of viewed -- unveiling of views he had all along and kept to himself? what drives him to change at least in external appearance so radically? >> guest: i don't have a definitive answer. part of it has to be how i derived from the analysis, but one of the first thing i noted and is in the book is that it was a clear influence on hips work early on. that's not -- the vast majority of people with those ideas don't become jihaddists so that's not on its own enough of the what it means is he -- before 9/11 happened, before the war on terror, he had a view of the world that was pretty
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straightforward. it was there's a muslim world and the rest of the world and ther rest of the world, including the united states, put us in great peril as muse limbs. that was already the view. also had a very kind of romantic view of jihad, including jihad being fought in palestine, chechneya. a glorified vision of jihad. the methodology is impact by joeow political shifts. they change from saying don't fight this jihad to fight jihad on the basis of an invasion or political moment in the way that -- so, when 9/11 happened, the frame to which he viewed the world was shaped very much by the -- ideology. so, it allowed him to take steps
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and ideological strides towards more open support for jihad without a huge break from this previously -- as i say in the book if you look at his work in 2010 when he is whatting and i inspiring and look at his work in '99 or '98, not a huge difference as far as the sources he rely on, just the emphasis he puts on. what is really important is his view on how muslims should react to these threats. initially it was react through peaceful activism and that bake hardened into react with violent jihad and he says i did that because i began with activism and i got to the point where i believed the situation was so dire for muslims that activism was not enough. violence -- that's a common store month terrorists here. they start with a lower form, lower risk activism and move to higher risk when they realize it one -- they thought wasn't working. so pre-existing islam is sympathy is a bag part. 9/11, the world changing event,
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especially for muslims in the west, had -- cannot be ignored. certainly was threatened by the fbi or at least hell knew the fbi had dirt on him, including his involvement with prostitutes in the united states in the '90 which the may have threatened him with and said if you don't cooperate with him and become an informant, we will publicize this and people put that moment down as a major moment in this radicalization, forced to leave america, all his openings reduced to jihad which is bit simplistic bus there's a component of that. a lot pike to.importance on his imprisonment in yemen. he bade a hard core jihaddist because of his experience in prison. let's not forget he already translated and endorsed cons in path of jihad before he went to prison. so, actually the only real change when he came out of prison was a slightly more
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strident and immediate support for jihad but it was already there and so, again, throughout the early work, i point out a couple of flags, where red flags suggest that this guy was already playing with some goodses in jihaddism, certainly. this set tick. a combination of things as usual. anyone who wants to give you straight answer and a very strafed and simple answer how someone becomes recallized id a vials you to be careful because there's a reason they're doing that. he book says is there are ideology reasons-personality experience and external geopolitical factorsors that lie combine a very unique moment in 2009, al-awlaki was where he was at the time, and all these things serendipity has role to play as well. >> host: someone asked why is al-awlaki so prom anyone in al-shabaab's propaganda and a slightly different question
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which is, can you please comment on the incongress grout of the post motor tom adoption -- adoption of al-awlaki and his narrative or isis as meese ya wing and so many a prominent al qaeda have been condemned by isis there's an been a repeated embrace of al-awlaki and co option of his brand. the post-human -- -- post -- >> guest: people know what they're talking about. >> host: you have sophisticated audience. >> guest: i place a lot of -- i put a lot -- i give a lot of credit do al-awlaki for the success isis had in the west and it's time it -- something you have written about as well. a couple of things to keep in
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mind. when isi was established, the islamic state in iraq, early baghdadi, when they set up isi in '06, it was a lot of cycle about this. al qaeda were not entirely sure about it. all these discussions internally. al-awlaki really opened the -- heaped praise on the islamic state of iraq, and the predecessor of isis and he praised them because he said we finally have great exam of fury turning to practice. taking the idea and implementing them and setting up an islamieic state. -- islamic state. he notes, this is the first step towards the end of days. where this is happening, geographically, is a sign that we have taken another major step
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towards fulfilling the prophecy in the koran and the end of days happening in this part of the world, and that might sound familiar to people who know but isis. one of their key messages, talks about this -- the -- the attraction of saying you can't just wade around. you want to be part or the jihad movement, want to make the right steps to muss almost you can't wait. you have to be involved with the next phase. the train is leaving the station now. isis message of this apop licks, you have to do it now. al-awlaki identified that in 2006 and said the very same thing this is no your opportunity. if you die anytime soon and you're asked what did you do for the -- and you didn't take the
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chance to be part of this most important moment in the history of islam we won't good to heaven. and so al-awlaki -- before al qaeda reembraced -- al qaeda went big on the whole end of days stuff and the final battle between good and evil. weren't so keen on it. al-awlaki and a couple of others, not many, were really saw the recruitment value in that. so, that is important. when isis was founded, when they start reaching out to westerners in english, one of the very first videos they disa voiceover of al-awlaki giving this 2006 speech and praise the establishment0. isi and saying things that were the same as what isis is saying. one of the only -- he is mentioned in a couple of -- mentioned in weed that -- they managed to kind of keep him onboard because they recognize,
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this guy is so important to our western audience we can't throw the baby out with the bath water. and awe the outtriche westerners is very influenced by him. there's a concept that isis used to attract and create an identity crisis, refer to the degree zone or the gray area and stay isis is in gray zone and say in the united states, in the west, muslims occupy the gray zone, this area between right and wrong, between the west and islam, where we're fighting the clear war taking place and this gray area where all these western muslims are and have not taken a side, sitting on the fence. our job as a terrorist group is to force that decision on them through acts of violence texas some risk the gray zone, make it impossible for muslims to make the minds up. extremists want you to make your mind up. don't care what necessarily side you choose. they just need you to choose a side so we can get
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on with sorting everything out and al-awlaki was very much saying this stuff back then. in fact the term "gray zone" which close isis watcher made be familiar, what kind of al-awlaki in 2008. he said there's no gray area rear for muslims anymore. isi is established. there's no gray area for you. you cannot occupy that anymore. isis they called gray zone but it's the same -- every component of the outreach to westerners in particular was taken from al-awlaki. >> host: once i remember al-awlaki actually echos practically george w. bush saying, you're either with us or you're with the terrorists. essentially muslim were getting same message from two sided you have to pick sides. so, we're -- we could again for another few hours but let me ask you a couple of big questions to
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wrap up here. one would be a bunch of people have asked essentially about successors to al-awlaki. do you see anyone out there who is in the -- either in the jihaddist realm of the techtive rhys realm, heading in the direction of jihad. what is -- is this just a huge vacuum he left or are there people stepping up to fill that vacuum? >> guest: that's a very common question. hard to answer couple of can't replicate the al-awlaki story. he is a product of all these confluence of things, from his pre9/11 preaching to 9/11 itself to the huge following he had. so you're not going to get another al-awlaki, not going to get a guy who was a senior member of one the most important mosques in the west in the united states, go from that to becoming a head of al qaeda.
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that move is not probably going to happen again and so not going to be able to do with al-awlaki which is build a huge basis of main stream muslim support and then move to jihaddism and take the base with you. that is very unlikely to happen again. having said that there are poo whom certainly have tried. a lot of members of -- who tried to kind 0 -- don't have anywhere near the charisma or the credibility because al-awlaki had this -- he was considered a main stream scholar, i wouldn't call -- they don't have that, the closest i've seen is possibly jabrill, who comes new isis cases, the u.s. resident, lived now freely. he features actually not so much in this book but other things i've written on extremism, a report which covers jabrill ask and he is the closest himself
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was supporter of the early al qaeda operations before 9/11. so he -- he still has only a pretty narrow scope of support but -- so i don't think another al-awlaki because you can't recreate those circumstances. but you'll have people like jabrill who have that ability to take what they know but american culture and psyche and fear and knowledge and use it to create an attractive jihaddist narrative. >> host: i'll use moderator privilege to ask a question myself as the last one. and it's one that i was often asked, and it's one without a real clear cut answer but an interesting one. in addition to becoming the leading spokesperson, voice for al qaeda in english, al-awlaki had another historic distinction which was of course to become
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the first u.s. citizen deliberately hunted down and killed without criminal charges, without a trial, executed by the u.s. government when obama put him on the kill list and eventually on september 30, 2011, they caught up with him in yemen and killed him and three other guys with akahn with a missile. was that good idea or bad idea? as i was writing about this guy at the time i saw his youtube videos and tributes to him. flourish and and free at a very rapid pace after his death. and of course there were many, many attacks in the west after his death, where the attackers specifically turned out had been strongly influenced by him. so, was it a good idea to take
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him off the field and terms of being an operational terrorists or a bad idea to enhance hays statute difference with martyrdom. >> guest: al-awlaki says, our influence or our work is written in our blood. and speaking of -- martyrdom gave him extra strength and al-awlaki had similar belief. the second attempt to kill him. i don't think -- i veered towards -- if you ask me a good idea or baddie i veer toward a good idea but not in those terms. any assassination has to be taken very seriously, has to not be sort of necessarily set up or -- it's a very important and -- out a decision that is not an easy one to make. i think that with this
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assassination you had a couple of things at the time that al qaeda lost. what they lost was one, the fact he was a magnet. there weren't talking about people just looking for the opportunity to fight jihad. talking about people hooking for al-awlaki as a -- other number of cases thought if i meet al-awlaki, that's the next step i need, and there's a case of british airways employsee who met with al-awlaki and they -- he offering to help al-awlaki plan a terrorist attack. and what you realize is just their engagement with him was what made them fully decide i'm ready to commit this attack. he was a magnet for anyone interested and the tack away that magnet and didn't get replaced. a lot of people threw in the towel after that.
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so the lost the person who was his direct influence for people to go from sympathizer of jihad to an actual jihaddist, what al-awlaki was engaged witha lot of the time was through inspire and through his online speeches, he was age to constantly offer the jihaddist spin or narrative on new events and this is very important resource that al-awlaki provided western jihadies was the news is saying this but the 2008 financial crisis, saying this but the muhammad cartoons and the arab spring. what is al qaeda's take, the al qaeda news take on this? and al-awlaki was providing that in westerner, weave the in the usual narrative and take examples from new moments and make them relevant. they lost that, too, when he died. and so i think on balance issue think they lost more than they gained but it's a
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counterfactual. we don't know if he stayed alive what the difference would be. we do know when he was alive he was magnet for a lot of westerners who were looking for him to commit attacks and he was very important as this constant prop again da production. they lost -- propaganda production. they lost that. in terms of what they gained, the gainedded the opportunity to say you martyred one of our most important preachers and they were able to say as soon as you call people to slam you'll get killed -- islam you will be killed to the u.s. government. so i think that kind of the key thing to keep in mine. think what thaw gained and lost. whether or not -- the other thing to keep in mind, said everything he needed to say by the time he was killed so as far as justifying jihad and make it relevant to westerner to an extent everything he was saying up -- in the years up to before he died, were singhly rehashing
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of stuff he had already said but giving it a new spin based on the news stories at the time. so he said everything he needed to say and in that sense maybe it wasn't a huge loss, but very hard to say. overall i lean towards had to happen. a guy who was actively involved -- if you were to put this on the table and say, here's a file, mr. president, guy who is actively involved in multiple plot one of which very nearly -- pure lock stopped however hundreds of people dying on the plane and this guy connected to this amount of other plots right now. the problem is, he lives in a part of yemen where the government has no control. we can't ask the police to arrest him. no military will do that living in a lawless part of the world. so, at that opinion we have two options. we can go in and arrest hum with special forces team or leave him, arrest him with the special forces or kill him.
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and given how -- if you think but the bin laden operation, more important figure, they say -- incredibly risky special forces operation that nearly goes horrifically wrong. two blackhawks were down and crashed and could have again horribly wrong. a huge amount of risk when you send special forces in. they did it later on under the trump administration and killed al-awlaki's young daughter and one of a number of tragic stores around the al-awlaki family. so, in a way a precision strike on known terrorist operators in a jeep in the desert, was actually maybe the lowest risk option. and also the legal question which i can't address the international law question and there's international lawyers who can tell me it's an illegal act. probably you can tell me it's an illegal act because international law can be interpreted in many way.
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>> host: that's a great answer. we are going to get kicked off zoom in a men. i you still have questions, alex is not hard to fine at george washington on the program on extremism, you can find my e-mail on my twitter page. and this has been a real pleasure hosting alex. everybody, as soon as you get off, of you haven't already done it, order the book, insight. d. insightment. thank you for the terrific talk here. >> guest: thank you, everybody. i'm on twitter. any questions, foal free. thank you. >> during an thaw author program, city university of new york professor right wilson gilmore offer her thoughts on ending mars incarceration in the u.s. here's a portion of her talk.
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>> in los angeles county, decades ago, the aclu brought a conditions of confinement case against the county for the horrendous conditions in the jails. over the years, the aclu was in charge of taking care, keeping an eye on what the county did to remty the horrific conditions. about 18 years ago , the aclu invited a few abolitionists to come and talk to them but something they had never imagined, which was perhaps the way they remedied the problem with the los angeles county jill was not to have a jail at all rather than to build a better jail. slowly but surely this way of understanding became central to
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the struggle in los angeles county over those jails. 16 years later, abolitionists who joined forces with the forces of reform, managed to persuade the los angeles countyboard of supervisors, one of the biggest governments by number of people in the united states, not to build new jails but, rather to put the billions of dollars that would have gone into that, into housing health-care and other life affirming projects. so, abolitionist is long, abolition is how we connect with form, growth from, and multiply
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organizations to have the capacity to lift the movement. i learn many years ago that our main work, we who are talking heads sometimes on skype, our main work is to lift the movement. not to lead it. to lift it. to lift it by showing how antidomestic violence people are central to the formation of abolition, as a movement. that mutual aid organizations which are now flushing everywhere because of the emergency of covid-19, the unions, food, health-care, nurses, building trade, all of these organizations have become in one way or another connected with the movement in the direction of abolition because abolition is about abolishing the conditions under which prison became the solution to
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problems rather than abolishing the building we call prisons. >> to watch the rest tonight program visit our website, and search right wilson gilmore. ... as we get underway i want to acknowledge we are in traditional territory and particularly we thank them for the continuing use of natural resources of their ancestral homeland. we think all of you for tuning in is called interesting times we are grateful for the opportunity to invite virtual audiences together to share ideas and creativity even when we are not exactly coming together but i would especially like to thank anthony for helping us keep the conversation aloft at


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