The United States on Friday submitted a memorandum to a Michigan federal judge revealing that terrorist leader Anwar al Awlaki had more direct involvement that previously known in the so-called underwear bomber's preparations to blow up Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009.
Awlaki, a Yemeni American member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who is credited with inspiring the would-be Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to carry out terrorist acts on American soil, was killed in a drone strike in northwest Yemen this past September.
A White House official, speaking on background, said the details disclosed in the memo, which were gained from Abdulmutallab through debriefing statements made to FBI agents in April 2010, help show that military detentions are unnecessary to combat terrorism. Law enforcement officials had read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights shortly after he was arrested, prompting criticism from Republicans who argue that the federal courts cannot properly handle terrorist cases.
According to the memo, Awlaki personally vetted Abdulmutallab, helped him film a "martyrdom video," and directed the underwear bomber to carry out his suicide mission on a U.S. airliner over U.S. soil.
The memo recounts Awlaki's hands-on approval of Abdulmutallab for a "martyrdom mission" and his facilitation of the underwear bomber's "instruction in weapons and indoctrination in jihad" at an AQAP camp.
Abdulmutallab filmed a video with Awlaki's assistance. According to the memo, "Awlaki arranged for a professional film crew to film the video. Awlaki assisted defendant in writing his martyrdom statement, and it was filmed over a period of two to three days. The full video was approximately five minutes in length."
Perhaps most important, the memo states, "Awlaki instructed defendant not to fly directly from Yemen to Europe, as that could attract suspicion. Prior to defendant's departure from Yemen, Awlaki's last instructions to him were to wait until the airplane was over the United States and then to take the plane down."
Abdulmutallab has been charged with eight criminal counts, including attempted use of a criminal weapon and attempted murder of the 289 people on board Flight 253, and is currently being held in a federal prison in Michigan. The memo asks Judge Nancy Edmunds of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to apply the maximum sentences for each of the eight counts, which would result in five life terms and 60 years in prison.
Michael McAuliff contributed to this report.