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Connections Between Radical Cleric, Hasan Closely Examined

Since the shootings at Fort Hood, authorities have focused not only on the accused gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, but also on Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric Hasan knew. Margaret Warner reports.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Since the killings at Fort Hood one week ago, authorities are focusing not only on the alleged shooter, Nidal Hasan, but also on a radical cleric Hasan knew.

    He is Anwar al-Awlaki, who has run an English-language Web site from Yemen featuring postings that included "44 Ways to Support Jihad."

    Former CIA officer and Homeland Security Undersecretary Charles Allen knows Awlaki's work well.

  • CHARLES ALLEN, Chertoff Group:

    He understands idiomatic American English, and he appeals to young people. And he tries to bend the minds of young American Muslims. And, to some degree, he, I believe, has succeeded here in the United States and Canada.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Investigators say Awlaki and Hasan exchanged 10 to 20 electronic messages over the past year. And, by December of last year, the FBI knew it.

    But, in a statement issued Monday, the FBI said it had determined, "The content of those communications was consistent with research being conducted by Hasan in his position as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center," and took no action.

    That same day, Awlaki's Web site praised the shooting as a great heroic act and encouraged others to do the same. "Nidal Hasan is a hero," the posting said. "He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."

    Authorities first looked at Awlaki a decade ago for possible connections to al-Qaida. After 9/11, the commission investigating the attacks homed in on the fact that he had counseled three of the hijackers while serving as imam at mosques in San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia.

    Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick said she and her fellow commissioners found the coincidence troubling.

    JAMIE GORELICK, former 9/11 commissioner: He denied to the FBI any significant involvement, other than knowing some of the hijackers. We said that we were suspicious of this account. But, by the time the 9/11 Commission came into being, he had gone to Yemen. And we tried very hard to find him.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Born in New Mexico of Yemeni parents, the U.S.- college educated Awlaki first met Hasan at this same Falls Church, Virginia, mosque in 2001 and 2002.

    Awlaki presided at Hasan's mother's funeral, but it isn't known how close the two men were.

    Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, now imam at that mosque, said Awlaki had tremendous appeal, especially to second-generation Muslim-Americans.

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