Washington: A top Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official has now admitted that the agency had custody of the American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki back in 2002, but let him go.
According to Fox News, Mark Giuliano, the FBI`s assistant director for national security, testified on Wednesday that they knew in advance that al-Awlaki was making his way back to the US in October 2002, though he didn`t explain how.
Al-Awlaki was detained at New York City`s JFK Airport because a customs database flagged him based on an outstanding arrest warrant.
Giuliano, who under intense questioning by Frank Wolf, the chairman of the committee that has oversight of the FBI, also admitted there were discussions between an FBI agent and the US attorney in Colorado about the US-born cleric’s re-entry and the warrant.
“Yes, sir, there was a dialogue, as there always will be,” Giuliano told Wolf.
“If a case agent has a case on somebody that is coming into the country, the system is triggered and set up so that there will be a call to that case agent,” he added.
According to the report, former FBI agents said there are only two likely explanations - the bureau let the cleric into the country to track him for intelligence, or the bureau wanted to work with him as a friendly contact.
The FBI has consistently maintained that the arrest warrant was pulled because the case against the cleric was weak.
It has also suggested that the timing, coming on the same day the cleric re-entered the US at New York City`s JFK Airport, was coincidental.