While serving as an imam at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Va. shortly after 9/11, Anwar al-Awlaki referred to the hijackings as "terrorist attacks" that should be treated as "a crime against America."
"I have no sympathy for whoever committed the crimes of Sept. 11th," he told Washington Post readers in November 2001.
But nearly a decade after 9/11, Fox News reports that the House Homeland Security Committee is investigating Awlaki's possible involvement in the attacks. The panel's chairman, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder May 26 informing him that the committee will investigate whether Awlaki, currently a leader within al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), played a role in "assisting, facilitating, and mentoring" 9/11 hijackers Khaled al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.
AQAP has been linked to multiple attacks in the United States, including the Fort Hood massacre, the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009 and the attempted bombings of U.S.-bound cargo flights last year.
"Given the greater collection of intelligence and integration of pertinent data since the attacks of 9/11, I believe that al-Awlaki may have played greater roles in the terror attacks of 9/11" than investigators previously understood, King wrote.
His committee seeks to determine "To what extent al-Awlaki was an al Qaeda operative, offering support to acts of terrorism, prior to 9/11." He added that the panel is seeking to obtain "files, reports, analysis, assessments, memoranda, notes, and presentation in all forms" that are related to an investigation by the San Diego FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) that linked Awlaki to Osama bin Laden.
The letter added that Ziyad Khaleel, an al-Qaida procurement agent who had purchased a telephone for bin Laden, was in touch with Awlaki, as was Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (AKA the Blind Sheikh), currently serving a life sentence for plotting multiple terrorist attacks on New York landmarks.
In San Diego, Awlaki preached at the Rabat mosque, where al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi attended services. Awlaki moved to Northern Virginia in January 2001 and began preaching at Dar Al-Hijrah. Al-Hazmi and another 9/11 hijacker, Hani Hanjour, moved to Northern Virginia a few months later, where they attended Dar Al-Hijrah, and al-Mihdhar joined them there in July.
At this point, three months before 9/11, Awlaki and three future 9/11 hijackers were all living in the same community and attending Dar al-Hijrah, King wrote. "More importantly, over the course of 18 months, Anwar al-Awlaki had been associated with and preached at the same mosques as three 9/11 hijackers in both Northern Virginia and San Diego," he added.
Read more about the investigation here.