Despite connections to some of the hijackers and a record of radical sermons and speeches in the United States, fugitive al-Qaida terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki was a lunch guest at a Pentagon "Muslim outreach" event just months after the 9/11 attacks, according to documents obtained by Fox News.
A current Defense Department (DoD) employee told investigators that she helped arrange the meeting after watching Awlaki speak in Alexandria, Va.
In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a push by the Secretary of the Army "to have a presentation from a moderate Muslim," according to one document. Awlaki was also "considered to be an 'up and coming' member of the Muslim community."
After watching Awlaki's speech, the employee "recalls being impressed by this imam. He condemned Al Qaeda and the terrorist attacks," according to the documents. And Awlaki was "harassed" by members of the audience and "suffered it well."
"After her vetting, Aulaqi [Awlaki] was invited to and attended a luncheon in the Pentagon in the secretary of the Army's Office of General Counsel."
The invitation came despite the fact that Awlaki "was interviewed at least four times by the FBI in the first week after the attacks because of his ties to…three hijackers – Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Hani Hanjour," Fox News reported. The three hijackers were on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
The Defense Department has failed to respond to Fox News' repeated requests for information on Awlaki's attendance at the luncheon. A former high-ranking FBI agent told Fox News that there was tremendous "arrogance" about the Pentagon's vetting process.
"They vetted people politically and showed indifference to security and intelligence advice of others," the agent said. It wasn't just the Pentagon. As we reported in July, Awlaki is shown in a PBS documentary leading Muslim staffers in prayer on Capitol Hill.