Of course, Al-Awlaki did not invent the ideology he has become widely known for propagating. Nor did Osama bin Laden, nor did al-Qaeda. Authorities would have to dig into some highly politically-incorrect territory to get to the root of what motivated Shahzad to pursue violent jihad, especially since his case cannot be written off as the product of poverty or a lack of education. “A Newly Religious Immigrant Is Linked to a Militant Yemeni-American Cleric,” by Scott Shane and Marc Mazzetti for the New York Times, May 6:
WASHINGTON — The Pakistani-American man accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square has told investigators that he drew inspiration from Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric whose militant online lectures have been a catalyst for several recent attacks and plots, an American official said Thursday.
Curious NYT decorum:
The would-be bomber, Faisal Shahzad, said he was “inspired by” the violent rhetoric of Mr. Awlaki, said the official, who would speak of the investigation only on condition of anonymity.
“He listened to him, and he did it,” the official said, referring to Saturday’s attempted bombing on a busy street in Times Square.
Friends of Mr. Shahzad have said he became more religious and somber in the last year or so, and asked his father’s permission in 2009 to join the fight in Afghanistan against American and NATO forces. Investigators believe he was trained by the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group that previously focused mainly on Pakistani government targets.
A senior military official said Thursday that Mr. Shahzad has told interrogators that he met with Pakistani Taliban operatives in North Waziristan in December and January. Later he received explosives training from the same operatives, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Counterterrorism officials want to know how Mr. Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen who had earned an M.B.A., married and had children and worked in several corporate jobs, came to embrace violence.
It is no surprise to counterterrorism officials to find that an accused terrorist had been influenced by Mr. Awlaki, 39, now hiding in Yemen, who has emerged as perhaps the most prominent English-speaking advocate of violent jihad against the United States.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration took the extraordinary step of authorizing the killing of Mr. Awlaki, making him the first American citizen on the Central Intelligence Agency’s hit list.
Mr. Awlaki’s English-language online lectures and writings have turned up in more than a dozen terrorism investigations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, counterterrorism experts have said. And in two recent United States cases, Mr. Awlaki communicated directly with the accused perpetrator.
Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, exchanged about 18 e-mail messages with Mr. Awlaki in the year before the shootings, asking among other things whether it would be permissible under Islam to kill American soldiers preparing to fight in Afghanistan. After the shootings, Mr. Awlaki praised Major Hasan as “a hero” on his Web site, which was taken offline by the Internet host company shortly after the posting.
In addition, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic airliner on Christmas Day, is believed to have met Mr. Awlaki during his training by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
It is unclear whether Mr. Shahzad ever directly communicated with Mr. Awlaki.
A video broadcast on April 26 on Al Jazeera showed Mr. Awlaki speaking in Arabic and accusing the United States of participating with Yemeni forces in two air strikes in December, one of which was directed at a house where Mr. Awlaki was believed to be meeting with leaders of the Al Qaeda branch. The video carried the logo of the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Mr. Awlakiwas questioned by the F.B.I. late in 2001 about contacts with three of the Sept. 11 hijackers who had attended his mosques in San Diego and Virginia. He denied any radical ties and denounced the 9/11 attacks in public statements.
He was imprisoned in Yemen in 2006 and 2007, and after his release he was more overtly approving of violence. Last year, he published a tract entitled “44 Ways of Supporting Jihad” that was widely circulated on the Internet.
There are 50 ways to leave your lover, but only 44 ways to support jihad. Now you know.
Mr. Awlaki’s Web site became a favorite for English-speaking Muslims who were curious about jihad, and hundreds of people sent e-mail messages to his site. It is not known whether Mr. Shahzad was among them, and there is no evidence that Mr. Shahzad visited the cleric in Yemen where he was believed to be hiding in a harsh region of desert and mountains.