Entries in Eric Holder (22)


Eric Holder: Gay Marriage Is the Next Civil Rights Issue

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has “evolved” on gay marriage, his administration opposes the federal law against it, and now, Attorney General Eric Holder says it’s the next big civil rights issue.

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview on Wednesday, ABC’s Pierre Thomas asked Holder how the Justice Department will approach the U.S. Supreme Court challenge to California’s Prop. 8 marriage ban.

While Holder declined to hint whether his department would take sides by filing a brief in the case, Holder did address gay marriage as an issue.

“From my perspective, this is really the latest civil rights issue,” Holder told ABC News.  “It is the question of whether or not American citizens are going to be treated with equal protection of the laws.  And so with regard to Prop. 8, we’re in the process now of deciding what position we’re gonna take.”

In a February 2011 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Holder announced the administration’s intention to drop its defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ban on gay marriage -- a holdover from the last Justice Department, which had similarly sought to uphold the law.

The Justice Department’s move was seen as a victory for gay rights advocates, who had listed overturning DOMA among a handful of top priorities for the Obama administration since the president took office.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: Eric Holder Remembers Newtown, His Worst Day on the Job

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As the nation's top law-enforcement officer, Eric Holder is briefed daily on terrorists threats.  He attends meetings in the White House situation room, and he decides when to ask judges for the death penalty.  At night, Holder says, he worries about terrorist threats.

But his worst day on the job came Dec. 20, when he traveled to Newtown, Conn., to meet with first responders and visit the crime scene where gunman Adam Lanza had killed 20 children and six adults with a high-powered rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School six days earlier.

"I was on a trip out of town.  [FBI Director] Bob Mueller called me and said that there had been a really horrific shooting in Connecticut.  And he said, 'It's really bad, Eric.  It's really, really bad,'" Holder said Wednesday in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with ABC's Pierre Thomas.

Discussing his personal experience with Newtown at length, Holder detailed how he first heard of the shooting.  When it happened, Holder was in Tulsa, Okla., for a ceremony honoring the new U.S. attorney for the state's Northern District.

"We turned on the news to get a sense of what had happened, and Bob called back and started to give me some numbers and then said, 'And it looks like it's little kids,'" Holder said.  "I understood at that point, given both the numbers and who the victims were, that we were dealing with something unlike anything we'd ever seen before."

Walking through the crime scene, Holder said, was the most difficult moment of his career.

"The worst day I've had as attorney general was the day that I went up to Sandy Hook to say thanks to the first responders and to the people who were the first on the scene," he said.

"And I have to tell you that walking through Sandy Hook Elementary School and going into those classrooms and seeing the caked blood, seeing the crime scene photos of these little angels was the most difficult thing that I've ever had to do in my professional life," Holder said, describing how both he and the first responders struggled unsuccessfully to hold back tears.

"There were tears from me, from the first responders, from the crime scene search officers," Holder said.  He "had a pretty emotional ride, after I left the school, going back to the airport."

The attorney general helped the administration draft its set of gun-control proposals as a part of Vice President Joe Biden's working group.  That effort has stalled as congressional Republicans have rejected many of the proposed measures, including a reinstated assault-weapons ban and limits on magazine capacity.

In his interview with ABC News, Holder reiterated his bosses' call for new gun-control measures.  The FBI, he said, is looking for ways to sooner identify potential mass shooters.

"I think what we as an administration, we as a nation have said is, 'Enough is enough,' that there are limits to how far we should go and that we should come up with really common-sense, responsible ways in which we deal with this problem.  And that's what we have proposed," Holder said.

"We have done, I think, a pretty good job in identifying those who might be susceptible to terrorist entreaties and become homegrown violent extremists.  I think we need to apply some of those techniques to see if we can pick out ahead of time who these potential mass killers are," he said.  "So it is something that we're working on."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


AG Holder: Homegrown Terrorists Threat Rivals Overseas

White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- After years of security briefings and thwarting terrorist plots, national security still keeps Eric Holder awake.

"I still worry at night," the U.S. attorney general told ABC's Pierre Thomas in a wide-ranging, exclusive interview on Wednesday.

"I'm concerned about whether or not we have done all that we can to ensure that every threat has been adequately examined, that we put up our defenses in appropriate ways," Holder said. "So, yeah, I still go to bed worried at night."

America now confronts a very different terrorist threat than it did four years ago, according to Holder. While al Qaeda's central leadership has been diminished, the group is more "widespread" geographically -- and the threat of homegrown terrorists in the U.S. now rivals that of plots hatched overseas, Holder told ABC News.

"Core al Qaeda doesn't have the capacity that it once did, but it's metastasized in a number of ways. We now worry about the nodes of al Qaeda -- al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda now in Africa, al Qaeda in Iraq," Holder said. "The threat is more widespread in terms of where those people are, where those significant people are. That's how it's different now."

The nation's top law enforcer worries that Americans could become "complacent" about the threat of terrorism, even as the FBI has thwarted not only international plots, but homegrown terrorists that Holder called "a very serious threat."

"I worry a little that the American people, from the general population, has become a little complacent that we don't understand or realize that the threats are still real, that the danger is out there, is still tangible, that we still have to be as vigilant as we need to be," Holder said.

During his tenure as attorney general, federal authorities have thwarted numerous terrorist plots hatched within the U.S., and Holder told ABC News that the threat of homegrown plots warrants as much attention as international terrorism. In December, the FBI arrested two Florida brothers, Raees Alam and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, alleging they had sought to obtain explosives and carry out a terrorist attack in New York City. The two were charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

"It's a very serious threat. I think what it says is that the scope, our scope, has to be broadened. We can't think that it's just a bunch of people in caves in some part of the world," Holder said. "We have to be concerned about the homeland to the same extent that we are worried about the threat coming from overseas."

The FBI's success has made the threat of terrorism less visible: When attempted terrorists are apprehended, the American public doesn't always see or hear much about them, save in cases like the attempted 2009 Christmas bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. In his interview with ABC News, Holder warned that thwarted plots shouldn't be dismissed or ignored.

"When those terrorist attempts are thwarted, they are not as scary as a successful attempt, but that doesn't mean that they were any less serious," Holder said. "That's something that the American people need to focus on. When we stop these attacks, that's an indication that the threat is real, it's ongoing, and we have to be very serious about stopping people who continue to want to do harm to the American people."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


'Fast and Furious' Probe Clears Holder, Faults ATF and Justice Department

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- "Operation Fast and Furious," the controversial undercover operation that allowed U.S. guns to be walked into Mexico, was a "risky strategy" that did not "adequately take into account the significant danger to public safety that it created."

That was the conclusion Wednesday from the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, after an investigation that spanned more than a year and a half.

The OIG investigation found that Attorney General Eric Holder was not aware of the strategy and tactics used in "Fast and Furious," and turned up no evidence that Holder tried to cover up the operation, or mislead Congress about it. Holder was held in contempt of Congress earlier this year for allegedly withholding documents about DOJ's "Fast and Furious" investigation from congressional investigators.

In a statement Wednesday, Holder said, "It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations -- accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion."

The IG report did find that a misleading letter that the DOJ sent to Congress was "troubling" because senior officials who were involved in drafting it knew, or should have known, that reckless behavior had occurred.

The political combat triggered by the flawed undercover operation played out in a series of contentious hearings on Capitol Hill in the past year. Behind the battles, the OIG found, was an undercover operation to catch gun-runners on the Southwest border that quickly turned bad.

Some of the 2,000 guns that made their way into Mexico as a result of "Operation Fast and Furious" were later recovered at crime scenes, including two found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

The "Fast and Furious" strategy called for agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to conduct surveillance and review phone and financial records to track guns they believed to be going to Mexican drug lords, who could then be arrested. But ATF lost track of most of the guns, few arrests were made, and yet "the purchasing activity by Operation Fast and Furious subjects continued unabated, individuals who had engaged in serious and dangerous criminal conduct remained at large, and the public was put in harm's way."

The OIG investigation "revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures that permeated ATF Headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona and at the Headquarters of the Department of Justice."

The report also details serious mistakes in DOJ's response to congressional inquiries about "Fast and Furious."

The Inspector General's review has recommended 14 Justice Department and ATF officials for disciplinary and administrative review, including the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

As a result of the OIG findings, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigned his post Wednesday. The OIG report charged that Weinstein, a senior aide to Breuer, did not adequately share critical information about "Fast and Furious," and its predecessor operation, "Wide Receiver," with top DOJ officials.

Because that information did not reach the attorney general, more aggressive oversight of the operation did not occur, and misinformation was passed on to Congress, according to the OIG report. Weinstein and his attorney vigorously denied any wrongdoing, saying Weinstein did not receive the key information he needed from the agents carrying out the operation. The former acting director of ATF during the operation, Kenneth Melson, on Wednesday retired from the Department of Justice, effective immediately.

The report was highly critical of William Newell, the former special agent in charge of the Phoenix field office. "Newell also bore ultimate responsibility for the failures in Operation Fast and Furious," the review found, citing his leadership position and involvement in the case.

Newell is working at ATF Headquarters in Washington.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the leading congressional critics of DOJ's handing of "Fast and Furious," issued a statement Wednesday, saying, "Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters. And, we still don't know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General. It's clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious."

The OIG report also detailed the mistakes that lead to the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry: "On January 16, 2010, one of the straw purchasers purchased three AK-47 style rifles from a Phoenix-area gun store. ATF agents learned about that purchase 3 days later and, consistent with the investigative strategy in the case, made no effort to locate (the purchaser) or seize the rifles although ATF had identified the suspect in November 2009. Two of the three rifles purchased by (the suspect) on January 16 were recovered 11 months later at the scene of the murder of Agent Terry, who was shot and killed on December 14, 2010, as he tried to arrest persons believed to be illegally entering the United States ... "

The day after Agent Terry's death, ATF agents arrested that suspect, Jaime Avila, and later 20 more alleged gun buyers and traffickers. As of Sept. 1, 2012, 14 defendants, including Avila, had entered guilty pleas to one or more counts of the indictment. In all, "Fast and Furious" identified more than 40 subjects believed to be connected to a trafficking conspiracy responsible for purchasing more than 2,000 firearms for about $1.5 million in cash. The vast majority of the firearms purchased by "Operation Fast and Furious" subjects were AK-47 style rifles and FN Herstal 5.7 caliber pistols.

The OIG report also noted, "What began as an important and promising investigation of serious firearms trafficking along the Southwest Border that was developed through the efforts of a short-staffed ATF enforcement group quickly grew into an investigation that lacked realistic objectives, did not have appropriate supervision within ATF or the U.S. Attorney's Office, and failed to adequately assess the public safety consequences of not stopping or controlling the alarming purchasing activity."

The report indicates that the OIG reviewed more than 100,000 documents and interviewed more than 130 witnesses, many on multiple occasions.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said, "We operated with complete and total independence in our search for the truth, and the decision about what to cover in this report and the conclusions that we reached were made solely by me and my office."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House Votes to Hold Attorney General Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives has voted in favor of a resolution to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding certain documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.

Led by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, 108 Democrats skipped the vote, storming out of the chamber in protest.

The measure passed 255-67, with one member voting “present.” Seventeen of the Democrats who didn’t walk out voted with the Republican majority to hold Holder in contempt of Congress. Two Republicans, Reps. Steven LaTourette of Ohio and Scott Rigell of Virginia, opposed the resolution.

The vote marks the first time in the history of Congress that it has found a sitting U.S. attorney general -- our nation's highest ranking law enforcement officer -- in contempt of Congress.

Congressional GOP sources say the committee will now work with the House general counsel to pursue the case in federal court and ultimately compel Holder to hand over the documents.
“We are still fighting for the truth and accountability -- for the family of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, for whistleblowers who have faced retaliation, and for countless victims of Operation Fast and Furious in Mexico,” Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, said in a statement after the vote.  “Unless President Obama relents to this bipartisan call for transparency and an end to the cover-up, our fight will move to the courts where we will prevail in getting the documents that the Justice Department and President Obama’s flawed assertion of executive privilege have denied the American people.”
Historically, contempt of Congress has been enforced by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, but sources predicted that path is unlikely this time since it concerns the attorney general, an unprecedented case of contempt of Congress.

Copyright 2012 ABC  News Radio


Cornyn Calls on Holder to Resign ‎Over Fast & Furious

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign Tuesday over the Fast and Furious gun  scandal.

Holder was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee where Cornyn expressed his views that the attorney general has not been honest and has been overly political.

“You have defied the lawful and legitimate oversight responsibilities of the House of Representatives and the Senate. You’ve resisted producing documents, you produced about 7,600 out of a pool of at least 80,000 documents,” Cornyn said about documents the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is trying to obtain from the Justice Department as part of the Fast and Furious investigation.

“There’s been zero accountability at the Department of Justice. You won't appoint a special prosecutor in the face of a potential conflict of interest. You won't tell the truth about what you know and when you knew it on Fast and Furious. You wont cooperate with  a legitimate congressional investigation. You won’t answer my questions about gun walking in Texas. You won’t take any responsibility for the failure of your inner circle.”

“You still resist coming clean about what you knew and when you knew it with regard to Operation Fast and Furious.  You won’t cooperate with a legitimate congressional investigation, and you won’t hold anyone, including yourself, accountable.  Your department blocks states from implementing attempts to combat voter fraud.  In short, you’ve violated the public trust, in my view, and by failing and refusing to perform the duties of your office,” Cornyn said.

“So, Mr. Attorney General, it’s more with sorrow than regret or anger that I would say you leave me with no alternative but to join those that call upon you to resign your office,” Cornyn told Holder. “Americans deserve an attorney general that will be honest with them.”

“With all due respect, senator, there is so much factually wrong with the premises you started your statement with it’s almost breathtaking in its inaccuracies,” Holder responded.

“I’m the attorney general that put an end to the misguided tactics that were used in Fast and Furious,” Holder said.

“I am also the attorney general who called on an inspector general to look into this matter, to investigate this matter. I’m also the attorney general who made personnel changes at ATF and in the U.S. Attorney’s Office that was involved. I’ve overseen the changes of processes and procedures within ATF to make sure that this doesn’t happen ever again. So I don’t have any intention of resigning. I heard the White House press officer say yesterday that the president has absolute confidence in me. I don’t have any reason to believe that that, in fact, is not — is not the case,” Holder said.

Holder said that the department has been forthcoming with information provided to Congress, “I am willing to sit down and talk about the provision of more materials.”

Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Monday that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would hold a vote on June 20 to consider a move to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress. Issa has alleged that the Justice Department has not responded to the committee’s subpoena seeking internal DOJ documents following the drafting of a Feb. 4, 2011 letter that contained inaccurate information about ATF’s operations.

Earlier in the hearing Holder said he was open to negotiating with Issa.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Attorney General Appoints Federal Prosecutors for Leak Investigations

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder ordered two federal prosecutors Friday night to open criminal investigations into a series of national security leaks to the news media.

Holder appointed Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Colombia, and Rod Rosenstein to lead the criminal investigations into recent leaks concerning a disrupted bomb plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a New York Times story about President Obama ordering cyber-attacks against Iran with the Stuxnet computer worm.

“These two highly-respected and experienced prosecutors will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI,” Holder said in a statement.  “I have every confidence in their abilities to doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice, wherever it leads.”

The appointment of the prosecutors comes days after the chairmen and ranking members of the Congressional Intelligence Committees and other members of Congress expressed outrage over the recent leaks.  Some members were calling for Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leaks, but Holder’s move may neutralize those calls.

Earlier this week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took to the Senate floor and implied the leaks were released by the White House for political purposes.

“A really disturbing aspect of this is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the president’s political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security,” McCain said on the Senate floor late Tuesday.

“The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong,” the president told reporters at the White House on Friday.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney bristled that McCain had alleged the leaks were coming from the White House.

“Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible,” Carney said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Holder Welcomes Drug Court Graduates Back into Life

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- As students graduate across the country this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at a different kind of commencement event: a recognition ceremony for drug court graduates.

Holder spoke somberly in Washington, D.C., Thursday as he commended the graduates for completing what he said was most likely a difficult path, and an “uphill battle.” He described the drug court program as an “alternative to traditional probation and incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders.”

“For each of you, this program presented an opportunity -- and indeed a challenge -- to be honest with yourself, your family and your friends,” Holder said at the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program. "Today’s graduates have made it as the result of months of hard work, perseverance and dedication. Those who are still progressing through the program have demonstrated their willingness to confront problems with addiction and work to reclaim their futures.”

The drug court program is part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce drug use not by putting users in jail but by helping them recover from addiction.

In his commencement speech, Holder boasted some facts from the drug court program, which he said was designed to be difficult: 75 percent of people who graduate have avoided being arrested again for at least two years; it can reduce crime by 45 percent more than “other sentencing options”; and for every dollar spent, three tax dollars are saved.

“Even more critically, you’re illustrating that they can reunite families, help communities feel safer and more secure, and make lives whole again,” Holder said.

He concluded, “I know this program is strict, and that it’s extraordinarily difficult to get through. But that’s why I am so proud to celebrate the progress that today’s graduates have made, to recognize the achievements of those who are continuing to move along the path to recovery, and to encourage every drug court participant to keep fighting. Keep working hard. And keep up your efforts to reclaim your lives, rejoin your communities, and strengthen our great nation.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Eric Holder: NYPD Spying Controversy 'Disturbing'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The New York Police Department has come under criticism for spying on Muslims outside their jurisdiction. Now the U.S. Attorney General says the operation is under federal review.

The recently-disclosed tactics of New York City police monitoring Muslims across the Hudson River at New Jersey businesses and mosques has drawn the scrutiny of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  

Testifying on Thursday before a senate committee, Attorney General Eric Holder added that he, too, is concerned, calling press reports on the situation “disturbing.”

“Just what I've read in the newspapers is disturbing and these are things that are under review in the Justice Department,” he said.

The head of the FBI's New Jersey field office says the NYPD surveillance has damaged trust between federal agents and the Muslim community.

While FBI Director Robert Mueller on Wednesday declined to wade into the issue when asked about it, the Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey field office, Mike Ward, expressed his opinion on the matter, asserting that the NYPD operating in New Jersey has damaged trust between the FBI and the Muslim community.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Holder to Speak on Targeted Killings of Americans

Official White House photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- To kill or not to kill? Under what conditions can or should the United States government target and kill -- without trial -- a U.S. citizen suspected of plotting terrorism?

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder will deliver a key speech on national security issues and is expected to provide the most detailed terms to date on the U.S. drone campaign and the U.S. government's legal authority to target and kill U.S. citizens such as Anwar al-Awlaki, a suspected high-profile al Qaeda recruiter.

According to administration officials, Holder is expected to say that U.S. citizens believed to be planning terrorist plots against this nation and deemed to be an imminent threat can be killed without a trial or conviction.

Although Awlaki was clearly a top terrorist target, two other U.S. citizens have been killed by American strikes in Yemen, including Awlaki's son, though those deaths have been viewed as "collateral damage" and were not specifically targeted.

Awlaki was killed in a Sept. 30, 2011, drone strike along with Samir Khan, another American citizen from North Carolina who had never been charged by the Justice Department with a crime. Khan was alleged to have been a prolific propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and main force behind the online publication Inspire, an English-language al Qaeda magazine dedicated to violent jihad and how-to-ideas on terrorist attacks.

Awlaki's 16-year-old son was also killed by the United States when he reportedly ran away from the family home in Yemen in an attempt to try and find his father. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was born in the United States had gone to Yemen to be with family, was killed weeks after his father's death in another drone strike along with two other alleged al Qaeda operatives he may have been staying with.

The issue of being able to target and kill U.S. citizens in counter-terrorism operations was first addressed by then Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair in February 2010.

"We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community. If…we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that," Blair told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Holder's remarks are expected to provide some insight into the Justice Department's legal guidance and memos from the Office of Legal Counsel authorizing the targeting of Americans.

The New York Times reported on the existence of the memos in October 2011. After ABC News filed a Freedom of Information Act requests to the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel concerning the memos, the department said that they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any documents on the subject of Awlaki or the justified targeting and killing of U.S. citizens in counter-terrorism operations.

The legality of the program was addressed by presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) who denounced the Obama administration for the controversial tactic.

"According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Americans are never to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Constitution is not some aspirational statement of values, allowing exceptions when convenient, but rather, it is the law of the land. It is the basis of our Republic and our principal bulwark against tyranny. Last week's assassination of two American citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, is an outrage and a criminal act carried out by the President and his administration," Paul said in an Oct. 10, 2011, statement.

Officials have previously acknowledged that the Justice Department and the National Security Council were highly involved in drafting the authorities when they were first disclosed by DNI Blair.

Before his death, top counter-terrorism officials acknowledged that Awlaki and al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to be the top terrorism concern to the United States.

"I actually consider al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with al-Awlaki as a leader within that organization probably the most significant risk to the U.S. homeland," Michael Leiter said before Congress last February when he was the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Awlaki was linked to numerous terrorism investigations in the United States, serving as a key individual espousing terrorist acts in his sermons, which were posted online. Army Major Nidal Hasan had exchanged emails with Awlaki before he killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 in an assault on Fort Hood in November 2009.

Awlaki is believed to have inspired several other terror plots in the U.S. as well and was key in providing operational instructions to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the attempted Christmas Day underwear bombing of Northwest flight 253.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio