US considers terror charges for cleric al-Awlaki

According to AP, the Obama administration is considering filing the first criminal charges against radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in case the CIA fails to kill him and he is captured alive in Yemen. A decision on criminal charges is expected in the next several weeks, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, suggested in Detroit federal court Monday that he wanted to plead guilty to some charges, raising the possibility that his cooperation could form the foundation for charges against al-Awlaki.

According to AP:

The best case scenario for the government would be for Abdulmutallab to plead guilty. He has already told the FBI that al-Awlaki was involved in the airliner bomb plan, and a plea deal would allow Abdulmutallab to become a witness against him. But Abdulmutallab, who fired his lawyers Monday and was given approval to represent himself, has yet to strike a deal and would probably seek a reduced prison sentence in exchange for his help.

Another option, given al-Awlaki’s increasingly violent sermons and his collaboration with al-Qaida’s propaganda efforts, would be charging him with supporting terrorism. But that charge carries only a 15-year prison sentence, leaving the administration open to questions about how the president can authorize the CIA to essentially impose the death penalty for such a crime.

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