For decades, state officials in nations like Iran and Syria have publicly held that Al Qaeda, ISIS and other Salafist terrorist groups are agents of chaos trained and armed by the United States and Israel.
Now finally, there's a smoking gun.
Two weeks ago, Major General Abdulqader Al-Shami, the deputy security chief of the Houthi rebel government in Yemen, unearthed a recording of a 2001 conversation between ex-CIA Director George Tenet and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh regarding US-born Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki.
President Saleh, who the Houthis shot in 2017 for treason, had al-Awlaki -- known as the "Bin Laden of the internet" -- detained over his role in directing the 2000 bombing of the US Navy vessel, the USS Cole. 17 sailors died and 37 were injured.
Following the attack, the FBI traveled to Sana'a, ostensibly to investigate the incident.
In an exchange that could potentially revolutionize our understanding of the "War on Terror," Tenet instructs the Yemeni leader to release al-Awlaki, who the CIA director calls "my person." .
Saleh: Do you have his name?
Tenet: I don't want to use his name on the phone. They know his name.
Saleh: George, the FBI people have arrived in Sana'a. They are now in Yemen. Why don't you recommend them to come and meet me tomorrow along with the US ambassador and present this case during my discussion with them and we can discuss about it.
Tenet: President, I'm happy to do that, but let me say something very important. This is my person, this is my problem, my issue and I'm calling you because its very serious for me personally, this man must be released.
Major General [Ghalib] al-Qamish, he knows all about this. [...] I've talked to everybody in my government. I told them I was going to make this call. I want to work with you but I need this man released in the next 48 hours. This is my very personal appeal to you. After 50 days this must stop.
Al-Awlaki's relationship to the US government went beyond the CIA.
The Imam's strong penchant for prostitutes made him vulnerable to blackmail. It is believed that the FBI discovered evidence of his habits while surveilling him and threatened to expose the religious figure. US intelligence continued to support him despite knowing that he was involved with the World Trade Center attack.
Documents obtained by Judicial Watch in 2012 under a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the cleric was personally involved with at least three of the 9/11 hijackers, even going so far as to purchase plane tickets for them.
Internal discussions at the FBI show that the agency was concerned about the 9/11 Commission questioning him. The FBI deliberately refused to cooperate with the 9/11 investigation in this regard.
Theories Around His 2011 Assassination
In 2011, the Obama administration made the controversial decision to assassinate the Al-Qaeda leader with drones, which some believe was done as part of a cover up in Yemen despite the fact that he was born in New Mexico and retained US citizenship.
Congressman Louie Gohmert remarked in 2016 that al-Awlaki was killed to prevent him from publicizing his ties with the US government.
Some have gone much further. Jason Ditz, who has always been a credible reporter at Antiwar.com, stated in 2011 that there was no evidence al-Awlaki or his 16-year-old son actually died in the drone strike.
According a hypothesis shared by Ditz and others at the time, the Al Qaeda figurehead may have been a deep cover intelligence operative and the drone strike was a smoke screen for extracting him and his son from the country. In 2017, a raid in Yemen authorized by Donald Trump led to the death of al-Awlaki's 8-year-old US citizen daughter.
There are still many missing puzzle pieces related to the US government's relationship to al-Awlaki and al-Qaeda, but circumstantial evidence is beginning to paint a picture.
Whether it's Joe Biden's current National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan emailing Hillary Clinton in 2012 to tell her "al-Qaeda is on our side in Syria," or a 2018 report by the Associated Press showing that Washington and Riyadh were getting al-Qaeda fighters to fight for them against the Houthis, the American people deserve to know more about how low their government is willing to go to advance Israel's geopolitical interests.