Two new intelligence memos obtained by Fox News point to increasing alarm over radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki's recent call to kill American civilians.
Awlaki is the American-born cleric residing in Yemen who has been tied to the Fort Hood shooting last fall, the Christmas Day jet bombing attempt and the attempted Times Square car bombing in May. The two intelligence documents, which are for official use only, describe how the cleric's escalating rhetoric could attract dangerous followers inside the United States.
The first memo, which refers to the cleric as Aulaqi, was written by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis and dated May 26. It warned that the cleric could "inspire" groups to launch terror attacks.
"The FBI and DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis are concerned that Anwar Aulaqi's support for violence against U.S. military and civilian targets could inspire terrorist groups or individuals to conduct attacks in the United States," the memo said. "The FBI and DHS/I&A encourage reporting of suspicious activity to appropriate authorities and encourage our homeland security, military and law enforcement partners to remain vigilant."
The intelligence "note," which was written for federal and non-federal security agencies, points specifically to Awlaki's video message May 23 which was posted to a jihadist website. In the "interview," produced by an Al Qaeda propaganda group, Awlaki justified violence against the U.S. and praised previous attacks.
The intelligence note stated that Awlaki "affirmed his support for the actions of alleged Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan and alleged Northwest flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Aulaqi called for Muslims in the U.S. Army to follow the example of Major Hasan and also urged his supporters not to distinguish between U.S. military and U.S. civilian targets."
The intelligence note said the cleric's statements are escalating and becoming more extreme, though he is now on the CIA's kill-or-capture list.
A separate intelligence memo, obtained by Fox News, confirms what is now the widely-held belief that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or Al Qaeda in Yemen has set its sights on the West. The document from Intelink, which disseminates information across the intelligence community, stated that the failed Christmas Day bombing indicates "the group is also prepared to strike directly at the West itself, and to operate beyond the Arabian Peninsula for the first time."
"As such, the current incarnation of AQAP is likely to pose a significant threat within the region and beyond, at least in the short to mid-term," the memo said.
Awlaki is seen by U.S. counterterrorism officials as a rising force within Al Qaeda who inspires or blesses suicide missions, and who has taken on an operational role in the plotting of attacks against the United States.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.