Before Samir Khan was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in 2011, the FBI had hoped to capture and prosecute the blogger on terrorism charges. But Khan, a US citizen who wrote about violent jihad and was the founding editor of al Qaeda’s glossy English-language magazine Inspire, somehow slipped out of the United States in 2009 and eluded capture.
The new revelations about the government’s investigation into Khan were detailed in heavily redacted FBI files obtained by VICE News under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Previous documents revealed that the FBI launched an investigation of Khan in 2006 after the bureau discovered his incendiary blog, Inshallahshaheed, an Arabic phrase that means “Martyr, God willing.” Less than a year later, according to the set of records, the FBI’s “primary goal” was to determine if Khan “Is influencing/did influence anyone to commit an act of terror.”
“A secondary goal is to determine if Khan is being directed by a higher authority/authorities to do so,” states one of the documents in the FBI file, dated October 2, 2008. “If the investigation does determine that Khan is influencing or has influenced anyone to commit an act of terror, the FBI will disrupt Khan, either by prosecuting him for [providing material support to terrorism] and [solicitation to commit a crime of violence] or by other means.”
The FBI also considered recruiting Khan as an informant, rather than disrupting any terror plots with which he may have been involved, believing that doing so would be “more beneficial” to the US government from an intelligence standpoint.