US authorities had Anwar al-Awlaki in custody twice and let him go both times, before eventually killing him in a targeted drone attack, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request. Documents from the US embassy in Yemen indicate that the US-born radical cleric was in custody for at least eight months between 2006 and 2007, but don't specify why he was released, the AFP reports.
But the embassy clearly kept tabs on Awlaki—just months before his assassination, it sent him a letter urging him to come pick up an unspecified document, which turned out to be a passport revocation. The embassy incidents followed a previously reported 2002 incident in which Awlaki was detained at JFK Airport for passport fraud before the FBI mysteriously ordered his release. "These documents provide further evidence that the federal government … has been operating a 'catch and release' program for terrorists," Judicial Watch says.