Anwar al Awlaki

When President Obama addressed the nation about the death of high-level Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki Anwar al-Awlaki today, said the drone strike that took out the US-born radical withdraws the man who "took the initiative in planning and leading the efforts to kill innocent Americans."

While al-Awlaki was not the trigger-man in any of the 19 operations that is linked to terror, U.S. officials and terrorism experts said his hand was visible in all of them - either by simply pushing the attackers on the violent edge personally, guiding them through operations.

"There is no doubt that Anwar al-Awlaki was the terrorist of today," said Seth Jones, a terrorism analyst at the RAND Corporation and advisor to the U.S. government. "We used a combination of participation in the operations ... and an almost unprecedented use of social media - YouTube, the wider Internet sites, Facebook, Twitter - for their propaganda messages out. "

In a particular case, Jones said that al-Awlaki was a player with hands in the attempt by Omar Faruk Abdulmutallab to fly Northwest Flight 253 with a bomb in his underwear on Christmas Day in 2009 after he traveled Abdulmutallab to Yemen and met al Awlaki.

"Al-Awlaki really helped him get into a jihadist camp, helped him gain access to the pump underwear and then actually walked him through [it]," said Jones. "I wanted [Abdulmutallab] to wait to exploit [the bomb] on U.S. airspace."

Al-Awlaki Abdulmutallab also taught to avoid detection while traveling the world before the intended plot, Jones said.

"So in fact it was directly at the operational and strategic level guidance for the terrorist himself," he said. "This is more than recruiting."

In his speech today, both the defense secretary, Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the direct involvement of al-Awlaki on Christmas Day story.

Other times, al-Awlaki seemed to be able to push potential recruits to the action of thousands of miles away. A month before Adbulmutallab not fly Northwest Flight 253, U.S. prosecutors say Nidal Hasan opened fire on an army base in Texas, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others. Investigators later found Hasan had exchanged several emails with the al-Awlaki al-Awlaki justify the assassinations.

In some cases, al-Awlaki did not have to speak directly to the recruits at all.

In July 2011, a Brooklyn man was convicted of planning the trip to the Middle East to join the jihad and killing U.S. soldiers that according to the FBI. In the course of their investigation, federal authorities found "the defendant had been radicalized in part by the Internet addresses of Anwar al-Awlaki ..."

"The tone, theme, then your ability to push through multiple media really made an unprecedented terrorist Al Qaeda," said Jones.
Gregory Johnsen Yemen analyst agreed, saying he was not in their operational capacity, but their rhetoric that made al-Awlaki invaluable to the terrorist organization.

"What kind of impact it will have [the death of al-Awlaki] have in the" lone wolf "terrorists"? Johnsen said. "That is, individuals, often English speaking people living in the West that seems to be inspired, if not encouraged to carry out attacks on al-Awlaki. And that's where al-Awlaki was a unique voice and someone like Al Qaeda group have a difficult time replacing. "