U.S. set to file criminal charges against Awlaki — but not sure which ones

The best case scenario for the government would be for Abdulmutallab to plead guilty. He already has told the FBI that al-Awlaki was involved in that attack, and a plea deal would allow Abdulmutallab to become a witness against him. Abdulmutallab, who fired his lawyers Monday and was given approval to represent himself, has yet to strike a deal and would likely seek a reduced prison sentence in exchange for his help.

Another option, given al-Awlaki’s increasingly violent sermons and his collaboration with Al Qaeda’s propaganda efforts, would be charging him with supporting terrorism. But that charge carries only a 15-year prison sentence, leaving the administration open to questions about how the president can authorize the CIA to essentially impose the death penalty for such a crime.