FORT HOOD, Texas – A key U.S. senator said Sunday he would begin an investigation into whether the Army missed signs that the man accused of opening fire at Fort Hood had embraced an increasingly extremist view of Islamic ideology.
Sen. Joe Lieberman’s call for an investigation came a day after classmates who participated in a 2007-2008 master’s program at a military college said they complained to superiors about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and what they considered to be his anti-American views, which included his giving a presentation that justified suicide bombing and telling classmates that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.
“If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance,” Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He should have been gone.”
Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wants Congress to determine whether the shootings constitute a terrorist attack.
Army Chief of Staff George Casey also warned Sunday against reaching conclusions about the suspected shooter’s motives until investigators have fully explored the attack. “I think the speculation (on Hasan’s Islamic roots) could potentially heighten backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Dr. Val Finnell told the Associated Press on Saturday that he and other classmates participating in a 2007-2008 master’s program with Hasan at the Uniformed Services University complained about his comments, including that the war on terror was “a war against Islam.”
Another classmate told the AP on Sunday that he complained to five officers and two civilian faculty members at the university. He wrote in a command climate survey sent to Pentagon officials that fear in the military of being seen as politically incorrect prevented an “intellectually honest discussion of Islamic ideology” in the ranks.
Meanwhile, the FBI will probably look into whether Hasan attended the same Virginia mosque as two Sept. 11 hijackers in 2001 at a time when a radical imam preached there, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, outreach director at the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center, confirmed Sunday that Hasan’s family participated in services at the mosque in Falls Church, Va. Abdul-Malik said the Hasans were not leaders at the mosque, that their attendance was utterly normal, and that he did not know whether Hasan himself ever attended services there.
In 2001, Anwar Aulaqi was an imam, or spiritual leader, at the mosque. Aulaqi told the FBI in 2001 that before he moved to Virginia in early 2001, he met with 9/11 hijacker Nawaf al-Hazmi several times in San Diego. Al-Hazmi was at the time living with Khalid al-Mihdhar, another hijacker. Al-Hazmi and another hijacker, Hani Hanjour, attended the Dar al Hijrah mosque in early April 2001.
At Fort Hood on Sunday, Col. Frank Jackson, the garrison chaplain at 1st Cavalry Division Memorial Chapel, the post’s main church, asked mourners to pray for Hasan and his family “as they find themselves in a position that no person ever desires to be: to try and explain the unexplainable.”