FORT HOOD, Texas – Maj. Nidal M. Hasan exchanged e-mails late last year and this year with a radical cleric in Yemen, but the contact did not lead to an investigation, federal law enforcement officials said Monday.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist suspected of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian here last week, will be tried in military court, the officials said.
U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted 10 to 20 e-mails from Hasan to Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen who once was a spiritual leader at the suburban Virginia mosque where Hasan had worshiped, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee.
Al-Aulaqi responded to Hasan at least twice, Hoekstra said, but he described the responses as “innocent,” and a terrorism expert cautioned that the exchanges may have been part of Hasan’s academic research.
The FBI determined that the e-mails did not warrant an investigation, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“For me, the number of times that this guy tried to reach out to the imam was significant,” Hoekstra said in an interview, adding: “Al-Qaida and radical jihadists use the Internet to spread radical jihadism. … So how much of his lashing out is as a result of … his access to radical messages on the Internet and the ability to interact?
“I believe that the responses from Aulaqi were maybe pretty innocent,” Hoekstra continued. “But the very fact that he’s sent and communicated to this guy and got responses would be quite a concern to me.”
On Capitol Hill, several investigations of the shootings are taking shape, with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee announcing the first public hearings on the matter. Federal authorities are continuing to review Hasan’s computer and electronic correspondence.
Hasan, 39, who was shot four times on Thursday, is in stable condition at an Army hospital near San Antonio, where he regained consciousness and began talking to doctors and nurses, a hospital spokeswoman said. FBI and Army investigators tried to interview Hasan on Sunday, but he invoked his right to counsel, senior government officials said.
On Monday, Hasan’s family hired retired Army Col. John Galligan, a former military judge at Fort Hood, to be Hasan’s attorney. Galligan said he planned to speak with Hasan on Monday night at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston.
Senior U.S. investigators said Monday night that Hasan will be charged in military court.