WASHINGTON – Two Senate leaders concluded Thursday that the FBI and the Pentagon were responsible for a “string of failures” in tracking a disgruntled Army major in the years before he allegedly opened fire at a crowded Fort Hood, Texas, deployment center, killing 13 people.
Army supervisors repeatedly referred to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan as a “ticking time bomb,” and FBI agents and the military knew he had become radicalized under the influence of a violent Islamist extremist, the senators said in a report.
Yet the agents never arrested him or even brought him in for questioning, and his military superiors never disciplined him or discharged him from the Army.
“The Fort Hood massacre should have been prevented,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who along with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, conducted the investigation into the November 2009 shooting on behalf of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
“People in the Department of Defense and the FBI had ample evidence of alleged killer Nidal Hasan’s growing sympathies toward violent Islamist extremism in the years before the attack. He was not just a ticking time bomb but a traitor,” Lieberman said. “Thirteen people died needlessly at Fort Hood.”
Added Collins: “This is not a case where a lone wolf was unknown to the FBI, unknown to military officials, until he struck. And that is the tragedy of this case.”
Hasan, a 41-year-old U.S.-born Muslim who worked as an Army psychiatrist, is accused of opening fire in a soldier readiness center at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009.
Besides the 13 people who were killed, 32 were wounded.
The senators said the FBI and Defense Department “collectively had sufficient information to have detected Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism but failed to understand and to act on it.”
“That string of failures prevented officials from intervening against him,” they said.
They determined that federal law enforcement agents, “to the FBI’s credit,” flagged Hasan for additional scrutiny after learning about his radicalization.
Much of that occurred after Hasan had e-mail contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born, Yemen-based Islamic cleric with suspected ties to al-Qaida. There were other signs. During a military medical fellowship, Hasan tried to justify suicide bombings, made a class presentation supporting violent extremism, supported some of the work of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, and warned that Muslim Americans in the U.S. military “could be prone to fratricide.”
Yet “not only was no action taken to discipline or discharge him, but his officer evaluation report sanitized his obsession with violent Islamist extremism into praiseworthy research on counter-terrorism,” the report said.
The FBI also decided other evidence against Hasan was “slim,” and agents “dropped the matter rather than cause a bureaucratic confrontation,” the report said.