Fort Hood shooting: Al Qaeda now portrays Nidal Hasan as terrorism star
Al Qaeda now hails Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, suspect in the Fort Hood shooting, as a 'trailblazer' for how to attack the US. Some analysts say that praise points up the group's organizational weakness.
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While the Obama administration has been reluctant to characterize the attack as a terrorist act (a Pentagon report on the Fort Hood attack made no mention of jihad), the Senate Homeland Security Committee has in past hearings linked Hasan and Fort Hood to Al Qaeda's new tactics.Skip to next paragraph
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In a committee hearing last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller said that "since 2006 al-Qaida has looked to recruit Americans or Westerners who are able to remain undetected by heightened security measures."
The shift from large spectacular attacks is a sign that Al Qaeda is actually at one of "its weakest points organizationally," after years of conflict with the United States, Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in testimony to the same Senate committee.
The US government is in a tough spot, however, when it comes to preventing attacks and identifying possible domestic terrorists within the large US Muslim community. On one hand, the FBI has been criticized for not intervening with Hasan after intercepting the Awlaki correspondence, which at the time did not raise enough red flags to stir immediate action.
On the other hand, with polls showing a darkening of the public's views of Islam in the past year, it's crucial for government agents to be able to reach out to the Muslim community for help finding potential terrorists, the FBI's Mr. Mueller told the Senate recently. That may become more difficult if Muslims sense growing intolerance of Islam in America, says David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Whatever his motives, Al Qaeda says, Hasan pulled off a near-perfect operation by keeping his plans secret, carefully picking a target for optimal effect, and carrying out the attack without regard for his own life.
The Fort Hood attack showed that "there are countless … strategic places, institutions and installations which, by striking, the Muslim can do major damage to the Crusader West and further our global agenda and long-range strategic objectives," Mr. Gadahn, the American-born Al Qaeda spokesman, said in his exaltation of Hasan in March.