What did the Army know about Fort Hood's Nidal Malik Hasan?
Investigators said Monday that they had been tracking Nidal Malik Hasan's correspondence with someone abroad since last year. Reports suggest that person is radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. But its unclear whether investigators told the Army.
Senior government officials confirmed Monday that since late last year they had been assessing the threat presented by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the lone suspect in the shooting rampage that killed 13 people and wounded 29 at Fort Hood Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
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Investigators acknowledged that they intercepted 10 to 20 "communications" between Hasan and an individual overseas since late last year. The New York Times reports that this individual is Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric who preached in a Washington-area mosque that Hasan attended in 2001 but has since fled to Yemen. Mr. Awlaki has been linked to at least two of the 9/11 hijackers.
Investigators, however, said that the nature of the correspondence between the two was social and contained "religious guidance" that was consistent with a research project Hasan was conducting as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center. It was not deemed threatening enough to open an investigation against Hasan.
The joint task force that monitored Hasan was led by the FBI and included members of the Defense Department, but it remains unclear whether Army officials were briefed on Hasan's activities. Neither scenario is likely to satisfy lawmakers or the nation: Either the task force officials did not share the intelligence, raising pre-9/11 questions about the government's ability to pass along information effectively, or they did share the information, and the Army failed to do anything about it.
"It's increasingly becoming clear that there are a lot of red flags concerning this guy that people should have picked up on," says James Carafano, a senior expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
The senior investigation officials, who spoke only on the condition that they not be identified, said this was not true. Nothing in the correspondence between Hasan and his overseas contact suggested any attack, they said.
"In my view, there was not a smoking gun or a red flag" from the communications between the two for someone to intervene, said a senior investigator.
Investigators are still trying to determine who knew what, when, or if they missed any signs that would have led authorities to mount a more robust investigation of Hasan.
The lack of details from officials at the Army, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI has angered lawmakers eager for briefings on Hasan's possible links to terrorist groups.