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Fort Hood Senate hearings risk politicizing Hasan investigation

The Senate Homeland Security Committee hearings into whether the Army missed warning signs about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan could lead to finger-pointing about Fort Hood shooting and political battles over Obama’s terrorism policy.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / November 19, 2009

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. accompanied by the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, discuss the Fort Hood shootings Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Alex Brandon/AP



The Senate Homeland Security Committee Thursday began hearings "as serious and consequential as any it's ever undertaken," in the words of its chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut, into whether and how the Army missed the red flags raised by the apparent self-radicalization of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.

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The Army psychiatrist is charged with killing 13 at Fort Hood, Texas.

President Obama has warned against politicizing ongoing investigations into the incident – and Senator Lieberman has said he won't – but the hearings already appears fraught with politics.

"The problem is that in the hyperpartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill at present, any congressional inquiry is likely to degenerate into a round of finger-pointing, fueled by turf rivalries between law enforcement and intelligence agencies and efforts for party advantage," writes Shaun Waterman, a security analyst at ISN Security Watch.

The Democratic Congress seems likely to take a closer look at the administration's security policy, which it has largely left alone so far. And Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra has already warned intelligence agencies from shredding evidence in the case.

But the real powder keg lies in Lieberman's likely inquiry into whether some of Hasan's colleagues and supervisors ignored his radicalism – and why. If it is found that Army officials ignored the warning signs around Hasan because they were concerned about offending Muslims, that could be used as a weapon by conservatives and others unhappy with Obama's move to reach out to the Muslim world.

Part of the administration's strategy, which includes being more careful in the use of phrases such as "jihad" and "war on terror," is to undermine a central motive for radicalization: the idea that the US is in a war against Islam itself.