As the Army prepares an exhaustive probe into whether any red flags were missed in the lead-up to the Fort Hood rampage, a clearer portrait is emerging of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter facing 13 charges of murder and a possible death sentence.
Early speculation has given way to reports suggesting a carefully planned plot by a lonely, middle-aged Army psychiatrist who apparently "self-radicalized" as he grew increasingly at odds with colleagues over politics and religion.
What drove his radicalization may be related to his statement to colleagues that the US was battling not against security threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Islam itself. Media reports indicate that Hasan even tried to have some of his patients charged with war crimes after hearing their stories from the battlefield. The Army rebuffed those charges.
"In my mind, there's enough evidence to say that, to a certain extent, you have a homegrown American of Jordanian descent who became radicalized enough to commit this heinous crime," says terrorism expert Joe Ruffini, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and author of "When Terror Comes to Main Street." "Whether he took it upon himself to do this for a religious or anti-American purpose or whether he was encouraged by a formal terror cell structure ... I think the jury is still out on that."
Infidels should be 'ripped to shreds'
He once told a female superior that she'd be "ripped to shreds" because she was not a Muslim, according to ABC News. He also said Muslim soldiers should be released as conscientious objectors. National Public Radio has reported that Walter Reed officials did not take action against Hasan because they feared a backlash for targeting a Muslim. Army officials at Fort Hood say they were never told about Hasan's issues at Walter Reed.
Senior US intelligence officials have said that during this time the FBI intercepted missives from Hasan to Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric and Al Qaeda sympathizer now living in Yemen. Intelligence officials said it was not a threat, and no action was taken.
Hasan heads for Texas
Sent to Ford Hood in the spring to prepare for his own deployment to Afghanistan, Hasan, who made nearly $100,000 as an Army doctor, took a room for $350 a month. Investigators found Hasan's business cards in the apartment printed with the term "SoA," which could mean "Soldier of Allah."
Hasan irregularly attended services at the local Islamic Center, and once asked the local imam: Can a Muslim fight other Muslims? The imam said Hasan acted strangely, making him think at the time that he was an Army informant angling for intelligence.
Hasan apparently had few friends, but they included an American Muslim convert named Duane Reasoner, who told the BBC after the rampage that he would not condemn Hasan for his actions. ABC News has reported that Hasan was often seen with Reasoner and an older, bearded man in Muslim dress at the local Golden Corral. Other reports say he was also seen at a local adult lounge drinking beer and tipping dancers.
Buying a gun and ammo
In the days before the shooting, Hasan gave his furniture away to neighbors, and several Korans. He bought a quantity of ammo clips at a Killeen, Texas, shop called Guns Galore and practiced at a range in a nearby town. That's not unusual for a soldier deploying overseas, but it's evidence that military prosecutors will likely use to show premeditation.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut has called the Fort Hood attack the biggest terrorist attack in the US since 9/11. Hasan faces a military court martial and is likely to face a death sentence.
Meanwhile, the Army is facing a culpability problem.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said Tuesday he will convene a special review to understand how behavioral clues to Hasan's unraveling were missed or glossed over. A broader Pentagon review was also announced Tuesday that will look into how all the military services watch for problems in their ranks.
The Army's investigation may reveal to what extent red flags around Hasan were overlooked because of worries about offending Muslims.
Ultimately, Hasan's potential radicalization indicates the continuing threat of homegrown terrorists, says Mr. Ruffini: "If we think he's the only one out there, then we're really delusional."
In the past two years, researchers have pinpointed new variants of radicalization, where the typical group jihad gives way to what terror expert Jonathan White calls "virtual radicalization." That can include "a person who through a series of negative social and psychological contacts simply goes down the path of radicalization," Mr. White says. "Then their new social reality can become violent and deviant."
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