Hasan charged with 13 counts of murder
Stars and Stripes November 13, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — The military charged Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan with 13 counts of premeditated murder on Thursday as President Barack Obama ordered all federal agencies to scour their intelligence files for any clues that might have been missed prior to the Nov. 5 shooting rampage at Fort Hood.
“In addition, I directed an immediate review be initiated to determine how any such intelligence was handled, shared, and acted upon within individual departments and agencies and what intelligence was shared with others,” Obama said in a White House statement.
Twelve victims of the shooting spree remain hospitalized in Texas, and military investigators said they are “looking for every reason for this shooting.”
“We are aggressively following every lead,” said Chris Grey, spokesman for U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command.
Additional charges could come later, based on the investigation. But Grey said the Army believes that Hasan, an Army psychiatrist and devout Muslim facing deployment to Afghanistan, was the only gunman and was not at Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Center on any official business.
Hasan remains hospitalized and under pretrial restriction at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Officials told The Associated Press that it had not been decided whether to charge Hasan with a 14th count of murder related to the death of the unborn child of a pregnant shooting victim. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case publicly.
Grey described a sprawling crime scene in and around the readiness center, including two large parking areas, four separate buildings, and “hundreds of vehicles” that are being inspected for bullet holes. Additionally, autopsies on the victims at Dover Air Force Base, Del., were completed earlier this week.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates offered his first spoken comments about the event to press flying aboard his plane to tour an Oshkosh, Wis., defense industry factory. Gates blasted government leaks about the investigation.
“Frankly, I’m kinda sore,” Gates said. “Obviously what happened at Fort Hood was horrific, as the president said. But having different organizations and different people leaking info in a situation that involves potential criminal prosecution, I think is unconscionable.
“Everything will be made public and clear at an appropriate time, I just don’t want to jeopardize this investigation,” Gates added. “So my view is: Everybody just ought to shut up.”
John Galligan, Hasan’s civilian attorney, said his military co-counsel told him that charges were being read to Hasan in the hospital without his lawyers present.
The FBI confirmed this week that the U.S. government knew of some 10 to 20 e-mails exchanged between Hasan and a radical American imam, beginning in December 2008.
Months before the shootings, doctors and staff overseeing Hasan’s training reported viewing him at times as belligerent, defensive and argumentative in his frequent discussions of his Muslim faith, according to a military official familiar with several group discussions about Hasan. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hasan was characterized in meetings as a mediocre student and lazy worker, a matter of concern among the doctors and staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a military medical school in Bethesda, Md., the official said.
The concerns about Hasan’s performance and religious views were shared with other military officials considering his assignment after he finished his medical training, and the consensus was to send the 39-year-old psychiatrist to Fort Hood in Texas, the official said.
One of the largest military installations, it was considered the best assignment for Hasan because other doctors could handle the workload if he continued to perform poorly and his superiors could document any continued behavior problems, the official said.
Hasan repeatedly referred to his strong religious views in discussions with classmates, his superiors and even in his research work, the official said. His behavior, while at times perceived as intense and combative, was not unlike the zeal of others with strong religious views. But some doctors and staff were concerned that their unfamiliarity with the Muslim faith would lead them to unfairly single out Hasan’s behavior, the official said.
Some in the group questioned Hasan’s sympathies as an Army psychiatrist, whether he would be more aligned with Muslims fighting U.S. troops. There also was some concern about whether he should continue to serve in the military, the official said.
However, those who discussed concerns about Hasan had several group conversations about him that started in early 2008 during regular monthly meetings and ended as he was finishing a fellowship in disaster and preventive psychology this summer, the official familiar with the discussions said.
They saw no signs of mental problems, no risk factors that would predict violent behavior. And the group discussed other factors that suggested Hasan would continue to thrive in the military, factors that mitigated their concerns, the official said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol and The Associated Press contributed to this report.