Senate report blasts Army for not taking bold steps in wake of 2009 Fort Hood shooting
Stars and Stripes February 3, 2011
WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials still have not addressed key mistakes that preceded the Fort Hood shooting, leaving the military vulnerable to more violence carried out by Islamic extremists within the services, according to a Senate draft report released Thursday.
“This is heartbreaking, because the painful conclusion is that the massacre that was carried out could have been prevented,” said Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. “What can you say to the families … except that we’ll do everything to push the relevant government agencies to make sure something like this never happens again.”
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 more during a shooting spree at the Texas Army base in November 2009.
Colleagues of Hasan said the 40-year-old Muslim had made extremist statements about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout his career, but commanders failed to react to the warning signs. In addition, FBI investigators had monitored conversations between Hasan and U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, but failed to share that information with Army officials.
The report demands that the Pentagon update its training to include specifics on Muslim extremists, rather than broader information about radical views or beliefs.
“It is clear from this failure that DoD lacks the institutional culture, through updated policies and training, sufficient to inform commanders and all levels of servicemembers how to identify radicalization to violent Islamist extremism and to distinguish this ideology from the peaceful practice of Islam,” the report states.
Lieberman said he remains concerned that defense officials seem to avoid calling Hasan an Islamic terrorist, and refuse to focus on that issue.
The report notes that at least one Army official said that Hasan’s public defense of suicide bombers and open declaration that the U.S. was waging a war against Islam represented a potential teaching tool for the service. The official said “Hasan was a unique individual who could help understand Muslim culture and beliefs.”
Hasan, who was paralyzed by base police who returned fire during the attack, is currently in custody awaiting trial on murder and attempted murder charges.
“We will closely examine the report’s findings and recommendations,” said Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins told The Associated Press. “The Army has already implemented numerous concrete actions that have made our soldiers, families and civilian employees safer. There is still more work to do, but the Army is committed to doing all we can to learn from this tragic event.”
Last April, the Defense Department unveiled a host of security policy changes designed to prevent a similar attack, including better information sharing with outside law enforcement officials and new rules for how commanders should handle extremist comments from their troops. The report, which must be approved by the full Senate committee, notes that those changes are important improvements.
But it also calls for further restructuring of how FBI intelligence on suspected terrorists is shared and analyzed, and for the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council to develop an integrated approach to countering “homegrown radicalization to violent Islamist extremism.”
Lieberman said the report is particularly important given the rise in “homegrown terrorist plots” in recent years. He said their investigation did not find any evidence that Hasan operated as part of a larger terrorist plot, but he exhibited warning signs that suggested he could turn violent.
“Thirteen people died needlessly at Fort Hood,” he said. “Their memory will be served if the recommendations of this report are adopted quickly so the next ticking time bomb can be spotted early and defused before another deadly detonation.”