Senators issue subpoenas in Fort Hood deaths
ARLINGTON, Va. — Two top Senators slapped the Justice and Defense Departments with subpoenas on Monday for information related to the November shooting at Fort Hood.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 38 during a shooting rampage at the Texas base.
Last week, Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, threatened the legal action if the government refused to supply Hasan’s personnel file and witnesses to testify about his past. News reports have painted Hasan as a radical Muslim who was promoted within the Army despite a questionable temperament and work record.
In a letter explaining their subpoenas, the senators said the goal is to determine why Hasan wasn’t flagged as a potential threat and how similar incidents can prevented in the future.
Information on the ongoing criminal investigation — items which could potentially jeopardize prosecution of Hasan — is not included in their requests, Lieberman contends.
“DOD and DOJ produced little in response to these requests, and certainly not the key documents and witnesses that are necessary for Congress to fulfill its constitutional obligation to conduct effective oversight of the executive branch,” the letter said.
Now, Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have been told to appear before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee next week unless they provide the requested information beforehand.
But a senior defense official said the department has the option of not complying with a subpoena if it feels that providing information might jeopardize a military case.
The Defense Department cannot provide certain information to Congress under a provision of the military justice system known as “unlawful command influence,” the official said on Monday.
“Let’s say we release something to Congress knowing full well Congress intended to hold hearings on it, bring witnesses in and the information was clearly negative to an accused in a case, bad information about the individual that was not admissible in a court,” he said. “The judge could say, ‘You did that just to undermine his ability to have a fair trial. It’s unlawful command influence, you were trying to influence the decision-makers in the process.’”
But Lieberman told reporters that Congress will work to make sure that any information provided by the Defense Department will not compromise the Hasan prosecution.
“We have said at every step of the way that we are prepared to negotiate an agreement with how we use this information,” Lieberman said during a conference call. “Senator Collins and I don’t have any intention to do any public hearings.”
Senior defense officials also said that it can only provide personnel documents to the Senate Armed Services Committee, not Lieberman’s committee.
But Lieberman rejected that argument.
“We are the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and as such, in historic jurisdiction of this committee, we have the widest oversight under the rules of the Senate,” Lieberman said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Leo Shane III contributed to this report.