WASHINGTON (AP) – A Senate report on the Fort Hood shooting is sharply critical of the FBI, saying that top leaders must exercise more control over local field offices that failed to recognize warning signs that suggested the shooter was a threat.
The report concluded that both the Defense Department and the FBI had sufficient information to detect that Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was a “ticking time bomb” who had been radicalized to violent Islamist extremism, but they failed to understand and act on it. And it said the FBI must learn to better use its intelligence analysts, who might have been able to better connect the dots.
While many of the critiques have been aired over the past year in other investigations of the November 2009 rampage that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded at the Texas military post, the Senate report says the FBI’s move to become more intelligence-driven is hampered by internal conflicts that must be addressed.
And it said the bureau’s failure to use its analysts well contributed to the failure to recognize the significance of communications with known terrorists transmitted by Hasan, who was serving as an Army psychiatrist at Fort Hood.
One key finding identified early in other reviews was that a joint terrorism task force overseen by the FBI learned late in 2009 of Hasan’s repeated contact with U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who encouraged Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq.
The FBI has said the task force did not refer early information about Hasan to superiors because it concluded he wasn’t linked to terrorism.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Army officials have not said whether they would seek the death penalty.
The Senate report was released Thursday by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and its ranking Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. It charges that evidence of Hasan’s radicalization was “on full display” to his superiors, and that an instructor and colleague “each referred to Hasan as a ‘ticking time bomb,”‘ but no action was taken to discharge him and his evaluations were sanitized.
More broadly, the report said that the Pentagon has failed to make necessary changes to identify violent Islamic extremism as a danger so that commanders will more readily watch for it and discharge service members who express those views.
Military supervisors, the report said, had the authority to discipline or discharge Hasan. But it concluded that the Defense Department did not inform or train commanders about how to recognize someone radicalized to Islamic extremism or how to distinguish that from the peaceful practice of Islam.
The enemy — Islamist extremists — must be labeled correctly and explicitly, the report said, in order for the military to counter the extremism.
Asked for comment on the Senate report’s criticism, an Army spokesman said the Army will continue to make adjustments.
“We will closely examine the report’s findings and recommendations,” said Col. Tom Collins. “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.”
The FBI has also looked at revising its procedures to make sure that when it does investigate a member of the military, it notifies the Pentagon. The FBI also said it will increase training for task force members to better search bureau databases when conducting investigations.
The Senate report also recommends that the Defense Department ensure that personnel evaluations are accurate, particularly in regard to Islamist extremist behavior. And it says statements by Hasan expressing support for Osama bin Laden and charging that the U.S. was at war with Islam indicated his sympathy for extremists could have been sufficient grounds to discipline or discharge him.
Hasan’s psychiatry supervisors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center had expressed concerns in May 2007 about what they described as Hasan’s “pattern of poor judgment and lack of professionalism.”
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