WASHINGTON (AP) – Nine Army officers are being reprimanded for leadership failures in connection with the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, and their failure to detect and report problems with the accused shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, as he moved along in his medical career.
Saying that although no single event directly led to the tragedy, Army Secretary John McHugh found that certain officers failed to meet expected standards, an Army statement said Thursday. The officers — all lieutenant or above — will receive punishments ranging from an oral reprimand to the far more serious written letter of censure that is considered a career-ender.
Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting spree on the Texas military post.
A Pentagon review last year found that Hasan’s supervisors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he worked expressed serious concerns about his questionable behavior and poor judgment but failed to heed their own warnings. It said the Army psychiatrist’s supervisors continued to give him positive performance evaluations that kept him moving up through the ranks despite worries about his strident views on Islam and worries about his competence.
In one episode, Hasan reportedly gave a class presentation questioning whether the U.S.-led war on terror was actually a war on Islam. And fellow students said he suggested that Shariah, or Islamic law, trumped the Constitution, and that he also attempted to justify suicide bombings.
The review, however, found that no one in Hasan’s chain of command blocked his ability to hold a secret security clearance or stop his continued assignments, including his move to Fort Hood.
Earlier this year a Senate review came to similar conclusions, saying the Defense Department and the FBI had sufficient information to detect that Hasan had been radicalized to violent extremism, but they failed to act on it.
Commenting late Thursday, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the Defense Department “failed to act on Hasan’s obvious radicalization by either disciplining him or discharging him — actions that could have been taken under existing personnel and extremism policies. Hasan’s increasing extremism was well known to his supervisors and colleagues at Walter Reed as was his poor performance.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., added that the discipline meted out by McHugh will “send a clear message to everyone that the Army will not tolerate such negligence and passivity in reaction to clear signs that a soldier is radicalizing to Islamist extremism.”
Lieberman and Collins are chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which issued the Senate review.
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.
The Army did not release the names of the officers or the types of reprimands they all are receiving, but it is unlikely any are generals. The officers can appeal the punishments, and it may be several weeks before the actions are final.
McHugh also has ordered a review of the Army’s evaluation system to see whether it can be improved so there would be more accurate personnel reviews.
He also directed the Army surgeon general to review policies and procedures for training, counseling and evaluating medical officers.
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