Administration Slow To Cooperate with Congress in Fort Hood Slayings Investigation, Senators Say
December 17, 2009 - 5:04 PMSens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters earlier this week that the Obama administration took too long to brief the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the Fort Hood shootings.<br />
The senators said the Obama administration took too long to brief the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the Fort Hood shootings. The Senate panel has launched its own investigation into the Nov. 5 slaying of 13 people at the Army base in Killeen, Texas.
Lieberman and Collins, the committee’s chairman and ranking member, respectively, said although a recent closed-door meeting with Defense Department officials on the Fort Hood shootings was “helpful,” the Obama administration is not being transparent about its investigation into Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, a Muslim with ties to Islamic extremists, who is charged with the killings. The senators said the administration is not fully cooperating with the congressional probe of the case.
Lieberman and Collins spoke with reporters at the U.S. Capitol.
“Today’s hearing was very helpful, but I would be remiss if I did not express my disappointment in the administration’s slow walking of this case,” Collins said after Tuesday’s briefing by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence James R. Clapper, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Karl F. Schneider, and Maj. Gen. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland, commanding general of the Northern Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where Hasan worked before being transferred to Fort Hood.
“It’s clear that the Department of Defense has been instructed to fully cooperate with the administration’s reviews and investigations that appear not to be under restrictions of any kind from the Department of Justice,” Collins said. “It seems to me that the administration needs to accord that same kind of cooperation to Congress as we carry out our constitutional duty to exercise oversight in this area."
“I would say, generally, it’s taken us way too much time to gain the cooperation and consent of the executive branch of government,” Lieberman said. “This is a classic executive, legislative struggle.” Lieberman added that the committee and DOD officials “explored information-sharing issues” during the closed-door meeting.
“What kind of information-sharing should have occurred, according to existing procedures between the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Justice Department and the Army and then within the Army?” Lieberman said at the press briefing. “And what are the Army’s existing personnel policies regarding extremism in the military?"
Lieberman further said that earlier testimony from retired Army Gen. Jack Keene revealed that military personnel policies regarding extremism went back to the Cold War and that even after 9/11 those policies do not address Islamic extremism.
The senator from Connecticut also said that the Department of Defense refused to let the public hear how the Obama administration is proceeding in its investigation of the Fort Hood massacre.
“Frankly, we originally wanted it to be in public,” Lieberman said. “We think it could have been in public without in any way compromising the criminal investigation of Major Hasan, but the Department of Defense would not agree to that.”
Collins said she would continue to work to get the Obama administration to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into what Lieberman has called a terrorist attack after details of Hasan’s communication with a radical imam in Yemen were discovered and other evidence surfaced suggesting that Hasan is a self-radicalized Islamic extremist.
“I’m going to continue to press the administration to make available to our committee documents and people, the witnesses that we need to undertake the kind of thorough investigation that we are committed to undertake,” Collins said.
Lieberman said Congress’ investigation is just as important as the Obama administration’s effort to determine why the killings happened and how to prevent a similar tragedy. He said it was Congress’ duty “to try to protect [the American people] from anything like the deadly attack that Major Hasan carried out.”
In a press release on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Web site, Lieberman said the Fort Hood case should be seen as part of a larger threat from Islamic extremism.
“We are clearly facing an increased threat of homegrown terrorism – that is, U.S. citizens and others in America becoming radicalized here at home and plotting attacks both domestically and abroad,” Lieberman said. “In the latest example, five American citizens apparently looking to carry out jihad were detained in Pakistan just last week. The U.S. government needs to counter this threat of self-radicalization and homegrown terrorism aggressively, and I am committed to developing concrete recommendations for doing so.”
Hasan, who is reportedly paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by police during his alleged rampage, was charged earlier this month with 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, on top of the 13 murder counts he already faced.
When asked about Lieberman and Collins’ claims, the White House press office referred CNSNews.com to the Department of Defense (DOD). As this story went to press, the DOD had not responded to CNSNews.com.