Lieberman: Fort Hood Massacre Could Have Been Prevented; Government Officials Guilty of ‘Negligence’

February 3, 2011 - 7:49 PM

Nidal Malik Hasan

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. (AP Photo/The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress)

(CNSNews.com) - Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said on Thursday that his committee's review of the Fort Hood massacre, which left 13 dead and 32 wounded, shows the killings could have been prevented if the Defense Department and FBI had acted in an appropriate and timely manner. Instead, government officials were guilty of "negligence," he said.

“Throughout our investigation the victims of this attack and their families have weighed heavily in our minds because our report’s painful conclusion is that the Ft. Hood massacre could have and should have been prevented,” Lieberman said as he and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member of the committee, unveiled a report on the Nov. 5, 2009 Ft. Hood killings.

“We have reached that conclusion,” said Lieberman, “because our investigation found that employees of the Department of Defense and the FBI had compelling evidence of Nidal Hasan’s growing embrace of violent Islamist extremism in the years before the attack should have caused them to discharge him from the U.S. military and make him the subject of an aggressive counter-terrorism investigation.”

In response to a question from CNSNews.com about whether any one in the government had been held accountable for the way they dealt with Hasan, Lieberman said he was not aware that anyone had been held accountable and that the handling of Hasan was an example of “negligence”

“I don’t believe anyone has been disciplined or terminated because of the failures mentioned in this report and that’s something that I want to hear about from both the Department of Defense and the FBI and the others who we’re sending the report to,” said Lieberman. “Look, it wasn’t evil intent on people in the federal government, it was just what I would call negligence, failure to perform the duties as we have the right to expect federal employees will do, and as of yet no one has been held accountable.”

Collins said it was “very disturbing” that no one has been yet held accountable.

“The Department of Defense has told us that they are waiting until after the legal proceedings against Maj. Hasan are completed and I expect and hope that we’ll see action at that time, but it’s a long time,” said Collins.

According to the Homeland Security Committee’s report, both the Defense Department and the FBI had evidence of Hasan’s radicalization and embrace of violent extremism, but that the agencies “failed both to understand and to act on it.”

“The FBI and DOD together failed to recognize and to link the information that they possessed about Hasan: (I) Hasan was a military officer who lived under a regimented system with strict officership and security standards, standards which his behavior during his military medical training violated; and (2) the government had [REDACTED] communications from Hasan to a suspected terrorist, [REDACTED], who was involved in anti-American activities and the subject of an unrelated FBI terrorism investigation,” said the report. 

Lieberman said he had been asked by the FBI not to release the name of the suspected terrorist with whom Hasan had been communicating. However, Lieberman did note that media reports suggest the suspected terrorist was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who has ties with al-Qaeda

The government failed to discipline or discharge Hasan after two of his colleagues warned that he was a “ticking time bomb,” according to the report. Instead, the Defense Department saw his “obsession with violent Islamist extremism” as “praiseworthy research on counterterrorism.”

On the issue of Hasan’s communications with a suspected terrorist, the report said the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force “failed to identify the totality of Hasan's communications and to inform Hasan's military chain of command and Army security officials of the fact that he was communicating with a suspected violent Islamist extremist--a shocking course of conduct for a U.S. military officer.”

Instead, the report said, the FBI “relied on Hasan's erroneous Officer Evaluation Reports and ultimately dismissed his communications as legitimate research.”

The issue of Hasan’s communications was never referred to FBI headquarters therefore “the FBI's inquiry into Hasan ended prematurely,” said the report.

The report also said that the Defense Department had “compelling evidence” that Hasan had embraced violent Islamist extremis, but failed to take action against him.

“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 service members how to identify radicalization to violent Islamist extremism and to distinguish this ideology from the peaceful practice of Islam,” said the report.  

Lieberman said the Hasan case demonstrates that even after the 9/11 terrorist attacks the federal government still has not “adequately defined the roles and responsibilities of agencies of our government and other institutions of our society that must effectively counter radicalization to violent Islamist extremism in our country.”

“We will do everything we can to push the relevant federal government agencies to do everything they can urgently to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” later added Sen. Lieberman.

“Despite Hasan's overt displays of radicalization to violent Islamist extremism, Hasan's superiors failed to discipline him, refer him to counterintelligence officials, or seek to discharge him,” said the report.

“One of the officers who reported Hasan to superiors opined that Hasan was permitted to remain in service because of ‘political correctness’ and ignorance of religious practices,
 said the report. “That officer added that he believed that concern about potential discrimination complaints stopped some individuals from challenging Hasan. We are concerned that exactly such worries about ‘political correctness’ inhibited Hasan's superiors and colleagues who were deeply troubled by his behavior from taking the actions against him that could have prevented the attack at Fort Hood. However, none of the superiors cited ‘political correctness’ as the reason for not acting against Hasan.”