WASHINGTON — US authorities should have thwarted a deadly November 2009 shooting rampage at a Texas army base, but failed to fully grasp the suspect’s growing Islamist extremism, two key lawmakers said Thursday.
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, an independent, and the panel’s top Republican, Senator Susan Collins, said the US military and law enforcement must overhaul how they handle home-grown radicals.
US Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan, a US-born Muslim, has been charged with killing 13 people and wounding 32 more in a November 5, 2009 attack at the Fort Hood army base near Killeen, Texas, and could face the death penalty.
“Our report’s painful conclusion is that the Fort Hood massacre could have and should have been prevented,” Lieberman said as he and Collins released findings from their investigation into the attack.
“People in the Department of Defense and the FBI had ample evidence of alleged killer Nidal Hasan’s growing sympathies toward violent Islamist extremism in the years before the attack,” said Lieberman.
The nearly 100-page report upbraided the US Department of Defense (DoD) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for missing or ignoring clear warning signs, including colleagues who branded Hasan “a ticking time bomb.”
“Although neither DoD nor the FBI had specific information concerning the time, place, or nature of the attack, they collectively had sufficient information to have detected Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism but failed both to understand and to act on it,” it said.
The report emphasized Hasan’s alleged communications with a “suspected terrorist” — widely thought to be Anwar al-Awlaqi, a radical US-born cleric now being hunted in Yemen as an Al-Qaeda associate.
“He openly suggested that revenge might be a defense for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He openly sympathized with violent Islamist extremists and defended Osama bin Laden. He justified suicide bombers,” said Collins.
And he “publicly said that he had an allegiance to his religion that was greater than his allegiance to the United States Constitution, which as a military officer he had sworn to uphold,” she charged.
Lieberman and Collins criticized the US military and the FBI for ultimately playing down what they said were signs of Hasan’s “radicalization to violent Islamist extremism” that were “on full display.”
And while the US military had “compelling evidence that Hasan embraced views so extreme that it should have disciplined him or discharged him,” it failed to act, the lawmakers said.
“To address this failure, the Department of Defense should confront the threat of radicalization to violent Islamist extremism among service members explicitly and directly and strengthen associated policies and training.”
And the FBI should “accelerate” its growing focus on intelligence, they said.
The FBI said in an unsigned statement that it “agrees with much in the report and many of its recommendations” and would adopt “appropriate” measures — but did not detail which ones.
It also said it had moved to address “areas of concern” and awaited the results of an independent investigation to determined whether further steps were required.