Were Warnings of Fort Hood Shooting Ignored?

Nidal Hasan exhibited signs of extremism and distress

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As details around Nidal Hasan's shooting at Fort Hood military base continue to unravel, there appear to have been warning signs that the Army Major was a risk. Hasan, an American Muslim deeply troubled by the prospect of deploying in a war against other Muslims, had warned openly that it was "getting harder and harder" for American Muslims soldiers to serve in the military, as the Washington Post reports. Intelligence officials also say he exchanged "10 to 20 messages" with radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who has ties to Al Qaeda. With all the warning signs, Sen. Joe Lieberman has called for an investigation into whether enough was done to foresee Hasan's crime. Was it?

  • 'Federal Bureau of Non-Investigation'  The Weekly Standard's Thomas Joscelyn is furious that the FBI didn't do more. "Why would a member of the U.S. military contact a major al Qaeda ideologue to discuss his research? The only way that could be justifiable is if that American serviceman was collecting intelligence on Awlaki and his operations. But there is no evidence that this was the case here. In fact, as press accounts have noted, 'no formal investigation' into Hasan’s communications with Awlaki was ever launched. How, then, could anyone say that his communications were consistent with anything at all –- other than an Islamic extremist reaching out to a known al Qaeda patron?"
  • So Much For Warrantless Wiretaps  Spencer Ackerman wonders what happened to our extensive and unregulated intelligence system, of which he is no fan. "How could U.S. intelligence have not communicated this information to the Army? On the presumption that the intel side did not — which is not proven in the piece — I guess an explanation would be that the intel people were gathering information for future use, but that’s divorced from any actual evidence I possess. Still, there is an extensive apparatus for surveilling people in this country with minimal-to-no judicial oversight precisely for the warning signs of their connections to extremist organizations. How's that working out for us?"
  • So E-Mailing Is A Crime Now?  Marcy Wheeler points out that we don't know the contents of the messages. She decries Rep. Pete Hoekstra's accusation that intelligence agencies weren't gathering enough data. "Of course, there’s no indication of what Hasan said to al-Awlaki, but it seems clear that all the chatter in the press about al-Awlaki seems designed to assert a claim that the imam led Hasan to do violence. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear where Hoekstra wants this to go: to the point where Fourth Amendment protections are rolled back further."
  • Failure of Intel Communication  The Atlantic's Megan McArdle wonders what investigators could have really done to deter a lone gunman like Hasan. "This particular attack would have been very hard to stop for anyone, without doing terrible, terrible things to our Muslim citizens," she writes. "Were we going to start kicking Muslims out of the government and the armed forces?" But, on revelations of Hasan's attempts to contact Al Qaeda associates, she concedes, "Maybe they were slow-playing him, trying to get evidence on bigger fish. Maybe. But I'm more inclined to believe that they failed to communicate with each other, and in the case of the army, failed to do the obvious thing and open an investigation into whether this fellow should be separated from the army, and maybe watched pretty carefully."
  • Military Must Dismiss Extremists  Foreign Policy's Thomas Ricks insists that a backlash would be prevented by canning soldiers who, like Hasan, show visible signs of Muslim extremism. "There appear to have been a number of warning signs. Obviously, it is easy in retrospect to see them. But is there anything that can be done differently? General Casey, the Army chief of staff, said over the weekend that he is worried about a 'backlash' against Muslim troops. I think the best way to prevent such an overreaction would be to re-assure soldiers that the Army is uncovering and dismissing Muslim soldiers who veer into extremism." Ricks adds, "Was he not let go for fear of appearing prejudiced? If so, someone is guilty of moral cowardice, of failing to do the hard right thing instead of the easy wrong."

  • 'Crackdown' Serves Only Al-Qaeda  Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch implores us not to get swept up by the argument that Fort Hood "somehow exposed a contradiction between 'political correctness' and "security.'" He explains:
Al-Qaeda and its affiliated ideologues don't just want their targets to overreact with blanket crackdowns on the mainstream Muslim community -- they are counting on it. [...] A lot of people -- some well-meaning, some clowns or worse -- evidently want the American response to the Ft. Hood shootings to revive the post-9/11 "war of ideas" and "clash of civilizations" anti-Islamic discourse.  It's a jihad, they shout, demanding careful scrutiny of the loyalty of American Muslims. That's what they seem to mean by the demand to throw away "political correctness" and confront the ideological menace. The overall effect of their recommendations, however,  would be to revive the flagging al-Qaeda brand and to greatly strengthen the appeal of its narrative.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.