Pre-massacre concerns about Hasan may have been off limits to FBI
12:00 AM CST on Wednesday, December 16, 2009
By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON – FBI agents who discovered Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's extremist ties before the Fort Hood massacre may not have had access to key Army records on the psychiatrist, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday.
The Maine Republican said some information that terrorism investigators need stays in military education or training files "and does not make its way to the personnel files" – the records that intelligence agencies would see when deciding whether to investigate someone.
Collins is the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which is investigating how pre-massacre intelligence was handled. She spoke after a closed-door hearing with Defense Department officials.
Hasan's colleagues and superiors repeatedly raised concerns about him during his psychiatric training. Issues included his fundamentalist Islamic leanings, religious proselytizing, work performance and mental stability.
"It doesn't appear that the military has updated its personnel policies to reflect the threat of Islamic extremism," Collins said. "There appears to be a real gap in the protocols in the personnel procedures."
Army spokesman George Wright said that in general, soldiers' supervisors decide whether to put letters of counseling or reprimand in personnel files. He declined to discuss Hasan's records.
An FBI-led terrorism task force began intercepting e-mails last December between Hasan and a radical imam in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki. FBI officials have said they didn't investigate further because the correspondence seemed consistent with Hasan's psychiatric research.
The FBI has investigated al-Awlaki's ties to terrorists since the late 1990s. Any contact with him should have set off an investigation, experts have told The Dallas Morning News.
William Webster, who formerly headed the FBI and the CIA, is now reviewing the bureau's pre-massacre work on Hasan. FBI spokesman Paul Bresson declined to comment Tuesday.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, the homeland security committee's chairman, said the panel may get a classified briefing this week about the task force that intercepted the e-mails. He said he was still trying to obtain Hasan's Army records.
The military is doing its own study of whether the Nov. 5 slaughter could have been prevented and whether there are better ways to identify potentially dangerous service members. Hasan faces military charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder.
Lieberman said that the White House would not allow Tuesday's briefing to be held in public and that it had taken too long to give lawmakers information.
Information-sharing problems still seem to be compromising American security more than eight years after the 9/11 attacks, Collins said.