Has the Department of Defense finally gotten it right with respect to the Fort Hood Shooting? In January, you may recall, the DoD released a pathetic whitewash of the events of November 5, 2009. The report ("Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood") said nothing of consequence about Major Nidal Malik Hasan, what led him to open fire on his fellow Americans (e.g., his radical jihadist beliefs), or the many warning signs the DoD and others missed. The report did not even mention the fact that Hasan had been in contact with a known al Qaeda cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, who has repeatedly called on Muslims serving in America and elsewhere to turn on their “infidel” compatriots.
Now, Jim Miklaszewski of NBC says a new report from Defense Secretary Robert Gates concludes:
-- DOD's commitment to the Joint Terrorism Task Force is “inadequate,” which results in “inconsistent” coordination with the FBI. The Joint Task force knew well before the shooting that Hassan was in communications with an al Qaeda sympathizer and recruiter, but that was not reported to DOD or the military.
-- Commanders and supervisors do not always receive information about individuals who may commit violent acts.
-- Counterintelligence training does not address “emerging threats including self-radicalization,” which may contribute to potential violence. Hasan was known to have gone off on Islamic-related religious rants, and expressed strong opposition to Muslims in the U.S. military serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
-- DOD policy prohibiting certain supremacist or extremist behavior is “unclear” and “limited” when it comes to individual behavior.
-- DOD does not have a comprehensive cyberspace counterintelligence program to alert authorities to “non-foreign intelligence” on potential threats.
The first and fifth points above deal with the contact between Awlaki and Hasan. Interestingly, the DoD has apparently concluded that it was never alerted to these contacts. The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) knew about the Awlaki-Hasan emails, but because of the DoD’s “inadequate” commitment to the JTTF this information was never passed on. The FBI, incredibly, determined that these contacts were not troubling because they were supposedly consistent with Hasan’s research into the effects of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan on American soldiers. This is nonsense. When it comes to deleterious combat effects, Awlaki is all for them. There was no legitimate reason for Hasan to email Awlaki.
Perhaps the DoD would have reached a different conclusion if it had found out about the emails. Then again, maybe it would not have. The DoD itself missed many red flags, including a provocative presentation Hasan gave to his medical colleagues in which Hasan openly espoused jihadist ideology.
In any event, Miklaszewski’s account suggests that the DoD is finally starting to get it right. Hopefully, the final report will go into more detail.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.