The federal government could have prevented the massacre at Fort Hood allegedly perpetrated by Nadal Hasan if it had recognized signals of his radicalization prior to the attack, a special report issued by members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs concluded.
Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) told reporters Thursday that the report unfortunately reached the “painful conclusion” that several signs of radicalization were missed leading up to the Nov. 5, 2009 terrorist attack that killed 13 people.
Lieberman and Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) unveiled their report on the at a news conference, where they said they engaged in a three-month process of negotiations with federal law enforcement and the military over what could and couldn’t be included in the report.
Strangely, Lieberman noted, the FBI refused to allow the report to mention that Hasan had been in communication with an unnamed overseas terrorist, even though widespread media reports said that individual was Anwar al Awlaki, who years ago was an imam at a mosque where Hasan worshiped in the D.C. area.
Lieberman told reporters that several of the redactions were unjustified in his view, but they issued the report anyway because they wanted to get it out in a timely manner.
He also blamed the Army’s handling of Hasan ahead of the shooting on political correctness, given that Hasan’s presentations in the military sometimes justified attacks on the U.S. He also criticized the FBI, which knew of Hasan’s communications with al Awlaki, for not further investigating those ties.
Describing Hasan as a “human ticking time bomb,” Lieberman said it was important to call violent Islamic extremism what it is, and not use politically correct terms like violent extremism or workplace violence.
Lieberman recommended that the military draw a clear line between violent Islamic extremism and protected religious practices, particularly as practiced by Muslims.
“That way the thousands of Muslim Americans who serve our country honorably in the American military every day and in other ways will be protected from suspicious when practicing their religion,” Lieberman said.
Asked by TPM how the government could strengthen its relationship with the Muslim community (one of the suggestions of the report), Lieberman said that the FBI had a good relationship with many communities through their joint terrorism task forces.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, understandably, in the Muslim community about people in the community, particularly young people, of being radicalized — to not take advantage of the opportunities in America and to become anti-American terrorist. So that’s why there needs to be cooperation between our law enforcement and our intelligence community and our Muslim-American community,” Lieberman said.
But the Department of Defense is still not prepared to call the enemy what it is, Lieberman said.
“The enemy is violent Islamic extremism, and when you say that, it shouldn’t offend Muslim-Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom are not violent Muslim extremists, they’re patriotic law-abiding Muslim-American,” Lieberman said. “So in the Department of Defense I think they need to start by being truthful about what the enemy, who the enemy is here.”
The report, embedded below, said that “although neither 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.”
The FBI said in a statement that it agrees with much in the report and many of its recommendations. The bureau said it had already identified many of the areas of concern in a review conducted after the Fort Hood incident, and noted that many of the changes they had undertaken were noted in the report.
They also said they were looking forward to the recommendations of Judge William H. Webster, who is conducting an independent review of the FBI’s actions ahead of the Fort Hood attack.