A new report on the FBI’s handling of communications between Maj. Nidal Hasan and Anwar al-Awlaki has renewed Republican criticism that the bureau worries too much about political correctness when investigating Islamic extremism.
The independent report by Judge William H. Webster found that FBI employees had “good intent” but “made mistakes” by not further probing the Army major’s activities. A previous report by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs concluded that the Fort Hood attack could have been prevented.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) told the Associated Press that “political correctness” was to blame for the FBI not aggressively pursuing the relationship. McCaul spoke to the press after being briefed on the report but before it was publicly released.
His remarks apparently center on an aspect of the Webster report focusing on the recollections of a FBI task force officer in San Diego who was pushing for a deeper investigation into Hasan months before the shooting. That agent claimed he was told by a FBI task force officer in D.C. that the Washington Field Office “doesn’t go out and interview every Muslim guy who visits extremist websites.”
The San Diego agent claimed his D.C. colleague said Hasan had “legitimate work related reasons to be going to these sites and engaging these extremists in dialogue” and that the subject was “politically sensitive” for the Washington Field Office. That D.C. task force officer, however, does not recall that phone conversation.
Webster’s report found that no one was “solely responsible” for the mistakes in handling the information about Hasan and concluded it wasn’t fair to hold any FBI employees responsible for the tragedy.
“We conclude instead that these committed individuals need better policy guidance to know what is expected of them in performing their duties, and better technology, review protocols, and training to navigate the ever-expanding flow of electronic information,” the report stated.
In the years since the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting, the FBI has overhauled its counterterrorism training program after it was revealed that some of the material was “inappropriate offensive content” based on anti-Muslim stereotypes.