The U.S. Army officer who emerged as the deadly Fort Hood shooter in 2009 -- killing 12 soldiers and one civilian -- had displayed several "red flags" indicating that he had been proselytized by radical Islamists and posed a threat to his fellow officers and to enlisted men and women wherever he was posted, according to a government report released Thursday.
Major Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, will stand trial in military court on Aug. 20, 2012, for indiscriminately shooting and killing 13 victims and wounding 33 others during his one-man-jihad, according to FBI, Pentagon and news reports.
While at first many believed that the killing spree was the act of a madman, investigators began to discover links between Maj. Hasan and radical Islam as practiced by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.
According to documents and emails released on Thursday, Maj. Hasan believed that at times suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks were acceptable and, in emails sent months before the Fort Hood Massacre, he offered financial support to the radical Muslim cleric with whom he communicated.
The report by former FBI director, CIA director, and federal judge William Webster scolds the FBI for not being more proactive when agents were informed that, while serving as a U.S. military officer, Maj. Hasan was communicating with the infamous American jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical U.S. Muslim cleric who was under investigation by U.S. intelligence officials for his violent beliefs and pronouncements.
Anwar al-Awlaji eventually fled the United States and took up residence in Yemen, where he served as a spiritual leader for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Webster's report states that upon receiving initial information about Hasan, FBI special agents should have immediately interviewed Hasan and notified the Army's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) or other military personnel involved in counterterrorism.
Webster also recommended that FBI agents be given special training and guidelines for this type of case involving the radicalization of American Muslims within the U.S. Armed Forces.
In the Hasan case, the FBI did not effectively utilize intelligence analysts who could have provided a different perspective given the evidence that it had, the report also stated.
The FBI's inquiry focused narrowly on whether Hasan was engaged in terrorist activity as opposed to whether he was radicalizing to violent Islamist extremism and whether this radicalization might pose counterintelligence or other threats (e.g., Hasan might spy for the Taliban if he had been deployed to Afghanistan).
This critical mistake may have been avoided if intelligence analysts were appropriately engaged in the inquiry. Since 9/11, the FBI has increased its intelligence focus by creating a Directorate of Intelligence and Field Intelligence Groups in the field offices and hiring thousands of new and better qualified analysts.
However, the FBI must ensure that these analysts are effectively utilized and that they achieve significant stature in the FBI. The FBI must also ensure that all of its agents and analysts are trained to understand violent Islamist extremism, the report recommended.
Webster's report noted that the Department of Defense possessed compelling evidence that Hasan embraced views so extreme that it should have disciplined him or discharged him from the military, but DoD failed to take action against him, according to the report.
Evidence of Hasan's radicalization to violent Islamist extremism was on full display to his superiors and colleagues during his military medical training. An instructor and a colleague each referred to Hasan as a "ticking time bomb." Not only was no action taken to discipline or discharge him, but also his Officer Evaluation Reports sanitized his obsession with violent Islamist extremism into praiseworthy research on counterterrorism.
To address this failure, the Department of Defense should confront the threat of radicalization to violent Islamist extremism among service members explicitly and directly and strengthen associated policies and training. More specifically, DoD should update its policies on extremism and religious accommodation to ensure that violent Islamist extremism is not tolerated.
DoD should also train service members on violent Islamist extremism and how it differs from Islamic religious belief and practices, the report recommended.